Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Blogtable: Biggest midseason surprise (and disappointment)?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Midseason surprises? | Texas playoff showdown? | What to do with Austin?



VIDEONBA TV’s crew takes stock of the league at midseason

> We’re halfway through the season. Who or what has been the biggest surprise these first 41 games? And biggest disappointment?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Anyone around the league who claims they saw the Atlanta Hawks doing this should be selling cars or running for office. No bleeping way. Year 2 under coach Mike Budenholzer, Jeff Teague‘s blossoming, Kyle Korver‘s outlier first half statistically and a pass-first, ensemble approach is one of the NBA’s best stories. As for disappointments, I’m looking at the Brooklyn Nets. Even though they’re reaping what they sowed with big talk, overspending and acquiring some wrong guys, it’s disheartening to see the Brooklyn honeymoon fizzle so fast.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two words nobody ever expected to be typing before the season began: Atlanta Hawks. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, et al have risen under the brilliant coaching job of Mike Budenholzer to become a stylistic clone of the defending champion Spurs and the best team in the Eastern Conference. To lift what has been a moribund franchise for more than three decades, is positively breathtaking. When it comes to disappointments, all conversations will begin and end in Cleveland, where LeBron James returned home to acclamation and promptly found himself knee-deep in team-wise cluelessness. But let’s not let Lance Stephenson off the hook for all he hasn’t done in Charlotte. Possibly the worst $27 million anybody has ever spent.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Surprise: Hawks. I thought they would be good. But like fourth-in-the-East good. Capable of winning a series or two, not at the elite level yet. This, though. To be 10-2 against the West along with 17-5 on the road, not to mention the long win streak of the moment, is filled with positives for an organization that really needed good news. Disappointment: Cavaliers. Easy call. I’m also disappointed in the 76ers. That roster should have the fewest wins in the league. Come on, Philly, don’t let the Knicks out-bad you. You worked too hard to be the worst.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Surprise to the Hawks, disappointment to the Knicks. Well, yeah, I can hear folks now: What about the Cavs? And that’s valid. However, I had a hunch the Cavs would need time (though not this much time) after blending in a new coach and three stars and also losing Anderson Varejao. LeBron said as much last summer. The Knicks are flat-out an embarrassment and, unlike Cleveland, have given up. As for the Hawks, they may be based in the East but they’re beating up good teams from the West. Unreal for a team that won 38 games last season and didn’t add anyone.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: My first answers are the Hawks and Cavs, for obvious reasons. But I’ll add the Bucks and Pelicans to mix things up. Milwaukee has taken advantage of the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference and doesn’t have a lot of quality wins, but I’d assumed that they would be one of the teams being taken advantage of (again). Jason Kidd has taken a young cast without a star and turned it into the most improved defensive team in the league. That was supposed to be New Orleans, with the addition of Omer Asik and development of Anthony Davis. But New Orleans has taken only the smallest step forward on defense and still ranks in the bottom six of that end of the floor. I didn’t think that they would make the playoffs, but with that frontline, I thought they could at least make a big jump defensively.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Until someone slows them down the Hawks remain the obvious and easy answer for the biggest surprise. No one saw this coming. NO ONE! But I think you could make just as strong an argument for the Portland Trail Blazers. Those 19 home wins and the way Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both played throughout the first half of the season certainly fueled this team. They have some of my favorite role players (Nic Batum and the ridiculously underrated Wesley Matthews) on their roster, too. They didn’t add any star power over the summer or do anything to suggest they were ready for a leap into the top two or three of the West. Coach Terry Stotts has done a great job, but sustaining this flow becomes the challenge for the second half of the season. It’s tough to get up there to the top of the standings. It’s even tougher to stay there for the long haul. The biggest disappointment … the options are endless. Based on my own internal expectations, it would be hard to top the New York Knicks. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were going to struggle with the transition. But the worst team in basketball, worse than Philadelphia or Minnesota? I didn’t see this face-plant coming.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Hawks are absolutely the biggest surprise, so much so that the other unforeseen performances – by the Warriors, Grizzlies, Rockets and Bucks – don’t seem so surprising by comparison. The biggest disappointment has been the Cavaliers: Not so much for their record as for the way they’ve reacted. I figured by now they would be showing more camaraderie and character and leadership, especially at the defensive end. And if there is any hint that their failure to pull together is the fault of the coach then further shame on them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Atlanta Hawks have been nothing short of shocking. I say that as a native Atlantan and former Hawks season-ticket holder who watches every Hawks game and even wrote the NBA.com Hawks season preview. If I didn’t see a 33-8 start coming I don’t expect anyone else to have suspected it either. On both ends of the floor, night after night, the Hawks have been a total delight to watch, and they deserve every watt of the spotlight they’re receiving. As for the flip side of the coin, it’s not altogether their fault, but the Oklahoma City Thunder’s start to the season has been brutal. And sure, significant injuries to your two best players are always trouble, but the Thunder have to start winning consistently right now just to have a chance at making the playoffs. 20-20 is supposed to be the result of Russell Westbrook‘s fashion glasses, not OKC’s record halfway through the season.

 

Biggest Surprise of 2014-15For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Blogtable: Texas-sized showdown?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Midseason surprises? | Texas playoff showdown? | What to do with Austin?



VIDEOThe Spurs won their last game vs. the Rockets, which came in late December

> We’d love to see a good Texas showdown in the first round of the playoffs, so which would be the better one: Spurs vs. Rockets, Spurs vs. Mavs, or Mavs vs. Rockets? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll take Spurs vs. Rockets, please, just because of the contrast in cultures, styles, team-building, new Big 3 vs. historic Big 3, you name it. James Harden in perhaps an MVP season against Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly pestering Tony Parker, Dwight Howard against Tim Duncan and San Antonio’s other bigs – the only downside would be catching all the games on TV and going forward three rounds without one of them.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Any combination would make for a dandy series, but I’ll go with Spurs-Rockets. Since the arrival of Dwight Howard last season, Houston is 5-1 against San Antonio. This could be a changing-of-the-guard type series as the Rockets use younger, stronger legs to press an advantage against the aging veterans of the Spurs. But at 38, Tim Duncan has been performing like an ageless All-Star and the Spurs’ pride wouldn’t go down without an epic fight. Bring it on.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: No real preference, but I’ll go Mavericks-Rockets. Other people will look forward to a return to the sniping, Chandler Parsons against his old team, Mark Cuban against the Houston front office. I would like the collision of the very good Mavs offense against the very good Rockets defense. That would be a fun watch.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Mavs-Rockets, no doubt. I mean, even though Chandler Parsons has already seen his old team and will again before the playoffs, the temperature goes up a tick in April. Toss Mark Cuban into the mix and it becomes even more toxic. This could be Dirk Nowitzki‘s last good chance to go far in the playoffs, so the Mavericks might feel a little desperation.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’d happily accept any of the three, but put me down for Rockets-Spurs. San Antonio is always going to be my first choice for any matchup, as long as they keep playing the same style, keep executing at a high level, and keep Boris Diaw around. Houston provides a contrast in style, star talent, and the defense that has had the most regular-season success against the Spurs over the last two years. Before we get there though, I’d like to see the Rockets add one more guy who can create off the dribble. Their offense misses Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Given the intertwined histories of all of these franchises, we couldn’t go wrong with any of these proposed matchups. Still, there’s something about the bad blood that simmers between the Mavericks and Rockets makes that the series I’d love to see. James Harden and Rajon Rondo, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Smith, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Patrick Beverley and, ultimately, Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons. All of those matchups, combined with the underlying drama involved, would make for a crazy competitive first-round series. There would be as much (or more) drama in this series as there would be the rest of the postseason combined.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Spurs vs. Mavs would be tremendous. Both teams know how to win championships (now that Dirk Nowitzki has been joined by Rajon Rondo), both coaches are among the NBA’s smartest, and both offenses tend to be efficient and explosive. The Mavs went seven games in the opening round last year with the Spurs, who lost only four additional playoff games on their way to the championship. A rematch would be even more competitive.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: There’s a lot of history between each of these teams, and from a schadenfreude/front office perspective, watching Houston and Dallas in the first round might be the most entertaining. But from a basketball perspective, I’d really like to see San Antonio go up against Houston. Even as the Spurs have struggled through injuries and a rigorous first-half schedule, they’ve remained relevant to the postseason picture. Once they’re at full-strength, I’d love to see their pace-and-space attack against Houston’s read-and-react offense. How would San Antonio slow down James Harden? How would Houston defend San Antonio’s ball movement? However it shakes out, it will definitely be must-see TV.

Blogtable: Father knows best?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Midseason surprises? | Texas playoff showdown? | What to do with Austin?



VIDEOGameTime’s crew discusses the Rivers’ pairing in Los Angeles

> A lot has been made about Austin Rivers being traded to the Clippers, who are coached by his father, Doc. Is playing for your dad in the NBA a good thing, a bad thing, or much ado about nothing?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If we were talking about “LeBron Rivers,” I don’t think there’d be a problem. His unquestioned spot atop any rotation’s pecking order would make it OK to have Mom coach. But any player more ordinary inevitably leads to subjective judgments on playing time, play-calling and other decisions that could leave non-related players feeling disadvantaged. It could be hard on all concerned, with Pops sensitive to charges of favoritism and the offspring feeling he hasn’t fully earned his opportunities – or feeling the old man is being overly tough to compensate. Nah, things like “Rivers & Son” belong on butcher shops and tailors’ awnings.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Well, since we have all of a week of history to evaluate, who could possibly say? But if there is a thoughtful, deliberate coach who can make it work, that’s probably Doc Rivers. The bigger question to me is whether Austin Rivers is a solid, productive, long-term NBA player. He hasn’t shown it yet.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Much ado about nothing. Father and son will both approach it the right way, and it’s not like Austin will have a large role in L.A. that will put a lot of scrutiny on number of shots, minutes, etc. The Clippers need him to help prop up a bench that has been underperforming. The bigger concern is what it can do to a personal relationship, not a locker room, if either does not feel they are getting treated well in the unique situation. I don’t think that happens, but it’s still more likely than a basketball problem. It would have been the same with Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Jr. or George Karl and Coby Karl. Everyone would have understood the expectations. Everyone would have handled it well if the planets ever aligned in the same way it has for the Clippers. It comes down to the people involved.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Generally this is a risky proposition only because the NBA is big business. Still, I’ll lean toward much ado about nothing in this situation, mainly because Austin is a bit player in the grand scheme of things and will be on the bench when it counts. Besides, the Clippers’ locker room is pretty mature. Plus, Austin isn’t threatening to cut anyone’s playing time or cost someone money in a contract year. That kind of stuff can create jealousy. A bigger debate is whether Doc Rivers did all he could to upgrade the small forward position before turning to his son.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It has more potential to be bad than good, depending on the personalities (including those of the other players) involved. But what matters most is the son’s ability to make positive contributions on the floor. And in the case of Austin Rivers, things probably won’t work out too well, because the Clippers are under a lot of pressure to compete for a championship, they specifically need reserves to keep the ship afloat when their stars sit, and he doesn’t have the ability (on either end of the floor) to do so.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It depends on how good a player you are, which remains a mystery in the case of Austin Rivers. If he was an elite player I think this would be a good thing. If he’s on his way out of the league, it’s certainly much ado about nothing. But if, he’s in the enigma zone and Doc Rivers is going to get the last chance to save his son’s NBA career, this is a dangerous thing that could turn out to be one of the worst things to ever happen to father, son and the rest of the Rivers clan. Doc certainly didn’t need the added pressure of trying to justify adding Austin to the roster of a Clippers team that has not played up to their own expectations this season. If he can’t help his son find his niche, who can? Then again, if Austin flourishes under his father’s tutelage and comes into his own as an NBA player, no one will remember what a colossal risk it was for the Clippers’ basketball boss to go against his better judgement and make the deal that brought his son to Los Angeles.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Will teammates be resentful of Austin’s minutes? Will Doc be harder on his son than on the other players? For this to work, everyone – including Austin’s new teammates – will have to behave like grownups while focusing on things that really matter, and maybe that will be the unexpected benefit that galvanizes this team. Are they going to be distracted, or are they going to focus? If the arrival of a backup guard on a rookie contract turns out to be enough to disrupt the Clippers, then they were never title contenders anyway.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Is the Dad a good coach? Is the son a good player? Is the system the Dad uses a good fit for the son? What kind of help does the son have around him? We know Doc Rivers has chops as a coach, and just a few years ago Austin was rated one of the top NBA prospects coming out of Duke. Austin has struggled to find consistency coming off the bench in New Orleans, and a change of scenery probably was due at some point. At least we can assume that no coach understands Austin’s strengths and weaknesses as intimately as Doc. Whether that works in Los Angeles is still to be determined. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s all relative.

Layoff of Bucks’ Sanders compounded by another anti-drug suspension


VIDEO: Latest NBA news from Friday

Larry Sanders‘ saga has had so many twists and turns in his four-plus NBA seasons, it’s hard to know whether his latest violation of the league’s anti-drug policy is at the root of his extended absence from the Milwaukee Bucks, or in addition to it.

Sanders, who has been on leave from the Bucks since before Christmas, was suspended Friday by the NBA without pay for a minimum of 10 games for again violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA drug program.

Sanders’ suspension will begin Monday, with the Bucks’ next scheduled game vs. Toronto at BMO Harris Bradley Center, and “will continue until he is in full compliance with his treatment program,” the league announcement read.

Sanders already has missed 11 games, with the Bucks first listing “illness,” followed by “personal reasons,” for his absence. He last played before Christmas, getting five points and eight rebounds in Milwaukee’s loss to Charlotte Dec. 23. He had averaged 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 27 appearances this season, the first in a four-year, $44 million contract.

When Sanders’ absence stretched beyond the few days typically required for illness and Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd stayed vague on the 6-foot-11 center’s situation, rumors spread that he might have lost interest in basketball in general or the Bucks in particular. Sanders’ track record of technical fouls, locker room altercations and off-court incidents gave weight to just about any and all concerns.

But the fifth-year player did show up to watch, in street clothes from the bench, Milwaukee’s home game against Phoenix Jan. 6. And in comments to reporters afterward, he seemed closer to rather than further from a return, with no known indication of an anti-drug policy violation.

Sanders used the words “my psyche and my physical health” in talking about unreadiness to play for the Bucks. Team president Peter Feigin had expressed the organization’s “1,000 percent” support. Feigin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it wanted to “surround players with the best medical, psychological, emotional and physical support we can possibly have. When Larry’s ready, he’ll be ready.”

Sanders did not travel with the Bucks to Chicago Saturday or to London Monday for their game Thursday against New York.

Under the terms of the anti-drug policy agreed to by the Board of Governors and the players’ union, suspensions typically begin with the first game an injured player is available for action. For instance, when Sanders incurred his “third strike” of the policy last spring to earn a five-game suspension – taking the occasion to talk up the benefits of medical marijuana use – he first had to officially be cleared to play, having been ruled out for the season in March with a fractured bone near his right eye.

The Bucks revisited that prognosis, and Sanders was able to sit out the final five games last season – which he would have missed anyway and which were docked at the per-game rate from a $3 million salary, not $11 million.

There had been no sense, however, that Sanders was expected back in uniform for Monday’s game against the Raptors. Now he definitely won’t be, with his earliest possible return on Feb. 7 when Milwaukee plays host to Boston.

Blogtable: Why doubt the Hawks?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Buy Hawks or Nets? | Who is Atlanta’s All-Star? | Are the Hawks legit?



VIDEOCan the Hawks keep up their immense success once the playoffs begin?

> They’re the top team in the East right now, but they’ve also steamrolled their Western Conference opponents during this recent 23-2 run. This team is legit, isn’t it? Why are there still so many Hawks doubters out there?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAny team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency this deep into a season is legit in my mind. The Hawks defend without fouling, or at least without giving away a lot of cheap points at the line. They shoot lights-out. They have worker bees to run down those vaunted 50-50 balls. I think any reluctance to give them their full due as a contender stems from three things: Limited history as a power since the ‘Nique years, the absence of an easily accessible marquee name/personality and, most of all, their style. Atlanta went “3-crazy” in the playoffs last spring out of necessity — no Al Horford — and doesn’t hoist ‘em from way deep quite like that now (five of their eight most prolific shooters in the postseason took 45 percent of their FGA from the arc vs. just two now). But the Hawks still score fewer points off 2-pointers than all but four teams and more off 3-pointers than all but six, and that heavy reliance on range doesn’t fit the imagery of grinding, assertive playoff offense.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comYes, they’re legit. Their smackdown of the so-called power teams from the West proves that. The only reason that people doubt the Hawks is the long franchise history of mediocre basketball, early playoff exits, empty arenas and no excitement outside of Dominique Wilkins. They’ll fight their own past until they get a chance to do something about in the 2015 playoffs.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comYes, this team is legit. The doubt comes because of the Hawks’ history, not the Hawks’ present. People are getting caught up in reputations. And the instability in the front office and ownership doesn’t help. But this isn’t this isn’t a sudden flash that needs to stand the test of time. People could see Atlanta coming at least a season ago and maybe longer. Besides, half a season with some of the wins the Hawks have had is a pretty good test of time. That’s a roster with talent and a smart coach who will have a lot of success.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The doubters exists because (a) the Hawks are guilty by association with regard to the crummy East, and (b) they have no stars, and (c) the Hawks have never won two playoff rounds in their Atlanta history, so folks are waiting to see what happens in April/May. Also, there’s the sense that when the Bulls get it together, it’s their conference to lose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI can’t say why other people don’t believe in the Hawks, but I’m pretty convinced. They have the best record (9-3), the best offense (107.4 points per 100 possessions) and the second best defense (101.4) in games played between the league’s 12 best teams (the top 4 in the East, the top 8 in the West). Overall, they’re one of two teams that ranks in the top six on both ends of the floor, and they’ve played a tougher schedule than the other one (Golden State). Though Al Horford has come a long way since the beginning of the season, interior defense is still a bit of a question, so I’ll be curious to see them against Chicago on Saturday if both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are (relatively) healthy. Noah missed the first meeting in December.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe Hawks are indeed “legit,” and then some. Yet, as a veteran of some of the most diabolically bad basketball ever unleashed on fans in Atlanta (13-69 in 2004-05 was uglier than the numbers indicate), I get the reluctance to buy-in locally. It’s hard to believe in a team with the history the Hawks have acquired over the years is as putrid as we all know it to be. Every glimmer of hope has been met with a door slamming in the face of Hawks fans eager to jump on a bandwagon with no wheels. That said, I don’t believe in the ghosts of basketball past muddying up things for the ghosts of basketball present and the future. And these current Hawks are giving you everything you need to believe that they are destined for something special this season. The Eastern Conference crown is there for the taking … so why not the Hawks?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They don’t have anyone known for raising his level of play. That’s what the great players do, and that’s why they win championships. Will the Hawks be able to raise their level in the postseason? But then again, if the Bulls aren’t healthy three or four months from now, there may be no rival in the East capable of forcing the Hawks to achieve that higher level of play. What they’re doing right now may be good enough to earn them a place in the NBA Finals.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAtlanta sports fans have something I call the hammer of history constantly dangling over their heads. Over the last three decades, there have been so many Atlanta teams with championship aspirations who showed promise and got the city and the fans fired up, and then fell short. The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles and managed one World Series title. The Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in 1998 and got whacked. Georgia Tech made it to the NCAA Basketball championship game in 2004 and getting bumped off by UConn. It’s been all tease and minimal payoff, and Atlanta fans are understandably tired and suspicious of handing over their hearts too soon. So I get it, I do. The thing is? Right now, this Hawks team is for real. There’s still a lot of season to go, and I know it’s hard to embrace anything with that hammer above, but enjoy it Hawks fans. Stuff like this doesn’t come along very often.

Blogtable: Atlanta’s All-Star is …?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Buy Hawks or Nets? | Who is Atlanta’s All-Star? | Are the Hawks legit?



VIDEOPaul Millsap is putting in plenty of hard work off the court

> Assuming the Hawks don’t have a player voted into the starting lineup (and that’s a pretty safe assumption), who on the Atlanta roster should make the All-Star team as a reserve? And why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: When we bellied up to the blogtable a few weeks ago to bat around All-Star roster spots, I mentioned Kyle Korver, so I’m going to stick with him. He’s not a “star” per se, but his name recognition is as solid as any of the below-the-radar Hawks. Jeff Teague has the gaudier PER (22.7) and Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are averaging more points. Korver, however, is so instrumental to what Atlanta is doing this season that he’d be a great representative for their ensemble contender. If Dan Majerle could make an All-Star Game as a role player, Korver should be able to.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIt’s taken the Hawks’ sizzling run to get people to finally notice that Jeff Teague has the numbers (19.8 points., 7.2 assists) to go toe-to-toe with the elite point guards. He’s been the steady hand running the Atlanta offense, also is getting the job done on defense. The Hawks have a lot of contributors to what has become a wonderful season, but Teague is the spark who often ignites them. He should be in the MVP conversation.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comJeff Teague with a slight edge over Paul Millsap. Teague takes care of the ball, a big reason the Hawks could break the top five in scoring despite not having a dominant scorer. With Teague, they don’t waste possessions. Plus, he shoots well. One very interesting consideration for an All-Star pick, though: Kyle Korver. That range puts so much pressure on defenses. Korver will obviously be invited to be in the Three-Point Contest, but an argument could be made he deserves consideration for the Sunday main event.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: If we’re only putting one Hawk on the team, then it’s Paul Millsap, who’s a player’s player and Atlanta’s most consistent guy. If we’re putting two, then pencil in Jeff Teague, a top-3 point guard in the NBA over the last month. Coach Mike Budenholzer will be on the bench, it appears. And we know Kyle Korver is winning the Three-Point Contest, right? So it could be a Hawk weekend after all.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In a league where shooting is more important than ever, there should be a spot for the guy that’s the league’s best shooter by a wide margin. Kyle Korver not only shoots 3-pointers at a ridiculous rate (his threes are worth 1.6 points per shot), but creates open shots and lanes to the basket for his teammates by just being on the floor. The numbers say that the Hawks’ sixth-ranked offense is at its best when Korver is on the court, and it’s easy to understand why. I’d try to find spots for Jeff Teague (the team’s second most efficient scorer and the guy who runs the offense), Paul Millsap (all-around mensch on the floor) and Al Horford (the key to their defensive improvement), in that order, as well. And maybe Cleveland’s slide will allow for more than two Hawks on the East roster.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The All-Star reserve selections are often about what have you done for me lately. And no one has been better for the Hawks than Jeff Teague, whose run of 20-point scoring games and deft touch running Mike Budenholzer‘s offense has been an absolute revelation for a player who was once viewed as a potential bust (in his early days with the Hawks) by some insiders who are no longer with the organization. In a league filled with stellar point guards, Teague has been one of the best this season and deserves the some All-Star recognition for what he’s done. Paul Millsap deserves a spot, too. And if Budenholzer and his staff end up coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars next month in New York, don’t be surprised to see a pair of Hawks suit up for the big game.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comJeff Teague has to be an All-Star, doesn’t he? He leads the No. 1 team in points and assists. I don’t see any of the other Hawks making it, which makes sense — it’s because of their selflessness that they’re dominating the East.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI’ve said all along that Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague deserve to be All-Stars this season. Teague leads the Hawks in scoring (17.4 ppg) and assists (7.4 apg), and he’s a pest defensively (1.8 steals per game). After years of inconsistent play, Teague is having a career year, and in a league dominated by point guards, Teague gives the Hawks a chance to win every night. Meanwhile, even though Al Horford has improved week by week, Millsap has been Atlanta’s best frontcourt player all season. He’s averaging 16.9 ppg and leads them in rebounding (7.9 rpg), and surprisingly he’s tied with Teague in steals (1.8). And on the rare occasions when the Hawks’ pace-and-space offense bogs down, Teague and Millsap are Atlanta’s best options to create a shot for themselves. It’s hard to single out any of the Hawks, as their whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Horford and Kyle Korver certainly deserve All-Star consideration. But without Teague and Millsap, this team wouldn’t be flying nearly as high.

Blogtable: Buy the Hawks or the Nets?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Buy Hawks or Nets? | Who is Atlanta’s All-Star? | Are the Hawks legit?



VIDEOThe Starters discuss the Hawks’ recent surge in the East

> Taking in the whole picture – current roster and contracts, fan base, TV market, arena – which NBA team is the more attractive buy: the Brooklyn Nets or the Atlanta Hawks?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Location, location, location! I don’t like the Nets’ current roster overall, the fan base can be fickle, the arena felt underbuilt the times I’ve been there and the novelty of an NBA team in Brooklyn has worn off. But it’s still an NBA team in Brooklyn, for cryin’ out loud. The size of the market, the basketball traditions in New York, the attractiveness to free agents – all of that is a big advantage over Atlanta’s tried-and-tried-and-tried-again little franchise. Now if I could just swing a 24-player trade with Danny Ferry‘s empty chair…

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhen you’re looking at the whole picture, the obvious overwhelming deciding factor is the TV market. Two words: New York. It trumps everything. The Nets also have a spanking new state of the art arena in the Barclays Center.  The fan base for basketball in the market is also one of the best in the league. Filling out your roster with players is down the list of heavy lifting. If you’re looking in short-term, obviously you reach for the red-hot Hawks and Atlanta. But it’s still a franchise trying to figure it all out. If I’m a prospective owner looking to get into the league for the long term and have my choice of either franchise, it’s a no-brainer for the Nets.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comObviously pending the final total on the bill, the Nets are the more attractive buy. Not the better basketball team, but the better chance to make a lot of money. New York always seems like a limitless market anyway, but especially now with not only the Knicks in full fetal position but a lot of the city’s teams struggling. Grab even a small slice of the NYC fan base and it would be considered a big jump a lot of other places. The turnstiles don’t move much at Hawks games even with a very good start.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comYou can never bet against New York real estate, and that’s essentially where the value lies with the Nets. They’ll always be the No. 2 team in NYC the way the Clippers will always be No. 2 in L.A. Plus, the roster is a mess (along with the loss of future Draft picks from the Joe Johnson trade). While the Hawks are in far better shape basketball-wise, I’m not convinced about the marketplace. Remember, even in the Dominique Wilkins years, the Hawks didn’t always sell out the old Omni. It’s a football town, plain and simple.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Nets are one of the most boring and one of the most disappointing teams in the league, with little hope for a turnaround in the next couple of seasons. The Hawks are not only good and fun to watch, but also have the maneuverability to make upgrades. But Brooklyn’s market and brand trump all that in regard to franchise value. The Nets have a newer and better arena in a much bigger city. They need time to build up their fan base, but in New York, you can always get people, like tourists who have never seen an NBA game before, in the seats. Just ask the 5-35 Knicks.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Conventional business wisdom says Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn! The return on your investment in Metropolitan New York, no matter how big or bigger that investment would have to be to purchase a NBA team these days, is certainly going to be greater with the Nets. I’m a risk taker, though, so I’d go with Atlanta and the continued growth of the Mecca of the southeast. If Mark Cuban can make it work in (Cowboys mad) Dallas, why can’t someone make it work in Atlanta? The Hawks’ overall basketball portfolio is far superior to what the Nets are working with. They own the longest playoff streak in the Eastern Conference, have a sound core group that is playing the best basketball of any team in the East and perhaps the entire league as of this moment. And there is a hungry fan base itching for someone to present them with a winner to go crazy over. The Nets will never overtake the Knicks as the top draw in the Big Apple. The top spot in Atlanta is wide open, for an owner willing to take a little risk.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comBrooklyn, by far. Of course there will be a few hard years of rebuilding for the new owner; but the immensity of the New York market and its lush revenue streams will trigger a much higher price for the Nets than for the Hawks.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: As an Atlanta native who has lived in New York City for the last 15 years, I feel like I am uniquely qualified to answer this. And even as someone who rooted for the Hawks for decades, and someone as shocked as the next person at the way the Hawks are playing this season, the Nets are probably the smarter buy. Sure, the Hawks are the better team right now, and are better positioned for both the immediate and long-term future, but there’s one key advantage Brooklyn has over Atlanta: Metropolitan Atlanta has about 5.5 million residents; Brooklyn is part of New York City, which has about 8.5 million people. Brooklyn is part of one of the richest, most densely-populated cities in the world, filled with deep pockets just waiting to be tapped. Even without an owner and an absentee GM, the Hawks are in a better place than the Nets. But the Nets are the smarter buy.

Reports: Pelicans’ Rivers in Green deal, could reunite with Doc in L.A.

The long-anticipated – well, 24, 36 or 48 hours, depending on when you’re seeing this – trade sending forward Jeff Green from Boston to Memphis might have found the third team that had been holding things up.

And apparently, a fourth team.

The New Orleans Pelicans were first to enter the fray, agreeing to send guard Austin Rivers to the Celtics, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. That transaction would send Green to the Grizzlies, Tayshaun Prince from Memphis to Boston, Rivers to the Celtics and the Grizzlies’ Quincy Pondexter to the Pelicans.

With some additional considerations:

It wasn’t long, though, before the pieces apparently started moving again:

Rivers ending up with the Clippers, of course, adds the storyline of the No. 10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft being coached by his father, Glenn (Doc) Rivers. The Clippers conveniently were drubbing Dallas in a matinee game, so there was some near-instant reaction available from Rivers the elder:

For the record, instances of a father coaching against his son in the NBA are rare enough; the Rivers family has done it, of course, and so did Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Mike Dunleavy Jr., as well as Butch and Jan van Breda Kolff back in 1976. But coaching one’s offspring? That’s more of a college thing.

In fact, it brings to mind a situation at Doc Rivers’ alma mater Marquette back when Hall of Famer Al McGuire was coaching. In the early 1970s, McGuire’s son Allie played for the team and another player, George Frazier, complained that he was just as good and deserved as many minutes.

Said McGuire: “George, you might be as good as Allie, but to beat him out you’ve got to be better – he’s my son.”

Guys on the Clippers bench like Jordan Farmer and Chris Douglas-Roberts might want to file that away.

Jackson rightly owns Knicks’ woes


VIDEO: Phil Jackson discusses Derek Fisher’s patience with team’s struggles

It’s not Derek Fisher‘s fault. It’s not Carmelo Anthony‘s fault. It’s not the other players’ fault, and it certainly isn’t the New York Knicks’ fans’ fault.

Phil Jackson, in a session with reporters Saturday, said the Knicks’ miserable season is his fault, throwing himself in front of the locomotive of crankiness and criticism over New York’s 5-34 record, 14-game losing streak and consistently feeble offensive and defensive performances. From the way he took the blame, you’d think he was the team’s president or something. Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com was on hand prior to the Knicks’ matinee game vs. Charlotte at Madison Square Garden (in which they fell behind 62-31 by halftime):

“This is a mea culpa. I take responsibility for it,” Jackson said

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he thought the Knicks would be a playoff team this season. Instead, things have gone horribly wrong for Jackson and the Knicks.

Actually, Jackson set himself up for this when he accepted the job (and his five-year, $60 million contract) last spring. There was no way he, Red Auerbach or David Copperfield was going to wave a wand and magically transform the team’s thin talent base and bloated payroll in the span of a few months. That’s what he inherited from chairman James Dolan and the Knicks administrations that preceded Jackson’s arrival by, oh, a couple decades.

When the most successful head coach in NBA history, in one of his early acts as a team architect, doubled down on New York’s commitment to Anthony – signing him to a five-year, maximum salary contract despite ample evidence Anthony isn’t up to the task as a cornerstone, No. 1 franchise guy for a true contender – Jackson became complicit in the problems facing that club.

He didn’t help himself, either, trading away Tyson Chandler with Raymond Felton as first serious move – as far as players, after hiring Fisher as head coach – to “change the culture.” Chandler is a higher-character guy than Jackson realized, dragged down by the losing and drama in 2013-14.

Shedding J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, while waiving what came back in the three-team trade along with center Samuel Dalembert were solid moves, both for payroll flexibility and for addition-by-subtraction. But like the old joke about 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, it’s merely a good start.

As for asking fans not to let Fisher hear the brunt of their frustration or in covering for the players’ slowness in executing his triangle offense, Jackson basically was stating the obvious. Whether “blame” was the right word or not, this all had to be – or should have been – part of Jackson’s vision. Getting worse to get better was the only viable option for the Knicks. It was unrealistic for anyone, least of all Jackson, to think that tweaking last season’s 37-45 team would get New York into contention (even in the East).

Was 5-34 in the cards? Or shutting down Anthony for a majority of the season due to his sore left knee, which remains a possibility? No one should have expected that. Playing below even the meager expectations for this group, some of that certainly is on the players and Fisher. The Knicks turn over the ball too much, get beaten on the boards too often and get to the foul line too seldom. They settle for jump shots, frequently from the wrong shooters.

But this job requires sutures and rehab, not Band-Aids. That means another offseason for draft choice, trade acquisition and (with $25 million or more in cap space) free agents. That came up Saturday too:

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he is concerned that the team’s record will make it an unattractive destination for free agents.

“We’re all worried about the fact that money is not going to just be able to buy you necessary talent. You’re going to have to have places where people want to come and play,” said Jackson. … “But I do think that New York situation holds a high regard in players and agents that have contacted us. We have no lack of agents that have contacted us for their players. We still think that we have a really good chance to develop a team.”

Finally, in the closest thing to news in Jackson’s chin-wag with the media, he said that surgery might be an option for Anthony, who hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve in L.A. due to his aching knee:

“I think for ‘Melo the last resort is surgery, as it should be for anybody,” Jackson said. “Surgery is basically to repair and to correct. He’s got a situation that could exacerbate, could get difficult, could be better with the surgery, but he wants to really try it again and see where he’s going to be at. The next period of time we’ll assess that and we’ll sit down and talk to him about it. I know the All-Star game (at Madison Square Garden) is important for him down the road in February. I know this trip to London (for the Knicks game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan .15) will be important for him to play. He sees possibilities of helping the team get back and be better.”

Morning shootaround — Jan. 10


VIDEO: Trevor Booker taps in possibly the shot of the year

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Booker practices those ‘circus’ shots | Tarpley, dead at 50, ‘could do it all’ | Cavs find sunshine through dark clouds | Rock bottom in 5 seconds for Nets

No. 1: Booker practices those ‘circus’ shots — Necessity is the mother of invention, but it occasionally can be the father of ridiculous. That’s how it felt Friday night in Oklahoma City, when Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker took resourcefulness to an outrageous level and made not just the play of the night but the shot of the 2014-15 NBA season, at least based on rarity and degree of difficulty. Booker’s back-to-the-basket, no-time-except-to-tip, underhanded flip of a field goal attempt stunned pretty much everyone in the gym. Here’s Jazz beat writer Jody Genessey on the play:

With 0.2 seconds remaining on the shot clock, the Jazz got the ball out of bounds on the far sideline. The only shot that can even be completed in that amount of time is a tip, and that’s what Jazz coach Quin Snyder called for.

Booker said he didn’t even know the play that his coach barked out, so he headed to the hoop thinking Gordon Hayward would probably throw a lob. When that didn’t materialize, Booker rushed over toward Hayward and stopped with his back toward the basket.

That’s when, as the NBA marketing department might say, amazing happened.

Hayward made a bounce pass to Booker, who creatively and instinctively tipped the ball with both hands and flipped it up and over his head in the nick of time. It’s a move that might come in handy next summer when he plays volleyball again.

Incredibly, the ball plopped into the net, helping the Jazz take a 50-44 lead into the break.

“We try to cover a lot of game situations. That was not one,” Jazz coach Snyder said. “I have to say they manufactured that.”

While Snyder, Hayward and everyone else was startled, Booker grinned and immediately thought to the hours he and his cousin, Lakers forward Jordan Hill, spent practicing – yes, practicing – such goofball shots and situations. As cited by Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune:

“I know you won’t believe me, but I really do practice those shots,” he said in the locker room afterward. “My cousin [Lakers forward] Jordan Hill, he texted me after the game and said, ‘They’re not going to believe we practiced those shots all the time growing up.’ I guess you could say the hard work finally paid off.”

The Jazz lost the game, 99-94, and dropped to 13-24. But Booker was buoyant afterward about his team as well as that shot.

“That’s a good [team] right there,” he said of the Thunder. “Let’s not forget that they went to the Finals a couple years ago. We’re playing good ball right now, playing hard. I told the group, there’s no group I’d rather go to war with than these guys. We’re still trying to figure everything out, but as long as we keep playing hard the way we are, we’re going to be fine.”

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No. 2: Tarpley, dead at 50, ‘could do it all’ — He was a child of the ’60s, which meant that Roy Tarpley was a young professional athlete in the ’80s, and while no decade has held exclusive rights to illegal drug use among major sports figures, that one ranks high. Tarpley was the seventh player picked in the 1986 NBA Draft – five spots after Len Bias, the poster guy for squandered dreams and tragic ends even today. Others taken early that day included Chris Washburn and William Bedford, two more whose careers washed out to substance abuse. Other sports had similar tales, and Tarpley’s came to an end with the news Friday that the former Dallas Mavericks forward had died at age 50. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News chronicled the sad news:

Cause of death was not immediately known Friday night, although when the Mavericks arrived in Los Angeles for their game Saturday against the Clippers, several members of the traveling party had been informed that liver failure was at least partly to blame.

The 6-11 Tarpley was the seventh pick in the 1986 draft by the Mavericks out of Michigan. In his second season, he was the NBA’s sixth man of the year before drugs and controversy shrouded the rest of his six seasons in the league.

According to a medical examiner’s report, Tarpley’s death happened at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. It is a sad ending to one of the most gifted players in franchise history. Tarpley had a rare combination of strength and speed that made him one of the best athletes of his era.

“Our condolences go out to the family of Roy Tarpley,” Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said via Twitter. “RIP Roy. Mavs fans everywhere will remember you fondly.”

Tarpley’s off-court troubles probably followed him into the NBA from the University of Michigan and largely defined his time in Dallas, with the Mavericks assisting in significant ways. When he was right, he was very right; the 6-foot-11 native of Detroit averaged 12.6 and 10.0 rebounds in 280 regular season games over parts of six seasons. In 24 playoff games, his numbers were even better: 17.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and a 20.8 PER. He led the NBA in total rebound percentage (22.6) while winning the Sixth Man Award in 1987-88 and he led in that category again two years later. That’s the Tarpley fans would prefer to remember.

“If Roy had stayed healthy, he could have been one of the top 50 players ever,” said Brad Davis, the Mavericks’ radio analyst and player-development coach who played with Tarpley. “He could do it all, shoot, score, rebound, pass and defend. We’re all sorry to hear of his passing.”

Tarpley would spend most of his career battling personal problems. He was suspended by the NBA after five games in the 1989-90 season after being arrested for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. In 1991, he drew another suspension after a second DWI arrest and, a few months later, had a third violation and was banned from the league for violating the NBA’s drug-use policies.

He returned to the Mavericks briefly in 1994 but then was permanently barred in December 1995 for violating terms of his aftercare program.

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No. 3: Cavs find sunshine through dark clouds — Some of us at Hang Time HQ have chided some of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ knee-jerk critics for ignoring the one thing everyone said that team would need in 2014-15, namely patience. Then again, a stretch of seven defeats in eight games, a four-game losing streak and two weeks without LeBron James – all while nearing the mid-point of January – might be an appropriate time to … PANIC! And yet, there was a calm of sorts about the Cavs after their 18-point drubbing at Golden State Friday and even some rays of optimism, as Cleveland beat guy Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com saw it:

It’s amazing how much the direction of a team can change once its members change the perception of their situation.

Monday in Philadelphia it seemed as low as you could go, with the Cavs blowing an early lead and losing to the laughingstock of the league with Kyrie Irving not making the trip because of a back injury and LeBron James away from the team, also nursing strains to his back and left knee while making a quick rehab trip down in Miami.

Five days later, with the team having pulled off two trades (in essence Dion Waiters for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and a couple of first-round picks for Timofey Mozgov and a second-rounder), Irving back in the lineup, and James back with the team for its five-game road trip — and even going through “minor” on-court activities for the first time since sitting out Dec. 30 — there’s some sunshine peaking through the clouds, according to coach David Blatt.

“It’s tough right now and I know it’s tough to see, but when we do get back to full strength, we’re going to be good,” said Kevin Love.

It was particularly noteworthy that Love was waving the encouragement flag because he took only 11 shots — compared to 23 apiece for Smith and Irving — but instead of focusing on his involvement in the offense after the fact, he set his sights on what the Cavs will look like in the near future.

Blatt took the same tone.

“I think you see we’re a better team today than we were yesterday and we were a week ago,” Blatt said. “I’m not even going to talk about the guys that aren’t playing, because we’re a better team today.”

The signs are more encouraging than sappy stuff like playing tough teams close – Houston, the Warriors – without their best player. There are no guarantees, but at least there have been some changes and the LeBron arrow is pointing up:

The new faces are already making their presence felt, whether it was Smith’s 27 points against the Warriors (“I told you coming in; I had nothing but a good feeling about J.R. joining our team,” Blatt said), or it was Mozgov’s nine points and eight rebounds in his debut and his reaction to how he was received (“The guys meet me so good,” the Russian-born Mozgov said in endearing broken English, “make me be the part of the family on the first day. … So, I love it”), or Shumpert’s competitive side relishing the fact he was leaving a sinking ship for a team that’s playoff-bound (“I didn’t want my season to end early,” Shumpert said).

There are no “gimme” games in the Western Conference, but Sacramento should be a winnable game on Sunday; and then, if James comes back just slightly ahead of his two-week rest schedule he could be in the lineup Tuesday in Phoenix, and if that happens you get the lame-duck Lakers next, and possibly have picked up a full head of steam going into the trip finale Friday against the Clippers.

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No. 4: Rock bottom in 5 seconds for Nets — Realists in this league have a saying they occasionally invoke: “You are what your record is.” Pessimists around the Brooklyn Nets woke up Saturday believing that their team is about 10 games worse than its record, though, because the 16-19 Nets somehow blew a game against the 6-29 Philadelphia 76ers Friday night at the Barclays Center. The blog TheBrooklynGame.com had an intriguing snapshot of the team hitting rock bottom – actually, it was more of a film analysis, second-by-second, of Brooklyn’s best last chance in the game. It began with coach Lionel Hollins‘ admonitions that the Nets really aren’t a good team and then dissected an inbounds play that led to center Brook Lopez launching a prayer from beyond 3-point range on a failed attempt to win or tie:

With may-day approaching after three failed screens and little misdirection, Lopez shot up towards [Alan] Anderson, extending his left arm away from Nerlens Noel to catch the ball, as the only player left who had a chance.

The option was doomed from the start. The seven-footer, who has never made a three-pointer in the regular season, caught a wide pass from Anderson one-handed, spun counterclockwise to the middle of the floor, performed a ball-fake against the long and talented Noel to no avail, and flung a contested, fallaway three-pointer wide right, officially listed at 27 feet away but might as well have been from the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk.

“We’re honestly playing down to these teams these last few games,” Lopez said. “We’re better than this, and we’re doing it to ourselves. And we have to be better than this for the entirety of the game.”

It should’ve never come down to Lopez taking that final shot, because it never should’ve come down to a final shot at all.

“When we executed and made good decisions, and defended, and rebounded, we were ahead. Soon as we relaxed and made some bad decisions on offense, made some bad decisions on defense, they came back.”

Now, the Nets can only look ahead, and the road is ugly. 13 of the team’s 17 games before the All-Star break (and the trade deadline) come against teams slated to be in the playoffs, and that’s not including tomorrow night’s contest against the Detroit Pistons, who had won seven straight games before barely losing to the Atlanta Hawks, the Eastern Conference’s best team, Friday night.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Phoenix Suns considered Brandan Wright the “best backup center in the league” even before they acquired him from Boston. … Skip the soap-opera stuff, Mark Jackson‘s return to Golden State scarcely could have been more moving. … Don’t assume the Boston Celtics are done, even after they spend the weekend working out the kinks of their Jeff Green-to-Memphis trade. … No Kobe, no problem for the Lakers, who got a big boost off the bench from new guy Tarik Black. …