NBA AM: For The Hawks It Is Personal
It’s Personal For The Hawks: To say the Atlanta Hawks take their games against the Orlando Magic a little more seriously is an understatement.
In 2010 the Orlando Magic swept the Hawks in the playoffs by an average of 25.3 points. The embarrassment of that series still haunts the team.
“I don’t think anyone in this locker room will ever forget what Orlando did to us in the playoffs a couple of years ago,” explained Hawks forward Marvin Williams. “They’re a very good team, very well-coached but you’ve just got to remember things like that when you play teams like this so you really want to come forth and play as hard as you can.”
For the 18-10 Hawks, they understand to get where they need to go teams like Orlando have to be dealt with, but also respected.
“They’ve got a lot of guys that can really spread the floor,” explained Williams. “But we have a lot of guys that are really active and can cover a lot of ground at the same time so we do match up with them. Like I said, outside of Dwight we feel like we’re pretty evenly matched.”
The Hawks have been one of the surprising teams this season mainly because they are winning games after losing arguably their best low post player in All-Star Al Horford for the season.
The Hawks for several years have been preaching patience to their fans while trying to keep their core of players together around a theme of continuity.
This Hawks’ core has been together for almost five seasons now, and the fruits of that familiarity are paying dividends on the court.
If the Playoffs started today Atlanta would be the fourth seed in the East and host playoff games in the first round. The Hawks are four games out of first place in the East and just three games behind Miami for control of the Southeast division.
The Hawks are far from a perfect team, especially without Horford, but as the Hawks players like to point out they are winning games through grit and grind and that’s a testament to how second-year head coach Larry Drew is preparing his guys.
“The one good thing that we have in our coach is, he’s a player’s coach,” explains Williams. “For about four or five of us he’s been with us the whole time we’ve been here so he knows us like the back of his hand and when you’re playing for a guy like that it really makes things easy. He tries to make things as easy as possible for us and it really helps us.”
The Hawks are not anyone’s favorites to win the East, but given how well the team is playing and the fact they may be hosting games in the playoffs, overlooking the Hawks in the first round could be dangerous.
It’s also pretty clear who the Hawks would like to see in the post-season, because for the Hawks beating the Magic isn’t just business any more. It is personal.
Arenas Gets His Workout: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that free agent guard Gilbert Arenas took part in a workout for the L.A. Lakers on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Laker coaches were not part of the workout, but several members of the Lakers front office staff are said to have attended.
Arenas has been talking with the Lakers for several weeks about joining the team for the balance of the season and yesterday’s workout was said to be the first step towards getting an agreement.
Arenas had been working out in Orlando after undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee, the same procedure Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant had this offseason which Bryant credits for his renewed bounce and explosiveness.
Wojnarowski is reporting that Arenas moved well in the work out and was not flagged for any real concerns.
Lakers’ sources comments last week that adding a player like Gilbert Arenas is viewed as a low-risk move.
The Lakers’ roster currently stands at 14 players after cutting Derrick Caracter last week, giving the Lakers room to add another player.
There is no time table for the Lakers to make a decision, but there is a belief that the Lakers want to try to make changes internally before exploring major roster changes via trades.
The Lakers have been extremely active in gauging the trade marketplace, mainly because of the $8.9 million Traded Player Exception the team holds from the Lamar Odom deal with Dallas.
League sources say the Lakers are reluctant to subtract from their roster, especially if it involved core pieces like Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. Sources say the Lakers’ goal seems to be to try and pry lose a solid player either at point guard or at small forward using their exception.
The Lakers are home for the next week with games on Tuesday and Friday at Staples Center, so if adding a new player is in the plans, this would be a as good a window as any.
The Lakers are 11-2 at home, but are a dismal 5-10 on the road. The Lakers are currently the only team in the NBA playoff picture with ten road losses.
Billups To Have Surgery: L.A. Clippers’ guard Chauncey Billups is scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday in Colorado to repair his torn Achilles tendon. Billups will undergo rehab in Los Angeles under the watch of the L.A. Clippers training staff.
Billups who will turn 36 this September, made it clear recently that he planned to return to the NBA, despite the severity of the injury and his age.
The typical recovery window for an Achilles tear is anywhere from 6 months on the low side to 12 months on the high side.
Former Clipper forward Elton Brand suffered a similar injury and only recently returned to form, taking almost 18 months to fully recover.
Billups is not under contract beyond this season.
J.R. Smith’s Return: J.R. Smith’s Chinese team was eliminated from the playoffs by Wilson Chandler’s Chinese team paving the way for Smith’s return to the NBA this week.
Smith has been tweeting that he’ll be back in the US on the 16th of February, but continues to say he is not close to picking his next NBA team. But that’s not from lack of recruiting.
Sources say Smith has been hit by a number of NBA friends and former teammates to join them including New York’s Carmelo Anthony, and Clippers teammates Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin who played with Smith in Denver.
Sources close to the process say Smith is looking for a situation in which he can play a major role and be well compensated for his efforts. Winning and the playoffs are a factor, but Smith’s camp is extremely sensitive to the perception of Smith being a role player or worse yet being a cast as a minimum dollar athlete.
The Clippers, Lakers, Knicks and Timberwolves are said to be the front runners in the chase to sign Smith. One source close to the process pointed out that where Smith signs this year may be directly related to who will have cap space or a willingness to re-sign him to a larger dollar deal next year.
Most of the teams linked to Smith have their “room exception” worth a prorated $2.5 million. With most teams having 37 regular season games remaining; that works out to $1.12 million for the balance of the season today and decreases at roughly $30,487 per game played.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have roughly $6.8 million in space. The Raptors have roughly $4.3 million in space. The Sacramento Kings have $9.42 million in space with the Pacers leading all teams with $14.27 million in space.
Teams with cap space could offer Smith their full value under the cap without prorating; this includes the Timberwolves who have $1.19 million in space.
Smith signed the largest deal in Chines Basketball Association history, earning more than $3 million for his time in China.
Smith still needs to gain his FIBA letter of clearance from China, which sources say could happen in the next few days.
The CBA’s season officially ends on February 15th; Smith is expected on the first flight home after his game.
Smith was voted a starter for the CBA’s All-Star game on February 19th, but he and his camp have made it clear he will not attend.
The CBA has seven days to respond to Smith’s FIBA clearance request; it will be interesting to see how they handle this situation.
The CBA expressed outrage at how Kenyon Martin’s release and clearance was handled feeling that his camp violated their agreement while taking advantage of the Chinese New Year holiday.
The best case is Smith could be free to sign with NBA teams on the 16th; the worst case is it could be just before the NBA All-Star game on the 23rd.
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