Hawks Feel Double The Heartbreak

One of the major storylines of the early NBA season has been the steady success of the new look Atlanta Hawks (20-12), but back-to-back demoralizing losses has coach Larry Drew a little concerned about his team.

The first loss came Friday night on the road at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons (13-22). After struggling for the majority of the game, the Hawks found themselves down 83-66 about halfway through the fourth quarter. Atlanta managed to fight all the way back with a 16-0 run, but a Horford jumpshot, initially ruled as 3-pointer but reversed to a two, saw the Hawks fall 85-84.

Last night, the Hawks looked to put the tough loss behind them and came out smoking behind a 21-point first half explosion from Louis Williams. The Hawks were forced to swallow their second dose of heartbreak, however, after a complete collapse in the third quarter saw the Celtics battle back from a 19-point deficit and cruise to a 89-81 victory.

The Hawks have now lost three of their last four but still find themselves in the third spot in the Eastern Conference. With the Indian Pacers (20-14) breathing down their necks, Drew said he is concerned about the team’s mental toughness. He said he thinks the turning point in last night’s game was in the second quarter when Boston began to play more physical. As to be expected, Drew isn’t happy with how his team responded.

“I’m concerned because this is the NBA and you have to expect that,” Drew said. “When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It’s just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team in this league has to do it. When you don’t’ do it you get labeled. You get a tag on you. That’s the last thing I want to happen to my ball club.”

This is the first time Drew has expressed concern about his team’s toughness, but he said the fact that the defeat came from a team that has given them similar problems in the past was even more frustrating.

“This is a very, very disappointing loss,” Drew said. “Probably, for me, the most disappointing loss of the season for the mere fact of playing against a team we have battled in the past and we’ve seen this type of scenario before where we have played well and then when it starts to get a little bit physical, when they start playing a little bit rougher, when they start make things a little more difficult for us, we don’t respond. That was clearly what happened tonight.”

Although Louis Williams has been impressive in his 8-game stint as a starter, the Hawks have struggled a bit to replicate his production off the bench. Over the last two games the Hawks have only mustered 23 points from their bench. The lackluster numbers, however, must also be in part attributed to injuries to Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow who both sat out Saturday night and DeShawn Stevenson who played limited minutes as he is recovering from an injury.

The Hawks will look to right the ship as the take on the banged up Minesota Timberwolves (15-15) Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Catching Up With Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors (15-8) are currently ranked 5th in the Western Conference, despite being without Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush. Second-year guard Klay Thompson took a moment to talk about their success this season and his evolving role with the team.

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Horford, Hawks Back On Track

Two weeks after being awarded, Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, center/forward A Horford has yet to slow down and the Atlanta Hawks (10-5) are benefitting big time.

Horford is averaging 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He is also doing a great job passing the ball, averaging 3.5 assists per game, which ranks 3rd amongst all centers.

One knock on Horford in that past has been that at times he is too passive. Over the past few games, however, Horford has done a good job looking for his own shot.

In their most recent outing against the Denver Nuggets, Horford was a critical part in securing a 108-104 victory, as he went off for 25 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and four assists. He shot 12-20 from the field and pulled in , a season high, six offensive rebounds.

Hawks head coach Larry Drew said that Horford’s on the boards was the most impressive part of the performance.

“Al was really good,” Drew said after the game. “He got into a rhythm very early in the game. I was really impressed by the fact that he was being really active on the offensive glass. Those that he didn’t get, he got his hands on them to slap them out.”

The Hawks have now won eight of their last ten games. Last Friday, the Hawks dropped one against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which brought their six-game winning streak to a halt.

Before Wednesday night’s game against Denver, Drew said he felt like it was only a matter of time before the hot streak ended. During the streak, the Hawks barely squeaked out wins against the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. So, what’s a coach to do after their team drops a game against a bottom-feeding team who is missing it’s best player?

“We took a couple days off after [the Cavs] game,” Drew said. “We have a few guys that are banged up, but I thought from a mental standpoint we really needed it.”

The casual approach seems to have been the right as the Hawks managed to turn in their most dominant rebounding performances they have had all season. With a rebound differential of -4.00 per game the Hawks rank 27th in league in this category. The Nuggets rank second with an impressive +5.37 mark, but the Hawks managed to win the battle on the boards 47-40.  In the loss against Cleveland they were outrebounded to the tune of 49-28.

In The Scrum With Alonzo Gee

After hitting the first game winner of his NBA career to snap a 6-game Atlanta Hawks win streak, Cleveland Cavaliers foward Alonzo Gee took a moment to reflect on his highlight-reel worthy lay in.

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Hawks Win Five Straight

Entering the season, the Atlanta Hawks (8-4) had plenty of questions to answer with a number of new pieces and a tough schedule right from the jump. Twelve games into the new year, the Hawks seem to have found their stride.

Some might be surprised by Atlanta’s recent success, but Hawks forward Josh Smith said the hot start doesn’t come as a surprise.

“Like I said, when we find our stride we are going to be a pretty good team,” Smith said. “We are starting to gel and everybody’s starting to figure out. We look pretty good.”

Atlanta is currently riding a five game winning streak and have won six of their last seven outings. The Hawks have been moving the ball well and have the fifth highest assist total in the league (22.9 assists per game).

Much of the early success can be attributed to Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Teague is averaging 13.8 points and 7.3 assists per game, and he finished the last two games with double-doubles. Against Charlotte Bobcats he finished with 13 points and 12 assists, and against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night Teague went for 19 points and 12 assists.

Another factor that has helped the Hawks run off five straight is a balance of contributors. Atlanta currently has five players averaging 11 or more points per game.

Kyle Korver is just one of the Hawks who has helped to provide a bit of an offensive boost over the past couple of weeks. He netted season highs of 22 points and seven rebounds against the Sacramento Kings to get the Hawks winning streak going. Korver also lit up the Washington Wizards for 16 Wednesday nigh, including a game-winning three pointer that prevented the Wizards from earning their first win of the season.

Louis Williams has served as one of the most potent scorers any NBA bench has had to offer over the past few years while playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Williams is reprising that role in his first season as an Atlanta Hawk. He is averaging 13.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. Against the Clippers, Williams scored 18 points—14 during the 2nd and 3rd quarters, a period in which the Hawks outscored the Clippers 64-36.

“I was just playing aggressive,” Williams said after Saturday night’s win. “That’s what I bring to the table, just to be aggressive and try to create as many plays as I can.”

The Hawks will look to extend the winning streak to six as the take on the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday November 30 in Atlanta.

 

 

Josh Smith Not Fazed By His Critics

Atlanta Hawks fans would probably be more at ease watching Jeff Teague jump off a 20-foot ladder into a shallow pool of water than watching Josh Smith catch a pass anywhere outside of 12 feet from the rim. Considering Smith only knocked down 28-of-109 3-point attempts (25.7 percent) last season, there is a reason to be concerned.

Frequenters of Philips Arena have not forgot either. In the Hawks home opener—a 109-102 loss to the Houston Rockets—Smith was met with a chorus of gasps when he got the ball on the 3-point line with literally no one near him.

Boos followed, as Smith was unable to knock down the wide-open shot.

Still, Smith seems unfazed by the naysayers and focused on making his jump shot better. This year, he will benefit from having a new set of accomplished shooting coaches — his teammates.

Smith has already spent time working with Kyle Korver, the man who holds the record for highest single season 3-point percentage in NBA history. Korver said he thinks, with a little direction and practice, Smith might be able to silence some of his critics.

“I think Josh has the ability to be a great shooter,” Korver said. “I’m just working with him on some small things.”

Korver said he is impressed by how fast Smith is picking his tips up.

“He is a quick learner,” he said. “You don’t ever want to do a total overhaul of a guy’s shot right before the season starts, but I think there are some things that he can focus on that will help out quite a bit.”

Continuing to launch up shots, is definitely not what most would recommend for Smith given his explosiveness and ability to score around the rim, but Korver said staying the course is just one of the ingredients to being a good shooter.

“He has the mentality of ‘I don’t care if I missed the last ten, I’m going to throw up the next one,’” said Korver. “That’s what good shooters have. You can knock that, or you can praise that. The bottom line is, he has the ability to be a very good shooter.”

Although Hawks head coach Larry Drew has criticized Smith’s shot selection in the past, he seems very confident in the abilities of the versatile big man.

“The beauty about Josh is Josh knows every position on the floor,” Drew said in an interview before the season. “I can play him at three and also at times I can move him to some two. We can use him in different ways in what we do.”

It may take a while for Smith to gain the trust of the Atlanta Hawks fans, but with a visibly improved shot stroke and the right mentality, he might be on his way.

Catching Up With Devin Harris

Devin Harris took a second to chat about his new team, the Atlanta Hawks.

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Rockets Need Consistency From Role Players

The city of Houston is buzzing. With the fanfare that always seems to accompany Jeremy Lin since his anointment last year, and the acquisition of James Harden followed by two monster games, The Rockets have not garnered this type of attention in years. Amidst all of the excitement, several Rockets role players are ready to make sure the team isn’t all hype.

Harden has averaged 41 points, 7 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game in his first two starts as a Rocket. In the process, he has grabbed a lion share of the attention in Houston. However, if the Rockets plan on competing in the tough Western Conference, they will have to get steady contributions from the likes of Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik.

“We all bring something different,” Parsons told HOOPSADDICT.com after a Rockets win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. “It’s not about one or two guys. We are a team. We are going to have a different guy every single night. It does make the game easier having guys like that.”

One player that could give the Rockets a surprise lift this season is Morris.  While Patterson sat out in Houston’s home opener Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, Morris earned his first career start but struggled from the field, shooting just 30 percent on his way to scoring 6 points. Friday night was a different story. Morris went 5-7 from the field to score 10 points in the first quarter alone. He ended the night with 17 points and five rebounds in just 19 minutes of play.

“I think the first game was fast and he had trouble settling in,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Now he is settled in a little bit more. It gives us another opportunity to go with a bit of a hybrid three/four lineup.”

Chandler Parsons is another Rocket who has the potential to play a big role without necessarily getting a lot of offensive touches. In Saturday night’s contest against the Hawks, Parsons shot a woeful 2-9 from the field. His presence was still felt though, as he racked up 6 assists, five rebounds and three steals. He also knocked down a big three late in the game to help Houston secure the 109-102 victory.

“I try to impact the game as many ways as I can,” Parsons said. “My shot wasn’t falling tonight, but I was going to keep shooting no matter what, and I was fortunate enough to knock down that big shot in the fourth. I’m just going to make winning plays. I’m going to get assists, I’m going to get my teammates open shots. I’m going to get rebounds, I’m going to play good defense. Making shots for me is a bonus.”

The Rockets will also benefit from having Omer Asik in the post. In the season opener, Asik went for 12 points and nine rebounds. Against the Hawks, however, Asik—ironically nicknamed Big O—was unable to find his touch on offense, finishing with 0 points. So why are Asik’s coaches and teammates completely unconcerned with his lack of offensive production Friday night? Asik pulled in a career high 19 rebounds, including nine offensive—two more than the entire Hawks roster.

The Houston Rockets definitely don’t have the star power of some the other teams in the Western Conference, but McHale said he thinks the key to success this season will be finding ways to stay in games and continuing to be resilient.

“With our team, we have to hang in games and find ways to win them. We have to find a way to make plays down the stretch,” he said.

Harden and Lin have proven they can make plays down the stretch. It will be up to the role players to make sure the Rockets are constantly in a position to strike.

 

 

Catching Up With Chandler Parsons

After netting 6 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in a win over the Atlanta Hawks, Chandler Parsons took a second to discuss the role players on the Houston Rockets roster.

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In the Scrum With James Harden

After leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, James Harden took time to talk about his new role.

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NBA 2K13 Review

The past few years, Visual Concepts has had the luxury of producing NBA simulations without any competition. Despite being literally “the only game in town,” the 2K franchise has made great efforts to keep things fresh. This year was supposed to mark the return of EA Sports’ NBA Live, but yet another cancelation has left NBA 2K13 alone on the shelf of realistic hoop titles. Still, the threat of EA returning to the market seems have to motivated the Visual Concepts team. Their latest offering might be one of the most ambitious attempts in years. Unfortunately, it still falls short of the top titles in 2K series.

 

Gameplay:

The Gameplay in NBA 2K13 offers everything fans of the franchise have grown to expect. The dunks are big, the action is fast, and at times the game feels disturbingly realistic.  No detail is spared, as your athletes will rock their favorite shoes as they sprint up and down the hardwood of each unique arena.

 

NBA 2K13 features the most dramatic control change the franchise has seen since the introduction of the shot stick. For years, the right analog stick has been used to trigger a number of jump shots, layups, dunks and post finishes.  This year, the right analog is used to serve up crossovers. Moving the analog stick from right to left will make ball handlers do the same with the ball. The new system still features all of the spins, size ups and step backs that has made for the most intuitive and innovative ball handling experience in the history of basketball video games. However, the new system does present a very large problem. Gamers who have spent years mastering the intricacies of the shot stick will be disappointed. Holding down the L2 button transforms the right analog stick into the shot stick that many have grown to know and love. But to perform a dunk using the shot stick, you must hold both L2 and R2 and then flick the shot stick in the desired direction. Pulling off dunks on fast breaks should not take this many button presses. Also, performing pump fakes with the shot stick seems to have a lost a bit of the responsiveness that it once featured. Despite it’s drawbacks, there are still some advantages to the revamped controls. The animations are sharp as ever. Using an in-and-out move to blow past or floor a defender feels much more rewarding.

Passing has been one of the main subjects of complaint in past iterations of 2K. NBA 2K13 is no different. Gamers will undoubtedly find themselves screaming at the screen when a player decides to throw a pass straight at a defender instead of an open teammate cutting to the basket. The ability to throw devastating alley-oops off of the backboard almost makes up for this flaw but it’s still hard to overlook the passing woes.

Presentation:

Sometimes, less is more. This is a concept that Visual Concepts has yet to grasp. Menu screens are jam-packed with way too many graphics and the unnecessary silhouette of the games celebrity executive producer, Jay-Z.

One of the strengths of the NBA 2K13 is audio. The soundtrack is a solid collection of titles assembled by the aforementioned rap mogul.  Also, the commentary is amazing. Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr and Doris Burke provide realistic analysis and background stories for every team and most players.

Game Modes:

Whether you are looking to help your favorite team win a couple of championships or you are looking to create your very own NBA superstar, NBA 2K13 has you covered.

NBA Today is probably the best exhibition mode any sports game has to offer. On the surface, it appears to be a typical quick play option. What sets it apart is live stats, analysis and advertisements for upcoming games. The same presentation is featured in other modes of the game, but the fact that NBA Today uses real stats and schedules makes it a bit more impressive.

MyCareer (formerly known as MyPlayer) has returned with a bunch of new details that add plenty of replay value. The new Social Media and expanded shoe customization features make the mode feel a bit more personalized.

Another bright idea the folks at Visual Concepts cooked up this year is the Virtual Currency system.  Players now earn VC for playing the several different game modes 2K13 has to offer. VC can be used to buy special features and—more importantly—upgrades for MyCareer mode. Unfortunately, the VC system is horribly flawed. Players will spend a large chunk of time waiting for VC transactions to be processed and saved to the 2K servers. Even worse, when the 2K servers are out of order or you experience other Internet related problems it can create a number of issues—many of which don’t seem to be isolated incidents.

Overall:

NBA 2K13 is definitely worth the price of purchase. Not because it’s the only basketball simulation out, but because it is one of the deepest sports simulations period. The gameplay has found the balance between realism while still being fun. However, there are a few quips that hold it back from being a classic. In the meantime, let’s pray a patch comes soon to fix some of the major glitches.

Catching Up With Austin Rivers

Before a preseason matchup against the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Hornets rookie Austin Rivers took a second to talk about beginning his rookie season.

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Drew Is Looking For The Right Mix

With the arrival of GM Danny Ferry over the summer, the Hawks locker room is almost completely unrecognizable.

Now Hawks coach Larry Drew is faced with the task of implementing new lineups with players he has not had much time to work with.  Drew got his first real chance to manage his new team Sunday afternoon on the way to a 92-79 win over the Heat.

Feeling out a new roster might seem like no big deal for an NBA head coach, but keep in mind Drew struggled to put together a consistent lineup last year, despite being in his second year as Hawks head coach and his seventh with the organization.

The Hawks entered this year’s preseason with 14” new faces. Even more notable is the absence of All-star guard Joe Johnson, who was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets over the summer.

Amidst all of the change, there are several things that are uncertain for the Hawks. Drew said he is still doesn’t even know who will start, and he is looking to use the preseason to figure it out.

“This is not a starting lineup that will be set in stone,” Drew said after announcing that Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Smith and Al Horford as his starters against the Heat. “Through the preseason I do plan on mixing up my starting lineups, because I really want to see how guys work with different combinations.

It’s way to early to assess how the Hawks will do this season. It’s even too early to say which Hawks will actually see consistent minutes. Despite a few major decisions that have yet to be made, Atlanta fans can take solace in a few things that are almost guaranteed.

The Hawks can shoot the ball. No matter which lineup Drew decides to roll with, the Hawks will benefit from having at least one marksman on the floor at all times. Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow both own NBA records for their three-point shooting prowess. Morrow was the first rookie to lead the NBA in three-point percentage, while Korver has the single season three-point percentage record. The Hawks also managed to score John Jenkins, who many considered to be the best pure shooter in this year’s draft. DeShawn Stevenson is also a threat from deep as he knocked down 3-6 from three against the Heat.

Drew is well aware of the number of perimeter weapons his team now owns, but he said he is still focusing on establishing a solid post-game.

“I got guys that make some shots,” Drew said. “The thing that I’m really looking for through this preseason is how well we can establish ourselves in the low-post. We have to be a team that plays inside-out.

Another thing the Hawks can be sure of is that Al Horford will play hard. Horford was sorely missed last year by Atlanta as he sat the majority of the season with a chest injury, which required surgery. Despite making a return last season during the playoffs, he seemed a bit sluggish. Against the Heat, Horford looked rejuvenated. He is every bit as physical as he once was, and he may even be a step faster.

In The Scrum With LeBron James

After taking a 92-79 preseason loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James took a moment to chat about winning a championship but still having high expectations.

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Catching Up With Norris Cole

Miami Heat Norris Cole took a moment to talk about his rookie year, improving for his sophomore campaign and playing with a team  he won a championship with.

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