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Atlanta Hawks

The Budenholzer Era begins: Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeff Teague, SG Lou Williams, SF Kyle Korver, PF Paul Millsap, C Al Horford
Key bench players: SG John Jenkins, PF Elton Brand, C Gustavo Ayon, PG Dennis Schroeder
Notable offseason additions: Millsap, Brand, Schroeder (17th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft)
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Josh Smith, PG Devin Harris, C Zaza Pachulia, PF Ivan Johnson
FACT OR FICTION: The Atlanta Hawks will rue the day that they allowed Josh Smith to leave via free agency. 
FICTION. The Atlanta Hawks accomplished a rare feat: letting an All-Star caliber player walk and re-setting their franchise trajectory, but at the same time not completely rebuilding from scratch.
With Josh Smith, the Hawks were a capped out team that would win somewhere between 43 and 53 games every season. The proof is in history: that’s what they’ve done for the past five seasons. At this point, it’s obvious what type of player Smoove is going to be: a freak athlete defender with a fantastic ability to finish at the rack and a slow, broken jump shot that’s unlikely to ever improve. Like Lamar Odom years ago, Smith is much better watched when you focus on what he is doing rather than what his immense talents suggests he should be doing. If he’s your second or third-best player, then your team should be in great shape. There’s no way he should be controlling a team’s offense or even counted on to pour in 20 points a night, but with his defensive prowess, there is a chance that he’ll dictate the pace of the game.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Josh Smith to the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons get: F Josh Smith on a four year, $56 million dollar contract
J-Smoove finally got his big money deal yesterday, though perhaps not the maximum salary that he so openly sought. After days of rumors that Detroit GM Joe Dumars wanted to add Smith to a fearsome frontcourt rotation of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the forward joined the Pistons for an average annual paycheck of $14 million.
Detroit had cut payroll throughout the season to find the money for a substantial free agent this summer, including shipping out longtime SF Tayshaun Prince and paying the price of a first round draft pick to get rid of Ben Gordon’s $13 million dollars for next year. To Dumars’ credit, he was able to strip down the team to not only have money for a max contract player this summer, as well as next year when he’ll have roughly $27 million dollars in cap room. To Dumars’ discredit, the mess of a roster he had to clean up was composed of signings of his doing, including gigantic missteps in the way of Charlie Villanueva, Gordon, Prince and Rodney Stuckey. … Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Predictions

It’s Christmas kids. Except instead of Jesus being born, we’re celebrating a bunch of overpaid athletes play a game we’d all happily do for a fraction of the money. It’s pretty much the same thing, right?
Let’s get right to it–MAMBINO official predictions and commentary from the whole team:
1) Miami Heat vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
Why is this a clean sweep for the Heat?

El Mariachi: LeBron James.  …

GM Danny Ferry’s Makeover of Mediocrity – Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeff Teague SG Lou Williams SF Kyle Korver PF Josh Smith C Al Horford

Key Bench Players: G Devin Harris, C Zaza Pachulia, C Johan Petro, G Anthony Morrow, G DeShawn Stevenson, F Jordan Williams, G John Jenkins

Key Additions: G John Jenkins, G Anthony Morrow, G Devin Harris

Key Departures: G Joe Johnson, F Marvin Williams

The Hawks bringing in new GM Danny Ferry ended up being an inspired move that had a lot of risk initially. There’s no questioning Ferry’s pedigree from his time on the Spurs, but he learned some tough lessons in Cleveland. Desperate to win now in order to please LeBron, Ferry went anti-Thunder and surrounded his star with overpriced free agents like Larry Hughes. From that point forward, he had no choice but to speculatively flip huge supporting contracts for other massive contracts, getting more talent on paper by taking on more money. Cleveland never got that title and we all know where its superstar went.
They have been a perfectly respectable 3-6 seed in the East for years, but they were never a threat to be contenders. They were entrenched in mediocrity despite having some intriguing assets. Ferry came into an organization without a definitive direction. Making bold moves out of the gate, he traded his franchise centerpiece, Joe Johnson, for Anthony Morrow, a first-round pick, and expiring contract floatsam like Johan Petro. JJ is still an elite player, but he’s not worth 4 yrs/$90M, especially for a team mired in a middling position.

Afterwards, he traded overpaid, erratic Marvin Williams (2 yrs/$16M) for former All-Star in Devin Harris, who could become a great bench player if he can get his groove back. Signing Lou Williams for a reasonable contract was masterful, as he can replace the offensive punch for a fraction of the price, even if he’s not the same defender or playmaker. Finally, Ferry then picked up 3 point ace and Ashton Kutcher look-a-like Kyle Korver’s 1-year deal for cash and got rid of Willie Green. His draft pick – John Jenkins – lit up the summer league and has the chance to start this year.

Because Ferry did all this and still preserved $32M in cap space (minus Teague, Lou, Jenkins and the next draft pick) for next summer, the Hawks are being lauded as the darlings of the off-season. It should say a lot about the state of the league that a team can get worse and trade its best player while being the toast of the Mid-Market Teams We Pay Attention to On Slow News Days. In my Miami season preview, I talked about the practical impact of the new CBA and said that it was going to increase polarization in the league by creating two classes of teams: those in a temporary spend cycle with a championship window and those racing to the bottom to destroy their team.

In retrospect, Ferry’s Flyers are a third type of team likely to inhabit the middle: a pedestrian team taking a short-term talent hit to open up a strategic window of cap space. Although getting rid of Johnson’s contract is cause for celebration, the reason that Ferry is receiving accolades is because he gets to take the Big Swing. You know the Big Swing – setting up every superfluous contract to expire at the same time and hope it inspires a spontaneous superstar congregation. New York and Miami did it first, resulting in franchise-rebuilding hauls. The Hawks want to be that team in 2013.

Initially, the speculation was that Dwight would want to join close friend Josh Smith and could bring Chris Paul’s connection to the city along with him. While that scenario has become unlikely, the Hawks have greatly improved their long-term prRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets get: SG Joe Johnson

Atlanta Hawks get: SF Anthony Morrow, G Jordan Farmar, G DeShawn Stevenson, F Jordan Williams, PF Johan Petro, 2013 First-Round draft pick (via Houston)

The casual NBA fan might not know who Joe Johnson is, but (and I hope I’m not overstating this) this trade changes the face of the NBA as we’ve predicted it.

Too much? I don’t think so.

Looking first at the two teams involved, this has to be considered a win-win situation. The Nets now get another multi-time All-Star to pair potentially with Deron Williams, in addition to a newly re-signed Gerald Wallace. Joe Johnson is hilariously overpaid ($90 million over the next 4 seasons), but regardless of the unintentional comedy of his deal, there’s no denying he’s a great talent, especially when put aside one of the top three point guards in the league in a second-option role. JJ hasn’t played with a legitimate point since he was traded by the Suns in 2005, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts seven seasons after being with such imposters such as Jeff Teague and Mike Bibby. Brooklyn badly needed more talent to surround Deron Williams with, and after a doomsday scenario of watching their one All-Star walk away to Dallas after essentially using three lottery picks to acquire him in the first place, the Nets could be keeping three All-Stars. Teaming Johnson, Deron and Wallace with Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and perhaps a capable power forward like Kris Humphries, the Nets might have just turned themselves into a four-seed. Miraculous.

For the Hawks, this is a pure salary dump, plain and simple. Farmar, Stevenson and Morrow are all solid rotation players, but truly nothing more than that. New GM Danny Ferry is doing what we here at MAMBINO have criticized the wayward Hawks have always implored them to do; choose a direction. The Hawks have come back with the same exact squad that’s gotten bounced in the second round for four seasons now, with minimal changes or improvements. In short, they’ve gone nowhere for several seasons. Their inability to garner a legitimate point guard or center for the past four years has been maddening as an objective observer. What Ferry has done is escape the AWFUL contract that former GM Rick Sund penned Joe Johnson to, and will now be able to make moves towards building a more complete, competitive and deep team. The Hawks could either stick with some of the pieces they have and build around them, seeing as they’ve now have the ability to extend Josh Smith to keep him with Al Horford and Jeff Teague for the near future, and then bring in another piece that makes this into an actual contender. Conversely, they could trade Josh Smith, blow up their core, keeping Horford and start over while the Heat, Celtics and Knicks get older. They weren’t going to be able to do either with with Joe Johnson’s cap-murdering deal on the docket.

Moving past the actual teams in the deal, this trade sends shockwaves throughout the league. Here they are:

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard had “one team on his list”. And now that’s no longer a reality. With Gerald Wallace’s new deal, as well as Joe Johnson’s and presumably a Brook Lopez extension, the Nets no longer have room for a salary of Dwight Howard’s magnitude.

Some critics might point to the fact that Dwight wanted to go to the Nets, and that had they waited it out, he’d eventually be on the Brooklyn roster. However, a couple mitigating factors complicated that approach.

1). With Der…

Running Diary – Celtics/Hawks Playoffs Game 2

One of the more intense sports debates I’ve had was three years ago about who was better now and who would have the better career: Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. While three of us, including one Yankees fan, could agree that Ellsbury was superior, another Yankees fan was convinced that Gardner was the superior player. Fast forward to this offseason, I asked that same guy if he still thought Gardner was the better player to which he responded, “I said he was a better fit for the Yankees team at that time, not that he was a better player.” That situation right there exemplifies one of the annoying habits of many sports fans – revisionist history.

I’ve always wondered if I am guilty of this particularly in circumstances when I’m watching a game. For that reason, I decided to do a Bill Simmons-style running diary of the Celtics and Hawks game. Let’s hit it:

Pregame – Keys to the game for Boston are: i) big minutes and big games out of both Pierce and Garnett; ii) energy from tipoff to buzzer, particularly on defense; and iii) Bradley or Bass need to step up and because Bass feeds off of Rondo, it probably has to be Bradley.

Keys to the game for Atlanta: i) they need to generate more turnovers than game one which will lead to more easy buckets; ii) don’t settle for jump shots; and iii) pressure and tire out Pierce and Bradley.

7:30 – Pierce looks badass during warmups. This is our game.

7:37 – NBATV breaks news that Mickael Pietrus is starting and then Tayshaun Prince spends a few minutes discussing if Pietrus found out in time to maximize his success. This is why I skip the pregame analysis so much. Who the hell else was going to start with Allen and Rondo out? Keyon Dooling or Sasha Pavlovic? Is it a surprise that they would use the same lineup that beat Orlando (with Dwight Howard) and Indiana in the game Allen and Rondo were both out and Pietrus was healthy? Do you think Pietrus was caught off guard that Allen wouldn’t play after missing the last billion games? Idiots.

7:42 – Pierce grabs the opening tips, drives, spins and lays it in. BADASS.

7:43 – Avery Bradley brings it up and the Hawks don’t pressure him. I was reminded that Atlanta’s depth isn’t too much better than Boston’s right now, so trying to wear our Bradley and Pierce with some added pressure might not be a successful strategy.

7:43 – Pierce banks the and-1 shot. BADASS.

7:45 – Pierce hits another jumper. I know Lakers fans hate him, but you can’t deny he’s a big-game player – just like Lebron.

7:45 – Josh Smith takes his second consecutive long jump shot in a row. He could be such a better player if he realized his limitations.

7:46 – Josh Smith misses reverse slam. He could be such a better player if he wasn’t an idiot.

7:50 – Pietrus gets called for a very questionable offensive foul – his third one. With due cause, people complain about NBA referees more than any other sports officials. That foul call is a great reason why. You can’t make that call here considering the circumstances (Boston’s limited depth and a starter with two fouls) unless it’s an obvious foul.

7:59 – STIEMSMA IN YOUR FACE! 17-16, Atlanta.

7:59 – Avery Bradley with a terrific block on Teague’s layup attempt. You watch ESPN, Teague? You don’t challenge Avery Bradley.

8:04 – Another block – by Sasha Pavlovic no less. Celts are playing with great energy right now.

8:04 – Avery Bradley’s terrible decision leads to Josh Smith dunk in transition. The Celtics have to limit the easy points for the Hawks by making good decisions.

8:07 – What a blo…

Boston Celtics Playoff Game 1 Recap: With a Celtics Bias

Anybody who had watched the first two Atlanta-Boston matchups this year (Boston rested their starters for the third game) knew this one was going to an ugly matchup. This game certainly “lived up” to its expectations as the Hawks beat the Celtics 83-74 in a game where each team scored 19 points or less in three quarters. Below are the game’s biggest stories:

RONDO GETS EJECTED: With about three minutes left in the game, Kevin Garnett nailed a jumper and I turned to my friend to said, “We [the Celtics] may not win this game, but there is no way Atlanta is beating us this series.” A little more than two minutes later after the Celts had cut the lead to four points, Rajon Rondo broke one of Doc Rivers’ cardinal rules – getting a technical foul in the fourth quarter. Things went from bad to worse when Rondo continued arguing and eventually chest-bumped referee Mark Davis.

There’s no doubt that Rondo will be suspended at least one game for this unforgivable transgression. Rondo has had several maturity issues in his six-year career, but this was probably his biggest mistake. As I told my friend, Atlanta’s not beating Boston in a series if they both field their game one rosters for the whole series. Boston played terrible tonight and they were still down only four points with a minute left in the game. Minus Rondo, the advantage swings over to the Hawks however.

Rondo versus Jeff Teague is the biggest mismatch on the court, as proved tonight, and is the key to the Celtics victory. As a matter of fact, if the Celtics had leaned on Rondo a little more with Pierce and Garnett struggling, I think they may have pulled off the win tonight. Rondo was simply fantastic (20 points on 10-18 shooting, 4 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals and only 1 turnover) until his late ejection. It’ll be tough for the Celtics to beat the Hawks in game two without him, even if Ray Allen is healthy. If he’s suspended for two or more games, the Celtics chances of advancing will be pretty slim. It’s really tough to understate how potentially devastating Rondo’s boneheaded move was.

HAWKS’ ENERGY: The most overused excuse for getting outplayed in sports is “they played harder than we did tonight.” For once, that cliché is actually applicable, as the Hawks opened up a 19-point lead on the Celtics just past the midway point of the second quarter. Boston matched the Hawks’ intensity from there on out, but by that time they had dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Besides the occasional “tired legs” game, the Celtics have played with a lot of energy the second half of the season. That’s why it was very surprising to see the Hawks completely out hustle the Celtics to start the game, which started with Atlanta’s first possession when Josh Smith found Joe Johnson behind the defense on a long pass despite the fact that Boston had two defenders ahead of Johnson when Smith got the defensive rebound. It also makes you wonder if Doc Rivers was wise to rest his starters against the Hawks during the last week of the regular season, essentially gave up any chance of home court advantage. I doubt the Celtics would have started so lethargically at home.

The Celtics, who shot 46% from the field and 37% from 3-PT range during the regular season, shot 39% from the field and went 0-11 from 3-PT range. A lot of the Celtics’ poor shooting was the result of Atlanta’s tough defense. Outside of a couple games against Chicago, I can’t remember the last time the Celtics had to shot so many contested jumpers. Props to Atlanta aside, the Celtics miss… Read more...

NBA Eastern Conference Preview

The first round of the NBA playoffs does not attract the average fan. The NBA actually made it that way when it mandated that all series would be a best-of-seven deathmatch, instead of the exciting, upset-rich best-of-fives that occurred in the first round. So as KOBEsh mentioned in his Western Conference preview, the better team will win in the vast majority of occurrences. But true Mambinites are legitimate hoopheads, so this year’s first round of the NBA playoffs won’t be any less special. Call us hipsters, because we don’t need the general public to appreciate the drama on the hardwood.

Onto the picks…

1) Chicago Bulls vs. 8) Philadelphia 76ers – Chicago in four

I wanted to get an actual picture of the cereal, but when
Google Images serves me lemons, I make lemonade.

BockerKnocker: The Sixers are an interesting bunch. I liken them to a bowl of Lucky Charms. Now, I haven’t ever eaten Lucky Charms, so the fact that this analogy comes to mind makes me think that I’m quite possibly stealing someone else’s material. Anyways, the perfect spoonful of this particular cereal is when you get the right mix of bran (for lack of a better word) and marshmallow. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. In ‘Delphia, the basketball team can put together fantastic runs. Their perimeter defense, featuring all-world lockdown man Andre Iguodala, will force turnovers and produce plenty of easy baskets. A transition dunk is like the perfect spoonful of cereal. However, when your childlike eyes gaze upon a bowl of Lucky Charms, you pick out the spoonfuls that guarantee you the taste of sugar from those marshmallows. The only problem is that by the end of the bowl, you’re going full bran. The change from good to bad is so sudden that you don’t realize what happens. And that’s what this Sixers team is like in the 4th quarter. There’s no go-to guy in the clutch; their best scorer comes off the bench. They’re either too old (Elton Brand) or too young (Evan Turner) to really make some noise. On the other side of the court, the Chicago Bulls are not being talked about like a normal #1 seed due to all of their injuries. Well guess what? They’re after me Lucky Charms. Get Santa Claus out, because Philly fans will be booing all series long.

Why the 76ers can win 1 game (KOBEsh): I wrote this earlier this season, but the reason why the 76ers had so much early succcess is that every person on the roster fills their roles to the brim. Even in their second half slide, falling to the number 8 spot, the Sixers are still playing All-League defense, limiting opposing teams to 88 points on 42% shooting and 7th in rebounds. Philly has to continue their regular season trends, and then for just one game, one of their scorers has to go off for between 20 and 30 points at home. That’s pretty much all this relatively punchless team can do against a monstrous Chicago attack.

2) Miami Heat vs. 7) YOUR…New York Knickerbockers – Miami in seven

KOBEsh: Oh, you mean besides LeBron James? Well…that’s pretty much it. The Miami role players have been so rancid that the NBA title in June that once seemed a lock, no longer seems guaranteed. While the Knicks seemingly have a defensive stopper for both Wade and Bosh, LeBron’s brilliance is the most prevalent factor that will give the Heatles the series W. As we wrote the other day in our MVP post, LeBron isn’t just great right now; he’s historically great. Even with Carmelo’s inspired play as of … Read more...

Winners and Losers of the NBA trade deadline

KOBEsh went to Vegas this past weekend. While there, he decided to spend some time writing about the NBA trade deadline’s winners and losers. His dedication is shameful yet endearing.

This post is probably a touch outdated, but the man wants the post run based on principle alone.


Los Angeles Lakers

As we went over last week, the Lakers definitely scored big at the deadline. They desperately needed a point guard, and Ramon Sessions might have been the best case scenario for them, especially without giving up one of their three All-Stars. While Jordan Hill wasn’t the best solution for their need of a scorer off the bench, hopefully he’ll be able to give LA half of what near-Laker Michael Beasley would have given them. Subtracting Derek Fisher will have an effect on chemistry,  especially with Kobe and the other vets, but he had to be dealt to diffuse an almost certain caustic situation in terms of point guard minutes. A huge win for the Lakers, one that maybe could transform them into a title contender.

Orlando Magic

How could they not be? Let’s not even get into Dwight’s imitation of a drunk 19 year-old who “kinda wants to get down tonight, but I don’t know, my friends are here and I’m sooooooooo drunk” that he’s pulled the last few days. As I said to Mambino correspondent El Miz yesterday, it’s amazing that these players seem to concerned with their brand, and yet, not at all concerned that the circus they creates far more damage than any move could provide improvement.

Regardless, Orlando is a huge winner here. They somehow (I’m still not sure. Did they have naked pictures of him and Jameer together? Did they threaten to kill his dog? What happened?) convinced Dwight to stay for another year and a half, in which GM Otis Smith will have to pull a flock of rabbits out of his butt to make this team a contender. Regardless of whether he does that (amazing) feat or not, he has bought himself another year (until the next trade deadline) to prove to D12 that this team is worthy of him committing for another 5 seasons.

San Antonio Spurs

In a trade with the Warriors, the Spurs flipped SF Richard Jefferson for a new addition SF Stephen Jackson, who had arrived in a deal from the Bucks only days earlier . As I mentioned a few days ago, Jackson is having one of his worst seasons in years, though I would put a lot of the onus on the fact that he was playing in a system his skills weren’t best suited to, for a coach who he didn’t get along with. Jax won a title with the Spurs almost a decade ago in 2003, and famously fell in line with Greg Popovich in, what had been until then, a rocky NBA career full of trouble. Jefferson has become more and more ineffective each year, and 2012 is no different. At his best, Jackson is a gigantic upgrade over the Spurs, and even at his age (33), is still a threat to score, rebound and pass with tremendous efficiency. A great acquisition for the Spurs, who are quietly angling for title number 5.

Washington Wizards

JimmyWa’s reaction to getting Nene.

In a three-way trade with the Clippers and Nuggets, the Washington Wizards acquired Brian Cook and Nene for the price of Nick Young, an injured Ronny Turiaf and the unintentionally hilarious JaVale McGee. I couldn’t sum this up any better than friend of the blog and last Wiz fan standing, AO:

“Holy crap, this is awesome! We’re turning Nick Young and Javale McGee into Nene!! At this point can we keep the momentum going and just ban Andray Blatche from all Wizards facilities?  Honestl… Read more...

MAMBINO’s NBA 2nd Half Preview

If it feels like the season just started, you’re not that far off — amazingly, opening day tip-off was little more than 2 months ago. However, even with only 33 games under our belts, this season has developed similar to every season we’ve seen before; teams have dissapointed, and teams have surprised, with the caveat of a insane schedule where guys are playing 5 games in 6 nights and back to back to backs.
We’ve each picked teams that will, in the second half of the season, wilt like LeBron in the 4th quarter, rise up like Dirk or are badly in need of a trade. Read on MAMBINites.
Falling like LeBron in the 4th
Eastern Conference: Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic

KOBEsh: My disdain for the Atlanta Hawks is well documented on this blog, to the point where I thought over 2,000 words was tragic understatement. Though they were missing leading scorer Joe Johnson this past week, their epic no-show against the Knicks on Tuesday was both completely exemplary of why I have no respect for this pitiful Atlanta franchise and how the second half of the season isn’t getting any easier for them.

Horford isn’t coming back from surgery anytime soon, and the team really won’t have any other reinforcements coming via trade; they are up against the cap, and with the exception of All-Star snub Josh Smith, have no tradeable assets. They have no leadership in the immature Smith and “Silent” Joe Johnson, nor do they have discipline to reach whatever ceiling they have. Their 20-14 record is not at all indicative of how pathetic they really are. I expect a steep fall in the second half, maybe even out of the playoffs.

BockerKnocker: I’ll put my hate for Dwight Howard aside. Whether or not general manager Otis Smith decides to deal the big man at the trade deadline, the rumor mill will churn with more garbage than you or I can handle. And if the resulting impact is too much for simpletons like us to deal with, I can’t imagine what it will do to an already fractured Magic locker room. Obviously, if Howard does leave Orlando soon, then head coach Stan Van Gundy will have to work some magic of his own to sustain the team’s playoff run. Think Denver post-Melo, but with far less talented players and a more panicky coach. If Howard stays in Orlando, they’ll clearly do better than without him, but again, those rumors will gnaw at them every single day. The rumors won’t stop; they will just turn into “where will Dwight sign after the season.” Place your put options on the Orlando Magic right now.

Western Conference: Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs

K: Don’t get me wrong; I really like this Utah team. They’re really playing hard for coach Ty Corbin both on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. Utah is a young team with a lot of rookie and sophmore players that seem to be relatively undaunted by the ultra-competitive Western Conference in front of them. That all being said, they’re 28th in the league with only 14 road games. Without the altitude and voracious home crowd behind them, I can’t see them keeping up their modest 31 win pace. Specifically, I expect Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks to slow down a bit in the second half.

BK: Just to set the record straight: the Spurs are a bonafide playoff team and will enter the playoffs with home court advantage in the first round. But to come in as the #2 seed, where the team currently sits, will be especially tough. It would be hard for any Western team to keep their standing, with the conference once again lRead more...