Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Al Horford
Posted on: January 22, 2012 10:00 am
 

Could Al Horford be the next union president?

Posted by Royce Young

Derek Fisher might be better known for his work as union president than for his work as point guard as the Lakers. Maybe that's not entirely fair, but Fisher represented the union with such class and dignity during the contentious labor negotiations that that's pretty much all I think of when I see him now.

But Fisher doesn't have much time left playing and there will need to be a new union president. Who could be next in line? According to ESPN.com, Al Horford is a leading candidate:
"File away Horford's name as a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed the Lakers' Derek Fisher as president of the players' union. The stately Fisher was elected president of the players' union in 2006 and had a more visible and prominent role during the five-month lockout than any of his predecessors has ever taken on.

Although he had to weather criticism over his perceived closeness to NBA commissioner David Stern, Fisher generally earned strong reviews for his contributions to ultimately getting a deal done to save the season, which is why he'll presumably be asked by his peers to carry on as president in the short term. But when Fisher has had enough -- he has two years left on a four-year term after re-election in 2009 -- word is that Horford will draw strong consideration as his successor."
I don't know enough about Horford to say whether or not he'd be as good as Fisher, but he would definitely have some time to learn on the fly. The new collective bargaining agreement doesn't have an opt-out for six years and doesn't expire for 10. So Horford might not even be in charge when it comes down to that.

But there's a name floating around to succeed Fisher and Horford is definitely another guy that's well spoken and full of plenty of class.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:17 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 3:22 pm
 

Reports: Horford out 3-4 months with torn muscle

Posted by Royce Young

The light on the Hawks season just went dim.

According to multiple reports, center Al Horford is out 3-4 months with a torn left pectoral muscle. Which doesn't necessarily mean he's done for the year, but the optimistic side, three months, brings him back mid-April. The playoffs start at the end of April.

Horford was injured Wednesday against the Pacers when he was blocked by Roy Hibbert on a dunk attempt. Horford left the game and did not return.

What this means for the Hawks is that they are not nearly as good as they were a day ago. They've started the season playing relatively solid basketball and a lot of that has to do with the consistentcy Horford gives them. Without him, the Hawks have Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins in reserve. Which translates to big problems for Atlanta.

Not that the Hawks were a real contender, but then again, remember this team went to the Eastern Semifinals last season and played the Bulls pretty tough in six games. Horford isn't the East's best center, but he's certainly one of them. And not having him for most of the regular season is a massive blow.

How do you replace a guy like Horford, who was putting up 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds a game with a PER of 20.0? It might not seem like a bunch, but he balanced the Atlanta offense. He gave Josh Smith the ability to be Josh Smith and provided a pressure release for Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. He was off to a bit of a slow start this year anyway and was sure to pick it up. He's been a consistent 15-10 the two years prior.

The question is if the Hawks have a mind to try and make a deal to replace Horford or are they set with trying to let Pachulia and Collins handle the load? Or does Larry Drew dare try and get creative, letting Josh Smith drop down to the 5 with Williams playing power forward? There really isn't a good solution here right now. I've said it already, but this really is a massive blow to one of the East's playoff contenders.

The Hawks should still reach the playoffs in the East without him for these three months, but if he's not fully healthy for the postseason, Atlanta's season will end there abruptly.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 7:57 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 7:58 pm
 

Al Horford strains left shoulder, out for Hawks

Posted by Royce Young

Hawks center Al Horford was forced to leave Atlanta's game against Indiana early on after being blocked by Roy Hibbert on a dunk attempt. Horford is said to have strained his left shoulder on the player and will be re-evaulated Thursday.

Without Horford, the Hawks will look to backups Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins. Obviously a major drop-off, but Horford will likely be day to day and if there's no major damage, should return soon.
Posted on: August 17, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:57 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 21-30: Celtics trio

Posted by Ben Golliver

Rankings by EOB Staff.

rondo-pierce-garnett

This is the seventh segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31

Asking Boston Celtics fans and observers to rank the team's players top-to-bottom is a bit like asking a mother to rank her children. With Rajon Rondo ascending and the Big 3 maintaining, simply ranking the team's four All-Stars is a task in and of itself. That job takes on an added degree of difficulty when they face off against their competition around the league.

Three Celtics All-Stars -- Rondo and forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- made our top-30, but none made our top-20, a decision that speaks to the team's balance at the top but also the role that age has played in recent years. Once a perennial top-10 selection, Garnett has slipped a notch, although he still leads the way for the Celtics on this list. 

Without further ado, let's dig in.

30. Andre Iguodala, F, age 27, Philadelphia 76ers

2011 Stats: 14.1 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 44.5 FG%, 17.30 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 36, 36

After playing all but six games in his first six NBA seasons, injuries marred Iguodala’s 2010-2011 campaign, keeping him out of 15 games and limiting his minutes per game to the fewest he’s played since his rookie year. As a result, his numbers took a predictable hit pretty much across the board.  Iguodala’s reputation as a two-way player is well-earned; his size, strength, quickness and instincts are an exceedingly rare combination.

Persistent trade rumors swirled throughout the season, too, owing to Iguodala’s long-term, eight figure per year contract and his tweener franchise guy status: he’s paid to be “the man” but not quite transformative enough to pull it off. Until he is moved to a contender with an established top dog, Iguodala will continue to impress outsiders and let down those who expect him to deliver a team to playoff success.

29. Joakim Noah, C, age 26, Chicago Bulls

2011 Stats: 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 52.5 FG%, 18.83 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 33, 32, 30

Perhaps Noah gets a friendly bump up in these rankings by virtue of playing in the vicinity of the Derrick Rose superstar glow, but he has done plenty to carve out a strong reputation for himself. It starts with doing the things most NBA players don’t like to do: crash the boards relentlessly on both ends, cover ground (while talking) on defense, hit the floor for loose balls, make the extra big-to-big pass and exercise restraint when it comes to shot selection.

Given his age, Noah should be a perennial double-double guy for the next 3-5 seasons. That, plus more than a block and a steal per game and 50+ percent shooting is excellent production from the center position.  

28. Tony Parker, G, age 29, San Antonio Spurs

2011 Stats: 17.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 51.9 FG%, 20.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 26, 31, 30

San Antonio’s early playoff exit might have caused you to forget that the Spurs were the league’s second most efficient offense during the regular season. Parker’s well-rounded game – basketball intelligence, shooting, decision-making, pick-and-roll skills, drive-and-kick skills, open court skills – served as the engine in that machine. The elite newer-age point guards boast size/strength combinations that Parker can’t match, but he currently inhabits a pleasant nexus between “savvy veteran” and “not yet tailing off physically”, so he gives as good as he gets against just about anyone at his position.

The Spurs will never be able to replace Tim Duncan, but they were wise to ride with Parker into the foreseeable future.

27. Paul Pierce, F, age 33, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 49.7 FG%, 19.76 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 38, 23, 22

The passing of the Eastern Conference torch from Boston to Miami went down in particularly cruel fashion, with Heat forward LeBron James unleashing a whirlwind to usher the Celtics into the past. Not being athletic enough to keep up with Miami is no real sin, though, as that label applies to 99 percent of the league. Pierce is slower, more ground-bound, less decisive and less explosive than James, but he’s still an elite producer at his position, upping his numbers in most categories last season. He can score in a variety of ways, shoots with range, gets to the line and cashes in his free throw opportunities, and is a hard-working defender.

With three years left on his contract, it’s certainly possible the Captain becomes a burden on the books. For now, he’s steady and solid as always, the same All-Star with the track record for winning, even if his team has finally been overtaken.

26. Nene Hilario, C, age 28, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals, 61.5%, 20.49 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 29, 23

Arguably the biggest prize in this year’s free agent crop, Nene has gotten overlooked to a degree in a crowded Denver frontcourt that always took a backseat to whatever Carmelo Anthony was doing. Now that Anthony is in the Big Apple, Nene’s uber-efficient scoring around the rim, high-energy play and overall athleticism look even better, especially if one considers what will be left of the Nuggets should he decide to find a new home.

25. Andrew Bynum, C, age 23, Los Angeles Lakers

2011 Stats: 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 assists, 57.4 FG%, 21.14 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 28, 22, 28

Nobody in the NBA causes more people to slap their foreheads than Bynum: he’s yet to approach his potential on the court, has a lengthy injury history and has repeatedly resorted to some of the dirtiest play seen anywhere in the modern NBA. For all his faults and immaturity, he has shown the ability to be the best center in the NBA not named Dwight Howard by simply overpowering defenders and playing over the top of them, finishing at the rim with an emphatic dunk or a soft touch. He doesn’t have ideal mobility but he is still a legit paint presence defensively, even able to control games at times. The progress he’s made in expanding his offensive repertoire gives hope for the future, as does his expressed desire to carry more of the load.

Bynum will likely see his ceiling stunted a bit by the final chapter of Kobe Bryant’s career, but that shouldn’t prevent him from being a perennial All-Star and top-10 player eventually. Only the injuries offer a legitimate roadblock to greatness.

24. Al Horford, C, age 25, Atlanta Hawks

2011 Stats: 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, .8 steals, 55.7%, 20.79 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 24, 24, 29

Horford is an interesting contrast with Bynum, in that he seems to have figured life out and come to terms with what he will be as an NBA player. An excellent defender whose offensive production doesn’t get enough run, Horford should be the centerpiece for the Hawks for years to come. He’s managed to improve his scoring numbers during all four seasons in the NBA while keeping his rebounding numbers near the magical double-digit mark. Horford is smart, consistent, has a winning mindset and provides zero distractions off the court. He can pass too.

At 25, he’s probably getting pretty close to his peak productivity and isn’t – and may never be -- a game-changing No. 1 option on offense.  Still, he provides stability and plenty to work around even if he is never able to carry the team out of the massive shadow cast by Joe Johnson’s contract.

23. Chris Bosh, F, age 27, Miami Heat

2011 Stats: 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 49.6 FG%, 19.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 25, 28

The planet Earth sure learned a lot about Bosh this season. Indeed, he probably faced a greater increase in scrutiny than any other NBA player, when he bounced out of Toronto to team up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in South Beach. Bosh’s game is predicated on outside/inside offensive versatility. He is equally able to knock down a jumper, get to the free throw line, finish a play above the rim and create a bit off the bounce. He’s more sinewy than beefy and that’s earned him plenty of criticism because he doesn’t hold the paint on defense and lacks a true nose for rebounding and dirty work.

Bosh wore goofy outfits, was rightfully cast as a third wheel, got tattooed, got married, and broke down crying in his first year with the Heat. Who knows what the sequel holds?

22. Rajon Rondo, G, age 25, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 47.5 FG%, 17.11 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 21, 25

Rondo may very well be the most magical point guard since Magic Johnson, his knack for fitting passes into tight spaces is uncanny and his vision is peerless. At his best, he conducts games rather than simply playing in them, weaving together his teammates in such a way that open shots result. His eye-popping wingspan is matched only by his gambler’s instinct, making Rondo an excellent on-ball and off-ball defender. Of course there’s the whole business about his shooting, which remains troublesome and limiting, but he compensates with a warrior’s spirit and a full understanding of his own limitations. He is the future.

21. Kevin Garnett, F, age 35, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, 52.8 FG%, 20.67

Composite rankings (random order): 23, 21, 21

Over the past two years, a crop of younger power forwards have surpassed Garnett, whose prep-to-pros jump and heavy minutes as a franchise guy earlier in his career have taken their toll. His body doesn’t allow 82 nights of top-shelf performance a season -- it would be next to impossible to manage that at 35 -- but he’s still the most feared and hated player in the NBA. His length and understanding of positioning create endless problems for his opponents and his basketball intelligence and leadership making the game easier for his teammates. His trusty jumper has kept him an offensive force and he can be paired with all sorts of lineups – big and small – thanks to his face-up game, passing skills and mobility. While Garnett is no longer a player capable of carrying a team to a title, he’s still the last guy you want to play against.

Posted on: July 21, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 10:29 pm
 

2011 NBA All-Star likeability rankings

Posted by Ben Golliver.

wade-durant-bryant

It's one thing to be great on the court. It's one thing to be famous. It's one thing to be marketable. It's one thing to be respected. 

But how do we throw all those attributes together? How do we determine which of the NBA's brightest stars are the most well-rounded? How do we put our finger on which stars capture the imagination, drop jaws and tug on the heart strings? 

It's an impossible task, but that didn't stop the Eye On Basketball staff from trying. Over the last week, we pinpointed five characteristics that combine to make NBA players likeable: "Ballin' Ability" (how good a guy is as a player), "Winning Attitude" (how dedicated he is to the game), "Talking Softly" (how he comes across in public comments), "Commerical Appeal" (how visible he is in advertisements) and "Public Works" (charitable contributions and other character-defining achievements).

Our panel of four experts ranked every member of the 2011 All-Star teams on a 1-5 scale in each of these five categories. We then added up all the scores to get a ranking on a 1 to 100 scale. The higher the number, the more likeable the player. Pretty simple stuff. 

Without further ado, here are the CBSSports.com 2011 NBA All-Star likeability rankings, from worst (least likeable) to first (most likeable). 

24. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: Johnson’s unassuming personality and solid perimeter game don’t stand much of a chance here due to his relatively invisible national profile and his team’s lack of playoff success. Score: 44

23. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: Horford suffers from the same low-profile problem as Johnson but is perceived as more of a winner because he took home NCAA hardware at the University of Florida, and his game is predicated on doing whatever it takes to get the job done rather than jacking jumpers. Score: 48

22. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: Bosh is intelligent, articulate and gentle off the court and a versatile talent on the court, so he should be prettychris-bosh-tears likeable, at least in theory. His goofiness -- the photo shoots, the secret wedding, the screaming at the preseason parade -- has become off-putting now that he’s teamed up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His status as the league’s most obvious punch line hurts him here. A lot. Score: 54

T-20. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: Still just a half-touch too far up the “might be crazy” scale to be totally likeable at this point in his career. Westbrook is still stuck in Kevin Durant’s shadow, although he showed with his fearless play in the 2011 postseason that he might one day eclipse KD in terms of sheer star power. Could be a fast riser in future renditions of these rankings, especially if he can cut down his turnovers and shake a developing reputation as a bit of a late-game ball hog. Saying something interesting after a game once in a while wouldn't hurt either. Score: 55

T-20. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers: Much like the Lakers, Gasol took a step back in prominence this season when he didn’t show up as expected -- and as needed -- in the postseason. His gangly frame isn’t particularly marketable, at least not here in the United States, and while he is a true professional when it comes to the media, he’s known first and foremost as Kobe Bryant’s on-again, off-again punching bag. Score: 55

19. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: More than anyone else on this list, Rondo genuinely doesn’t care what you think about him. He can come across as curt and moody, and doesn’t expend much energy playing the media game. His authenticity can’t be questioned, but it does keep casual fans at arm’s length. Score: 58

18. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs: An egoless star on an egoless team in an egoless organization in a relatively small market, Ginobili has never sought the bright lights. Even after all these years, the average fan doesn’t have much of a connection with him. There’s nothing not to like, but nothing that reaches out and grabs you either. Score: 59

17. Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets: Williams gets bonus points for his amazing annual dodgeball tournament and rose to a new level of renown this year thanks to a blockbuster trade and a trailblazing deal with Besiktas in Turkey. The rumored spats with Jerry Sloan that surfaced when the legendary Utah Jazz coach abruptly retired briefly painted a very unlikable picture, although that didn’t seem to bother him too much. Score: 61

16. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: Beloved in Boston, Pierce’s personal likeability suffers a bit nationally because he’s almost always talked about as one of Boston’s Big Three, with Kevin Garnett usually getting top billing. He's a bit past his prime, which surely costs him some spots on this list. Score: 62

15. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics: Allen is pretty much in the same boat as Pierce, although he’s got an energetic mother (the ever-present Flo), a picture-perfect jump shot and an unforgettable silver screen performance (Jesus Shuttlesworth) to give him a bit of a boost. Score: 64

14. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves: Love is the anti-Rondo, fully embracing the media attention, putting his self-kevin-love-smiledeprecating humor to full display whenever possible. He’s blogged, starred in viral videos and, let’s not forget, put up mammoth statistics through sheer hard work amidst a dysfunctional mess of a team. All while remaining sane. No easy task. Score: 65

T-12. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: Thanks to his on-court bullying antics and incessant trash talk, Garnett is as polarizing as anyone in the league, save LeBron James. But his reputation as a winner was sealed by Boston’s title, he’s been a fixture on the national endorsement circuit for years and his overwhelming competitive desire helps cover up some of the ugliness. Score: 66

 T-12. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks: Near the top of his game and playing in a major media market, Stoudemire keeps the dunks and quotes coming, so everyone stays happy. The fact that he abandoned Steve Nash immediately following a Western Conference Finals playoff run to take more money without catching any flak for it is a testament to how he’s carved out a major place in the nation’s heart in his own, quirky way. Score: 66

11. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: Anthony’s steady focus during a half-season-long free agency and trade whirlwind last year won him a lot of goodwill, as does the fact that he’s put millions of dollars into both Syracuse University and Baltimore. Based on talent alone, Anthony should probably be higher on this list, but wife LaLa and his lack of playoff success hold him back. Score: 68

10. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: Griffin is still enjoying the “new-car smell” phase of his NBA fame. His audacious take-offs, explosive leaping and vicious finishing are so unique for a player his size that nobody much cares that he didn’t make the playoffs and still has a ways to go to fill out an all-around game. The centerpiece of All-Star Weekend in his very first visit, he’s got endorsements by the boatload and is arguably on the verge of over-exposure. He’s still a little stiff, but that seems to be fading. Once he gets a few playoff series wins under his belt, look for Griffin to be a perennial top-5 member on this list. Score: 71

9. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: Duncan has been so good for so long -- and won so much -- that the respect factor afforded him is significant enough to make up for a bland, sometimes robotic, personality. Duncan can be subtly hilarious and occasionally sharp-tongued with the media. He is also unfailingly classy. Score: 72

8. LeBron James, Miami Heat: He should be No. 1 on every NBA list ever made given his otherworldly talent and global-marketinglebron-james-face-machine status, but James drops hard in terms of likeability due to his late-game failures in the 2011 NBA Finals, his out-of-touch comments towards fans following the Heat's eventual loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the self-unaware “Decision” and his overall child-star cockiness/obliviousness. Even given all of that, no one would be surprised if winning a title vaulted him to the top of this list next year. His talent is that absurd. Score: 74

7. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls: You might have heard: Rose is humble. The 2011 MVP has so much going for him: He’s won at an early age, he’s winning for his hometown team, he’s lived up to expectations, he’s taken responsibility for losses and shared credit for victories, he’s managed to be a scoring point guard without getting written off as “selfish,” and he kept a safe distance from all the free agency politicking that soured a lot of fans on many top-name players last summer. He continues to battle his “shy” public nature, which is the only thing holding him back from much, much greater fame. Score: 79

6. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: Paul checks off virtually every box on the likeability list. He’s cutthroat on the court and cuddly off of it. He’s raised loads of money for Hurricane Katrina relief. He’s a devout man without being preachy. He comes across as a caring father and thoughtful citizen. He’s -- so far -- steered clear of hijacking his franchise by demanding a trade or threatening to walk in free agency. The touching story of his love for his deceased grandfather has become an indelible part of his identity. And he is team-first, always. There’s so much to like that you actually hope he finds a better situation, where he will be able to fill out his playoff reputation. Score: 81

5. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: This is the top of the mountain for Nowitzki, both on and off the court. It simply doesn’t get any better than captaining a balanced team through a marathon playoff run that ended with the demolition of the league’s most hated team. The cherry on top is the fact that Nowitzki came through in the clutch time and again. He’s put an ugly past relationship totally behind him, moving forward with a new fiancé. His personality with the media is easy-going and honest. He plays with a childish love of the game and hits shots that make you marvel. It’s hard to imagine another seven-foot German man gaining this level of acceptance and respect in the United States. Ever. Also, he’s squashed the “soft” label that haunted him for years. Score: 84

4. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic: Howard has deftly positioned himself as the heir apparent to Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most likeable NBA stars in recent memory. His dominant two-way play serves as the basis for a superhero persona, and his active online presence and numerous endorsement deals make his zany personality inescapable. The fact that he hasn’t committed to the Magic and could be headed for a free agency bonanza could cost him points down the road, but right now he’s still the giant, lovable teddy bear who can swat shots back to half court. Score: 85

T-2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: It was a shocking scene when Wade joined James in mocking Nowitzki during the Finals for being sick: A very flat note for someone who has historically been pitch perfect. Throughout his career, Wade has been a Teflon Don, particularly charmed as a player and as an endorser. With a title under his belt and a megawatt smile, Wade has displayed a good sense of humor for years as a pitchman and also been a staple on NBA Cares commercials. Both James and Bosh lost points last summer for their decision to team up in Miami, but Wade came off as a big winner, the cool older-brother figure who pulled off the recruiting haul of a lifetime. Score: 87

kevin-durant-smile

T-2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: Colorado sure feels like a long, long time ago, doesn’t it? Bryant has made the most of the second half of his NBA career, winning rings by the fistful and growing his international popularity immensely. He’s played through pain, done things his way, taken a direct, often profane, tone with the media and become the closest thing to Jordan since Jordan. Age is slowly advancing, which has a way of humanizing people, and yet his ego and force of will push back equally hard, making it seem, at least for now, that his reign on top will last as long as he chooses. Right now, he’s the NBA’s most mythical figure. Score: 87

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: Surprised? You shouldn’t be. It’s virtually impossible to find fault with the NBA’s scoring champ. Durant combines Rose’s humble nature, Nowitzki’s impossible scoring touch, Griffin’s “new-car smell,” Howard’s technological accessibility and a Bryant-esque work ethic. He’s polite, he’s shown he has what it takes to win in the playoffs at a young age, he’s popular on an international stage already and the best is yet to come. He’s confident, but not cocky. He’s a gunner, but he comes off as unselfish. He’s team-first and loyal, much like Paul, and he’s locked in long-term so there’s no doubt or question about his future motives (at least not yet). Put it all together, and Durant is enjoying the ultimate honeymoon period with the NBA fans. We love potential, and Durant still has plenty of that. Also, he wears a backpack. Score: 88







Posted on: May 12, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Grading the series: Bulls top Hawks in six

Posted by Royce Young



The Bulls finished off the Hawks in six games with a 93-73 win in Game 6 in Atlanta. It was a Chicago clinic of defense, quality offensive execution, strong rebounding and really good stuff from Derrick Rose. Also, Carlos Boozer did something for once.

Let's hand out some grades.

Bulls:

Derrick Rose: In terms of shooting the ball, Rose wasn't great. He hovered around 40 percent took too many 3s. But he averaged 29.8 points per game in the series and provided the Bulls with just enough offense to get it done. I don't think anyone would say he was spectacular at any point, but he was most definitely always good. His 44-point, seven assist Game 3, though, was certainly something special. Grade: B+

Carlos Boozer: It was almost as if Boozer was trying to redeem himself with a great Game 6. At one point during the series in Game 1, Chicago fans actually had booed Boozer for his failing to produce. He finished the series averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on solid percentages, but the way he checked out in Games 2 and 3 were what concerned people. Maybe he's just now getting healthy, because he certainly looked good in Game 6, putting up 23 points and 10 rebounds. Grade: B-

Tom Thibodeau: The NBA's Coach of the Year gets a gold star for his brilliant move of letting Taj Gibson and Omer Asik finish out Game 5 for the Bulls. Most coaches would come back to their higher paid starters, but Thibodeau saw something in that second unit and rode them to the end. It paid off too, as Gibson put up 11 points in the quarter to squash the Hawks. The Bulls finally started showing consistent signs of being that feared 62-win defensive juggernaut in this series, and I think Thibodeau is getting them back into their style. Grade: A

The Chicago Bench: The role players always play a really key part for the Bulls because they have to spread things out a bit. When their bench is scoring and producing quality, productive minutes, they are really tough. Game 5 was a great example of how good the second unit can be, and they showed up again in Game 6. Somewhat inconsistent, but that's bench play in general. Grade: B+


Hawks:

Joe Johnson: The Hawks did an admirable job of pushing the Bulls in this series and took a surprising Game 1 because of a stellar performance from Johnson. And that's what it was going to take for the Hawks to pull this out. Johnson was going to have to rise to another level for at least four games and carry the Hawks. He wasn't able to. He was good in the series (19.7 ppg on almost 50 percent shooting), but he needed to be excellent. Grade: B

Jeff Teague: In terms of the future, the best thing that happened to the Hawks may have been Kirk Hinrich's injury. It gave Teague a chance to shine against the league's MVP and maybe prove he can be the Hawks point man of the future. In more than 229 minutes, he only turned the ball over seven times against the Bulls ball-hawking defense. He also had three games of scoring 21 points. Stepping up in such a big spot, he did a great job. Grade: A

Jamal Crawford: Much like Johnson, the Hawks needed something big from Crawford in at least four games. And he just never really showed up. He absolutely killed the Magic, but was a non-factor in five of the six games. It's is bad news when he's the team's X-factor. He averaged just 10.3 ppg on 35 percent shooting and never really got much going for Atlanta. Grade: D

Al Horford and Josh Smith: Matching up against Boozer and Joakim Noah, the interior battle had the feel of being where this series would be decided. Horford had just one good game, while Smith, despite being widely criticized for shot selection, turned a pretty solid series. Together, they needed to be better on the glass and defensively on the inside. Combined, they averaged under 25 points and 20 rebounds a game. That just didn't cut it: Grade: C+
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 11:23 pm
 

Hawks go out with a whimper, but showed something

Posted by Royce Young



In a do-or-die Game 6, the Hawks bowed out rather humbly to the Bulls, 93-73, as Chicago moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls looked strong and their season series with the Heat, so the East should be tremendous.

But let's talk about the Hawks for just a second. A round of applause is in order, because that was quite a postseason effort.

Think back to just the end of the regular season. The Hawks lost their last six games and limped into the playoffs with a meager 44-38 record. Most everyone in the world didn't give them any sort of a shot against Dwight Howard and the Magic. And not only did the Hawks take down Orlando, but they did it convincingly in six games.

And once again, taking on the East's top seed, not many felt the Hawks had a legitimate chance to unseat the Bulls. But Game 1 went the way of the Hawks, and a message was sent quickly: Atlanta ain't messing around here. You may not think much of them, but those Hawks weren't going to lie down and just let things play out the way everyone thought.

It's a pretty important development too for this team because, up to this point, they were sort of the NBA's paradise lost. They were a movement built on talent and youth, but a group that never had tasted real success or really even seemed destined to do so. The Hawks were one big ball of quality basketball players, but lacking whatever it takes to go a bit further.

No, they didn't win a title, much less get to the finals in the East. But they did, at the very least, give a renewed sense of hope around this still young core. All hope isn't lost, the dream isn't dead. At the end of March, it was certainly appearing that was the case. The Hawks had started their annual checkout phase of the season and didn't seem to represent any chance of pushing the Magic, much less getting out of the first round. And, not only did they bounce Orlando, but they also gave the Bulls a pretty solid scare.

Is this a title core? Probably not. They still lack something, even if we all have trouble putting our fingers on it. It's probably the fact that everything they have is very good, but not quite great. Joe Johnson is a very good star, but not The Star. Josh Smith is a very gifted, athletic power forward, but something prevents him from being all that he could be. The one overachiever of the bunch seems to be Al Horford and, while very, very good, I don't think he's the type of reliable big man that can shoulder a load and win a playoff series on his own.

So, like I said, it's just not all put together for the Hawks. And it might not ever be. There's a case to be made that this playoff run could've done more harm than good because now management may invest even more in this core. But that's the question: Did they prove something here? Was this enough to say they still deserve a chance? I think that's what we've all got to ask about this Hawks team.

There are some decisions to be made in the offseason. What do you do with Jamal Crawford? Do you still hang on to Josh Smith or do you dangle him on the trade market and see what you can get? Is Jeff Teague going to be your point guard of the future now? What do you do with Marvin Williams? And what else can you add to try and take the next step? The Hawks have to fix things, but at least there is now a level of success to reach for. This group was capable of a solid six-game out against the Bulls in the second round. Now what do you do next to take another step?

I'm a firm believer of reasonable expectations and always keeping them in check. Think back to before the season where you had the Hawks pegged. Think back to the beginning of the postseason where you had the Hawks pegged. Now look at where they've finished. It's moderate progress. Not the overwhelming jump towards a title, but it's something.

Until this point, there hadn't been much of a taste. The Hawks appeared destined to be playoff also-ran and that was it. At least in this run, they showed that they could still be something more.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 9:40 am
 

Playoff Fix: Hawks try to keep the window ajar

Bulls look to close out the Hawks in Game 6.

Posted by Matt Moore





One Big Thing: If the Hawks want to stave off elimination and force a Game 7, Jamal Crawford is going to have to get loose. The Hawks' offense is about 25% ISO against the Bulls, and it's pretty high normally. The Hawks just love the feel of a crossover, step-back jumper. But in an elimination game, the Hawks can't afford to squander possessions. Every possession has to be valued, cherished. And that means getting Crawford involved, and it should be off-ball movement that does that. Getting Crawford open looks will cause the Bulls' defense to shift. That'll open up the inside for Horford and Smith, which will create more spacing for Joe Johnson when he goes into isolation, instead of dribbling into multiple defenders. Everything opens up. But it's got to start with Crawford. The Bulls have done a great job of keying in on Crawford as this series has gone on. If they contain him for one more game, it may be enough to make their way to meet the Heat.


The X-Factor: The Bench Mob for Chicago mixed with the starters at the end of Game 5, and they were the difference. The Bulls, surprisingly, have a very capable bench unit, and it's been doing damage in this series. If Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver can make an impact, the Hawks won't be able to counter, not with Teague having to start. It's a huge advantage for the Bulls. Can they keep up this kind of surprising play? With the defense anchoring them, it looks good for the Bench Mob to make an appearance in Game 6.


The Adjustment: The Hawks were making a comeback by putting the ball in Jeff Teague's hands. They stopped doing that. They stopped making a comeback. Teague needs to be the focal point of the offense with how he's playing right now. He doesn't have to take all the shots, but his drive and kick abilities force the Bulls' defense to react instead of just waiting for the Hawks to dribble into them. The Hawks need to trust the young point guard and let him get them opportunities. Trying to do it on their own won't fly.


The Sticking Point: Chicago is a much better team. It honestly should not have gone this many games, given how talented and capable Chicago is. It took a run from Omer Asik and Taj Gibson to close out Game 5 at home, for crying out loud. Credit the Hawks' effort. Had the coaching been better, this may have gone differently. But this is a close-out game the Bulls know they need with the Heat starting to get their rest. Derrick Rose will be in close-out mode. The Hawks have shown us a tougher version of themselves mentally than we're used to seeing this postseason. They're going to have to come out with an even more impressive to push this thing back to Chicago and give themselves another chance.  
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com