Running with Zaza

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Hawks Make Big Trade Deadline Move!

Have you been wondering where in the world James White plays basketball? The former Cincinnati Bearcat star is the best player on the Anaheim Arsenal of the D-League. He had 35 points last night in a big overtime win.

I know this because I was checking out the teammates of new Arsenal big man and former Hawk Othello Hunter. Hawks’ fans have been throwing down shots of Jameson this week to celebrate the big move that has given the Hawks a chance to win the Eastern Conference. The Hawks designated Othello Hunter for assignment to the Anaheim Arsenal of the D-League!

Think back to September – October 2007…Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was complaining that the Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak was not doing enough to win a championship. It looked like Kupchak’s career was nearing an end with the Lakers. Then, in February 2008, Kupchak robbed the Memphis Grizzlies of Pau Gasol. Today, the Lakers are playing great basketball and have the deepest team in the NBA.

Today, Atlanta Hawks’ GM Rick Sund could have made a similar deal. He could have made a deal for a superstar to be the face of this franchise. Instead, the big news this week for the Hawks was that Othello Hunter was sent to the D-League. Is it Sund’s fault? No, the problem with the Hawks is the ridiculous management situation. Blame Steve Belkin, Michael Gearon, and the rest. Blame David Stern for letting this charade go on for so long.

Okay, I am joking. Really, Hawks fans are seeing the door close on a chance to make a trade to get them into contention for the Eastern Conference championship. If you read this blog, you know that I think the Hawks’ roster is built for the playoffs. Bibby and Marvin playing for contracts make the playoff roster even more interesting. I am confident Atlanta will beat Detroit or Miami in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

I also am confident that the Hawks with their current roster cannot beat the Celtics, Magic, or Cavs. The next few road games will provide a tough test, and we will see what the Hawks can do against tough teams. A few days back I proposed a trade to get the Hawks to the next level. I posted the editorial to another web site. With over 200 reads and some negative comments, here are a couple of my comments in response to the comments:

First of all, if you check out the stats, Josh Smith and Carmelo are close to even. Carmelo is obviously the better scorer and offensive player, but Smith has some advantages. He is younger, more athletic, and has a much more manageable contract. Plus, he has not already tuned out George Karl. Get Smith away from ATL and he might blossom.

Joe Johnson is one of my favorite Hawks, but he is a number 2--a Robin or Ed McMahon if you will. Melo would come in here as the face of the Hawks. He would take all the pressure of Joe. Melo would be the number 1 option and he would put sizzle in Philips Arena. The stars of Atlanta would be at these games.

Think about this match up in the 2nd round of this year's NBA playoffs:

Bibby, Joe, Melo, Horford, and Zaza versus Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and Perkins.

I actually like Atlanta's starting five better on the offensive end. As always, Garnett's desire would be the X-factor. But can Paul Pierce guard Melo? Can Allen guard JJ? Allen could not get the job done against the Hawks in last year's playoffs.

Hawks’ bloggers and fans only can dream of a Melo and Joe Johnson combination. Really, no one cares. There are only two sports talk radio shows in this town and today they combined to talk about the Hawks for about 14 minutes. The derth of NBA talk and buzz in this town is disheartening. Okay, let me go watch Jeopardy.


Melo for Josh Smith? A Great Deal for Both Teams

I am spending my Sunday afternoon watching four of the top five teams in the NBA compete against each other at the highest level. These teams are playing in front of packed houses with playoff atmospheres. So, I started wondering what the Hawks can do to reach the next level.

I like this Hawks team, but honestly the ceiling for this team is probably winning a playoff series this year. After this year, things will change. Look what happened yesterday when Mike Bibby was out of action. The Hawks were thumped at home by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Every NBA fan is excited about the 2010 off season. Scenarios for 2010 are talked about daily on NBA blogs and in mainstream NBA coverage. What can the Hawks do to get ready for the vaunted free agent Class of 2010?

Here is my solution. Forget about trying to land Lebron, D. Wade, or Bosh in 2010. Make a trade now that will set you up for the next 4 years. I went to ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine to see what I can do to help GM Rick Sund and the Hawks.

Rick Sund should call the Denver Nuggets and offer them this trade: Josh Smith, Acie Law, and Speedy Claxton for Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Carter. The trade machine allowed the deal, but I think Josh Smith would have to approve it. Would getting away from home and Mike Woodson be enticing enough?

What are the benefits for the Hawks? This trade jumps the Hawks up on the NBA talent scale. Their starting line up for this year’s playoffs would be Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Carmelo, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.

In a playoff series with days off, that lineup has a legitimate chance to beat Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando. Horford can fill his natural position of power forward. The Hawks would then have a number one offensive option to pair up with Joe Johnson, who is one of the best all around players in the NBA. This trade might even encourage Bibby to re-sign with Atlanta for less money.

What are the benefits for the Nuggets? Because of injuries or other reasons, Carmelo’s stats are down across the board. He still has four years left on his deal with Denver, but the Nuggets have Linas Kleiza waiting in the wings.

This trade would make the Nuggets Chauncey Billups’ team to run. That is a good thing for the Nuggets. They would lose Melo’s scoring, but they would add a dynamic, young player in Josh Smith. The great thing about Smith is that his contract is very manageable.

What are the benefits for the principal players—Melo and J-Smoove? Melo moves to a great city. He would instantly be the biggest sports star in Atlanta. That means more exposure for the Hawks, but it also means that Melo has a chance to be a perennial all star in the Eastern Conference. J-Smoove gets to move away from Coach Mike Woodson and play in a more up tempo style with the Nuggets.

This trade seems to benefit everyone involved. The Nuggets even get Speedy Claxton’s expiring contract and a young back up point guard in the deal. Acie probably would be better in an up tempo style as well.

Undoubtedly, this kind of blockbuster trade will never be attempted by the Hawks. Sund seems pretty conservative plus the Hawks’ ownership quagmire is well documented. Maybe I am just dreaming about Carmelo and the Hawks playing big games on Sunday afternoons on ABC. Philips Arena would be rocking.


Old Hawks Are Playoff Ready

While getting ready to watch the Hawks play the Bobcats, I am thinking about the current state of the Atlanta Hawks as we approach the All Star Break. This team is playoff ready and primed for a great second half of the season.

The Hawks are 28-20 and second in the Southeast Conference. I am predicting 3 wins and 1 loss in their four games before the break. The Hawk will beat Charlotte, the Clippers, and the Wizards, but lose at Detroit next Wednesday night. That will make them 31-21 at the All Star Break. With all of their injuries and tough early schedule, the Hawks are one of the surprise teams in the NBA.

The season has been a roller coaster ride for Hawks’ fans. The early season success raised expectations, but there have been some low points including a massacre at first place Orlando. When this team is healthy during the 2nd half of the season, there should be some great moments.

Here are my two goals for the team for the rest of the season. First, win 50 games. Secondly, earn the 4th or the 5th seed in the Eastern conference playoffs. Going into the final 30 games of the season, working to reach those marks has to be the mind set of this team.

Winning 50 would be great, but the playoff seeding is ultimately more important. I argue that the Hawks roster is better suited for playoff basketball than for the NBA regular season. This is not a run and gun, up and down basketball team. Playing on back to back nights or 4 games in 5 nights kills the Hawks because of their lack of depth. Rick Sund can sing the praises of Acie Law and Solo Jones, but they are too young and are not ready for prime time. In fact, the conventional wisdom that this is a young basketball team is dead wrong.

In the playoffs, Coach Woodson’s rotation is going to get shorter. He probably will go with an 8-man rotation. Of those guys, Bibby, JJ, Mo Evans, Flip, and Zaza are older, veteran players with lots of mileage on their legs. Marvin Williams and Josh Smith each have been in the league over three years. These guys are not young by NBA standards. Al Horford is the only guy I would call young and he is a four year college guy. If Smith develops the same maturity level as Marvin or “the Boss”, the Hawks are a mature and experienced group headed into the playoffs.

The other great thing about the first round of the NBA playoffs is that there are days off between games. My concern is that Bibby and Joe are logging too many minutes. Because of the off days, they should be able to play without worrying about getting tired. The Hawks have played a ton of close games this year and more often than not Bibby has been the guy that has knocked down clutch jump shots down in the clutch. He has made numerous big 3 point shots this year.

Bibby and Marvin Williams will be playing for contracts. That fact alone helps the Hawks in the playoffs. Do not underestimate the importance of money to these guys. The next contract is Bibby’s last. Marvin’s contract will make him a journeyman or a starter for the next several years. Marvin has been having his best season of his career this year. I think it is because he is not worried about Josh Childress looming as his back up.

Mo Evans’ role has been to come off the bench and Evans has not really played as well as I expected him to play this year. Without someone competing for his job, Marvin has been more relaxed and played better. His floor game with rebounding and passing has been consistently good all season. He played very hard in Wednesday night’s big win on the road versus Minnesota.

What are the variables for the Hawks in the playoffs? There are two. Can Mo Evans and Flip Murray provide offense of the bench? These guys started off hot, but cooled off in the month of January. Flip is coming back around, but Mo Evans has not been shooting the 3 point shot that well. If he can make 3’s and guard Tayshaun Prince or Paul Pierce, the Hawks can advance deep into the playoffs.

The second wild card is Josh Smith. You either love Smith or you hate him. He dunked so hard over Steve Nash two weeks ago that the Philips Arena crowd lost their minds. The replay itself inspired oohs and aahs. My problem with Smith (I wrote about this extensively last summer in this blog) is that for every positive thing he does on the court, he commits one or two errors. Plus, the scrunched up, complaining face that he makes is terribly annoying. When you are frustrated as a fan, imagine how frustrated Mike Woodson is coaching the talented, but erratic J-Smoove.

If Smith will rebound, block shots, stop his man from beating him off the dribble, and finish in transition, the Hawks are a scary team. They are a team that can reach the Eastern Conference Finals. If Smith settles for long jump shots, turns the ball over, makes lackadaisical passes, scowls at the officials, and ignores Coach Woodson, the Hawks can get beaten in the first round by Detroit or Miami. No matter what happens-- Hawks’ fans are going to have a blast this spring watching this “old” team in the playoffs.