Tate: Hawks Fly Past Champs, Welcome Dwight Home

Yes, of course, we know that this was only a preseason game, but there’s still plenty to be excited about. Perhaps one wouldn’t know that judging by the attendance, atmosphere and the Hawks’ “6th man section” during Atlanta’s 99-93 victory over the defending league world champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday evening. Correction: the LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love-less Cavs but nonetheless, a win is a win and the Hawks will take it with or without the asterisk. And besides, Atlanta could use the reps considering the recent adjustments that have been made over the course of the off-season… most notably… the obvious… the acquisition of Dwight Howard. After all, as a native of the ATL city, expectations were clearly skyrocketed minus the production of Cleveland’s starters but in addition to the absence of presence in the painted area for many years in this franchise since Dikembe Mutombo and biggest star name on the hardwood since ‘Nique.

Expectations couldn’t be too exceptionally high as Howard and the “rooks” will need and take some time adjusting to Bud’s infamous system. What we saw: Mike Scott’s minutes seemingly diminishing. MS’ selection of shots over the past season and a half have been somewhat questionable after once being considered an x-factor and one of the roster’s most consistent players off the bench. More-so, Mike has likely played himself out of the rotation and may be viewing the game differently resulting in a role change. Last night Scott shot 0-4 from the field and 0-2 from distance, but look on the bright side… he did shoot 100% from the charity stripe where he earned all 4 of his points and added 3 rebounds in 11 minutes.

Walter Tavares got a bit of burn off the pine behind Howard when he checked out for a breather. In those 12 minutes the highlight was likely his 5 rebounds and a steal. ‘Eddy’ displayed below average lateral movement defensively which is somewhat expected from young international player standing taller than 7 feet tall being put in switch off situations with Cavs’ rookie guard Kay Felder (5’9), who gave ATL all that they could handle with 15pts, 6ast respectively. The same Felder that Atlanta sacrificed to the Cavs in exchange for cash in June’s draft at pick #54. Kay was active early on Monday night. Tavares seems to still be making a speed adjustment to the NBA pro level of the game as he once noted during Hawks Media Days just weeks ago. Multiple times we may have witnessed Walter extend too far to the perimeter on ‘D’ and apparently occasional jumpers and passing has not been added to his repertoire. The biggest question that continues to loom here is will and can the Hawks be patient enough to keep him on ice until his grooming is complete?

Hawks repeatedly struggled a bit on poor consecutive close-out duties versus opposing jump-shooters in maroon uniforms which ultimately forced those in zebra shirts to blow whistles. As for the rookies who many Hawks fans had the first opportunity to catch a quick glimpse of, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry had better than average performances in their Philips Arena debut. Things may take Prince a little more time than Bembry though I’ve always been unsure if Prince is a perfect fit for what Atlanta is building. So far so good. Tim Hardaway Jr. (1-7FG) repeatedly shot hard balls towards the rim and drawing plenty of backboard. THJr. hasn’t seemed remotely the same player as we once saw with the Knicks prior to his trip to A-Town.

Sadly, at one point Atlanta was 7% from 3 in Q3 and finished in the 10% range but hey, what can you say? It’s early. Still shaking the cobwebs loose. Dwight Howard (26pts, 8reb, 2ast, 2blk, 1ast) not only blocked Jordan McRae’s shot nearly to the popcorn stands under 6 minutes in 3Q before settling for an unorthodox turnaround fade-away on the following possession but if I recall correctly, DH brought the ball up the court to run the offense. Yes, Dwight Howard. This is NOT a misprint. Also note that you should see your fair share of alley-oop dunks from Dennis Schroder to Dwight Howard this upcoming season. That’s not all though… add (if nothing else) an improved just within midrange shot that I must admit doesn’t look half bad. As long as it stays just within mid-range and even that is a bit of a stretch.

What to look forward to: Hawks@Pistons on Thursday evening when Andre Drummond and the youthful Bad Boys welcome the hardwood version of the ‘Dirty Birds’ and Dwight Howard to MoTown minus Reggie Jackson for ATL’s 4th of 7 preseason contests. As it stands, Atlanta is leading the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division.

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