Led by Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks began this season with more buzz than the city’s best lemon pepper wings. They were a quality young League Pass team who’d matured into an Eastern Conference heavyweight overnight. The 2021 postseason served as the setting for Young’s glow-up from empty calorie stat-sheet stuffer into a bona-fide superstar.
Expectations for the Hawks 2021-22 season soared after they ricocheted into the Eastern Conference Finals last postseason. First, Trae Young lobotomized the Knicks in a 4-1 gentlemen’s sweep. In the semifinals, Young then sent the Sixers spiraling for the next nine months, and in the Eastern Conference finals, went mano-a-mano for six games against the eventual champion Bucks. In October, they returned more undercooked than Paula Patton’s fried chicken.
A Hawks team that was projected to contend with the East’s top teams has been on the verge of sending a rep to the draft lottery instead. Meanwhile, Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies have ascended to a level we expected the Hawks to attain first, creating the perception that Young was lagging behind his peers.
It’s possible Young won’t be named to an All-NBA team despite averaging nearly 28 points and 10 assists because of the narrative that the Hawks have underperformed. Amazingly, Young has never been named to an All-NBA team, and if voting NBA media members punish the Hawks point guard the same way they penalized Jayson Tatum for a subpar Celtics campaign in 2021, it could cost him $30 million. In reality, Trae Young has improved on everything he has become synonymous with. He’s still a pyromaniac on the offensive end, averaging career-high averages in points, assists, 3-point shooting percentage, field-goal percentage and just generally setting scoreboards ablaze.
However, the core group hasn’t evolved with him. After April 1, last season, Bogdan Bogdanović averaged 22.0 points per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field, 49.5 percent on 3s and 88.9 percent at the charity stripe. That’s the Bogdan Atlanta needs instead of what it got, someone whose effective field-goal percentage has dipped 7 percent from last season.
At some point, Kevin Huerter or De’Andre Hunter have to leap the gulf between promising young players and supporting stars on a playoff team. Atlanta’s second-leading scorer, John Collins, has played only six games in the last two months because of a plantar fascia tear and a right ring finger sprain.
One of the signature moments of their run was Cam Reddish’s 21 points and 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range in 29 minutes in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Reddish’s breakout became a fixed point for Hawks fans to rest their hopes on. When Reddish was drafted, he was pegged as an All-Star-in-waiting. If you drank the Kool-Aid, his upside was compared to Tracy McGrady’s. In 118 games throughout three seasons, Reddish shot 38.5 percent from the field, averaging 11.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 26.3 minutes per game. At the midpoint of this season, the Hawks had seen enough and on Jan. 13, they traded Reddish to the New York Knicks for Kevin Knox and a 2022 first-round pick.
During the first half of the season, the Hawks were getting cooked defensively and allowing 116.1 points per 100 possessions, the 3rd-worst rate in the league. Since Jan. 15, right after the Hawks traded Reddish to the Knicks, the Hawks have been a middle-of-the-pack defense, ranking 14th in points-per-possession, allowing 114.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. Supplemented by Young steering the NBA’s second-best offense, Atlanta has cranked out the NBA’s fifth-ranked scoring differential since Jan. 15.
In November, Young pinned the slow start on their nihilistic realization that the regular season was meaningless.
“It’s the regular season. I’m not going to lie. It’s a lot more boring than the playoffs. You’ve got to find that motivation to play like the playoffs,” Young admitted to The Ringer’s Seerat Sohi.
As the playoffs approach, there are signs that Young and the Hawks are building motivation and momentum. Between Dec. 10 and March 16, the Hawks hovered at or below .500. Winning six of their last seven games since March 25 has positioned them four games over .500 heading into the final weekend of their regular season. Last season’s 27-11 finish after Lloyd Pierce was fired, looks eerily like this year’s post-Cam Reddish 25-13 record.
The Hawks are finally making their move. However, they have even less room for error than in 2021. Atlanta sits at 9th in the East, one game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets, but has an identical 42-38 record as the Brooklyn Nets. Young wanted the postseason; he’ll get to it earlier than most. The Play-in games will be the playoff atmosphere Young asked for. If this doesn’t awaken the young Hawks, nothing will.
Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager
The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.
Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.
“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.
“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”
Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.
City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.
“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.
“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”
R Madrid 3 – 1 A Madrid
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.
Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.
Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.
It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.
The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.
Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.
Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.
With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.
Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.
Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.
“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.
“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”
Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.
Everything we know about Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle
It’s conference championship week. With only four teams on the NFL schedule this week — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals — one interesting storyline can dominate the entire conversation leading up to the games. This time, it’s QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle.
The fact that this storyline is the dominant one heading into the weekend makes sense. He’s the best player in the league, and his team is hosting the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Also, the game is taking place one week after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and was still able to hobble the Chiefs to victory — aided of course by a timely 98-yard touchdown drive that was led by backup quarterback Chad Henne.
How mobile does Mahomes look right now?
Since his right ankle got rolled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no leg in America has had as much attention on it as his. Not even Brent Maher’s as he overcame his kicking yips during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles. Mahomes’ ankle has so much attention on it that Fox 4 KC’s Harold R. Kuntz has been filming him walking down from the press conference podium the last two days. And by filming Mahomes, I mean only his legs.
Thursday update: Mahomes didn’t even need to use the stairs.
Knox’s assessment: Don’t be a hero… until Sunday.
Kuntz isn’t the only reporter on the scene sharing video footage of Mahomes’ mobility. During the portion of practice that was open to the media, many videos were sent out of Mahomes moving around. As the Chiefs were warming up, Mahomes actually jogged and spun as he headed toward his next station. He is certainly running better than he was on Sunday.
In their comments to the media, Andy Reid said that Mahomes “did a nice job and was “comfortable with what we did.” Mahomes said that he believed his Wednesday practice went, “better than I expected.”
For Chiefs fans — and those of us who want to see a well-played AFC Championship Game — this news out of Kansas City is the best we could’ve received. On the Chiefs’ most active days of practice, Mahomes was seen moving very well. Also, he and the head coach both gave positive updates about the health of the most important leg in sports this weekend.
Will the ankle affect Mahomes’ play on Sunday?
There is no possible way that Mahomes will be 100 percent against the Bengals. They are going to test that ankle by trying to apply the same type of pressure that disrupted the Buffalo Bills during the Bengals’ Divisional Round win on Sunday. However, if he can move around all game as well as he has been in practice, he will be able to play well enough for the Chiefs to have a chance at victory.
We’ve received the closeup and overhead views of Mahomes’ health. All that is left is the view at Arrowhead Stadium from the CBS cameras at 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2023.
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