Larry Drew knew how to score during his playing days so it was no surprise that he decided to change the Hawks' offense when he was promoted to head coach from assistant over the summer to replace Mike Woodson. So far, Drew's motion offense is working quite well.
The Hawks lead the NBA with a 53.6 effective field goal percentage and their 112.1 Offensive Rating is second only to the Lakers (115.0). It has helped the Hawks get off to a 6-2 start.
"We've worked hard at this, but it's not like we set out to do this or anything," swingman Joe Johnson said. "I think one of the real keys this season is that our bigs worked as hard as they did so they could be factors in this new offense."
The biggest improvement has been made by power forward Josh Smith, who often exhausted Woodson's patience with his propensity for taking bad shots. Smith has a 54.0 effective field goal percentage and a 57.7 true shooting percentage. The six-year veteran's career highs are 50.8 and 53.6.
"You expect Joe or Jamal (Crawford) and even Marvin (Williams) to be up there with the best of the best, but not necessarily me, but we're taking different shots in this offense," Smith said. "We're taking better shots because of this new offense. Hopefully we're just getting started."
While the Hawks are getting better shots, that hasn't mean they haven't given up on isolation plays. Johnson remains one of the top one-on-one players in the league.
"He's still one of the very best players and you have to deal with him," Hawks point guard Mike Bibby said. "So if anyone wants to underestimate him, let them go ahead and do that."
On the other end of the shooting spectrum is the Magic, which is struggling to connect on long-range jumpers after setting an NBA record with 841 three-pointers last season. The Magic's 34.5 percentage from beyond the arc is just 17th in the league. Rashard Lewis (.296), Quentin Richardson (.231) and J.J. Redick (.167) all have ugly percentages on the three but the Magic are still 6-1.
"There are going to be nights where you struggle to shoot, and we've had a lot of them already," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I know these guys aren't 0-for-5, 0-for-4 kind of guys. I know at some point we're going to shoot the ball well."
20,000th Point Meaningful Pierce
When most athletes reach certain statistical milestones they tend to fall back on the standard line of not being able to put it in perspective until their careers are over. Well, when Celtics forward Paul Pierce scored his 20,000th career point, the tears streaming down his face said that he knew exactly what the moment meant.
"It was a little emotional, man," Pierce said. "I mean, a lot of people in here, they've seen a lot of that 20,000. You know, not a lot of people in NBA history have accomplished that. Just to make history for the NBA is great. Five years ago, I wouldn't have even dreamed I would be scoring 20,000 points in a Celtics uniform. The team was going in a direction, I was a disgruntled player at the time, and to still be here and still be talking about this feat is an incredible moment for me."
Pierce became the 40th player to reach the 20,000 mark. Three of his current teammates, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, have also reached that milestone. The other three active players in the club are the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki and the Spurs' Tim Duncan.
"I was just thinking about all the years I have been here, and you don't see it too often where a player accomplishes that kind of feat playing with one team," Allen said. "It is a great accomplishment, you know, the fans seeing my ups and downs throughout the years and sticking with me. Just to be able to accomplish this type of feat, it means a lot to me. I am not going to even downplay it. It means a lot."
Anthony Content for Now in Denver
All the trade rumors that surrounded Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony at the start of training camp have subsided. In fact, Anthony is now even saying that he would consider signing the three-year, $64.47 million contract extension offer that has been on the table since summer rather than become a free agent at season's end.
"I don't see why not," Anthony said. "We're winning basketball games and I'm happy, and everybody else on the team is."
Ironically, the Nuggets host the Knicks and Nets next week. Those two teams have been rumored to be heavily interested in Anthony. However, Anthony says he won't let his mind wander about what it might be like to play for those teams.
"I can't do that right now," he said. "I've got to focus on being a Nugget and playing Nuggets basketball."
Grizzlies Getting Deflections
Deflections aren't reflected in the official NBA statistics. Because they're not, Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has an assistant keep track of them on the bench during games.
"If they are trying to feed the post and the ball is deflected, it doesn't go in the post," Hollins said. "If they reverse the ball to the weak side and the ball is knocked away, it doesn't get to the weak side. Deflections lead to steals."
The Grizzlies lead the league in opponents' turnovers with 18.2 a game and are second in defensive plays rate with 17.7, trailing only the Knicks (18.3).
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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