Hawks holding few full practices so far in this unusual NBA season

It’s been a season of adjustments for all 30 NBA teams, including the Hawks. Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The last time the Hawks had a full-on practice, they were in Phoenix and had the opportunity to do so only because their game against the Suns on Jan. 13 was canceled because of contact tracing…

With nine new players on the roster and largely a young roster, at that, the Hawks could use more practice time to build up chemistry and simply iron out any kinks. But, because of the new schedule, they’ve probably had only four full-on, live-contact practices since their season started Dec. 23, Pierce estimated.

Of course, every team is in a similar situation to the Hawks, in that adhereing to safety standards and keeping life simpler than usual is more important than trying to squeeze in as many practices as possible.

The Hawks are 8-7 this season. In yesterday’s 116-98 win over the Timberwolves, two Hawks put up monster games: Trae Young had 43 points, four rebounds and five assists, while Clint Capela had a special kind of triple-double of 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks.

Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball playing limited minutes lately

Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has played limited minutes lately. Via the Charlotte Observer:

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego says rookie LaMelo Ball playing as he did Friday costs him minutes, regardless of Ball’s huge potential.

“If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me,” Borrego assessed Saturday of Ball’s performance against the Chicago Bulls.

“If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively.”

Ball, the third overall draft pick, has been occasionally spectacular in his first 15 games, including a triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks Jan. 9. However, his performance slipped the past two games, and Borrego has trimmed back his minutes: To 23 against the Toronto Raptors Jan. 16 and 16 1/2 against the Bulls Friday.

Ball is currently third in scoring among rookies, but just 0.2 ppg out of the top spot. He’s also leading all rookies in rebounds, assists and steals per game. He’s been the main rookie to watch this season, along with Warriors center James Wiseman.

Wizards sign Alex Len and Jordan Bell

The Washington Wizards today signed free agent center Alex Len and free agent forward Jordan Bell.

Len (7-0, 250) has averaged 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting .512 from the field in 474 career games (185 starts) over eight seasons with Phoenix, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Toronto. He appeared in seven games this season for the Raptors.

A native of Antratsit, Ukraine, Len averaged 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in 55 games during the 2019-20 season with the Hawks and Kings. He averaged a career-high 11.1 points in 77 games for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2018-19 season.

Len played two seasons locally at the University of Maryland (2011-13) before being selected fifth overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Bell (6-8, 216) was acquired by the Capital City Go-Go prior to the suspension of the NBA G League season in March before being signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in June. He has played in 154 games (16 starts) in his three-year NBA career with Golden State, Minnesota and Memphis, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Bell was originally selected with the 38th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Oregon by Chicago before being traded to Golden State on draft night.

Sixers sign Rayjon Tucker to two-way contract

The Philadelphia 76ers have signed guard Rayjon Tucker to a two-way contract.

Tucker earned an NBA Call-Up last season with the Utah Jazz. He appeared in 20 games with Utah after starting the season with the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League. In 16 games (all starts) with the Herd, he averaged 23.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.8 minutes per game. Tucker was named NBA G League Player of the Month for December 2019 and was also selected to the Eastern Conference Midseason All-NBA G League Team.

The 23-year-old Charlotte native finished his college career at UA Little Rock in 2018-19 after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast. In 30 games (all starts) with Little Rock, Tucker averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 36.6 minutes per contest. He was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team.

Per NBA rules, teams are permitted to have a maximum of two players under two-way contracts in addition to the players under standard NBA contracts. A two-way player for the 76ers will provide services to the team’s G League affiliate – the Delaware Blue Coats – but may not be active for more than 39 NBA games, a prorated amount down from 50 at the start of the regular season.

NBC plans to shut down the NBC Sports Network TV channel

There are all sorts of shifts happening in the world of TV and digital streaming. The latest, via the New York Post:

NBC Universal plans to shutter its sports channel NBCSN by the end of the year, resulting in the NHL having to move its broadcasts to USA Network, the company announced on Friday.

The move is in line with the current media trend of consolidating cable channels, while NBC appears to also be working on growing its Peacock streaming service and bolstering the programming schedule for other NBC properties like USA.

These days, the line between TV stations and online streaming channels is thinner than ever.

Atlanta Hawks statement on Hank Aaron, who has passed away

The Atlanta Hawks released the following statement on the passing of MLB and Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron:

“The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Atlanta Braves legend Henry “Hank” Aaron. His greatness transcended sports. “Hammerin’ Hank” was the epitome of class and grace, breaking barriers and records with the swing of his bat.

In an interview, Hank once said baseball was not about breaking records but simply playing to the best of one’s potential. We are thankful that Hank not only played but that he lived to the best of his potential, leaving an example for our city and the world to follow.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his family, the Braves organization and the entire sports world.”

R.J. Barrett having good season for Knicks

Young Knicks swingman R.J. Barrett is turning some heads lately. Via the New York Newsday:

When the offensively challenged Knicks won at Golden State on Thursday to begin a four-game road trip, it seemed worth noting that RJ Barrett had led the way with a career-high 28 points.

But when Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau talked about Barrett after the game, he made his way through a number of compliments and never got to the scoring output as something worth praising…

While Julius Randle has been the offensive leader for the Knicks, Barrett has emerged as a steady sidekick. His offense has not always been steady, but his play has been. After Thursday’s game, they were tied atop the NBA in total minutes played at 593 (37.1 per game). They have teamed up for a heavy workload, helping spearhead a defensive unit that has allowed the fewest points per game in the league at 102.8.

The Knicks are a solid 8-8 this season, and have played better than many people expected. They are being lead in scoring by Julius Randle at 22.4 points per game, Alec Burks at 18.3 ppg (though in just four games played), Barrett at 17.8 ppg, and Elfrid Payton at 13.3 ppg.

Cavs trade Kevin Porter Jr. to Rockets, who waive Chris Clemons

The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded guard Kevin Porter Jr. to Houston. In exchange, the Cavaliers will receive a future second round draft pick from the Rockets, General Manager Koby Altman announced from Cleveland Clinic Courts.

In a related move, the Rockets have waived guard Chris Clemons, who appeared in 33 games as a rookie last season.

“After careful and thoughtful evaluation, we made the very difficult and collective decision to make this trade,” said Altman. “Given the culture and environment we have worked to cultivate here in Cleveland, we feel this move is in everyone’s best interest. Kevin has a bright career ahead of him as a professional basketball player and, at his core, is a good person. We wish Kevin and his family well in Houston.”

Porter Jr. (6-4, 203) was the 30th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by Milwaukee and was acquired by the Cavaliers in a trade with Detroit on June 26, 2019. He went on to appear in 50 games (three starts) with Cleveland last season, averaging 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.92 steals in 23.2 minutes.

Wizards will reportedly sign center Alex Len

The Wizards are in serious need of some help up front, and are set to do something about it. Via the Washington Post:

The Washington Wizards resolved at least one of their major headaches Friday and bolstered a thin frontcourt by reaching a deal with former Maryland center Alex Len.

Len, a 27-year-old whom Toronto released Tuesday, will sign a one-year minimum deal with the Wizards, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The 7-footer gives Washington much-needed depth at center after the team lost starter Thomas Bryant for the season after a partial ACL tear earlier this month.

The Wizards are just 3-8 this season and haven’t played since Monday, January 11 because of coronavirus contact tracing safety reasons.

Nets will be without Kevin Durant against Cavs tonight

The Nets won’t be at full strength tonight. Via the Sun Sentinel:

The second appearance of the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three was put on hold Friday until the Miami Heat’s Saturday visit to Barclays Center.

As they continue to manage Kevin Durant’s recovery from the torn Achilles that kept him out last season, the Nets announced Friday that Durant would not play in Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Instead, Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden are expected to play for only the second time as a trio when the Heat open their two-game set against the Nets at 8 p.m. Saturday, a set that concludes Monday at Barclays Center.

The Cavs handed the Nets a loss in double overtime on Wednesday.

With Durant out, this gives everyone a chance to focus on how Harden and Irving play alongside each other. Which is actually the biggest thing to pay attention to on the Nets roster right now.