Coach Mike Budenholzer’s ability to sell the virtues of the Hawks organization will determine their long-term success, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com opines in a detailed look at the team’s structure and roster. While the front office appears stable, the roster could undergo major changes after the season, Arnovitz continues. Center Al Horford will enter unrestricted free agency next season, starting shooting guard Kyle Korver is in his mid-30s, center Tiago Splitter has injury issues and point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder may have trouble co-existing over the long haul, Arnovitz adds. They also haven’t adequately replaced small forward DeMarre Carroll, so Budenholzer and the front office need to show free agents that Atlanta is a desirable landing spot, Arnovitz concludes.
In other news around the Southeast Division:
- Veteran center Al Jefferson gives a ringing endorsement to the contract extension that coach Steve Clifford received from the Hornets this week, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. “The one thing I love about him is he keeps it real with you. He doesn’t say one thing to your face and another thing behind your back,” Jefferson told Bonnell. “He changed this whole team around from Day 1. He works harder than any head coach I’ve been around. He demands you play hard and play together.”
- The Heat’s long-term outlook depends upon the development of rookie small forward Justise Winslow and center Hassan Whiteside, as Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports explains while taking an in-depth look at the roster. Winslow has embraced the role of defensive specialist and hasn’t been overwhelmed by the task of shadowing the opponent’s top scorer. “At this point, we’re peers,” Winslow told Lee. “I don’t put those guys on a pedestal.” Whiteside, the league’s top shot blocker, is determined to show that his breakout season a year ago wasn’t a fluke, Lee adds.
- The Wizards’ outlook after 12 games is troubling for a team expected to make a run in the Eastern Conference, according to J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com. There has been an extraordinary amount of drama in the early going, J. Michael points out, ranging from center Marcin Gortat getting irritated at coach Randy Wittman for calling him soft to point guard John Wall brooding over his lack of shots.