Clint Capela

Southeast Notes: Capela, Bogdanovic, Brooks, Carter Jr.

Hawks center Clint Capela ripped the Knicks for getting chippier ever since Atlanta asserted control in their first-round series, Andrew Lopez of ESPN relays. “I don’t know if they’re physical, but they are trying to play physical,” Capela said. “I feel like if they were really physical, I think we’d have more problems than what we have.”

Capela, who said the Hawks are coming to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to “win this game again and send you on vacation,” also took a shot at the Knicks for being considered a team that plays hard every night. “We play hard because we’re playing the right way and we win games that way,” the Hawks’ big man said. “When you’re playing hard because that’s your last solution, I don’t take that as a ‘playing hard’ team.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Knicks have discovered how much more potent the Hawks are with Bogdan Bogdanovic in the lineup, Zach Braziller of the New York Post notes. Bogdanovic, who signed a four-year contract with Atlanta as a restricted free agent in the offseason, is averaging 15.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.5 APG in the first four games of the series. “What Bogey has done for us this season, we want to give him more (responsibility),” coach Nate McMillan said. “So I’ve been able to change the rotation, allow Bogey to really play with the basketball a little bit more.”
  • After the latest incident involving an unruly fan, Wizards coach Scott Brooks urged potential troublemakers to stay home, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. A fan ran onto the court in Game 4 between the Sixers and Wizards and was tackled by security. “There’s great fans in Boston and New York and Philly and D.C., Utah. But there’s some that just need to, you know what, stay home,” he said. “Your thinking is barbaric. Stay home. We don’t need you. We don’t need your dollars. Just stay home. Get away from us.” The fan will be banned from the arena and criminal charges are being pursued against him.
  • Wendell Carter Jr. brought a physical presence and energy to the Magic frontcourt after being acquired in the Nikola Vucevic trade with the Bulls, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. He averaged 11.7 PPG and 8.8 RPG in 22 games with Orlando.

Southeast Notes: Westbrook, Wizards, McMillan, Heat

It was a rough night for Russell Westbrook in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Wizards guard left the blowout loss in the fourth quarter after injuring his right ankle, then had popcorn dumped on him by fan as he limped toward the locker room. Addressing the incident after the game, Westbrook called on the NBA to better protect its players with fans now permitted back in arenas, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes.

“To be completely honest, this s–t is getting out of hand, especially for me. The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f–k they want to do — it’s just out of pocket,” Westbrook said. “There are certain things that cross the line. Any other setting … a guy were to come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head, you know what happens. … In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”

The Sixers announced today in a press release that the fan who poured popcorn on Westbrook has had his season ticket membership revoked and will be banned indefinitely from attending events at Wells Fargo Center. While that’s a good first step, it’ll be interesting to see if the league takes any further action.

LeBron James (via Twitter) echoed Westbrook’s call for the NBA to protect its players, and the incident in Philadelphia isn’t the only one involving fans this week. A Knick fan appeared to spit on Hawks guard Trae Young on Wednesday (link via Bleacher Report), and Jason Quick of The Athletic notes (via Twitter) that multiple Trail Blazers players took issue with some Nuggets fans as the team was leaving the court in Game 2.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Westbrook’s impressive play in the second half of the season was crucial in propelling the Wizards into the playoffs, but the team will need more from him in this series in order to have a chance at upsetting Philadelphia, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. First and foremost, the Wizards will need Westbrook healthy — his status remain up in the air after Wednesday’s ankle injury.
  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan found his rotation decisions under the spotlight following Wednesday’s loss, but he said he was happy with his game plan, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “Our starters played 35-plus minutes. That’s a lot of minutes for those guys,” McMillan said. “Trae plays 35. Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic) plays 35. Clint (Capela) is at 36. That’s a lot of minutes for starters. … I thought we got a little gassed in that first half. I think we have to give those guys a little breather. They’re not going to be able to play 40-48 minutes.”
  • Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley was aware that his club probably needed more firepower to have a chance to return to the NBA Finals this year, says Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. However, Riley was unable to land Kyle Lowry at the deadline and his acquisition of Victor Oladipo didn’t work out, which could contribute to an early postseason exit for the defending Eastern champs.
  • With the Heat trailing the Bucks 2-0, Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald explore whether a frontcourt pairing of Bam Adebayo and second-half addition Dewayne Dedmon might be a viable solution to counter Milwaukee’s size.

Hawks Notes: Capela, McMillan, Huerter, Arena Capacity

Clint Capela is in a new position as he prepares for his first playoff series with the Hawks, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Capela was always one of the younger guys with the Rockets, who reached the playoffs every season he was in Houston. Now at age 27, he is serving as a mentor to Atlanta’s younger players, many of whom are about to have their first playoff experience.

“I really feel like (I’m in) a new role here, that vet role,” said Capela, who was traded to the Hawks at the 2020 deadline, but didn’t get to suit up before the pandemic hit. “So I get to share my experience, and I really feel (listened to) about everything I say. It’s really fun to be part of it.”

There’s more from Atlanta:

  • Coach Nate McMillan insists comments he made this week that drew a $25K fine from the league were “taken out of context,” according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. McMillan seemed to indicate he was concerned the Hawks wouldn’t get a fair shake from the officials in the first-round series against the Knicks because the NBA benefits from having New York in the playoffs. “My intentions were never to suggest any type of bias as it relates to the league and our upcoming playoff series,” McMillan explained. “This type of narrative does not in any way represent me and what I stand for as coach of the Atlanta Hawks.”
  • There is “strong momentum” toward McMillan receiving a long-term contract, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). No negotiations have taken place yet, Charania adds, but they’re expected to happen after Atlanta’s playoff run ends. McMillan was 27-11 after taking over for Lloyd Price at the start of March, and the Hawks climbed from 10th to fifth place in the East.
  • The Knicks won all three regular season matchups with Atlanta, but Hawks forward Kevin Huerter welcomes the opportunity to face them in the first round, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “We feel really good about ourselves,” Huerter said. “They beat us three times this year, but all three games we could have won. We like the matchup and are ready for the challenge.’’
  • The Hawks will increase seating at State Farm Arena to nearly full capacity for the playoffs, Spencer adds in a separate story. There will be sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Haslem, Capela, Wizards

Within the last two years, the Magic‘s medical staff has been tasked with helping Chuma Okeke, Jonathan Isaac, and Markelle Fultz rehab from ACL tears. As the player who suffered his injury most recently, Fultz is reassured by observing how the club’s staff has handled his teammates’ recoveries, he tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“Seeing what my (team’s) medical staff has done with people who had ACL injuries, I know they have some experience with that,” Fultz said. “That also gives me a little bit of confidence going into it, and I have a little bit of a blueprint to see how it goes and how it feels. I have people to ask questions that are my peers, somebody who I can relate to, which also gives me a boost of confidence going into it knowing that they’ve come back stronger and better.”

Although Fultz won’t get back on the court until the 2021/22 season, he said his knee “feels amazing,” and he told Robbins that he can’t wait to suit up again for a Magic team that has shifted into rebuilding mode.

“It just puts another chip on my shoulder again, to come back and play for this organization and the city, and just give it my all,” the former No. 1 pick said. “(I want to) just show them the love that I have for the city and how thankful I am for the opportunities that they’ve given me.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In what has become an annual tradition, Heat center Udonis Haslem said this week that he’s unsure whether or not he’ll play another year and that he plans to make that decision sometime after the season (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). The big man, who will turn 41 next month, has signed one-year contracts with Miami for five consecutive years.
  • As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Hawks center Clint Capela passed the 1,757-minute threshold on Wednesday, making him eligible to earn a $500K bonus based on defensive rebound percentage. Capela needs that number to be higher than 30% to receive his bonus — it’s currently a league-best 34.4%, per Basketball-Reference.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington contends that a handful of GM Tommy Sheppard‘s roster moves – including drafting Rui Hachimura, trading for Russell Westbrook, and acquiring Daniel Gafford – have the Wizards on a positive trajectory.

Hawks Notes: McMillan, Young, Capela, Shooting

After starting the season with a 14-20 record, the Hawks have gone 22-10 since Nate McMillan took over as the team’s head coach. The role McMillan has played in turning around Atlanta’s season hasn’t been lost on leading scorer Trae Young, who appeared on Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod this week and praised the Hawks’ head coach for “connecting with the players.”

Asked about McMillan’s potential future with the team, Young said he’d be surprised if the interim coach isn’t retained beyond 2020/21.

“I couldn’t see a scenario where he’s not back with us,” Young said. “The way we’re winning right now. If we go into the playoffs and do really well, it’s hard to see him not back next year. At the end of the day it’s not up to me, but as a player, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be back.”

While Young is right that the decision won’t ultimately be up to him, Hawks management will likely take the All-Star guard’s opinion into account when they determine what’s next for McMillan, who looks like a pretty safe bet to have his interim label removed.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • In an in-depth profile, Zach Lowe of ESPN examines the growth of Hawks center Clint Capela, who has gone from a rookie the Rockets initially viewed as a draft-and-stash prospect to the anchor of Atlanta’s defense and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
  • Within his story on Capela, Lowe cites sources who say the Hawks discussed the possibility of trading for Andre Drummond and Steven Adams before ultimately acquiring Capela from Houston a year ago. Atlanta believed that elements of Capela’s pick-and-roll game with James Harden would work for Trae Young, Lowe notes.
  • After finishing dead-last in three-point percentage a year ago, the Hawks prioritized shooting in the offseason when they signed Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari to lucrative multiyear deals, and those moves have helped make the Hawks a playoff team, writes Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bogdanovic (42.0% on threes) and Gallinari (41.6%) have been two of the club’s most reliable marksmen in 2020/21.

Southeast Notes: McMillan, Hornets, Dragic, Capela

Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan has been a major success with Atlanta since taking over for Lloyd Pierce earlier this season, prompting Chris Kirschner of The Athletic to wonder if McMillan could get the club’s permanent head coaching gig.

Atlanta, playing against the Raptors tonight, is 15-5 since Pierce was fired on March 1. The team boasts a plus-16.2 net rating in the fourth quarter in its 20 games with McMillan at the helm, the second-best mark in the league. The Hawks had a minus-8.2 net rating in the fourth quarter during Pierce’s stewardship this season.

Kirschner notes that McMillan has thrived during his head coaching stint despite having to deal with injury issues. Rotation players Cam Reddish, Kris Dunn, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins have each missed seven or more games for Atlanta during McMillan’s tenure. At 29-25, the Hawks are currently the No. 4 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After losing four starters and roughly 80 points of offense per game to injury, the Hornets have had to get creative to find scoring, details Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Starting center P.J. Washington, starting guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and starting small forward Gordon Hayward are all currently absent with various maladies, as is core bench player Malik Monk. Washington and Rozier are expected back soon, though the timelines for the other three are murkier. “There are going to be a number of guys who get opportunities tonight who may not have expected it,” head coach James Borrego conceded. “At the start of the week, we never anticipated this type of rotation. But this is where we’re at.”
  • Veteran Heat reserve point guard Goran Dragic has struggled through an injury-plagued 2020/21 season thus far. He’s not thinking about the possibility of returning to his role as as a starter come playoff time, as he did for the Heat’s 2020 Finals run, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes.
  • Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details how Hawks starting center Clint Capela could be inching his way into the 2020/21 Defensive Player of the Year mix after helping vastly improve the club’s defense. Capela acknowledged that he would like to be considered as a DPOY and All-Defensive Team candidate this season. “I’m a guy who definitely thinks about that, because this is what I do and this is how I help my team win,” Capela said. “And this is how I also get to have a huge impact on the game, that’s defensively, and I think I’m definitely one of the best at doing it. … I feel that I’m playing the best defense of my career this season, yes, simply because I feel the guys give me the confidence to do so.”

Southeast Notes: Ball, Capela, Pierce, Magic

LaMelo Ball has made several highlight passes during his first NBA season, but turnovers are cutting into his playing time, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The Hornets guard has seen his minutes scaled back in the last two games, and coach James Borrego says ball security is the reason.

“If you’re turning the ball over five times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me,” Borrego said of Ball’s performance in Friday’s loss to the Bulls. “If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively.”

The third player picked in last year’s draft, Ball has experienced an uneven start to his NBA career. He became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double, but he’s shooting just 40.4% from the floor though his first 15 games. Despite the frustrations, his coach plans to be patient.

“He had a stretch where he played extremely well. We need to find that again,” Borrego said. “He’s got to get better, bottom line. He’s engaged, he wants to get better. He’s capable of handling it.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Clint Capela has transformed the Hawks‘ defense, notes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. An injury prevented Capela from playing after he was acquired at last year’s trade deadline, but his presence in the middle has helped Atlanta improve from 27th to eighth in the league in defensive efficiency. He posted his first triple-double Friday night, which included 10 blocked shots. “I just feel like last year was not really defense,” Capela said. “It was just going and scoring. I just feel now that you have a guy under the rim to challenge every shot or change shots from the opposite team, it just changes everything. It makes a difference.”
  • The condensed schedule is limiting practice time for all NBA teams and it’s especially difficult for the Hawks, who have nine new players on their roster, observes Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta hasn’t practiced since January 13, and that happened only because a game against the Suns was postponed. “We’re all adjusting,” coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I’ve never done this in the NBA, fly to a city and go straight to the gym, and so it does give us some getting used to the arena floor because we won’t have a shootaround (the next day), so it is a different norm and we use it as our way to break the ice a little bit, get some rhythm, and then we have a ton of rest heading into tomorrow’s game.”
  • Salary cap concerns will provide incentive for the Magic to trade Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon before this year’s deadline, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Hawks Rumors: Collins, Young, Offense, Pierce

During a film session on Tuesday following a disappointing loss to New York, Hawks big man John Collins expressed some displeasure with the way the team’s offense has been operating and the way Trae Young has been running it, according to Chris Kirschner and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources tell The Athletic that Collins talked about wanting to get into offensive sets faster and reduce early shot-clock attempts. He also said he wants to be more involved in the offense and would like to see more ball movement and flow.

Although there was no direct back-and-forth between Collins and Young, Collins’ criticism “caught the attention of the room,” per Kirschner and Amick, who report that Young later made it clear to others that he strongly disagreed with his teammate’s take.

“Trae is my brother regardless,” Collins said via text message when The Athletic asked him about the situation.

Some Hawks have agreed with Collins’ stance and believe that when he – and the team’s other offensive weapons – are featured more, the results are better, according to Kirschner and Amick.

However, The Athletic’s duo says there’s a belief that Collins’ frustration stems not only from a desire to maximize the Hawks’ talent, but from his contract situation. According to Kirschner and Amick, the 23-year-old – who believes he’s a maximum-salary caliber player – passed last month on a contract extension offer worth over $90MM. He’s hoping to prove this season ahead of restricted free agency that he’s worth the max, and may need the ball in his hands more to do so.

Here’s more on the Hawks from Kirschner and Amick:

  • Clint Capela had a private discussion with Young following Tuesday’s film session and pointed to his time alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston as a cautionary tale. Howard’s desire for more touches and Harden’s reluctance to give up the ball contributed to the dissolution of that union.
  • One Hawks player told The Athletic that he believes Young’s uninspiring performance on Wednesday stemmed from Tuesday’s film session. Head coach Lloyd Pierce called Young’s Wednesday performance (seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, with seven turnovers) “uncharacteristic,” while Kirschner and Amick suggest the star guard appeared “disinterested.”
  • Some Hawks players last season indicated that Young has room to improve as a vocal leader, and Pierce has encouraged growth in that area, per Kirschner and Amick. However, the “basketball relationship” between the coach and his star guard is still worth monitoring. A report last May suggested Young and Pierce haven’t always been on the same page, and multiple sources tell The Athletic that disconnect remains an issue.
  • Pierce, whose in-game decisions have been questioned at times by players since he was hired in 2018, is in a contract year, as his team option for 2021/22 hasn’t yet been picked up. However, a source with knowledge of the situation tells The Athletic that Pierce’s job isn’t in any immediate danger.

Southeast Notes: Capela, Rondo, Beal, Gordon

The Hawks had to wait a long time for their first glimpse of new center Clint Capela, but he seems ready to provide what they’re expecting, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Capela was acquired all the way back at the trade deadline in February, but he wasn’t able to play because of a heel injury that lingered into the summer. In Friday’s preseason opener, he showed he can still be a force on the boards, grabbing 14 rebounds in 20 minutes.

“That’s one of those things that you know is an area of concern. … And that’s going to be big for us,” said coach Lloyd Pierce, whose team ranked near the bottom of the league in rebounding last season. “That’s going to be really big for us because we can teach him some of our thoughts on what we like to do when we get offensive rebounds, to create extra possessions and extra opportunities, it’s going to be huge.”

Capela is a welcome sight for teammate John Collins, who can spend more time at his natural position of power forward after being used in the middle frequently last year. Collins likes playing beside a shot blocker who can anchor the defense.

“As soon as he steps on the court, he adds a defensive presence,” Collins said. “His rebounding, his experience. Clint’s not a quiet guy on the court, he’s trying to direct traffic and lead and let guys know where they are, so I feel like that’s very valuable in the long term.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Rajon Rondo‘s decision to join the rebuilding Hawks makes him the oldest player on his team for the first time in his career, notes Kevin L. Chouinard of NBA.com. Two months removed from helping the Lakers win an NBA title, Rondo steps into a new role of being a veteran leader on a young squad. “Trae Young, John (Collins), Kevin Huerter, the young guys have an extreme amount of upside,” he said. “To me, honestly, I didn’t think the East was very tough this year as far as the talent. I think it was kind of up for grabs as far as which team would prevail to the top. As you’ve seen, anything can happen in the playoffs.”
  • Bradley Beal isn’t concerned about how new backcourt partner Russell Westbrook meshed with his previous star teammates, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. He said their relationship has been “smooth sailing” since the trade that brought Westbrook to the Wizards last week. “I’m easy to adapt to,” Beal said. “I’m not going to come in and say I need this shot, I need the ball here or there. Doesn’t matter. As long as we are all incorporated within offense and everybody’s eating, we’re good.”
  • Magic forward Aaron Gordon is starting the preseason on a minutes limit as he recovers from a hamstring injury he suffered during the restart, writes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Gordon played 16 minutes in Friday’s opener, all in the first half.

Hawks Notes: Young, Draft, Capela

Since his freshman year in college, Trae Young has been known for his impressive scoring stats and outrageous shooting range, but he tells Mark Medina of USA Today that he won’t be happy until his team starts winning. Young has averaged 23.6 PPG during his first two NBA seasons, but the Hawks have finished last in the Southeast Division both years with a combined record of 49-100.

“I hate the narrative of just being a scorer and a stats person,” Young said. “Stats don’t mean anything. I don’t want that narrative to be I’m all about stats because I’m not. For me, stats is the last thing I’m bringing up. I’m all about winning.”

With a strong collection of young talent in place, Atlanta may be ready to take a step forward next season. The Hawks added center Clint Capela – who was sidelined by injury after being acquired from the Rockets at the trade deadline – and could have as much as $50MM to spend in free agency. As one of the eight teams not invited to Orlando, Atlanta may go 10 months or more without playing in an actual game, but Young doesn’t expect the layoff to be a factor.

“It won’t affect me at all,” he said. “I know my body and how hard I can push it and where maybe I can slow down. I know when we’re going to be playing. I know it’s going to be a couple of months from now. So I won’t overload my body now. I’ll be smart and continue to get better and focus on that.”

There’s more on the Hawks:

  • Atlanta owns the sixth pick in the November 18 draft, and general manager Travis Schlenk is open to another draft-night deal, Medina adds in the same story. Schlenk has been involved in significant trades during the past two drafts, bringing in Young and De’Andre Hunter.
  • Capela was thrilled to finally be able to practice with his new team as the Hawks gathered for camp this week, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is now fully recovered from a heel injury that he suffered in January while still with the Rockets. The Hawks diagnosed it as a right calcaneus contusion/plantar fasciitis, and although Capela believed he was ready to go in June, league rules prevented him from doing anything beyond individual workouts. “It honestly felt a little bit weird at the beginning, being on drills with everybody, cheering, everybody just being with everybody and being involved,” Capela said. “It honestly felt really great. It felt good going through drills, being vocal. I couldn’t wait. It’s been a very, very long time. So I’m really enjoying it right now.”
  • In case you missed it, Skal Labissiere, who was also kept out of action by an injury after being acquired by Atlanta in February, hopes to return to the team next season.