Wholesale New York Knicks Jerseys

The New York Knicks remain unlikely to reincorporate exiled center Joakim Noah into the team under new coach David Fizdale and still plan to part ways with the veteran big man before training camp, league sources told ESPN.

Unless general manager Scott Perry can find a trade that includes Noah, the Knicks will use the NBA’s waive-and-stretch provision to release Noah sometime after Sept. 1, league sources said.

Noah, 33, has two years and $37.8 million left on his contract, and waiting until September to stretch it allows the Knicks to spread the balance of his remaining contract into smaller cap hits over the next three years.

After the hiring of Fizdale in June, Knicks management didn’t rule out the possibility of Noah rejoining the organization for the 2018-19 season, but that scenario has gained no traction, league sources said.

Perry has been attempting to move Noah since prior to last February’s trade deadline, but he has been cautiously unwilling to include the necessary assets — a good young player, or a future first-round pick or picks — to make Noah’s contract palatable to another team.

Talks continued through the summer, but New York hasn’t come close to finding a deal to unload Noah, league sources said. Using the stretch provision after Aug. 31 reduces Noah’s cap hit to $6.4 million, saving the team $12.9 million toward the salary cap. Stretching his contract after Sept. 1 costs the Knicks $6.4 million in cap space in the summers of 2020 and 2021.

The $18.5 million salary for 2018-19 still counts toward the Knicks’ salary cap, although that number could be reduced if a buyout is agreed upon with Noah, or if New York doesn’t waive the set-off in his contract.

Noah and the Knicks separated in February following a heated argument between Noah and ex-coach Jeff Hornacek. The relationship spiraled after Noah and Hornacek had to be separated during a West Coast practice session in late January. Noah became vociferous toward Hornacek in the aftermath of a brief appearance in a Jan. 23 game and engaged the coach verbally in practice the next day.

In the end, that turned out to be the conclusion of Noah’s brief tenure with the Knicks.

Former Knicks president Phil Jackson signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million free-agent deal in July 2016 with the hope that he could be an anchor for New York’s defense.

Noah, a two-time All-Star for the Chicago Bulls and 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, never made an impact with New York. He played 46 games in the 2016-17 season, losing time to various injuries and an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. In February 2017, the NBA suspended Noah 20 games for taking a banned substance — a suspension that cost him the first 12 games of the 2017-18 season.

Noah averaged 5 points and 8.8 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game in his first season in New York. He averaged 1.7 points, 2 rebounds and 5.7 minutes in seven games in the 2017-18 season.

Wholesale Chicago Bulls Jerseys

On Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls were part of three team trade that sent Jerian Grant to Orlando.

During the 2016 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks. Jerian Grant was part of that trade. Jerian Grant played two seasons for the Bulls and averaged 7.2 points, and 3.4 assists per game. He shot 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from the three point line. Grant mainly played the backup point guard position for the Bulls, but he did start a total of 54 games for the Bulls. It seems like Grant never got comfortable with the Bulls.

In the three team trade, the Bulls acquired guard Julyan Stone from Charlotte. Stone has been in the NBA for four seasons and has averaged 1.1 points, and 1.1 assists per game. Julyan Stone has a $1.65M non-guaranteed contract. Vincent Goodwill from NBC Sports Chicago reported that the Bulls will waive Julyan Stone before his contracted becomes guaranteed on August 1st.

Bobby Marks from ESPN noted that since the Bulls are going to waive Stone, the Bulls cap space will increase to $16 million room (if the Vonleh hold is released).

What does this trade mean for Cameron Payne? The Bulls are putting a lot of trust in Payne this upcoming season. The Bulls acquired Payne during the 2016-2017 season that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

Cameron Payne only played in 11 games during the 2016-17 season, and averaged 4.9 points per game. Payne missed the first 58 games of last season due to recovering from a broken right foot. He played in 25 games last season for the Bulls and averaged 8.8 points and 4.5 assists per game.

Cameron Payne will now be the backup point guard for the Bulls and will get more minutes then he has ever gotten before in the NBA. When healthy, Payne can be a really solid backup point guard. The problem with Payne is staying healthy. The Bulls are putting a lot of trust in Payne that he can stay healthy, and that he contribute with the second group.

Wholesale Toronto Raptors Jerseys

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri hasn’t forgotten the first time he met Nick Nurse.

It was 1995 and Ujiri, now president of the Raptors, was playing for the Derby Storm of the British Basketball League. Nurse was coach of the rival Birmingham Bullets. Not yet 30, Nurse had already been on the bench for six years, quickly establishing himself as a coach on the rise.

“His teams were tough,” Ujiri said Wednesday as the Raptors officially introduced Nurse as their coach. “There was always something about the Birmingham team that was different from the whole league. People talked about them that way.”

More than two decades after that initial introduction, Ujiri is hoping Nurse has what it takes to turn Toronto into the talk of the NBA.

The ninth head coach in Raptors history, Nurse replaces his former boss, Dwane Casey, under whom he spent the past five seasons as a Toronto assistant. Casey was fired after the Raptors were swept out of the second round of this season’s playoffs by Cleveland, their third straight playoff defeat at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavs.

Ujiri called Nurse “everything you want in a candidate” and said his new coach, the first he has hired as an NBA executive, is someone who “thinks the game differently.”

“He was outstanding,” Ujiri said. “He really came out on top. Trying new stuff, being innovative, is who Nick is. You can tell he’s a tactician who really thinks the game.”

Nurse called it “a long month” of waiting for a decision following Casey’s dismissal but said he understood why Ujiri needed to take his time.

“Even though I’ve been across the gym from him for five years, there’s a lot of detail to go through,” Nurse said.

Nurse also gave credit to Casey, who was hired as Detroit’s head coach this week.

“We shared a lot of winning together,” Nurse said. “He’s a competitive guy, a great professional. I learned a lot from him. You can’t take away the five years we shared.”

Toronto went 59-23 this season, the best record in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the NBA behind Houston. Nurse was in charge of the offense, led by All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. He also engineered a successful overhaul of the game plan before last season as Toronto put increased emphasis on ball movement and 3-point shooting.

For the coming season, Nurse said he wants to inject more defensive creativity “so we can try to be ready for more things in the playoffs.”

Rex Kalamian, a Raptors assistant alongside Nurse last season, is expected to join the LA Clippers, leaving Nurse multiple spots to fill on his staff. Nurse said Thursday he has a good idea of what he’s looking for.

“I think it’s really important that we get an experienced staff,” he said. “Guys that have been head coaches at some level is important to me. It’s good to know what it’s like to be the decision-maker.”

There’s also the possibility of new players, with Ujiri acknowledging Toronto has “work to do” with its roster.

Nurse graduated from Northern Iowa and got his first head coaching position at Grand View College when he was only 23. He spent more than a decade in Europe and was an assistant coach for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. A past G League coach of the year, he’s the only coach to lead two teams to an NBA G League Championship, winning with Iowa in 2011 and Rio Grande in 2013.

Nurse’s career has seen its share of stops and opponents, but he still recalls facing Ujiri while with Birmingham.

“I remember,” Nurse said, smiling. “He played really hard.”

Wholesale Houston Rockets Jerseys

Wholesale Houston Rockets Jerseys

Hell hath no fury like the Golden State Warriors in the third quarter.

And that’s a primary reason why we will have Cavaliers-Warriors IV in the NBA Finals.

It’s a predictable flurry of punches that opponents are powerless to fend off. The Warriors dominated third quarters all season long and have kicked it into another gear during the playoffs. Yet another third-quarter blitz saved the Warriors’ season on Monday night, when Golden State won the West and eliminated the Houston Rockets.

The Warriors rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit en route to a 101-92 win in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. Golden State seized the lead by outscoring Houston by 18 points in the third quarter. The Warriors are now plus-130 in third quarters during the playoffs, the highest overall scoring margin in a quarter by any team in a postseason during the shot clock era, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Warriors are plus-68 in third quarters during this season, and plus-35 in the past two games, when the Rockets really could have used Chris Paul’s calming presence.

Golden State looked so bad in the first quarter that Steve Kerr, the back-to-back recipient of the Rudy Tomjanovich Award that honors the most media-friendly NBA coach, cut short his between-quarters interview with TNT.

“I saw one of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve ever played and we’re down five points. So if we can get our act together, we’ll be fine,” Kerr grumbled before walking off after only one question.

It took another dozen minutes and perhaps a few choice words from Kerr at halftime, but wow, did the Warriors ever get their act together.

After looking sloppy and discombobulated in the first half, the Warriors morphed back into one of the most explosive offenses in NBA history during the third quarter. Stephen Curry led the way with 14 points in the frame — only one fewer than the Rockets — and hit 4 of 5 3s, including one with 3:58 remaining in the quarter that gave Golden State the lead for good.

The Rockets, meanwhile, misfired again and again from long range. Houston missed all 14 3s that it launched in the third quarter, part of a stretch of 27 straight missed 3s, the longest such drought during a playoff game in NBA history. Houston was 7-of-44 from 3-point range in the game.

Wholesale Houston Rockets Jerseys

With Paul sidelined for the second straight game by a strained right hamstring, the Rockets needed a superhero night from probable MVP James Harden to have a realistic shot at dethroning the defending champions. Harden finished with 32 points, six rebounds and six assists but was only 12-of-29 from the floor and 2-of-13 on 3s.

Curry and Kevin Durant, meanwhile, played like the MVPs they’ve been, at least in the second half. Durant finished with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, scoring 21 in the second half. Curry scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, when he also dished out half of his 10 assists.

The Rockets, minus Paul, simply didn’t have the firepower to keep up with Golden State’s superstars.

As a result, the Warriors celebrated on the Toyota Center court while Harden headed into the tunnel. It will be a summer of what-could-have-been for the Rockets, who couldn’t finish off the Warriors without Paul after putting them on the ropes.

The Warriors are off for a fourth chapter against LeBron James’ Cavaliers.

Wholesale Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys

The Cleveland Cavaliers might lead the Toronto Raptors 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but two of those wins came by a combined three points.

As overwhelming an advantage as the Cavs might seem to be taking into Monday’s Game 4, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is cautioning his team against overconfidence.

“I don’t know who the pressure is on,” Lue said Sunday after the Cavs convened for a brief film session, “but it’s a tough game because it’s either win or go home for the team down 3-0.

“They’re going to come out swinging like they did [Saturday] night, and when you have a team with a lot of pride that’s well-coached, they’re not just going to give in. They’re going to do everything they can to try to win the game and get back to Toronto. We understand that, and we just have to come out with the right mindset and match their intensity early and try to close it out if we can.”

The Cavs blew their first crack at a closeout game in these playoffs in Game 6 of the first round against the Indiana Pacers, as they were embarrassed by 34 points at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It broke LeBron James’ streak of winning 11 straight closeout games and came against a team that was a lower seed. Lue believes the Pacers prepared Cleveland to contend with Toronto.

“The Indiana series definitely helped us for this series,” he said. “You see [Toronto] the last couple of games, trying to get physical and trying to pressure the ball. So that Indiana series really helped us out going forward. We saw that in the first series, so now we should be pretty much immune to it. But we have to get better at owning our space and, you know, just being strong with the basketball. They’re trying to lean on us, grabbing us, holding us, and it’s not being called. We just have to be strong.”

Unlike Game 6 against Indiana, Monday’s Game 4 is a home contest for Cleveland, which should be in the Cavs’ favor. However, it comes against a Raptors team that is the No. 1 seed in the East, rather than the lower-seeded Pacers. Still, the Cavs will have history on their side, as Cleveland is 9-0 in Game 4 in franchise history when coming into the game leading a playoff series 3-0.

Not to mention, the Cavs have won nine straight postseason games against the Raptors, dating to the 2016 Eastern Conference finals. They’ll try to make it 10 straight by riding the momentum from James’ buzzer-beater in Game 3 into the closeout opportunity.

“We enjoy it,” Lue said. “It was [a] big win for us. There’s some things we could have done better down the stretch. We definitely enjoy it. Being up 3-0 is a great position to be in. We know they’re going to come out, just like they did [Saturday] night in that fourth quarter to try to play and to start the game that way, so we got to be prepared for that.”

Wholesale Dallas Mavericks Jerseys

The NBA conducted random drawings on Friday afternoon to break several significant ties in the pre-lottery NBA draft standings.

The Dallas Mavericks won a tiebreaker with the Atlanta Hawks to earn the third pre-lottery position and will have a 13.8 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick. The Hawks will have the fourth pre-lottery position and a 13.7 percent chance of securing the top pick when the NBA conducts its draft lottery on May 15.

The Chicago Bulls won a tiebreaker with the Sacramento Kings to secure the No. 6 pre-lottery position. Both the Bulls and the Kings, who have the seventh pre-lottery position, have a 5.3 percent chance of landing the top pick.

Outside of the NBA Lottery, the Miami Heat won a tiebreaker with the Milwaukee Bucks, which gave the Heat the No. 16 pick in the first round. Miami will send its pick to Phoenix. Milwaukee will pick 17th and retain its own selection. If the Bucks lost the tiebreaker, their pick would have been conveyed to Phoenix via a trade.

The Minnesota Timberwolves lost a tiebreaker with the San Antonio Spurs. Minnesota has the 19th pick in the draft but that selection will be sent to Atlanta via trade. The Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz all finished 48-34.

The Thunder won the tiebreaker but will send to the No. 20 pick to Minnesota. The Jazz will select 21st; the Pelicans will select 22nd and send their pick to Chicago via trade. The Pacers will have the 23rd pick in the first round.

Wholesale Charlotte Hornets Jerseys

LeBron James doesn’t go into every game thinking he needs to score 10 points.

The 14-time All-Star said it just “organically happens.”

It helps, of course, to be a multi-talented 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward viewed by many as the most physically talented basketball player of all-time.

The 33-year-old James matched Michael Jordan’s streak of 866 consecutive double-digit scoring games on Wednesday night, scoring 41 points to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets 118-105 and remain in third place in the Eastern Conference.

“I can’t tell you how I’ve been able to do it,” James said. “Any time I’m mentioned with some of the greats, and arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time in Mike, it’s just another feat for me to be just appreciative and humbled by what I’m able to do.”

He wasn’t the only one making history.

Although the game got away from the Hornets in the fourth quarter, there was still the matter of Kemba Walker attempting to pass Dell Curry as the franchise’s career scoring leader. After a sluggish three quarters, Walker scored 11 points in the fourth, including a reverse layup with 20 seconds left to break Curry’s mark of 9,839 points.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” the 6-foot-1, 184-pound Walker told the crowd moments after the game ended. “… Anything is possible. If I can do it, anybody can.”

Walker had to grab a towel to wipe away tears after breaking the record.

James approached Walker at midcourt as time expired, gave him a huge hug and whispered congratulations in his ear, telling him it was an incredible accomplishment.

“Listen, if you can be the all-time leading scorer in any franchise, that’s incredible,” James said. “That’s an incredible feat. I definitely went over and just told him how incredible that was. Even though with the season that they’re having, when accomplishments happen throughout the season, you try not to take them for granted. I think it’s an incredible feat for him.”

Jordan, who was not at the game, issued a statement through the team saying he was happy for Walker.

“Becoming a franchise’s all-time leading scorer is a big accomplishment and it’s a testament to his hard work, dedication and passion for the game of basketball,” Jordan said. “He exemplifies what it means to be a Hornet.”

Jordan did not comment on James tying his streak.

James matched Jordan’s 17-year-old mark in the second quarter when he scored his 10th point on a powerful alley-oop dunk off a pass from J.R. Smith.

James, who began his streak on Jan. 6, 2007, can break Jordan’s record Friday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

He scored 16 points in the second quarter and 13 in the third on 10-of-15 shooting during that span, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc as the Cavaliers built a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Hornets cut Cleveland’s 20-point lead to 11 points but James re-entered the game and made an immediate impact with a few more highlight reel plays.

He stole Frank Kaminsky’s pass near the top of the key and raced the length of the floor and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk over Jeremy Lamb that brought the crowd to its feet again. Then with 3:09 left in the game, he grabbed Rodney Hood’s miss out of the air and dunked it hard with his right hand, punctuating the Cavaliers’ victory.

James left the game to a standing ovation from the Charlotte crowd, which was filled with Cavaliers fans wearing James’ No. 23 jersey.

TIP INS

Cavaliers: Shot 71 percent from the field in the second quarter and outscored the Hornets 42-28 to take control.

Hornets: Walker established a new team record with his 44th consecutive made free throw. That free throw also brought his career total to 1,999, which broke Gerald Wallace’s franchise record of 1,998.

JAMES’ DOMINANCE

James continued his dominance against the Hornets. He had his way against Charlotte in two previous meetings this season, combining for 58 points, 22 rebounds and 21 assists.

It was also a strong bounce-back game for James, who was limited to 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting in a lopsided loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.

JORDAN’S STREAK

Jordan’s streak of 866 games with at least 10 points came with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards from 1986-2001.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Host Pelicans on Friday night.

Hornets: Visit Wizards on Saturday.

Wholesale Brooklyn Nets Jerseys

Due to the Brooklyn Nets having such a steady rise out of the NBA’s basement, they find themselves in unprecedentedly popular territory.

No one expected the Brooklyn Nets to legitimately contend for anything this season, but analyzing the results in respect to the rest of the NBA tells an even deeper story than “the Nets stink.” At 20-44, Brooklyn finds itself in the thick of the tanking race. Tanking is far from a new concept in the NBA, but it is considerably more noticeable this season.

From the Kristaps Porzingis-less Knicks all the way down to the dead-last Grizzlies, there are nine teams in legitimate contention for the No. 1 pick. Sans the Nets, who are devoid of their own first round pick, the other eight are clearly trying to lose on purpose to increase their odds.

That is obviously the smart move in a league like the NBA, where the talent is so top-heavy. If a team does not expect to legitimately compete for the playoffs, and is in need of a quality young piece to build around, why wouldn’t they lose on purpose to increase such chances?

Several franchises picked up on this long before the season’s inception, and several more joined the party after calamitous injuries to their stars. With this enlightenment, however, the tank race has saturated to a point of superfluousness.

Only three games separate the bottom eight teams, with the Nets smack-dab in the middle of them. Are there enough quality prospects to feed all those mouths?

Everyone in this tier is in desperate need of a good young player to build with. Even the Cavaliers, owners of the Nets’ first-rounder, could use a young wing or guard for the post-LeBron era. But how many will get what they wish for?

These trends are prevalent to the Nets next season, when they retain full control over their first-rounders. Will a different set of teams join Brooklyn in a comedic sequel? Will poor front offices return for another stay at Tank City after choosing the wrong prospect in 2018? How will the NBA’s front office address an issue that currently plagues a third of its teams?

The NBA is attempting to deter egregious tanking with a reformed lottery, which distributes the odds more evenly among all lottery teams. However, such new rules will only complicate the issue. Even more teams could be inclined to tank with the odds more spread out.

In a system that rewards bad teams with high draft selections, there is an incentive for noncompetitive teams to throw games. And if, say, the winning teams got better draft selections, that would only widen the already gaping disparity of talent across the league.

All these factors will perplex the league for years to come, which could impact how the Nets continue to build. The incentive will still be to lose in order to obtain a high-upside prospect to pair with D’Angelo Russell. However, the level at which they throw games might seem more natural than whatever the Dallas Mavericks are doing.

Recall that this team is extremely young, and its payroll is clogged thanks to additions like Timofey Mozgov. Legitimate contention will be unlikely for a few more years. Considering all these factors, the losses will likely continue to pile up organically.

Nets fans should be ecstatic for this. Top-tier young talent is a lot more exciting than the stagnation of Nik Stauskas‘ development. Acquiring a guy with any chance to become a star is thrilling in its own right.

The Philadelphia 76ers‘ rapid ascension only bolsters this theory. They have two superstars and not much else, yet they are in the thick of the East’s playoff race.

The Phoenix Suns are still bad, but high-upside players like Devin Booker and Josh Jackson make them a fun watch. Fans and players cling to stars.

Hence why, even with the reform of the lottery and surfeit of bad teams, the incentive will still be to tank in 2019. Russell’s Robin (or maybe even Batman) has yet to be found. Once general manager Sean Marks finds him, the success will come.

Wholesale Boston Celtics Jerseys

The Boston Celtics need to figure out what to do with Terry Rozier once Marcus Smart is back

The Boston Celtics just got news that Marcus Smart will be returning, and everyone is going to benefit from that on the defensive end. There is, however, a much bigger question mark around Terry Rozier now, whose role is still far too uncertain.

Rozier was one the lone the bring spots in Smart’s absence, and he certainly did enough to prove that he can handle a larger role. Obviously, he is no where near that starting lineup, but he has proven to be a viable option to run the second unit, and it is not crazy to say he is a better option on offense.

The problem is Smart does so many other things, that Rozier’s role will have to be reduced. You cannot take minutes away from Kyrie Irving, and Smart is far too important on defense. That being said, this break may have brought a little clarity into the role distribution.

The second unit is in desperate need of consistency, and it will not work with Rozier and Smart just taking turns trying to make things happen. Rozier has shown us the kind of damage he can do when he is the primary instigator, and he is growing into a more trusted shooter than Smart.

Smart is still one of the best passers on the team, but giving Rozier more responsibility on the second unit will allow Smart to have more time with the starters, because he is always a part of their best defensive lineups.

The Celtics need to get Smart out there for their best defense, and that will always involved playing with the first unit. Smart may not actually start, but Stevens may have a great opportunity to settle the rotation a bit by staggering the minutes in a way that Smart and Rozier do not need to be taking turns.

Rozier can take on that added offensive responsibility, while Smart can fall back into a more under control role. Smart will never hesitate when taking open shots, and those are the ones the Celtics want him taking. When he is playing with the starters, he focuses a lot more on distributing and hitting open shots. With the second unit, he starts forcing more things, feeling like he has to create a lot more by himself.

The problem is that if Rozier is not able to get things going, then Stevens will have no choice other than to keep Smart back with the second unit. Rozier is in a position where his minutes will certainly go down, but his importance to the team does not have to.

The Celtics need a lot of roles to settle down, and Rozier is still in a great position to be the primary instigator for the second unit. The Celtics have held onto him for a long time because they believe in his talent, but now is when they really need that talent to come together.

One way or another, he is going to be one of the two most important players coming off the bench for the team, and when the second unit is as inconsistent as the Celtics are, that role will ultimately be a difference maker, especially in the regular season.

Rozier has been incredibly exciting, and with the way he has progressed and improved over the years, now would be a great time for him to really break out in his role, and help the Celtics get back to that number one seed.

Wholesale Atlanta Hawks Jerseys

Rome wasn’t built in a day. All great sports dynasties require an insane amount of luck, skill and timing.

The Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s found 2 of the 15 greatest players in NBA history in the same draft (Magic and Bird) and proceeded to build championship-caliber rosters with Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale and James Worthy.

The 90s-era Bulls lucked out when Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time, fell to the 3rd overall pick then used assets and keen scouting to surround him with guys like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

I’m here to lay out the series of events, both luck-based and skill-based, that are going to lead to the Atlanta Hawks ruling the NBA by 2021.

ACT 1: Darkest Before the Dawn

The 2018 Atlanta Hawks continue their losing ways and finish with the second-worst record in the league behind the Sacramento Kings. They win the 2nd overall pick in the draft lottery and with Marvin Bagley off the board, the Atlanta Hawks select the all-around European stud Luka Dončić to be their centerpiece of the future.

The Warriors roll through the playoffs, dropping two games to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and sweeping the Eastern Conference-champion Toronto Raptors. James Harden takes home MVP.

The 2019 offseason is one to remember. LeBron James expresses his dissent with the Cavaliers organization and executes a sign and trade to the Houston Rockets for their 2019 and 2020 first round picks, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Paul George re-signs with the Thunder and DeMarcus Cousins leaves the New Orleans Pelicans to join his Kentucky brother John Wall on the Washington Wizards.

The Hawks make no major moves in the offseason and walk into the 2019 season with few expectations.

The 2019 season starts, and it’s clear from the start that there the Rockets and Warriors are in a tier by themselves in terms of team quality. The Hawks are in better shape then some of their tanking counterparts as the Magic and Kings continue to look lost, the Cavs won’t recover from the LeBron departure for a long time and Dallas is still too mismatched to win consistently.

With head coach Mike Budenholzer still at the helm, the Hawks win around 30-35 games and with Collins and Prince blossoming, Dončić takes home ROTY honors, averaging a Ben Simmons-esque 16-7-7.

The Hawks end up with the 8th overall pick and take Bol Bol, the 7′ 3″ center out of Oregon (and son of former NBA hero Manute Bol), who inexplicably falls to Atlanta.

The Rockets and Warriors play an epic seven-game WCF, with LeBron and Houston coming out on top to move on and face the Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward-led Celtics. Houston wins in 6 and LeBron finally takes home his 4th ring. Kevin Durant wins his second MVP.

ACT 2: Strike When the Iron is Hot

With a starting lineup of Dennis Schröder, Luka Dončić, Kent Bazemore, John Collins and Bol Bol, the Hawks are one of the more exciting up and coming young teams in the NBA. However, it is clear that they are lacking elite-level talent to do any real damage in the playoffs. With Baze opting out of his player option to pursue a ring, the Hawks and their abundance of cap space are in the market for a star free agent.

With the Warriors choosing to re-sign Kevin Durant, they won’t have enough money to keep Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. That’s where the Hawks come in and swipe Klay from the Warriors, convincing him with a Kyrie Irving parallel, “We have young talent and a roster ready to compete, come be the featured piece,” and with a strong fanbase constantly letting him know how much we would love to have him, he decides to sign a max deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

LeBron signs another one-year deal with the Rockets and KD also re-signs with the Warriors for a max two-year deal with a player option for the 2020 season.

The 2019-2020 season begins and the Hawks start to look like a winning basketball team. With Klay showing his ability to be the centerpiece of an offense and everyone showing commitment to playing defense, the Hawks finish in the top 15 in both offense and defensive efficiency and proceed to make the playoffs as a 7 seed, winning 42 games. They lose in 5 in the first round to the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks — but the team’s future looks promising.

The Rockets and Warriors meet again in the WCF with Golden State coming out on top and winning in 7 against the Boston Celtics. LeBron James and Chris Paul both announce that the 2020-2021 season will be their last.

One massive offseason move shakes the NBA to its core, as Kawhi Leonard leaves the San Antonio Spurs after their relationship grew toxic over his issues with injuries and their failure to rehab correctly. He joins the godfather himself in Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.

The Hawks pick up the team options for their rookies and sit on their unused cap space for the monster summer of 2021.

ACT 3: Atlanta Sports Gets its Savior (Albeit Inorganically)

The 2020-2021 season is a sentimental one as every Rockets game is used as a way to commemorate Chris Paul and LeBron James for their monumental achievements in NBA history.

The Hawks quietly win 46 games and take the 5 seed with Boston losing its hold on the 1 seed to the Boogie, Wall and Bradley Beal trio in Washington.

The Hawks get an extremely unlucky draw and lose to the Kawhi-led Miami Heat in 6 and head into the offseason with one major acquisition in mind…

The Rockets lose in 6 to the Warriors, Boston beats Milwuakee and upsets Washington and Golden State to win the 2020 title. Kawhi wins MVP.

The Hawks let Schröder walk in the offseason to create cap space and ideally make their roster perfect for their upcoming title fight in free agency.

With LeBron out of the league, the most important offseason in NBA history is set to begin and Giannis Antetokounmpo is an unrestricted free agent. The rift between himself and the Bucks organization created after Jason Kidd was fired never truly healed and his relative anger at not being recognized for MVP yet is a small part due to the lack of coverage a city like Milwaukee receives.

He sets up meetings with all the major franchises and one team catches his eye. Atlanta has a young, ready-to-contend team with no real superstar but elite-level talent at all positions.

A city that’s starved for a championship who needs a hero to save them from sports limbo — teams that are good but never good enough. Atlanta has been a center for hip hop and its vibrant culture for decades and is finally becoming a free agent destination in the same vein as New York, Boston and Miami.

All of this combined with the fact many teams don’t have an abundance of cap space, The Greek Freak announces his intention to sign a max contract with the Atlanta Hawks.

Heading into the 2021-2022 Season, the Atlanta Hawks will roll out a starting unit of Dončić at the 1, Klay Thompson at the 2, Giannis Antetokounmpo at the 3, Collins at the 4 and Bol Bol at the 5 with Taurean Prince and ring-chasing veterans filling out an absolutely loaded roster.

With the luck of drafting Dončić and Bol and the skill of convincing Klay and Giannis to come lift a cursed sports city out of the darkness, this is the blueprint for how the Atlanta Hawks can rule the NBA by the start of the 2021 season.