To Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, it's simple. If his Hawks take care of their own business, they will make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. That would also likely mean Atlanta's first-round opponent would be the Celtics.
"We need to win," Woodson said yesterday afternoon before the Hawks beat the Knicks, 116-104, in New York. "That would make life a lot easier. That would put us in good position."
The magic number for Atlanta (37-42) is down to 2 to clinch the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Indiana (35-44) is close behind. The Pacers have won four straight, own the tiebreaker, and beat the Hawks Tuesday. The reward for the East's eighth seed is a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Celtics.
"[The Pacers] did what they had to do," Woodson said. "We just have to handle our own business."
Atlanta hosts the Celtics tonight and completes its regular-season schedule against Orlando Tuesday and at Miami Wednesday.
The Hawks are led by All-Star guard Joe Johnson, veteran point guard Mike Bibby, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Josh Smith, and Rookie of the Year candidate Al Horford. The Celtics are up, 2-0, in the season series.
"It would be huge," Woodson said of making the postseason. "This is an organization that hasn't been there in nine years. It would be really huge for our young team."
Garnett gets RedPrior to last night's game against Milwaukee, Kevin Garnett was presented the Red Auerbach Award, given to a player who exemplifies what it means to be a Celtic.
The award is named in honor of the late Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the former Celtics coaching legend, general manager, and president. Previous winners include Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson.
"Red solidifies basketball history, all the prestige," said Garnett, who met Auerbach during his early years playing for Minnesota. "It's huge. Obviously, the award hasn't been out that long, but it solidifies excellence in the team as a whole, history of basketball in general, the prestige in it."
He likes what he sawCeltics general manager Danny Ainge was impressed with the talent he witnessed at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational Tournament this week. The tournament includes the top collegiate seniors who fly under the radar. The Celtics have the 30th overall pick in the first round and the 60th overall pick in the second round in the NBA draft June 26.
Ainge said there were Portsmouth prospects the Celtics could potentially draft.
"Most of these guys are players that would be second-round picks to undrafted free agents," Ainge said. "They are trying to move into first-round status in the draft. A lot of their status depends on whether many underclassmen come out. There are a lot of guys with solid college careers that can make rosters."
Pollard in the boothInjured forward-center Scot Pollard will fill in for Tommy Heinsohn and provide color commentary on
"This is the first time I'm replacing a color man," Pollard said. "I'm all grown up. I will test the market down the road. So far I've enjoyed my experience and I'd like to keep practicing at it."
Pollard is slated to go to Indianapolis Tuesday to get an update on his ankle and hopes to get the protective boot off soon. "It's my six-week checkup to let me know if I'll be able to get out of the boot gradually," he said. "I think it's ready for a little bit of walking."
Writing on the wallRay Allen, an ex-Sonics star, said he isn't surprised about the recent reports that the Sonics' new ownership planned to move the team to Oklahoma City all along. "I believe that," he said. "It goes to the past organization and past ownership. They knew what they were doing. They sold it to an Oklahoma City investment group and if they didn't get what they were asking for, they were going to move to Oklahoma City. The people knew it. The whole time both sides were trying to work on a deal, but they knew what their long-term goals were." . . . The Bucks last night announced that Detroit vice president of basketball operations John Hammond has been hired as their new GM. Hammond was an assistant coach for the Clippers when Celtics coach Doc Rivers played there in 1991-92. "He's great, he really is," said Rivers. "He really knows the game."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at email@example.com.