You decided to re-sign with the Atlanta Hawks after receiving interest from several teams. What factored in to that decision? Kent Bazemore: “I had made it clear all season that I wanted to return. Once you go through a season like this last one, a career-year where you’re with the organization and coach and team for a second straight year, it’s hard to leave. My ceiling is super high here because I’m comfortable. I think being comfortable in your surroundings is important to becoming the best person and player that you can be. That weighed heavily in my decision. My fiancée loves it here too. Happy wife, happy life, right? (laughs) With other teams, there were a lot of uncertainties. For example, some were in the rebuilding stage. I didn’t want to leave a situation that I know a lot about for a situation with uncertainties. This is the place where I feel like I can grow the most, be close to home and develop my brand. I think having a brand in this league is really important because it helps catapult you in certain situations. The city of Atlanta has really embraced me. It’s been a perfect fit from the get-go.”
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The son of a psychologist, Rao said it’s the desire to make the shot and delight those fans that forces some shooters to put in extra effort and concentration — a little like Els at the Masters. And that conscious effort can screw it all up. The Rockets tracked Howard’s free throws, and he shot “upper-70s”in the practice gym, according to a team source, but he shot 48.9 percent in games this past season. That’s a 30 percentage point gap.
Howard remembers hitting 465 out of 500 free throws in practice one day with the Los Angeles Lakers. He made 49.2 percent of his in-game freebies that season. “And for the next two or three games, I was really locked in,” Howard said. “But then I started thinking so much about it, I started missing. I was working so hard not to miss, I missed all of them. “Free throw shooting is all mental. In practice, I don’t miss. In warm-ups, I don’t miss. When I get into a game, I hear people say, ‘He’s going to miss,’ and it gets inside my head.”
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“He’s a perfect fit,” Crowder said. “That’s what we were telling him. He had Washington and some other teams looking at him, but we beat them four times this year. You don’t want to go there. We play through our bigs, and a lot of teams don’t play through their bigs — they post them up and give them the ball. Our bigs, like he did in Atlanta, he makes the play. We were explaining our basketball terminology to him, and how ours will fit right in with (his) game. It’s going to mesh. Most guys have to blend in and fit in, but it’s going to be automatically just there. The style he plays, that’s what we reiterated to him: The way we play fits you so well. We need you. You need us. Let’s make it happen.”
Storyline: Al Horford Free Agency