Despite his – and Cleveland’s – recent success against the Hawks, James knows better than to look in the rearview mirror. “What happened in the past doesn’t define what happens today,” said James, who is 8-0 in two playoff series against Atlanta. “We’ve got to focus on the now and this is a team that’s coming off a very good and challenging first-round series against the Celtics, and we understand that their coach is going to have those guys well prepared and well driven for the series. “It don’t matter if you can win 100 straight games against somebody. If you lose four in a row, then you’re out of the playoffs. It doesn’t matter. All the things that happened in the past does not matter to our focus this week.”
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That would be LeBron James. And whatever Bazemore’s sentiment when it comes to James may be, the most pertinent facts remain: In last year’s Eastern Conference finals, James rang up the Hawks’ defense — meaning, largely, DeMarre Carroll and Bazemore — for 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game in an easy sweep. “I’m ready,” Bazemore said. “I’m excited. Rematch from last year, they swept us last year and we definitely have a chip on our shoulder about that.”
Atkinson went undrafted and cut from tryouts with the Suns and Knicks in the summer of 1991. After stints in the USBL and CBA, he played in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. “You should see his résumé,’’ Tarrant said. “Kenny speaks five languages: French, Spanish, Italian, German and English. So he understands not only the languages but customs of the global player. I think all that helped with the ownership in Brooklyn.’’
D’Antoni had called it a coup when Atlanta hired Atkinson, and then-Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh — now with the Pacers — had similar praise. “I figured people would start noticing him. He’s got the talent,” Walsh told The Post. “Some guys know the game, but just strategy, how to set up offense or defense. Kenny can teach the game. “He’s in shape. I’d get a kick out of it. He’d say, I want you to go hard,’ and then lead it himself. [Players] are thinking, ‘Damn, if he can do it, I have to do it!’ … He’s like a little motor, the little battery that wouldn’t shut down.’’