There are a few storylines coming out of Hotlanta (that's what I call it).
First, the game itself. 76ers (1-1) vs. Hawks (1-0). Sixers lost to the Raptors and defeated the Knicks. Hawks beat the Magic.
The game: Sixers and Hawks are both young teams that want to score in transition. Both are teams that surprised people and made the playoffs last season. Both pushed veteran clubs (Pistons, Celtics) in playoff series. The Sixers lost to Detroit in six games, the Hawks pushed the Celtics to seven games.
Said Sixers head coach Maurice Cheeks: "They try to do a lot of the things we do and our last years were similar. I expect a game up and down the floor."
1.) Josh Smith: Before Elton Brand opted out of his contract with the Clippers, thus becoming a free agent, the Sixers were wooing Smith. Smith, 22, took a visit to Philadelphia. Last season, Smith averaged 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. The Sixers appeared on the cusp of extending an offer sheet to the restricted free agent. Then Elton happened. I think we all know how the story ends.
Smith sat in the Hawks locker room (very nice, by the way) and said tonight was "just another game." I tend to think otherwise. Smith said: "It was a good possibility, going up there. I was pretty close. We went back and forth in the negotiations, but nothing ever came up."
2.) Royal Ivey is back: Ivey sat out the first two games of the season. Not only could he not play, but he wasn't allowed in the arena. Ivey was suspended three games at the end of last season for punching Bulls center Aaron Gray. Ivey watched the Sixers first two games on TV, from his pad in Philadelphia. Said Ivey: "It's good to get off suspension. I'm better than that. I was frustrated." Ivey said it was hard not being able to support his teammates at the arena, but the banishment allowed him to watch, undistracted, from home. "You look at it differently," Ivey said. "At him it's quiet, there's no distractions ... When we got up in the Toronto game, we didn't capitalize. They stuck around and hit threes."
3.) Ratliff activated; Marshall deactived: Cheeks pulled Theo Ratliff off the Inactive List and placed Donyell Marshall on it. Cheeks pretty much admitted he's just rotating guys into that spot, and that it's not rocket science. Cheeks said there was no breakdown of what the Sixers might need tonight against the Hawks, it was just Marshall's turn to be inactive.
4.) Sam Dalembert: Through two games, Sam has looked slightly ... off. He has rebounded very well (12.5 average), scored decently (8.5 average), but struggled with some close-range shots. Remember, Sam missed a decent amount of the preseason with a knee sprain.
Said Dalembert: "I'm not quite back. The [knee] is uncomfortable still. I'm not quite myself. I've been missing a lot of stuff I usually don't miss. I'm catching the ball and just something is off, not quite on balance. It's all part of it, and as games go by and I keep playing more, it will get better. I'm one little bit away from a big game."
There you have it. Tonight's preview from Hotlanta. Lou Williams, who grew up in Snellville, Georgia, was dealing with his "ticket situation" in the locker room. The players receive only two comp. tickets. Williams said almost all of the Sixers were using their tickets (Williams reasoning? "Atlanta's a hot city." Uh ... Yeah! ... That's why I keep calling it Hotlanta!). Williams was organizing a stack of tickets he bought for family and friends.
Photos: 1.) Inside the Phillips Arena. Two hours before tip-off, kids were on the court, competing in a contest. As Brand was leaving the visiting locker room to shoot, someone told him kids were on the court. Brand's reaction? "Oh, okay, cool." Point of this: Brand was walking to the court over two hours before tip-off! If this guy isn't made for Philly, I don't know what player is ... 2.) The Hawks locker room. Not much else to say about this staggeringly good photo. That's the Hawks emblem on the wall. Their (plush) locker room is to the right of the logo. 3.) The visiting locker room. Not quite as nice, but not shabby. You can see the Sixers banner hanging to the left. That's a backdrop for TV purposes. 4.) The Olympic Centennial Park in downtown Hotlanta. Beautiful city. Phillips Arena is about a 100 yards from this park. In between is the CNN building.
And that's all the insight I can offer.
Until tomorrow ...