Lorenzen Wright hated to leave Atlanta last season. The veteran forward was in his second stint with the Hawks, and he knew the team was headed in the right direction. He was close to coach Mike Woodson and young players like Josh Smith and Al Horford.
So he really was disappointed when he was traded to Sacramento as part of the deal for Mike Bibby on Feb. 16.
"There were so many young guys, I was like a big brother," Wright said as the Cavaliers prepared to host the Hawks tonight in The Q. "I was sad to leave because there was about a month left in the regular season and I knew we were going to make it to the playoffs for the first time [in a long time] and I wanted to be a part of that."
Not only did the Hawks make it to the playoffs, but they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle before falling in a surprisingly tough first-round series that went seven games.
"I think they're a very underestimated team," Wright, who signed with the Cavs as a free agent last summer, said of the Hawks. "They're inconsistent because they're young. But they've got some really good players on that team. Joe Johnson is second to none, a great scorer, a great finisher, a great shooter. Josh Smith is really athletic, and he can shoot the ball as well. Al Horford is a talent. I watched him in college, and I liked him. I thought he was one of the best to come out of that draft.
"Mike Woodson is a really good coach, a player's coach. He understands the young guys and really gets along with the young guys. He's got a good system. The young guys come in and they work hard every day. That's one thing I can say about them. He gets them ready to play."
Picking up where they left off last season, the Hawks opened this season with six straight victories, and they were 7-4 heading into last night's home game against Charlotte.
"They've got some very good pieces," LeBron James said. "I think Joe Johnson is probably one of the most underrated guards we have in this league. Coach Woodson has done a great job of getting those guys prepared and ready to play."
Added Cavs coach Mike Brown, "They're a good team, a talented team. They gained confidence and experience from that playoff run last year, and they're only going to get better every year. They added Mo Evans and Flip Murray, veteran guys who have been around the block and know how to score and how to defend. They really have given them life off the bench. They're a difficult team to handle because of their length and athleticism."
Wright said he didn't think he'd have to tell his new teammates to be ready for his former teammates. "Everybody knows they've got a pretty good team," Wright said. "We're going to have to come out and play hard and play well to beat them."
Wally's back: Wally Szczerbiak returned to practice on Friday after missing Wednesday's game to be with his father, Walt, who underwent open heart surgery.
Fan favorites: Fans voting on NBA.com selected the Cavs game at New York on Tuesday to be shown on NBA TV. The game will air at 7:30 p.m. with NBA TV announcers Ahmad Rashad, Chris Webber and Gary Payton on hand for studio coverage beginning at 7 p.m.
Dinner party: Cavs players and coaches hosted 150 guests from Cleveland's Project ACT for a Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night at The Q. Project ACT (Action for Children and Youth in Transition) ensures that homeless children and youths have access to the same free and appropriate education as every other student within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Toy drive: The Cavaliers and Charter One are sponsoring a toy drive, beginning tonight. Fans can drop off toys in collection bins at each entrance of The Q before the game. Toys also can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Time Warner Cable Entrance on the corner of Ontario and Huron, or they can take toys to any Northeast Ohio Charter One bank location. The toys will be presented to children from select nonprofit organizations at a special holiday party at The Q on Dec. 22.
Making their move: The New York Knicks cleared considerable salary cap room for the summer of 2010 by trading Jamal Crawford to Golden State for Al Harrington and sending Mardy Collins and Zach Randolph to the Los Angeles Clippers for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas on Friday. Presumably they could use that money to make an offer to James or players like Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, all of whom can become free agents that summer.
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