Denver – George Karl came not to bury the Hawks, but to praise them.
Prior to the Hawks' game Wednesday night with Denver, the Nuggets coach offered bouquets to the visiting team.
"They just don't seemingly make mistakes that they made last year," Karl said. "From their bench to Josh Smith to their big guys, it seems like they're more comfortable. There's a maturity to how they play."
Karl said that when he watched the Hawks defeat Minnesota Tuesday night, it was like watching an old team handle a young team.
"I don't think we've ever labeled Atlanta an ‘old team,' but they played like an old team," he said.
Karl was asked if the Hawks could compete with the Eastern Conference's big three of Boston, Cleveland and Orlando.
"I think Atlanta will pass one of them," he said. "I'm not going to bet on two or three, but I think Atlanta's legit."
Going into Wednesday's game, center Al Horford had been on a tear in December. For the month, he was shooting 59.2 percent from the floor and averaging 14.4 points per game. He had three double-doubles in the Hawks' past four games before Wednesday.
Through Tuesday's games, Horford was seventh in the NBA in shooting percentage (57.4 percent), tied for ninth in double-doubles with 13 and 15th in rebounding (9.5 per game).
"I'm just playing my game, taking the shots [in practice] that I take in the game," he said. "So that's all I'm doing, really, just taking the shots in practice, all those shots I know I'm going to take in the game."
Into thin air
Guard Joe Johnson on playing in Denver's altitude:
"Nothing you can do about it. If you don't live here in Denver and play for the Nuggets, you're always going to have a tough time with it. It's something you have to cope with. ... I try and stay hydrated, but it never seems to work."
According to a Denver Post online report Wednesday, Karl has been offered a three-year extension worth around $11 million. Karl, like Hawks coach Mike Woodson, is in the final year of his contract. Indications are that the team will wait until the end of the season to negotiate with Woodson.
"Mike's doing a great job," said Karl of his former assistant in the 1998-99 season in Milwaukee. "If Atlanta doesn't like him, someone else will like him."
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