Friday, October 31, 2008

Hawks @ Magic - 10/28/08

Well, the best intentions for an Opening Game Recap was corrupted by my DVR when it decided to record 480 minutes of HD footage of 30 Rock. I know you're thinking - hey, isn't that a 30 minute show? ....Uh, EXACTLY! So, since I was at an event during the game, I am going to have to do this from reading other news reports, NBA.com, AJC.com, and other blogs. That said, this will not happen again or at least let it happen when we are playing the Thunder at home and winning by 60.

Game Feedback - Hawks 99, Magic 85

Str8 Butter Award - From all appearances, JSmoove was the man with the A Town plan. With Flip abusing JJ, Joe Johnson putting up an effecient 25, how did JSmoove get the Str8 Butter Award? Well, to fill a stat line like JSmoove's without a turnover, well - that's certifiably butt-ishious!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -
  • Horford - Almost a double double on only 7 shots. Great on one hand (we like efficiency!), but it seems like a concerted effort should be made at SOME point to establish Al in the post. Or maybe I should say - maybe we can establish anyone in the post. Yes, we should be running all season long, but post game...occasionally, that's called a value add
  • Johnson - Like we said, efficient, quiet, 55% from the field. That's our Joe
  • Bibby - Hmmm, I think we've found our dud of the game. Fortunately, this dud didn't spoil the batch. I kept seeing folks on blogs talking about how refreshing it was for us to win without the PG's best. And we'll agree for now, but I need for my point guard worth $14M to perform better than Acie Law or he needs to be traded.
  • Evans - We know this is a one game start, but maybe we can convince the staff to make it permanent. I keep saying - having Marvin as the Manu-like Super Sub off the bench is mighty enticing to me. Esp. if he's taking shots away from JSmoove, Horford, and JJ. So, why not go for defense and spot up shooting?
  • JSmoove - See Str8 Butter Award, though 2 3pters is 2 3pters too many. The worst thing that can happen to NJSJ (No Jump Shot Josh) is a belief that jump shots are a part of your game. As long as this is happening, downgrades to Woodson and whoever is passing the ball to him outside of the 3pt line.
Bench Kudos/Smackdown
  • M. Williams - Just trying to get used to writing something about him in the Bench section
  • Pachulia - Can't say it loud enough...more '06 Zaza. Make your free throws, play some D, do the dirty work. If you can do that as the backup center, you sir can be a part of our Atlanta Hawk playoff-bound squad. Love the first game results.
  • Law - 15 minutes of game time, I love it. Doesn't matter if he was 0-10 with 5 fouls, no assists, and 10 turnovers, just let the man play. Oh, did I mention that he had 0 turnovers! Yep, play Acie!!! Anything to eliminate some ill fated thought that Craig Claxton is going to play for us this year. Craig Claxton, Stephon Marbury, and Eddy Curry all should be enjoying similar fates this year - it's called Splinter-itis!
  • Murray - Good news - Murray put some instant offense up. Bad news - if you can't abuse JJ 'Bust of the Decade' Redick, then you don't deserve to play in the NBA anyway. So, good start, but we'll reserve judgment for a few more games
  • West - Look, I'm a Ga. Tech alum and how do I say this delicately? I didn't ever go to a game at Tech saying - I'd like to see how well Mario does tonight. So, push that same thought over to professional b-ball love and things haven't changed. Bottom line, save it being a blow out or Woodson sending a message about heart and effort by a mass benching of players - I don't want to see West on the court, period. Not hating on West (get that paper, bro), but significant playing time for West equals ping pong balls
  • Jones - Not sure about the new Jones yet, reserving judgment
  • Morris - Save use for Hack-A-Shaq purposes, a DNP is about right. I'll look for him to be towel waving though at the game on Saturday. Team spirit is necessary.
Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Without seeing the game (damn DVR), I can't say much other than - how is JSmoove still not understanding that jump shots aren't his friend and why is Mario West playing during a competitive part of the game? Maybe I'd understand if I saw the game, but otherwise - great job, Mike. Road victory, the words "Don't Be Satisfied" on the bulletin board after the game (though I could be giving you credit for someone else's work on that one). All I can say is - keep the head shaved, my brother. Maybe the hair was the problem all these years....(in fact, is there some scientific way we can prove this to be true? how sweet would that be? I'd be able to watch competent coaching for the first time since we moved into Highlight Factory. Wow, how low my expectations have become?)

Str8 Talk Love

Can't say much, but watching 5 blocks - playing grown man basketball with the man child D. Howard and seeing dunks and veterans (the true grizzled type) on the court. All love!!!

Season Prediction

Beating the SE division champs on the road is basically a game I didn't think we'd win, so let's add a victory to the starting prediction of 40-42! We're at 41-41. That's .500, baby. Let's see where we can go with this thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Predictions

With the season upon us, everyone wants to do their predictions for the year, so here's my prediction for my Hawks

Best Case Prediction - 43-39 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Worst Case Prediction - 33-49 (11th in Eastern Conference)
My Prediction - 40-42 (8th in Eastern Conference)

Coaching: The Hawks will do enough to get into the playoffs, but the question is more about whether we finally assume an offensive identity (maybe running at every opportunity per chance), defined roles for EACH player, and in-game adjustments (vs. the 2 fouls in a quarter rule for players who don't foul out anyway or when it means that we just give up a quarter's worth of production). It IS NOT Mike's fault that he hasn't had personnel to turn this team into a contender. It IS his fault that the Hawks do not have an identity and that, more than anything, is a coach's job. Your system may not work w/ the personnel you have, but we should all know what that system is. With the Hawks, the personnel says a running team, the results say...well, who knows on any given day. It is never a question of what the identity of a Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan team is. Sure, wish we understood that concept...and didn't need 5 years (and counting) to figure that out. That said, I still want Mike to succeed. As a lifelong Indiana Hoosier fan, I want the best for him, but last year - I lost the confidence that he's the right man for this job. Let's hope this year - he shows me something that I'm afraid he won't be able to do. Grade: D

Starters: Everyone is saying that this is one of the best starting 5s in the East. Bibby, JJ, J Smoove, Big Al, and Marvin...Could be so, but only if Marvin makes a QUANTUM leap in all phases, J Smoove stops taking jump shots, Big Al adds a post game to his otherwise solid game, and Bibby stays healthy and plays something that resembles defense. If we can't get any points off the block, we need to run. Though I'm not sure we're being coached to run with abandon along with feeling the freedom to substitute enough to make that running a game long philosophy. That said, J Smoove and Big Al have All Star talent, Marvin is talented, Bibby and JJ are a very capable backcourt, so we can do some things with this squad. What we lack more than anything is a certified leader who will 'will' the team to victories and keep our focus. Maybe Big Al can step into that role - one certainly hopes so. Grade: B+

Bench: I think I stated this before, but aside from basic 'can you ball' measures, we need Flip and Maurice to simply bring leadership to this team. I'm not sure of their credentials there, but that's what we need. Someone to whisper first, then use a bullhorn to say - JSmoove - you are awesome when you are doing everything except shooting jump shots. Someone to keep Acie confident when Mike Woodson decides not to play him Salim-style for 8 straight games. I'd love to say that I know that the '06 Zaza will show up, that Acie will ball, that Flip and Mo Evans will be steadying forces, that Randolph Morris can provide good minutes off the bench, that Othello Hunter, Gardner, Solomon, and Mario can be depended on for anything, but I have to keep it real - I don't think it's John Hollinger of ESPN.com bad on the bench, but I don't know that these guys are coached up with regards to their roles and what's expected enough to expect these guys to elevate us much. But who knows...that uncertainty says...Grade: D+

Let's hope I'm wrong - in fact, I hope I'm wrong about the coaching and the bench (I'm more open to believing I'm wrong about the bench than the coaching) and that we surprise everyone in the East. Maybe then, I can see my squad on TNT or ESPN instead of SportsSouth and FSN South every once in a while. Either way, check your boy, the Hawks Luva on Saturday at the Highlight Factory.

Last time, I was in Philips Arena for a Hawks game (Game 6 of the playoffs) was possibly the best feeling I've had at a sporting event ever (yeah, that shows you how bad it's been to watch NBA basketball since I've been old enough with enough chips in my pocket to afford Hawks tickets - which started around about 1988).

Oh, one more prediction (this is for Nizee) - LeBron James will prove again that he's the Most Valuable Player in the NBA (regardless of whether he has a MVP or not - i'm convinced that NO ONE would do with their team what LBJ does with his team. Next time Kobe takes the Collier Park All Stars (aka the Cleveland Cav supporting cast) to the NBA Finals or to Game 7 against the mighty Celtics, holla at ya boy) and has had by far a better career than Dwyane Wade. And that's with abiding love for D-Wade! Out...

Hope you enjoy what we do this year...Hawk Str8Talk has lift off!!!!

The NBA Grind Begins...

With the season starting tonight, a few friends have asked why would I start this blog when there are plenty of other capable Hawks bloggers and beat reporters covering the team, so here's some answers:

1. Because I love the Hawks and I wanted to express that in a forum while also being honest about my squad. Sometimes, hands are bound from saying what TRULY should be said (I'm sure Sekou Smith can't say everything he wants to say about the Hawks at the AJC and I know some media folks are so blinded by hate or love that they can't say what needs to be said...Me, I love the Hawks, but blinders will be left at the door.
2. Because while my e-Newsletters around the country (ATL LowDown, LA LowDown, The D, Houston LowDown, etc - visit www.e-streetteam.com for more details on the best in event distribution) require witty things to say each week, I actually get tired of writing that stuff each week. Sports and the Hawks is the proverbial Fountain of Youth...come get some.
3. Did I say b/c I want to...

Ok, now, I'm sure you want to know what to expect, so here's the format for what you'll see each week:

Game Feedback (we'll try to do a game recap for all games)
  • Str8 Butter Award - the Player of the game
  • Starter Kudos/Smackdown - The positives and negatives for the starters
  • Bench Kudos/Smackdown - The positives and negatives for the bench
  • Coaching Kudos/Smackdown - The positives and negatives for the coaching staff
  • Str8 Talk Love - Blurb about the essential things for the casual fan such as Fine Lady Quotient per game, how many times Josh Smith smacks a ball into a cat's mouth or dunks on someone's head.
  • Season Prediction - We'll track how well we are doing by the prediction for our season record.
Week's Thoughts

  • Str8Talk Game Ops - Update on things pertaining to the Mascots, Dance Team, Other Entertainment, Food, Contests, Giveaways, Seats, Ushers
  • Str8Talk Blastoff - Anything that strikes my fancy as we make our way through different areas of Philips Arena (celeb sightings, box seating, club level experience, pre-game and post-game, etc)
  • Str8Talk Outreach - Any Hawks Community Efforts will be addressed here
  • Str8Talk Mailbag - If anyone dares to email or comment on the blog, we'll address as much of that here as we can
Look out for the upcoming prediction edition of of Str8Talk!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Almost...

Best laid plans...

You know the saying. Today was supposed to be (like Ice Cube has schooled us) a good day. End of preseason coming on Thursday at Detroit and my quick thoughts on the Atlanta Hawks bench to lead us up to next week's preseason prognostication blog, but dammit if we can't have the harmony train I've been hearing about Acie, Flip, and Mo Evans just run its course into the season before hearing the strife.

In fact the only strife I want to hear is Rick Sund saying - hmmm, the clock is ticking on Bro. Woodson, but of course before I could put all my thoughts together, I have to read about No J Smith (NJS for short) and Show Me Something Mike (from now on to be known as SMSM) in a little bitch session.

Now, I have been NJS's biggest fan and constantly feel like I have to communicate that the guy is TWENTY TWO years old, but that being said...the brother needs a serious mentor on professionalism. I love him - I want to give him a pass, but if there is anything that these new vets need to bring to this squad to elevate it - it's to impart a no nonsense business like approach to handling business consistently to our young players, particularly Josh Smith. I believe it's always understated that it's one thing to have the coach teach you how to handle your job, but quite another to have the team members all practicing that walk and holding each other accountable. With the youngest team in the league, I have yet to see who our team leader is. Until that happens, well, - it's safe to assume we'll continue to have the uneven-ness we have on our team.

Ok, moving on...the preseason and the bench. Between listening on the radio and checking out box scores and articles on all the major websites, I have determined a few things and have hope for a few other things in the coming year regarding our bench:
  1. Acie has made some strides as a player in this league who MUST trump any consideration of putting Craig 'we won't call him Speedy til we see some Speed' Claxton into a basketball game. Craig hasn't shown one iota of a reason to think he can help us become a playoff/championship basketball team. While there are doubts about Acie, let's see him show us his upside on the court. You hear me, SMSM - "Play Acie at least 20 minutes a game and let him know what his role will be behind Bibby."
  2. Mo Evans & Flip Murray...show veteran leadership!!!! That and a little defense and some timely Js from the perimeter, but please show the kind of leadership that says - NJS, if you shoot another jump shot when you are making 25% outside of 18 ft in your CAREER - I will smack yo' ass. Period. So far, we feel good about just having older players on the squad who will play (i.e. Lorenzen Wright, we liked you, but we need veterans who actually are going to PLAY to help lead the squad on the court).
  3. Randolph Morris - no idea what to think about his contribution yet, but if you can provide some fouls and allow Al to move to the 4 throughout some games, that would be lovely.
  4. Marvin Williams - I know this is the bench section, but personally - until he shows me he's a star, I'd rather him play off the bench. Provide a spark, be strong at the cup, be Josh Childress with a better jumper (we hear that your range has extended to three point territory, but we already have ONE PF trying to shoot threes), so lose some weight and get your small forward game tight from the bench. Kinda Manu Ginobili. Makes for a Bibby/Pachulia/Horford/Joe Johnson/NJS starting squad that I like the sound, if....
  5. Pachulia can time travel to 2006. Man, we had the steal of the year when he was averaging double doubles for like $2M a year. Can we have you back, '06 Pachulia? The Boston - I'll smack you in yo mouf KG, Zaza. That dude is servicable. The 2008 regular season Zaza - not so much.
  6. Othello Hunter - Can you give us Moor? (Sorry, I couldn't resist showing off my limited Shakespearean knowledge.) Looks like he might be an energy guy off the bench - and Lord knows we need an energy guy who can play...(sorry Mario), so MAYBE he can bring some fouls and defense and rebounding off that bench. Making a layup in traffic wouldn't hurt either (yes, Marvin - that was for you)
  7. Solo, Mario, other bench fellas - Uh...if you are playing - well, we probably aren't making the playoffs, so catch splinters, be positive, and don't cause no trouble.
Final thought - still not sure why SMSM is still our coach, but we'll see in these first 15 games whether he has a) developed an offensive system that fits the players we have (i.e. no JJ isolations, actual inside out plays, a pick and roll, some movement of players, uh...let's see - RUNNING ALL DAY, EVERY DAY), b) actually defined the roles for each player on the team and c) convinced them that we can run and play defense - they aren't mutually exclusive. I know we have a tough schedule, but trust - I will have my full 'fire SMSM' gear on by January if we aren't close to .500.

After our first taste of playoff b-ball since I was in college, there's NO going back. Let's get the support going and meet our new and old Hawks. Go check out the Paint The Town Kickoff at Edgewood Shopping Center this weekend from 12-4. Details at hawks.com.

Next week, a season preview, our weekly blog topics/subjects, and a request for what road games Hawks Str8talk should visit this season - Miami, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, ?, ? Tell us where you want us to go and what we should blog about...(any b-ball related stuff we should check out while in said towns - sponsorship (i.e. lodging, food options for the low requested) is highly desired.

The Real Str8Talk Express has left the building...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rumblings

Unlike the NFL, training camp always creeps up on the national conscience for the NBA (and NHL - which has already started, for that matter), but nothing says joy like the boys coming back in town and getting ready for the follow up to an uneven season and even more uneven offseason.

Welcome to Maurice Evans, Flip Murray, Randolph Morris, and Othello Hunter. Farewell to Josh Childress and Salim Stoudamire. We'll have more analysis on where the newest Hawks will fit into the mix, but after a nerve-wrecking offseason of playing chicken with our most talented player - we want to simply lay out some expectations to start off our blog. As the season starts, we'll talk about the coaching, starters, bench, the effort, the fans, and the ownership. For now, here's an overview from a Hawks fan perspective:

Team Outlook: Don't let the playoffs fool you - as a fan, the goal is always about championships. Not division titles, not conference titles, not playoff berths when 16 teams get in, but championsips so everything is viewed on this blog through that prism. That said, this is NOT a championship team. What it is is a team that needs to build experience and learn how to win. While we have doubts about our coaching, coaching or not - this should be a 40-45 win team.

Coaching: So, anything less than 40 wins and you must fire Mike Woodson. As an Indiana Hoosier fan and early adoptee of the Knight/Woodson era, we've seen enough to say that Woodson must re-double his efforts this season. No third quarter collapses, no ignoring of the team talents such as Salim Stoudamire or Acie Law, no lack of bench time for Josh Smith shoots anything beyond 15 ft, no more posting up Marvin Williams, no more 2 foul rule for players who rarely foul out of games...an offensive philosophy that fits the players strengths would be nice too. Running all the time - yep, that would be nice too. Players knowing their roles and a consistent rotation - all would be nice.

Starters: Obviously, the strength of the team..here's our quick synopsis:

Joe Johnson - the best player on the team...great player, but you can't win a title if he's your best player, so he needs help. Also, needs to get that Kobe like ability to lead the team and accept nothing less than their best.

Josh Smith - the most talented player on the team...for some reason, people continue to dwell on Josh's negatives. Ok - he needs to learn how to take better shots (which I put on Mike Woodson), but let's keep this in perspective - he's still only 23. He is the 2nd best shot blocker in the league from the small forward/power forward spot. he still has a lot of growth to do in man to man defense and in developing his offensive game and yet, he still is a beast. Bottom line, there's so much more talent and positive than negative. Save the hate.

Al Horford - If we could just get him a defensive big man to back him up and it would be sky is the limit. If we could just post him up as a part of the offense and play off him and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, then just let Marvin Williams hit jumpers. How that would make me happy. Bottom line, his heart and leadership is exactly what we needed and didn't get from Shelden Williams.

Marvin Williams - Damn, it's just sickening to think that Deron Williams (my choice back in that ill fated draft) or Chris Paul could be a part of this team. So sickening I couldn't watch the Hornets or Jazz in the playoffs. SERIOUSLY!!! So, we just gotta hope that pride will make this guy want to prove them all wrong and if that happens, we can trade him for a PG and/or big man that could put us over the top. That's the hope. Not b/c I dislike Marvin, but b/c having him and Josh Smith playing that tweener PF/SF isn't really helping us and since I see Josh's upside being VASTLY higher than Marvin's - let's just hope Marvin can make the jump to a 20pt/game player and we can do something with him. So, no more excuses. No more weakness at the cup. No more weakness on the defensive end - let's get it, Marv.

Mike Bibby - A good piece, but to validate this team's selections - Acie needs to be starting soon. Mike's a free agent to be and well, I'm not going to fall in love with him b/c there's probably a good reason to trade Bibby. It would be nice to see us keep a PG esp. one who Mike Woodson trusts, but we'll have to keep this one under watch until later.

Bench:

We don't know what to say about the bench right now, but that'll be the focus on later blogs in the offseason.

Intangibles:

Fan Support - it's time to get this fan train rolling. Nothing has ever felt as good as being in Philips Arena for its 3 game stint in the playoffs. And I want that feeling back...so let's get off our asses and make the Phil rock again to help this team get over the hump. Sund, you have much to prove, so let's prove that competent leadership can move the shoe model capital to the top of draft and free agent acquisition lists.

And with that, go see the hawks open practice this Saturday...til next week!