Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hawks @ Pacers Game Recap & NYE Resolutions

Since it's New Year's Eve and we have limited time, we're going to keep with the thoughts and add a resolution section.

Game Recap: Hawks 110, Pacers 104

1. In another example of why I've had to issue an apology and reassessment of the fact that Joe Johnson really is our most talented player (I was sure he was the best player, just thought that Josh was a bigger raw talent - uh, incorrect!), Joe put the Hawks on his back down the stretch and took us to a road victory.

2. Josh too has established a pattern that I'm not sure we're going to break as long as he's coached by Mike Woodson (and that's not meant as a knock on Coach Woodson), but I'm slowly being seduced into the thought process that you have to just put up with the downside of Josh in order to appreciate the brilliance of Josh. Now, the turnovers - no, we're not accepting those. Most of those are Josh Smith not getting the concept of 'give the ball to the point guard to make plays' and that's something that Mike Bibby needs to demand of Josh. But the Pacer game showed all parts of the Josh Conundrum. He was great inside - boards, nice dishes, intimidation on defense, and points in the paint and at the charity stripe. He was awful when on the perimeter - either passing the ball or shooting it. And for some reason - I think we're just going to have to grow to accept it (and these wins that come with it).

3. Al had a double double. Ok, why am I still unimpressed? Crashing the boards should never be understated, but when you're playing the Pacers inside - color me less impressed. Again, we all have a love affair with Al, but it is time that we start to question whether it's Al's game or Mike's coaching that's suppressing his ability to provide more scoring in the paint. Let's please hope it's the coaching. I'm not sure I'm prepared for this to be the ceiling on Al's offensive production.

4. The more we win, the more I'm concerned that we're going to burn out the starters for our PLAYOFF run. While most are happy just to be going to the playoffs (provided we stay injury free down the stretch), on a night when Zaza is ballin' - why can't he get more than 14 minutes of PT. Is it just me or does Zaza deserve at least 25 minutes a night at the rate he's getting rebounds and garbage points? The way Zaza is playing has me convinced that he can get a double double in 25 minutes of work and if he can - LET HIM!!!

5. I ran out of witty things to say about why Acie is buried on the bench, so I'll just start with which players I think the opposing team has trotted out that Acie can compete against. Today's example: Travis Deiner (13 minutes). Man, if Acie couldn't produce when Deiner was in the game - well, then Mike - you're right and everyone else is wrong, but how about 5-10 minutes of time to find out. I would have said TJ Ford (11 minutes) and Jarrett Jack too, but the way Jarrett was ballin' yesterday - I'm glad he didn't get to embarrass Acie like he did everyone else in front of him on the defensive end. Shout out to Jarrett Jack from the Georgia Institute of Technology...represent!

New Year's Resolutions

The Hawks asked me a question yesterday - what are my Hawks resolutions? I offered up a few, but they had to be sanitized for Hawks use, so I'll break them down here in Str8 Talk fashion.

1. For the fans to start supporting this team the way you would a team you want to win a NBA title. I'm not saying we have all the pieces yet, but I am saying that we have a home court advantage and we have a good shooting team who right now has the 5th best record in the LEAGUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, let's support them as if we EXPECT them to make a deep postseason run.

2. For Mike Woodson to coach this team as if we are planning to make a deep postseason run. What does that mean - well, we can't play the starters 40 minutes a game. We can't forget that we are the most athletic team this side of Portland and we need our legs to use that athleticism in the playoffs. Finding more minutes for Zaza, Solomon, and Acie while still winning games - yes, that would be nice.

3. For the vocal leadership to take hold of Josh Smith - more inside, less outside. More rebounding and dunking and passing in the paint. Less playing point guard at any juncture in the game. In fact, I resolve to make sure that Josh Smith gets the James Worthy Video Mixtape. I can't wait to see his eyes get watery as he watches Worthy get the board, give the ball to Magic, run the court like a gazelle, get the oop/pass/whatever Magic did to get him the ball and make him an All Star. Maybe he'll get it that Worthy was a great talent, but he wouldn't be an all time great if he was trying to dribble and get assists on the break. Josh Smith, you can be James Worthy, but to be worthy (pun intended) - you can't be Magic. Please give the ball to the guys who make better decisions, have better ball handling, and make better passes in traffic than you.

4. For Marvin and Zaza to continue to play with the heart they played with during this past homestand.

5. For me to do a better job with the blog, finding more topics to cover, and to ensure that I'm fair and talking str8 for 2009. Also, for me to ease up on Josh Smith and recognize that the Hawks have only lost 4 games while he's been on the court this year - 3 during the Texas Road Trip of Death and to the Celtics at home. That's it. So, for all the crying about what he doesn't do - I will say that his presence has a lot to do with why we are 21-10. We're 15-4 with Josh - let's keep that in the forefront of criticisms...and publicly I say - I LOVE Josh Smith - I only say what I say so that he can prove me right in my assessment that he can be our visible superstar (Joe can continue to be our invisible one).

Season Prediction

Still at 51-31 and feeling damn good about it. Hawks are 21-10. Can You Dig It? Happy New Year, Hawks fans....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nuggets @ Hawks - 12/29/08

We're going to depart from the normal format and do a quick recap followed by what we want for 2009.

Game Recap Thoughts:

1. 20-10!!!! Winning 2/3 of our games...well, if the Falcons can go 11-5 - we can win 50 AND the South Division. Let's not make our ceiling too low, folks. Let's win our division while we're at it.
2. While I keep hearing that the Nuggets are a much better team, it sure didn't look like it yesterday. Yes, Melo and Billups were off, but they just didn't look to be any better than the Oklahoma City Thunder last night.
3. If we can rebound the offensive glass and shoot the 3 ball like that every 2 out of 3 games, we'll be tough to beat for the rest of the season. I'm still worried about how this translates in the playoffs. I don't remember a lights out 3 point shooting team winning the NBA title since...oh, ever.
4. I take back everything I ever said bad about Bibby. I promise to point that angst toward the ill-fated experiment called - Flip Murray is your backup point and shooting guard.
5. We actually have a home court advantage these days without a rabid crowd. Think of what a rabid crowd atmosphere would do...

For 2009, this is what I want

1. For Zaza to continue to play just the way he's playing right now...Mike don't mess with his minutes, please.
2. For Josh Smith to cease shooting from the outside and to resume doing what all wing players are taught at the age of 10, rebound, then find your point guard, pass it to him, look to get the ball back on the break.
3. For Sekou Smith (who I respect greatly) to show that he has journalistic integrity to find out why Acie Law IV has been relegated to Mario West, Randolph Morris, and Solomon Jones status. Ask Mike Woodson or ask the players or ask the GM, but ask SOMEONE to provide us an answer to this question before me and every other fan/blogger, etc explodes.
4. For Mo Evans and Flip Murray to revert back to the guys who made a big difference in the first 7 games of the season.
5. For Al Horford to make his presence felt in the low post every night.
6. For Mike Woodson at some stage to recognize that we need to prepare our team and offense for the playoffs, which in some fashion means - we need a low post option or we need to re-learn how to get out on running mercilessly (which means we can't expect Mike Bibby to do that for 40 minutes and will need another point guard to keep up the pace...wonder who that would be? Note: His name isn't Flip Murray).

These are my, let's get this road victory to avenge the loss to the Pacers earlier in the season.

Season Prediction:

I'm ready to make a new prediction and that's that we will now go 51-31. Crazy, I know, must believe it to achieve it. Let's Go Hawks!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bulls @ Hawks - 12/27/08

Preamble Ramble

Forgive us up front for our brevity, but when your Hawks are 19-10 and your Dolphins are 11-5 and AFC East Champs - you tend to believe that anything is possible, so I'm on my way to get a lottery ticket and going to spend some time working on my best pickup line in anticipation of bumping into Meagan Good on my plane headed for Vegas.

Ok, enough of my good fortune - on to the game...and what a game. If I wasn't mistaken, it must have been the red, white, and blue ball they were playing with because it was either the Globetrotters and the Generals or maybe the ABA All Stars, but it was a offensive game to behold. To the Hawks analysis...

Game Recap - Hawks 129, Bulls 117

Str8 Butter Award - First a triple double and now 41 and 8..again, I can't deny Joe his due. With apologies to Josh for his great 2nd quarter, you don't shoot well from the land of 3 and lead the team to an seemingly easy victory without a Str8 Butter Award to boot.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Following up on the feeling I've been having since the homestand has begun. Marvin has certainly stepped his game up. I think I've seen 5 And1's in this homestand alone. Not that that's the ONLY measure, but for a guy who I hadn't seen take contact and finish a shot in his entire career - it's a measure for me to believe that in addition to his outside game, Marvin now will go to the hole with effectiveness. An easy 16 and 8 is right on time. Team Midseason MVP is within your reach Marv...
* Smith - Just when I was beginning to believe that JSmoove was feeling the weight of that $58M - he comes out and dominates in the 2nd quarter on the INSIDE. Now, that can't have the weight I want it to since it was against the IN-DEFENSI-BULLS (yes, I just made that up - come see me at the Comedy Act, I'll be there all week), but it's the effort that we've been looking for. Now, let's get back to being the defensive force we know you can be.
* Horford - Another double double, which can't be dismissed, but leave it to me to do so...where is my 27 and 17 Al. Truly. I'm really starting to garner some concern over Al's role in the offense and, more importantly, whether he's being developed to be a low post presence and force.
* Bibby - 17 and 7, effective from 3 ball range...yep, a point guard who can score does make a difference in a game like this. Now, it's even MORE effective if you don't let the opposing point guard torch you time after time.
* Johnson - JSmoove is a part of this, but I'm about to eat my words and say that I was wrong - Joe Johnson is not only our best player, but he's also our most talented player. I'm not there yet, but it would be nice if JSmoove could do something to prove me right. Please...

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Can we continue to repeat this chorus? Another Flippin' poor shooting night. What does it take to get a true point guard in the game?
* Pachulia - Actually, Zaza is the reason that Flip doesn't hurt us as badly as he could. You just have to love the work that Zaza puts in regularly. 10 and 7 on 5 of 7 shooting in 21 minutes is SOLID work. Against the IN-DEFENSI-BULLS, but still effective nonetheless..
* Evans - Mo didn't do much in this game, but when he was in there - he certainly wasn't making noise. Maybe John Hollinger was right...our bench could end up being our downfall.
* Law - Tonight's reason for Acie not playing against quick guards who were handing us our lunch. After hearing Acie sing Christmas caroles, his pagan spirit came forth and Mike is a Christian. Therefore, DNP.
* Jones - Got in the game...but in garbage time. Oh well..developing confidence by the day!
* West - Got in the game in garbage time b/c he deserves to get in the game more than Acie, of course.
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Obviously, the major change this year is that we have offensive weapons that we've NEVER had before. Marvin is a weapon, Josh in transition is a weapon, a healthy Bibby is a weapon...we have weapons and I'd like us to see if we have more - I'll keep saying that Al Horford can be a low post weapon and Acie Law IV can be a bench sparkplug. That's all I'm going to say about that b/c we won, we're 19-10 and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Bro. Woodson.

Str8 Talk Love

No Love to share as I missed my 3rd home game of the season. We'll be back after the holidays.

Season Prediction

We said if we can move to 20-10, I'll move us up to a 50 win season. One more victory to go....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thunder @ Hawks - 12/23/08

Preamble Ramble

You can either call it Thunder vs. Heat or you can call it the Old Hawks vs. the New Hawks. Yes, that's how I felt when watching the game inclusive of the quiet b-ball star in Durant. If those weren't the Hawks of yesteryear complete with close but no cigar loss, then I don't know what it was. There's more analogies, but it's Christmas Eve - I have Christmas shopping to start and there is little time to waste.

Game Recap - Hawks 99, Warriors 88

Str8 Butter Award - The Hawks first triple double since 2006 suggests that it's worthy of a Str8 Butter award courtesy of Joe Johnson. We've been saying that the first few games of the season dubbed the Super Joe era had been replaced by the Sloppy Joe era (complete with missed shots galore) and with 8 for 23 shooting - the contention could be made that that's still the case. But with triple doubles come kudos, so welcome back, Super Joe. Now, bring your shooting stroke back with you.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - 9 for 13, 21 pts, 7 I said to some Hawks staff during the game - I'm beginning to think that my Marvin for super sub is beginning to sound more genius by the day and that Marvin adding some finishing touch at the rim may be all we need to see 18-20 pts out of him each week to go with some defensive prowess. Keep an eye on Marvin through the next 14 games to see if he can be my midseason MVP.
* Smith - Now, JSmoove on the other hand - not really feeling the energy and explosion from you. Putting up 19 pts on 6-11 shooting may seem impressive, but then you remember you are playing the Thunder and we decide that maybe that's not much of an accomplishment. Where is my superstar potential at, Smoove?
* Horford - I'll put you in the Smoove category. Never in a million years did I think that I would like to see more Marvin and Zaza over more Smoove and Horford, but right now - that's where it is. I know EVERYONE loves your game, Al, but I would like to see more production. Double doubles should be at a MINIMUM your nightly output - less than 10 shots or not.
* Johnson - See Str8 Butter Award...
* Bibby - An mildly good game - never feeling in jeopardy, some penetration, made some shots. Just enough to keep this from the disaster that was last year's Seattle 2OT victory.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Oh just another night of Flip at backup point guard. [smashing head against wall]
* Pachulia - As I noted above, I actually wanted to see Zaza stay on the floor over Al for the rest of the game. The box score doesn't reflect the hard work Zaza was doing on both ends of the court. If no one else does, we appreciate you, Zaza (well, I guess maybe another blog does being that they named it after you...)
* Evans - At the rate Mo's shooting has tailed off, it's time to see some lockdown defense to justify your presence on the court. Surely, poor performance would require you to sit on the bench for games on in like other Hawks players (wait for it.....Acie) vs. letting them play through it. Of course, that's the way it works, right?
* Law - So, we've resigned ourselves to list a reason per DNP (yes, 1 minute in garbage time is called a DNP to me). Tonight's reason - Acie was Coach Woodson's Secret Santa and got him a turd sandwich...yes, that's why you didn't see the floor vs. the worst team in the league. Couldn't risk you shining against Earl Watson or anything or worse mess up your confidence while being taken to school by Russell Westbrook...
* Jones - Well, at least you jacked up and hit a 3 - that's the way to make those garbage minutes work for you.
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I share Drew's (from Zaza's Playground) sentiments - if you can't play Acie last night, basically, you're saying to me - Acie, you're not playing until someone gets hurt and I HAVE to play you OR it's a blowout. Otherwise, you're not getting into a game. The question I want Sekou Smith to ask is - can we please get an understanding of why Acie and Solo can't get minutes? I'm desperate to see a backup point run the offense (well, maybe I should say - run, period). I really hate to complain after W's, but isn't this apparent to everyone at this stage? How can it make sense to play Flip Murray at point guard? NOTHING about his game says point guard. Nada! Have we yet said - wow, these guys look really good with Flip running the offense...I'll buy a drink to the person who can point to a 5 minute stretch when anything said yeah, the Flip at poing guard experiment is where it's at...

Seriously, I'd rather see the Joe Johnson dribble around isolation offense than that (and everyone knows how much I love our 4th quarter isolation offense).

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Crowd SUCKED! Period.

2. The Overscene - See Crowd, The

3. Our experiences - See Overscene, The

4. The Honey Quotient - Sensing the pattern here.

5. Hawk Shouts - Merry Christmas to Stacie, Boma, Will, and everyone else at Philips

6. The After Party - There was an after party. Actually a couple - it was either go to Devyne's VIP Black Tie party with stars and women galore or go to my boy's family soiree complete with casino games and ... uh, funny cigarettes. Well, while most would go with the black tie, mainly due to my love of the Hawks and the company I kept - we went with the game. Actually, both invites were extended at the last minute, so it would have been a hassle to do both anyway...I mean going to a Hawks game in black tie would have been a little much...

Season Prediction

48-34 isnt' going anywhere, but again - the pace is 52-30 right now, so just keep riding the wave, Hawks fans...what a Christmas present 18-10 is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pistons @ Hawks - 12/21/08

Preamble Ramble

I hate to disappoint the people and my fellow bloggers, but with the Dolphins looking to win the AFC East, my fantasy football team poised to win a title (and another laying an egg in the 3rd place game), and family in town - a 2pm game on Sunday after church. Not happening...(and as an alert to folks who want to get a MLK Day game update - uh...that's when I'll be having my pre-Obama drinks and revelry in DC. Now, that said - I did watch the game at the sports bar with a Piston fan...glory!!!

I'll save my major thoughts below, but one note about the Pistons - they really look like a shell of their former selves. As I've been saying to people who wanted AI or Rasheed to join our team, actually just bolsters the argument that I always made - we need a Billups or Prince (or even a Stuckey), not a Sheed or AI.

Game Recap - Hawks 85, Pistons 78

Str8 Butter Award - Mike Bibby show yo self. 5 treys in the 2nd, that's what's hot in the streets, huh...anytime we get copious 'heat check' calls from Nique, then it's a good day.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Not the best shooting day, but again - I still see a little more aggression in Marv's game and I couldn't be more excited. Now, if we can get the finishing thing to rachet up in the same way - he went from jump shooter to 3pt stroker, I'll be advocating a Marvin Williams extension this time next year.
* Smith - Now, JSmoove was missing a lot of shots yesterday (per usual), but what I did notice was Josh on the block and backing his player into the paint - and either forcing a foul or making a bucket. Could this wrinkle sustain itself? What a wonderful thing if it could...
* Horford - Same deal - 9 shots, double double...some impact in 40 minutes, but not super production like we want from a guy who looks like he could easily be 18 and 10 on a nightly basis.
* Johnson - The Joe who is a great teammate and causes matchup problem is also the same guy who reverts to dribbling around to try to make a play down the stretch - my question is .. is this by design?
* Bibby - A great day of time, tell Mike to run you off screens and just keep feeding you until you stop hitting 3s. I was waiting for a 40 pt night...milk it when you can, baby.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - As predicted, back to backup point guard..enter expletives here.
* Pachulia - So, was it the matchups or what b/c if I was doing all the dirty work on the 2nd team - it would seem as though I deserved more than 6 minutes if I only had 1 foul. That's just me, though.
* Evans - More poor shooting, but still minutes...hmmm!
* Law - DNP. Yep, WE PREDICTED IT! a DNP - it's really just becoming laughable at this point. Good thing we're winning or else I'd be calling for all out mutiny.
* Jones - DNP. See Law
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Ok, we won the game and I'm trying my damnedest to leave our coaching philosophy alone, so I will just ask questions. When up by 18 pts, could we find NO minutes for Acie or Solomon Jones? When we were winning with ball movement, could we not recognize that they were coming back at the same time that we reverted to the Joe 'run around..I really need to find an acronym for this..and create some shot' Johnson 4th quarter offense? Does Zaza deserve at least 15 minutes a game? Why do Evans and Murray deserve more minutes when they are not playing well, but Law and Jones do not? If we are up by a lot, shouldn't we rest our starters for the season wear and tear AND so they have energy in the 3rd and 4th quarters? Anyway, just questions...

Str8 Talk Love

None today..

Season Prediction

48-34...onward to 20-10!!!!!

Warriors @ Hawks - 12/19/08

Preamble Ramble

After everything that was said about the Celtics/Hawks game, we're back to what I've become used to - mildly sparse Friday night crowd, underwhelming Hawks victory...which is a major upgrade over the past days of no crowds unless a major star or big city team comes to town and overwhelming Hawks loss. So, we'll take this victory to get us back on track and allows us to continue to dream of a home court advantage in a playoff series. If my Dolphins can contend for an AFC East title, anything is possible.

Game Recap - Hawks 115, Warriors 99

Str8 Butter Award - Marvin Williams, STEP UP!!! As someone who has railed against Marvin's inability to play strong, guess who has been playing strong lately - MARVIN WILLIAMS. Now, I'm not sure if that's come at the expense of seeing Horford and JSmoove play strong as well, but it can't hurt to see another attacking weapon, so for your 22 and 9 - you are str8 Butter!!!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - I think the main things have been said, but Marvin also hit 10-13 shots and you don't hit 10-13 often unless you are going to the hole. Thanks for buckin' up, Marv.
* Smith - Again, Jsmoove has done his normal line stuffing, but we've yet to see the next level of progression in his game (particularly when some of that line stuffer includes 5 TOs - those are becoming too frequent for our tastes). To win in the playoffs (yes, that's the litmus test for production we're using now), we've got to see more out of you, Josh.
* Horford - Ditto for you, Al. While I appreciate your quiet, solid production - it's about time that we see some 20 and 10s out of you. I know that's difficult on 9 shots (I mean Flip squeezed off 12 in 7 less minutes), but leave it to me to cajole Bro. Woodson on that item (yo, Mike...get Al more shots)
* Johnson - I guess I'll make it 3 in a row. Joe, the scortch the league Joe Johnson hasn't been seen since the first 10 games of the season, so let's get it back in order and get you back on your 30pts a game we have grown to love.
* Bibby - While it hasn't a great scoring night, this is what I like to see when the shots don't fall - rebounds and assists. Mike is making himself feel more point guard like by the day...

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Good shooting night and the gunner was back. And that's what we pay you for - to be the BACKUP SHOOTING GUARD. Not sure of the team fit, but hey - we'll take it for a game.
* Pachulia - I'm running out of things to say different about ZaZa because he just comes in and puts in 15 minutes or so of tough b-ball. Now, the question is - will he ever be able to do more than that? Sure would be nice to see a low post presence out of the backups.
* Evans - Mo's 3pt shooting has tailed off (which is something we can say for most of the team right now), but as long as we continue to hold teams under 100pts - I'll continue to say nothing of the dropoff too much.
* Law - Ok, so he gets 5 assists in 8 early minutes and so, that doesn't warrant more time. Even when we were up by 10 early...i mean is there ANYTHING we can do to get Acie on the court?
* Jones - Yes, finally we got to see Solo get in and immediately make an impact. If only we could see it on a game by game basis, i'll put money on the fact that he won't even see the court on Sunday.
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Again, no arguing with results - still want someone to explain why our young players can't get any burn. I will be bringing this up repeatedly until I get an answer. Not only that, I'll be the first person to mention it during our playoff series when Bibby is in foul trouble, Flip hurts an ankle, and Acie looks like a rookie playing against the Pistons and getting eaten alive by Stuckey who was drafted AFTER him.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Not much to discuss here...ho hum crowd

2. The Overscene - Again, no overscene either - all the celebs came on Wed...

3. Our experiences - We were able to enjoy the entire game b/c there wasn't much else to check out. For the first time, nothing really special to mention other than a victory.

4. The Honey Quotient - No need to repeat myself..

5. Hawk Shouts - N/A

6. The After Party - No after party...

Season Prediction

No changes - 48-34, the next benchmark for an upward change will be at 20-10, so we got 3 more home victories to go.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Final Celtics Thoughts - ESPNHD Edition

Two more items from the Hawks/Celtics game that should bear monitoring and review for the remainder of the season.

1. During ESPN's Ric Bucher's interview with Mike Woodson after the 3rd period, Bucher asked the question regarding what would Woodson do to help Joe Johnson get off in the 4th quarter. Woodson's response was "he might not get off, so we need other folks to step up". On one level that makes perfect sense...but here are the two troubling parts of that statement..

a) It's the coach's job to employ strategies that help your players. Whether that is putting him in the post, running screens, pick and rolls, running an inside/out game with Josh or Al, whatever - that's a better answer than - the other folks need to step up. Yes, we know that, but are you going to do anything to help with that step up process. Is it to run more? Is it to run the offense through Horford, etc? A better answer would give me more comfort that our team is actually being coached up on the offensive end.

b) Even if the answer was vague (intentionally or unintentionally), the result was simply the same 4th quarter 'let Joe Johnson run around until he can figure out how to get off a shot or make a play while everyone else sits around waiting to make a shot in the last 3 minutes of close games' offense - I've been watching for years now. [I added some words just for you, Coco].

2. The final note that Mark Jackson made with regards to the Celtics' bench play in the 4th quarter. They were not particularly effective, but when the play by play asked how long they can go without Pierce and Garnett - he made the point that this is when you have to build trust and confidence in your bench players. The bigger picture toward winning the championship is at stake and so without giving up the game - it is important to give those guys minutes and to let them know that they are expected to contribute to win games like this one.

Now, parlay that against Solo and Acie sitting on the bench for the entire just sets up to be a self fulfilling prophecy if those guys aren't ready in a big game if we need them b/c they aren't PLAYING in the big games. The point being - you have to win, but if we don't assist the players with their confidence and their awareness during these types of games - how do you expect them to contribute in meaningful ways during future big games or during the playoffs?

Just thoughts....

Last note - In the understatement of the year, play by play announcer category, here's what was said after Joe missed the 2nd free throw at the end of the game.."Joe Johnson's miss may turn out to be a costly one". You don't that the #1 NBA announcing team you sent to Atlanta? b/c it doesn't get more insightful and stellar than that. Seriously...

That said, let's get this win tonight vs. the Warriors

More Celtic Thoughts

After watching the game again on Fox Sports HD, I noticed a few more things that got lost in my fan-dom, networking, and soaking up everything that was happening at Philips Arena.

1. Ludacris really could have done more than 2-3 songs.
2. Marvin Williams really should have gotten my Str8 Butter Award. He was active, played some defense, attacked the basket, and was truly the glue during a poor shooting night for the Hawks.
3. Yes, the Celtics used their experience to win that game, but after watching the game again - I felt more and more as if we lost the game more than being beaten. Now, that's not an easy thing for me to say b/c it sounds like sour grapes and gives off the element of 'we are better, we just lost'. I'm not saying that at all. Paul Pierce didn't kill us, Ray Allen was off, the Celtic bench was ineffective. On the flip side, the Hawks couldn't hit from 3 (and I'm talking about 10 wide open looks), Al missed open looks, etc...but in both games this season - the Hawks did not look like they were playing out of their minds (like they did in the playoffs) while the Celtics were playing their poorest.

In essence, it wasn't a perfect storm that created those 2 close games. It was the fact that the Hawks have a legimately good team. We still haven't gotten the killer instinct and panic a bit down the stretch b/c of our reliance over the years to just give the ball to Joe Johnson and hope he can make something happen down the stretch instead of doing what we've done well all year - share the ball and create open looks for others.

We'll see if I learn more after watching the ESPN HD version of the Hawks/Celtics before heading to the Highlight Factory tonight for our 16th win...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Celtics @ Hawks - 12/18/08

Preamble Ramble

It was said by me when the Hawks played the Celtics in Boston earlier this season, but it bears repeating. There are no moral victories for good teams. Now, it's been awhile since we could reasonably call the Hawks a good team, so it may ring foreign, but we should not be happy in any shape, form, or fashion that we played a good game against the Celtics. Maybe encouraged by certain elements of the game, but definitely not happy with the outcome.

Bottom line, we actually controlled our destiny in this game and, dare I say it, should have won (OR at bare minimum, played an extra period). There's lots of analysis today and it seems like every blogger has something to say, so I'll do my best to keep certain themes from being regurgitated. So, here's a few thoughts

1. Joe has to make that shot. I won't overstate that, but I don't want it to be understated either. With the pressure of being THE MAN, you have to take that criticism. LeBron took it. Kobe took it. Shaq took it. Joe has to take it - sorry, but I don't care about what else happened - you have to make that shot. Period.
2. Maybe just maybe Acie could have played Rondo and the pick and roll better than Bibby. The funniest part of the night was hearing 2 random people in the stands asking why Acie was in the doghouse - to which I replied in my head...uh, he's been there since he was drafted by this organization, so don't think that NOW is some change.
3. The DUNK - Sorry, but whenever you watch JSmoove take a jumper - we should implant something in his brain that flashes the thought - yeah, I'm Josh MFin' Smith and I probably can dunk on you like I did Kendrick Perkins, so NO, I won't take this jumper - YES, I will dunk on your head and become a superstar.
[Note: Several DUNK references are coming.]

Game Feedback - Celtics 88, Hawks 85

Str8 Butter Award - Listen, Joe would have it hands down if not for missing that free throw. My free throw bias will not allow me to give him the award, which opens the door for a less deserving player with maybe the play of the year so far - Josh Smith step right up...that dunk all by itself is the very definition of STR8 BUTTER!!!!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Maybe it's Alison who causes Marvin to get the And1, but 2 out of 3 games - Marvin has finished at the rim with contact. Wonders never cease. Now, what also happened is ...Marvin forgot that he was a 80% free throw shooter. So, he had a decent game, but when playing the best - he has to bring his best. Decent doesn't cut it.
* Smith - My favorite line stuffer made the DUNK legends could be made of if this was a real rivalry. There's not a fan in the building that didn't stand up and say OMG!!! Every Celtic fan in my row (and regrettably there were many) came over with a high five. I haven't watched the game recap on ESPN or FoxSports (I DVR'ed both), but I can't wait to see what they had to say about it. Anything less than - "And this is why he should never take another jump shot" deserves scorn and mockery.
* Horford - He got 10 shots and put up an un-Al-like percentage, but he did perform admirably on defense, so we'll give the pass, but it's nights like tonight when we need to take the ball to the basket to the Human Fouling Machine named Kendrick Perkins. If we did that, maybe he's not in the game to block Joe's shot down the stretch. Then, again - maybe he's not there to get dunked on tomato, to-ma-to!
* Johnson - I'm going to be less than fair and just sum it up with - can't miss that shot. I love you, Joe. Don't let it keep you down, use it for fuel for the rest of the season and still - you can't miss it. I expect an average of 35pts a game for the rest of the home stand to prove to me you understand this concept.
* Bibby - A bad shooting night combined with some suspect defense says...uh, maybe Acie can get some minutes...well, maybe not.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - The gunner was in and made a few shots. No complaints there. I do have a complaint of having him running point at any juncture, but that's not his fault - that's on the coach.
* Pachulia - Same Zaza output...
* Evans - Not much of a stat line and not much of an impact other than to keep the team defense working well.
* Law - DNP - I think I've said all I can say on this. I guess I didn't think this was an inherited trait, but it looks like Salim's treatment had to get passed down to someone and ...hooray, Acie - you've got the Woodson Gas Face Treatment.
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I won't put this on coaching as much as I like to say that coaching is not a Hawks strong suit. Aside from actually meeting Woodson tonight and being encouraged by this quote "He (Joe Johnson) is our All Star and we just need to encourage him because he is going to win more games for us than lose them," I had to use the restraint of a nun to keep from asking what he has against Acie. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Oh, that and what in Sam's Hell makes you think Flip should be running the offense EVER.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Our now 15-10 Hawks were treated to the best crowd since last season's playoffs. While folks still haven't grasped the concept of the game starting at 7PM, it was good to see that by the 3rd quarter - the place was PACKED and all in line on 'Let's Go Hawks' and 'DE-FENSE' chants for the remainder of the game. Even standing for the last few minutes. Yep, the crowd while inconsistent knows how to put the home team advantage in effect. An amazing feat actually for a crowd in one of the most fickle in this country. Still too much green for my tastes, but I was encouraged by the fact that Hawks fans finally were courageous enough to shout down the Celtic fans (not that they had much to cheer about until the last 5-6 minutes of the game). Progress, people, progress!

2. The Overscene - Here's the rundown - many Falcons, Dr. J, Ludacris, Ronnie Devoe, Jazze Pha, Mario, Jerome Bettis, and I'm sure countless other fake celebrities.

3. Our experiences - This game had special significance since my brother was able to join us hours after landing in town from Los Angeles. The budding acting star was coming home for the holidays and I lucked into 2 extra tickets, which I was happy to give to him and my man Willy, so we had two extra voices to ride the Hawks to victory (or so we hoped). Now, let me go ahead and address this head on - there was a major fight in the club level. Who does that in the Obama era? Here's my thought...if you are able to score club level tickets or are paying for them, there should be NOTHING worth fighting for. Did you guys not see what those ladies were wearing? Did you not see the score? Again, how were you focused on beef when there were ladies looking like Halle Berry on her best day? And if you are - don't clear out the dessert table while doing I am gonna get my cheesecake fix otherwise?

One more note - the Hawks dance team's first routine - really, really NOT good for a big game. Bad song, bad routine.

Finally, big ups to Willy, Lamar, Craig, Fard, Jimmese, Tinisha, Sandy, Courtney, Shani, Charlie, Howard, and I'm sure countless more that I'm not remembering right now (and you'll understand why when you get to the After Party section)

4. The Honey Quotient - And finally - we brought it to Miami Heat game levels (that's how everything will be judged from this point forward). As my brother said, it's so good to see posteriors back in full effect (mind you - he's been living in LA for almost 2 years, so perspective is a lil' skewed for him, but for one night - I agree). Yes, everyone came dressed in their best show what yo mama gave you outfit. Thank you weather gods for keeping it warm enough to allow some women to attempt to wear things they wouldn't or shouldn't otherwise.

5. Hawk Shouts - Harlee, Stacie, Boma, Will, guys rock

6. The After Party - To flush the system of my Paul Pierce hate and the sting of the loss (and to celebrate Ali's visit to the A), we made a dash to Luckie Food Lounge. Now, normally anytime I find myself having to stand in line to get into any spot - it's a no go. Not b/c I'm above it, but because I have promoted and advertised events in Atlanta for over 10 years. So, a party is a party is a party. If I can't get in one at one spot, there's bound to be another spot to go to. It is Atlanta for goodness sake. That said, Ali - it's always good to have someone as resource as you in the midst - it's what made us such a dangerous tandem when we ran the streets back in the day. NE way, leave it to Ali to find us a way into the spot in the time it took me to park the car. A few drinks later, a lesson on how to make a Guinness on draft properly, some dancing, some confusion on why the sushi bar that you want people to buy food from is behind a VIP velvet rope, and some dirty looks from folks thinking that I was with the insanely hot Ali (sorry folks - just friends) concluded a very long, satisfying evening. [Note: it was only satisfying b/c I got to see my brother and hang with one of my favorite people. A Hawks win and I could have been there with a Klan member and it would have been a satisfying night.]

Season Prediction

Ok, we're at the almost 1/3 portion of the season and we're 15-10, expolate that out and you're at 45-30 with 7 games to go. Can we win 3 of 7 to close the season out? I say yes, so it's 48-34. Mark it down.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Milsap for Christmas

Since I've spent so much time talking about games, the scene, the nightlife around the Hawks, I figure it's time to talk about what's left in building our team into a contender.

I'll start with what we have that's solid for a championship contending team...

PG: ? - I don't know that we have a point guard that can take us to the promised land, so there's a need open here particularly with M. Bibby's contract. We certainly can't pay $15M for Mike's next contract. A distributor and leader would go well here. A Chauncey Billups type is highly desired.
SG: Joe Johnson - Joe is a definitely a championship quality SG.
SF: Josh Smith - I say upfront that Josh still needs to learn the game. That said, his athleticism and energy are things that - once harnessed - can't be replicated by many in the game. As for being out of position - Josh already doesn't play on the block and has the athleticism to cover small forwards, so let's just play him here.
PF: Al Horford - Al is a young beast in the post. It would be nice to give him the ball in the post, so that he's comfortable there when we need a bucket down the stretch in a pressure packed game. The Joe Johnson run around until you can find a shot to hit in the 4th quarter strategy doesn't work so well in the far reaches of the playoffs.
C: ? - We do not have a center that commands any respect on the offensive or defensive ends of the court. Big time need here...preferably a mobile giant who can play defense and finish on the break.

Backup PG: Acie Law IV. Listen, I may be in the minority, but I'm convinced that Acie can come in and push the ball, bring some energy, and run the team for 15-25 minute stretches. Does he have to learn the game? Yes. Has he been given the ball and an offensive strategy/role to implement that? No.
Backup SG: Maurice Evans. He's not a natural shooting guard, but he can hit spot up 3pts, defend, and get some rebounds. Plus, he's a veteran. I'll take it.
Backup SF: Marvin Williams. I'd consider it a failure if he were to be any regular backup SF, but I envision Marvin as the super sub. The guy who comes in knowing that he doesn't have to fight Joe and Josh for shots, but that comes in for 20 minutes to GUN and dominate the backups of the other teams, not be a spot up 3pt specialist with the starting unit. That's not what we signed up for, but feeling like he's a Jason Terry / Manu Ginobili would take some stink off this selection and still keep Marvin in the fold.
Backup PF: ? - No, we don't have a power forward who can fill this role, though I'm intrigued to see how much better Solomon Jones can be when given a role and consistent minutes.
Backup C: Zaza Pachulia. Easily a good backup for a championship squad. As long as he accepts the role and spits fire in KG's face, then that's what we need.

Coach: ? - I'm trying to stop pointing out the negatives of Mike Woodson, but I challenge anyone to look at the coaches who have won championships and tell me what's consistent about them and then tell me that we have a coach that will take us to a title. They have an offensive and defensive philosophy. The players know their roles. They have vocal veteran leadership. The coach makes adjustments when necessary.

So, what does that miss and what does this require from the Hawks?

So, what are we using that we don't need...
Flip Murray, step right up. If he can turn into Vinnie 'Microwave' Johnson and we use him exclusively that way, then keep him. If not, then not so much.
Mike Bibby, you're next. I love Mike's ability to shoot, but I would love more - vocal leadership and the ability to penetrate and dish. Mike's not a problem, but his defensive liabilities are not made up for on the offensive end like say...Steve Nash's. So, Mike - you aren't on the Hawks championship team either.
Everyone else on the end of the bench - it's all interchangeable since you would only use at max 9 players in a playoff run anyway, so Gardner, Hunter, Morris, West - whatever happens, happens
Mike Woodson - Look, I'm happy he's seeing some success now, but let's not mistake that for championship level coaching and that's all I'm going to say about that.

So, what do we need, then...
A PG and a Center - Like the rest of the league
and a backup PF and a coach.

These are the four things needed to get the Hawks to a NBA title...easy enough, right?

I won't speculate on what's attainable in this mix, but I am intrigued by one player who may be exactly what we need and might be a target - Paul Milsap. A back to the basket, good shooting, good energy, team concept (taught by Jerry Sloan) big man. He's undersized, but could fill in as a starter or backup for our squad. So, that's what I'm sounding my drum for for Christmas.

Hawks/Celtics Preview

I'm really only doing a preview because we've won whenever I'd done a preview (twice) and so, I'm trying to align all the stars. Not b/c I think this win counts more in the win column than any others OR because i think it'll do something for this team to beat the Celtics b/c I don't. Personally, I'd trade winning the Nets back-to-back and the Pacers game for a loss tonight.

I do think it'll do something for the city and the fans and help them realize that we have a serious basketball team that hopefully can make some noise in the playoffs this year, BUT we need a home court edge to do so. So, we need to win for the fan base to get on board with the rest of the season, so they see the atmosphere and buy some tickets.

So, I realize why we have ESPN, Ludacris, etc in the house, but personally - I'd rather see these marketing efforts for the unsellable games like the Grizz or Bobcats rather than the Celtics. You don't need the glitz and glamour to sell this one, do you? When I go to the Warriors game on Friday - we'll see just how many folks are in the house. That said, come on down to Philips Arena and support the HOME TEAM (unlike my friend Alison who is joining me tonight and vows to cheer for the Celtics - if you see a gorgeous young lady who is being mercilessly yelled at by a handsome Southern gentlemen - just know that it ain't 1992 and we ain't David Justice and Halle Berry). GO HAWKS...

Oh, and read Drew's piece, which seems to be stolen right out of my head regarding the game (minus the Celtic hate).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bobcats @ Hawks - 12/15/08

What's with old Hawks coming back to haunt you? First, Al Harrington, now Boris, if only Diaw would have played with half of that intensity - he'd still be a Hawk (also, here's another example of Billy Knight's vision, not bad on selecting non-PGs, I'd say). Anyway, let's get the game feedback. Mind you, I did not make this game, but will be in the house for the Celtics and Warrior games this week, so we'll be back with more detailed blogs

Game Feedback - Hawks 83, Bobcats 79

Str8 Butter Award - Joe Johnson, step right up. In what we hope is a precursor to a big game on Wednesday. A 28pt, 8 ast, 5 reb. night is always worthy of the Str8 Butter Award esp. with no turnovers in 45 minutes of action. Wish I could see Joe take over down the stretch, but there was no TV for the game, so we'll have to take the 'excitement' of the ESPN highlights and radio cast.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Get it out of your system. We'll need some aggressive play at the rim and 3pt shots. Expect the 3pters, be happy and surprised if anything occurs at the rim.
* Smith - Still shooting 3s (ugh!), but as we have said - if Josh can show up everywhere else outside of that mental block - we'll take it gladly. 5 blocks, 7 boards, 15 pts on 6-11 shooting. If only he could see that the 3pt shooting is killing his shine.
* Horford - Yes, 12 shots for Al and a double double ensues...can we keep the trend going? PLEASE!!!
* Johnson - Only concern is feeling like we need 45 minutes of Joe to beat the Bobcats, but another story for another time
* Bibby - Like Marvin, let's make sure we get these 3pt no-connect binges out of our system now. The Green Monster is coming to town...

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Continuing his trend of - if I'm not scoring, I'm worthless routine. Gotta figure out how to get him out of his slump (I cringe at saying shoot your way out of it - for fear that he'd take MORE shots than he already does, but it's been about 4 games of nothing from you, Flip).
* Pachulia - Maybe the shoulder was acting up b/c the play Zaza has given should result in more than 7 minutes
* Evans - An offensive clunker, but the rebounding was on point. Flip, this is what you do when your shot is not falling. Rebound and defend. Repeat.
* Law - I'm thinking that the only thing that will resolve this situation is one that I clearly am not wishing on my team - a Bibby injury. And if that happens, I'm convinced that Mike would actually ask Sund to go get a veteran guard or would ask Craig Claxton to come back to play on the gippy legs. That's my rant...
* Jones - Against scrubs, you still don't trust these guys, huh.
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Didn't see it, so no attacks, but I still have a problem with not looking for ways to make Acie and Solo a part of a regular rotation. One where these guys actually play with the starters - not Flip and co. and build their game while we win. Is that too much to ask?

Str8 Talk Love

None today.

Season Prediction
If we finish out this week 3-0, look for the revised prediction. Let's get after the Celtic streak down, another to go.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cavaliers @ Hawks - 12/13/08

The Serve Notice Game is what we will call it. As I noted to my man, William, if the Hawks were really what we think they are this year (an above mid-level team) - they will win the game. Mind you, these Hawks have beaten the best teams in the league on their home court before in past years...and then, they'd follow it with a 6 game losing streak. So, I didn't believe we couldn't win this game. The question was - would we bring the level of energy we need in a game where the opponent wouldn't take us lightly AND on a road-home back to back.

Well, our fears weren't realized...Hawks Win! Atlanta Wins! Check the game recap...

Game Feedback - Hawks 97, Cavaliers 92

Str8 Butter Award - Mike Bibby, step right, the one thing that definitely makes me like Mike Bibby is his ability to provide that rip your heart out quote - he did it in Boston and he said it again for this game - we came to win a game, not watch LeBron and fans, you should to. Well, easier said than done for the best player in my opinion on the planet (apologies to Kobe), but I hear you - Mike. You showed and proved with big shots down the stretch and for that - you get our Str8 Butter Award.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Forget anything else that happened - the free throws, 3pters, boards, blocks...let's focus on what DID happen - an AND 1. Yep, I saw it with my own eyes - Marvin went to the hole, took contact, flipped the ball UP and IN, went to the line - finished the 3pt play. Yep, I finally have something new to watch for in Marvin's game, but the AND 1 watch is over...only took 22 games to get there.
* Smith - Just one three pointer and shooting over 50% for the game...uh, yeah - that's about right. Still too many turnovers for you, but I'll take those if you can deliver a game winning block at the end of the game to go with it. JSmoove, I'm still in your corner - I still won't let them try to disrespect your are the most important Hawk, you are the most talented Hawks - we will go as far as you take us. JUST STOP SHOOTING OUTSIDE 15 FT.
* Horford - 5 shots...must. not. explode. take. win. and. shut. up.
* Johnson - the 8 dimes were on time on a night when the 3 ball wasn't falling. Which actually is beginning to be worrisome - started the season on fire, but you have started to lose your touch a little Joe - is it b/c we're reverting back to that - give Joe the ball and clear out offense we all dislike. Ball movement and open 3s - that's what we want.
* Bibby - Straight ballin' - I wonder if you're starting to take my desire to get Acie in the game personally. Please don't - I'm just trying to keep you fresh, baby.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - 17 minutes as the backup guard and the only guard who played outside of Bibby and Joe. It didn't cost us the game, but Flip did nothing of consequence in the game. Yet, 17 minutes....(next point coming...)
* Pachulia - Good minutes again - toughness, made free throws, pulled some boards - he's my bench MVP so far this season.
* Evans - An offensive clunker, but the defense was solid, so we'll give you a pass. And right when I was about to start my Evans for Marvin's starting position rant again.
* Law - DNP - Let me see here...backup point guard needing experience against a team we hope to play in the playoffs when you may need a guard to get in the lane and dish (not a Bibby or Murray specialty)...not one minute could be found, huh? I certainly wouldn't complain if Evans or Murray were doing anything OR if we weren't coming off a road game the night before - the concept of running the ball just didn't even come up, huh? dammit - I'm complaining after a win again. This is what not developing Acie or Solo is doing to me. And we wonder why Josh Smith's B-Ball IQ is so low....
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Finishing my rant - we have enough talent to win games. I still am struggling to have confidence that our team is being coached to have an offensive identity, a rotation that trusts the players and develops them in good and bad times. I'm still waiting for the running Atlanta Hawks from the playoffs last year...i'm still waiting to see a rhyme or reason for our offensive system or to see someone to get fired up and define a role for Law, Jones, and a system of strengths and boundaries that won't be tolerated for JSmoove. Until then, color me unconvinced that we have the coaching acumen to move to top 4 status in the East.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd -14-9!!!! And the crowd is still more starstruck than Hawkstruck. It's ok - that's what 10 years of losing will do, but down the stretch - let's hope we start building the crowd advantage that we need. 7 more home games and possibly some energy that says - being a Hawks fan is COOL.

2. The Overscene - Keeping it quick - Ludacris introduced the players (and is doing a halftime show at the Celtic Game), Ciara was in the house again looking awesome, Kevin Liles, Polow Da Don, Young Jeezy, and so on...

3. Our experiences - I didn't come in with the good mood like I normally do b/f of two things - 1st, that road game in Miami was on my a%% immediately, I guess my road warrior status is being challenged, but man - it was a long night and a longer day with more to come. So, I had to do my best to get my game face on and it was being challenged by High School championship traffic, roadblocks, pass snafus, and the like...BUT the Hawks came out strong in the 1st quarter and restored my love. Thanks guys. As for the scene, it actually was the first game in a while when I felt like Outkast's Player's Ball was unfolding in front of me ("all the players, all the hustlers...talking about a Black Man's Heaven" - classic material, people). So, big ups to all my friends there - J, Courtney, Shani, Howard, Shanay (good luck in London), Charlie, Angie and the rest of the ATL glitterati

4. The Honey Quotient - Ok, for Atlanta standards - it was a great night as expected, BUT after one night in Miami and the next in Atlanta. No comparison...yes, there was some star quality, but not enough to even shake the desire to wish we could switch locales (almost - Miami Hawks sounds good this time of year)...

5. Hawk Shouts - Harlee, Stacie, Boma, Johanna, Will, Andrea...i think i need new Hawks friends

6. The After Party -Last game, it was the Wine Loft. Of course, I wasn't breaking any news with that one, but during the Christmas party season - I attended one at the W Midtown, full of the revelry and tom foolery you'd come to expect (alcohol, dancing, karaoke, regurgitation, repeat) and then a trip to D & B's for a quick minute and then off to the new gem of an underground spot - Milk & Honey. Here's the big hope for keeping this spot fun & interesting, yet unassuming.

Season Prediction
We called it. Win over the Cavs, but we have to make sure we beat the teams we are supposed to, so let's be sure that the Bobcats go down quietly, so we can get ready for Wednesday's Hawks/Celtics clash. No looking ahead...still 47-35! Win 4 straight home games and we'll talk about a revisiting of our 50 game season.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hawks @ Heat - 12/13/08

My Bloggees,

What a treat I have in store for you today...the first half of the Road/Home Back-To-Back Super Blog. Yep, I finally was able to get out of town to see my Hawks. This was my second road game watching the Hawks (the first back in '02 vs. the Clippers) and so, it's with great excitement that I wanted to bring some new energy to break this 3 game road losing streak. Now, to the blog special (and please read it all - we have our first player interviews below):

Game Feedback - Hawks 87, Heat 73

Str8 Butter Award - The Hawks Defensive Effort deserves this game's award, though I can say that the Heat shot terribly most of the game, even when open. So, that includes our rebounding effort. If only we could get that effort every night...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - I mentioned walking into the game that I hope this is the game he gets his And 1. Well, not only did we not get that - he basically took some steps back that were disturbing. No energy at all, head down for portions of the game, and yet - 37 minutes. I understand riding your stars, but Marvin isn't a star and he shouldn't be playing 37 minutes when he's shooting 1-10 (and missing 2 bunnies - albeit with a little contact - at the rim). Acie, I'm working on finding your minutes and about 10 of them are right HERE.
* Smith - Listen, for everything I love about Josh - I'll just say that on one hand - Josh got off the snide a little with this game, but again - until this team confronts the issue of Josh taking these jump shots - we won't move to elite status. Normally, Josh just misses jumpers, but he was putting up MAJOR bricks last night. PLEASE STOP SHOOTING JUMP SHOTS, JOSH!!! You're too good with every other part of your game to have it dragged down by this. At least Joe Johnson finally said something publicly about it.
* Horford - I was listening to Hawk Talk the other night and many people called in to say that Al is the most important player on the Hawks. First, that's patently wrong. Josh should be, Joe is right now, but a guy who puts up 8 pts and 10 boards against a team with no Michael Beasley or any inside presence isn't your most important player, though I can say that 32 minutes and 6 shots is just ridiculous - get the man his touches in the paint.
* Johnson - An average effort for Joe, but his defense and the fact that the Heat sucked made up for it.
* Bibby - Slow start for Mike, but he hit some big 3s to stretch the lead and kill any thought of a comeback. Those 8 dimes were also great to see out of a Hawk PG.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Law - 6 DAMN MINUTES!!! In a blowout....I mean really Mike...really!?! For the backup point guard who needs my best Clinton Portis voice "we've got a genius for a coach." Even in victory, you find a way to piss me off.
* Murray - Pissed off part 2 - uh, Flip isn't a point guard, so why is he running point. If you are an observer of the game, you understand why - I watched 5 passes where Flip found the right open player, but made the pass off target just enough that the defense could recover. THIS is why you let Flip be Vinnie Johnson and let Acie be the setup man. Again, Flip is NOT a combo guard. Stop it, Mike.
* Evans - Solid production off the bench...still miss J Chills, but he's come to endear himself to me by playing consistent ball most nights.
* Pachulia - Big up to Zaza for his yeoman effort on the board and on defense in limited minutes.
* Jones - See Acie Law (replace the number 6 with 2)
* West - Played 2 garbage time minutes...
* Morris - DNP (and I'd be pissed if I couldn't get on the court with 3 minutes left in the game and my team up 18)
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

There should be little to complain about in a blowout road victory. Well, leave it to Mike to make me have to say something - Acie and Solo can't get any burn in a blowout, Josh isn't being lashed for taking jumpers, Al Horford gets 6 shots in the post...AHHHHH!!!!

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Let me just say this - I always proclaim my love for Atlanta and it's beautiful people. Well, let me go on record and just say - even the average women look...amazing. Every hue, flavor, size, and shape - it was great to see. Too bad, I was outside waiting for my tickets early in the game when this could have been reviewed more thoroughly, but to be clear - i can't even imagine how crazy it would be for a big game (Hawks don't qualify yet) on a Friday night when it's ..uh, 80 degrees outside. Good lawd!!!

2. The Overscene - While waiting for my tickets to arrive through the first quarter :(, I saw a guy with a ridiculously large TS chain. Of course, the hip hop in me said - who would put on a fake Terror Squad chain with diamonoids...only in Miami or so I thought. Only to get into the game and find said gentleman hanging out with Fat Joe (head of the Terror Squad) - maybe I shouldn't question the Miami scene like that again. Not many celebs to be seen, but did bump into Glen Rice (or should I say - the ladies that I was with knew Glen and nearly every other person in the Grey Goose Lounge at American Airlines Arena - more on this later)

3. Our experiences - It was fun to see some friends while hanging with my old classmate and ATL road dog Alison. Interestingly, I bump into friends all over the world in the most random places. (aside - last week, in a Harlem grocery store - I bumped into some magazine execs I knew from 8 years ago). Today's random friend was Donae (Moet Hennessy and frat) Burston. As an overall experience it was cool to see an arena that doesn't have all the suites on one side and to just spend your time mostly in the arena. I'm so used to networking and watching the games in Atlanta that you forget what good energy you find watching your squad all game. Though it would be nice to have the flat screens inside the exclusive lounges showing the game feed that has the score AND the non-overhead feed (with all the animations, etc).

4. The Honey Quotient - I think we've discussed this enough, but again - damn! A comparison to the Cavs crowd will be offered in our Cavs recap. But I will add that the Heat dancers are RIDICULOUSLY HOT. Now, what they didn't do was show me that they were together as a dance team. Maybe it was an off night (since my homie and ex-Heat and Hawks dance team member Star attests that the Heat dancers are off the chain), but it wasn't that tight. Now, when you are that HOT - who cares?

5. Hawk Shouts - Woody (since he gave Ali her tickets - ironic, huh..maybe I should ease up on the guy...uh, not! This IS HawksStr8Talk!) and Arthur Triche

6. The After Party - Finally, the part that everyone was waiting on...the after party and you didn't think I flew to Miami on Friday to just see the Hawks and then come home to see the Cavs. You have to sample the nightlife and tonight was no exception. So after about 10 different inquiries with my friends in Miami - it seemed like we were going to roll to Opium or the Delano or some other hotel when our friends started trying to connect with Heat players for their plans (yes, I roll with those folks). Turns out that during our wait for Mike Woodson and Arthur Triche that I met Shaun Livingston (former Clipper and now Heat guard) and Jamaal McGloire in the Grey Goose Lounge. Pretty nice guys, I thought. Ok, let's hit the streets, ladies.

Well, they had plans for dinner and drinks at the Mondrian. Little did I know that this jaunt would turn into the Heat players' hot spot where I sat in VIP hanging out with Shaun, his brother, Shawn Marion, D Wade (though I only met him - he later on sat at this white throne-like seat the head of a table of about 25 people), Mario Chalmers, DaQuan Cook, and I'm sure others I don't remember right now. In any case, say goodbye to doing anything else when you have free drinks, free food, hot ladies, and cool, rich people. Shaun and I had a nice discussion about how Atlanta is ready to bust in basketball love if we can just sustain this successful run. He said he was there at game 6 of the Boston series and that it was electric. He admitted that success would definitely make more players want to play for the Hawks b/c the nucleus is tight and the market is fertile with b-ball fans. On the whole, the Livingston boys showed us a great time and I must say that they represent the organization and NBA players well - intelligent, fun, and engaging. All this despite the fact that I didn't hide my Hawks love. All in all - a great trip and now I'm back in the A for the Cavs game - let's see how it goes for us tonight and if I have my 'energy' for the back to back. If I can do it, so can they - Hawks win tonight

Season Prediction
No movement on the prediction scale - 47-35! And a SWEET victory over the Cavs.

Hawks' Texas Death Trap

This Texas Road Trip caused what the last 5 have - a drink and a two step! Now, I apologize in advance over not getting the game recaps out (for my 5 readers), but there was a road trip and liquor involved and let's just say - I still haven't watched all of the games on my DVR. So, instead of trying peel it back - I figured it's time to just say some things and move on.

Game Recap - Mavericks 100, Hawks 98
Game Recap - Rockets 92, Hawks 84
Game Recap - Spurs 95, Hawks 89

There's a lot that could be said, but we'll be short and concise, so you can get to the Miami half of my Road-Home Back-To-Back Game Recap. So, here's the game synopses.

Mavs/Hawks - First, let's hope that the propensity to get off to slow starts on the road against good teams does not become a habit. Now, since I was in New York with friends - watching the game on my AT&T Tilt using SlingPlayer Mobile (greatest tech invention next to DVR) was out, but I was watching us get killed when I did. Of course, the part I missed (and still need to watch on my DVR) is the crazy 4th quarter comeback. I've heard about the Josh Smith keep the ball instead of giving up the ball scenario and will just comment on it later, but it does highlight the point I made in my last post - I'm a super big fan of everything about Josh Smith with the exception of his Basketball IQ and outside shooting. Since he's 23, I forgive him on the B-ball IQ, though I don't give him a pass on the shooting. That's an issue that can be solved with time on the bench. Anywho, the point here is - Josh, do what you should have learned in AAU ball...get rebound, steal, block, whatever and then give the ball to the POINT GUARD!!!!

Rockets/Hawks - Again, started out watching us get our ish handed to us. Fortunately, we were able to battle back to take a lead. Unfortunately, we couldn't close it out. Of all the games on the road trip - this was the most disappointing to me b/c I thought we actually could win it. We were lucky to keep it close in the other two, but this game just required us to focus down the stretch. No more comments on this until we watch the entire game.

Spurs/Hawks - I watched most of this game and the takeaway down the stretch was...they are champs - we aren't. I mean - who didn't see Manu taking the big shots in crunch time? I'm not sure why we didn't double team him to get the ball out of his hands to make someone else make the big shots, but I'm sure they would have found a way.

That being said, getting 2 wins would have been mega success or 1 would have been a psychological boost for us. Now, we have to win against the Heat to ensure that we aren't back to scrambling and doubting our ability to win. The one glaring takeaway for me was - can Acie get some love? Moving on....

Season Prediction
Back to a 45 - 37 record, it seems, but let's see how we respond to this home stretch starting with the Cavs, where we expect to see BIG THINGS POPPIN!!!! Let's go Hawks!!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Knicks @ Hawks - 12/5/08

Hawks/ game is more despised by yours truly. Why? B/c no fans are more obnoxious with a WORSE team than the Hawks over the past few years than Knicks fans. The level of superiority complex always makes this a fun game and as we all knew - Hawks victory. What made it all the better was that I left the game, got some sleep and then headed to....ONE OF MY FAVORITE CITIES - New York. I was in Harlem doing the Eastside Stomp reveling in victory...Well, maybe not that much in those 25 degree temps, but be sure that Hawk pride was on full display. {Note: We are going to say NOTHING of the fact that Marbury didn't play or that Al Harrington was acting like he used to play in this building before}

Game Feedback - Hawks 98, Knicks 95

Str8 Butter Award - I kinda don't want to give out an award for this game. I loved to see Josh Smith getting things in order in the world in every area, but....taking them (expletive deleted) jump shots, so no award today. I mean seriously, Josh, you are eliminating your chances at the highly coveted STR8 BUTTER AWARD like every game...sigh!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Another Marvin-like performance. Since I said, I wasn't going to knock his faults anymore if he just knocked down open 3 pters. Well, he didn't, but I'll spare you..THIS TIME.
* Smith - {Rant Starting} I'm actually at the point where I think it's the team's fault as well as the coach's fault for Josh's decision to take 3's. I used to be a point guard and throughout my PG days - if a player was incapable of making a particular shot..two things happened, the first was - I'd pass it to him expecting him to know his limitations and letting him know that when I throw him that ball in that situation - save some end of game, no time on clock scenarios - you are NOT to shoot that shot. It's simply not your shot, so I'd encourage him to do what he does best. If that doesn't work, then I'd go to plan B - ONLY passing him the rock when he was in the range I wanted for him. He'd have to go out of his way to STEP BACK to take a long two or a three. And if he did that - I'd look at Mike Woodson and say - get this sucka out. Now, the other problem - Josh, stop taking the ball up the court. you are not a point guard. You are a great finisher. Did you see Worthy taking the ball up the court? NO! He gave it to Magic and busted his ass to get the rock back. Bibby demand the ball on the break and tell Josh to go skyward to put his nutz on someone's forehead. {Rant Ending}
* Horford - Let's see 7 shots for Al...oh, never mind. I'm only allowed one rant per blog.
* Johnson - Awful 3pt shooting, but it's good that he can make up for it in other ways. Lead, Joe , Lead!
* Bibby - the number of the night for me - 9 assists. As long as Bibby has 8-10 assists a game, I'll retract any comments about him getting traded or not playing defense. If not, re-insert all deleted comments.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Law - DNP (Illness)
* Murray - It continues that if Mike doesn't declare him the Microwave and put him in when we need instant O, then this guy is a gunner of the wrong proportions. If you want ball movement, Flip meet Bench. If you want someone to run to the hole as soon as he touches the ball, meet Flip.
* Jones - DNP. That's the way to keep his confidence high and the rotation intact, Mike.
* Pachulia - though he got minutes, repeat above. As I keep saying, Mike <> player development (yes, that's a does not equal sign, people)
* Evans - Good production off the bench...nothing to complain about
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

The game went fine, but as my complaints allude to - we just don't have a rotation that people can count on. I tend to believe that championship teams and coaches win game first, but a close second is build team confidence and prepare for the playoffs. I mean - we are a playoff team, right? that's not in question barring injuries (and to date, injuries haven't derailed at a minimum - the playoffs), so why are we not making sure that Acie, Solo, and Zaza are definitely playing good minutes consistently, so that when the playoffs hit - it's not the deer in headlights. The only player I've seen strive after doing NOTHING in the reg. season was Daniel Gibson in the playoffs in '06. Other than that, nothing I how about we use our players and a 9 man rotation and start acting like Acie is our backup point, like Solo and Zaza can spell Josh and Al for stretches and act like we are preparing for a postseason RUN, not appearance.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - The 12-6 Hawks are definitely a lively crowd when we are playing New York, but why do these bums always out-yell us until about the 3rd quarter. Just can't get over the fact that we can't get crunk for anything other than Lil Jon. Damn, New York fans - you come to our town, buy our tickets, and cheer for bums. Transplants need to transfer - hey, that could be a sales strategy....Hawks call your boy...
2. The Overscene - great crowd - Chris Tucker, Ciara, a bunch of hip hop was a good look people, though I missed some of it b/c I was living la vida loca in the great seats I got AND then in the Heiniken and Atlanta Sports Marketing suites - gotta love suites (and Andre's hookups). Yep, if you want to have fun AND watch the game in style, take Dre
3. Our experiences - I think we just spelled it was a cool crowd from what I could see ALL THE WAY UP in the suite (which save having dinner and drinks is NOT what a basketball watcher should ever desire). Too far from the action, no energy...Not hating on the suites, but just saying that I like seats in the bowl, personally and definitely doesn't surpass courtside. One Knicks note - uh, is there a 3pt basket that they don't like? My goodness - it would have been nice to just take them to the hole, but uh...not so much!
4. The Honey Quotient - Pretty much what you expect from us playing New York on a Friday. Bonanza!!!! that's really all I'm going to say about that.
5. Hawk Shouts - Boma, Johanna, Will, Andrea, Kat (and big up on your art exhibit, hot stuff)
6. The After Party - it was an after party experience, but not official - the Wine Loft next door to Stats was off the hook. leave it to Atlantans to only take 2-3 weeks to totally 'diversify' a cool loungy spot into a 'club'-like atmosphere. Now, just understand that it'll pass as that hot spot and when it does - you'll really like The Wine Loft.

Season Prediction
No movement on the prediction scale - 47-35! And a SWEET victory...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Knicks Preview

Here's all I have to say about tonight - STEPHON MARBURY!!!! Let him play, please. I'd just love to see him actually coming in and dropping 50 on us while losing by 50 b/c he didn't pass to a soul and just jacked up as many 3s as he possibly could.

Ok, that is all I have for you guys today. I'm looking for us to go to 12-6 tonight and since I'm rolling with my main man, Dre - I'm asking the Hawks to not make me have to pay so much attention that I miss the Friday night Knicks crowd (conversely, I am asking the glitterati TO make me pay attention tonight). In any case, it should be a good one on several fronts! So, let's win by 20, so that Nizee, Kaos, and E Swann can regret ever cheering for those bum Knicks...

Let's get it, Hawks!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grizzlies @ Hawks - 12/3/08

First, for a game where the crowd was subdued, there was no TV, and we should not have had any trouble with the opponent - there sure was a lot of buzz prior to this game about this game. I'm not sure if there was more blogging and posting about the Celtics game. Not that I'm mad about Hawks buzz in the least...the moral of this is - DID WE MISS JSMOOVE THAT MUCH!?!? To which, I'll reply - read below and see...

Game Feedback - Hawks 105, Grizzlies 95

Str8 Butter Award - As much as I want to give it to JSmoove to make the return complete, we can't be homers here, so Joe Johnson step right up. Your 3rd quarter was enough to show the Grizz that they weren't going to win this game (as much as we tried to sleep walk our way through the 4th quarter), so for that - you were Str8 Butter!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - So as not to keep harping on what Marvin isn't and focus on what he is. Here's what I will say about him until proven otherwise. Marvin is a good 3pt shooter (I'll say great if he can continue this pace this entire season and follow it up next year in similar fashion) and adequate at everything else (rebounds, making a pass, defense). The only glaring weakness is his inability to finish at the rim. I'm still waiting for an And 1, but no more carping about that - let's just revel in his ability to spread the floor by hitting open 3pt buckets.
* Smith - The stat sheet stuffer is back and not a moment too soon. How good it is to feel comfortable going to the bench to get tough guy Pachulia minutes or even Solo minutes, knowing that it's just to warm the floor for JSmoove's all around greatness. Now, if he had only forgotten that outside jumper.
* Horford - Give Al the shots and he'll produce. It came against the Grizz, but it still was good to see Al work on the block and make plays. Great effort tonight.
* Johnson - Without saying how great he looked tonight - it is worth mentioning that down the stretch when the Grizz were coming back - the hawks did NOT revert to the give the ball to Joe and move out of the way - they actually just ran the offense and pulled out the victory. It was a great thing to see. Go with what got you there and good ball movement and defense is what got us there.
* Bibby - So, it looks like Josh makes up for a lot of defensive breakdowns after all. I fully expected to see Lowry or Conley to go for the normal speedy guard 25 pts vs. the Hawks, but either they were incapable of that production OR JSmoove makes a difference. We'll go with JSmoove and let's give a big shout out to Bibby for a very point guard-like 20 and 10. Passing to players in positions who make shots - it's what we brought Bibby here for. Good scoring and floor leadership - that's what I saw tonight. Let's continue this kind of play vs. good teams as well.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Law - Not seeing the attacking Acie Law from the Raptors game, but again - I'm reduced to just being happy that Law was playing early in the game - now, he was missing late in a blowout (well, until we let that slip), but beggars can't be choosers!
* Murray - Flip, Flip, Flip - one of these kids is doing his own thing. I am coming around to the point that he's not working well in the team concept. I have seen him try to score and score exclusively when he's in the game. No extra passes, no offensive rhythm, or defensive aggression. Maybe it's me, but it's looking like Mike is noticing as well. Minutes are dwindling, my friend.
* Jones - Predictably, there were few minutes for Solo tonight, but when he was there - he came in with energy as usual. Keep rollin' Solo.
* Pachulia - Man, I just love the old Zaza...last year's new Zaza say bye, bye.
* Evans - Let's just be excited that this happen tonight. We all have those nights - just not when we need 1 or more of those shots that he missed. And he missed every shot tonight. Don't let JSmoove's brilliance shake our game.
* West - DNP (virtually)
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Ok, the governor is off and I have nothing to complain about. The minutes were distributed well. The team played with heart and effeciency. Now, i'm sure playing an awful team at home should work that way. Great night for the Hawks and JSmoove's return.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - The 11-6 Hawks certainly weren't helped by the crowd. And on a night when I had the best seats I've had in 2 years - that sucks.
2. The Overscene - While it was a light crowd, there was still some sightings in the way of Keith Brooking, Jerious Norwood, Angie Stone, and Yung Joc (oh, and I saw you Ryan rocking the fly sunglasses while doing the arena announcing - sunglasses..really!)
3. Our experiences - Of course, a small crowd means few things to discuss, but there are some things we always look forward to - the dance team (well, not really), SkyHawk's dunks, a bunch of games/contests, and kiss cam, but what was with the halftime African dance troupe. Uh, good that this was done on the Grizzlies Wed night game...that's all we'll say about that.
4. The Honey Quotient - I repeat - ladies you can come to the games during the week. it won't hurt you. For my 3 readers, we expect a bigger turnout on Friday for the Knicks, so bring out the liquid leggings and tight everything.
5. Hawk Shouts - In a first, I didn't see ANY of my Hawks peoples. guess the Grizz will do that to you.
6. The After Party - No after party, but one more observation - OJ Mayo was NOT impressive. Yeah, he's a rookie, so I expect some off games, but I've been hearing about how well he's been doing this season and well...I'm not sure that I saw anything that made me say 'he's a future superstar'. And as a note - thanks to BK for picking Horford and not Conley - I can't say that Conley is a bust, but anyone that can't blow past Bibby to get to the rim isn't worth having as your point guard. I'll take my chances with Acie Law all day.

Season Prediction
Ok, I'm ready to make a move northward on my prediction of the number of wins we'll have by season's end. I think we will be (drum roll, please)....47-35. Yeah, I know that's a 10 game uptick from last year. I just think JSmoove means 2-3 more victories AND the fact that we are beating every team we are supposed to beat (and those Indiana and New Jersey losses don't look so bad right now - that plus Raptors and Celtics and I can say that 5 losses were liveable losses so far). Which lends itself to saying we are in store for a special season...(Am I going overboard after a victory over the Grizzles? Uh, yeah - probably! But that's what Josh Smith's return does to us - just makes us all crazy and stuff - YES WE CAN!!!)

Memphis Preview

While I haven't gotten to Peachtree Hoops status with my blogging, I have been asked recently to write a few things for other blogs - to their chagrin, I'm sure.

In any case, here's what we got on today's game (I did the Atlanta recap) via 3 Shades of Blue's Memphis Grizzlies blog, check it out here.

And let's go after 11-6 for Josh Smith's return (remember Josh - we have 5 3pt shooters better than you, so you can concentrate on the INSIDE game - no 18 ft and out for you, my friend - esp. on a gimpy ankle).

And we say that with love, Josh!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blogger Roundtable

While waiting for the RETURN OF JSMOOVE, some bloggers (including yours truly) were asked to give some thoughts on the Hawks so far this season. Check it out

Blogger Roundtable

See you at Philips Wednesday for our first look at OJ Mayo!