Let me start this blog off with perspective...the Hawks are 29-21. This puts us on pace for 48-34 and what I think at the beginning of the season - we'd consider an unqualified success. So, if we're using the beginning of the season lens - I have no right saying ANYTHING negative about the Atlanta Hawks.
But I was the guy who said that my New Year's resolution was to evaluate the Hawks as a team where I critique their effort as a team trying to win an NBA title vs. just making the playoffs and having a winning record. So, under that premise...I am reaching Hoopinion levels of pessimism. Instead of reveling in the 2 road wins vs. the T-Wolves and Bobcats (which no self respecting home court advantage reaching team should count as a significant accomplishment), we will dwell on the thing that bothered us about what was my 2nd most disappointing loss this season (the 2nd game of the Orlando Magic back to back still qualifies as the worst loss by far). Here's what we got to say...problem-wise!
1. Coaching - I have always maintained that choosing Marvin Williams was NOT the reason you should fire Billy Knight. Billy Knight was a mid-range GM. He eliminated a significant cap problem in 1 year. He amassed draft picks. He acquired talents such as Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, Mike Bibby, Zaza (at his price - he's a talent), etc. His major flaw was in not drafting Brandon Roy or Paul/Williams and hiring Mike Woodson. Depending on who you trust, the Paul/Williams issue was not Knight's call. He tried to fire Mike Woodson, so you basically would be firing him for selecting Sheldon Williams. Why do I bring this up?
B/c we still have a coaching problem...if last night isn't evidence that the team has given up on Mike Woodson, then I'm not sure what is. We have repeatedly fallen behind games since 2009 began. We have not developed the talent that we do have. I have no idea whether Acie Law, Solomon Jones, Thomas Gardner should be playing in the NBA, but I'm sure that we won't find that out under Mike Woodson. I can also say that I'm not sure if Al Horford, Josh Smith, or Marvin Williams should be playing at star or superstar levels, but I'm SURE they aren't playing their best b/c the coach isn't putting them in positions to play their best.
Al Horford hasn't had an opportunity to show if he can play the post on the offensive end. Josh Smith has the same pros and cons that he's had since year 2. Marvin looks like he still has some growth that can be harnessed, but I'm not sure if he's being coached to be a superstar vs. a complimentary piece.
2. Effort - Haven't we heard this story MANY times before? I wish I had a staff, so I could have them read the post-game interviews from the coaches and players from the top 10 teams in the league. It is important at this stage for me to know if I should be infuriated to see a CONSISTENT pattern of players saying that we didn't show up. To hear the coach say - we didn't show up for significant chunks of games. It completely says that the coach isn't connecting with the players enough to play the whole game or to put in players who will play the whole game. To me, it's preferable to have players in the game who will play all out each game than to play who you think are the best players who don't play the hardest. To me, it seems that that would send the message that if you don't play hard - you don't play, but I'm not a NBA coach or player. So, I need that analysis in order to figure out if I'm crazy or not.
3. Strategy - Explain this, the GM and the coach make it clear ALLLLLLLL season that Flip Murray is the backup point guard and shooting guard. So, the point guard goes down - shouldn't the guy who you have had running the offense (?) when Bibby is on the bench be in the game? If I'm Flip, I'm saying - hey, why am I not starting tonight? Now, I think many are really disappointed that Law hasn't played much, but now you decide to start the 3rd string PG who ain't familiar with running the team.
4. Excuses - I'm tired of hearing lame excuses. I don't know of any good team that uses injuries as an excuse. When the Bucks CRUSHED us without Michael Redd - what was our excuse then. We were playing the CLIPPERS at home. If you are playing a 12-39 team whose best player was on the bench 55 seconds into the game is fireable. Don't give me the Bibby was out - the Johnson was sick, the Horford hasn't gotten back into the swing excuses. It's old, it's tired. Good coaches don't allow that to even be said...I will even accept the offensive woes, but the DEFENSE (which Bibby certainly isn't contributing to) that allows 120 pts at home against the worst offensive team in the league. I mean...that's break chalkboard, throw chairs, put in the entire second string, call cats out at the press conference type of stuff. Instead, I FIRST hear about Bibby to lay down the excuse on the sly, then I hear about it's unacceptable.
Bottom line, I stay consistent in saying - I've basically gotten to the point that I believe that we will be 44-38 and will not have home court advantage and we're going to lose in the 1st round of the playoffs, but hopefully that will be enough to show GM Sund that we need a new coach. I'm over, Mike Woodson, and I'm over excuses from this team. Period.
Rant over...I'll let the other blogs, beat writers, and fans come up with other analysis, but that's what I'm going with until someone can prove otherwise. I'll await a cogent, reasoned analysis to convince me otherwise. (Oh, and I said it pre-injury and will give it a few games, but this love affair with Al Horford is puzzling - I can say I've seen 2 games all year when I said - Al Horford played an awesome, game altering game tonight and that is troubling to me).
Atlanta Hawks "reluctant" to offer Al Horford five-year contract, per report - The Hawks may be unwilling to use the team's best leverage in order to keep Al Horford. Al Horford will hit the free agent market officially at 12:01 a...
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