Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are the Hawks Overachieving?

I've made a habit of not doing full game recaps when the Hawks don't play well. There should always be perspective and what not when writing about the Hawks during games they should win. So, the question that comes to mind is - did the Hawks overachieve in defeating Portland twice or Boston on the road OR did the Hawks underachieve by losing to the injury plagued Hornets, Bobcats, and Pistons? Or both?

We still haven't had enough games locked in to make a true assessment, but certainly the trend lately is following the path of last year's hot start...and that's one where we started by sharing the ball, having hot Joe Johnson, and good bench contributions, only to follow that up with inconsistent effort and execution that ended up with a slightly above average record.

So, we throw that question out and then provide comments about the Hawks/Pistons game...
  • An undermanned squad devoid of its top 3 players and its 4th best player gets hurt in the 2nd half dominates the boards by a clip of 2 to 1. This should cause panic (or at very least a questioning of whether our eyes deceived us in thinking that rebounding was not still a major concern for the Hawks).
  • How you gonna waste a Josh Smith jump shooting clinic? (Note: Josh, don't ever try to put on a jump shooting clinic again! Your J will be removed JUST LIKE THAT.)
  • Ben Wallace sure would look good on the Hawks team coming off the bench like some blogger said he would last year.
  • If I'm Rick Sund, I'm asking myself - what does it take to get Joe Johnson off the floor and Jeff Teague on it? We'll keep repeating this point - HE DOESN'T HAVE TO START, but damn - just 10 minutes to see if he can provide the spark that obviously was lacking. We're playing the Pistons for goodness sake.
  • If I'm a Mike Woodson supporter, I'm ready to hear your explanation for why Teague isn't playing at ALL and why you believe Joe Johnson deserves the 9th most minutes in the NBA or what happened to the belief that Jamal would assuredly provide rest for Joe...if you are providing quality production in 43 minutes, then at least we have something to show for it, but 43 minutes, forced shots, and poor production means we not only lose NOW, but we'll lose when he's tired and worn out this postseason from playing so much throughout the season.
  • If I'm Jeff Teague, Zaza, Maurice, or Joe Smith, welcome to life on the Atlanta Hawks bench. Just remember that you are supposed to just be ready for the minutes that Woodson can't find for you EVEN when as an example - I come in and provide great defensive support and ..wait for it, head for the bench immediately (sorry Mo!)
  • If I'm Marvin or Joe Johnson, I'm thrilled that I play for a coach who no matter what will stick by my side and give me minutes, even when I don't deserve them.
  • If I'm Al or Josh, well - I'm happy with the minutes, but wondering what the heck else I have to do in order to get the opportunities that Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are afforded on this team..
Here's my parting note and yes, it's not favorable for the Hawks coach. Here's his take on Joe Johnson's slump as reported in the AJC - Mike Woodson conceded that some of the misses have been forced, but is going to keep riding him. Said Woodson, “when he’s making those forced shots, nobody’s saying a [darn] thing.”

You're right Mike - no one is saying anything ...uh, as long as you don't read almost every Hawks blogger and every NBA pundit who has criticized the Hawks offensive philosophy for the last 3 years. So, let's be crystal clear once again - a forced shot by Joe whether he makes it or not is still a BAD shot, it's a bad design, it's bad basketball. Dribbling for 10 seconds only to shoot a jump shot or contested runner is a bad offensive option - we hate it (you certainly have expressed displeasure when anyone other than Joe Johnson or Flip Murray 1.0 and 2.0 has done it) and we hate you for not calling it out as a bad option. So, we know you wanna be ride or die with Joe and we even agreed with it circa 2005-2007, but now - it's just bad offense, it's bad leadership and it's bad coaching. Stop enabling bad basketball. We have enough talent to possibly play for a conference title if you (and Joe) stop getting in the way.

Did I say the word bad enough times in that paragraph?

Yeah, I said it...and I'm going to keep saying it. If we play the way we have, we'll keep beating most of the bad basketball teams on talent and we'll find ways to lose to the ones who are our equal and we'll lose to the ones better than us. All which means a 48-52 win season and a setup for a fall in the postseason.

Anyway, games like the Pistons/Hawks games happen, but the continued ignoring of our bench save Crawford, continued lack of development for Teague, continued reliance on Joe Johnson isolation plays, continued reliance on 3pt shooting, and lack of recognition that our future lies in Josh Smith and Al Horford's capable hands will continue to vex us and this team. And with that, the rant's over - time for Hawks/Raptors where they can attempt to debunk everything said in this blog. I dare you to do so...


Bret LaGree said...

And with that statement, Mike Woodson killed any chance he ever had to work for Daryl Morey.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

what really sucks is that I'm about to call for Jeff Teague to be sent to the D League to get some minutes - I'm REALLY close to that point. sitting on the bench doesn't work for point guards. If the D League was good for Aaron Brooks - it's good for Jeff Teague, I say. Shoot, it's good for Acie Law too...

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

what really sucks is that I'm about to call for Jeff Teague to be sent to the D League to get some minutes - I'm REALLY close to that point. sitting on the bench doesn't work for point guards. If the D League was good for Aaron Brooks - it's good for Jeff Teague, I say. Shoot, it's good for Acie Law too...

thirdfalcon said...

Well, we've all had plenty of time to digest that game (hopefully the Hawks watched plenty of tape on it.) And I think we can safely identify the two things that absolutely have to happen for the hawks to scratch elite status this year.

The first is that Josh Smith has to continue being the two way force that he has been thus far, and by extension(and hopefully with help form Marvin) our rebounding game should take care of itself. This alone should improve our win total by a decent margin since nothing else has really changed that drastically.

The second (though not necessarily in importance) is that Joe needs to find a balance between always being a scorer and spending more time trying to get his teammates going. He is still going to be "the man" because no one else on the team can score as reliably, and in as many ways as him.

But it is has been pretty clear that his young MJ act is holding the team and his game back. We need his old MJ impression now. There are always going to be times when we need him to take over games, but he really needs to focus on being more of a facilitator for a larger percentage of the time.

We know he can do it since that's basically what he did in Phoenix. And we know he can be the go-to scorer since that's what he done since he got here. Now we need him to find a balance between the two which should take both him, and us to a different level (and maybe even get him a bigger contract).

If we can get those two thing from our two best players, then the things like rebounding, and the inside-out balance should mostly fall into place, and we can go back to worrying about relatively small things like Marvin Williams role, and Jeff Teague's minutes.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, I think we have 100% agreement on something. I have always believed that Josh and Joe are our biggest two stars and we'll go as far as they take us.

That said, when we get back to the relatively small things that take us from good to great - I still have little confidence in Mike Woodson. I wish I did - I want to have some, but I just don't. I was watching that Pistons game and kept saying to myself - take a timeout, leave josh on the floor (since he was the only one playing well) and put Joe, Jamal, Jeff, and Zaza or Mo and see what we can do. Maybe the time on the bench for the rest of the starters would have given them something to shoot for, but I'd rather lose giving our team a spark or gaining experience than watching Joe shooting as if it's 2006.

And you'd think that after all that talk Woody has done about depth and what not that he'd feel comfortable trying new things. It's why I wish he had a contract b/c I think for him and Joe that their contract situations truly are impacting what they are doing for this team.

thirdfalcon said...

Here's what I think are the most important of the (relatively) small things that are unresolved right now.

1. Al's offensive role
2. inside-out balance
3. Marvin's role
4. Teague's minutes

Let me know what I missed, though I don't think our veteran bench guys need to be fed minutes that much, since they are very unlikely to get much better than they are right now. You'd probably disagree on that. But I digress.

The first three go a long way toward being solved if Joe is making it his responsibility to help get those guys going. And the best way Marvin can help the team right now is probably with his rebounding, defense, and outside shot.

Only Teague minutes are something that Woodson is really going to be able to directly sabotage. And while you are understandably skeptical that he will get more minutes as the season goes along. I still hold out hope. And if not? Well, you are never going to be 100% happy with your teams, that's just the way it goes.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I won't argue with any of that - I would add keeping Joe fresh (if that's separate from his role) to that list.

And as a note, I don't disagree with anything regarding the bench. You are correct - only Jeff needs to be 'fed' minutes in order to see him get better. Everyone else just needs minutes to keep players fresh and keep them engaged with their role come the postseason, so I won't quibble if Zaza gets 5 minutes one night and 20 the next as long as they are used in ways to win games. Jeff is a different case - I think he needs consistent minutes no matter what.

The Pistons game is an example where I think Woodson's bench philosophy is bad. He uses the bench to rest the starters ONLY (save Crawford), not to bring in players who can provide a spark or provide production that a starter isn't. So, he is always trying to buy minutes to get starters back in the game vs. putting in a player to get better production or to attack a weakness that the other team has. That's why I don't think they play. If he felt confident in his bench, he would have said - ok, y'all don't want to beat the Pistons - I got 5 more guys over here who are good enough to do what you won't do and I'll let them play if they prove that they can. So, let me add Woodson's in game strategy to that list.

Jesse said...

Haha, you just said Woodson and "in-game strategy" in the same sentence. You must have bumped your head recently and are suffering from a concussion because Woodson has no in-game strategy except get JJ and AS appearance. Even in this seasons relatively hot start I have yet to notice any major in-game moves that were a product of seeing a mis-match and taking advantage of it.

But, if this new ball movement system is Woodson's doing then it's about time and kudos to him. Maybe that's the strategy you speak of.

Ron E. said...

Good rant. I'm not at all a Woody defender, but I will say that Teague has shown difficulty getting the ball in the basket thus far. Since Woody mainly wants his point guard to make jumpers, you can understand why he is reluctant to give Jeff more minutes. Going to the D-League would likely be a better learning experience for Jeff than playing 5 minutes a game for Atlanta the rest of the year.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Ron E., I agree with you. I just wonder why that standard isn't applied when Bibby is not shooting well. It's the self fulfilling loop. Last night, Teague didn't shoot well, but mostly because he's getting his shot blocked or altered in the lane. That is something he'll just have to learn and last night - I didn't see anything that he did that was bad or would affect the outcome of the game any more than Josh's jumpers, Joe's overdribbling, Jamal's quick shots, or even Marvin's most of season slump.

So, it just sucks that just like Acie - he's picking the inexperience of the point guard and lack of a consistent 3pt shot as the indicator of trust with minutes.

As for Jesse's statement, I'll simply say that I won't be so harsh on Woody b/c I have seen signs from him this year (now, on the whole - no, he's not a strategist). I'm giving him credit for putting the ball in the front court's hands in about 3-4 games this season. As for the ball movement, I don't see that as anything more than what any pickup game would involve with guys who have played with each other for years. Rarely do you see these guys actually run plays - run Joe off screens, double screens, pick and rolls (other than to just rub a player off a guard), etc. So, I agree overall, but there have been some Woody moments - benching Joe during the Sixer game was one of them, relaxing his 2 fouls and you're out rule is another.

Jesse said...

I agree. Thus far Woodson has shown signs of improvement. The timeouts are timely, sitting certain players at the right time, playing the bench more often and when it's needed, etc. But even with those positives, there have still been signs of things being the same; i.e. allowing JJ to ISO-Joe us to death, not demanding that the ball go through the front court, not demanding that the ball move more than once in a possession, not trusting the bench, etc.

I guess I'm just not ready to say that we've seen enough to let Woodson have too much credit. Again, if the positives can continue to outnumber the negatives, then I'll gladly give Woody his due, but I'm not going to eschew five years worth of bad habits just because of ten or so games worth of improvement.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

well, I think if you've been reading my blogs - you'd know that giving credit to Woodson has certainly not gotten me to the point of being abundant with praise or devoid of criticisms.

As I told the poll worker when I was voting on Tuesday in my Hawks sweatshirt, she said 'So you must be thrilled with the team and maybe they can lay off the coach which I replied - I'm thrilled with our start, but I'm not sold on the coach. In fact, I'm not sure I'd be mad if he wasn't brought back next year. She replied - well, since you're voting and we're happy you're voting let's keep this positive - have a good day! :)

thirdfalcon said...

Your going a little overboard comparing Bibby's minutes to Teague's. Last night was probably the best game I've seen Teague play outside of the preseason, (Grats on raising your PER to double digits Teague!) But saying that an 11 year vet should be held to the same standard as a rookie is a bit ridiculous, no? And in any case I think Bibby's track record allows him a slow start every once in a while.

I still hope to see Teague play more this year and deep down I believe he will, but the guy did get his shot blocked against the Toronto Raptors he still has a ways to go.

I know this all strikes you as unfair, but Woodson is an old school guy and Teague is really going to have to earn his minutes. This isn't a bad thing no matter how many second round draft picks have failed to do so.

Jesse said...

Oh I know ATL, definitely not complaining about you giving him any props whatsoever, just stating my stance and that I thought it was ironic to mention Woodson and strategy in the same sentence.

As for Bibby & Teague, I don't think ATL meant to take it that far TF, just that on nights when it's very clear that Bibby's shots aren't falling that Teague has proven and should get more run than he has. Just because a player is a vet doesn't mean that it's in the best interest to not develop your future and to do that you are going to have to play Teague ample minutes to allow him to learn that he isn't the baddest kid on the court anymore, that he might not always be able to blow by everyone, and that almost every shot is blockable in the L.

thirdfalcon said...

He's getting a lot of his shots blocked that's all I'm saying. just don't try to act like playing Teague more minutes is about winning now. It's just not. It's about the future. Maybe the future is later this year, but that's still not right now.

He took big steps last night let's just celebrate that now.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, ewell, this is why you and I don't agree on much with regards to Woodson or his use of the rookies.

Your perception doesn't square with reality for old school coaching, Woodson, or our rotation. I can look back at plenty of rookies who have contributed to victories THIS SEASON. Right now! I'm saying that Teague has enough skill TODAY to contribute to our winning basketball games. I don't have any evidence that Teague being on the court has lost us a game yet and he's not on the court enough to know if he'll win one. That's what this is all about.

I can say that I've seen enough from Joe to say - yep, you have lost us 2 games this season with your bad shooting and overdribbling, so maybe if we gave Teague those minutes - the team would have been better off. I'm saying that if Bibby is in foul trouble that yes, your backup point guard should play, not have two shooting guards on the court.

So, we'll never agree on this point. Teague played as well as he did against the Lakers, against the Pacers, and any other team where he got over 7 minutes of court time. You are so misled with regard to this earning PT thing with Woodson. I wish we could watch the past 3 years of games together, so you can see that that's not Woodson's MO. I watched Acie Law have 3 straight good outings and sit the bench for 5 games while at the same time watching Josh Smith shooting 3 pters while Woodson screamed and kicked, but play him every game. Same thing for Teague - I said after the Lakers game when Teague was the ONLY bright spot that Teague won't play much vs. the Kings and Blazers and DING! DING! DING! Teague sat. Same for the Pistons - NOTHING was going right in that game against a team, so what's so scary about Bynum and Stuckey that Teague couldn't get on the court at ALL.

So, you can believe in Woodson if you like - I just will continue to believe that Woodson is inadequate in this particular area. Mark my words - he won't trust Teague later in the season b/c he will say that he hasn't played enough to know what he can do. And then, he won't play him in the postseason for the same reason. And I'd actually would be ok with that IF we had signed a backup point guard. To carry 4 guards on the team when you're trying to keep from playing JJ and Bibby too many minutes and then NOT play Teague is just ridiculous. We could have kept Wilks or someone else who he would trust to play the backup PG role, then I'd leave this Teague thing alone, but we actually need Teague NOW.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, oh and stop with the blocked shot thing - everybody gets a shot blocked, but that should in NO way be a litmus test for why he doesn't get on the basketball court and for you to mention that as if that matters doesn't really provide a lot of value to this discussion.

And to be clear about another thing - no, I'm not comparing Bibby to Teague. I am saying that Teague needs minutes b/c he deserves them now, not as some charity case that has some level of proving ground that needs to be gone through. I don't understand why you are bucking the idea of playing a player that can help you. I'm having a hard time figuring that out about you. I'm watching almost every other rookie picked below and above Teague get minutes and during the games when he can provide value - you have an excuse for why he shouldn't play.

So, are you telling me that getting your shot blocked and going 0-1 in most of the games is your litmus test for whether Teague should ever play for Woodson? If that's the case, everyone that was getting their shot blocked two games ago should have been heading to the bench or anyone facing Josh Smith should just call it a night, right? What would show you that this is a blind spot for Woodson? Maybe that would get us somewhere...

thirdfalcon said...

no I'm saying that getting your shot blocked every other game when you are playing 10 minutes a game is a problem. Go look up the percentage of his shots that get blocked, go ahead I'll wait.


Ok, now that you've done that. The only way he helps us right now is by relieving Joe,and hopefully improving enough to help us later on. This is about long term gain, it's just not a short term thing.

He's not going to give us consistent efforts right now. Sorry he's not there yet regardless of where he got picked in the draft.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, What does the percentage of shots blocked have to do with anything? And let's be clear - you are judging (like Woodson probably is) by a standard NO ONE on the Hawks is judged by. That's the problem I have. Marvin right now is NOT consistent and is doing very little to win us basketball games. Only 3 games has he put forth effort that I can say was winning us a game NOW, but he's playing because we think he can help and we are trying to show him trust and build confidence.

I'm saying the same thing for Teague. He doesn't learn how to lead a team in practice, so we are together - I want him to relieve Joe and Mike for stretches in each game. Not long stretches, not in crunch time right now, but I think 2 5 minute stints per half (and more if he's playing well) is not a lot to ask. That's where we are with this.

thirdfalcon said...

He has a ridiculously high percentage of his shots blocked, I don't know what else to tell you.

But as long as everyone understands that playing Teague is an investment that is not going to pay dividends in the immediate future than we all agree. He is averaging about 10 minutes a game though, and he's played in all but 2 games, so he's basically at where you want him to be. So what are you asking for exactly?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, Joe and Marvin has a ridiculous number of misses during lots of games this season. Does it matter whether they were blocked or not? Again, I still don't see your point.

I think we all agreed that he needs to learn how to get that tear drop over the outstretched hands, but this shot blocked thing is a fake measure, sir. He's only taken 49 shots all year - he's had 6 of them blocked. So, let's stop using that as some black mark that's keeping Teague from getting better as a player.

Let's also just agree that we disagree on Teague's worth now. I don't share your view that he's a long term benefit. I agree that his benefit will be GREATER to the team later in the season (if he plays) or future seasons (if he plays), but right now - I believe that he should be used as a backup point guard should and that's to rest Bibby and to perform against the opposing team's backup point guard. That's what I think he should do today. If that's not the role, he's performing then I think it's a major mistake to not have another point guard on this roster.

As for your question, you are correct he has played 10 minutes per game (in the games he's played), but 10 of those 18 games - he has played 5 or less. Most of those games were in clean up or 2 minute stints that you certainly can't use to grow from. He only got major minutes in the games that were out of contention, so if you want to be honest - games that were contested...he's averaging about 3 minutes a game.

And that's what I want - I want him playing stints in games that are being contested against bad and good teams. I want him playing in the first half at like the 10 min point of the first quarter through the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter, then again in the 2nd half as the flow dictates. If he's playing well, play him more. If he's not, sit him. But these swings where he's playing clean up or not at all is EXACTLY what happened with Acie. Teague hasn't affected the outcome yet, so show us that he can negatively impact a game before we determine how many minutes he gets each week.

If we had other options, I'd be ok, but when we don't have other options and we need to rest our starters - I'm STILL not sure what you don't get about my stance on Teague. Teague is not some long term project to me - he's our backup point guard and I want him playing as such NOW. At worst, he'll stay as our backup point guard. At best, you may find that he has the talent to start for us and can contribute in the postseason.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

So, I don't want a game to go by that he doesn't get in the game and play real minutes in contested games. That's what I want from this..not these clean up minutes that prove nothing. Teague learned very little playing pickup basketball vs. the Raptors that will help us later this year and I'm pretty sure nothing good should or would be taken from that game by Woodson.

You still never answered my question - did he earn more minutes vs. the Raptors?