Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heat @ Hawks - 2/27/09

Preamble Ramble

How good it feels to see the Hawks live in the Highlight Factory. Much has been said about the Hawks since they left town and while we'll talk about some below - some of it melts away when you see your team in the friendly confines of Philips Arena. On a Friday night against one of the stars in the game and the beautiful people brave the elements. And with that, we provide a summary of the prequel to the Big Game this weekend. And to commemorate this big weekend - we bring back the old school game recap.

Game Recap - Hawks 91, Heat 83

Str8 Butter Award - For the first time since the first Chicago Bulls game, we saw ultra good Al Horford. Now, I'm not sure if it's because the Heat's inside game is as soft as buttermilk or if Al has finally started to understand that by seizing it or by design - his game must be strong in order for the Hawks to go anywhere this postseason. Any uptick in good shots by him or Marvin Williams and a reduction in bad shots by Josh Smith is a great thing. So, for the first 20-20 game since Dikembe, you sir get our Str8 Butter Award and we hope many more....

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Not one of his best games, but I can't help but get a sense of calm seeing Marvin taking shots outside and increasingly - taking shots inside. He still is a little soft going inside, but has taken my early season rants to heart with regard to FINISHING inside with contact. The Marvin And 1 count has taken off. Now, he still can look awkward, but we'll accept that as the learning curve. Regardless, we believe it's time to start highlighting Billy Knight's biggest draft mistake - drafting Sheldon Williams instead of Brandon Roy vs. the Marvin pick (and I'm still not convinced that it was Billy's call on Marvin in the first place).
* Smith - JSmoove had another uneven performance and it looks like the crowd has finally understood that it's incumbent amongst everyone to discourage anything that Josh does outside of 12 ft (yes, the distance is shrinking) as the boos that cascaded down with Josh's first two jump shots. Now, Josh then did as he is wont to do and decided to show why he's the crazy talented guy that he is - almost everything in the paint he did was sublime. Too bad, almost everything at 20 ft and beyond was abysmal. My biggest wish for the rest of the season is to see a Hawk or a coach to pull his card the next time he does something as ridiculous as shooting a three pointer on the game's first possession. That's worthy of getting cussed out on the court OR simply pulling him from the game.
* Horford - Yes, Yes, Yes! This is what I have been asking for...please continue to shoot the ball whether they give it to you on the block or not. Just let these gentlemen know that you ought to be the 2nd or 3rd option on this team and you won't have it any other way.
* Johnson - A generally good game esp. with a lack of Bibby.
* Bibby - Can I just say this again? Please sit Bibby down until he is fully healthy. Beating the Heat or the Cavs or anyone else is SECONDARY to having a healthy Bibby down the stretch and in the playoffs, so Mike Woodson - forget these meaningless games (yes, having a healthy Bibby is more important than playoff seeding).

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - I think we have all determined that Murray has been a revelation this season. While I still don't see him as a backup point guard, I do see him as able to help run the offense in a pinch and to score the ball when we need a bucket off the bench. And for that, we say thanks. Lord knows that without your contribution - our Acie Law rants would have a sharper edge.
* Pachulia - Zaza vs. O'Neal - ok, Zaza vs. Beasley - not so much...that's the summary of this game.
* Evans - Not sure there was much here to hang our hats on other than - I like seeing Evans on the court when we need defensive stops.
* Law - DNP
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

There's nothing to say here. I think we made it clear how we feel about Woodson (in the midst of giving him praise for the Denver in-game adjustments), so we'll just say - please focus on getting Bibby healthy and use Law to help reduce the guard minutes in anticipation for the playoffs. PLEASE.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - It was interesting to see a Friday night crowd with us playing a superstar and not to see an overwhelming crowd of ladies. Then, I recalled the rain throughout the city and all I can say is - women's hair continues to be undefeated. Yes, it was a good night for cheering, but with too many Heat fans in the building - we need to find our playoff cheering rhythm b/c it'll be these same Heat we're likely to see in 2 months. So, let's get ready people.

2. The Overscene - Normally, I don't attend games by myself, but without my normal allotment of tickets - I took on the split personality of watching the game and watching the people. And we must say that - rain aside, it's always a good thing to see what the club level can do to affirm the diversity that is Atlanta. I'd expound on that, but you truly just have to see it to understand.

3. Our experiences - Actually for the first time - no celebrity sightings, no really interesting stories to be told, though I must say that the club level wrist band process has been streamlined to a T. I think I communicated how awful the initial implementation of this club level access was handled. Well, it seems like they went to Georgia Tech and got some engineers to work out the process and now, it's a beautiful thing. Hats off to the Hawks staff...

4. The Honey Quotient - Well, hair savings aside - the game had a bevy of uh...beautiful smiles. Some guys need T & A, I just need pearly whites to keep me in a trance, so while I won't out them on account of the six degrees of separation of my 7.4 loyal readers - just know that you ladies killed it last night...keep flossing and brushing.

5. Hawk Shouts - Finally, shouts to Carthan, Will, Stacie, Harlee, and Andrea. Also, it was great to see my folk - Diarra, Greg, Jimmesse, Terese. And to meet Allen, Shay, Sam, etc among others...

6. The After Party - Well, the real pre-party/after party will be at the LeBron James screening and then another party before the game (ladies/gents - wear this fool out before the game if you can), but it's always cool to get out on a Friday night and into a good vibe, so the trip to Aja was well worth the time. Great music, good vibe, beautiful Asian crowd (mostly). It was a soothing end to a long week and a great Hawks victory.

Season Prediction

I've been in a funk regarding the Hawks end of season record and now, I guess I have to believe that we can will ourselves to win 45 games, so here it is - 45-37.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hawks @ Nuggets - 2/25/09

This is what we call a Man's Blog. Unlike many political leaders, sports talk hosts, and people who can't admit their problems, I can admit when something I didn't think was possible happens. So, while I'm pretty confident that tonight was the exception to the rule (esp. since it was necessitated out of the loss of 2 starters), I'll just go ahead and speak on what happened tonight.

Game Recap - Nuggets 110, Hawks 109

Let's start with the good while I have your attention:

1. The #1 reason we had a chance to win this game...(wait for it) Mike Woodson. He made the decision to press the Nuggets in the 2nd half and it yielded turnovers that allowed us to get in the game. I said yesterday that I hadn't seen him make one adjustment all season and well, tonight he made two - the first being the press and the second being the fact that we went to Marvin down the stretch. Had we figured out how to apply that pressure without putting Chauncey Billups on the line at every moment, we probably win. That's all you can ask of your coach. To give you strategies that allow you a chance to win..
2. Marvin Williams - he came to play, he was aggressive on both ends of the floor, and he was looking for more ways than shooting the 3 to score the basketball.
3. Al Horford - Seeing him shoot over 15 shots was a thing of beauty. Now, I'd like to see him on the block more than playing face up, but we can't complain with 18 and 10. I've been very critical of Al, particularly with him being unable to get double doubles that are necessary from the center position for the Hawks to win and tonight - he was looking for his shot and it was effective. Loved the post passing with him and Zaza.
4. Free Throw Shooting - Color it obvious, but damn if Josh Smith is out and we shoot over 90% from the charity stripe. We hit technicals and almost everything else that we could at the line. And if we hadn't, we aren't even in the game the last 4 minutes of the game.
5. Maurice Evans showed why we need his energy and defense and presence off the bench. He came to play. Won't show up in the box score, but his energy and effort were a reason why we were able to almost pull out a victory.

These are the great things about today's game. The downside of this is that none of these things are things that we've really done all season long. So, it's great and sobering that doing the first 4 things were the perfect storm and yet, we still lost. I won't complain though b/c I called this a loss no matter what, but I can only pray that we'll see that kind of effort on Friday and Sunday.

Now, to the bad side:

1. The rotations were still uneven. Not sure what's up with no Zaza when he was playing relatively well and the lane was wide open in stages and with the extended Mario West time without much good coming from him. But I will say - I like the variety. Now, if we could only get that Mario West time when the team is not dialed in. Tonight, effort wasn't the issue. So, the need for the effort guy is a little muted. Particularly, when he looks completely lost on the offensive end of the court.
2. Fouls - We definitely have not mastered the art of playing defense without fouling. Now, that said - the officials were certainly not working for the benefit of fair and balanced. Several QUESTIONABLE calls went against the Hawks and put Billups on the line repeatedly - it was like watching D-Wade in the NBA Finals.
3. Joe Johnson - Yes, Joe hit some MONSTER shots at the end of the game, but I'm still not convinced that Joe is doing well. I expect Joe to recognize that from minute 1 that the Nuggets were going to double him all game and I didn't see his B-ball IQ kick in and make the right play. On some occasions he forced the shot, some instances passed up open looks, and other times - made bad passes (and by bad, I mean passing to Mario West or people who were not ready to score). I'm probably being too hard on Joe, but I also expect Joe to be our superstar and to make superstar plays, not just superstar shots.
4. Acie - Now, I've advocated for you to be able to play all season. That means when you get your chance - you can't commit 4 fouls in limited time against Chauncey. I do give Woody credit for allowing Acie to play beyond the 1st 2 fouls in the first quarter, but damn Acie - help me, son.

In any case, it was the kind of game I can't put much stock in, but they say wonders never cease, so we'll see how it goes on Friday....and with that, this concludes this game recap's version of the Bizarro Hawks game.

Time For Change, Part 2


Since Bret is part of the ESPN nation and now, Drew is a part of the Yahoo! nation, I figured I would try to keep up with the Hawks Blog Joneses...

So, without further ado - the new Hawk Str8Talk logo (which is my first post of an image - yep, we're making Hawk Str8Talk history today, people) AND our new domain name - www.hawkstr8talk.com. YAY!!!! As well as a sign up with an ad agency to make enough money in this economic times to pay for drinks, food, and parking at the Hawks games.

To that end, let's toast the new changes this weekend when we'll be having a Hawks winning weekend with the Heat and D-Wade on Friday (and I'm sure some after party), LeBron James exclusive event on Saturday, AND then the game on Sunday (on ESPN even). So, look out for a full weekend of Hawks Str8 Talk...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's Time

To My 4 Loyal Readers,

Yes, I'm piling on. I finally gave up last night and I'm so pleased to see that everyone is on one accord. Forget Billy Knight. Forget the Spirit. Forget the players. It's time that we get on one accord. Mike Must Go. I know that every blogger (sans Bret at hoopinionblog.com, ironically) and even the 2 Live Stews today were all over the Hawks poor play today. It was me who said I didn't want 2008 to end for the Hawks and now you see why...we're 11-14 this year and, worse, we're playing awful basketball. So, to see his interview today trying to spin this year and the last 7 games as good is sickening and just a further testament to the fact that I can't even be partial and fair anymore. I will plant evidence, hire informants, or something, but until I get that set up - let me try to explain this to you, Woody.

In 2009, we have beaten TWO good teams (and I'm stretching it to say that Detroit is good - Houston (w/o McGrady) and Detroit). We've played 25 games. The other teams we beat were the Clippers, Raptors, Wizards, Kings, Bulls, Bucks, Wolves, Bobcats, and Nets. We lost to (forget the good teams) the Warriors, Knicks, Bucks, and Clippers. We were pimp slapped by the Clippers AT HOME!!!! Not only did we lose, we were CRUSHED by the Magic (twice - no, I don't give us credit for a spirited comeback in the 4th quarter and an open missed layup by Bibby), Clippers (this bears repeating!), Lakers, Jazz, Blazers, Sixers, and Heat. That's in the last 2 months...not only that, the Magic basically called us out after beating us at home and said they needed to jump on us on the back to back to get us to go away...said that in the paper BEFORE the game - (aka gave us bulletin board material after a game that should have said - we will play hard the next game since our ability to win the division HINGES on it) and what happens - uh...we were down by 50 during the 2nd half... FIFTY!!!!!!!! They told us they needed to jump on us and then, we went out and let it happen to the tune of a 40-50 pt whoopin'.

I won't repeat the rant from last night, but basically - it seems we're all starting to get on one accord. Yes, the players have flaws and problems, but you can't fire the players, so let's GET THIS DONE. As a 25 year fan (through good and bad), I'm now at the point where I can't take another year with Woodson at the helm and I won't go quietly in saying it. So, while it pains me to do this to an Indiana Hoosier grad and seemingly nice guy, I have to just say that - this is BIGGER THAN ME AND YOU. So, you must go. I will do everything possible to encourage the organization to fire Woodson from this point forward (and I hate that it's come to that), but no more excuses after games and blaming the players and never assessing how you can do something different to affect change. I see coaches try things all the time in every city except ....Atlanta! Just like in the White House - it was time for change. Let's get it, people.

FireMikeWoodson.com is for sale.

Sincerely,

The Atlanta Hawks #1 Fan

Hawks @ Jazz - 2/23/09

Here was my decision tonight. Cook spaghetti and watch 24 or watch my Hawks against the Jazz. Well, I selected frozen pizza and 24, so I could quickly get into the Hawks/Jazz game on DVR. Verdict: 1/2 right. Definitely a winner on watching 24, but the frozen pizza was well...as satisfying as watching Jerry Sloan vs. Mike Woodson.

As I watched the game, here's the questions on my mind that all said lead to one conclusion...

1. Was that not the most stark and classic example of watching a team of 5 men vs. 5 men on the same team. Back cuts, low post, screens, running and gunning, hustle, etc.
2. When you allow a team to shoot 70% (that's not a misprint) in the 1st half, it's probably appropriate to write Game Over in your book.
3. Was that Thomas Gardner was playing EARLY in the game? Now, the fact that he has a skill (shooting) that we depend on to win games makes me think - WHY is he not playing when we're struggling with shooting the ball.
4. Is it apparent to you yet, Mr. Sund, that the Hawks have completely checked out on Mike Woodson? And when I mean completely, I mean 100% not giving a rat's ass what he says or does? (Not that I blame them)
5. Can we go ahead and fire anyone related to the free throw shooting part of our drill set?
6. Can I pat myself on the back as the only blogger that I know in the Hawk Nation who called out for this guy Paul Millsap months ago to be on our radar for 2009-2010?
7. Was that 10 Deep that the Jazz went? With 2nd round talent playing...I think I remember Brewer and Miles looking extremely lost early in their careers, but they sure look all the better for PLAYING through the hard times. You hear that, Acie/Solo/Randolph/Thomas?
8. Why did Joe Johnson see any part of the 4th quarter? Did you feel like he wasn't tired enough from his usage with one more game on the road trip or does he have a minutes played clause in his contract?
9. Can I also get some credit for the thought that maybe a lineup adjustment (oh say - the SUPER SUB Marvin off the bench that I was screaming for from game 3 or so of the year) could spark this team and free up our offense a bit?
10. Finally, what happened to the lost art of losing your EVER LOVIN' MIND on a ref and getting ejected to show your team some passion and to let them know that you will not accept the effort that has been put forth? I mean how do you not break windows and chalk and chairs when your team doesn't even SHOW UP! I don't need us to win every game - just need us to compete. I wish I would make $14M and watch what happened today without losing my religion on the coaches for a poor game plan, motivation speech, and in-game strategy and to my teammates for not coming to play.
11. GM Sund, you sure we can't sign Sam Cassell (if only for the playoff savvy and leadership in the locker room), Robert Horry, or someone who will put a foot in asses. Please.................

Final thought on the game - Watching the Woodson post-game interview - it's worth firing his ass alone. The question gets asked - what did you see on the Josh Smith flagrant foul? His response "the play was reviewed - it stood and we'll send in a tape and it is what it is. WTF???? What happened to supporting your player? Either send a message that says - he was wrong and we need him to do better OR you say I thought it was a bad call and I thought he went for the ball (which was my view). That followed by the uh...I thought Mike Bibby was ok, that's what he said and I hope we can get him ready for the next game. NOOOOOOO, Woody! What you do is - let his ass sit until everyone is sure he's ok, play your backups and get your team healthy and playing together for the playoffs. Quit this - try to win every individual game, so your record looks good enough to keep your job and still losing the war vs. playing to prepare for the playoffs that saved your job and could save it again. This is the same strategy that left Acie woefully unprepared to play down the stretch last year (and apparently this year too) when you didn't have any viable backup guard options and STILL didn't play Acie. Uh, you ask - what is the conclusion that all those questions lead us to - does www.firemikewoodson.com have a ring to it?

Anyway, look out for us to close the final game of the road trip with a loss. I haven't seen a sign in 2009 that we are poised to do anything against a good team, all leading up to a loss in the first round of the playoffs. The best thing that can happen to us at this stage is for us to play the Pistons and lose in a sweep. Then, we can use that broom to sweep out the Woodson era.

So, for the first time - I'm sufficiently NOT excited about the playoffs. After feeling the highest high and lowest lows in my Hawk life during last season's playoffs. I'm not even excited about the rest of the year - I've finally been pushed back to the thought that went through my mind throughout the playoffs - the high being that we could shock the world and the low being that we probably saved Woodson's job. All I can think of right now is that maybe, just maybe a 24-like infiltration/covert operation by the squad is afoot and the team realized that they have to get Woodson fired in order for anything to happen positive with the future of our team. Otherwise, I'm at a loss for words.

New Season Prediction - 43-39 (our lowest projection in months) and dropping

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hawks @ Blazers - 2/21/09

Coming off of my trade deadline rant & my profession that Al Horford's production on the season has been even worse than Josh Smith's (and Smoove certainly hasn't shown improvement this year unless you consider the fact that he's stopped taking 3pt shots improvement), we have the Hawks vs. Blazers. A game we lost early in the 3rd quarter...

Blazers 108, Hawks 98


It's almost criminal to have me watch Brandon Roy play the game of basketball and think - it could be a Roy/Johnson backcourt. Kinda how I feel when I see Deron or Chris...it's sickening! There are several revelations that I need to share today...

1. I don't believe there is one Hawk outside of Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams that are playing at or near what I expect of them right now.
2. The Mike D'Antoni-Terry Porter-Alvin Gentry coaching fiasco in Phoenix has proved that having a coach AND a philosophy matters. The Suns have given every Woodson apologist a reason to re-think their 'But they're winning more than before arguments'. Having a coach and a style that works for that personnel matters. I am thoroughly convinced that our current style will allow us to defeat every poor basketball team in the league (yes, there are many), but will prevent us from consistently defeating any above average team. So, Atlanta Spirit - here's a precedent for firing a winning coach who isn't getting the best out of the team's personnel. Take heed.
3. What is the style we NEED to play to make a difference - run, run, run (which means playing Acie to spell Bibby, which would play to his strength in attacking the basket)...use our athleticism, play from inside out, so that Joe, Mike, Flip, Marvin and Mo can catch and shoot off screens vs. trying the off the dribble stuff that no one other than Flip and Acie are even decent at.
4. Is anyone with me now regarding Al Horford? Did he just put up 4 and 6? Did Josh just put up 11 and 3? I'll say it again..Potential - Yes! Current Production - No! I couldn't help watching 10 players playing for the Blazers and shed a tear at watching a bench develop and come in to provide a boost and change in pace vs. our bench's (sans Flip and Zaza - who thought I'd say that early in the season) use to just fill space until the starters are ready to come back in. Yes, Maurice - you are starting to fall into this category.
5. Again, I ask GM Sund - there were no players we could use. The mix we have is how good, how perfect, nothing is worth shaking up, no leadership is needed....
6. NOW, you finally determined that Gardner should play in the D-League. Really...you really thought he needed to sit on the bench all year. What about Mario West or Randolph Morris? Wouldn't it make sense to send them as well - playing time builds confidence (apologies to Acie and Solo for saying this in your 'presence').

Sigh.....

Friday, February 20, 2009

Trade Deadline Rant

Now, as a part of the Hawk Blogger Nation, we tend to start to sound like (generally) a very homogeneous group who see and think the same things. There are some exceptions to that - my stance on Billy Knight and Al Horford probably stand out right now and now, I add another major disagreement. What non-ownership related reason makes ANY sense for us to stand pat during the TRADE DEADLINE!!!!!!

I think it SUCKS that we weren't players at the trade deadline and haven't said ONE word about trying to sign any veterans that get waived or are wanted on the block. Now, I know that much of this may be because of the Atlanta Spirit's court and financial woes, but fool me into thinking that we're trying to improve this team. As I stated at the turn of the year, I'm not satisfied with a playoff berth (there are 16 of those - I don't want to be 16th or 8th or 4th or 2nd - I want a CHAMPIONSHIP in Atlanta!!!!!) or a winning season. Our goal at this stage should be - 50 wins, home court, and making a run for the title (the most important of which is - WINNING A TITLE). Now, I know that we're too flawed for that to be likely, but I don't recall that keeping Arizona from the Super Bowl or Tampa from the World Series or fill in 8th seed from various Stanley Cup Finals. Yes, I know it's harder in the NBA, but the point of this is not that we'd do it (I know our coaching deficiencies would all but eliminate that from happening), but that we are building a roster that is pointed toward winning now.

Why aren't we trying to get Shaq or Camby or Salmons/Miller or McDyess or any low post presence or slasher who doesn't care to shoot a jump shot, but wants to get to the rim. Why aren't we trying to get any player who can make free throws down the stretch? Why aren't we trying to find rebounders who can keep us from being completely dominated by any above average post player? Why aren't we trying to find a defensive perimeter player who can stop a premier point guard to help Bibby on the nights when he's not shooting lights out enough to offset his defensive deficiences? Why are we not finding a vocal leader (can we get Alonzo Mourning to just sit in our locker room?) who demands the best from EACH and EVERY Hawk as well as Woody?

I know that's a long list, but to hear the Hawks involved in NOTHING is actually depressing. If the Cavs, Celtics, Lakers (the BEST in the business) feel like a trade can make their teams better, why is ANYONE happy that we'd stand pat (or worse - just not even get involved or sound interested in doing ANYTHING as if this team is not flawed). Save the 'we're over 10 games' stuff. That's just the Atlanta fan's general acceptance of average or above average.

Well, I'm not from that school of fan-dom. I expect more and I expect better. I support GM Sund, but you can't give me one reason (other than ownership told me not to do anything) that makes sense for not trying to upgrade this roster. If it's solely ownership, I say to them - you can't expect to fill Philips Arena if you don't allow this team to be made whole. We have enough pieces to beat lower tier teams. We have finally gotten over that threshold, but in order to beat playoff teams - and we haven't beaten many since the first 15 games - we need more. And dammit - I'm not sure why folks are so giddy that we're finally beating bad teams (barely) and not demanding more.

Well, put us on record - I want more. Now, go find me a post player, a leader, a defensive stopper...anyone that Woody would trust b/c it's a lost season for Law, for Jones, for Mario West (as a defensive stopper), etc. I'll spend the offseason trying to convince everyone that Woody must go, no matter what our record ends up being, but right now - I'm going into make us great in 2009 mode. Nothing else is acceptable to me. I've watched 6 weeks of mediocre basketball from the Hawks. Basketball that I know for certain won't get us anything less than a sweep against any team other than the Pistons. Now, let's get some pieces and right the ship. Who's with me?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hawks @ Kings - 2/18/09

A few more observations today since tonight's game was just as frustrating as last night's. The only difference is that we were playing a SIGNIFICANTLY worse team and therefore, we were able to win, but let's not fool ourselves. I'm puzzled at almost everything that the Hawks do these days.

1. Al Horford - Yes, you wanted to make a mockery of my lack of belief in you, so of course you put in his second best effort of the year. Unfortunately, color me unconvinced when you're playing a shorthanded frontcourt that includes Shelden Williams, Spencer Hawes, and a rookie named Thompson. Yep, not convinced at all...
2. Acie Law IV - if you want to come to my house and say every cuss word possible - you have an open ear here. No worries - I got you. Flip doesn't play, you don't get in in the 1st half, you get in in the 2nd half and the team extends the lead - you come out, you don't see the court again. Well, so much for thinking he was going to at least be showcased for a trade OR that we have any clue on how to create ROLES and build TRUST and increase CONFIDENCE in our players. Woody, why not say a big collective F you to Acie and get it over with?
3. Josh Smith - He gets two fouls and doesn't play the rest of the half when you're already shorthanded and (wait for it!) he ends up with 3 fouls for the game. This is supposed to make sense to me...(HOW AGAIN?). Though after watching him commit a lane violation down the stretch, maybe Woody was benching him in advance of making a boneheaded play in the 2nd half. If it's that kind of clairvoyance that we're dealing with, I'm in full agreement.
4. Mike Bibby - That's how you play when you visit your old team. Joe, please heed this for all future trips to Phoenix.
5. Here's another example of the Hawks lack of leadership and mental fortitude. We've played several teams who were unexpectedly shorthanded - in each, we either lost or went down to the wire for the victory. When the reverse has occurred, we've been blown out. Tonight, no Miller or Salmons - yet, we almost lost to a vastly inferior squad...you fill in the excuse.
6. Yes, I realize we won (on the road even). I also believe that winning against bad teams and getting creamed against good teams is a recipe for a 1st round loss. It's also a recipe for not having home court advantage in the playoffs. Dammit - I think I've turned into Bret Legree on the pessimistic meter!
7. For all of my Billy Knight apologies (and I have many since I truly don't believe on the whole that he was nearly as bad as he's been made out to be), I'll NEVER forgive him for selecting Sheldon Williams. Marvin - OK, but Sheldon with Roy available is just unbelievably awful. Considering what had occurred with Paul/Williams losing out to Marvin Williams, I'm still wondering why fans aren't MORE upset with selecting Sheldon instead of Brandon Roy. That was WAYYY worse than not selecting CP3 or D-Will.

Finally, did Josh Smith have 4 rebounds against a front line of Thompson, Hawes, and Williams?...Really, did that just happen?

Season Prediction...

46-36 reluctantly...let's see how we respond in Portland! Cheerio!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hawks @ Lakers - 2/17/09

A few observations, so as not to overanalyze this game and end up killing the entire organization with a 1200 word missive tonight...

1. A good first quarter for the Hawks
2. That was all that was good. We got punked on the interior, played scared, and looked like the Bobcats out there. Lamar Odom looked like Moses Malone out there...
3. Blowouts happen to teams who rely completely and solely on perimeter scoring (and the Joe Johnson isolation play) to spur their offense.
4. Basically, anytime that a player in the main rotation is unable to play - we have a slump. Either that supports the fact that the bottom 4 suck OR it supports the fact that we aren't getting guys ready throughout the year to play in big basketball games. One is the GM's fault, the other is the Coach's fault - pick one to lie blame to.
5. Kobe didn't do anything in this game of ANY noteworthiness and we lost comfortably by 15 (Note: I didn't wait until the game was over to write this.). Also, you know you are getting your ass kicked when the opposing squad is smiling and joking through the late parts of the 3rd quarter and early parts of the 4th quarter.
6. We still can't hit the free throws by virtue of the technical foul.
7. I'd like to again say ... I'm actually starting to believe that Al Horford is either being severely underutilized or he's having an awful sophomore season for a 'cornerstone' player. People keep writing about how great he is, but I'm sorry - being a solid defender, getting some boards (but not being a beast on them), and making solid screens and putting in about 10 pts a game is NOT my impression of 'most important, most talented, etc, etc' Hawk. To me, that just makes him Joe Smith, Robert Horry (without the clutch 3), and the like. The fact that we haven't had a good low post talent is starting to cloud our collective judgments. (Note: I do acknowledge that the offensive strategy doesn't utilize Al well, BUT it doesn't do anything for Josh Smith either and yet, despite all his flaws - you absolutely get many glimpses of what he can do if he had the discipline to not ever shoot a shot outside of 12ft). I'm STILL waiting for him to have a game that even approaches the game he played in Chicago (27 and 15). NE way, I'm sure someone is going to try to tell me why I'm crazy, but I'm going to ask them to get away from intangibles and show me the tangibles. We're at game 54, people.
8. Finally, Joe Johnson is our best player and we like to talk about how hard he has to play and his minutes, etc. But Joe is not playing great basketball these days either, certainly not shooting well. I've watched far more 5 for 17 nights than I care to see from our best player.

Ok, this is getting long, so let me stop talking, but quite frankly - we sucked.

Season Prediction...

I think I said 46-36 at that All Star break and I'm going to stick with that, but let us lose to the Kings and I may have to go back to my 44-38 standby.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hawks @ Pistons - 2/11/09

Preamble Ramble

What we have here is a failure to communicate (name that movie)...damn the Hawks for trying to show that I don't know what I'm talking about and putting together a complete, solid road victory against a formidable (if flawed) foe. And we made free throws to boot...YESSSSS!!!!! To the analysis...

Game Recap - Hawks 99, Pistons 95

Str8 Butter Award - Flip Murray and Al Horford STEP RIGHT UP...more Flip than Al, but I have to give props to both guys when we needed to exploit the fact that the Pistons are dysfunctional (no Rasheed in the 2nd half.. huh? Did he talk to Acie Law IV in the tunnel?). Finally, Al was asserting himself in the offensive end of the court. 11 shots and we want more...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - Nothing special tonight, but he definitely made baskets when they were available.
* Smith - Save the 3pter and the lapses that say .. I'm Josh the point guard and the missed free throws. Oh, let me stop fooling myself it was classic good Josh, bad Josh. But it's the good Josh that makes the bad Josh tolerable.
* Horford - As we said, if he steps it up - we are a viable and dangerous 4th seed...otherwise, we're a 1st round flop candidate.
* Bibby - The weight of last night's game might have made that foot sore and kept Mike from doing anything, but he was ineffective tonight, but in classic fashion - no Acie to back him up. Thanks Mr. Murray for picking up the slack.
* Johnson - Classic Joe Johnson - finally was shooting well from the floor, which is what we've missed from Joe. As a playmaker, he's been fine, but struggling with the floor game makes things tougher for this team and it was good to see him back and in control of his game.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Flip came to play - didn't force much, made big shots...of course, that begats the Josh Smith-like - I can make anything, but hopefully the All Star break will shake him out of that.
* Pachulia - Short stint, but a stint nonetheless, which is more than we can say for other bench players.
* Evans - Quiet night, but solid defense and steady veteran play.
* Law - DNP...way to reward an uneven performance and a good clean up performance once again on a night when your starting PG is playing fairly bad. Thanks, Woody.
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

No big complaints - the team played well, so I'll give Woody some credit. I can't help but give demerits every time you have Acie Law IV playing ok and needing to build his confidence, esp. on a night when your PG is not playing particularly well. But I'm speaking into thin air on that one.

Str8 Talk Love

No Str8Talk Love for this road game...but I'm going to try to get to the Lakers game after the All Star Game if these economic times will allow it.

Season Prediction

We hit the break at 31-21 and after weeks of making the season prediction 44-38, I have to take a pause and determine that we can go 15-15 down the stretch, so I'll change it to 46-36. That may be enough for the 4th seed in the East...we shall see! Congrats to Joe, Al, and Mike on being a part of the All Star Game activities and stay healthy!!

Wizards @ Hawks - 2/10/09

It's been a while since I've done a real game recap, so look out for one tonight vs. the Pistons. I did listen to the game last night and check out some of the game online, so I will simply repeat what Chris Rock said in one of his earliest major comedy specials...you aren't getting credit for doing what you are supposed to do.

Soooo...we were supposed to KILL the Wizards at home. Therefore, no kudos, no major change in the things that have distressed us since the start of the year. If you wanted to make me happy, you would have sat Bibby again and let him get completely healthy for the Pistons and simply trusted that we could beat the Wiz by 10 instead of 20 with Acie Law as the point guard playing 30 minutes to build on his uneven performance vs. the Clippers. OR you would have let Al Horford shoot the ball.

THAT would have shown me something, but as it were - in a blowout, Joe Johnson is still playing the most minutes. Anyway, a win is a win. 30 wins before All Star...almost assuredly heading toward a over .500 season and almost sure playoff berth. Hopefully, we can send Detroit a message and go 10 games over .500, but since AI is sick and might not play ...uh, this smells like a classic Atlanta loss where we think we have an advantage, the other team has veterans and pride and realize that the 4th seed is within their grasp. We'll see....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Str8Talk Rant, Take 2

Here's the article (coupled with a recession) that's messing up my day...the title is Do The Hawks Have a Back-Up Point Guard?

There are several things that bother me about this article.

1. It has no mention of the fact that both Woody and GM Sund have said that Flip Murray was brought here to backup both guard positions. While I disagree with the notion, there's no doubt that Flip Murray is our backup point guard.

2. Coach Woodson is quoted as saying that no minutes are guaranteed...well, I'd like for him to site one example where (sans injury) he played anyone outside of the top 8 players (Johnson, Horford, Smith, Evans, Pachulia, Bibby, Murray, Williams). As far as I'm concerned, the top 8 players are guaranteed minutes. Now, you may see a dip in Evans or Pachulia based on matchups or fouls, but I've yet to see extended minutes for any of the other 4 players unless it was injury aided. During a season where there are SEVERAL examples of the top 8 not coming 'ready to play' - you'd think that the other 4 players would merit seeing the floor to see if they were 'ready to play' some of those 'non-guaranteed' minutes.

3. Bibby did not join this team last year playing his best. His defense was terrible then and is terrible now. Given time, he has shown that he can be a capable offensive point guard for our team, but he didn't earn that distinction as a result of consistent point guard play. Why do I mention this? B/c it seems that that is the standard Law is being held to, though he isn't seeing more than 9 minutes a game (and really only 3-4 minutes, if at all, during meaningful times in the game or with the starting unit). How do you expect him to run a team he never plays with? How do you expect him to produce when at first mistake - he's headed back to the bench? Or better yet, how do you expect him to build on success when during the few times he has it - he doesn't even get back in the game OR play the following game?

Bottom line, no one knows if Law is ready, but I do know that Woodson has made it clear - he's not ready to allow us to find out the answer. And it's too bad b/c all year - the Blog Nation has been saying - what if Bibby gets hurt OR what if Bibby leaves in free agency? Then, what?

GM Sund...help?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

29-21 And Discouraged...

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!

Problems:

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).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hawks Blogging From Aspen

Looking out at Aspen Mountain from my perch, it's hard to summon my regular Str8 Talk. So, I will try to give you the white fluffy version...and the fluffy version is - we have officially returned to being the 2006-2007 Atlanta Hawks. The show up when we want, don't do anything strategic all game, make big runs to show that we are good enough to be in a game, but not savvy enough to stave off those 3rd quarter lapses or just not playing hard enough to get over the hump ATLANTA HAWKS. For all of my excitement this year, I'm convinced that the turning point was us not punching back when we played the Orlando Magic back-to-back. Seeing us down by 50 after getting beaten up on our home court struck a chord that said - for everything that happened this season good...this is the sign that we are probably a 6th seed, not really a 4 seed. Since then, nothing has changed my opinion...44-38 here we come. To the thoughts....

1. The Nets Game - here's the summary - we put away a team we should have put away. Women were in abundance for a Friday night game that didn't have a transcendent star and the Hawks didn't embarass me while I had my friend and colleague in attendance with me. Those are all good things. Seeing the lovely Angela with the Globetrotters and the lovely Star happened to be bonuses.

2. The Bucks Game - Didn't see the game b/c I was driving into Aspen at the time, but in true blog fashion - who needs to see the game to comment? I'll simply say this - losing to a team that was bad WITH Michael Redd says a few things:
a) We didn't come to play.
b) I remain convinced that we need to play our bench more. Bucks lose their best player (by far) and still manage to score 110 and beat one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, so if their bench can pick them up - maybe ours can too.

3. Can we officially end the Jump Shot Josh Smith Era and can we officially declare that something wrong with Joe Johnson - he's been shooting poorly since the end of December (which probably has everything to do with the fact that he's facing double teams left and right) and I'm sure that passing to an open Josh Smith (who is open for a reason - SELF CHECK!) is not helping matters..

Anyway, I don't have much else to say other than the only curse word I hope to utter this week was the one I uttered last night when I saw the Hawks/Bucks score. Now, back to the loveliness that is Aspen...