Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lakers @ Hawks - 3/29/09

Sometimes, it serves a purpose to simply revel in the positives. Other times, it serves a purpose to give it to you straight - today, we do both. First, congrats to the Hawks on handing the Lakers their apple bottoms in almost wire to wire fashion. Second, let's congratulate the bench for showing the fire that is necessary for the Hawks to be successful. Third, let's not take this victory too far (but far enough to get all the Hawks fans (and bandwagon jumpers) to buy their playoff tickets IMMEDIATELY) b/c in part due to the Hawks and in part just due to being sloppy - the Lakers did not play anywhere close to their best basketball. The positive there is that we didn't struggle to defeat a team that wasn't playing its best.

Game Recap - Hawks 86, Lakers 76

Now, let's provide some enumeration of the events at the game....

1. It's a testament to how great the city of Atlanta is that all these transplants move here to enjoy our city's greatness. The downside is that they don't leave their team loyalties behind, so it's during games like today when you realize that there is really a ways to go before you see Philips Arena decked out in all red and blue all cheering for the HOME team.

2. Without question, the best player on the court for the Hawks (and maybe the entire game) was Zaza Pachulia. When factoring in the entire game (energy, defense, rebounding, scoring, etc), it's surprising that Zaza didn't get more minutes as a reward for his play vs. the Lakers. Particularly after a rather unsteady game vs. the Celtics. It's one thing to bring some energy to the game as Mario & Flip did, but it's another to dominate stretches of the game and that's what Zaza did in the first half. Str8 Butter Award for you, Mr. Pachulia.

3. As Dave Chappelle's sketch said sometimes 'When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong' was personified when watching Mario West come in and have some relative success vs. Kobe on the defensive end, only to start woofing in Kobe's ear. Predictably, Kobe then directly had his hand in the next 3 baskets. The lesson here - be satisfied in your accomplishments without riling up one of the best players of this generation.

4. While it normally seems counter intuitive to many with the talent to make an NBA roster, if you are being ENCOURAGED (and this is signified by the fact that no one makes a move to defend your attempt to shoot the basketball) to take a shot - you probably shouldn't take it. That lesson needs to be reinforced for Mario West, Josh Smith, and Josh Powell. All three of those guys looked absolutely out of their element on the perimeter. Thanks for the win or else this would have been higher on the list of observations.

5. My brother now lives in Los Angeles and has been very clear about the fact that the worst, most insufferable fans in the NBA are Los Angeles Laker fans and I never thought that could be true until TODAY. Forget the Celtics fans - I am now a believer....now, that the Knicks fans have been humbled over the past few years, the Lakers fans take the cake on entitlement to winning b-ball games. Now, maybe it's b/c they are only here once a year and people need to feel like they have something boast about in public, but today was just ridiculous and it was great to see them all humbled at the hands of a not-even-at-their-best Hawks squad. Can't wait to hear what Doug Stewart of the 2 Live Stews has to say about this game. The Excuse Bank (unless the FDIC has taken it over too) is now taking withdrawals...

6. Final Note - you are clearly living right when you say to yourself that you probably won't have great seats for the Celtic or Laker games and end up 15 rows back and in a suite, respectively. Free of charge...thanks to Toni & William for the love. it will come back to you in spades...

Now, the prediction for the year is 47-35 (we'll go 4-4 for the rest of the year) and good for the 4th seed in the conference. Let's go Hawks and get well Acie and Marvin!

Celtics vs. Hawks - 3/27/09

Rather than do an old school game recap..unlike most - let's focus on the positives from this game.

Celtics 99, Hawks 93

1. While the in-game adjustments were still lacking, let's give Woodson a tad bit of credit. He did try to make a lineup change to see where we could match up with their bigs. Now, whether that's the best way to win vs. the Celtics is debateable, but we have asked for years for Woodson to make attempts and adjustments to show that coaching is happening. In this instance, we'll take what we can get.

2. We did try to get the ball inside to start the game. for the first 2 possessions...

3. We lost by 6 and didn't have Marvin Williams or Acie Law IV. Oh wait, they didn't have KG.

4. We didn't activate Craig Claxton for the game.

Not a long list, but we must look at the positives that occur when you find that you aren't really close to beating any elite teams in the league. Just in case anyone needed a reminder that the 7 game win streak was fool's good - the Spurs, the Celtics, and we'll assume the Lakers - are going to show us just what elite teams do, which is beat teams on the road that they are better than.

Not only that, but it also was proven that teams that depend on jump shooting exclusively cannot go far. So, Magic, Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, and Celtics - we can't beat them consistently unless they underestimate us (which isn't what elite teams do). Can't wait to see how we match up against the Lakers to see if we learn the lessons of Wed and Fri, which is - if you don't play hard, you won't even be competitive against teams better than you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spurs @ Hawks - 03/26/09

Real Talk...it is scary that the first thing that passed through the brain waves when it was announced that Tim Duncan was not playing was - damn, now - we will let up in some way to allow us to lose this game.

Prophetic as that was...there were several cuss words spit during this game. Let us recount them for you:

1. The Hawks Dance Team put up as much effort as the Hawks did versus Tony Parker drives to the lane.
2. The UGA Dance Team put up an even WORSE performance. (Full disclaimer: Ga. Tech grad is the blogger writing this, but trust - if they did well, we'd let you know...it was - well, let's just say you need to be smokin' hot to pass that off as a performance worthy of our visual enjoyment. Take it on faith - no smokin' hot to be found).
3. Whenever Matt Bonner takes you OFF THE DRIVE to score a layup, you deserve to be pulled from the game. Needless to say, Josh Smith continued his uninspired play.
4. Of course, it is no surprise that Tony Parker could find success against us (like almost every other above average starting point guard), but here's what became frustratingly clear - the strategy of switching on every screen is NOT effective for our team against a player of Parker's caliber. This is when you hope your coach makes an adjustment. Of course, that kind of work is above Woodson's pay grade. On the fly changes, traps, etc - that's just too much to ask for more than 2 times a month.
5. It's hard to watch a non-MVP quality player go for 40 and 10 on your home floor. It's even harder when that person is actually the third best player on the team and the two players ahead in the pecking order aren't in the game.
6. Who was the post presence that was stopping us from trying to actually pound the paint? Which defensive MVP candidate were we avoiding? Thomas? Bonner? Gooden? Bueller? Bueller?

Ok, enough ragging on the home town playoff bound Hawks. (Note: that's all we're going to say about the playoffs. We've known this for months that this was a playoff bound team, so to get excited about being one of 16 teams is silly. If anything, we're going to just continue to report how shameful it was that we were NOT one of those 16 for 9 straight years, but don't expect to see any kudos here. Like Chris Rock said, quit looking for credit for things you're supposed to do.)

Let's see how we can bounce back as we play against another of the PGs we could have taken during the Billy Knight era (oh, did we mention that Tony Parker could have been had or that Rajon Rondo could have been had as well - of course, that means we'd have to presume that Mike Woodson would have played them enough to develop into elite point guards... oh never mind!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Timberwolves vs. Hawks - 3/23/09

Since this game certainly didn't rise to the level of a fair fight (Hawks being a NBA team, the Wolves being NBDL worthy), we won't rise up to complete an entire game recap, but I'm feeling very collegiate today, so let's play questions:

Game Recap - Hawks 109, Timberwolves 97

  • How bad do the Timberwolves suck?
  • Can Kevin McHale look anymore like he wishes it was 1984 again and he could participate in games where basketball IQ is a standard, not a bonus attribute to play in the NBA?
  • Is it too nitpicky to feel like the Hawks should have sat their starters by the first 2 minutes of the 4th quarter where the reserves would only have to score about 10 pts from that point to secure the victory?
  • If I'm Thomas Gardner, am I upset that Mario West is playing double digit minutes in games?
  • If I'm Randolph Morris, am I giving Mike Woodson the middle finger for waiting to see if Flip Murray can set his career high before letting me play in a blowout?
  • As a whole, what's the point of putting your starters BACK in the game at the 8 minute mark when you're up 20?
  • Again, how bad are the Timberwolves right now?
  • Does anyone remember going into the post last night? Al? Josh? Anyone besides Flip?
  • Is the writer of this blog a prick for having this many nitpicky things to say after one of the easiest home wins of the season?
  • Isn't it predictable that the lack of playing time has zapped the small amounts of usefulness that Solomon Jones provided early in the season?
  • Can I reasonably say that Mike Woodson and the bench is like oil & water?
  • Isn't it sad that seeing the Atlanta Dance Team perform thrice did not give me one iota of energy?
  • Isn't it just as sad that the people who make people watching so fab every game decided that not even the WOLVES were worthy of a show and tell?
  • Finally, what does it say about my future parenting skills when I judge a family's child rearing by how tuned in a kid is to being a Hawks fan? The 9 year old next to me knowing all the players, yelling the right chants and boos all game made me smile. Those parents are doing a wonderful job.
Ok, I win....the undisputed questions champ is leaving the building.

47-35. Enjoy yourselves at the Highlight Factory for the rest of the week. I'll see you there Wed & Fri (and hopefully Sun)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Confidence?!?

This article just put a stake in any lingering confidence I may have had that the Woodson/Smith relationship was going to ever work out for the good of this franchise.

In a nutshell, anything that ends with - we just agree to disagree sounds like 'sure, we can work together', but it certainly doesn't read 'yes, we are going to win championships together.' The fact that Boris Diaw, Anthony Johnson, and Salim Stoudamire had problems with respecting Mike Woodson - it just reinforces the thought that no matter who is right and who is wrong - it's easier to get rid of the coach than the talent. And Mike Woodson doesn't possess some significant coaching acumen that necessitates that you sacrifice talent and immense potential in order to keep the coach around. In this league, it's MUCH easier to find a coach than it is to find someone with Josh's physical tools.

This is not to absolve Josh Smith of the fact that he needs to grow up, but if you can't convince him after 5 years that dribbling too much, shooting jumpers from 12 ft and out, or simply not bringing your A game every night, then it's hard to come up with a way to see how this ends with IMPROVEMENT. Not just co-existence, but actually working together for the good of the franchise. And that's what 'we just agree to disagree' means. That we're ok with co-exising. The Hawks deserve better.

Click here for the entire article.

Hawks at Cavs - 3/21/09

Since the Hawks couldn't bring themselves to bring their A game, we feel no compulsion to try to give a full game recap. In fact, we don't even need to see the end of the game to start this game recap (which is being done while the game is still on). Here's what you need to know:

1. The Hawks came out sloppy on the offensive end with sub-standard energy level. Sloppy on the offensive end happens...sloppy with no energy is unacceptable.
2. At no point was this game in doubt.
3. Technicals given to Bibby, Smith, and Woodson shows just how we quickly we can unravel in the face of the pressure to defeat the best team in the NBA.
4. The game was further proof that whenever we are faced with a challenge on the road - we get blown out (see: Magic vs. Hawks)
5. So much for the people who make the call that the Hawks match up well with the Cavs in a potential second round series...
6. Marvin Williams isn't so disposable after all.

Other Notes:
1. LeBron is freakin' awesome.
2. Acie hurt his lower back and didn't make it for this road trip. So, that explains the reason why he wasn't on the bench in the 2nd half. What's sad is that no one felt the need to report this (in this instant information world we live in) until today. So, it's not just Woody who doesn't care about you, Acie. The media doesn't either.
3. The end of game run was against their 2nd string, so we won't draw any conclusions, but it sure is nice when teams go away from what's not working (see: Hawks / Nuggets and the move to the press to change pace or during the homestand and the use of the bench when we needed a boost). No energy to start the game, but the energy guy never enters the game until it's for all intents and purposes over...hmmm!
4. LeBron is freakin' awesome.
5. How nice it would have been to sign Joe Smith.

Season Prediction

Let's continue to say that we can be 47-35.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mavericks vs. Hawks - 3/19/09

Since things have gotten so good, so fast...leave it to this blog to try to do a little level setting on things. While the #1 Fan-dom should never be questioned, the truth is - the excitement over this 7 game homestand needs to be put into its proper context...and with that, we bring back a blog favorite (aka anything that got more than 1 comment - :) ) - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly!!!!

The Good
1. The Win Streak - We do agree that a win streak is a win streak. Out of all of the victories - the most impressive one was the Utah Jazz victory. With the way they beat us, we questioned the collective hearts of the Hawks and they showed that an embarrassment would not go unpunished. Let's just hope that that same mentality comes to the forefront when we meet the Magic again (the scene of our most egregious loss of the season - non-Clippers at home category). Side Note - doesn't this home stand solidify that that Clipper loss really was just disgusting?

2. Flip Murray - Some people determined that Flip Murray was a mediocre offseason pickup at best. Well, the Flip Mode Squad has take those thoughts and shoved them right down their throats. While we still would like for Flip to just concentrate on being a cold blooded assassin at shooting guard (we at Hawk Str8Talk like for our players to play to their strengths), we can't front on the spark that Flip provides more often that not. The game against the Mavs stands up as one of the occasions when he shocked the team out of their doldrums and on to a comfortable lead. More Flip as shooting guard....

3. The Mo Evans Experiment lives - Yes, this blog was FIRST to say we wanted Mo Evans in the starting lineup and Marvin on the bench (we're still waiting on the first person to say this is poppycock publicly. Either that or just an acknowledgment that this thought is/was the reason more people don't read this blog) as our attempt to have this team reach its maximum potential and well, the experiment's win column stands at 14-1 as a starter and 10-0 without Marvin at all. We'll continue to say that we still want Marvin back despite the undefeated string, but we do want serious consideration to be made regarding Evans as a starter. This by itself could make us reconsider whether or not Woodson is a viable candidate as the future coach of this team.

4. Home Court Advantage - There always is a built in home court advantage for teams. For the Hawks that normally resulted in familiarity, sleeping at home, and some fan support. That did not normally include any assistance from the referees UNTIL last night. The Mavericks had a right to be upset - we certainly benefited from a ton of no-calls. It felt like the referees finally got around to watching the Hawks/Cavs game from a few weeks ago and said - we gotta make up for that one (Note: They could have waited until Saturday in Cleveland for the make up). So, while Joe Johnson continues to be the most fouled/no called player in the league, there definitely was a home court advantage in the building and there need be no apology to be made. Years of disrespect from the refs in our building are still lingering.

The Bad
1. Injuries - Dallas was really hobbled yesterday. Missing a few starters and not really looking like the Mavs of old. Hence, let's not get too excited about the game. We were fortunate throughout the home stand to be playing teams that were also shorthanded. Maybe it's a bad idea, but the thought of playing teams (and winning) at full strength makes me smile.

2. Point Forward Syndrome - There are a few players who can play point forward. LeBron, Prince, Diaw to name a few, but one of those guys isn't named Josh Smith. One thing in Josh's character (and we can't figure out why the coaching staff can't break him of this) is that Josh needs to try everything during the first half to see if it's in his repertoire for that game. So, he's going to shoot some jumpers (though he's stopped shooting 3s - thankfully) and he's going to try to take it coast to coast. The Mavs game is a perfect example - after one coast to coast run that went for 2, he decided to take that as license to try it 3 more times - two with the predictable little guy strips big guy who can't dribble like Magic result. Even the crowd buzz was geared toward - GIVE UP THE BALL and let him throw you an oop. What's so hard about that...it's so bad that the guards don't even go GET the ball from Josh. Don't they teach point guards to go GET the ball from your forwards and centers anymore...Anyway, point being - Josh stop dribbling the ball upcourt. Unless you steal the ball for a breakaway, find a point guard, so he can get an assist TO YOU!!!! If that doesn't happen, Woody - you can act like a coach and pull his a*& from the game until your point is crystal clear.

The Ugly
1. Acie Law IV - We tried not to say much more during this win streak about Acie esp. after thinking that the corner had been turned with regards to regular 10 minute stints for Acie down the stretch...and in the infamous words of Charlie Murphy in the classic Rick James sketch on Chappelle Show. WRONG! Nope, Mike Woodson is the habitual line stepper we thought he was. We didn't understand why Bibby who was giving us very little offensively or defensively in the first quarter was still in the game, so it was as puzzling to see what happened in 1 min and 20 seconds of time in the 2nd quarter that necessitated Mario West to come and replace the backup point guard, who then proceeded to play 5 minutes. Now, what was even MORE puzzling (and by puzzling, no one else seems to have seen this or has reported on it - so if this was mentioned during the telecast, please let us know) - Acie Law was NOT on the bench in the 2nd half. Now, we're hoping this isn't another player/coach blowup and we hope this wasn't an injury situation, but shouldn't someone be on top of this stuff. Regardless, we can only hope Woody understands that it's time to dial back the lineup once this 4th seed is locked up (and that's about 5-7 games away) and that Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby need some rest. Period. Let the boy play (and it's painful to say this) as much as Mario West, ok?

Hawk Prediction - If we win against the Cavs, we might be tempted to say a 50 win season is in reach, but we're going to keep with our thought that 47-35 is about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kings @ Hawks - 3/17/09

Preamble Ramble

Today, we are going to treat this blog the way the Hawks treated this game. All offense for most of the game and then, some defense to close it out. No old school recap, just thoughts - the game doesn't even merit that much discussion...see our Blog Friends for more detailed analysis.

1. Frontcourt Leadership - There hasn't been a game where we had strong play from Al Horford and Josh Smith with Joe Johnson taking a backseat and the Hawks have lost all season. Now, the reverse ...uh, losses abound. So, the question we ask - does the Hawk coaching staff, management, ownership, etc realize this? Can we play through our big men, please? Bret, don't give up your dream of playing through Al and Josh - it's a recipe for success (just turn your head during the first quarter when Josh is testing his jump shot).

2. Mo Evans Watch - There seems to be some level of mystery in the Hawks Blogsphere about why the Hawks have been able to win every game Mo has started. To Hawk Str8Talk followers, Perry Mason has explained it before, but let's try again. When your players all know their roles and they compliment your team's strengths - success comes with it. Having the most talented team on the floor is not always the recipe for having the BEST team on the floor. We will continue to tout the fact that we believe that our starting 5 right now is the BEST starting five for the team. That shouldn't be confused with it being the most talented 5. Having Marvin play on the court as the 3rd or 4th option is actually a detriment to the team when his game is at its best when he's able to operate as the 1st or 2nd option, so consider us thrilled at the results so far of an absent Marvin Williams - 13-1 with Mo in the starting lineup and 7-0 with Marvin out of the starting lineup. Again, the question we ask - does the Hawk coaching staff, management, ownership, etc realize this? Does ANYONE realize this? We feel like we're the only ones who see this as a good thing - it even has the unfathomable benefits in that Woody is playing the bench as well. So far, no downside is apparent - help us see the light, Bloggers...

3. Bench - We want to move away from our season long rant regarding Acie Law (though for the life of this blog - it is still very, very, very disconcerting that Acie hasn't been able to play for this team until the latter half of the season. We still deserve an explanation for his absence during much of this season. Is there room for another Very?) Now, we will ask the question - is there a chance for us to learn what Thomas Gardner brings to this team? As soon as we reasonably secure the 4th seed, less Joe Johnson (like 30 minutes or less) and more Thomas Gardner should be a goal for this team. Again, we think we see shooting ability, so what's the missing piece here? And if he's not a defensive presence, then an end of half/game scenario where you rotate Gardner/West could be your answer. Anything that removes Josh's free throw shooting and gives us a real 3 pt shooter on the floor when necessary looks like a winner (this is a Marvin-less answer, mind you).

Bonus - Everyone is excited about the Hawks' 40th win. Let us not be counted amongst that number. One of our rants shortly after the new year was that this team, city, and its fans needs to get past the happiness of our continual improvement and focused on winning titles (division/conference/league). As players get better, the team should lose fewer games. So, (Josh Childress' decision notwithstanding) we are unsure why people didn't expect the Hawks to win more games. So, let's continue to beat the drum that the goal is a NBA title. That's it - that's the goal. An Eastern Conference Championship could suffice as significant, but we need to elevate our expectations. As an example, they interviewed Asst. Coach Hill on a telecast two weeks ago and he was very adamant about wanting home court, so they could reach their 'goal' of making the second round.

WHAT?!!!!? Now, pre-homestand, I would have said - that would be an accomplishment (since expectations were significantly damaged by our play in January and February), but now that we're playing again like the October-December Hawks (even without Marvin) - expectations are back on the path that says we should be shooting to win the whole thing. Obviously, the likelihood is not that high, but if we're to believe what Woody has touted as the turning point (the Boston series last year), then shouldn't the Hawks believe that a NBA title is within reach. Whether it's reality is another story, but when the COACHING STAFF says that they think that the second round is the ceiling rather than the floor - that's just not very reassuring. Moreover, it surely won't help sell those 'buy playoff tickets for the whole postseason' packages that are about to go on sale. We'll take first round single game tickets, thank you.

Game Recap - Hawks 119, Kings 97

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Web 2.0, Here We Come

We've finally bitten the bullet and have started to figure out the next generation of technology. Check us out at www.twitter.com/hawkstr8talk. We'll probably be working on some ticket giveaways and specials to post on it, so if not for the interesting Tweets - do it for the swag!

Best,

Your Faithful #1 Fan
Go Hawks!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blazers @ Hawks - 3/15/09

Preamble Ramble

Straight to the point - our three things

1. Old Fashioned Whooping - That's what this is called. No need for an over analysis of the game other than to say - the elements that have won every game save the Pacers game (where any team worth their salt would have had us down by 20 in the first half) were in effect. In a game missing Marvin, Oden, and Martell, this was still looking like a game of mirror images. Roy vs. Johnson. Horford vs. Aldridge. Well, score one for the Hawks as they continue to mow down all teams led by players we should have selected. You can never be mad at a game where you win by 20 AND every single player on each team touches the court.

2. Mo Evans Starting Streak/Marvin out of the lineup - 6-0; 12-1...this is actually getting scary. Could the Marvin Super Sub Strategy gain any more momentum?

3. Schedule - Let's be clear about what happened today, while not taking anything away from the victory. The Blazers played on Friday night, then flew to Atlanta and had to not only get accustomed to Eastern Time, but also had to play a 1PM (read: 10AM PST) game. Not sure why it was scheduled as such, but we can thank the NBA schedule makers for helping us out with this hard fought victory.

Game Recap - Hawks 98, Blazers 80

Str8 Butter Award: Joe Johnson

Let's just go ahead and mark it down - if Joe gets 30 for the rest of the home stand, we'll rename this award JJ's Str8 Butter Award. Motivation has been granted.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - A solid effort once again. At the risk of sounding redundant, let's see if we can get some stirring afoot for Evans in the starting lineup no matter what Marvin's health is for the remainder of this year and during the playoffs.

* Smith - No quibbles over the early jump shots as it seems that JSmoove just has to do a heat check during every game to see if his jump shot is falling and since it invariably is probably not going to be raining - we can then focus on what he does well and that's stuff the box score. Gotta love the jams and the oop to Horford.

* Horford - Not really a great rebounding game for any of the Hawks, but who cares - we won by 20.

* Johnson - Let's just call this game 'where letting Joe Johnson go one on one on anyone' happens.

* Bibby - Good game from Mike on the offensive end. Probably too many minutes in a game that we controlled. Would have loved to see him get some rest in the second half.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - A poor shooting effort, but again - who really is trying to nitpick this?

* Pachulia - Not the same rebounding stats, but he came in with the energy that we need from our bench. Pachulia as bench energy leader sounds good.

* Law - Attack young man, attack...rather that put this on Woody - the challenge has to be levied to you, Acie. Make your coach see why you should be on the court. Anytime Mario West is getting more minutes than you - you should take that as a personal challenge. PLEASE

* West - Ok, now that we've seen a stint of Mario in the last few games, so let's go ahead and start to pick apart West's game. Energy - check, Defense - check, Offensive Rebounding - Check...what to do once you get an offensive rebound when open at 4-6 ft - No Check. Please spend some time shooting the 4-6 ft lay-in.

* Jones - Garbage minutes, but maybe he's ready for rotation minutes in the coming games.

* Gardner - Thank you...garbage minutes for you means shoot the rock and show Woody that you have a skill that should allow you minutes when we aren't shooting well. Now, maybe you are worse on defense than Bibby, but for right now - let the 3s fly, young fella.

* Morris - Garbage minutes in a victory should equate to at least one smile...just one.

* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

We have already praised Woodson's coaching over this home stand. We also would like to say that playing Mario West too much is just begging for criticism as soon as winning and losing can be tied to it. Just saying...

Str8 Talk Love

Sorry, but I couldn't attend. Look for more on Tuesday...

Season Prediction
Currently 39-28. Sticking with 47-35 as my prediction for the season's final record. I just keep looking at the schedule with the Lakers, Spurs, home and home with Boston, Orlando, Dallas, and keep thinking that we have about 6-7 losses in there somewhere. Keep proving me wrong Hawks. We have no problem with eating crow on this one.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pacers @ Hawks - 3/13/09

Preamble Ramble

Straight to the point - our three things

1. The Early Season Hawks Are Back - The one theme we recollect from the season's start was that while we were not blowing teams away - we were mentally tough down the stretch and particularly at home. Right now, that's what we see. An ugly stretch in the first half against a woeful Pacers team made for a potential bad start to the weekend, but in true early season fashion - the ship was righted as a result of Joe Johnson and some timely bench energy

2. The Mo Evans Experiment - We'll just say again 5-0 with Mo in the starting lineup. Small sample size for sure, but undefeated is undefeated. What is more interesting is what to read into the 11-1 with Marvin out of the lineup.

3. Mike Woodson - Again, we can't OVERSTATE this. There is some coaching going on. I don't hold Woody accountable completely for our team being susceptible to overlooking teams for short stretches of a game. That happens to all teams - we can't always play well, but it's the adjustments that you make that make you confident in one's ability. For a 2 game stretch, Woody has responded to poor play and has planned for the playoffs. On one end, he is playing the bench (we'll overlook Mario West coming in as the 6th man in hopes that it doesn't happen again - we don't mind him as the 9th man or as a message for the energy and defense you want in a quick stint, but coming in early in the game without the other proven bench players hitting the court is a bit much). On the other end, he actually took the starters out (most importantly, Joe) as SOON as the team looked like it had the game in hand. The old Woody plays Joe until 45 seconds are left in the game, so imagine the surprise of seeing Joe leaving with 5 minutes left in the game. The rest of the bench emptied shortly thereafter. Acie even got 4 different shifts in the game. All we can say is - Woody, have you been reading this blog? For that matter, any blog?

Game Recap - Hawks 101, Pacers 87

Str8 Butter Award: Joe Johnson

Another 30 pt outing = the on court leadership we've been looking for. Let's make it 4 in a row on Sunday.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - One of his best and most efficient outings. We hate to pat ourselves on the back, but count us among the folks who will be howling if Marvin hits the starting lineup immediately upon being activated if we're still playing as well as we are right now. Let Marvin be our super sub, PLEASE!!!

* Smith - Another Woodson kudo. If JSmoove doesn't want to bring the effort that he needs to bring to be effective. SIT HIM. He will get the message or he'll sit. So, as I watched Bibby, Evans, and Johnson grab more boards during most of the game - nothing could have sent a better message than - we'll play our bench and win this game without you, Smoove.

* Horford - THIS is what we call a man's admission. Horford, thank you for providing me visual, tangible evidence of what we all think you can be for this team. Consistent, solid production. The touches are still a little sporadic, but your work rate is what we count on and it was there for us against a game, but overmatched Hibbert.

* Johnson - 3 in a row...can't say anything bad when there is no evidence of the Joe Johnson isolation play. 30 in the flow of the offense or abusing one on one plays is ok with us.

* Bibby - The defense was ..uh, offensive, but the offense was almost back even if the 3pt stroke was not. Let's continue to manage Bibby's minutes, so he's fresh for the postseason.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Nothing really special here, but the energy was where it needed to be.

* Pachulia - Give the man 15 minutes and he'll get you damn near 10 boards, so the question is - is there a time when we might want to play him and Horford together with Smoove at the 3 in order to match up on the boards. Just a thought for all the times we get outrebounded. Yeah, this rebuffs my Mo Evans experiment, but now is the time to figure out what combinations are viable for the postseason.

* Law - He could be more aggressive all the time (kinda like Kevin Johnson in his heyday), but 3 assists, no turnovers, good defensive energy, and 4 stints in the game. It's making me afraid that a Charlie Brown/Lucy football foray is in the works by our fair coach...are you really gonna let us kick the football, Luc...oops, Woody?

* West - We gave you the silver lining in our last game recap, now let's give the honest truth. West is an ENERGY guy. You send him in to send a message or to play defense. That's it. Anyone with his hops who can get 3 straight offensive rebounds and has the b-ball IQ not to pass the ball to JSmoove on the perimeter, YET can't hit an open 4 ft shot (or even try to attempt it) says that he simply needs to come in under those circumstances. Now, let's be honest - I'd prefer to see him in for a few extra minutes than not at all as a metaphor for Woody's willingness to trust in his bench, but let's find the RIGHT mix and that means only when we come out lazy or when we need a stop or to give a foul, etc.

* Jones - Back in the rotation...what else can be said?
* Gardner - Finally a chance for a few minutes, but why are you not jacking it up when you get in? Show Woody that you have a skill that the Hawks can use.
* Morris - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Using the bench and sitting Smoove says to me that MAYBE Woody is turning the corner on this coaching thing - albeit 4 years later, but hey - we ain't too proud to beg.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Sparse crowd, but those who were there were loud and in tune with the task of WINNING from the 2nd quarter on...gotta love it.

2. The Overscene - Nothing much of note actually.

3. Our experiences - Nothing of note again.

4. The Honey Quotient - Sensing a pattern here

5. Hawk Shouts - Kat

6. The After Party - Since we didn't flub the game, there was no reason to avoid the best party of the year. Sol Fusion at Aja was extraordinary as usual. Very diverse crowd, great venue, good people watching, and the music of our youth, oh... and expensive drinks....what says Atlanta more than that? Anyway, it was a great time had by all. Enjoyed the friends, old and new.

Season Prediction
Sticking with 47-35 as my prediction for the season's final record. Which is seven games better than my preseason prediction and 4 games better than my best case prediction, so for all my whining - we are still doing better than expected. Good times...

Jazz @ Hawks - 3/11/09

Preamble Ramble

Excuse the brevity, but it's a few days after the game and we have things to say...
Let's start with our three things:

1. Deron Williams - Wow, that guy just looks like all sorts of awesome. Still can't understand what owner (oops, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to continue the charade that Billy Knight was responsible for that pick) made us select Marvin, but this annual reminder can only be saved with wins.

2. The Mo Evans Experiment - No matter how forced it is, the Mo Evans as a starter experiment is at 4-0 and counting. Hate to say we told you so, but ...

3. Mike Woodson's Evolution - Since none of the other injuries have caused Mike Woodson to coach better, who would believe that Marvin Williams' injury would cause a rethinking of the offense, the rotations, heightened confidence in the bench, renewed commitment to defense, etc, but one has to hope that the things seen vs. the Jazz are repeatable. It's still needs to be proven with all the bullets in the holster, but it sure was good to see the bench given a chance to perform. Not sure if we want that in as long a stint as Mario West received, but one has to be encouraged that while the lead was there - there was no knee jerk reaction to make a change for the sake of making the change.

Game Recap - Hawks 100, Jazz 93

Str8 Butter Award: Joe Johnson

Let's just keep it real. Many have noted that Joe Johnson's production had started to fall off. Well, tonight was a reminder of how valuable Johnson is to the offense. The early 2008-2009 Johnson was in full effect from the opening tip and we are happy to see him back.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - Again, there is this belief that you always have to play your 5 best players, but some of the best teams have debunked that belief. The Spurs and the Mavs come to mind...the reason they don't start their best players is to allow other players to get started and for chemistry/defensive reasons. Evans' good defense and spot up shooting is still a better fit in our opinion for a Horford, Smith, Johnson, Bibby lineup b/c he's the one player in that lineup that doesn't need shots to be effective.

* Smith - Maybe the Bobcats game was that abyss that we all hoped it to be. Ever since then, it's been lights out for JSmoove. It's probably best to not harp on the fact that he still will take bad shots and bring the ball up the court instead of passing to the PG, but when it comes with 20 and 10, blocked shots, steals, and good passing - who are we to complain. Oh, and can you say DUNK ON THEM?

* Horford - Another double double - another solid effort. We called Joe Johnson and Al Horford out in February for their lack of stellar production (we need stellar production for this team to become a 2nd round or better team) and it looks like Horford has stepped up to the challenge. Let's hope Woody continues to get Horford touches and teaches him how to talk trash after a Murray dunk w/o the technical.

* Johnson - 31 and 9...back to back 30pt games - sounds like production for an All Star. Play like this down the stretch and superstar status might still be within reach.

* Bibby - We are concerned about the fact that when Johnson is performing at a high level, then Bibby doesn't. Might it be time for a Law/Johnson starting backcourt and a Bibby/Murray backup backcourt in order to see what these two can do with each other. Law and Murray being able to penetrate and dish and Bibby and Johnson being able to take shots off of that penetration.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - When your backup point guard provides one of the dunks of the game (yes, dunks!), it's a good day. Murray has been a consistent killer for this team all season and let's continue to use him as just that - our Vinnie Johnson.

* Pachulia - As always, solid production off the bench in the post. Nothing more needs to be said.

* Law - He still needs to finish better, but so did Marvin Williams and you see where he is now, so that looks to be more of a function of playing time that ability. There should be much more concern about Law's outside shooting than his ability to drive, dish, and finish. The more he plays the point and plays defense - there is still a baffling sense of why Law can't get more playing time, PARTICULARLY with the injuries we've had this season.

* West - Here's the silver lining in Mario's play. If Mario is able to give us minutes, there has to be a Woody coaching moment involved b/c there isn't a basketball skills reason for Mario to play. While we love Mario's energy and heart, we know that that can only take you so far. Hard nosed defense, making open shots and free throws are necessary to have an energy guy from the 3 spot on the floor. Mario can only do hard nosed defense (presumably), so the silver lining is that Woody has determined that using the bench to see what it gives you when the starters are NOT giving you what you request. And that we will do that against the best teams without feeling a sacrifice of that particular game is necessary. It serves not only a greater good, but can have an immediate payoff. That is actually a golden lining if you ask me. Thanks Mario! [Aside: We still believe that he should be our 10th man, so tread carefully Woody with this experiment]

* Jones - DNP - Not sure how he fell behind Mario on the depth chart, but when you win - you don't ask.
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

As we said above, we'll eschew the desire to nitpick any decisions of a coach we had little confidence in and say we were happy to see a change in strategy by the team. Aside from the brief change to the 4th quarter Joe Johnson isolation play, which resulted in a bucket, 2 bad shots, and a turnover - we were happy to see use of the bench and a strategy that seemed to have us attacking and playing hard nosed defense. Anytime, we attempt to play to our team's strengths (running at every opportunity) - we smile.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Looks like Atlanta is trying to get ready for playoff level crowd participation. Can't ever take that for granted.

2. The Overscene - Not a star studded night, but it was a fairly full house and so we could have missed someone...

3. Our experiences - Maybe it was due to the fact that we were touting our favorite non-floor seats for the Hornets game, but thanks to the best salesman in all of Atlanta's sports teams - (hit me up for more on him)...we were able to watch the game from our FLOOR SEATS. Anytime you see a $400 ticket or a row that's repeated (AA, BB, CC, or DD) - go ahead and do the happy dance. Yep, great game, Level Lounge access (vs. our usual Club Level), and a Hawks win...can't get much better than that.

4. The Honey Quotient - Since we were on the floor, it was hard to see what the crowd had in store, so we'll just say - who cares? We had floor seats, man.

5. Hawk Shouts - The usuals - big up to Will, most definitely

6. The After Party - No after party...too much partying lately to make it out, but Friday will be different.

Season Prediction

Still can't imagine that we will only lose 4 games for the rest of the season (12-4 seems to be asking too much), but 9-7 seems about right with our schedule, so that means 47-35 and possibly that 4th seed. Still not sure we want that with the way that D Wade is playing (I still have that '05 NBA Finals vs. the Mavs ringing in my head and Lord knows we don't want to deal with the referees vs. Wade), but that's where it's headed. Call me back to encouraged that home court advantage would be a big difference for us vs. any team, so let's get it crackin'.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hornets @ Hawks - 3/9/09

Preamble Ramble

Apologies for our tardiness, but when working on business deals that can put you back in the business of cash flow unclogged-ness (yes, I made that up) - something must give. That said, when you hear about the latest brainchild from our fellow Hawks fan - I think you'll forgive me. Now, for part 1 of 'Oh, How I Wish We Had Chosen (Fill in the Blank)'...

Before I get to the game recap, three things:

1. Marvin Williams - Let's all send up prayers for Marvin Williams as we look for a positive resolution to his back trouble. Only thought that comes to mind though is - does Marvin's duck booty have anything to do with his condition?

2. Free Throw Shooting - I will keep harping on it until I see change. Our free throw shooting SUCKS. 70% is not gonna cut it.

3. Bench Play - Here's evidence that while you may not have faith that the 2nd team is going to bring great results every night - you MUST use your 2nd team consistently (that means Acie, Solo, and er...Mario (or in my opinion Gardner). How will know whether or not when your regular rotation is not doing well if you can generate production elsewhere? So, we must continue to sound the alarm that says - maybe Woody will actually start coaching down the stretch...too bad it took Marvin getting injured (with no guarantee that if/when Marvin comes back that we won't go back to what we always do).

Game Recap - Hawks 89, Hornets 79

Str8 Butter Award: Acie Law IV

Yep, I've been stumping for him all season and while Joe Johnson finally showed up and snapped out of the slump that's affected him in 2009 (is he really shooting 40% from the field for this year? Uggh!) - I'm giving Law my Str8 Butter award. His defense against Paul and his ability to get in the lane and dish is worthy of my Str8 Butter Award. Of course, it's self serving because we really just want to say - PLAY YOUR BENCH players, but also b/c it highlights my point that Flip is a shooting guard and Acie is a point guard. More on this later...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - Now, the first quarter aside, the first time with my dream lineup went well. Let's see if this injury with Marvin will force Woody to consider playing Evans in the starting lineup and bringing Williams off the bench. Seeing Marvin as the #1 option for the 2nd team with Law, Flip, and Zaza would make me smile.

* Smith - Still a lot of bad shots and bad decisions to pass it to him with the clock dwindling, but having his energy is what i continue to say is key. Having Josh's head in the game despite the jump shots is the key. We've gone over his fluctuating B-ball IQ ad nauseum, so let's focus on the 13 rebounds, interior passing, assists, and blocks. If we can just get him to give up the ball after getting the boards, get his free throw shooting up, and playing hellacious help defense, I'll concede the jump shots (with gritted teeth). I mean how anyone wants to get rid of him when you see him block West's shot and then runs back to get the oop is just beyond me. How many players can do that in this league?

* Horford - A pretty light game for Al - some boards, but Zaza came and provided the energy boost.

* Johnson - Finally, a superstar game from our All Star...had been so long since I felt like Joe was the MAN. Maybe he wanted to show Chris Paul a thing or two, but whatever the motivation - please bring it for the rest of the season.

* Bibby - Bibby didn't bring much this game, but didn't have to. Would have loved to see Acie finish out the 4th quarter. Keeping Bibby fresh esp. on a night when he's not shooting well and can't do anything with Paul says - just sit down and enjoy your backup's production.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Flip came out shooting and while he did not shoot well from 2pt range, the 3 pointers made up for it and most were good shots. Let's keep that up and find some chemistry with your 2nd team point guard, Acie Law IV.

* Pachulia - If there's anything this season has proved, last season was an anomaly. Zaza is a very productive NBA player as long as he's a backup. By very productive, we mean - he takes the right shots, is always looking to rebound (esp. on the offensive glass), and provides a toughness that we need more of. More praise for Zaza we say...

* Law - Without reiterating the above, let's just say - good defense, good shot selection, penetration should translate into 15-20 minutes EVERY game as far as I'm concerned. I'm not optimistic it does, but it should.
* Jones - Again, not the most skilled, but as long as energy, shot blocking, and non-foul defense comes in 5-10 minute bursts - we're on board.
* West - DNP. Might as well as not played.
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I have been on a mission to kill the tenure of Mike Woodson. We all know this and on days like this one - the gasoline and the fire hose to douse the fire are all in the same game. The decision to play the bench has been LONG overdue and seeing them be effective against a good team (sans Peja, though) is proof that maybe this would have been a good idea all season long, but then again - maybe Marvin's injury is the reason and we will be back to status quo soon. OR we can believe Mike when he says that he plans to use the bench more down the stretch. Now, this is also what he said last year down the stretch with Acie specifically and ...uh, I can probably count how many minutes he played on my hands, so what Mike says and does are not always in sync. So, let's just hope that this is a sign of things to come where Mike actually coaches based on what he sees before and during the game with an eye on the playoffs and getting our team ready for a post season run.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - A great crowd for a Monday night and CP3. Too many New Orleans fans for my tastes, but it was good to see folks excited about the squad. Let's keep it going...

2. The Overscene - No stars seen, but again - it was a Monday.

3. Our experiences - Well, it's always a good day when your bartender gives you free drinks all night. The recession, free tickets, and a smile can go a long way. That and my favorite non-floor seats have to be the seats on row Y in the club section. The sights are always a good look.

4. The Honey Quotient - Well, it was a night with eye candy that is unusual for a week night. And for me to be in a eye candy sandwich was an extra benefit. Thanks to Angie, Star, and Charlie - my night was complete :)

5. Hawk Shouts - Just the regulars...big up! Dennis Scott, Mel, Tino, Paul, Will, Harlee, Stacie, Carthan, and the rest of the gang.

6. The After Party - A Hawks win means - let's see what we can do out in the streets and that we did. Trips to 404 Lounge (what's up Salah?), Pearl (twice - w/ Star and Will..happy b-day, Kelly), and M Bar (grand finale party this Friday...all liquor must go!) made for a fun evening. It's always amazing just how many folks are out in this city after 10pm, but you can't knock the hustle. See you on Wednesday. Hopefully, we will have a victory to celebrate esp. since I hear it's Rick James night at Kat's Cafe. ooo-wee!

Season Prediction

45-37 is where I'm going to stay until we prove something against the Utah Jazz, so if we do that - maybe my fear of a 1st round exit and 6th seed will be less founded in reality. So, prove me wrong Hawks, prove me wrong!!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pistons @ Hawks - 3/7/09

As the consistent readership knows, Hawk Str8Talk doesn't miss home games, but when faced with the prospect of spending time with friends, my goddaughter, and Andre 3Stacks, Ciara (who is really stunning in person), and their celebrity friends at the Class of 3000 Live as well as an after party at Uptown with Will Power, Idris Elba, Keisha Knight Pulliam, D. Woods and many more (good times, I say) - well, the decision is a little more complex. So, we gave up the opportunity to watch the most obnoxious fan base's team get swept by our fair Hawks to spend time with the kids and rub elbows with folks who can buy drinks for me in VIP (uh, it is a recession, people). Therefore, it's the DVR-enhanced version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (back by popular demand...)

Game Recap - Hawks 87, Pistons 83

The Good
1. In the last episode of As The Hawks Turn, Josh went all jilted lover on Mike Woodson. Mike Woodson banished Josh to the couch and the flat screen to watch Cinemax instead of ...well, you know. At that moment, we said - either the show will jump the shark and have Josh making smoothies with the fishes or they will determine that it's cheaper to keep her. Well, these economic times prevailed and we had a mea culpa (for one game at least) and the results were eerily Hoopinion-esque. By that we mean that Josh and Al can lead this team to victory. Nothing could make me happier than seeing an active Josh and Al with our backcourt playing the background. Made free throws, blocked shots, rebounds, active defense...all reasons the good josh makes you forget the 2-3 jump shots he's gonna take a game.

2. Joe Johnson didn't have to do much to lead us to victory. Just seeing two people follow him around and having him give it to players who only have 1 on them was a revelation.

3. Seeing lots of passes made me giddy.

The Bad
1. Can we put an end to the Josh Smith bout with the referees. We'll get bad calls, but my goodness...I mean really - just think it took Rasheed about 7-8 years before he got to the epic 41 technicals in one season level, so let's keep this in mind. Having him arguing with the refs with 2 minutes left and the Pistons running the other way is just not acceptable. Good thing we won the game or this would be in the ugly column...

2. 3 minutes for Acie...sigh! This would have been ignored had we not seen Will Bynum (former Georgia Tech quasi-star) getting 10 minutes that it seems like we could find for Acie, but we digress.

3. Joe Johnson looking unhappy to be playing basketball. Maybe there's a reason for the 4th quarter ISO.

The Ugly
1. Rasheed Wallace's descent to mediocrity.

2. Marvin's game - now maybe this was because he was having back problems, but we definitely want to reissue our vote for Marvin off the bench as super sub. Whenever he is the #1 option, Marvin plays like a new man.

3. That I wasn't there when the crowd was alive and well to shake the Pistons down the stretch.

Recap
It's going to take more than beating the sorry Pistons to convince me we've turned the corner. Beat the Hornets and Jazz and we'll reconsider our belief that we have the 6 seed in our future.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hawks @ Bobcats - 3/6/09

Let's see if we can find some way to express our disappointment in our Hawks right now. Starting with the fact that we don't even feel right about doing our 2008-style (aka old school) game recaps vs. just talking about the things that need to be talked about...so let's do it The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (super cliche kinda like the 4th Quarter JJ ISO). We can give a shout out to Billy Knight - sure, looked like he had something to crow about as Boris Diaw showed the talent that he saw in him. Little did he know that his coach couldn't develop and nurture those talents. And without doing what others will surely do - Larry Brown's Bobcats sure looked like a budding team - Wallace, Diaw, Felton all seemed to be bringing that team together - I thought I was watching a cheap version of the Utah Jazz last night, but then again - maybe that's how we make teams look.

Game Recap - Bobcats 98, Hawks 91

The Good
1. Let's cut to the chase. Everyone who has ever read this blog knows that we do not believe Mike Woodson is the coach who can take this team to a championship. Mike Woodson needs to have a veteran team with vocal leadership and championship talent to win a title (of course, there are probably 20 other coaches who would fall under that description). So, I won't be so bold as to say he can't win with any team, but not with the Hawks. Not with a young, stubborn team that needs as much tough love as they need player development and superior game by game strategic design and in-game adjustments. That said, I have no problem with a coach not putting up with insubordination. Period. No one should allowed themselves to be punked by their team. So, we say it's very good that Josh sat during the game. Not only that - our comeback of sorts happened with him on the bench. Another good thing in the long run to me - to show the team that we can compete without all of our teammates on the court.

2. Al Horford has played well of late and has started to show some results with what seems to be an almost universal opinion that he will be a special player. I won't argue his potential, but have been very critical of the fact that his production on the court has not shown how special that opinion indicates he is/will be.

3. It was brief, but to see us start the game and having success with Al Horford and Josh Smith on the block and Marvin going to the rack in our offensive sets. That was positive and actually supports Hoopinion's thought that running the offense through Horford and Smith in the post. Not a big enough sample size to agree, but it sure looked better than what we did throughout the rest of the game.

The Bad
1. Well, we'll start with the obvious - Acie puts up energy and effort in New York. Acie gets only another 4 minutes of PT particularly when we are one JSmoove down and getting less than effective play from Zaza in Charlotte.

2. We also didn't let Flip and Maurice play as often as they should when they were providing some MUCH needed energy off the bench where Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby were not.

3. Speaking of which, what happened to the time honored tradition of the leader of your team calling out players. Maybe he didn't need to do it last night, but someone needs to call Josh Smith. I love Smoove, but enough is enough - the Rasheed Who Me? scowl, the shooting jump shots (though I must admit - guys need to stop passing him the ball in positions to shoot the jump shots), the lost focus...All I can say is - Mike Woodson can't deliver that message anymore.

4. More importantly, what happened to the time honored tradition of your superstar takes over the game. Joe, where has the 30-40 pt effort to just take over a game. Oh, right - you're not a superstar, you're an All Star. What happened to screens, what happened to putting your players in positions to be successful. Going back to one of our Good items - sure, sucked to see us attack the post with a purpose early and with success, then see us go back to shooting jump shots and not running on the break.

The Ugly
1. Well, besides the fact that this blog's fear that we would not be as good in 2009 as 2008 continuing, we have to say that we are at a crossroads. When the players start fighting the coach at halftime, that can be a great or terrible thing. If it was Phil Jackson coaching our team, I'd call it great. But since you know I'm not confident in our coach's ability to lead this team, well - it's about 75% in the terrible side of the ledger. Maybe this home stretch will reveal something in these Hawks - we'll be there to see it after tonight's game vs. the Pistons, but I said it weeks ago - the Hawks are missing the heart they showed early in the season. And as a result - the promise this season showed is RAPIDLY going down the drain.

So, our season prediction at this stage is that we will go .500 down the stretch to end up 44-38 and well, hello 6th seed and first round date (and loss) to the Orlando Magic. Hate to say it and feel it, but...if and only if it results in a new coach - I think this can only be a good thing for the entire organization.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hawks @ Knicks - 3/4/09

We are going to have to depart from our regular game recap to just highlight some very important points that are on my mind after last night's game.

Game Recap - Knicks 109, Hawks 105

1. It is really difficult to feel good about anything that happened in the Garden when you feel like coaching is the difference between wins and losses most nights. If you have a team that's a poor rebounding team and they don't have a low post presence - why not play to your advantage (like we did in the first half) and just pound the paint? Horford, Pachulia, Smith, and Williams all could have had double doubles during the game at the rate that the paint was being abused by the Hawks. Watching Zaza and Al on the bench during large portions of the 2nd half is just..well, disheartening.

2. Mike Woodson's post game quotes (always a source of puzzlement) just again inspire NO confidence. Why not be honest about what happened in the 2nd half? We didn't come to play. Either blame the players for their lack of focus or blame yourself for not providing motivation or a coherent strategy that would lead us to victory, but you can go to hoopinionblog.com to see the tom foolery we have to blog about each game.

3. I will leave Josh Smith's free throw shooting alone and even the areas where individuals could have done better. I'm going to point only to the one area that made me go from 'hey, we can't win them all' to 'I truly hate my coach' mode. As I stated in the last game recap, I believe that Acie Law IV can go ahead and start spending the rest of the season working on his game for next season b/c he will not be used by Mike Woodson this season (and probably ever, barring injury or a mandate from on high). Now, my 25 years of watching Atlanta Hawks basketball - I can at least detect when a player just NEVER should play basketball. This is a team that played Royal Ivey, played the old Boris Diaw, plays Mario West, etc - I've seen some guys who I didn't think had a discernable skill and yet they got some burn. Well, in the time, I've watched Acie Law IV - I can't say he's starting guard material in the NBA, but when I'm watching Chris Duhon with a starting gig in the league - it begs to reason that Acie Law can at least play backup minutes for anyone. Of course, keeping him off the court provides enough shield from criticism until you watch what happened in THREE minutes of play. Law essentially brought the Hawks from smack dab in the middle of garbage time - let's run out the clock-dom to hold the phone - we were 2 missed shots from overtime at a minimum.

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? Sure, anyone can throw up some lucky shots, but that's not what happened - he penetrated (when's the last time you saw a guard break down the defense and dish Chris Paul style), he hit an outside shot, he caused turnovers, he showed energy...now, I'm sure that's some frustration in that 3 minute stint, but damn me - if it didn't look like the kind of effort that we could use when Bibby is ...uh, sick and when you decide to take away some of the effectiveness of your starting and backup shooting guards into point guards (note: I still refuse to call Murray a point guard). I believe Law can run our team, but it's not important for that to happen right now. It is important for Law to play every night for at least 10 minutes. He needs to earn his team's trust, run the offense, and provide a blow for Bibby so he's fresh for the playoffs. Same for Joe Johnson. So, let me be clear - I laid down the gauntlet a few weeks ago in saying that short of the Hawks going to the Eastern Conference Finals - I want a new coach. Nothing will convince me otherwise - not even the fact that Bret predicted that we'd be under .500 at the end of the season and his expectations have been exceeded. We need a new coach and we need one NOW!!!!!!

Keep your head up, Acie, since we know that a DNP is coming for your next game. It matters not that you almost single handedly won the Knicks game on the road in only 3 minutes of playing time. Sigh!!!!

And to my loyal readers - yes, I had to wait for about 15 hours before I sent this b/c I kept writing expletives and needed to figure out how to write this coherently without the venom. Sorry for the delay....Oh and did I mention that we're not going to have home court advantage at the rate that we've played in 2009. Am I the only person who is upset that we're playing worse in 2009 than in 2008? Everyone thinks we match up so well with Miami (which I disagree with - think, D-Wade superstar calls and the team getting better as the season goes along b/c their coach PLAYS everyone), but we might not even be playing Miami or in the 4 or 5 seed slot. Wake up, fans. We are trending in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yesssss!

To buttress my angst over not making one move to improve our team (Robert Horry, will you stop by GM Sund's office, please?) while watching teams better than ours all getting better, I give you this to view to keep the smile on our faces.

Hawks Dance Team...yes! thanks, micah - you've made my day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hawks @ Wizards - 3/2/09

No old school game recap here b/c the game isn't worth a full game recap. If we would have lost, I would be out in the streets putting heads on stakes and all that.

So, a few observations:

1. On a back-to-back when your point guard still isn't logging his normal minutes against one of the worst teams out there, let's just go ahead and say it - Acie, put a fork in your season. If Mike Woodson is fired, you may be a useful player for the Atlanta Hawks next season and if not, I hope you get traded to a team that will allow you to attempt to prove your worthiness as a player in this league.

2. Marvin - please be my super sub, even if you aren't a sub. Just continue to play aggressively, please.

3. Josh - please look at the tapes and see how great you look when you are playing inside 12ft. You're not perfect (as in free throw shooting and not being able to give the ball to the point guard on the fast break and get on a wing (James Worthy tapes, where are you?), but you certainly can be my $58 million dollar man.

4. Team - Glad to see you put away a bad team on the road despite weather and all that. I wasn't going to accept any excuses anyway, so thanks for just putting the team away. You did what you were supposed to do. Ignore any praise or any comments going overboard b/c of it. Just get over to New York and let's beat them too.

(BTW - is it just me, but is Nate Robinson REALLY a big enough of a NBA player to be afforded the right to be have the commercials say - the Hawks go to NYC to play Nate Robinson and the Knicks on SportsSouth...I mean really - Nate Robinson! He's been ballin' for sure, but the guy isn't even starting. Wow, this brings new meaning to Kryptonite.)

Out!!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cavs @ Hawks - 3/1/09

Preamble Ramble

This year, I wanted to do better about sending blogs within hours of the games ending and news coming out. Well, this was thwarted by an offensive by the officiating crew that refereed the game. Now, this is not said to give the Hawks a pass for losing a game they should have won, but simply to provide you the context for how long it took for me to calm down after a loss. Not sure if I've taken a loss this hard since the Celtics game on ESPN and not sure if I've ever kicked a chair in the club level, but leave it to our late 4th quarter execution (and building angst described below) to cause an infliction of Adidas-icitis on a stool.

Before I get to the game recap, three things:

1. I am thoroughly frustrated with any fans who come away from that game happy with our effort and saying we should be proud of the Hawks. Listen, I've been saying this since it became apparent that we had a playoff team. We must get over the moral victory stage in our fan-dom. Screw the moral victory - the Hawks play games to win them. That's it. We can play and beat any team in the league. I don't believe we can beat most playoff teams in a 7 game series (if our team stays as presently constituted), but I do believe that we can beat any team on any night if we play to our strengths and, therefore, on a night when we have the game under control - I am not going to be happy because the team we lost to has a great record. Maybe if we were on the road, but at home - sorry...stop being satisfied with almost.
2. I'm not going to blame the refs for the loss. That said, they were awful. There's no doubt that at least 5-6 calls were extremely questionable. Now, the issue I'm frustrated about in the grand scheme is this - LeBron James is the best basketball player in the planet in my mind and he doesn't NEED superstar calls. None do. Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson...none of these guys need superstar calls. On too many occasions, that is the difference btw a win and a loss. Simply call the game that's in front of you. That's it. It won't take any shine off of their brilliance to not be given extra possessions or even extra shots to win games. So, to watch Joe Johnson get hit before the final Cavs possession, then watch LeBron not get hit and get a call is really just sickening. Either call it both ways or don't call it.
3. Free Throws - I have repeatedly said that our free throw shooting is a major issue. It still doesn't seem to be taken seriously. If Josh hits the first 2 free throws of the game, we win. I hate to cherry pick things, but I just believe that if we can get our 2nd worst free throw shooting percentage up, then we can add 4-5 pts to our score a game. That is a major difference in winning and losing.

Game Recap - Cavaliers 88, Hawks 87

Str8 Butter Award: Zaza Pachulia

There was a lot to like about the Hawks' effort this evening, but none more than Zaza's infusion of energy and commitment to the glass. My loyal readers already know of my affinity for Zaza's effort as a backup center for this team, but tonight - we needed someone to commit to playing down low and Zaza was up to the challenge. 23 minutes and 6 offensive rebounds - almost a double double with less than 3" on his vertical leap sounds like Str8 Butter to me.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Williams - You can't measure Marvin's impact on this game by looking at a box score. Marvin frequently played LeBron well (or what you would consider well since all you can do is hope to contain the best player in the game). Now, some of this effort is marred by the fact that the referees seemed to want to mimic the Fox News mantra of having a slogan, but not sticking to it.

* Smith - It's already been discussed ad nauseum in chat rooms, on message boards, and in the blogsophere as to why Josh Smith didn't play for much of the 2nd half. I certainly would love to hear what Josh or Woody have to say about it, but I will say that if this was based on lack of effort or any desire to prove that we can beat the best teams without a reliance on Josh OR a desire to simply ride with the team that brought you to the brink of victory. So.Be.It!!! I love Josh - no one has defended Josh Smith more than me. I forgive bad Josh in order to get some good Josh, but when the bad Josh (no free throw shooting, jump shot shooting, sulking, complaining about fouls that he ABSOLUTELY committed) starts to equal the effort of good Josh - a benching is fine by me. None of that trade Josh, give up on Josh crap here, just saying that coaching Josh has been sorely missing his entire career and if that's what this was...we can only ask for more and to almost win should hopefully give Woodson more leeway to actually focus on the big picture without feeling like the small picture (winning an individual game) will surely be compromised.

* Horford - A double double for Al, but surely - with the weak inside presence that the Cavs are trying to shore up with Joe Smith (probably as we speak - uh, an aside : GM Sund, can WE also try to get Joe Smith, can we try to get Stromile Swift, etc?) we could have gone to Al more during the game. He had been doing it for the past few games, so let's keep going to what has been WORKING.

* Johnson - A decent game from Joe, but as we've previously stated - let's call Joe what he is - an All-Star, not a superstar. That's not meant as a knock. That's meant as ...he's an All Star. A superstar gets calls and wins games. And well...we didn't get calls nor did we win the game. Now, I'm not going to knock his individual game, but I am going to say that if it is Joe's decision to ask for the ISO down the stretch, then I blame Joe for having a belief in his abilities that isn't being supported by victories over good to great teams. Good to great defensive teams will not allow the last 4 minutes to be defeated by a play that we ALL have watched for the past 4 years. Sorry to say that, but only D-Wade, Kobe, Paul, LeBron are good enough to impose their will on the game like that. I love Joe, but Joe you are an All Star, not a superstar. I'm not sure if he needs to know that or if Woodson needs to know it, but SOMEONE needs to know it on the Hawks bench.

* Bibby - I could just repeat what I said on Friday and in fact, I will. Do not play Mike Bibby again until he is fully healthy. Period. I still am shaking my head in disbelief over why he was in the game with 40 seconds left. DISBELIEF!!!!

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Flip, I am now a fan of yours. That said, you are not our 2nd best option on any night. I want to see you doing what you do best in spurts and when Marvin, Al, and Joe are on the court - you running an isolation play is NOT what I want to see. I want to see you playing off our better options. Just sayin'...

* Pachulia - See Str8 Butter Award

* Evans - Mo, I forgot that Mo even played. Not only that - then I looked at his line in the box score and uh...the line supports my recollection of you playing.

* Law - DNP. Let's hope that we can see you play until Bibby is healthy.
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive. And thanks to hoopinion for posting the Gardner interview. I'm so happy that he seems to have his head on straight. In fact, I would have rather seen him in the game than Bibby for the final 40 seconds.
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

First, let's kill the coach, players, and referees for the correct things. I will not kill Woodson for sitting Josh Smith for most of the 2nd half. I will not kill Woodson for sitting Bibby once he showed he wasn't ready. And that's where it ends. I will continue to highlight why I believe Woodson to be ineffective as a leader of this basketball team. I hate to do it actually. I'm a pretty benevolent guy, but let's count the ways...they have quickness on the wings - how about playing Acie to match their quickness? Why even play Bibby? Why not bring in more bodies (maybe Josh can block his shot off the ball) to stop the LeBron penetration on the final play? WHY OH WHY did we spend the last 4 minutes going to Joe with that DAMN isolation play? At the four minute mark, I said to myself - we've playing decent basketball. We came back and none of it was based on the Joe Johnson 4th quarter dribble around until you can get a shot play (or in some cases, Flip), so WHY start now when you're ahead. I don't kill the team for not trying to get a 2 for 1 shot situation with the game on the line - I blame them for reverting to the things that truly haven't shown themselves to be effective over the long haul.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Now, there's my Superstar's in town, Friday night, Get Crunk Crowd. You know it's gonna be a good night when you get to the game 30 minutes early and are in LINE to get in. Yesssss Weeeeee Cannnnnnn!

2. The Overscene - I'm sure it was reported that many of the stars were in the house. Plenty of football and hockey players joined Spike Lee, Bill Murray, Ciara, Polow Da Don, Christina Milian (in a ridiculous get up), The Dream, Usher, and so many others...

3. Our experiences - Thanks to my people who handled the drinks, seats, and entertainment. I was able to hold it down with T.K. and Brian Thomas as we got a chance to not sit in our seats and enjoy the sights (the game and otherwise). All I'll say is that for everything that I thought was missing on Friday with D-Wade - it was there in spades on Sunday, snow be damned. All I can say is - let's do it again at the end of March with the Celtics/Lakers weekend at the Highlight Factory.

4. The Honey Quotient - I gave away one of the things that I'm most attracted to in my last blog and that was teeth. Well, let's just say that since I gave you the celebrity lineup above - know that the ladies came out tonight to show them off for me. I had no idea that Sunday night could be so sublime (and short of a victory, it was), so thank you to the people who made the game so freakin' difficult to focus on the game itself. Let's just say that there was a lot of visual candy that had to deleted from the brain at halftime and during pre-game (PRE-GAME, people) in order to get focused on the game and 2nd half. Shouts to Jocelyn, Natalia, Keisha, Angie, and so many others who make our eyes sparkle :)

5. Hawk Shouts - Just the regulars...big up!

6. The After Party - Now, I was fully prepared to hit the streets with Bro. Choo and the fellas, BUT my anger at the game couldn't help me meet the challenge to let go. So, it was off to the house for the game replay and the Amazing Race. ;)

Season Prediction

Nothing has changed - it's 45-37, but I must say - if we can only play with more energy, we can win about 10 of the next 12 home games, but energy is necessary, Hawks. With that, we're gone.