Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hypocrites Be Gone

This message is for every blogger, TV, print media, or radio personality who decided today that they wanted to grandstand over Josh Smith. Now, normally I say my piece and move on, but today - it was important for me to show just how ridiculous this issue is and how much the hate is in the air on this thing.

Here are two scenarios that occurred in the playoffs:

Scenario 1: Game 4, Quarter 1, Time: 7:34 remaining, Score 10-8...Player A goes on a breakaway and while in the clear goes for a windmill jam. Player A plays for a team that is much better than its opponent. At the end of the game, Player A's team wins by 20+ pts. No outrage for an attempt to bring the house down (or to quiet the crowd in this case). No one is insulted other than by their inability to do anything with Player A and Player A's team.

Scenario 2: Game 5, Quarter 4, Time: 4:16 remaining, Score 102-82...Player B goes on a breakaway and while in the clear goes for a through the legs jam. Player A plays for a team that is much better than its opponent. At the end of the game, Player A's team wins by 15 pts. All is wrong with the NBA, Player B, and the opposing team's best player and coach are insulted.

Now, by now we should know who Player B is, but who is Player A...none other than LeBron James. Now, as we mentioned earlier, the only outrage that should have come from Josh Smith's play was from Mike Woodson who should have said two things:

1. If you are going to make a spectacular dunk, make sure you make it.
2. If you are going to try to embarrass them tonight, you better be ready for the consequences on the court next game and that you must play even HARDER as a result.

That's it. Everyone else needs to kick rocks. The man did this at the ONLY time it's acceptable. Up by 20, time running out, other team has given up, a chance for one last highlight since no one from the Heat decided to pick up their feet and defend the play. In my book, that's the perfect time for a former slam dunk champ to bring the house down. How many times did MJ, Nique, Dr. J, etc do that? So, save me the moral outrage.... I don't have a problem with LeBron's windmill, but if that was Josh and he missed a chance to score points up only 2 in the first quarter, I'd be livid. But he didn't...and neither did LeBron. So, stop the madness, people and save your bitchin' about Josh's game, maturity, and the like for things that actually matter. No one has been harder on a guy I love than this here #1 fan, but that's why this is Str8 Talk, so I can dish it and I certainly will defend Josh against things that don't matter.

If we're being real, the outrage should be over that last 3pter he took and NOT a meaningless, fun jam. A jam that is completely out of his character if you have watched Josh over the years - he normally does NOT do anything more than a ferious yet normal jam when on the breakaway (to my chagrin, mostly). So, enough all ready...let's get to Game 6, so we can vanquish these fools and move on the bigger mountains to climb.

More Game 5 Thoughts

Quickly, after seeing the post-game video..uh, I have a few questions:

1. The Heat seem to be of some mindset that Game 1 wasn't the true high school pick up highlight type game. Was there something other than Josh's not-a-dunk that they saw that we didn't see? There wasn't any embarrassment train that happened last night. As we said in the previous post, teams love to pick at something to motivate themselves. They'll even make something up to do just that.

2. They also will lie to make themselves feel good. The Heat coach said two other false things. First, he said the Heat are really good at home. 13 teams had the same or more home victories than the Heat. Those teams are either in the West (the first 9) and the top 4. Meaning all the teams that are better than the Heat have better home records...so, what makes that 'really good'. Nothing...not only that, you weren't really good when we beat you there in the regular season or when we beat you in Game 4. Lastly, they will also make up a fact and that's that Game 5 was the first time we were good offensively - well, we shut down the offense in Game 1 and there were fewer possessions in Game 1. We shot 42% in Game 5 and 46% in Game 1. The game was over in the 3rd quarter, so it stands to reason that we didn't go and try to score another 20 pts (with that non-highlight reel respect thing we stopped adhering to last night in effect). But again - you gotta fire up your troops with something, even lies are acceptable in those cases.

3. Finally, a minor gripe...early in the season, we had great ball movement and the Hawks played some spirited offense. Guys spaced the floor and were ready to shoot when receiving the ball off of a JJ double team. Is it just me or have we stopped spacing ourselves to receive the ball in the position to shoot for a REASON? In Game 5, I noticed that on many possessions - we would have two players to places that were 30 feet from the basket in order to help JJ deliver the ball from the double team. JJ is 6-8. If he can't get the ball from the double team to the shooter, then he's not who we thought he was. I don't think that's a JJ issue, but is a design issue or player flaw. All I know is that I kept thinking that Flip had about 3-4 more 3pt shots that he could have drained if he was in shooting position vs. 5 feet behind the 3 pt line when the double team came. Anyway, I'll be watching this closely in Game 6.

With that, we're gone.

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 5 Recap

We had so much fun (& wrote so much) regarding Game 4. We decided to do it again - and remixed it. So, instead of likes & dislikes - it's giddy and careful, so in the series that we said was a no brainer from the beginning - here we go:

Game Recap - Hawks 106, Heat 91

Well, we hate to keep saying we told you so, but with now two starters down - the Atlanta Hawks at partial strength are STILL better than the Miami Heat at full strength (and yes, that's acknowledging that D Wade is not 100%..if he was - they would have lost by ..oh 8 pts). That's how lopsided this series is and why there was outrage from these parts for losing Game 2 at all and Game 3 by 30. We accepted a Hawks breakdown and Heat manhood check game (Game 3), but otherwise - really only a complete collapse and lack of desire, energy, and focus is keeping us from winning Game 6 and ending this series. And that's with Horford and Williams down (sidebar: Horford and Williams should NOT play in Game 6. Let's save them until Round 2 when they can be pretty healthy)

Now, to the Giddys first:

We should be giddy about:
1. Our energy - as we said from the beginning, the Heat suck. They really, really suck. Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley, and Sir Wade are the only guys who have any talent. O'Neal is past his prime, Beasley is before his prime, and Wade is in it. They have to hit the holy trinity to make that work for 7 games and we don't think it can happen, so the rest of the team is full of bums. So, all we have to do is play to remove either Wade or the supporting cast and we win. Tonight, we decided on supporting cast. Wade's lack of a 40 pt night was not due to great defense overall, but simply was based on the fact that he missed about 4-5 shots he was open to make. Just like Game 4. But what wasn't available were open shots for anyone else and that's how we like it.

2. The Hawks Bench - They came out as if they get it - Pachulia (who's turning into a playoff beast), Flip (our X factor who'd be more dangerous if we had a backup PG), West (yes, he's an offensive liability, but having him make D Wade work for 10 minutes a game makes me happy - he's the ONLY player I'm comfortable with playing Wade one-on-one), and Jones. West and Jones aren't world beaters and to some aren't even NBA level talents, but on this team - we simply need an inspirational 5 minutes to bridge their time to our talented 7-8 man rotation.

3. The Crowd - Maybe it was the t-shirts, but we were drowning out the Heat fans and providing the support from the opening tip. My salvo from Game 2 obviously did the trick. Or again, free t-shirt swag. Too bad, we stole the 'put on your t-shirt' bit from the Heat. Not cool. We do not bite other people's bits in the A. That's comedy hack move, guys.

4. Our Toughness - We haven't lost a game yet where we actually put someone on their backs, laid wood to a player, or woofed and barked at a team. Hasn't happened in my time as a fan of the recent Hawks teams. Sooooo...when we put the Heat on their patooties, it just showed that we aren't going to back down. That's all the psycho-babble we need to employ. It's already been established that when we are dialed in - there are only about 2-3 teams that can consistently beat us. Problem is - we're usually not keenly dialed in. Tonight was not usually.

5. Josh's Not-A-Dunk - Listen, let's just be real. He makes that dunk and no one is talking about anything other than - WOW! What a dunk. ESPN, TNT, WSB, Barber Shops, YouTube, NBA TV, etc are all talking about how amazing Josh is and how we stomped the Heat. They would love it, videos are made, commercials are cut. Now, you miss it and you are the butt of the joke. Josh, thanks for taking the risk. You didn't risk the game's collective balance like you do with those jump shots, so why go conservative on us when we wanted something to go home to. I'm calling out all the hypocrites who want to say anything about that play. Look, the Heat were going to have to come up with SOMETHING to motivate themselves in Game 6. So, let it be your dunk. If they need that to motivate them, so be it. If not that, it would have been the fouls, the tough D Wade D, Mario pumping his fists at halftime when D Wade missed the last shot, Chris Quinn's haircut...it would be something, so trust us - you did no harm. Now, next time - pick a dunk that's spectacular that you know you can make - that one had NO shot. Ambitious to a fault, it was - young Jedi master.

6. Mike Bibby going to the rack repeatedly made us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We like insides of warmth and fuzziness!

Here's the let's be careful category:

1. Let's be careful when calling that Joe's breakout game. Uh, he was still missing a lot of shots and wasn't very sharp to start the game. Give him credit for being aggressive and continuing to work throughout the game, but he was still not All-Star Joe Johnson. He was more like over the hill Allen Iverson - sometimes effective and volume scorer, but not among the elite.

2. Let's be careful with Josh Smith - as we noted, Josh is Josh - let's leave the 'what to work on with Josh' to the offseason, but after seeing more jump shots and a made 3pt dagger. If there is something to worry about in Game 6, it's that Josh knows that we may be forwards down and therefore, there's no bench awaiting him as he goes through his own personal simmer check. If you see 4 3pt attempts in the first half, don't say we didn't warn you.

3. Let's be careful with Al and Marvin - again, long term and next series depend on them...let's bring them along slowly. Play Acie and Solomon and Mario before you risk those guys on Friday. We CAN beat the Heat without them. It's ok if we do that with a close victory vs. blowing them out..again!

4. Let's be careful with the praise...last game we dominated like this at home resulted in 2 Heat victories. If that happens, we lose the series (and I spend every waking hour stalking GM Sund in an attempt to ensure that we have new coaching next season).

5. Let's be careful to not underestimate Mo Evans - he came out in the first half with solid D and with an offensive game that's been missing. Going to the hole was an added bonus to his regular couple of spot up threes. Me loves Playoff Mo...

6. Let's be careful with me roaming South Beach after Game 6. A trip to Miami, a beach, some drinks...oh my!!!

Finally, let's be real careful in showing JChills these game tapes and just how awesome it would be to have him in the fold next year. Nothing like another bullet in the gun for 2009-2010! Oh almost forgot - if you ever need an after party on Wednesdays - check out Sabor Lounge, which is right across the street from the arena next to Subway at Centennial Park. Our boy LV on the 1s and 2s and Killa on the drums...just a fly way to wind down from a Hawks victory! Til Friday, kiddies...

Let's Go Hawks!!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hawks Quote of the Day

Here's the quote of the day:

“They are the players, but I’m the one to push the right buttons and get them to play,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “I understand that.”

Coach, I'm not sure that you want to claim that you push the right buttons to get them to play. Does that mean when they don't play that you aren't to blame? TOO often, you, the players, and anyone who was watching has seen our players not come to play. If you acknowledge that motivation and pushing the right buttons is your responsibility, then you subject yourself to a review of the games and a familiar post-game refrain regarding the players' inability to come to play every night. Again, we don't think this is something you want to lay claim to even if you think that the short term glory of thinking you made a difference in winning and losing Game 4 is worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 4

Str8Talkers,

For the past few days, we've broken (in record time) our word in trying to just be a cheerleader for the Hawks throughout the playoffs and eschewing the need to be critical of our effort. So, we've been all over the board in providing evidence for why we need better coaching. Game 4 just provided more fodder for this stream of consciousness. But before that is done, we want to give thanks to the Hawks Blog Nation for getting the juices flowing - while we don't agree on everything - we share a passion for the home team, so to Micah, Bret, Drew, Coco, THHB, Joe, Sekou and anyone else that loves the Hawks.

Game 4 Recap - Hawks 81, Heat 71

Let's start with the obvious - we won. The reason we won is that we're a better team than the Miami Heat. Nothing that has occurred during the regular season or in the playoffs that has indicated that the Miami Heat have anything better than the Hawks other than Dwyane Wade. Now, Wade is a formidable force, but a force that shouldn't overcome a team better at every position and on the bench.

So, it stands to reason that there are some things that we like and dislike about a Game 4 that was really only in contention for a small stretch because of maybe the most frustrating 4 minutes of basketball seen by this observer all season. So, let's get to our likes & dislikes:

Likes:
1. Zaza Pachulia - What can you say about Pachulia in Game 4 that hasn't been said by writers and bloggers all evening and morning. He was a beast and the reason we won. The fire, the energy, and the production is exactly what we have come to expect from Zaza when given the minutes. Let's hope that he continues to get the minutes against a team with a weak inside game.

2. Josh Smith - Oh, you know that he'll see time in the dislike section as well, but that's what you get from Smoove. We've said since mid-season that we need to give up on trying to criticize Smoove for his schizo b-ball IQ. Let's just revel in the fact that when he's dialed into the game - he is a PRESENCE. More than any other Hawks player, he wants to be the #1 force for the team. During the first quarter (sans the jump shots), Josh was the best player on the court. Blocks, steals, assists, free throws, driving, acrobatic shots, and energy. The kind of effort that allows you to accept those jump shots and the dribbling up the court (very grudgingly, though).

3. Flip Murray - He definitely kept the team intact while short-handed. There wasn't much of note to his game other than veteran leadership.

4. Maurice Evans - While he played a solid game when he was on the floor, it was his comments at the half to Cheryl Miller that brought a smile to our faces. We're paraphrasing, but Miller's last question was basically - who is going to step up and get this team to settle down and back on course after that meltdown in the 2nd quarter? Mo's answer - 'I am'. Now, who knows what that meant, but FINALLY someone wants to lead this team. Not sure how good Evans is at that, but we'll take the profession of wanting the job as a step forward.

5. Mike Bibby - Bibby shot the ball well, but the thing that made me happiest for the entire game was in the 2nd half when Josh was bitching at the refs for some foul call that the refs were correct in not calling - Bibby shouted repeatedly for Josh to SHUT UP AND PLAY BALL. Not once, not softly, not with care, but simply - be a man, it may not be fair, but focus on this possession so we can win a game. That's called leadership. Unfortunately, this should have been on display from Game 1 instead of Game 86. Oh and go get the ball from your forwards like you are taught in youth league basketball.

Dislikes:
1. Players Only Meetings before Playoff Games - The result notwithstanding - it's disturbing that you need a players only meeting to convince everyone to do the things that they didn't do in Game 2 and Game 3, which is to cheer enthusiastically and stand up for your teammates during the game if you're on the bench and to come out and play as if your lives depend on it. That's really all that you need to do to beat the Heat. Play like your lives depend on it. Much has been said about this 50% 3pt shooting, but we maintain that if we played like our lives depended on it - we'd at a minimum be playing to close out the series tomorrow. So, yes - we're shaking our heads at the fact that you have to have a team only meeting to reiterate all that...

2. Josh Smith's Teammates - It has gotten to this...STOP PASSING JSMOOVE THE BALL IN JUMP SHOOTING POSITIONS. We noted during the final month that Josh Smith hitting some jump shots was going to end up being a bad thing in the long term. If people recall, Josh had pretty much stopped shooting 3 point shots during the middle part of the season. We all thought that the light bulb had gone off, but it only took a stretch where he hit some long range bombs toward the end of the season to get him back to shooting shots that he's not good at. Now, maybe Smoove works on his shot in the offseason (a la Marvin Williams) and gets so good that we laugh at these past seasons, but until then. If we can see it - the teammates should be able to see it as well. If Josh hits a jumper, he will keep shooting it. If he misses a jumper horribly, he won't stop shooting it. SO, we must eliminate this option for him. DO NOT PASS HIM THE BALL IN JUMP SHOOTING POSITIONS. He is self check from long range. They know it, we know it, the other team knows it. Since Josh Smith can't make that decision on his own, it's now his teammates who will incur my wrath for the remainder of the season when you pass it to him in a jump shooting position. You hear me, Bibby and JJ?

3. Joe Johnson - What happened to you? Wasn't that you that said you wanted to be a legend and that legends are made in the playoffs? Are you trying to pull a Ray Allen (circa 2008)? Is it all those minutes that we begged Coach Woodson to stop giving you unnecessarily? No comment on what's really going on, but we will say that Joe certainly doesn't look to be showing any passion, leadership, or production that befits his talent. Please get your mojo back because you are playing like you're punked by the double team right now.

4. Al Horford - Yes, you were a victim of the Woodson foul game to the point that you were out of the flow early, BUT you better see what Zaza was doing out there and do it better. This was Exhibit A for why we don't give you an excuse to not have a significant impact consistently (like everyone else) does despite the fact that you don't get any plays called for you. Neither did Shawn Marion. Neither does Zaza. He puts up double doubles in limited time for us often. We think you're a talented fellow, but we're focused on production, not talent. Everyone gives you a pass b/c you won some college titles and you don't do stupid things on the court. Here's what I have to say about that - you can do stupid things like Josh does if you put up the production he does all over the court when he's dialed in. That said, please show us that you're better than Jermaine O'Neal. That shouldn't be too high a hurdle to leap over.

5. Josh Smith - Listen, we're not going to harp on the jump shots - it's obvious you don't care about what your talent, coach, teammates, or bloggers say about this. We just have to live with your jump shots this season. You're 23 and haven't gotten a clue on that one. But the bitching about fouls has GOT to stop. You are reaching Rasheed Wallace levels on your scowl to foul ratio (hey, that rhymes - Andre 3000, watch out!). It's ridiculous - yes, you get fouled sometimes and it isn't called. Yes, you sometimes get calls when you don't foul. BUT MOST of the time - it's a foul. Period. Your hip check on Chalmers was a FOUL! No need to talk to the refs about it. My goodness - it just strips away at your credibility to do so. I know you're 23 and that you may not be able to see the big picture yet, but just trust us - we love you and want the best for you. SHUT THE ---- UP! And teammates - tell him the same.

6. Coach Woodson, Captains, Leaders - The score was 44-23 going into a timeout with 3 minutes left in the half. The rout was on. The half ended 46 - 42. Now, you had to expect a run, but how do you allow a 19-2 run in 3 minutes. How is that possible? Were there not enough timeouts? Was there not a reason to say 'hey, Solomon Jones made a boneheaded play, so let's get him OUT of the game' since saving a player from 1 foul isn't worth giving a team life over. (Note: No Hawk had more than 4 fouls to end the game. We are still wondering why the world has to end if a player fouls out of a game - at least you get as much time as you can out of said player vs. watching them on the bench with fouls to give - never figured out why that EVER makes sense). Yes, the foul by Mo Evans was touch and go and YES the Bibby foul was completely bogus, but that shouldn't cause you to completely implode.

Here's what we call leadership - Kobe and the Lakers close out the Jazz last night by 11. After the game, they ask Kobe what he thinks about the game. He says - it's ridiculous that they came back to within 5 and that we need to do better about closing a team out and that we'll be working on that during our week off. Why is this important? B/c instead of patting himself on the back for closing out a team - he's focused on the performance that will win him a title. He knew they were better than the Jazz and that they'd need to be better in that situation vs. a better team. No need to tap your chest over a victory you knew was coming - just focus on where you can get better. I would have been giddy to hear the Hawks say afterward - we won, but we need to play much better defense since they missed a lot of open looks and we need to execute on offense since 81 pts isn't likely to win Game 5 or Game 6, but instead what I heard Joe Johnson say was that we made some changes - hmm, what changes are those, Joe? We switched the pick and roll so that we left Bibby on Wade and Bibby did a great job. Really? It's a great job when he just misses looks vs. Bibby and Zaza while hurt. Ugh! At least you said - we still had work to do. Which leads to the next dislike...

7. The Blog Nation - I'm not happy to read our Blog Nation speak about this victory as if it was a significant accomplishment. We did NOT shut down D Wade. D Wade was hurt. The supporting cast was who we thought they were, the rookies showed that they were rookies, their 2nd round picks masquerading as starters - showed why they are 2nd rounders. These guys shot 37% FG, 25% 3pt range, and 75% from the free throw line - that should have meant a 20+ pt victory. On a night like this, the Hawks didn't have to do much more than play with energy. Joe didn't come to play. Al wasn't good when he was in the game, Flip didn't shoot well, Josh shot poorly. The point is that we said from day 1 - the Hawks are better than the Heat.

They need both D Wade and the supporting cast to perform well to win. In the second half, we left D Wade one on one with Bibby and Zaza for most of the half and he couldn't convert. That wasn't good defense - that was D Wade being completely off and hurt. Period. So, the keys to beating the Heat are - play with energy and don't let both D Wade and the supporting cast beat you. Shut down one and you win the series.

Sounds real simple, huh? Yep, it's that simple...we have said since the start of this series that we EXPECT to beat the Heat. They aren't very good. If we lose, it's more of an indictment on us than the Heat or D Wade. Period. To think of it any other way is foolhearted. Now, let's win these next 2 games and take our a$$ kickin' in Cleveland like men.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Stating The Obvious

Here's to hope that the Hawks watched the Bulls and the Sixers yesterday. The key component being a dogged desire to compete. Yes, both teams have flaws, but the one thing that was apparent was that they were going to go down attacking and utilizing their strengths. If that doesn't work then so be it.

That's what we've discussed all season. The lack of camaraderie, leadership, and ability to summon energy has been evident all season. The desire to play one on one basketball, to not pull together on the defensive end, and to show little leadership. The point here is that the Hawks have won not b/c of the collective producing an awesome result, but b/c the individual parts have normally been better than the other team's parts. This is only successful in the regular season. And you can't turn on a switch to make that work, so let's see if the one thing that has nothing to do with scheme, talent, and intangibles is still left - that's heart.

Having a player's only meeting at this stage is meaningless in our eyes. You don't fix those year long issues in a meeting, but you can show that you have heart. You should do that every night, but especially in the playoffs. Here's a take on our leadership troubles by Sekou Smith, though it's really just the same info we've been saying since very early this season.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heat/Hawks - Round 1, Game 3

Let's just say that the next few paragraphs will sound as if they are not coming from the Hawks #1 fan, but please be sure -they are. They come from the #1 fan who also has no problem with Str8 Talk. So, it's time to be real.

Game Recap - Heat a lot of points, Hawks too few points

First, let it be said that a 8 AM flight to see the Hawks play the Heat was in order until a reminder notice was viewed about a friend's going away to Iraq party. So, thanks to Sgt. Marcus Smith - you were spared a more crazed blog posting (no one costs me money without the payoff of victory). Thanks Sgt. Smith for your service to our country and your service to me in saving me the cost of watching an ass kicking.

Now, it's really hard to know where to start, but it's time to stop having bloggers and fans speak less than truth to power. These Atlanta Hawks lack the things you need for playoff and championship success, so let's not talk any further about the Heat playing out of their minds or D Wade carrying them to victory. The things causing our domination have little to do with the Heat. They have to do with the Hawks deciding to not rachet up their focus, their defensive aggressiveness, their offensive unselfishness, their transition game, or killing their desire to blame officiating for things during the game.

We'd be better served by cultivating the following: leadership, consistent defensive effort, an offensive strategy, and mental toughness. It's not free throw shooting, not athleticism, not 3pt shooting, not blocked shots. All season, we've discussed whether or not we have the stuff of champions. For the most part, we've communicated that the success of this season has been that we are able to defeat teams that we're clearly better than. That will result in 40+ wins every season. And in contrast to season's past - that's an acceptable goal. If we hadn't shown so early in the season that we could be better than advertised, then we'd accept it, but the expectations were raised and the noted goal of 50 wins and a playoff series victory says that we should be doing better. Particularly when the team you are playing is NOT better than yours. We can accept being beaten, we can't accept being dominated by a semi-good team. That just shouldn't happen.

The rub is in whether we can defeat teams that are equal or better than us. Consistently, we have proven that that is not the case unless we play them at home. There is no reason for the Atlanta Hawks to lose by 30 pts on the road to a one man team. Period. The Miami Heat do not own an advantage over the Atlanta Hawks at any position with the exception of shooting guard (and even there - it's not a huge gap advantage, though it is a considerable one) and even the bench is thin on both accounts. So, it stands to reason that the difference is in those things that matter in the playoffs.

So, why are we losing in this manner to a team that is better than the other? Well, we see two things happening - Coach Spoelstra has shown himself to be a better coach than Coach Woodson. His adjustments have allowed his team to counteract the Hawks' strengths. A coach's worth is in his ability to cultivate a strategy that positions his team for victory in the short and long term, in being able to motivate the charges to do their best, and to make adjustments on a game-by-game basis. That's the point of having a coach. Unfortunately, we aren't getting a great return on investment in those categories. If you want evidence, here's evidence:

1. When your team's offensive strategy relies on dribbling and good outside shooting, you are set up for disaster. All season - we've hoped that our outside shooting would win for us. You can survive this during the regular season when you are playing inferior talent, but superior teams will not allow one on one play and outside shooting to defeat it. PERIOD. So, there is nothing good about having your power forward and center shooting outside jump shots and having your guards having to create their own shots off the dribble as a part of the DESIGN! When your coach thinks that 'getting hot or making shots is an answer to 'what should you do in the 2nd quarter'', then I say - we're losing the coaching war. How about setting better screens for your shooters or, heaven forbid, going to a low post game with Horford or Smith or Pachulia?

2. When your team's defensive strategy of switching on all screens, you are set up for disaster. A team who is getting open looks (no matter where) should see a new defensive strategy. PERIOD. So, as we said in the series - make the decision to either let D Wade get his and lock down everyone else OR to let the others get theirs and lock D Wade down, but you can't let BOTH happen. To date, we haven't seen where our philosophy resides. The decision to not double D Wade and get the ball out of his hand - HASN'T worked. I will say what has worked - doubling Joe Johnson at the three point line. Sure can't see why if it works against our star that it can't be done against theirs.

3. When your starters come out without any energy, why not play the energy guys? So, on a night when we didn't come out to play - why not play Mario, Acie, Solo, or anyone else who WANTED to play? Better yet, why not employ the Popovich approach of just knowing when to fold 'em and to sit your starters for another game 2 days later.

What we're finding is nothing that we didn't think was possible from the Atlanta Hawks, but it is still distressing to see it manifest itself in 3 non-competitive games (only one from the good guys). Games that basically have the TNT guys (Chuck, Ernie, and Kenny) laughing at how bad the Atlanta Hawks offensive strategy and execution is. No #4 seed should be a joke. Even Mike Fratello noted that their is no leader on the Hawks and that if you don't have that - it has to come from the coach. So, what was the coach quote on what to do to turn things around after half - it's that 'I can't beat up on them b/c they may get down and play tight'. How did that work out for you, Coach?

Uh...when you're down by 21 in a critical playoff game and your team is playing like feces - that denotes that if no player is going to break a chalkboard over it, then YOU are allowed to lose your mind over the level of play you're seeing. If a player doesn't respond to that and goes into a shell over your anger at their lack of effort, BENCH THEM. Play someone who doesn't shrink from the challenge. Down 21 requires a challenge. Tough love is still love. You can rest assured that if they let me give the halftime speech after traveling to Miami during a recession to see them play like they did tonight - the last thing that would be said is sweet nothings to keep from hurting someone's feelings for fear that they'd be tighter. Losing is acceptable, but being laughed at for your approach is not, particularly when you aren't even attempting to play to your strengths - running, athleticism, having better post players than the other team...

I know it'll be easy to pick at the players and that's appropriate, but as we've said all year - it's unfair to even make an analysis on these players until we see a coaching philosophy that reflects an attempt to be successful (playoff, championship successful). As we said to start the series, the Hawks should win in 5 if we play hard and coach hard. We only played hard in 1 game and still haven't seen any hard coaching. So, it's Miami 2-1.

The only upside to this is that the level of embarrassment that is being levied at the Hawks will either wake them up on their way to a playoff series victory OR a reason to lift the ceiling on this team's future prospects in the way of a removal of the coach (or adjustments of the Mike Brown level - by hiring assistant coaches to design an offensive and defensive philosophy). That won't solve the lack of player development and management issues, but it would at least resolve the issue of the Hawks looking as if they are not ready for prime time by design. We're not sure what's preferable at this point - a playoff series victory or a performance so putrid that it forces coaching changes. The fact that that question has to be asked should reflect just how bad the Hawks look right now.

The more I think about it, the more I hope that we just continue to get blown out to make this decision easier on GM Sund.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Game 2 Observation

Two more observations:

1. Get Spirit off the court. While it seems funny, the game operations people have enough to contend with with the clock management and everything else that they seem to occasionally get wrong and taking the focus off the game b/c a bird is loose is NOT a good look.
2. Fans, GET TO THE #$*( GAME on time. Game 1 - everyone was plugged in from the first minute. Game 2 - not so much. In a game where the players weren't dialed in early, we needed to help them get dialed in and we certainly let them down. The fan's energy wasn't there until the 2nd half and ...uh, that's when half of the arena got there.

This is the PLAYOFFS people. Get to the game and make some noise.

Let's Go, People. See you in Miami!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 2

Anger. That's what this game has caused me to feel. And so, with that, all bets are off on the proclamation to be completely positive throughout the playoff run.

Game Recap - Heat 108, Hawks 93

That claim came with ONE rule/caveat. Play hard and coach hard. That's it. If you miss shots, get beat by better plays, players, schemes, etc - that's acceptable, but not playing hard or coaching hard - that's just not acceptable.

Let's recount the disappointments:
1. Upon getting home, the TNT post-game analysis said what I whispered in my mom's ear all night (yes, we sucked on the night I finally bring my mom and stepdad to the game)...our offense is atrocious. And it's been repeated all year...an offense that relies on 3 pt shooting built off of one-on-one individual plays vs. one that focuses spacing, low post play, and transition offense is starkly different. Yep, the Joe Johnson run around until you can find a shot 4th quarter offense was back...
2. Officiating aside (and yes, it was bad despite the split in free throws), the decision to not follow Game 1's successful strategy of pressing and forcing the ball out of D-Wade's after say...the 2nd 3pter falls seems strange and disappointing.
3. Just when the 2 fouls and you're done for the rest of the half strategy was starting to fade, we have the 'get 4 fouls and sit for the rest of the quarter despite being on the precipice of being blown out completely. Sure, Joe didn't have it tonight, but having him on the court in the 3rd quarter to ensure that we're close enough in the 4th quarter might have been helpful
4. Marvin? Marvin? 19 minutes for your starter, particularly when you sit your best player for 10 minutes. I get trying to manage minutes and injuries and all that, but if you can't play in the crucial minutes of the game - why even play him at all? Why not just shut him down until he's able to play for a full game?
5. Finally, the question of why we don't use Josh Smith and Al Horford on the blocks vs. a less than formidable low post defense remains...juxtaposed against a backdrop of Flip Murray being able to squeeze off 15 shots (the most on the team) on a night when he clearly was off.

We won't mention the free throw shooting b/c that's been a constant all season (including the obligatory missed technical free throw), the poor 3pt shooting, or the fact that we couldn't finish at the rim (which happens sometimes), but we think it was said by someone (read: Joe Johnson) that we are not a halfcourt team. Well, if you know what you aren't, then that should mean that you RUN at every opportunity.

Anyway, let's just call these suggestions. We still feel strongly that Miami is an inferior team. It's pretty simple - we play hard and to our strengths and there's NOTHING Miami can do to defeat us. But if we want to allow the 3rd best player in basketball have his way and give his teammates confidence, then sure - we can lose this series. I still believe we win in 5. I know that defies logic, but the point here is - if we lose, maybe there is a long term benefit. All I know is our in-game adjustments were ... non-existent. And with that, we still stick to our prediction - Hawks in 5!

Oh, did we mention anger is what I feel right now?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 1

Str8 Talkers,

Preamble Ramble

Well, chalk one up for the easy analysis. We play hard, we win. Pretty much as simple as that and that includes whatever the Heat bring to the table (yes, that includes D-Wade's A+ game). We certainly want to remember that this is JUST like last year when we came in as a young team with nothing to lose and experience to gain and got smacked in the mouth by the Boston Celtics, so let's not go overboard with our excitement about the victory, but there's certainly reason to believe that our prediction of Hawks in 5 is on solid footing. As we noted, the Heat only has a sublime player in D-Wade and some unproven and over the hill talent. All year long, we played D-Wade well (as well as he can be played) and let the other players try to beat us. Didn't work then, not sure why anyone thinks it's going to work now UNLESS we decide to stop playing hard. So, that's my X Factor. Not Josh, Joe, Marvin, etc - simply effort.

The biggest question for me right now is: Should I go to Miami for Game 3 & 4? In this recession, I should be saving money and not doing irrational fan things like up and leaving for a game that I don't have tickets for. What say you, readers? Leave a comment!!!

Game Recap - Hawks 90, Heat 64

Str8 Butter Award - It's none other than J SMOOVE!!!! Normally, it serves best to try to write in third person, so that it can be linked and discussed in other blogs, but it's best to give my J Smoove comments in first person. It was said here at this blog's inception that Josh Smith was our most talented player (NOT our best player - that's still Joe Johnson), but the season's productivity basically removed most vestiges of that thought and ended up as one of the few things I felt I was completely wrong about this season. Well, the few remaining vestiges were on display in Game 1. This was the Josh Smith that has always made me feel like - hey, he's only 23 who hadn't learned the game, but when he does - he'll be unstoppable. So, yes - I know that my good friends in the blogosphere will point to the horrible decisions to shoot jump shots when he has no jump shot or the questionable decision to bring the ball up court with smaller, active hands trying to steal it from you instead of giving it to your guards or even the lack of consistent all out effort, but let's be honest - there was no bigger star on that court than Josh Smith. And that star was shining so bright that it really wouldn't have mattered what Joe Johnson or D-Wade did. It was the kind of star that makes you high-five people you don't know, makes you lose your voice...the shame is that it had been missing since JSmoove posterized Steve Nash (or even more starkly Kendrick Perkins). Let's hope we see it again...in game 2!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* Williams - A short stint in the game and truly he wasn't needed to win this game, but he set the tone quickly with a few quick buckets and jam. The only question is whether he's ready to be in the starting lineup playing 30+ minutes. If not, PLEASE play Mo Evans and bring Marvin off the bench.
* Smith - Last point - if Josh Smith plays this way for the rest of the playoffs. I'm not sure there isn't a team that the Hawks can't defeat outside of the Cavs and Lakers.
* Horford - Solid produciton as usual, but boundless energy was his strong suit. I'm not sure I saw anyone who was happier to see Josh playing his butt off than Al. Now, we just need to exploit the other half of the Heat's non-existent low post game.
* Johnson - Played a quietly effective and steady game. Having Joe play off of an inside game vs. the isolation All Star is what takes the Hawks from potential upset victim to Eastern Conference Finals contender. Let's hope we see more of the former than the latter. AND that the message he sent in the post-game comments that this is a transition team, not a half court team is heeded by the entire team for the rest of the playoffs.
* Bibby - The last time I felt this good about Mike Bibby was the last time he had a double double in points and assists. Which was a LONG time ago...not only that - he had 2 blocks and who would ever have thought that that was possible. That would be 2 more blocks than J-Smoove. Yes, that's how bad this game was for the Heat.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Flip didn't do much and we still won by 26. Again, wow!
* Pachulia - A double double in 20 minutes sounds like the '08 Playoff Zaza is back and we like it! I think he's looking for another moment when he can be in the promos and posters as he was last year during his tete-a-tete with KG.
* Evans - Mo wasn't able to make his 3pters drop, but there are times when his contributions are silent and that is bad and other times it's good. Game 1 - the good contributions were there.
* Jones - Not much to say other than he should see as much time in the series as Chris Quinn.
* West - Slightly surprised to see Mario on the bench throughout the 20 pt+ leads with as much as he's played lately. Now, we've always advocated him as the energy guy and since the energy was there from the beginning - there was no need for him, but it's still surprising nonetheless.
* Claxton - Basically, if you said at the beginning of the year - that Craig Claxton would see the court during a playoff game. I'd have said - for what team? So, now - we can only say that if Claxton is on the court - it's an awesome or terrible thing. Game 1 - it was awesome!
* Hunter - Finally, more court time for people who should know that they NEVER were intended to see the court. Again, who woulda thunk it?
* Morris - Inactive
* Gardner - Inactive
* Law - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

On a day when I'm reading that Mike Woodson received 1 Coach of the Year first place vote, I'll say publicly that I'm not spending the playoffs questioning Coach Woodson. What we will do is provide suggestions...take them or leave them...esp. since Bald Woodson hasn't lost a game in Philips Arena in the playoffs

1. Start Evans, bring Marvin off the bench, so he can ease into the series to max effectiveness.
2. Know when your team is going to win and then bench the starters. Wade was benched for the rest of the game for 2 minutes before we decided to bring in some subs. With 8 minutes left in the game, the game was over. We're up 25 pts, so show your subs some love and get your boys some rest. PLEASE!!!
3. Heed Joe Johnson's post game comments - let these boys run. Not sure why we ever play half court offense, but the team looks SOOOOO much better when we run, jump, and out-athleticize our opponents.
4. Dump the ball down low ALL game. If they don't play Jamario Moon, there is NO one down low that can handle our bigs.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - No, it wasn't a sellout. There aren't enough Hawks fans for a sellout on our own and we aren't playing a team that has a loyal fan base that lives here (you aren't really going to ever get Miami natives to LEAVE Miami to live in Atlanta in droves..now, Boston, NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles...now, we're talking), so the game didn't sell out, but it was still SUPER loud. Like Golden State Warriors in '07 loud. Folks were ready from outside where I saw bull horns and jumping, smiling, Louie rags going...yes, Atlanta is a b-ball town. A fickle, bandwagon jumping one, but a b-ball town nonetheless.

2. The Overscene - You know it's a big game when Ted Turner comes to visit and play with fellow celebs: Keisha Knight-Pulliam, Akon, Warrick Dunn, T.I. (who did the introductions - I guess we don't care if felons are doing our announcements), Jarrett Jack, and Takeo Spikes

3. Our experiences - For the second time this season, we decided to simply stay in our seats for the entire game. No club level, no VIP forays, just buying a drink and watching a game. And it was the best experience all year. Let's see if that continues in game 2.

4. The Honey Quotient - Aside from the fact that it wasn't packed. The ladies came out as they always do when the superstars visit Philips Arena, so if you want the best in Atlanta - come to a playoff game. PLEASE!!!

5. Hawk Shouts - Will Stephens, we appreciate you. For tix, hit him up at the Hawks Box Office.

6. The After Party - There was plenty to celebrate, so we made a trip over to Barley's a few blocks over in order to play some pool, some cards, and have some drinks to toast the Hawks. You can never go wrong when you have a drink, bid whist, and a great NBA playoff victory.

Season Prediction

Not feeling any less confident in my Hawks in 5 prediction. I still don't see what people see in the Heat aside from D-Wade. They have an advantage at NO other position. Not one, not the bench, and I'd give them a second game if they had Pat Riley as the coach, but until that happens - it's closer to a sweep to me than a long series.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hawks/Heat Playoff Prediction

Listen up, Hawks Fans! Old crusty ATL Hawks #1 Fan is out the door (until the Hawks lose a game that means we won't see them until preseason 2009-2010)...new improved ATL Hawks #1 Fan cheering for everything that happens positive and spinning everything that's negative to be positive.

Ok, so everyone is trying to make this series real complicated - here's what it comes down to. If we play hard, we win in 5. While certainly never underestimating the ability for referees and an awesome talent to sway a series, it's hard to make me believe that a team that is pretty much Wade, Beasley, half of an O'Neal, and a bunch of bums will beat a Hawks team that is only short of full strength by Marvin and Acie's back woes.

If you watched the games played by these two teams all season, let's go ahead and just be honest - we only lost b/c we couldn't hit the barn during a 13 1/2 minute stretch where we had NO field goals. That's over a quarter's worth of time of NOT scoring ONE field goal. Now, that game was where we couldn't finish at the rim, one player had to leave the game, and we had the (wait for it) - oh, we didn't come out and play hard excuse come to bear (this time from Joe Johnson). Now, compare that to the game I went to Miami to check out as well as the home games and honestly, I think everyone is saying 6 games and 7 games b/c they don't want to give D Wade bulletin board material or some level of 'disrespect'. Well, check out this disrespect: D Wade shouldn't be able to beat the Hawks by himself and their coach is less experienced than ours, so we're going with them winning one home game.

Let's close it out in Game 5 and then be mad that we aren't playing the Celtics (or Bulls) for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. That's what it is...

Peace...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hawks @ Grizzlies - 4/15/09

Again, let's try to make this blog even shorter than the last (back to back record setting game recaps).

There's nothing worth mentioning besides the fact that it's astounding to this blogger that Flip and Maurice are playing more than 10 minutes in this game. So what if Craig Claxton sucks wind for most of the game. A game of a 6 man rotation of Morris, West, Jones, Gardner, Hunter, and Claxton is basically all that should have seen the court.

Seeing Josh, Zaza, Mo, and Flip is just ridiculous...that said, everyone is safe. Backitis did not set in again, so let's get on with it - when am I coming to Philips...Sat/Mon or Sun/Tues...let's crank this thang up!!!!

Final Note: This will be the last time I quote my desire for an outcome that allows ownership to can Coach Woodson since all energy is now on the Hawks winning a NBA championship, which means no matter what happens or what I say throughout this playoff run short of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance - I want him to be fired, but will support him to the fullest during the playoffs. Woo-sah!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Be Still My Heart

While we have numerous questions about the tactics used to prepare this year's Hawks for a NBA title run, we must give Coach Woodson credit for his comments here. Now, if only we can coach and communicate the point that this is the goal from day 1 starting next year - color me thrilled.

Heat @ Hawks - 4/14/09

We will try to set a Hawk Str8Talk record for having the least to say in a game recap blog. So, let's get to it:

1. Would have loved to see no starters touch the floor (except Mario West).
2. Would love to see Craig Claxton play more than 3 minutes in the first half.
3. Would love to see Thomas Gardner get minutes this year playing the Eddie House role. Another in the line of players where there is nothing in the time he put in that made me think he couldn't touch the court in 70 of 81 games.
4. Cringed at Nique's assertion that Marvin Williams will certainly be in the starting lineup Game 1 of the playoffs. (Come back, Mo Evans - PLEASE!)

Don't even care whether we won the game or not - just care about not having any injuries. Finally, would like to sit in a room with the person who asserted on www.peachtreehoops.com's message boards that a) Mike Woodson is taking a bad rap for his coaching prowess and b) Joe Johnson and Josh Smith aren't really that far off in long range shooting ability (and based this on percentages alone). We love statistical analysis, but we have no words for why this even is a discussion point, so again - reveal yourself and come sit in my re-education classes.

Oh yeah, Hawks 81, Heat 79 (no links b/c you don't want to know what happened - it's really immaterial). Hawks Record - 47-34 and we've spent the last 4 weeks saying that the Hawks would end up 47-35, so let's go ahead and chalk up this loss tomorrow night.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pacers @ Hawks - 4/10/09

Game Recap - Hawks 122, Pacers 118

There's really a lot that can be said on a day like today. At the beginning of the season, we made the prediction that the Hawks would be 40-42 and the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. And if we had left it at that for the rest of the season - we'd be correct in saying it's time to celebrate the achievement of winning 6-8 more games and ending up as the 4th seed.

BUT...we made the assertion very early (around game 8) that this was a playoff team and therefore, our expectations should be adjusted accordingly. In fact, I'd take the team basketball we played during the first 6 games of the season vs. a Cavs team right now. So, while many are celebrating the 4th seed being locked up - we were of that mindset during the 7 game homestand (all victories) that the Hawks would end up with a 47-35 record and the 4th seed. With that in mind, there is little to celebrate today that wasn't being celebrated a few weeks ago.

So, let's keep going down the path of highlighting items we think are important to our playoff readiness:

1. Welcome back Marvin Williams! We are not only happy to see Marvin back, but we also are thrilled to see him slated to come off the bench for the foreseeable future. The Evans starting, Williams super sub audition begins now...
2. What's with the back muscles - Marvin, then Acie, now Zaza...wow!
3. Apologies to all Hawks fans and followers for our lack of glee, but when your team wouldn't have made the Western Conference playoffs and there are 15 games between you and your divison leader - it's hard to celebrate a season when a championship is not anywhere in the cards.
4. Kudos to the offense for showing up over the past few weeks. Scoring the basketball has been a priority and that matters regardless of how poor the defenses that scoring comes against.
5. Kudos to Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Joe Johnson for coming to play on the offensive end.
6. How does Mario West escape the 2 foul rule in his first start and end up getting his 3 foul early in the 2nd quarter. What's he doing that makes it ok for him to play minutes that a more important (and less foul-out prone) player would not...
7. Kudos to Mike Woodson for acknowledging that rest is a priority in the last 2 games...now, let's make sure that that means less than 24 minutes a game.
8. Finally, can we just acknowledge that our defense SUCKS right now? Truly and completely sucks...giving up 110 pts for three straight games against poor offensive teams should be truly distressing at this stage in the season. Thank goodness Miami and Philly are both showing their inability to get better down the stretch when it matters.

Everyone get well - we'll see you again for Game 1 when we'll be back with old school game recaps. Go HAWKS!!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hawks @ Bucks - 4/8/09

Here's the quickest recap ever...read the Hawks/Raptors recap. Bad first half D, enough talent to win one quarter vs a bad team..inspiring little confidence that we are addressing the fatal flaws in playing the same way against good to great teams vs. listening to the post-game remarks that seem to highlight the fact that we know that we can't continue to play this way.

Game Recap - Hawks 113, Bucks 105

Only caveat is that if there wasn't distrust in Coach Woodson's ability to sit a player he doesn't trust for no apparent reason - we'd say that Acie got a night off on the back-to-back to keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs, but again...said distrust that we have just makes it easier to say - why would a player want to play for Coach Woodson. Barring unsaid injury concerns/flare-ups, basically we're saying that the Acie Law era in Atlanta is functionally dead. If you can't play him vs. two awful teams, then you can't play him ever.

Now, understand that his play can be situationally useful in the playoffs, but quite frankly - it's useless to predict when Coach Woodson will believe that to be the case, so let's just trade the guy for someone who Coach Woodson trusts in the offseason (or even better - let's keep him and trade for a coach who develops trust in his players throughout the season).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Upon Reflection...

Here's a specific example for why I have little confidence in our team psyche right now going into the playoffs. The following are the quotes after the road victory over the 30-47 Raptors by a score of 118-110.

Josh Smith:
"This was just important for us for so many reasons. We had to have this one. Any way we can get everybody involved the way we did tonight and get everybody playing well and having fun like that, we need that every minute and every second of every game we play."

"We just wanted to play defense and we wanted to focus on the defensive end,'' Smith said. "We were giving them too many easy looks at the basket and we wanted to settle down on the defensive end and get out and run a little bit.''

Maurice Evans:
"There were a number of things we needed to prove on both ends of the floor. All the best teams in the league do that, play together on both ends of the floor. That’s what we have to be able to do going into the playoffs. We have to play like this."

Al Horford:
"It was about finishing tonight. We didn’t start well, but we finished it the right way."

Mike Woodson:

“This was just a huge win,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “These guys stepped up. You have seven guys score in double-figures, that means they came to play. And it’s all about us now.

“We’ve said all along, we control our own destiny. These guys have fought all season for this fourth spot, and they want to go out and show people that they can earn it.”

"It's huge for our ball club,'' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "I've said all along all year, these guys are playing for something. They know what is at stake. We are trying to win that fourth spot. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.''


Which of these quotes is even acceptable considering the opponent and the proximity to the playoffs.

Let's see - Josh's is close as he forgets and then remembers that half of the game involves defense and that we have to get that together to win (oh, and running the floor too - we like running). Like Josh's quote, Mo Evans was on the right track until until he said "we have to play like THIS". Again, these guys must have forgotten that the Raptors were close to winning this game AND we gave up 110 pts. Ok, let's try our coach - surely, he's got the right perspective...oh wait - he called this a huge win and based our effort on the fact that seven guys scored in double figures. How about a stern lecture about why we can't let a team like the Raptors A) sniff a victory against us no matter where we play and B) why they should come close to scoring 110 pts against our playoff-ready defense. How about understanding that there are only 4 games left!!!! If there is a lot of work ahead of us, when exactly is that work going to be complete. He did realize that there really isn't a good excuse for the team to not be playing good defense at this stage in the season, correct? He did realize that trying to get Acie some minutes now is admirable, but that that project was a Oct - Mar thing. He did realize that the silly 2 foul rule was probably something to experiment on in October...

Listen, I'm all for learning from your mistakes or tinkering with things, but saying that we have a lot of work to do is depressing. Not only that - forget the 4th spot. Let's win games. The 4th spot will take care of itself if you win games. Elite teams realize that the seed is important, but it's not a title make. So, concentrating so hard on a seed (which is important, but is one game lapse away from being meaningless) without any regard to developing healthy team habits regardless of venue is what our COACH should be preaching. I don't expect Josh Smith to have that clairvoyance, but I do expect our COACH to see the big picture here. So, who did see it - let's go out with our youngest player.

Well, I guess that leaves us with Al Horford who said that it's about finishing - which is correct - without trying to say that the whole game went well, which it didn't. While I've criticized others for their unwarranted adulation of Horford (based on production, not potential), I can say that he screams leader and championship focused. He's the only player that I can conceive of putting before the team to talk about what it takes to win titles (maybe Mo Evans). If only we could get everyone else in that same space...like maybe the coach.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hawks @ Raptors - 4/7/09

In this week's edition of As The Hawks Turn, we have games with the Raptors, Bucks, and Pacers which all need to find themselves in the win column. Staying with our theme of WWGTD (What Would Good Teams Do), there is no excuse for us to lose to any of these 3 teams with the playoffs upcoming and home court on the line. Period.

So, while we wanted to do an old school game recap, we have to go with a more appropriate Likes & Dislikes...

Game Recap - Hawks 118, Raptors 110

The Likes
  1. Coach Woodson for playing Al Horford and Joe Johnson long enough to get their 3rd fouls in the first half...and guess what? (Wait For It) They ended the game with 3 FOULS! Maybe this empirical evidence will encourage a loosening of the 2 fouls in the first half rule for good.
  2. Coach Woodson for playing an activated Acie Law IV in 2 stints. While saying a big apology to Mario and Solo for having to fall on the sword, but it's pretty evident that the only 9 players that we want to see in the playoffs are the starting 5, Flip, Marvin, Zaza, and yes...Acie. Hopefully, we can get the rotation solidified for the postseason with these remaining 4 games.
  3. Mike Bibby and Al Horford for putting up solid double doubles tonight.
  4. Josh Smith for putting some effort and aggressiveness on both ends of the court in the 2nd half. When he makes it happen, we are a different team.
  5. Shooting well from the field, 3pt range, and free throws..
  6. Seeing Marvin Williams on the bench in a suit.
The Dislikes
  1. Seeing Josh Smith taking more 3s once again. For every good thing that comes of the points received, it can only be worse down the line when the 28% 3pt percentage becomes true again. You know it's bad when you realize the negative impact of your player's scoring. We had just gotten Josh to STOP shooting 3s...ugh! Just in time for the playoffs..
  2. Seeing PFs leading breaks and passing the PG as they go down the court...double ugh!
  3. That shooting well from the field, 3pt range, and free throws only yields a 8pt victory that was close until late in the 4th quarter.
  4. That the lowly Raptors scored 110 pts...and letting them win the first half with almost 60 pts - ridiculous
The 2009 LIM Ratio still stands at 1 and for the season is less than 2. Feeling very skittish about how we're playing with regard to being GOOD teams, not these bottom feeders...we will end the season 47-35.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Magic vs. Hawks - 4/4/09

Tonight's game looked eerily like the game vs. the Celtics. Play relatively unselfish basketball (coupled with the fact that the Magic couldn't make open buckets) and build a lead. Start playing one-on-one basketball and lose the game.

Pretty much it...no reason to do much more analysis than that, but we can't help ourselves so read on.

Game Recap - Magic 88, Hawks 82

So, let's just talk about how much of a beast Dwight Howard is. We already know what the excuse for this game will be in most people's minds. Bibby and Johnson didn't shoot well, so we lost, but that completely will ignore that we used Josh and Al (who had a double double in the first half) to good effectiveness in the first half or that the Magic didn't shoot well either. It was the Joe and Flip one-on-one, Bibby shoot some threes offense that reared its head and lost the game if you ask us. For all that's good and wholesome, it still befuddles the mind why anyone who accept this as a staple of your second half offense.

While we are befuddled, let's go to the Mike Woodson press conference. First comment "Fatigue set in during the game, but we can't use fatigue as an excuse." Uh, isn't saying that fatigue set in basically the sly way of saying - that's our excuse. Otherwise, why not point out what we didn't do - such as play unselfish basketball, get a spark from the bench, work the post, etc. and leave it at that.

Of course, since befuddlement is a theme for this game, it's also befuddling why certain players are allowed to repeat their failures with immunity and others can only make 1-2 mistakes before being banished to seat cushions for the rest of the game. Sure would have been nice to see more Zaza after committing the unacceptable (fouling twice in the first half...oh, let's steal some of the blogosphere's thunder - yes, Zaza ended the game with 2 fouls). And though I've been a proponent of seeing Solo re-build his confidence - the question remains why now? He's missing against the scrubs of the league, but reappears vs. the Celtics and Magic...Huh?!? Again, befuddles...

Last comment - as much as we are feeling comfortable about being the 4th seed - uh, we are now only 2 games ahead of the Sixers and Heat. The Sixers own the tiebreaker on us and we play the Heat one last time, so while I THOUGHT I purchased Game 1 and Game 2 tickets for the playoffs - it would behoove us to win about 3-4 games down the stretch so we can put this thing to bed. Let's hope the 2008 Hawks show up soon or else it's a first round loss staring us in the face.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Larry's Impress Me Ratio

Ok, there have been few of these status updates (my Facebook or Twitter-style blogs) about the state of the Hawks lately, so here's some evidence of what we have said all of 2009. We will call this Larry's Impress Me Ratio (LIM Ratio for short). People keep saying that you should be happy with the wins no matter what happens in the games - well, I'd agree with that IF the way we played would lend itself to playoff success. So, I have shaved off all the games where a sub-standard effort plus talent beats awful teams. That is not a barometer for playoff wins. Too often, our excitement in this team has been over poor basketball talent being unable to defeat the Hawks in spite of our scheme and effort b/c of superior basketball talent on our side of the ball. As our #1 fan, I have never simply looked at the record to determine how good we are. I've said all 2009 that we are regressing and not improving down the stretch like good teams should do. And now I've come up with a metric to show just that...it's the LIM ratio - the Larry's Impress Me Ratio.

Our Hawks have been a below average to average team throughout the year of 2009. Since I've watched each and every game this season, I was very optimistic about our prospects this year during 2008. The ratio of quality wins to unacceptable performance should be about 5-1 for an elite team, about 2.5 for a 8th seed and about 1-1 for an average to below average team. The determination of a quality win to unacceptable performance is relative to your team's talent, so the Grizzlies winning vs. the Bobcats is a quality win. The Lakers losing to the Bobcats (despite it happening often) is an unacceptable loss.

In 2008, the Hawks had the following:

Quality Wins (a quality win being a win over an averge team on the road or playoff team at home) - 7
Orlando (Road)
Philly (Home)
New Orleans (Road)
Miami (Road)
Cleveland (Home)
Detroit (Home)
Denver (Home)

Unacceptable Performances (an unacceptable performance is one where we either don't show up or are losing to a team that has no business even sniffing a win against us) - 2
New Jersey (Home)
Toronto (Road)

So, our ratio of 3.5 to 1 said to me that we were on the verge of being an elite team. Keep up this ratio and you'd easily have the 4th seed, 50 wins and we'd be rest starters right now for the playoffs. The Detroit at home is on the edge, but let's remember that this was pre-Iverson trade, so we'll take this as a good win for now.

Then, 2009 happened....(Which I said repeatedly, I was afraid of what this year would bring) and we had the following:

Quality Wins - 6
Houston (Home) - w/o T-Mc (which might not matter)
Detroit (Road) - this is with Iverson and before their complete collapse
Miami (Home) - almost added Denver on road before this, but came up short in Woodson's finest coaching job of the year
New Orleans (Home)
Utah (Home)
LA Lakers (Home)

Unacceptable Performances - 6
Orlando (Home) - score was deceptive - we weren't in the game from the start.
Orlando (Road) - it's not unacceptable that we lost both games, but how badly we lost them.
Philly (Home) - Again, it's the way we lost, not the loss itself
Milwaukee (Road)
LA Clippers (Home) - still the worst showing of the season to me (a 25 pt loss at home!)
Utah (Road) - no shame in losing to the Jazz, but after being embarrassed by the Lakers and gutting out a win over the Kings (gasp!) - we looked AWFUL, down right terrible

So, in 2009, what's the LIM ratio? 1 to 1. This is reminiscent of the past few years when the Hawks would win games they shouldn't and lose games they shouldn't. Those Hawks are back...only the home court is saving us, which is good, but it's bad if it distorts your confidence to the point that you expect to win at home and lose on the road (and in many cases, not even compete) when you won't have home court throughout the season. So, now you know why I'm not positive about the playoffs. It would be nice for us to win vs. Orlando and Miami down the stretch or not lose to the Raptors, Bucks, or Grizzlies (those would be unacceptable losses) to push our ratio back over 1.

Until then, let's just hope that we can at least show some progress in winning the first round and not being swept in the 2nd. That would be reasonable progress for this team, but that also may save Woodson's job. I accepted that last season, but am not sure I can accept that again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hawks @ Celtics - 4/3/09

We will only spend as much effort on this game as the Hawks did...

1. This game functions as exhibit 34 for why it's not worth getting excited about this team's prospects beyond the first round. The effort in the second half was not only piss poor, but it was the tale of two halves where the first half was a team effort and the second half was playground one-on-one quality for the Hawks offense.
2. Forget the score - this game really wasn't in contention and that happens...what should be embarrassing and troubling psychologically is that Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo barely even played in the 2nd half. Oh, and there was another guy who didn't play too - some top 50 in NBA history guy that will remain nameless.
3. The Celtics interior defense, in pure layman terms, punked our a##es. It's hard to recall a time when the Hawks have been turned away at the rim so many times, but regardless of that fact - it seems curious that we did not concentrate on trying to foul out Kendrick 'there's not a pump fake I can't stay on my feet for' Perkins and Big Baby Davis with our low post offense. Oh..wait for it - what low post offense (I KILL ME!)
4. Despite the 4 pt deficit at half, here's what was actually the reason game over was recorded in our notebook. The halftime report from James Verrett was that our assistant coaches said that to win the game we'd need to heat up from outside. So, there is foul trouble on the interior. You're only down 4 and your plan coming out of half is to get HOT from outside...can it be noted ONCE again - that whenever analysis is made for what the players aren't doing to win games that we note that our coaching staff is TRULY not helping this organization become the best it can be. It's going to be hard for this blog to place any blame on ANY player (not Josh, not Bibby, not Joe, not Marvin, not Acie) until we decide that we will make tactical decisions to put us in the best positions to win. Only three times this year has a tactical decision during the game been apparent to the naked eye. And that would be ok if it wasn't the 75th game...

So much for 'rivalries'...that talk should have been extinguished as of TODAY. No more rivalry talk from us about the Celtics until maybe 2010-2011. We won't be playing them again until next season and nothing that we've done this season reflects a need to gin up a rivalry for the sake of our desire to feel like we pose a threat to elite teams in this league.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hawks @ Sixers - 3/31/09

This was slated as an old school game recap game, but then we viewed Mike Woodson's post game press conference and decided to just state one more time why the Hawks will be LUCKY to win in the first round (and that is based on having home court advantage SOLELY)...it's not the players, it's Mike Woodson. Let us recount the ways.

Game Recap - Sixers 98, Hawks 85

1. Josh Smith clearly was having a special night. Hitting free throws, 3 pters, 6 dunks - ALL ON THE ROAD, so what do we do down the stretch...go away from Josh. Let's take a moment to hear what Coach Woodson had to say about this..paraphrasing - 'Uh, they were doubling the post anyway, so we needed Joe and Mike to make shots.' Now, I watched the game. How the hell did he know they were doubling the post when they didn't pass it into the post? Let's see - Tony Parker is KILLING us a few weeks ago and when did Popovich stop running said play...uh, NEVER! How hard is it to just run the plays that have been working (which last night were relatively few)...how many coaches have problems with going with the hot hand? REALLY? Answer this for me, someone.

2. Let's ask Coach Woodson about why we lost tonight...'Uh, well we lost because Joe and Mike didn't make shots, oh and Al didn't play well either...oh and finally, we turned the ball over too much. Listen, we can't win if we don't make shots and we go as far as Joe and Mike take us.' WTF!!!!!! Ok, admittedly, some of what Coach Woodson says is true, but we could won this game if we had played tougher defense, took better care of the ball, and uh...played through Josh while he was hot. When Kobe is off, LeBron is off - etc I'm sure their coaches aren't writing off the games. The point here is - we are good enough to win games when Joe isn't making shots. There are several examples this year when Joe hasn't been shooting well, same for Bibby. Here's the difference - you can't do what we did tonight against GOOD b-ball teams. They didn't have Thaddeus or Brand and we didn't see a white flag go up and doubt we would have heard about shooting as the reason for the loss. Play defense, take care of the ball, and stop with the silly sub patterns and maybe we win this game.

3. How depressing is it to watch another young team where their young players actually PLAY. Louis Williams, Thad Young, Speights...and even more - to see that if Royal Ivey (who Coach Woodoson actually used to play at PG) can get minutes, then why not Acie? Seriously...

4. Let this game be a reminder of just how explosively good Josh Smith can be (3pters notwithstanding) - we all complain about Josh and what he does and doesn't do, but let it be clear that we have two talented forwards in Josh and Al. If only they were being used appropriately, it's scary what they can do on a basketball floor.

5. How cool is it to see two posterizations in one game - Lou Williams & Dalembert stand down...

6. And finally, how many times must we hear about energy not being on for a game? My goodness..Atlanta Spirit, Rick Sund. Is there a reason to have a coach or a captain on your team if not to make sure they play hard every night?

Oh and Sixers or Heat in the first round...I'll take the Sixers - that way, if we lose the series...it'll be easier to fire Woodson. No way he gets fired for losing to Wade and the Heat. And at this point, the #1 thing in the way of us making the next leap...(bigger than small forward, bench depth, center, point guard who defends) is coaching. We'll be 47-35.