Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Unthinkable

Today, I was reminded that I have a blog where I can write about the Atlanta Hawks. In being reminded about this fact, I said to myself - 'self, what has occurred since this shamockery of a playoff series vs. the Cavs that is worthy of writing about.'

So, I spent some time thinking about what has been blogged about by the writers of Atlanta regarding the Hawks. The main topics being a post-season analysis of the players and coaches and a look ahead to the 2009 NBA Draft (oh, and what offseason moves we'll make to be successful next season).

Well, one thing stuck out this offseason to me: the lack of a contract extension for Mike Woodson.

Now, anyone who has read this blog for an appreciable amount of time should be well versed in the reasons we believe Coach Woodson is ill suited to coach the Atlanta Hawks to its maximum potential. A search for Coach Woodson fans to school me on the ways that Coach Woodson has benefited the Atlanta Hawks over his 5 year stint have resulted in two answers - he's cheap and the team has increased its win total each season. Neither are really reasons why he has impacted this team's increasing win total, which speaks volumes.

That said, we actually feel like the first egregious error of the Rick Sund era is going to be perpetrated if they do not extend Coach Woodson's contract by at least 2 years. Everyone already knows that I abhor the way Coach Woodson coaches this team, but we wouldn't be Str8Talk if we didn't put ourselves in Coach Woodson's shoes on this.

We have often complained that Coach Woodson coaches as if he must win every battle (i.e. each game) without a plan for winning the war (i.e. a NBA title) and we actually have to side with Coach Woodson in his disdain for developing young players if it causes you to lose games and takes one accomplishment off of your end-of-year argument for another year of a 7 figure salary. What would you do? Would you play Solomon Jones or Acie Law for stretches of the season at the risk of losing games in hopes that a postseason run will save your job? Or do you play the players you trust with no regard to the end game, particularly when you may not be around by the time the talent is ready to take those next steps? Why risk your short term financial largess for a young player's possible development?

You see, we don't believe in Coach Woodson's coaching acumen, but we don't blame him for his approach under his circumstances. Either you fire him b/c you don't think he can take you there or you give him a contract that allows him to breathe long enough to actually do the things necessary to ensure the team's long term success. Under these circumstances, do you honestly expect him to play anyone we select in this season's draft? I certainly don't. There won't be one thing that will change next season and the Hawks will be worse off because of it.

So, we are doing the unthinkable today and that's saying - if you aren't going to fire him, then extend him TODAY. Give him 3 years so he can see that he has time to develop the team. No, I don't think he can do it and I'm certain that the ownership doesn't want to pay two coaches, so we'll have to suck it up during those next 2 seasons, but at least we'll have given him as complete a shot at doing what you hope he can do rather than handcuffing him into certain failure. I hate to see how he's going to be able to handle Acie Law, Josh Smith, or any other player who gets an attitude next season with the knowledge that the coach doesn't have a contract after the season. We're just one pout away from cats tanking a season just to get him fired and there's nothing I've seen that says that anyone outside of Joe Johnson even likes Coach Woodson.

Who wins under that possible scenario? No one!!! To Fire or Extend, ok. To leave him as a coach in limbo is certain disaster! I even would go so far to say that if you don't fire or extend him - you almost certainly have to trade your draft picks and some players to get veteran help at the point or the post in the offseason in order to have them fit the only type of team that Coach Woodson could possibly take on a deep run in the postseason.

Yep, these are our Atlanta Hawks...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quote...

This off the Atlanta Hawks Twitter page.

Woody: "I think we need to develop our bench more going forward. Cleveland exposed us some with our injuries, so we will work on that."

In theory, this is great. See our numerous posts early in the season regarding the need to develop the players on the bench and to do so at the expense of a few games in the win column would only benefit us in the postseason and beyond.

In practicality, this will be the third straight offseason that Mike Woodson has said a variation of this quote. In fact, last season - he discussed how it probably was a mistake to not give Acie Law IV more time down the stretch (despite the fact that there were only 2 point guards on the roster). This season, after determining that the bench wasn't worth developing (despite numerous injuries throughout the season), we still are no closer to determining if Solo, Acie, or Thomas are worthwhile NBA players. Specifically, with Acie, there are only 2 point guards on the squad and none possess the skill that Acie does have - penetrating, fast breaking point guard. So, color me unconvinced that this quote means anything.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Oh...

And no more criticizing Jon Barry, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith...pretty much everything they said came to fruition!!!

Hawks/Cavs - Round 2, Game 4 Recap

We'll leave it to another day for the post-mortem and the offseason needs and review, etc, but let's just leave the real analysis of this specific game to the experts. For us, it hasn't been about the specific games, but rather a psyche that was never built in a fashion that success can sprout from. And so it stands to reason that on a night when the effort was good (not great, but good) - we were not blown out.

While that doesn't change the fact that we haven't lost a playoff game by less than 10 pts, it stands to reason that this is an effort where you can focus on the strategy and tactics that could have changed the game vs. the more troubling reason of 'we just didn't play hard enough.'

Game Recap - Cavs 84, Hawks 74


So, rather than spend a lot of time repeating what we have seen happen throughout most of the playoffs where we complain about (pinch me if you've heard this before) the lack of transition offense, the flawed defensive 'switcheroo' strategy, the lack of offensive poise, the Josh Smith jump shot to dribble up the court ratio (on a night when he admittedly was the best player for the Hawks by far), and schizo substitution patterns - we'll just leave it to the quotes to hopefully tell a story that requires some soul searching and sour offseason 'taste in mouths'.

First up, Joe Johnson:

“I think we can compete against everybody in the league if we believe and we put our mind to it. But honestly, I don’t think we believed we could win this series. We came in hoping we could win, not believing.

“It’s going to be an interesting summer. Hopefully we can keep the pieces in place. But this is a business.”

“I probably had my worst playoffs ever, both the first and second rounds. We got out of the first round but I feel like I could’ve done more for my team.”

“In this league it’s always, ‘What have you done for me lately?’. The regular season is over and done with. We started a fresh, new season in the playoffs. And we were decent in the first round. We did enough to get by. But in this round, we haven’t done anything to make people respect us.”

“It’s a tough pill to swallow for the whole summer. It’s even tougher when you know you didn’t get a chance to put your best foot forward because of all the injuries and stuff we had happen to us. But it’s a learning experience for us. And we’ll come back stronger next year because of all this.”

While we appreciate the comments from Joe, we only would like to know whether Coach Woodson is aware that you played so poorly because according to him, you played well during this playoffs. SMH! And finally, enough with the not putting your best foot forward - that didn't happen because you didn't put your best foot forward. We understand injuries and slumps, but not a lack of belief that you can win or that you will play as hard as you can to achieve that goal.

Let's sum it up with Josh Smith

“We’re not going to go quietly in this series,” he said. “I know people expect us to. I know the [analysts] said we would. That’s just not who we are, though. We’re not that kind of team to just roll over and die for somebody.”

This was before Game 4, but it stands to reason that again - the biggest hurdle that has to be overcome is for the Atlanta Hawks to be honest with themselves before they can hold each other accountable to a standard. There is no doubt that the Hawks have gone quietly in 6 of 7 games this postseason. They absolutely have rolled over and died. As a fan, I'm going to breathe before giving an assessment on the season because right now, it's hard to recapture our low expectations at the start of the season in order to feel good about how this season ended. That said, congrats to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Let's hope other teams show some Cavs vulnerabilities or else we'll have another season of Woodson quotes regarding how the Cavs showed us how to play 'playoff basketball'. Sigh!

What The Bulls and Rockets Have Taught Us

There has been considerable time spent over the past week focused on the Atlanta Hawks and their inevitable dismissal from the 2009 Playoffs. As a Hawks fan, this should be a time of year when you see your best go up against their best and find out where you stand. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Hawks and many of those who follow them are lacking the gumption to really attack the virus that is invading this organization.

What would that be, you ask...well, let's paint a picture for you.

In round one, we had the perfect embodiment of what you desire in an undermanned team - the Chicago Bulls showing heart and leadership. They were not as talented, not as well coached, and yet pushed a great champion to its limits. They did this without excuses, without worry of home or road games, without complaints about referees and disadvantages (like injuries to Deng or Gordon or an injured mouth or bumps and bruises, flagrant fouls, etc). They simply played their hearts out, worked to accentuate their positives and minimize their negatives and found themselves in a position where what conventional wisdom said was unlikely - and made it plausible. That's what the Playoffs and sport are all about.

In round two, we have encountered yet another example of what you desire in your team - leadership and heart. We'll use a few quotes to make the point for a team that is missing Yao, T McGrady, and Mutumbo.

"I'm sorry for the team that I cannot play, but I have confidence in them," Yao said. "We played as a team, as a group for a long time this year. We understand that only the team can win the game, not a person, and no one is above this team and everyone on this team understands that."

"It's just something we'll have to move on from," Adelman said. "I feel bad for him again. He can't seem to get through [a season] and finish it off. Hopefully, it's going to heal and for the long run, it's going to be fine."

Now, let's use some quotes from our players TODAY.

“I don’t know what we’ve got left,” Johnson said as he walked to his car after practice. “Hopefully, we’ll play with a little fire and not let them close it out on our home court. But I don’t know.”

“Injuries have bogged us down,” Johnson said. “But we can’t blame it on that. You still have to come out, night in and night out, and play with a sense of urgency and be a professional. I’ll say it again — there’s no way possible they are 20 or 30 points better than us. But you have to give it up to them, they’re a great team.”

“In the fourth quarter we shot too many jump shots instead of getting to the basket, and that kills you every time,” Johnson said. “We just don’t play like we really want to win. We’re playing like we’re hoping we’re going to win, not like we know we’re going to win."

“In this series we just haven’t made the adjustments,” Woodson said. “And you can blame it on the coach. I’ll take the heat for that. I think a lot of time it comes down to who wants it the most. And right now they’re beating us to the punch on pretty much everything that they want to do and what we want to do.”

Now, what team would you want to cheer for, pay good money to see, count on to always put their best foot forward. How many contradictions to saying - we can beat this team - are contained in these quotes? Is there any correlation from these quotes to the games we've watched so far? I'd say it's all contained there. The coach and the players do not know if they can win. They don't even know if the team will just put its best foot forward and then, they blame some of it on the fact that they are just playing the best team. The same team we've beaten before (and should have been twice this year). We've played all season with injuries and been successful and now, injuries are being discussed as if that's the only reason we're losing by 20 pt margins (conveniently forgetting that we lost by those margins when we were at full strength).

Let's be clear - we believe that heart and leadership can overcome skill and strategy, but you have to have heart and care to lead. The heart is on the players, the leadership (when missing by the players) is on the coach. An argument can be made regarding which is more important and which one you need first while trying to develop the other, but several things were burning through my spirit in round one (with the Bulls) and in round two (with the Rockets). The Hawks defeated the Celtics last season for 3 games on heart and leadership (from Horford and Pachulia and even Johnson) in last season's playoffs. The strategy and skill was still less than the Celtics' and yet, we overcame that with heart and leadership. And after this season, I'm now torn over the fact that I have fallen for the Rockets and Bulls. This from a person who has NEVER cheered for a team other than his own. My DNA doesn't allow for cheering for a team that isn't my own.

The Hawks have now forced me to want to cheer for those teams and even more frighteningly - to NOT want to see this team be successful. I'd prefer that we start OVER than watch a team be mildly successful and give less than its best. I want to watch those teams that want to play their hearts out and lead men into battle play. I don't care if you are the favorite or most talented. I just don't want to hear excuses - just want you to play basketball. I want to feel like the team that defeats you had to play its best to overcome what you brought to the mat.

It's scary how situations are for the Rockets and Hawks could be the same, yet are starkly different.

  • Yao, McGrady, and Mutumbo are injured (and in this case, OUT!)
  • Horford, Johnson, Williams are injured (but in this case, NOT OUT! And for Johnson, I'm not even accepting the injury excuse for him - he said he's fine and played 45 minutes, so no excuses)
  • Young Players-Non-Lottery Picks such as Brooks (1st Round - 26th pick), Landry (2nd Round and shot this season), Lowry (1st round - 24th pick), Wafer (2nd Round), Hayes (Undrafted) are all contributing for the Houston Rockets. When injuries hit, all of them were reserves who were given roles and developed into players who have not blinked when given the opportunity in the playoffs. (Note: The same could be said for the Bulls and other players such as Big Baby Davis, J J Redick, Courtney Lee, and so on.)
  • Young Players-Non-Lottery Picks such as Gardner, Jones, West, and let's just put Acie Law IV in here though he was a lottery pick have not been a part of the team's rotation for most of the season, even when injuries dictated that they should get some time in order develop trust and understanding of the system. This did not happen. Even now, when shorthanded, the young Hawks have not been trusted to provide any value in these playoffs. Their roles have not been defined well enough to determine whether it's rust or skill that is keeping them from stepping up.
  • Head Cases Artest & Wafer have reared their ugly heads at different times, but the coach has trusted them to put it behind them and continue to contribute.
  • Head Case Smith has reared his ugly head at different times, but the coach has not put Smith in a position to put it behind him and contribute.
  • The Rockets are playing one of the 2 best players on the planet. While they have 2 players who can trusted to conceivably cover him one-on-one, they are still providing help at every juncture to ensure that he does not score 47 pts on them.
  • The Hawks are playing one of the 2 best players on the planet. While they have no one who can be trusted to conceivably cover him one-on-one, they are not doing anything to help stop him at every juncture. In fact, the Woodson post game press conference was an admission that you believe that the double team would have to happen as soon as you cross half court and that that exposes the defense (a defense that has been torched for 3 straight games). To which we say - let's try something different like - double him at half court.
And now - we see an 'equally as talented as the Cavs' Lakers team having trouble with a team that now is no more talented than the Hawks. So, with that, we won't talk about the Hawks inability to focus on its strength - transition offense - at all in this series or the deficiencies at coaching strategy between Adelman and Woodson. We only want to talk about the fact that leadership and heart can trump skill and strategy. To continue to say you can't use injuries as excuses, you are implicitly using injuries as excuses. There hasn't been a press conference where Woodson hasn't discussed our 'injuries'. At no point have I heard him give a shot of confidence to the bench to step up and meet the challenge that is the Cavs. Hear me Hawks - you can win on heart and leadership. The fact that you don't understand that or believe that is a depressing thought. It's also a thought that could lead to losing one of your most loyal fans.

That's what the Bulls and Rockets have taught me. What have they taught you, GM Sund? Coach Woodson? Hawks?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hawks/Cavs - Round 2, Game 3 Recap

Let's start this game recap off with a few items:

1. For the first time in this round of basketball, effort was not an issue for the team. It's pretty sad that that has to be a point, but after a series of games where we haven't always played hard - it needs to be noted.
2. Again, we have lost in double digits in every game we've lost in 2 years of playoff games, spanning TEN games...again, Coach Woodson - what is it that we learned from the Boston series last year?
3. There really ought to be an unbiased look at how fouls are called with regard to LeBron James. It used to be Shaq's play that was difficult to call consistently, but there is a new king in town (no pun intended). While we can appreciate that a player who attacks is rewarded, there should be consistency to calling fouls ON LeBron. There were at least 4 times when contact occurred and no call came, but on the opposite end - if LeBron was touched - he was at the line IN OUR HOUSE.

Game Recap - Cavs 97, Hawks 82

Again, with so many thoughts jumbled up from the game, let's just bulletize this recap:
  • Since we can subtract effort from the Hawks' deficiency list tonight, we can point to the strategic decision to not try to take away a team's best weapon. We respect the fact that you may want to allow for a bad night on single coverage, but at the point that you realize that LeBron James wants to play like the best player in the world (apologies to Kobe Bryant) - maybe you would determine that this merry band of players should not be playing him one on one. Those people are Maurice Evans, Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and Josh Smith. Or what we'd like to call - anyone on the Hawks roster. This game - like every game vs. D Wade screamed for a double team. Anything to get the ball out of the hands of the BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET. At some point, taking your chances with lesser players is probably better than watching one player laugh at your attempt to employ the switcheroo defensive philosophy.
  • You could almost see the players fighting their common basketball sense that said to go and double vs. their switcheroo teachings.
  • LBJ scored 47 pts EASILY. Now, the two times I noticed a double team - there was a 24 second violation and a Big Z jump shot for 2. We do not consider challenging a drive 5ft from the basket as a double team or even worth the effort.
  • We were impressed with the Hawks first half fight. At least, they realized that effort can trump poor shooting or strategy.
  • We also are impressed with Zaza's emotion, but unfortunately it must be managed well. Yes, it was a questionable call and yes, we can accept the technical (though we think it only should have been ONE technical).
  • Finally, we think that the Hawks fan base has all gotten the memo - Josh Smith is not a jump shooter. Too bad, the Hawks coaching staff has not gotten the memo that maybe we ought to design plays and offense that eliminates Josh Smith outside of 10 ft as a possibility. As my mom (Happy Mom's Day) says, sometimes you have to save people from themselves (and their decision to shoot jump shots).
  • We applaud Coach Woodson for allowing Mike Bibby to play through his foul trouble. Of course, Bibby rewarded that faith by only receiving 4 fouls. Catch the hint.
  • We applaud Joe Johnson for getting mad and trying to take over the game. We are disappointed that that occurred when the game was over.
  • We applaud the fans for being allowed and engaged during most of the game, but we're disappointed that that ended once Zaza was ejected. We needed you MORE, not less at that point.
That's all - there's not much here. We didn't think we'd win a game in this series. We were hoping to win 1 game. That still may happen, so we'll just call it a victory that we decided to fight and scrap in this game. Maybe next game - our strategy will match our effort. We'll take a dose of transition offense and a scoop of Joe Johnson being mad and wanting to take over, please. See you on Monday!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Broken Record

No, it's actually a real broken playoff record...

The Cavaliers beat the Hawks by 20 points in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, marking the fourth time in the 2009 playoffs that Atlanta has lost by 20 or more points. That sets a new NBA record for most 20-point losses in a single postseason.

Thanks Elias...of course, as Coach Woodson says, last season's Boston series 'taught' us how to play playoff basketball. He didn't bother to tell us that it's the kind that sets records for the number of beatings we'd take in one playoffs. SHM!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 2, Game 2 Recap

Ok, we're going to just do this in bullet points. There was no good in this game, so we're going to just break it down into coach vs. players.

What I Hate About Our Players:
  1. Saying the same things each game about our team - holla if you've heard these things before.
  2. If things don't go our way early, we stop playing.
  3. If we get smacked, we become the anti-Derek Fisher/Eddie House.
  4. Josh not having an understanding of his limitations (and to be fair, he did not get foul calls and even got called for 3 fouls that weren't fouls) on offense or forgetting how great a help defender he could be.
  5. Joe not taking this game by the balls and making something happen OR even looking like he is emotionally invested in this team. Everyone does things differently, but damn Joe - fake it please.
  6. No one on the bench looking even a tenth as excited to be in the playoffs and invested in the game and its welfare as the Cavs do. (This one is new!)
  7. Uh, watching LBJ isolated on Solomon Jones to end the half and not seeing ONE player thinking that it might be a good idea to help him.
What I Hate About Our Coach:
  1. Have I discussed how bad our offensive strategy is? What happened to that side-to-side ball movement that was going to prove that you were coaching better than before.
  2. Oh, ok - well, what about our defensive strategy of not getting the ball out of LBJ's hands?
  3. Ok, since I've talked about those things - let's see if I can highlight some things that made me go through the roof...starting with the fact that NOTHING HAS CHANGED ON O or D
  4. That after seeing that we didn't want to play tonight that he didn't just put in the subs to see what they could bring to the table.
  5. If your star says he's tired and you're down by THIRTY POINTS, sit him down. Oh, but no - let's just let him get hurt and flush ANY shot you had to win games in this series down the drain (Note: The worse thing about this is that it actually gives him an excuse for losing in historic fashion.)
  6. When Josh is having a meltdown, why not sit him down so someone can calm him down and get him focused.
  7. When down 35pts, why are players who start for you STILL in the game? For that matter, why is anyone that you need knowing that you are already shorthanded in that game at that point.
  8. So, have I proven my point that Coach Woodson is sometimes so consumed with the individual battle that he doesn't understand the war? I sat for 10 minutes saying - take the starters out of the game before Joe hurt himself. Let's wave the white flag and fight on another day.
  9. Can you tell us in the post-game press conference what you have against Acie Law?
  10. Can you tell us in the post-game press conference why it took so long to play Thomas Gardner? Or better yet, let us know what is so awful about him that he is playing behind Mario West? In a small sample size, he sure looked like he could be servicable. Stayed in front of LBJ on one possession, hit his first 3...just not sure why he only can get 98 minutes in an entire season.....
Anyway, there's more stuff I could get mad about - I could talk about how I saw LeBron commit 5 fouls, but he only had 1. Anyway, Cavs are better - we get it, but the fact that we're not showing any heart, we're not playing hard, our coach is useless (and when I mean useless - I mean I honestly think I can do a better job right now), and I've never been this disillusioned with a team is making my heart hurt. Literally.

If I get a guarantee that we'll fire the coach, I'm all for just losing these next two games by 40pts each. Which kills me to say, but it's just time for change. First Barack, now Woody. And then, for the first time - I'm actually ok with trading damn near everyone on the team for players with heart. It hurts me to say that, but waking up without Joe, Josh, Mike, etc doesn't bother me one bit if this is what we'll do when faced with adversity. Maybe I'll change my mind, but blowing this thing up isn't all that bad an idea to me right now.

ESPN Article Speaking The Obvious...

Check out this article by Chris Broussard at ESPN.com...

Before every series the Cleveland Cavaliers play, the first question the opposition must answer is "How are you going to guard LeBron James?" After James poured in 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting in the Cavs' 99-72 Game 1 victory, the Atlanta Hawks are still racking their brains, trying to find an answer.

The Hawks did successfully solve one equation, though: how not to guard James.

Atlanta, which plays Game 2 on Thursday night at The Q, started out with Maurice Evans guarding James solo. All that did was put Evans in foul trouble, as he was whistled twice in the first six minutes. The Hawks then went to Josh Smith and he also picked up two first-half fouls while trying to stay with James.

Here's what Evans and Smith had to show for their troubles: 22 points in James' scoring column by halftime. Perhaps the only positive for Atlanta was that James didn't have any assists. Of course, that's because he was scoring nearly every time he touched the rock.

Obviously, guarding James one-on-one is unwise for most clubs.

During halftime, Atlanta coach Mike Woodson made some adjustments and the Hawks started doubling James in the third quarter. That's when he began dishing, feeding Mo Williams for two 3-pointers in the first five minutes to push a five-point halftime lead to 11. James wound up with 12 points and three assists (all of them on 3-pointers) in the quarter, accounting for 75 percent of the Cavs' offense.

That's the difference between double-teaming James and, say, Dwyane Wade, whom the Hawks doubled with some success in their first-round victory over Miami. While Wade is a good and willing passer, his height (6-foot-4) makes him more vulnerable than the 6-8 James is to double-teams. James passes over the double-team with ease, while Wade, unable to simply pass over two defenders, usually tries to beat the double with the dribble.

Not only does that eat up more shot clock and stop ball movement, but Wade, who averaged 5.3 assists against the Hawks, also usually looks to go to the basket after beating the trap. If he's met in the paint and can't get off a shot, he'll then pass to a teammate, who may or may not be in position to shoot. Beyond that, Wade's inferior supporting cast can't convert his passes into points with the same frequency that James' can. So Atlanta won't have as much success doubling James as it did doubling Wade.

If you can't double James or guard him one-on-one with success, what do you do? Well, at the very least, you must protect the paint. Yet the Hawks failed in that area as well. James went to the basket at will, scoring 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting inside the lane. When James is driving so much, he's obviously going to get to the foul line, where he made 8-of-9 shots in Game 1. The Hawks were slow to rotate into the lane and that can't happen; at the very least, one or two players must be waiting for him near the basket once he beats his man.

There's no way to stop James, but there are ways to make it hard for him. And a team as athletic as the Hawks should be able to do that to some degree. Evans and Smith should be quick enough to make it difficult for James to consistently beat them off the dribble, and their teammates should be quick enough to rotate into the paint and create a wall, forcing him to settle for midrange jumpers or kickouts to shooters. That rarely happened in Game 1, as James took just two midrange shots.

So, how do you guard James?

Mix up double-coverage on him, trapping him at different times and at different spots, and load up in the paint to stop him from getting to the basket. He may rack up plenty of assists that way, but the alternative is giving up 34 points on high-percentage shooting. Maybe his teammates will have an off night. That's a lot more likely than James' missing point-blank shots.

Of course, containing James is easier said than done, but if the Hawks are to have any chance of winning Game 2, they'd better find a way to do it.

The Leadership Vacuum

Since all of the other bloggers do previews and all, I figured it was time to do a few links and try to communicate something which Coco at The Vent decided to try to usurp me on regarding leadership.

So, let's just start by saying that one missing element of yesterday's rant was that the Atlanta Hawks are missing a leader. We've said it repeatedly, but if you're going to do a 3K word Bill Simmons-length rant - you ought to make sure it includes all of the things that bother you. A few people are still questioning whether I should just be content with the Hawks reaching their 'goals' this year - well, let's just be clear about how I love my teams. I want them to always to reach for the brass ring. Winning battles with no path to win the war means nothing to me. That's just how I'm built, so I look to the examples that have been time-worn. And having a leader is on the must have list for championship building. First thing I wanted to see was someone from the Atlanta Hawks org (owner, GM, coach, player, staff)) to say - this is UN-FRIGGIN'-ACCEPTABLE and dammit, we'll fix it for Game 2. That's it.

That said, the Hawks do not have a leader. There is no one that will speak up HONESTLY about what the Hawks need to do, lack, possess, etc (read: the post-game answers we've received from the coaches and players normally are read from the coach/player handbook). For anyone who would question that, here's a playoff example for why I'm concerned about Coach Woodson as the future leader of this team. Yesterday, he noted that (rightly) he ripped the team for its play. The next day, his comment was that the players probably don't want to see him and that he needs to mend some fences with them. MEND FENCES!!!!?!!! Huh, you can't tell them the truth and yell after a bad performance without hurting feelings. [Note: This could happen if you admit afterwards that you probably didn't coach that well either - in that instance, I'd probably be mad that you're yelling at me too.]

Now, this isn't a Coach Woodson problem in the macro sense - it's the players' problem in the macro sense that they don't have the constitution to accept a coach's wrath in the face of an absymal performance in the second half. There should be a leader (before, during, and after) who says COACH is right - we sucked. What do we need to do to get better, Coach?

This issue is something that has been discussed throughout the season. How the leadership has helped Acie Law IV, how it handles Josh Smith's immaturity with the referees and his belief in his jump shot, how it handles getting hit in the mouth, how it handles trusting each other with fouls, and with having each other's backs (our starkest example being when Josh Smith received a flagrant foul during the season for a bad foul and Coach Woodson and his teammates said nothing other than - it's up to the league on how it's dealt with) has been a missing element over the past 4-5 years.

Contrast that to how the Lakers dealt with Derek Fisher's egregious, yet 'I got your back' flagrant foul vs. Luis Scola last night. They could have to a man said - we'll see what the league does to Derek and moved on, but they all said - that's my man, D-Fish, doing what this team needs and we'll be glad to have him back in whatever game he comes back. Everyone in Laker land saw that play for what it was - an attempt to get their teammate's back. And that's key - too often, our team has not been too simple minded in its analysis of itself. If we win, we played well and together. If we lose, we didn't trust each other and we need to get it together. Well, the NBA is more nuanced than that and a good leader can tell you that. If you lose to the Celtics in the 7th game of the season, you played your ass off and while there are no moral victories - it's a loss you can build from. If you win by 1 against the Sacramento Kings at home, then you ought to talk about how you need to circle the wagons and find out why a team you should blow out is even in the game, not say - 'a win's a win'.

That's what a leader would do. A leader would say - yes, we won vs. the Heat, but we are still not playing well. A coach who leads would not tell us that Joe Johnson is struggling when every eyeball I have says that save 3 quarters of basketball - he's having a woeful postseason. How do you motivate someone who you are saying is playing well? And so it goes, this is what we need to address...

We screamed this year for Robert Horry or a PJ Brown or Lindsay Hunter - one of these veterans who can come into a game for 5 minutes and produce, but more importantly, who can be leaders for your team where you lack one in the locker room, on the bench, etc. So, Coach Woodson doesn't always have to be the bad guy. It's very important that we address this b/c for everything that Flip and Maurice (and we applaud Mo's attempt at this vs. the Heat) bring to the table - vocal leadership is not it. As much as we respect Coco's opinion on this, it's not Joe Johnson either. The only natural leader you have on the team is Al Horford, but unfortunately he's too young and isn't playing at a high enough level to command the respect necessary to be that leader. So, where does that leave us?

I don't know...but it just needed to be added to the rant list. Sorry for the length again, but I'm stressed about this series...it's tearing me in half. Half that says - to get better, we need to be embarrassed to no end (no Game 7s, just a straight sweep by 20+ pts) to make the need to improve so starkly apparent vs. the half that wants the best for the Hawks in every game. Which half wins tonight?

Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown - THIS WEEKEND

Friends,

Here's our first official ad and embedded video. We'll be posting video and more for the Atlanta community. So, check it out and spread the word...

The NBA and Sprite are bringing the best amateur dunkers in the U.S. to the NBA All-Star Weekend 2010 in Dallas to crown a Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown champion. It’s time to put non-NBA dunkers with the skills on the big stage!

For Dunkers:
  • One champion dunker will be selected in Atlanta, winning $1000 and other great prizes
  • For those who can’t make the event, two champions will be selected via the online video submission contest.
  • Of the ten total champions (we’re doing this in 7 other cities), the public will vote for their favorites and the top four dunkers will be sent to the 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend in Dallas to compete for the $10,000 Grand Prize and the opportunity to be involved on the Saturday night NBA Slam Dunk Contest
  • VIP Access: This is the added bonus. The four finalists will get seats to both the 2010 NBA All-Star Game and The NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and inside access to players and legends
  • Schwag: The 40 dunk contestants who participate in the Showdown events in each market will receive authentic jerseys, shorts and adidas basketball shoes
Event Details:
  • Each dunker participant will receive an adidas jersey, shorts and shoes. The top dunker in Atlanta will receive $1,000, a Flip Video Camera and be eligible to win the Grand Prize. Second place dunker will receive $500.
  • This Atlanta Showdown is this weekend (May 8: 5PM - 10PM; May 9: 11AM - 9PM; May 10: 2PM - 8PM) at the Sweet Auburn Springfest.
  • Admission is free for fans and dunkers alike.

For Fans:

• This is an official NBA Sprite sponsored event, which means the best of the best will be attracted to compete. The stakes are high.
• Fan Votes Count. Voting via SMS at the events and online votes for the final round to determine the four champions that will go to Dallas keeps this fan-focused and ultimately fan-crowned
• 8 opportunities to see the best dunkers live
• Interaction with other fans via Facebook and Twitter (we’re currently setting these communities up. Links to come later)


Online Video Submissions and Voting
1. Online Video Submissions – Beginning this month, those who can’t make the event (or dunkers who didn’t win in Atlanta), can upload a video of their dunk at
nba.com/dunk.
2. LeBron James – Yes, LeBron will personally select the two top dunkers from the top fan-rated videos

3. Fans Vote – Fans vote online for their favorite dunkers once the 10 finalists are chosen.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

High Blood Pressure

So, I was about to give up my rant today and then, I happened to read this from my good friend (well, I'm going to reevaluate whether or not - we're friends since he did post this with the knowledge that I'm about to blow a gasket after last night's game), Bret's latest post. Click here for his concise take

Mike Woodson's Quote - "I've got to get them more in sets where we move the ball from side to side. That's on me. I felt like I didn't help them as much as I could have last night, from a coaching standpoint. So I have to get better in Game 2 and see if I can get them over the hump."

Larry's Reaction - "Kiss my ---" How do you expect your players to play hard and go to battle for you if YOU aren't going to 'help' them as much as you possibly can during a game. We are less than confident that you are capable of doing better in Game 2, but if you can - don't stop there. Do better for the remainder of your tenure as coach of the Atlanta Hawks. Period. "Get them over the hump"...really, Coach. Really?!? Damn, I was almost over last night until I saw this. Thanks, Bret...

[In my best mumble]...you mean to tell me that in the biggest game of his coaching career - he didn't help his team as much as he could have?? Was there some defense that Mike Brown put on him that prevented him from doing that? At least, the players can accuse the other team of getting in the way...but the COACH!!!!! [Oops, leaving mumble mode.] It's gonna be a long day...

Game Recap & Rant About Giving Up

Round 2 deserved to get an old skool Hawk Str8Talk recap, but then they decided to not play for the entire game, so we will again continue to hammer the point that needs to be continually communicated to the Hawks Nation until everyone demands better. (Spoiler Alert: Pissed Off Rant below of Bill Simmons-esque proportions)

Game Recap - Cavs 99, Hawks 72

Let's go ahead and get the assumptions out of the way first. So, here they go:

1. The Hawks are not at full strength. Horford & Williams are not 100%, so let's go ahead and get that out there, but since they are out there - we won't be absolving them of blame solely for that fact. If they are good enough to be on the court, they will be judged.
2. The Hawks are an inferior offensive and defensive team to the Cavaliers.
3. The Hawks are not expected by this fan to win any game even at full strength, but we want and hope they win the next 4.

Now, to our rant, it has little to do with the specific analysis of why we lost this game. It's easy to determine that if Mike Bibby and Josh Smith are the only players who attempt to put together efforts approaching playoff level play, then you probably are in for a blowout...but let's just attempt to communicate why we are continually ranting about this team and its entire philosophy.

1. Playing Hard - This will trump all complaints (and we have a few). It is COMPLETELY and TOTALLY unacceptable for the Atlanta Hawks to not play for 48 minutes. Repeat that 50 times! I can accept that you are not playing well, but playing hard in your attempt to defeat the best team in basketball (and really any team, but most especially during the playoffs) is hard for us to reconcile as lovers of basketball and this team. It is in fact having a corrosive effect on the love I have for my hometown team. The one thing that allowed for forgiveness in trading Dominique Wilkins away and the many mistakes of the Babcock and Knight regimes is that the intent was to make the team better (however misguided it was), but what is unforgivable is watching teams that do not play hard. So, for the first half - effort was not in question even while watching some lack of focus result in sloppy play.

But as we have often seen, once the team looked like it was unable to climb the mountain...nothing in our make up says FIGHT! And that's been the case for most of the year. Too many times, a punch to the face causes us to stay down. It's one thing to be Ricky Hatton'ed - it's quite another to take a knee, then decide to look at the referee while he counts you out, then get up and walk back to your corner and say 'we'll see you on Thursday'. The antipathy felt for those who quit is where we are with the Atlanta Hawks. Again, this isn't about winning and losing. This is about the makeup of a team that quits. The joy of watching the Bulls and Celtics series was in seeing those teams never give up. We watched the Celtics (down 25 to a good team) NEVER give up against the Magic. It doesn't always result in victory, but the psychology of that fight is significant. I, for one, am fed up watching and later reading about how we gave up. Joe's post game comment says as much - 'in the second half, I think we gave up.' What kind of team gives up in the playoffs when you know you are 3 more losses from ending your season? I hated it vs. a sorry Miami Heat team, I hated it against an even sorrier Los Angeles Clippers team, and I deplore having the Emperor's new clothes displayed to a national audience throughout the playoffs. There is no explanation that anyone can provide for being in 8 playoff losses in 2 years and losing every single one of them by double digit margins (and for that matter, none of them even being close in the 2nd half). Against 3 teams (teams you have demonstrated an ability to defeat), that's called a trend, not a coincidence. I apologize for the length of that point and all upcoming points, but I struggle to see how anyone cannot be completely and utterly disgusted by this at this point. How are bloggers, fans, beat writers, etc not speaking up on this EVERY SINGLE TIME it happens. Yes, it makes for redundant posts, but damn that - be creative about how you say we suck!

We will not try to determine if there is more blame on players vs. coaches or if players are ignoring the coach or if the coach is ineffective in conveying that point to the players, but dammit - we don't really care. All parties should be held accountable (while acknowledging that it's easier to get rid of the coach than the players).

2. Coaching - It is very frustrating to wonder why anyone (AJC writers, bloggers, etc) with a straight face can talk about the validation of Coach Woodson based on the fact that this team has improved to the point that it can defeat teams that are equal or less talented than it is. Or that it now can win home games. Listen, we knew this last year and we watched all year a team that has decided not to play any low post offense and has decided to not rachet up its main offensive weapon (transition offense - which in fact has been communicated to us as connected to our ability to play defense..though we watch D'Antoni and the Laker Showtime years run off of rebounds or made baskets - not sure why we can't do that either). We instead watch one on one basketball where our only chance to win is to be proficient from 3pt range and hit free throws. Forgive us for repeating the same refrains - you can't win offensively against good teams by trying to have everyone beat their man off the dribble and then shoot or pass. Not when you don't have a transcendent player who allows that to work (i.e. Howard, Bryant, Wade, James). It's simply a recipe for disaster against good teams and has never worked in the playoffs, period. Even Jordan played in a system that allowed him to display his talents. This doesn't work even more when your spacing is so bad that it's not set up for shots to be taken out of the first pass from the double team Joe is going to receive. No cuts to the basket, no pick and rolls, nothing to challenge the defense, no screens to free up your shooters...just dribble drives or passes to the 30ft mark on the court and resetting the offense. I mean who seriously does that in the NBA to great effect - name me a team. Who doesn't take the time to design things to offset things that you KNOW are coming - i.e the Joe Johnson double team. Does this need to be said in any more detail other than - it just STINKS!!!!

As for defense, why is it that we can't double James again? Did 34 pts in 3 quarters sound the alarm that maybe this playing James one on one is a bad decision/strategy? Particularly when said strategy wasn't shutting any other part of the offense down. I'm all for let only one part of the offense work. You have to give up something when playing LeBron, so it's either - let him eat someone alive for 50 and shut everyone else down OR try to limit him to 25 and risk a triple double. Or even - make him work on the defensive end. I'm fine with any of that, but not with a strategy that results in both. Our defensive strategy right now is going to allow for both. Even in the Miami series - it was set up to do both. The switching on all screens where you have Bibby or Horford or whomever in one-on-one matchups where no double team is coming just is amateurish at best. The Heat just suck and when they didn't suck - they won to devastating effect against this defensive 'strategy'. Some kind of way you'd think that the coaches and scouts would see this for what it is and do something else.

3. Player Development - All season, we've been very critical about preparing our team for a postseason run. Game 7 of the regular season was enough for me to realize - we're going to the playoffs again. John Hollinger of ESPN and even our good blog com padre Bret from Hoopinion swallowed their whistles early in saying he was wrong and that the Hawks were for real. At that point, you do everything possible to prepare for the postseason while getting position. Unfortunately, all we talked about was position. Coach Woodson only knows how to coach one way and that's by trying to win each individual battle with no regard to winning the war. The war is a championship level effort in the playoffs. The individual battles are the 82 games leading up to the final battle to see who wins the war. Chicago didn't need home court to almost win that series against Boston - truth be told, they were one shot from having Game 6 at home for the series win. Not only did they show heart, but they also made in-season moves (Mr. Sund, can you remind us again why we couldn't have been in the Salmons/Miller sweepstakes at the trade deadline again - were centers, shooters, and wing defenders not on the Hawks need list.) and worked to get into and ready for the playoffs. We said from day 1 - you will have to develop Law, Jones, West, and even Gardner if you plan to use them during the final battle. These are your 9th - 12th best players and with the number of injuries we've had, you'd think we'd have these guys in some kind of shape to provide a spark or boost, but sporadic preparation leaves them woefully unprepared to play on this stage. The point being - since the Hawks have had SEVERAL instances where the team did not play at a high energy level or simply were undermanned - we should have been playing these players to try to win games and build confidence (this is most especially directed at Acie Law IV - who we are sure is ruined for the life of his time with the Hawks as long as Woodson is coach and possibly for his career..see Salim Stoudamire for confirmation). From limited footage and accounts, we think Law can push the pace and stay in front of a guard without much help. That would have been useful yesterday. We know West can provide energy - in the second half, that would have been more desirable to watch than a team that had given up (as much as I don't believe him to be skilled - we do believe sparks can be necessary and enjoyable to watch). Bottom line, there was no change in tactic (zone defense, a full court press, running on offense) to try to win the game.

Sometimes, you have to lose the battle (i.e. pass the ball into the post to Al even though he's still learning to be effective offensively, rest Joe even if it means you may lose ground in a game, sit Josh when he shoots jumpers or brings the ball up the court even though he's your 2nd best player, playing Acie through his mistakes in order to play Flip as a shooting guard, etc) to win the war. That means that you have to develop a young team and prepare them for what will occur in the playoffs. As far as we've seen, no player has gotten better as a result of Woodson's tutelage to date. NONE! Only Marvin got better this year and that's b/c he added a 3pt shot this year and Bibby is better b/c he's healthy. Otherwise, what is any individual better at this season than last besides just the benefit of playing together one more year (and that's what we attribute the increase in wins to). And more importantly, name me ONE thing that Coach Woodson has done this year to positively affect the outcome of this season. Just one!

So, when we express our frustration regarding Coach Woodson - it's that we don't believe we can win the war with him, not that we can't win some battles with him (though even that is often debatable as well).

4. Preparation - The previous point lends to this point of players being tired - most specifically Joe Johnson. All season, we've watched Joe play about 5-10 minutes more than he needed to. At end of games that were in hand, at the end of quarters, to start quarters when we're up by lots of points. There's simply no reason we shouldn't use the same philosophy with Joe that we see utilized for all stars - LeBron, Wade, Kobe, etc all have set times when they come out of the game. The goal being that you want your star to not only be fresh during the game to play a great 38 minutes vs. an above average 45 mins, but also to save those legs for the WAR. We don't use any rhyme or reason to how we rest Joe. I know that at the start of the 2nd and 4th quarters that Kobe and Lebron will be on the bench. Their bench knows it too and know that they have to produce during those times. Something about that makes all the sense in the world. Watching Joe LOOK tired and say in the post game that he's tired just sickens those of us who think that our coaches should be able to manage this while still making the playoffs.

5. Honesty - As we said in our last post, don't lie to us. Let's be real - the Cavs didn't even play all that awesome and we lost by 27 pts. I've already read 3 articles that say we ought to just chalk it up as one loss (and yes, we acknowledge that the Hawks can get off the canvas and win a game), but we won't do that b/c that just masks the problem and gives you false hope. We want to continue to be honest and give you Str8 Talk, the 100% truth is that - if we don't have an offensive and defensive strategy that works in the postseason, players who play hard no matter what, players developed, a coach that is willing to use different strategies when the original ones aren't working, then we're back to watching a team whose ceiling is determined already. Isn't that the reason we blew up the Steve Smith/Mutumbo/Blaylock teams of yesteryear? Not b/c they couldn't get to the playoffs, but b/c as constituted - they weren't going to win a title. We acknowledge that there is room to grow our regular season wins, but am I the only one who is reaching the point that the philosophy and intangibles related to our team all point to - first or second round loser PERIENNALLY!

That's just not acceptable to this fan and we're going to keep speaking on it until we all get on board. It's times like this when I wish Mark Cuban was my owner. He watched his team play lax and told them all - you either play hard or find a new team. Since then, they've been one of the best teams in the league. While they aren't better than the Nuggets, it's not lack of effort that you're watching. Again, I'm ok with losing games, even losing to the Cavs, but not providing your best effort as a coach and as players is unacceptable. PERIOD. It's what causes me to spend 2 hours crafting a Bill Simmons-like blog about a game that didn't deserve 2 paragraphs after the 1st half.

That's how I feel about the Hawks right now. I understand that we probably won't win the series no matter what, but as the Bulls have shown - heart matters. We all can easily see the Bulls take that effort and project a leap forward to championship contender in 1-2 years. We can see Del Negro and those young boys growing next season after what they displayed. Is there ANYTHING you've seen this postseason that makes you think the Atlanta Hawks are going to get better as a team using the tools and philosophies that they are being taught? If so, e-mail me, leave a comment, or call me because this sucks...

All that said, Game 3 & 4 - I'll have my rag and my gear cheering my heart out, but if I see another display of 'give up' like this for the rest of the postseason - someone shoot me. Please!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 7 Recap

There have been many who have asked why we didn't post a recap on Sunday or Monday. Well, there's a really good reason. We didn't really have the words to express what we saw...now, it's been well established that my #1 FAN-ness is a little different than your average #1 fan. Most #1 fans just want the positive result regardless of how it transpires and who it is transpired against. So, let's be clear - we love the fact that the Hawks are playing the Cavs in the 2nd round of the 2009 playoffs. That said, we are still having a hard time getting excited about going to 7 games against a really average, borderline bad team with one absolutely awesome player. With that said, let's get to the game recap in enumerated fashion:

Game Recap - Hawks 91, Heat 78

Me Likeys:

1. Joe Johnson shooting and making shots off ball movement and screens. Shoot, Joe Johnson coming to play in any form and showing a little emotion was fantastic.

2. Any Hawk making shots off transition, ball movement, and in the post. We actually looked like we had an offensive philosophy for a few quarters.

3. Jon Barry being honest about how he feels about what he thinks will happen with the Hawks vs. Cavs (Note: I felt that way too until he said it, now I feel we'll get a game on sheer pissitivity that we're being doubted :) ).

4. Coach Woodson using timeouts to stop momentum, even when up 19. Made me proud.

5. Hawks fans being loud and engaged for an entire game despite the fact that it was a terrible game to watch.

6. Not caring about anyone on the defensive end except D Wade.

Me No Likeys:

1. The hypocrisy of liking Joe shooting off the dribble from 30 ft, after shooting one from 28ft when he's 1 for 6. Listen, I'm glad he made it (and mad the foul wasn't called or even mentioned), but that is bad offense. Sorry guys, but this is Str8 Talk. If that's anyone else on the team and every blogger and writer would be going crazy. So, either we accept Josh w/ energy and his flaws or we don't b/c the praise for a bad shot doesn't bode well. I want my All Star to at least be on fire before he takes shots like that with 8 seconds on the shot clock.

2. Speaking of which, not Josh's best game, but as we always say - Josh with energy is all you want. With energy, we will always be content with what he brings to the table. ALWAYS!!! At this stage, for good or bad, Josh and Al are our emotional leaders. You'd hope it would be Bibby or Johnson, but that's not who they are, so we'll go as far as their play and leadership takes us.

3. We have no quibble with much of Coach Woodson's in-game strategy during this series (partially b/c there wasn't much need for in-game strategy during these games), but we do want to mention a couple of things starting with a THANK YOU BIBBY!!! While I agree with Woody's sentiments in the micro sense regarding passing to Josh Smith, you are DEAD ON in the macro sense - why the FREAK is the offense designed to have him out there anyway? Zaza and Al seem to not be out there, so why would anyone else who can't make those shots be there either. THANKS, BIBBY for providing the most clear form of Str8 Talk you can get!

4. Also, after listening to Coach Woodson's post-game comments and his interview with 790 The Zone, I think I finally am able to put my finger on my lack of confidence in Coach Woodson...he's not a truth teller. As a professional athlete (or any kind of business), you can only respect the truth. When you don't work in truth, it's hard to know how to trust someone. The question was asked of Woodson regarding Joe Johnson's struggles in the series - his answer: "that Joe hasn't struggled" and then went on a rant about how big he's been for the franchise and other ramble-speak that wasn't the question and ended with the whole Celtics taught us how to play playoff basketball....Well, this undermines you as a coach with us and I'd assume with some players if you can't tell the truth, Coach. Here's the truth - just b/c you are the coach (in fact, we'd expect you to be MORE in tune with this fact) doesn't mean that everyone else is blind to the facts and that's that Joe was struggling. Passes out of bounds, missed open shots, lack of energy, lack of defensive presence - that's not the Joe I've watched for 4 years, so don't insult my intelligence by saying he played well in the series. He played well in Game 7 after the first quarter and played ok in 2 games and played poorly in the rest of the games. How could he play well in 3 games that we got blown out in. How is that possible? Those weren't Ray Allen for 51 and we lost perfomances. Not only that - we hate to go all Bret on you, but STOP with the 2008 Playoffs taught us something rant. Now, I normally didn't agree with Hoopinion's take on the 2008 Playoffs, but this series validates everything that was said about that series. We don't look like we learned ANYTHING from last season's playoffs. Erratic, up & down, no consistency, etc. At our best - we can play with anyone. At our worst, we can get blown out by mediocre teams. So, what did we learn?

5. Final rant - let's call an end to the 'we played all season for a Game 7'. We SHOULD NOT be playing for a Game 7 - we should be playing for a championship. I haven't heard any other coach so gleeful to discuss the fact that we have home court advantage in a series. Yes, it's a good thing. No, it's not worth talking about with glee as if good teams can't beat you at home. We should be trying to win everywhere. What kind of message does it send when you DON'T have home court or if you lose home court? As you saw from Popovich and Rivers, this season - they said that they would sacrifice position (and home court) to get healthy. The point being - we don't want to screw the pooch just to get an advantage in one game. The point is to win EVERY game. Period. We should come to play in every game. As far as I'm concerned, in your Hawks Playoff Coaching life - you're 7-7, but those 7 losses were all whoopings. That's what you should be saying to your team - that we can't win 'em all, but we should be competing in all of them. I'd accept your commentary Coach Woodson, but nothing in this playoff season shows that what you're saying is true. We still don't play hard in each game. Don't let a playoff victory against a bad team change the fact that we still have some growing to do. Actually, as long as Josh and Al are your leaders - you should expect and SAY that we'll have ups and downs b/c they are too young for us to count on their consistency.

Now, all my complaining aside, let me be clear - we're thrilled to be in the second round. We'll be more thrilled if we can win 2 games vs. the Cavs. That might make me re-assess the thought that the coaching staff needs to be revamped. So, prove me wrong, Woody. PLEASE!!!!

Ok, here's the prediction - as we stand, Cavs in 5! If Marvin plays, Cavs in 6! Let's Go Hawks!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 6 Recap

Welcome to the Kissies & Pissies...our way of trying to say the same things in different ways, so you'll come back and read it. Our readership has increased, so it stands to reason that you want to hear the same things re-packaged. Too bad, it might come to an end tomorrow. So, now off to the Kissies & Pissies (and an answer to the question - are you a disloyal fan if you ponder the question of whether Atlanta Hawks organization would be better off by losing a playoff series?)

Game 6 - Heat 98, Hawks 72


Part of me wants to write blogs that can be linked to and distributed like Drew and Bret. I've had offers that haven't really panned out, but I get a little anxious about my blogging career when I see great guys like Bret getting published in ESPN's Daily Dime. But then games like Game 6 occur and I can't be objective and write in the third person and all that - I have to just call it like I see it and unfortunately, the only person who is successful with that style is Bill Simmons. Now, like Coco before me, I decided to head to Miami for a trip to see my Atlanta Hawks close out the Miami Heat for our first playoff victory and to do a victory celebration in South Beach. What transpired in defeat wasn't so much of a loss, but rather it was a bloodletting. So, we can't even offer a cogent, clear, organized game recap. We just have a jumble of good and bad emotions, so we'll provide them in this thing called the Kissies and the Pissies. Before we get there, we don't know where to put this - the Miami Heat didn't even play that well last night. D Wade played well, but mostly after we quit. But the rest of the team was mediocre.

Let's go with the good stuff first:

Kissies

1. There's only ONE. The fact that the Heat decided not to call off the dogs and just revel in a complete destructive performance and rest in the 4th quarter (and by extension, allow us to get close enough for Coach Woodson and the Hawks think that they didn't do as badly as they did) - they have almost assured themselves of a defeat in Game 7. As we said far too often, the Hawks are not a consistent bunch, but they have picked themselves off the floor at home and fought. We expect nothing less on Sunday. Beat the Hawks and I'd be worried. Embarrass the Hawks and yes, they will come out with the energy that is necessary for victory.

Pissies

1. Let's start with yet another Mike Woodson rant. Of the many things we hated about his coaching performance - we'll try to tick them off in random order...
  • Why activate Marvin and Al? Instead of trying to prop them up, why not TRUST your other players to come in and play if they have to. We've played without starters all season. We could do it again like Orlando, Miami, Boston, Chicago have all done. It sends a terrible message to your players that you won't just plug in the next healthy player. You've already ruined Acie Law IV. Do you want to ruin the rest of your bench who should be 'ready' when you ask them to play if you are going to effectively say that they aren't better than a player with one healthy ankle and another who can't shoot with ...(wait for it) his SHOOTING HAND.
  • Of the many things, we cussed about - this is tops. If you are already down 2 starters, YOUR STUPID A%& 2 FOULS and sit down rule is null and void. You sat Joe immediately after those fouls and I get that..for about 3-4 minutes, but when we were on the verge of getting blown out - how about understanding what Bret and company have already laid out with stats to back it up - Joe's one of the least likely players to foul out of a game. Guess how many fouls he had at the end of the game, Coach Woodson - THREE!!!! The thing I'm learning while watching the Bulls/Celtics series is that players can foul out and it not be the end of the world (well, I already knew that, but here's some fresh evidence). They are fouling out with say...25 seconds left or in overtime. And guess what - that's ok. At least, they aren't in a game with 3 fouls, but down 25 pts. Let's play to keep the game close and if you happen to lose one of these guys - let the bench player you trust most come in and try to make plays to win in those 25 seconds vs. hoping they can win games for you in the 16 minutes you don't play your BEST PLAYER!!!!!
  • Junk your motivation tactics...like George Constanza in the famous Opposite episode. I'd like for you to do the OPPOSITE of whatever you do to get the team hyped up for games on the road. Your current method and strategy here is simply not working.
  • Junk your post-game commentary. I'll be honest - I'd fire anyone on the spot if they watched what I watched in Game 6 and came to the podium and said I liked the position we were in for Game 7 and tried to extol all the good things about working hard for a Game 7. Quit trying to get credit for getting us a home game in Game 7 (and for playing the Celtics well in 3 home games last year). I'm much more interested in how you feel about getting blown out in 7 playoff games in the last 2 years. Remember that this team was playing without its 2nd best player and their only athletic match for the Hawks and won by 26 POINTS! Sorry if I would have heard that and I was an owner - you'd be fired. Period. Quit coddling these guys - that performance was abysmal and you should have broken something privately and publicly to express just how bad it was. Looking at you smiling during the post-game press conference after your team ruined by mood while I'm around the world's most beautiful people just made me throw up in my mouth again.
  • And now the questions: How is it that from my lofty perch in the third level that I'm tweeting about the fact that Josh is about to get a T or get suspended if you don't get him out of the game right before he gets ...wait for it - a T. Why is the whole team getting Ts and you sit there and continue to play them. Overall, why did you even play the starters in the 4th quarter? What have you seen in this team that made you think it was possible for us to win that game? I would have respected you waving the white flag and sending a message to your team that that effort would not be rewarded with playing time. Instead, we wait until the last 5-6 minutes of a game that was over mid-way through the third quarter to bring in players who deserved to play more than the regular rotation did. My question again is WHY?
  • Finally, nothing is more frustrating (and affirming) than to hear the guy next to me acknowledge that there's no reason for the Heat to be in this series by way of blowouts unless the team either refuses to follow Mike Woodson OR Mike Woodson's tactics are not good ones. He's saying - yes, we have the best player, but you guys have the next 5 best players...upon my agreement, they all laugh while we continue to mount no resistence, no heart, nothing to show what we think we know to be true. After watching almost every other team's offense (save Philly), we're going to say ..maybe on the first thought regarding following Mike Woodson and an answer of 'what tactics' on the latter question of whether those 'tactics' are good ones.
2. Ok, well - we'll actually keep this simple. You could convince me that those were clones out there and the real team was in Atlanta resting for Game 7. Maybe this is a ploy by the players to help the ownership make more money this postseason and to get more national exposure. There is NOTHING more frustrating than seeing a team absolutely (save Mike Bibby's first half) not show up. How does that happen in a playoff game? We thought it was crazy during the regular season, but in a PLAYOFF game? Not showing up 3 times...against a team they are better than. Really...really - BLOWOUTS TO THE HEAT IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!!! REALLY!
3. Let's get more specific - we already knew that D Wade was going to get the calls and yes, the officiating was a little slanted...so what? That's not 26 pts worth of officiating. So, I'll go to culprit no. 2 (behind Woody) for why we may lose the series...Joe Johnson, where are you? No shooting, poor passing (though the design where players stand 35 ft from the basket to receive Joe's pass out of the double team is maddening - almost every team has their players space themselves in the spots where they can hit shots or drive to the basket from, but again - as we said, what tactics?), lack of leadership, emotion, etc are all making me think that I'd rather have one dimensional Ben Gordon than you. That's where your stock has gone - below Ben Gordon. We know that Coach Woodson played you FAR too much during the season (more than D Wade and he had far less help than you did), but it's the playoffs - show some heart, suck it up, play real basketball, please.
4. Finally, there's no such thing as stating this too many times. "There's no substitute for heart and desire. Period."

So, in summary, this post isn't about losing a game. We can accept losing a game. If I'm a fan of the Chicago Bulls right now, while I may lament the fact that we lost the series to the Celtics - I certainly would be thoroughly pleased with the heart, emotion, guile, pressure-filled, clutch-ness, toughness, and skill shown in that series. You can build off of that series and grow your team. This is a team led by a rookie point guard, young bigs, a few vets, and a clutch, streak shooter. Getting your ass kicked 3 times to an inferior team is unacceptable in every form. The Hawks (win or lose) will not walk away from this series with any answers about itself. They certainly aren't inciting any fear in the Cavaliers. To that end, we bumped into a scout for the Cavs on our flight to Miami and he said - he didn't think the Hawks would win without Al and possibly lose the series. While I was wrong to laugh at him, we wonder if he didn't already know that the heart wasn't there. How many times have we watched this team get smacked in the face and just wilt from the sting? Too many times... maybe that's who we are. I still don't know how you don't come out to play in the 1st AND 3rd quarters. So, that leads us to this question - is it better to lose this series and hope that the GM sees the need for major changes OR is it better to win the series, lose in a sweep in round 2, and hope the GM sees the need for major changes. What's better? Right now, I don't know, but whatever answer ends in 'hope the GM sees the need for major changes - starting with the coaching' is the one we vote for. That said, Game 7 - let's get it.

Out.

Awful

We'll post a recap when we arrive in Atlanta later tonight, but let's just sum this trip in a nutshell.

UTTER DISAPPOINTMENT!!!!!!

What's even more disappointing? The Mike Woodson post game comments (go to NBA.com for the clip - I'd link them, but I don't feel like seeing NBA.com right now - trying to enjoy my remaining hours in Miami, which would extend to tomorrow IF a certain team didn't have a home game tomorrow at 1PM).

We won't say more, but no matter the outcome - I'd like to hear the reasons why we should keep our coach. Right now, not really finding ONE single reason (and that's not said to absolve the players for their effort last night..it too was awful).

Game Recap coming soon...