Friday, June 26, 2009

Tears of a Clown

We'll keep this short - which is a significant accomplishment for us.

I don't believe anything that was said tonight. Jeff Teague will not make one dent for the Atlanta Hawks this season or next. Who knows if he'll be a good player, but I'm fairly sure he won't be a good player for us. Just what I've been conditioned to believe. We had a shot at Blair who would have solved some rebounding woes no matter what happens with Zaza.

So, we go another draft with our most glaring problems not addressed (or even attempted to be addressed). Let's hope that this free agency period is much better. Oh, and we're intentionally ignoring our 2nd round pick. When thinking that in the next pick - we could have had a 7ft presence that could contribute, but no we went back to what we are accustomed to. So, again - no distributor, no defensive help, no low post scoring. Yep, these are our Hawks. The fact that Blair was picked by San Antonio says everything about whether or not I feel like we messed up tonight. Jamal, Jeff, and Sergey...yep, you'd think someone died tonight. And something did - my faith that our draft acumen would change with new management. Color me unconvinced...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Draft Day/Trade Thoughts

Str8 Talk Fans,

Sorry for the delay, but between Stevie Wonder concert preparation & US / Spain - I was unaware that something was going on in Hawks land of any consequence, but then I got a Tweet and text during Do I Do (what a wondrous song!). So, GM Sund has pulled the trigger on the thing that we already knew to be true - Acie Law and Craig Claxton are useless to Coach Woodson. [Note: And we do hold Sund partially accountable for lying to me about Law's upside and importance to the Hawks when I told him that there's nothing we see that says that that's the case. Unless of course, he meant - his importance as trade bait.]

Which brings us to...Jamal Crawford. JAMAL CRAWFORD!?! Say word! Ok, since we're seeing a bunch of feedback from all quarters saying things like - great trade, good to get something for nothing, and what does this mean for the draft. I say a big collective YAWN!!!! Let's enumerate the ways...

1. So, we traded away 2 Point Guards, last year's point guard (Bibby) and last year's fake point guard (Murray) are free agents, which means we certainly were looking to get our starting point guard back....and we ended up with a $10M backup shooting guard. Color me unimpressed.
2. Now, Crawford playing and allowing Johnson to get some rest is really the only upside I see in this deal as it stands today. Obviously, it's a good deal if you don't bring back Murray and you go get a real penetrating, defensive minded, dish the ball point guard, but only b/c his contract requires that he will play. Law should have played but he didn't. I have serious doubts about Woodson getting defense and good decision making out of Crawford.
3. Well, this actually could be a good thing - I would revel in Acie Law showing that he's actually a great PG and further highlighting the biggest offseason problem (and this includes all the holes in the Hawks' roster right now) and that's coaching.

So, you're telling us that Crawford fills a glaring need...uh, no! You simply fortified the one position we have no questions about. Sure, you may try to convince again that a volume shooter is really part point guard. And I'd say - stop the madness! For all the love I have for Flip the shooting guard, I have as much antipathy for Flip the point guard. I anticipate having a similar reaction to Flip Murray 2.0. Microwave Jamal Crawford being used as the spark plug scoring machine on the 2nd team - AWESOME! Selfish Jamal Crawford being used as a point guard or allowed to take shots away from the 4-5 players that are better than him on the team - PERPLEXING!

So, what does this say to us? It says that we still don't have an identity as a team. We still haven't addressed our biggest holes - center (and no, we're not buying Al Horford as a center who you can win a championship with. Playoffs - Maybe! Win against poor/average teams - YES! Championship with Al Horford as your center - Absolutely not!), point guard (double no! In fact, we don't have a point guard on the roster right now.), and finally defense (a triple no!!!!! - I mean he has a reputation that puts him in the all-time not playing defense players...wonder how this is going to play in Woodson land! Expect more angst this season from Bret)

Which leads us to draft day:

Well, I would love to say I know what we're going to do, but here's what I would suggest. Pick from this group of players...Blair (PLEASE FALL TO US), Maynor, Lawson, Teague, or sell the pick. Yep, I said - sell it. Let us use the money to try to get Sessions or Milsap or some known commodity that Woodson will play. I don't see him playing anyone we select in either round, so why even pick. All I know is that if you select a scorer - he's not playing. If you select a low post guy who isn't Blair, he isn't playing (and Blair might not even play). If you select a point guard like Maynor (see Law - he AIN'T playing).

The biggest problem for our team is that our coach isn't going to develop our players. For as much as I don't blame him, the guy didn't even play Speedy when he was healthy (yes, he was healthy all season), didn't play Law when we saw the need for a point guard to play. There are just too many examples of Woodson coaching for the moment to believe that during his lame duck season that he's developing players that he doesn't have a contract to outlast and coach. And that's the biggest issue for the Hawks this offseason. If you aren't swinging for a 50 win season with vets that Mike Woodson can quickly trust and play, you are playing the fans for 2009-2010. So, we don't care who gets picked - we care about whether or not this coaching situation gets resolved (extend or fire) and then we'll tell you who we should select. Right now, the best answer is - get some money for the picks and put it into a coaching extension or new coach, getting Zaza back, getting a defensive presence at center or point guard. That's what I'd like for Christmas....and since I don't normally get what I want from the Hawks for Christmas - again, we say - color us unimpressed. See you at Draft Night!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Mike Vick Got EXACTLY What He Deserved?

This has nothing to do with the Hawks, but since it's my blog and we have little to talk about until the draft and free agent signings start up next week - I thought I'd put my long winded rant about Mike Vick to paper...it's long, but worth the read (or so I think).

Enjoy!!!1

Over the last 2 years, we've heard a lot about Michael Vick and whether or not he was treated unfairly by the legal system. Much of it has come from the African-American community and it has only gotten hotter with the recent sentence that Donte Stallworth received. Well, I've finally gotten fed up to the point that it deserves some rant/blog time.

Let me preface this with a sincere comment. I have no ax to grind for Mike. It is my hope that he is able to prove that he can come back from this setback stronger, smarter, and emboldened to do the right thing for his family and for his career, football or otherwise. He deserves that chance as every American does. As many Americans who've made mistakes, I hope that his Behind the Athlete story is one that is ultimately a triumphant one.

Now, that said, Michael Vick, to date, has gotten EVERY thing he deserves from the legal system. It is very baffling to me that the public (particularly the black community) doesn't understand why Michael Vick went to jail in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, he did not go to jail because he kill dogs or bankrolled a dogfighting operation. Vick went to jail for 23 months for the same reason that many African American males go to jail - because they don't understand the best way to stay out of jail. Donte Stallworth did understand this (or his lawyers did). That's that - if you admit what you have done when you have been caught, the legal system will have mercy on you. T.I. understood that. Leonard Little understood. Many people who can afford to broker a deal are able to find a more equitable justice system than those who can't, but even those who can't afford it - are able to give the authorities what they need to prevent themselves from serving sentences that the courts are allowed to levy. The 'stay out of jail' playbook starts with - hey, I did it and here's how I plan to atone for it. That's the starting point. It doesn't start at - hey, you convicted me, spent the taypayer's loot, and now judge have leniency on me.

It's puzzling that fans of Michael Vick are not upset with him for the things he did to cause himself to receive 23 months in jail. Can we all say this together? HE DID THE CRIME!!!!! I repeat - regardless of what you believe about the crime's punishment (and yes, him allowing it to get beyond the state case to a federal case - again, another Vick error, not 'the man's' problem) - HE DID THE CRIME!!!! Ok, let's recount the problem: He bankrolled a dogfighting ring. He participated in fighting and killing dogs. He lied to the public and the authorities about what he did to state and federal authorities. He smoked weed while on bail. He never attempted to atone for his mistake with the groups he offended - the Atlanta Falcons, PETA, his fans, etc - until AFTER he was sentenced.

In contrast, Stallworth called the police, submitted to a breathalyzer that he was sure to not pass, he admitted his crime, he worked with the family, police, and judge to find a financial and judicial settlement that worked for everyone involved. One that includes jail time, financial loss, job suspension, revocation of driving privileges, and enough community service that allows him to preach about his wrongs for an hour every single day for almost 3 years. What's so unfair about that? You can't bring back that man's life, but if the family forgives and determines that he's served better by this sentence, then isn't that justice served. What better way can a case be handled?

Conversely, the same is said for Mike Vick's sentence. Put yourself in the judicial system/authority's shoes. You have a man who you have dead to rights on a state and federal charge, but will not admit it. So, instead of settlement that includes helping us get all these criminals who have participated (oh, wait - can't 'snitch' on the criminals - well, ok, so you take their time in jail too, Mr. Vick), we have to spend the taxpayer's money to prosecute him. Not only did he lie, but he's arrogant about the lie as displayed by the radio and TV interviews I saw. Not only that - due to the high profile nature of this case, if you win - you actually can send a message to every dog fighter in the country (particularly high profile athletes and entertainers who may think this practice is ok to be apart of). Don't you go for the jugular after giving him the chance to admit it. If you're PETA, why not press to make sure he loses everything and goes to jail to show everyone that it doesn't pay to fight dogs. Who in their right mind doesn't know how sadistic dogfighting is now? What person with something to lose like Vick is ever going to get caught up with this stuff? It's a win-win. Not only do you prove to folks to not lie to the gov't. You also get the residual benefit of basically deterring everyone with any sense from dogfighting. Regardless of whether you blow the budget on this case, you can recover the savings from all the dogfighting cases you avert by the attention given this case.

So, I say to you - what happened that was wrong here? If Vick said he did it when they started talking about the stuff that he KNEW to be true, then he gets a fine, a ding on his character, and some probation and suspension and he's still playing for the Atlanta Falcons right now. Instead he took the knucklehead - I got money - I'm gonna talk in 3rd person role and guess what? route. It was a roulette wheel bet that he lost. HE LOST! Not us, not black folk, not athletes, not non-dog lovers, not football fans, just Michael Vick. Michael Vick hasn't done ANYTHING in the black community to engender this kind of support. R Kelly didn't, Michael Jackson didn't. Barry Bonds didn't. This isn't Arthur Ashe or Warrick Dunn or Hank Aaron we're talking about here.

So, let's dispense with this notion that he got railroaded. He got what he deserved. It's my hope that his jail time taught him the lesson that he didn't get before this all went down. We all love a redemption story. I want to see one, but not at the expense of our collective understanding that sometimes you make mistakes and you have to pay for them in a more harsh fashion than if you actually act like you understand the mistake you made. To this date, I'm not sure he's learned the lesson, but I hope his time out of jail proves his supporters correct, but if not - please acknowledge at that time - if not now..that he got EXACTLY what he deserved. Not for dogfighting, but for misjudging how the justice system works. It worked as it always has - harshly against those who wrongly believe they can beat it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lessons From The Title - The Trevor Ariza Story

Basically, the affirmation of everything I've said about Salim Stoudamire, Acie Law, Solomon Jones, Gardner, or even Mario West...if only the coach believed in the concept...read and then apply this to our players (it can even apply to our low post offense and Horford/J. Smoove)

http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-41-94/Lessons-from-the-Title--Trust-and-Work.html

What Would Make Me Happy

Since bloggers all have opinions and statistical analysis to support it (well, maybe only a few use stats), we are going to provide something of a 'what would make me happy' thought...

1. We are on record as saying that no single thing is more important to the Hawks organization than solving the coaching situation. Now, since it seems that we're rolling with a lame duck coaching situation...we have already lowered the Hawks 09-10 regular season/playoff projections by 5 games and one less playoff series. So, what can be done in that area to improve their lot in life - we offer you.. Bill Laimbeer. Yes, Bill Laimbeer resigned from the WNBA's Detroit Shock, a team he took to WNBA titles.

Now, we want to be clear - Bill Laimbeer needs to show off his chops as an assistant in the league and what teams needs better assistants than the Atlanta Hawks. Who better to discuss championship mettle, the importance of leadership, the critical nature of low post presence, and toughness. Now, we don't know if Bill Laimbeer is the answer, but we'd be willing to roll the dice with him and I'm sure he'd be happy with the bump in salary that would come from going from the WNBA to the NBA (which is right up the Atlanta Spirit's alley). Yep, we said it - Bill Laimbeer for coach..assistant coach! Nothing like preparing a succession path in case your first case fails (and yes, it's set up for a horrible failure as presently constituted - see our post on why having Mike Woodson as a lame duck is much worse than Mike Woodson in any other state...we think this is saying a lot)

2. We hope that if we are going to go with lame duck Mike Woodson that we should trade our pick plus some piece (Marvin Williams, Acie Law, Craig Claxton) to get veteran players who don't need to be coached. Lord knows - Woodson isn't coaching 'em up and his philosophy is as stale as a coaching philosophy can be, but he has shown that if he gets veterans - he'll let them play and figure it out. So, let's provide him players that will cater to his coaching style to maximum effect. So, we look at players like Paul Milsap, Ramon Sessions, and the like and just salivate. What we don't want to see is another young talent sit on the bench.

3. For us to stop talking about what Josh Smith can't do and focus on the fact that he's still VERY young and can do things that not many can. Look at Lamar Odom - the very inconsistent, yet ultra talented forward who just won a title. No, he's probably not going to lead you to a title by himself, but he can be a critical piece with coaching. Yes, he will be maddening if he's not coached well, but he's also a top 10 talent that can be a championship level difference maker when coached. Let's focus on coaching the talent vs. giving it away.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things I Learned This Playoff Season

It's different watching basketball through the eyes of a blogger. Before, I just made assessments and then logged in my brain in anticipation of the nearest barber shop debate on topics that only my eyes and mouth can articulate. Now, I think in Blog Titles and Subject Matter. All year, we blogged about every game and important point that we felt need to be made...things such as - Sign Paul Milsap, Get someone at the midseason break, Play players as if they could be used during the postseason, etc...

Now, we present to you our 'Things The Playoffs Have Taught Us' edition of Hawks Str8Talk

1. Heart can make up for a lack of talent. It goes without saying that the teams that are playing in the latter half of the playoffs never say die. Even when down by 25 pts at half, a serious playoff team will continue to fight and play until the final whistle. That's a requirement to be taken seriously in the playoffs. Teams such as Houston, Chicago, & Boston have demonstrated that during games. Teams such as Los Angeles, Orlando, and Cleveland have demonstrated that when confronted with a poor effort that it won't be tolerated or repeated after such effort. I would prefer to cheer for a Hawks team that is less talented, but has championship heart than a team that is more talented with the heart of a tin man.

2. Coaching and Matchups Matter - There's nothing new in the playoffs - just different lineups and plays. You use the ones that work and junk the ones that don't. It is required to mix it up when faced with the fact that your way doesn't work. Translation: If your team is not performing well, stop and make adjustments. The day we do that is the day we lose games by less than double digits (by the way, the Hawks hold the NBA record for most consecutive losses by double digits).

3. LeBron James is the best player on the planet. Don't be deceived by the fact that the Cavs lost to the Magic. That was a direct reflection on 'Coach of the Year' Mike Brown and the fact that Orlando has more players that decided to play than LeBron James. What you saw is simply one of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history. Unfortunately, he was playing 1 on 5 for most of the Orlando series. But you are only one consistent post player or dead eye shooter away from the LeBron string of championships...no disrespect to Kobe, but he had 3 players other than him that are better than Mo Williams during the playoffs and that's the difference.

4. That this playoff season for the Hawks actually made me depressed about the future of the Hawks in a directly opposing fashion than the Hawks playoff season from 2008. Go back to #1 and #2 to know why.

We'll be back next week with our thoughts on the NBA Finals, coaches that we'd love for the Hawks, and trades, signings, and draft picks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hawks Thoughts

Now, that we've found ourselves on the precipice of finding out who the best NBA team is in the league - it's now time to discuss a few things to put our opinion out regarding what the Hawks need to do this offseason. We'll do it in bullet-fashion to keep this easily digestable.

1. Either fire or extend Mike Woodson - To leave him in his last season with no contract extension just smells like disaster. Players don't respect his coaching acumen as it is, but to have him trying to coach without any future commitment will strip him of any ability to provide any 'teaching' lessons to players with contracts longer than his.

2. Find a leader who believes in the Mike Woodson philosophy - the only way Coach Woodson's way will take hold is to have a player who believes in it and can lead this team. That needs to happen ASAP.

3. Re-sign Zaza Pachulia - He's your only active energy big coming off the bench and those guys are necessary to win titles. As a starter, no. As a bench player, absolutely.

4. Figure out the point guard position. Yes, Mike Bibby when he's making shots is servicable, but you will not win a title with Mike Bibby at starting point guard. You can win with him as a backup point guard OR with a sublime talent who can organize the offense. The Hawks can't afford to continue to pay more than $6M for a player who isn't going to win you a title. Let's put that money into a Ramon Sessions and either decide that Acie Law plays as backup point guard OR trade him and draft a point guard that you WILL give 10 minutes a night to develop him.

5. Determine what to do with Josh Childress, Flip Murray, and your draft picks. Yes, we need some servicable bigs, so that the Mario Wests, Randolph Morrises, and Solomon Joneses are at the end of your bench. It would be nice if we could determine that Al Horford is not your center, but just having 4-5 bigs would be nice to rotate during a season.

Here's what we'd consider as a championship lineup:

C: No Championship Center
PF: Horford
SF: Smith
SG: Johnson
PG: No Championship PG

2nd team
C: Pachulia
PF: None
SF: M. Williams
SG: Murray
PG: Law

So, what this means is that we need to use our chips to determine who the center, PG, and backup PF would be to make us into a championship caliber team. where Maurice Evans fits into that - we don't know, but we do believe that Horford and Smith need to be significant pieces that the offense plays through in order to maximize the best in the Hawks. The J. Johnson show has run its course. He's a great complimentary piece - a Gasol to the missing Kobe, but counting on Joe Johnson to take us to the promised land is not the answer. Hopefully, Sund understands this and allows us to see players get drafted that actually play.

Enjoy the rest of the playoffs!!!