Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game Recap - Wizards @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

Another game and another victory vs. the improved, but injury prone Washington Wizards. It's always great to have a weekend game where there are plenty of things that are happening around the game itself such as Thriller tributes, Opening Weekend After Parties, the best seats ever, and some commentary on the Hawks Dance Team. Now, these game recaps are NEVER gonna be done as quickly as our friends at Hoopinion, THHB, Peachtree Hoops, and the like (The Vent does not apply until it gets to every game status - smile), so if you want to get more timely game recaps, you might want to subscribe to our Hawks blog brethren and sistren. We only promise more funky Hawks entertainment and observation than without further ado - let the observations begin

Game Recap - Hawks 100, Pacers 89

Overall Observations:
  • The 2nd highest scoring team in the NBA..yep, these are your Atlanta Hawks.
  • Overheard right after the Osh Smith (who will be Josh Smith on this blog if he goes one more game shooting over 60% from the field) committed his fourth foul..."Coach, you gotta learn how to trust your starters" and Coach Woodson's retort.."...gotta learn how to trust my bench". Now, we're not sure if he said HE has to learn or Osh needs to learn, but either way - it was a telling quote. While we would argue that a deeper bench means you have to worry LESS about players fouling out, it is heartening to see that quality options can be inserted into the game and that Coach Woodson was quick to acknowledge that trust of the bench must be adhered to over the protestations of any one player.
  • The Wizards cannot keep their best players healthy...that'll keep you from the playoffs every time.
  • We argued with a lot of people over the impact of Gilbert Arenas on the Wizards this season and, injuries and turnovers aside, it's obvious just how good he is.
  • Atlanta has not yet gotten the memo - the SEASON has started. I'm not sure if it's the economy or what, but we need the 6th man!!! Let's support the home team.
  • Thanks Coach Woodson - minutes dispersed in great fashion
  • Finally, we will put this in the "beat a team you're better than" category and move on. Any litmus test went out the window when Caron Butler didn't show up for the 2nd half.
Str8 Butter Award - Jamal Crawford, welcome to Atlanta. We appreciate Coach Woodson asking a player to do what he does best and that's score the basketball and that's what Jamal did in the first half. He put on display his considerable talent of scoring the ball. We also can see that he will need to be managed or else he could lose as many games as he won. How that is managed and his defensive effort will be high on Coach Woodson's watch out and coach meter. Until then, we give Jamal the Str8 Butter award for making three Wizards look like Bibby was guarding them on the way to his first points of the game.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - This was a perfect example of why we have been pushing Mo Evans to start and Marvin to be the super sub. Marvin didn't do much of anything in this game until the 4th quarter. Now, at that point, he did make some big shots and pull down some rebounds.
* Osh Smith - Happy 900 blocks, Osh and a great effort tonight. We still want him to stop the 'heat check' jump shot at the beginning of the games (you were 1 of 3 with jump shots and 7 of 8 otherwise). That's what we call - something you should pay attention to, but let's not spend more time on an issue that doesn't have enough evidence in 2009-2010 to give us concern, but so far - Osh has shown the superstar quality he possesses. Let's see if it can continue.
* M. Bibby - Mike the game manager...that's pretty much what we've seen so far. As long as he's not allowing his defensive assignment go off for 40 and 10 - that's fine by us.
* J. Johnson - Joe is still struggling with his shot and we'd like to see some plays to get him open looks would be nice, but in victory - we look at this as a positive that we are still the 2nd highest scoring team in the League!
* A. Horford - Well, there was a challenge out there and you sir didn't hold up your end of the bargain. It's already been said - we expect more than 10pts and 10 board double doubles. So, let us know what it'll take and we'll do what WE can to make it possible (in an Internet campaign kinda way).

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - It's been stated, but we'll state it again - you are a very talented offensive player. Stay that way...
* J. Teague - Any comments made would only highlight the similarities between this and Acie Law's career beginning, so we'll save them. Let's see if you see the court vs. the Lakers and we'll have more on this.
* M. Evans - Solid defense, good shooting, and an increasing feistiness on the court. Is it us or are we noticing that you look a little more focused and upset at things on the court these days? Every ball lost, every missed assignment, brings Randolph Morris-like scowls. Now, if this is your example of leadership and not settling for less - we can only say...WE LIKE IT!!!
* Joe Smith - On one hand, we like your demeanor and defensive presence, but I gotta admit - make or not, WE'VE HAD ENOUGH WITH THE POWER FORWARD 3s. If your name isn't Dirk Nowitski...stop it!
* Z. Pachulia - Zaza, we hardly saw ya, but even in 9 minutes - I didn't think it was possible for you to not get a rebound.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Not gonna say anything but good things - you deserve praise for your pre-game comments to Jamal Crawf0rd. You deserve praise for not ceding control of your team to Osh Smith and you deserve praise for figuring out how to trust your team without Joe Johnson on the court. How our eyes lit up seeing only 30 minutes for Bro. Johnson.

Str8 Talk Love

Ok, there is always something interesting that happens when I go to Hawks games, so let's get to the fun - first, these were maybe some of the best seats I've ever had (aside from my two times courtside)..midcourt only about 10 rows up and yes, I can learn to like this. What we can't learn to like is an organist that plays hip hop (what happened to the band?). What we can learn to love are homages to Michael Jackson during halftime. The Thriller dance routine by Harry and the dance team ...yep, that's what we call entertainment. We didn't see any celebs for a change, but then there weren't a lot of people at the game anyway - guess the Halloween parties sucked the life of the building (Get it - sucked the life...I know, I'll be playing at the Punchline all week...).

Final note - as you know, part of the reason our recap comes the next day is because we like to enjoy an after party and we got two...the first being the Atlanta Hawks opening weekend after party at Stats, complete with dance team, players, coaches, management, and their friends. We wondered what happened on Wednesday and it looked like they wanted a bigger turnout, so it was moved to Friday and it was a great time had by all (how could you mess up free food, open bar, and Hawks all around). The things of note being - Joe Johnson's Gucci shoes (which did not match and therefore, should not have been worn...I'm sure C C would not have approved), Jeff Teague looking like he's 12, Jamal Crawford learning why any single (we hope he's single) NBA player should play for Atlanta (you hear that, D Wade). We also would like to give one final big up to Coach Woodson who was gracious as a fan asked - "hey, what happened to our scoring in the 3rd quarter? You really need to fix that." Coach's reply - "we won the game and that's what's most important" before heading to get more food. We criticize him enough in print, but if I'm at my company after party and WE WON - save your critiques, folks.

After that party, we headed to Atlantic Station for more fun and revelry at Strip for the Sol Fusion Hollyween Party and let's just say it was sublime and we must say that women and poles seem to have a magnetic effect. That and the holiday's effect on the amount of clothes women will wear...not sure I ever recognized this, but skin is IN for Halloween, it seems.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - Speaking of skin, the Dance Team put on 3 routines and according to our friendly neighborhood former dance team member, she set me straight on the fact that the team deserves more praise. Like a B-, so we give them that B-, but I also think that if one person is off - you get a F. Sorry, that's just how I feel about it...anyway, I did meet a few more dance team members at the after party and they are really sweet girls, so I'll make sure to ease up on my criticisms and hike up the praise. :)

Shout Outs - Will Stephens, Star, Harlee, Stacie, Fard, Craig, Ken, Boma, Andrea, Malaika, Ceylon, and so many others...

Final Notes - The one area that needs to be addressed is the A Town Dancers. Ok, I get it - the men dancing is funny and entertaining for infrequent fans. It's mildly entertaining for frequent fans, BUT just like with the women - there needs to be some standards. And one standard that can't be dismissed is a man who has better breasts than many women. Yes, I said it and I will not be silenced on this. Now, the breast to stomach ratio must be adhered to. If you were there, you know what I'm referring to and something must be done. I can't bring any underage folks to the game to see that - in fact, Jeff Teague isn't old enough to look at that. Please, Hawks management - do something about that...please!!!

Season Prediction

47-35 is still the prediction, though if the Wiz can't stay healthy - we can mark them off the list of contenders for that 4th seed. Til Sunday and the Lakers...we bid you adieu!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mark It Down

Since we all have worried about minutes and Jamal's role, check out Sekou's blog

We'll just mark this down and see how true to this Woody is. Off to Philips...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game Recap - Pacers @ Hawks (10/29/09)

Preamble Ramble

Opening Night, Blog Date Night, Jeff Teague's Debut, and a defensive struggle ALL in one night....Yes, the NBA is fantastic! For those who are new to HawkStr8Talk, we do things a little bit differently. First, unlike MSNBC, Fox News, and other opinion makers casted as NEWS, we are 100% dedicated to fair and balanced news reporting, which is kinda hard to do when you have dedicated your life to being the #1 Hawks fan. So, just be aware of the fact that we like to provide entertaining game recaps that include not only our thoughts on the game, BUT ALSO gives a glimpse of what happens throughout all aspects of Philips Arena during the home games and any other interesting tidbits while on the road.

So, without further ado, here's last night's game recap (and if there are other things you want us to cover - please feel free to let us know in the comments - we love new Hawk angles to cover!)

Game Recap - Hawks 120, Pacers 109

Overall Observations - Last season, we didn't spend much time giving any overall thoughts since our Hawks Blog Family seemed to cover all that stuff, so we just went straight to the performances of the players and staff. Well, due to much clamoring for MORE of HS8T's thoughts - we're adding some observations. So, let's get to it:
  • Scoring 120 pts should never been looked at as a bad thing.
  • Needing to score 110 against an inferior team should not be looked at as a good thing.
  • Being led by Horford and Osh Smith feels very good (and foreign) for this season's prospects.
  • Despite all of the fawning over Horford's effort (and it should be fawned over), there was still a nagging sense of how unsustainable this kind of production will be from Horford when the majority of these points are coming on putbacks and not a concerted effort to give the ball to Al Horford on the block. Not to be dismissive, but this was the Pacers interior and as we always say - the Hawks will beat an inferior team. Color me excited when Al is posted up consistently vs. overmatched players and we see a similar game produced.
  • There was no such nagging sense over Osh Smith's effort. He didn't regain his J (on the court or on this blog) yet, but we did forget that he shot a 22ft 2 point shot in the first quarter (to a smattering of boos, it should be noted) based on the great effort he put forward at every other area on the court (yes, we'll forgive the Mike Bibby like rebounding effort).
  • Overall, we still have serious concerns about the minute dispersal (and it looks like Mo Evans and Sekou Smith share my concern) and to be clear, we're not surprised when a lame duck coach goes with what he trusts to keep himself employed. So, let's get on the record - any problems we have with the minute dispersal is 50% ownership/management's fault. Ok, now the rest is on Woodson, but we want to be clear - we won't lay all the blame on Woodson this year regarding minutes.
  • Marvin's efforts also bring us back to the campaign that was championed here last year - PUT MARVIN ON THE 2nd TEAM. We'll keep beating that drum until it happens. The first sign of good aggression seen by Marvin was when he was playing with the 2nd team and the reason is - he knows that he is the best option at that point. Our starting five is good and therefore, leaves to chance that a hot Marvin will still be the 3rd or 4th option to score baskets. If Marvin is going to play defense the way he played it vs. Granger, it just underscores the point - put Mo Evans out there as a spot up shooter/defensive presence and let Marvin be our 6th man along with Crawford. We'll keep advocating for this until it's so...
  • Why aren't our fast breaks starting with a guard and ending with a forward/center's finish (not named LeBron James) like most teams from rec league to the NBA draw up?. Horford and Osh find the guard and let them give you the ball back to finish the break, please...
  • Teague, keep smiling and working hard b/c Law got minutes early in his career too.
  • Finally, our offense sure looked like the same - stand around and whoever can dribble their way to a bucket - offense we remember. Again, that beats a lot of inferior teams, but...oh, nevermind - we're 1-0!

Str8 Butter Award - Al Horford...what can be said about tonight's performance. It was the most dominant we've seen Al since the first Chicago Bulls game of the 2008-2009 season when he had 27pts and 17 rebounds. It was noted in our season preview that we STILL hadn't seen much that was special about Horford's production (which might have been confused with our belief that there isn't talent in Horford's body to deliver said production). Well, we will simply say that if Al was waiting for us to doubt him to deliver, then let me say it now - I doubt Al Horford can repeat this performance on Friday vs. the Washington Wizards. Until then, you, Al Horford, get our Str8 Butter Award for the game.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - It's been noted on several occasions that Marvin Williams should come off the bench and be a super sub (a la Manu). Well, the more firepower we obtain - the more we like the idea. (Yes, I'm repeating this point.) Marvin as a spot up shooter seems to stunt his growth. When he was playing with mostly 2nd teamers, he went for 6 straight points. As soon as the starters returned, right back to secondary option. It's been stated that Marvin needs to get better to move the Hawks up the ranks - well, we can't see how Marvin gets better without becoming a lock down defender and/or more aggressive on the offensive end and it's hard to be better on the offensive end when you aren't at least the 2nd best option offensively on the court. Hence, our campaign for Marvin to go to the bench as a way to increase his effectiveness...who's with us?
* Osh Smith - Again, we simply say - great game, Osh. You keep this up and you'll be called Josh in no time. We do want to see you on the glass more often, but it's hard to complain when you are an all purpose player. See how great you can be when you don't worry about jump shots.
* M. Bibby - We actually were kinda worried for a minute that none of the good attributes of having Bibby would be coupled with the bad ones on display (i.e. non-existent defense), but then the 4th quarter happened. 8 quick points later and we remembered why we allow the matador to do what he does. Thanks for the reminder, Mike.
* J. Johnson - Joe actually looked like he had the early season jitters. The kind that made my date say - uh, it might be time to re-open negotations on that 4yr, $60M extension. Well, Joe got it together and the most heartening thing from this ENTIRE game was the post-game comments of Joe Johnson...those being ""he win was great, but I thought our play was ugly -- especially on defense." That sounds like the type of leadership and comment unseen in Hawks Land. Highlighting our problems during a WIN is exactly the type of leadership we've been asking for. For those who have heard every justification for a win from Mike Woodson, we were glad to see that he recognized that that defense will win no titles. Thanks, Joe.
* A. Horford - Again, we'll just say - you were a man amongst boys and we'll like to see you continue this All-Star effort just to shut me up. Yep, I'll eat the crow...just make me!

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - There's really nothing that I can say b/c despite the offseason buzz around you - you weren't in the game enough for me to make a judgment. So, we'll just assume that your 6th man bid (and attempt to prove that you're better than Flip Murray) will start on Friday.
* J. Teague - You sir were a giddy young man out there and we think it's infectious. Keep smiling, keep dunking, and keep learning. We can't let you get diagnosed with AL4 disease.
* M. Evans - First, you have been shooting well from preseason and carried it over to the first game, but we agree with YOUR post game comments (is this bizarro world or what - TWO insightful comments from our players...could Joe Smith have infused leadership qualities this fast?) and that's that Woodson has to trust the 2nd team with more minutes. We won't belabor the point, but keep asking to take some of the load, Mo.
* Joe Smith - It goes without saying that the contrast of Solomon to Joe is like lukewarm milk to ice cold water. Yes, we agree with you, Bret - there's a stunning difference.
* Z. Pachulia - Zaza just does what he always does - plays hard, plays on the ground, and gets..wait, did you get just 1 rebound? Well, at least it was an offensive one. Ok, we'll give you a pass since we did win, but let's not revert to the Zaza of 2 years ago.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Coach Woodson, we've resigned ourselves to not criticize your minute dispersal, though we do want you to trust the bench more. That said, we'll keep our criticisms to a minimum. The main one being - is this STILL our offense? The run around and dribble until you find a shot offense was on full display again. Now, we'll assume that it was an off night on defense, but the offensive design still looks devoid of ...well, a design. Like plays and stuff. I mean, excuse me for watching other teams, but they have plays - they do screens and pick and rolls and ...well, why am I saying any of this? I know I'm asking for a lot when I say - let's try some offensive plays. I promise they'll come in handy in the postseason. PROMISE! Yes, it worked against the Pacers and likely will work for 40-45 more games and yes, we're 1-0, but it WAS the Pacers, s0 can we try it my way - please?

Str8 Talk Love

And now to the things you were really looking for - what happened on date night? Ok, first - let me say that Coco looked stunning as usual. I was gruntled when I saw her appear at the Will Call window, but then the question I had was - should she look stunning on a Blog Date at Philips Arena? Should that be held against her? I mean, it's the Hawks game. It's the middle of the week - there's no party afterwards (BTW - why wasn't there? Last year, they had a great after party at Stats and it was wonderful. Why didn't that happen again?) Anyway, I felt underdressed with my throwback Hawks Pistol Pete jacket, t-shirt, and jean ensemble. That said, we had fun talking about the Hawks and making comparisons to the old and new Hawks. We did everything but kiss and hold hands and that was appropriate - I mean it was a first date, but definitely something I see us doing again during the season. We even had our first fight (over what is a bad compliment - I think if you say someone that you care about is 'a nice person' then I think you are really saying - there is something wrong with them or there is nothing unique about them that you'd want to be associated with...she didn't share my sentiment. Readers, chime in in the comments, please!)

I have to cop to the fact that while we did make the video board for a brief second - it wasn't for Kiss Cam, which was WAYYY too early after halftime. I was still in the drink line when it came up, so no kisses for us yet, but there's still future games, so don't fret. When it happens, you'll be the first to know. Final note - is there any attraction? Well, I'll let this direct quote answer that "This bra has got to go", I don't know if that's due to any pain or my presence, but we're gonna go with 'my presence' and work from there...thanks for the memories, C.C.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - It has been stated that the Hawks Dance team is the 4th best looking in the league based on Dime Magazine's standards. Well, we won't get into what looks good since there certainly were some stunners in the ranks Ione stunner who looked that much better when one young lady ended the routine with a full split), but we must say that if one young lady is off during the routing - it just messes up the whole routine and on opening night - that's just not acceptable. (Note: we won't out who it was just in case - a dancer decides to read the blog, can't mess up my chances.) That said, we're going to do a review on the dance team on Friday. We'll be there with a choreographer and former Hawks Dance Team (and Heat Dance Team) member to give analysis on what we SHOULD be seeing. Also, it looked like there were a lot fewer dancers...recession casualty, maybe?

Shout Outs - Will Stephens (if you ever need tickets - call the Hawks office and hit him up), Harlee, Stacie, Will Packer, Bret, Jimmesse, Lynetta, T Luv, Che, Clinton, Fard, Big Mel, Marcus, Stacy, and so many others...also big up to the celebs in the house - Christina Milian, The Game, Bow Wow...

Final Notes - Also, how is it that the Thrashers aren't promoting the fact that there's a young black man who plays for the team and is named after EVANDER HOLYFIELD? What kind of miscarriage of marketing justice is that? You're in Atlanta! He's named after one of our hometown heroes and you need more people to come to the games...did I mention that Kovalchek is out for the next few months? In other words, look out for a visit to Philips to see how this young guy performs.

And we need more advance warning on the 'don't sit down until we've scored' tradition. Esp. since this is only a 'since the 2nd round of the playoffs' tradition. Good idea, but let's make sure we get this thing noted and marketed in the future.

Season Prediction

Still 47-35 and 4th seed is what we think and that's what we're going with. Now, we will take this time to simply say to our offseason critics - it's still quite plausible that the Wizards, Raptors, and Bulls could overtake us, so let's not rest Hawks! there's work to be done....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preparations for my Hawks Blog Date

Well, we've talked about it, but since this is fairly unprecedented in Hawks Blog-sphere history - we figured we'd let everyone know what to look forward to tomorrow...

Not only will you get an opening night Game Recap (which you've come to expect) - you'll also get a play by play of the date that will be had by The Vent's own CoCo and HS8T's Larry Luv. Now, you may have to come here to hear about it, though b/c what CoCo doesn't know is that I'm a kiss and tell kinda guy (hence, the blog) and I often chide her about.. she is unreliable with the posts (since 2 months ago is the last time we saw her). If you want to hear from CoCo, get a Twitter account and follow her. We'll see if this has spillover into her dating practices (the unreliability and mass Tweets while we're getting to know each other over a side of O Smooth alley oop and a 3pt basket of Joe Johnson curly fries. Oh, and to be sure if the kiss cam hits us - she better not be ducking and dodging...take the kiss and enjoy it, ma! Ok, enough of my thoughts - you guys just let me know what else I should do on the date..any tips, suggestions, comments. I'm new to this blog date thing and want it to be perfect, so let me know what I should go for.. what's the blog equivalent of hitting a home run?

Follow the blog (and the date) on Twitter at @hawkstr8talk.

One last thing - if this encourages more people to write about the Hawks - then, I'm happy to take one for the team...Blog Dates for everyone! Hold on, let me re-phrase that - Blog Dates for the female Hawks bloggers! Not that there's anything wrong with other bloggers who don't want to have that requirement. :) Livin' La Vida Loca!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The 2nd Annual HS8T Season Preview

With the season only 2 days away, we know everyone is sitting with bated breath waiting for the Hawks Str8Talk season prediction. Since last year's prediction was 4 games off our BEST CASE, there's probably not much that can gleaned from our ability to predict our season's output, but we saunter on regardless.

As we did last year, we'll review our team and coaching and offer....(drum roll please) our best case and worst case predictions along with our true prediction for 2009-2010. One last note - as a part of our game recaps, we always use the game's result to determine whether we should upgrade or downgrade our prediction, so it should be noted that at 4-0 last year - we were clear that the Hawks were NOT who we thought they were (and that's meant as a good thing), so don't put our prediction in stone - we aren't trying to win points by nailing the prediction we make, ok? Now, off to the analysis:

It should be noted that this blog has not been a fan of the Hawks coaching philosophy. We have always like Mike Woodson as a person (Indiana Hoosier legend, member of the bald brotherhood, and nice guy from all accounts), but Woodson has shown that while he was perfect for his role as a youth caretaker for the first 3 seasons - there are questions about whether he can provide the coaching to get the most out of the talent that resides in the Highlight Factory. Certainly, Woodson is not to blame for not putting together the team, but he can be blamed for the philosophies that are espoused.

It's telling that at this stage - we still do not know what the identity of this team is. Are we an athletic team? Yes! Do we do anything that benefits athletic teams like running? No! Do we have a promising front court? Yes! Do we do anything to cater to the front court? No! So, there are several things we could highlight things like:

  • The Offense - Full of isolations and dribbling until someone feels like they've found a good enough shot. Rare is a team that only is very good when jump shots are falling among the contenders for NBA titles.
  • The Defense - Full of switches that retard the rebounding and defensive rotation process
  • The In-Game Adjustments - We only counted 2 games last year where a coaching move during the game actually yielded a significant change in the game (one was a victory at home vs. Utah, and the other was almost a miracle win on the road vs. Denver). That doesn't bode well for the coach's value.
  • The Lame Duckness - Now, here's where we did stand up for Woodson all offseason. Either you commit to a coach or you fire him and move on, but rarely do you put a coach in a position to coach for his job without the cover of at least one year remaining. It's a novel concept, but one that isn't based on sound understanding of the pro athlete's psyche. What's to stop a player revolt from happening at the first sign of distress in the NBA season aside from professionalism? What's to stop Woodson from treating Teague as if he has AL4 Disease due to the fact that he has to win NOW! One of the major knocks from this blog has been that Woodson coaches to win the battle (and he doesn't do that very well) and not the war. In other words, he makes coaching decisions based on an attempt to win every moment vs. figuring out the balance necessary to win a game and also build a team ready for the postseason. That was on display during the preseason's only road back to back where Joe Johnson played 35 and 27 minutes. Maybe winning the preseason game and getting a rhythm mattered, but not at the expense of Joe Johnson's long term health and freshness for what is solidly a playoff team. Anyway, the lack of a contract extension only encourages more of the win the battle coaching from Woodson. We'll see if this lame duck stature has negative repercussions for this team
Bottom line, we still maintain that we want Coach Woodson to be successful as a fan, but as an objective watcher - it's becoming more difficult to see whether that's possible when viewed through the prism of seeing the Hawks getting the most out of its potential. We'll grade him this year on these things - Teague's development, Inside Game (Smith & Horford) Attention, Defensive Improvement, Team's Freshness Factor, Motivation (as judged by not falling asleep to start 1st and 3rd quarters of games) and in-game adjustments. Let's see how it pans out...Grade: D

Well, we can certainly again say that the Hawks are one of the most talented starting 5s in the league. And if we have the motivated Osh Smith (he gets his J back when he starts hitting jump shots OR stops taking them altogether) and Marvin Williams becomes 40% better this year, then yes - we'd agree. But let's say that doesn't happen - then our past production tells us that there are some good and bad things about this starting 5.
  • Offensively - The positive is that all of them are able to give you at least 20 pts in an offense that focuses on them. There isn't a player on the court that you are scared to have attempting to score the basketball in their collective scoring sweet spots. The negative is that we haven't really ever spent time trying to get all players the ball in their sweet spots unless that guy's name is Joe Johnson. After 4 years, Joe has gotten the ball in every conceivable way to take advantage of his talents. It's always been said here that Joe is our best player, but Osh is our most talented player. The same can be said about Marvin and Al. We don't know how good they can be b/c so much attention has been on our backcourt's ability to score the ball. Let's hope that this season moves to a shift to more transition baskets AND more post play to see what our inside game can offer.
  • Defensively - Again, the positive is that we're athletic enough to defend most of the teams in the league. Unfortunately, the subset of teams who don't fall in that category happen to be the contenders in this league. For that group, nothing we do defensively is effective. There is little that looks positive about our defensive rotations and philosophy when faced with the likely contenders for the title - we're simply a good, quick point guard and scoring big man away from trouble of monumental proportions, so if it's not the Magic, Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, or Celtics - we're fine. But I'd prefer to match up against those teams vs. the bottom feeders. We'll see how we match up this season and if improvements on this end make Osh Smith the intimidating defensive presence he was up until last year.
Grade: B

Simply put, we don't have much outward leadership and we don't have many scenarios where we can point to the team rallying around the coach's mantra, so the #1 positive of the offseason was the addition of two veterans (Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith). We weren't big fans of moves that didn't a defensive stopper or a rebounding beast (yes, we longed for Ramon Sessions and DeJaun Blair - and if after that, we brought back Bibby, Joe Smith, and Flip Murray - that wouldn't have bothered me a bit), but that didn't happen. So, we have to take what we have and say - we still got better. Any upgrade in talent that moved Mario West from the #9 or #10 player in the team rotation to the 2nd to last guy cut speaks volumes about the talent upgrade on the bench. We also are happy to see Jeff Teague join the fold, but ONLY if he plays. On a roster with only 4 guards - it would be very depressing to watch us run Bibby into the ground and virtually ensure that running a fast break will continue from the power forward position (read: Osh Smith turnover watch upcoming). We have doubts whether or not a lame duck Woodson has the cajones to live with the mistakes that Teague is sure to work through over the course of the season. We'll be watch this unfold all season...

So, let's hope that with a Teague, Crawford, Evans, Joe Smith, Pachulia 2nd string - we'll be seeing 10 man rotations that provide very few DNPs that aren't connected to the names Morris, Hunter, or Jason Collins. Grade: a conditional B (if Woodson plays everyone).

All of this leads us to a determination of what we think the players have in store for us, so we'll do some quick blurbs on each player and our expectations:
  • Bibby - Let's hope that he can still continue to shoot 3s at a high clip because his poor defense and lack of penetration need to be offset by something. We hope to see Bibby's PT held to about 27 minutes a game
  • Johnson - His talent is unquestioned and he realizes that he needs to perform this year in order to get a big paycheck during the 2010 offseason. That means more great days ahead, but the knock has always been whether Joe can be the best player on a contending team. We won't say no while hoping that Osh Smith or Horford can assume a co-leadership role as the best player. The thing we hope for Joe is a manageable 30-32 minutes a game in an attempt to keep him fresh all season.
  • Williams - Marvin added the 3 point shot to his arsenal and has vowed to bring better ball handling and post moves to his small forward position. Well, those things would go hand in hand with an above average defensive presence necessary to move the Hawks forward. Hopefully, an aggressiveness on the scoring end accompanies his offseason improvements. We think Williams is the key to this season.
  • Osh Smith - For 3 years, I have been Osh's single biggest fan. Similar to Tracy McGrady, I saw the freakish talents of Osh Smith during his rookie season and said it's only a matter of time. Well, we were wrong on the time - it's not simply a matter of time with Osh. It's a matter of a lack of developing basketball smarts. Now, you can argue that it's the coaching or it's Osh or even the enabling by his teammates. One doesn't know, but what we do know is that the lack of discipline in attempting jump shots he can't make consistently will always be a limiting factor for Osh and, therefore, creates a lack of reliability to make us contenders. We continue to maintain that he has the most talent - he just has to realize that that talent is not jump shots and at his size and with his stroke NEVER will be. So, we at HS8T will learn to live with this limitation and factor it into our assessment of him from now on until proven otherwise.
  • Horford - And to our only true departure from conventional Hawks wisdom, Al Horford...well, we must say that we're really not that impressed with him and by that we mean - he's consistent, he's solid, he's reliable, but there's nothing IMPRESSIVE about that unless you are so accustomed to players NOT doing those things that they should - that his regular reliability is noteworthy for that reason. If Williams and Smith max out their ability, is Horford anything more than our 4th best player (with Bibby coming in 5th - maybe 6th behind Crawford)? Do you ever expect that he'll be better than 13 pts and 11 rebounds for our team? Can you seriously see him in an All Star game or on an All Pro team? While you mull that over, we do think it's important that he get the ball in the post a LOT more - it's simply bad business to not let him get 10-15 touches a game.
  • Teague - We like him, but we can't say what will happen b/c we don't know if he'll get consistent playing time. Simple as that - let's hope he gets that and we will assess his ability to penetrate, play defense, turn over the ball, and make open shots accordingly.
  • Crawford - Well, his talents as an offensive player are well documented, so we think that his effectiveness should be judged in ensuring that he's scoring more than those he's defending. We'll be paying attention to the plus/minus statistic for Crawford all season long.
  • Evans - Simply be the glue...defense and 3s are what we need from Evans, that's all we need. And yes, we still believe that it would serve the Hawks better to play Evans with the starters and play Williams with the 2nd string.
  • Joe Smith - Finally a true vet who can still play - rebounds, defense, and leadership - check, check, and check!
  • Pachulia - There was probably no player that got more kudos from us last year than Zaza and that's because energy and passion and dogged determination is all he has. It's something the Hawks need in spade, so let's hope that we get the every other year Zaza again this year.
  • Morris, Hunter, and Collins - Basically, this is the 'we need fouls' crew. When we play big guys who need to be hacked (like Shaq and Dwight Howard) - that's what you're on the team for. Don't forget it and may Mario West's energy live on through you.
Ok, you had to read through all of that just to get to my predictions, so here they go:

Best Case Prediction - 52-30 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Worst Case Prediction - 44-38 (6th in Eastern Conference)
My Prediction - 47-35 (4th in Eastern Conference) and a likely 2nd round playoff exit (though we reserve the right to say that we may lose in the 1st round)

Yep, all that to say that we'd do what we did last year. Yep, I don't see a way that we leap over the top 3 teams - they are deep enough to be injury proof (save the Cavs losing LeBron) and I don't see a way that we are competitive in the 2nd round of the playoffs as presently constituted. But that's why we play the games....and as the #1 fan, I'll be cheering for an 82-0 season and 4 sweeps. So, don't let the name of the blog fool you - we are serious about our fan-dom and we'll be bring you the very best in Hawks coverage (non-statistical analysis category), so stay tuned - we're in for a wild ride.

So, what do you guys think? Leave your predictions in the comments and we'll see you at the Highlight Factory starting Wednesday!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Preseason Recap - Hawks @ Magic

We won't try to take much from last night's game, but there were some things worth noting:

The Good
1. Teague got to play against the best in the division and see that his jump shot must accompany all that speed.
2. Woodson didn't get the itchy trigger in trying to sit Teague through his worst outing yet.
3. Made HS8T Season Preview easy to complete...

The Bad
1. On a nationally televised game, we didn't look like we had any clue on offense or defense vs. the division's best.
2. Josh Smith is still shooting jump shots.
3. There was little attempt to establish any inside presence.
4. Joe Johnson, coming off a 35 minute stint Thursday, played 27 more minutes on a preseason road back-to-back. In other news - Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups played 30+ minutes Thursday and were given the night off on Friday. (Note: We think it's because it was the preseason that George Karl didn't want to play his star players in a road back to back with a full season of grueling basketball ahead.)
5. The reason the Season Preview is easy is that we've been saying that there are a lot of bad basketball teams that allow the Hawks to think about a 50 win season, but that when faced with elite basketball - the Hawks look bad. Here's preseason example A...we'll go into the season with the same belief that we'll beat the teams who have less talent than us and we'll lose to those with equal or better talent. Easy season prediction coming...

The Ugly
1. Watch the game and if you can find anything that wasn't ugly - let us know.
2. We've been opining at HS8T HQ for about a year that a big hurdle for this team is its lack of leadership and toughness. Meaning - if we get hit in the mouth, there's no haymaker coming back...let's just say that we hope Joe Smith is having some conversations today with the team. Preseason or not, if you play a team that's the best in your division without its 2nd or 3rd best player and you play ALL your top players and you lose by almost 40pts - that can't be anything but ugly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alarm At The Gate

We've been clear about our position on the preseason and that's that it's not worth looking at many trends EXCEPT minute distribution. Our belief was (and had been communicated in at least 3 Mike Woodson interviews with my own ears) that the minutes would be distributed evenly and would skew toward the low side for our starters.

Since almost everyone has seen the decline in gameplay over the course of the year by Joe Johnson, the only thing that could make me raise an eyebrow would be high minute output by Joe Johnson. So, until tonight, the belief that a new Mike Woodson was possible has been slightly damaged by the fact that Joe Johnson played 35 minutes IN A PRESEASON game. A game where Jamal Crawford played 31 (but can be excused to some degree since Jamal hasn't played much in the preseason and by the fact that there are no reports of him being overused in seasons past). A game with no serious foul trouble. A game where the guys who can use the most minutes ended up with 20 minutes (Teague), 8 minutes (Hunter), 9 minutes (Morris), or even our youngest Hawks (Osh Smith, Marvin, or Horford - all with between 22-27). So, yes, this blog is longer than this transgression probably deserves, but leave it to one game to produce a rant that reverses all the good will we had engendered for our Season Preview.

Anyway, let's just hope this was a blip in the land of well distributed minutes by our Coach of the Year candidate coach. I just have to keep saying - Yes We Can!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breaking The News (Updated & Proofread)

Hawks Friends & Foes,

It's ALMOST time for the NBA season and, by extension, the Hawk Str8Talk (HS8T) Season Preview. While we haven't gotten it all together, there is lots of news that we feel like will shape what ultimately will become our season preview and our season prediction. Here's what we have today:

  • The Merger - Before we talk about the news - THIS JUST IN...The Vent and HS8T will be having a Blog Date during opening week where we will see just how two blogs can watch the same game next to each other and come to the same or completely different impressions. We're not sure how this will date will end (we're taking bets on the over/under - set early as 2nd base). As much as we love our Hawks Blogosphere brethren and sistren, we think this is something that shouldn't be missed and is meant to make Hoopinion, THHB, and Peachtree Hoops jealous. It will be a DATE to remember. One where we'll define what a game recap is, so that we can determine whether my guess of less than 20 game recaps from The Vent in 2008-2009 is accurate [Note: For those who read CC's blog - what do you think - the over or the under? Let us know in the comments.]
  • The Roster - Yes, the roster has been finalized. With the final cuts of Garrett Siler, Courtney Sims, and hometown favorite Mario West, we have a final roster of
    PGs (Bibby, Teague), SGs (Johnson, Crawford), SF (Williams, Evans), PF (O. Smith*, J Smith, Hunter), C (Horford, Pachulia, Collins, Morris).
  • Disease Prevention - Good vibes abound at HS8T HQ every time we see Jeff Teague get significant minutes, but we caution everyone from thinking that he can't catch the AL4 Disease like it's the H1N1. If you all recall, Acie Law IV got significant minutes in the preseason during his rookie season and did well (look it up), but an injury and some lost confidence later and he's a Golden State Warrior. You'd think with only 4 guards on the team - there's no way this could happen, but when seemingly healthy people are dying from H1N1 - we can't get too confident that AL4 can't be caught especially when the carrier insect is still buzzing on the sidelines.
  • Quote This - Let's hope that quotes like this don't extinguish those good vibes. This one from Woodson regarding Evans' role on the team makes us think when will (after all these years) Mike Woodson figure out a good method for dispensing's the quote: "He fits in without a doubt," Woodson said. "I don't know where all the minutes are going to come from. And as a coach I have to figure that out. But it's like I told these guys last year, if you're committed to winning, it's what you do with the minutes you get that makes us a complete team. It's about winning games. If you're doing your job the right way, whatever it is that night, it should help us win games." We at HS8T would say - sure, that's true if you don't play me every 10 games and expect me to perform as though I've actually been playing regularly and know my role on the basketball court.
  • Defensive Position - Throughout the offseason, HS8T was defending its position that contrary to popular belief we didn't improve the areas that win championships most - defense and rebounding (well, we also talked about our lack of coaching, toughness, and leadership). And while we stand by that statement - we will say that we like the additions so far. We'll withhold the word love until we see Teague or Crawford play defense, we see Osh Smith actually play defense and rebound and not shoot J's. So, the main defensive areas we wanted addressed were a move from the switch every screen defensive philosophy and an increased desire to rebound the basketball. Now, having Horford (as a center) and Bibby on the court prevents us from being an elite rebounding basketball team (not to mention letting the preseason rebounding beast who goes by the name of DeJaun Blair - dare we say..Rookie of the Year candidate and steal of the draft, DeJaun Blair), but we are encouraged by the decision to not bring back Mario West in lieu of big men such as Hunter, Morris, and Collins. As we've mentioned in this space before, we love Mario's energy but at this stage in our evolution as a team - we need talent to go with energy. We can't see giving away Hunter, Collins, or Morris's defense/low post presence/fouls in the post to help Horford against the bigger players in the league for Mario's energy. The added benefit may be that this may actually allow us to see what Horford can do at the PF position.
  • Changing Views - We have been critical of this past offseason, but it should be noted that we are still optimistic about the Hawks' prospects this year. Yes, we think a better team could have been constructed this offseason, but let's not be confused - THIS is a playoff basketball team. Problem is - there are 16 of those, which is half the league, so that's not saying much. Not sure about anything else without seeing the improvements in live action that are possible with Osh, Marvin, and Al or the talents of our new 2nd string backcourt or whether our new pieces reinvigorate the coaching talents of Mike Woodson.
*O. Smith = Josh Smith..we refuse to call him Josh with Joe Smith on board because he has no J anyway, so he'll be Osh until he's stopped shooting outside of 15 feet for any reason.

So, next week, we'll publish our Season Preview and Prediction. As with anything Hawks, we'll give it to you straight as we see it REGARDLESS of our desire for everything that the Hawks attempt ends up golden. There were too many arguments this offseason about hypotheticals, and now, it's time for the actuals to take place to see where we were wrong (and we hope we're wrong in ways that are positive for the Hawks) and where we were right (again, in the ways that are positive for the Hawks OR in other words - that Crawford will be a defensive beast, Blair ends up sharing time with Law with the Warriors NBDL team and Ramon Sessions ends up third string behind Jonny Flynn and a yet to be flown to the US - Ricky Rubio). Yes, it's time for Hawks basketball...jump on board with our game recaps, Hawks community updates, ticket discounts, and much more...

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hawks/Bobcats: Recap of Nothingness

Well, first - it's work and second, it's Dolphins/Jets...yep, that's why I didn't even think about this game in the least...Now, to be clear - even the Hawks Top Fan finds it hard to pay attention to preseason.

So, we'll ask you to go to guys like Peachtree Hoops and Hoopinion who are so dedicated to their craft that even in preseason they have something insightful to say. Not me, not when my Dolphins are playing. Yes, the Hawks are my absolute favorite sporting team, but preseason Hawks doesn't trump regular season Dolphins...I need a NBA title in order to make that change come to life.

Until next time...oh, yeah - the Hawks won 107-90! Looks like we're 2-1 in the fake season!!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hawks/Pistons: Preseason Game Recap

Preamble Ramble

Actually, we didn't watch the game and only heard some of the game on the radio, so we'll keep from saying much other than...I wonder if Mario West is coming back here with a sprained ankle (see video below) and that I pray Al Horford's offseason work on his jumper was appropriately outshone by his work on his post game, so i'm not worried about the shot chart I saw for this game.

Game Recap - Pistons 100, Hawks 91

Here's the only thing remaining to say about this game since NOTHING matters in the preseason - I can shrug off a DeJaun Blair's domination of preseason games, but I can't shrug off Gregg 'I compliment nothing' Popovich's bubbling over regarding Blair's 'gift'. Boy, Jeff Teague and Joe Smith and Rick Sund, the ball is now in your court... make me PROUD!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hawks/Hornets - Preseason Game Recap

Preamble Ramble

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be taken to the bank because nothing you see in the preseason is real, so please just take that what we saw means nothing right now. And away...we go!

Before I do the game recap notes (can't do a full fledged game recap for this 'game') - let me say that this was in ALL my years of watching Hawks basketball years live...the first time I have been to a NBA preseason game. Now, if it weren't for my duty as a Hawks blogger to report on these things (next up, going to an open practice - big joy!), I would never do that again. The things I liked about the game were:

1. That the best parking area at Philips Arena was still there and still at recession friendly prices
2. That the will call setup is still intact and functions well.
3. That the crowd and ladies still are coming to the game wearing noteworthy outfits.
4. That everyone wants to live-tweet the games. Too many folks were itching to get out their tweets yesterday...interferes with the game tweet/blogging while trying to be the most insightful tweeter. We should all just take a position and tweet on that stuff. I nominate myself as the guy who comments on the dance team, in-game promotions, celeb sightings, and hot chick/clothing ensembles. Next...

Game Recap - Hawks 108, Hornet 102

Normally, I'd be giving out Str8 Butter Awards, Kudos, & Smackdowns, some Love/Hate & yes...a season prediction. Well, it's too early for all of that, so I will simply give you some notes from the game.

1. I'd like to say that overall there's not a single thing I take seriously from this game because the Hornets did not play in yesterday's game. Save Chris Paul - there wasn't a soul on that team that seriously looked like they came to play, which is understandable for the people who've made the team, but NOT for those looking for a spot in the rotation or on the team. Now, I don't know their contract situation in New Orleans, but if someone is fighting for a spot on that squad - I hope they were injured yesterday b/c I didn't see one iota of effort on that court. NONE!!!!
2. Forget the score - it wasn't close and it wasn't fun to watch.
3. Likes - Othello was working hard on the boards, seeing guards penetrating and dishing (somewhere Acie Law is putting pins in a Woodson doll), seeing that the Joe Johnson-Jsoh Smith alley oop is still in the playbook
4. Observations - You have to have more chairs on the bench for players since we haven't gotten to cutdowns yet. Those were some long benches. Also, I'm not sure if I saw any focus on Horford's low post game. Between him and Josh - seeing them on the blocks in the preseason would be nice at every juncture vs. more of the Joe Johnson iso (which looked to be in early season form, which means he's awesome before Woodson runs him into the ground by midseason). Finally, there were some beautiful ladies in the stands.
5. Dislikes - Everything was streamlined...the menus at the concession stands, the # of bars, the dance routines (though it WAS preseason - what must go was one young lady's Cappie Pondexter hairstyle (Google it!)), and minutes for the players (wait, put that minutes thing in the likes category)
6. I'd also like to see evidence of this tenacious defense that Sekou told he was seeing in practice.
7. Final Thought - let's just reserve a little judgment on Jeff Teague. Listen, no one wants to see Teague be successful for this team as point guard more than me. After the hose job done to Law, I'm still going to reserve judgment as to whether he even gets a full season in the rotation, but before folks start calling for Teague to be in the starting lineup - let's just put it in perspective..he played well, took the ball to the basket, dished, etc - all the things you want in a point guard, but that was mostly with the second team AND it was mostly against a team that didn't give a rat's ass about playing basketball.

Other Notes:

1. Crawford Trade is still not a winner to me until I see him perform better than Flip did last year and Ramon Sessions ends up sucking and DeJuan Blair isn't the next coming of Charles Barkley as a rebounder AND Acie Law doesn't become the equal of Jeff Teague in the rotation for the Warriors. Until all of that happens - let's quit saying it's a slam dunk for the Hawks. I want it to be, but it wouldn't be Str8Talk if we didn't set some parameters for fawning over a player who still hasn't done anything for this team.
2. Last note - I love Sekou Smith and think he's one of the best in the business, but I think he misses an opportunity to be honest when he mentions Mario West's energy without mentioning that Mario West is pretty awful when it comes to doing anything else basketball related. Smith doesn't have to put him under the bus, but if you're going to write about a preseason game and tout something - tout that he's great to root for, but the talent level has far surpassed our need for Mario West. I love Mario West as a GT alum who made himself into a bench filler in the NBA. It's very inspiring, but if the Hawks want to be taken seriously by me as a contender. He can't make this team, much less play any minutes this year. There was nothing that I saw in his time on the offensive side of the ball that can be made up for by his energy or defensive talents (i.e. he's not lights out enough on the defensive end to just go 4 on 5 on the other end). So, I'd love to see him get another chance on another NBA team or to see him start and develop an offensive game & lights out defense in the NBDL or overseas, but it just would be a shame to see someone who could possibly help us fill out our bench with a specialty talent like Juan Dixon (shooting) or Siler (space eater) or whatever left off the team because of an affinity for Mario's story and energy. Two years is enough...and I say that with love (oh, and with the fact that I started this with a disclaimer.)