Friday, November 27, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Sixers

Preamble Ramble

Back in the win column with a boring, incomplete victory. The kind that teams that are much better than the other win if they are to become contenders. Since this is our second post today, it'll probably mirror that boring, incompleteness just turned in by our beloved Hawks.

Game Recap - Hawks 100, Sixers 86

Overall Observations:
  • Basically, this was last night's game in some ways. By shooting jump shots and not really sharing the ball, the Sixers were in the game. As soon as we started passing the ball into the post, the game was over.
  • Dalembert and Josh Smith did everything possible to justify an all jump shooting contest.
  • It's also a testament to the Hawks that they did not succumb to a few blocked shots and continued to go inside. The Magic/Hawks game did not have a similar fate.
  • We've figured out that Woodson will trust the bench to play in the first half and despite all signs that said that the bench was ready...obviously, in the 2nd half - Woody's not.
  • Not enough fast break points (6), but able to get points in the paint in the 2nd half, win the rebounding battle, and make some free throws (non-Josh Smith category)
Str8 Butter Award - Mike Bibby came out ready to show that his ankle is nothing to worry about and that he will not be Wally Pipp'ed anytime soon. A big night from him steadied the Hawks until they determined that the Sixers had no answer for Horford and Josh Smith on the interior.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Another night of little production. Hit the boards, but otherwise - he really looks completely lost when he's with the starting five.
* Josh Smith - While the on the ball defense is still average, Josh has basically backed up his goal to be mentioned in the defensive player of the year race. Power forwards that block, steal, and rebound the basketball should get consideration for DPOY! Step right up, Josh. And while you're at it, let's go ahead and nip the jumpers in the bud..NOW!!
* M. Bibby - Great Game, Bibby.
* J. Johnson - I've been a little harsh on Joe lately (mostly because he's been harsh on everyone else), but I think it bodes well that the Hawks could easily win a game where Joe was not on his game at all. Now, he needs to see how to fit into the team concept when his game is not going - he seemed to want to take over in the 4th quarter as he normally does instead of sticking with what was working with Horford, Crawford and Smith down the stretch and that led to him getting an early hook for the night.
* A. Horford - Love that he cranked it up in the 2nd half and didn't settle for another night where he was in the background when the team needed him. He does need to demand the ball though when the matchups dictate it.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - A great night off the bench when Joe didn't have it going. Yes, that's why we brought you here.
* J. Teague - Another good 4 minutes...
* M. Evans - Good defensive effort
* Joe Smith - Great spark off the bench tonight from a spry Joe Smith
* Z. Pachulia - Not sure if this is a trend, but our normal hardcore effort from Zaza has been missing. Come back, Zaza
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

The Good is that Coach Woodson encouraged the team to go inside and had the cajones to bench Joe Johnson when he didn't have anything to give to the team and was attempting to assume his normal role of isolation plays to the detriment of the team. The Bad continues to be the reluctance to play the Jeff Teague. Particularly on a night when one of your guards is in foul trouble and contributing nothing.

Str8 Talk Love

Final Notes - Solid, boring win. Just what the Hawks needed. Now, let's get another one vs. Detroit on Sunday.

Season Prediction

50-32!!!!

Game Recap - Magic @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

2 Game Losing Streak. Panic should not be setting in, but it should leave a little doubt as to whether or not we're of that ilk. To understand what that ilk is and the difficulty involved in cheering to the fullest during a Turkey Day clash (er...clunker), see below.

Game Recap - Magic 93, Hawks 76

Overall Observations:
  • Good crowd, but we still are trying to figure out how they determine what a sellout is vs. what I see in the stands. I don't want to get in the way of the PR/Marketing spin that gets more people on board the Hawks bandwagon, BUT I've been to almost every game and ... we've yet to see anything that looks like a sellout. Maybe we can have a designation like - ticket sell out and people sell out.
  • Sorry Hawks concessions, but methinks that today might have been your lowest sales day ever.
  • The Josh Complain-O-Meter was at its season low. Now, if the output is going to match the complaints, then we're going to have to rethink our belief that complaining Josh has to go.
  • The Josh Jump Shot-O-Meter was at its all time low earlier in the season, but in the last 2 games has started to creep back up - we're seeing even more of a tolerance from the crowds (earlier games brought boos when Josh shot from outside 10 feet). Everyone, let's continue to be vigilant about extinguishing every iota of non-inside 3 seconds on the game or 24 second clock jump shots.
  • Looks like we're going to have to create a metric for what is most disconcerting - the Joe Johnson/Jamal Crawford dribble-thon that seems to be a linchpin of the Atlanta Hawk offense.
  • To the Magic, while we praise the defensive effort in the first half of the Hawks, could it really be fool's gold to have looked at that favorably instead of just thanking the Magic for not giving the ball to Dwight Howard much in the first half b/c when they did...ball game.
  • The Points in the Paint leader obviously didn't take any pride in wanting to continue to be that by the end of the game b/c it was jump shot city out there.
  • Also, how is it that despite only 25 turnovers between both teams that this game looked so sloppy?
Str8 Butter Award - No one gets a Str8 Butter Award for almost ruining my Thanksgiving Day.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - By every measure, the Hawks are not really getting a good return on the money they've re-signed Marvin for. Not on the defensive end, not as a shooter, and I'm not sure there's anything this coaching staff is going to do other than say...just keep shooting. Sigh...
* Josh Smith - On a night like tonight, we won't worry much about the jump shots and will be positive about the fact that Josh was fighting on the boards and had some level of activity while not being able to get shots to fall.
* M. Bibby - Glad to see that there were no ill effects from the ankle sprain. Now, if we can just get you to be a real point guard and recognize that when the coach will not take a timeout OR make adjustments in the offense to change up something that obviously isn't working, we'll be cooking. [Note: We reserve the right to revisit this assessment if we find that Bibby's ankle is not 100%. We should not be rushing Bibby back and jeopardizing the long term prospects of this season over a fear of Teague starting for this team.]
* J. Johnson - There have been many bloggers who have called out Joe Johnson for being able to articulate the problems the Hawks have had in our losses with sharing the basketball and yet being unable to articulate that he's part of the problem. Even people in the stands - women and children - were talking about how much dribbling it takes to get a 20 ft jump shot. Sure seemed like a lot...
* A. Horford - We respect the effort that must be expended to handle Dwight Howard. We just hope that those who got super excited about Al's 2 big games this season are respecting the fact that Al is really not a part of the Hawks offense. As constituted, the Hawks will only beat elite teams if their jump shots are falling.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Again, Hoopinion has hipped me to the fact that indeed - there is a lot of dribbing going on to get semi-contested or long jump shots.
* J. Teague - Listen, I'm simply happy to see him even get into the game at this rate. It was against an elite team and he acquitted himself just fine (save missing a wide open jump shot like everyone else). Of course, being a rookie trumps acquitting yourself just fine. Ironically, the backup point guard for the Magic closed us out when the starting point guard was not getting it done.
* M. Evans - Not really much to say here other than it would have been great to see if you could match the ex-Hawk Anthony Johnson's effort as an ex-Magic.
* Joe Smith - Hard to say much about a bench player that didn't really get many minutes despite being productive when he did get them.
* Z. Pachulia - We'll duplicate what we said for Horford except Zaza came out firing. Forget all semblance of waiting for his shots - maybe Jamal is rubbing off on him...low shooting percentage and all.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

So, again - we are left trying to find out what we should make of a game like this one. Should a fan wonder why when players who certainly are off on the jump shots are not running any plays for the frontcourt? Should a fan wonder why starters who are not useful if they can't make jump shots (Bibby, Crawford, Williams) are on the floor when possibly the rookie or our only other penetrating/mid-range/long range options (Teague, Smith, Evans) could? Should a fan wonder why we didn't take a timeout or three to simply say - pick up the pace, go inside, or something other than the 24 minutes of jump shot-palooza that ensued in the 2nd half. Simply put - we've noted ad nauseum how much we believe that our offensive philosophy that relies primarily on dribbling and passing until you can find an open jump shot is not really a philosophy that can be utilized to win playoff basketball. Good defensive basketball snuffs that out. Not only that - IF that's your primary philosophy, at the point that it's not working - we should have Plan B or Plan C. That's the value of a coach. The difference in the game was that after one half of basketball. One coach noticed that whatever they were doing wasn't working and went to another plan (now, it can be debated that that plan should have been in place from the beginning of the game), but when our plan wasn't working - we just kept banging the round peg into the square hole. Hence, the reason while our record may highlight our ability to make the Big 3 into a Big 4 - we still believe that our biggest liability is our coaching. Woodson can't make the shots, but he can make adjustments when things are not going well...unfortunately, that didn't happen yesterday.

We also would like to note that Woodson has noted numerous times that he doesn't know when a player will get minutes, but that they must be ready. Unfortunately, being ready and productive in VERY limited minutes is not causing Joe Smith or Jeff Teague to be used more when our other options are not performing well. We believe Joe and Jeff to be upgrades over Solomon and Acie, but using them in the EXACT same way as Solomon and Acie doesn't show us that YOU believe they are upgrades and worthy of minutes that can benefit this team...

Str8 Talk Love

Said a lot, but simply put - the Magic are better than us. Better personnel. Better coaching. So, we didn't take the punch in the mouth that the Magic always are going to deliver at some point. That's not new and it may have put an early end to any thought that a change in the division was afoot. Order has been restored, sadly.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - I said that I was done talking about the dance team, but a few things came out this year that bear some reporting. First, another sad dance team performance - if you don't know the first part of the routine, then don't go out on the court. Simple and plain. Second, it looks like the diverse occupations that dance team members possess include porn star. Maybe I was late to this information, but former dance team member Briana (type Atlanta Hawks cheerleader and porn star) has found another way to make some money and let's just say - we hope this is not a career progression that is repeated. Not that we pass judgment, but because for as much as we knock the recent performance of the dance team - they work very hard and by and large are REALLY, REALLY wonderful young ladies. Too bad, Str8Talk is too honest to not just say that vs. telling you how bad those dance routines are sometimes.

Shout Outs - Will, Howard, Marcus, and all our Turkey Day friends...

Final Notes - 11-4 would still have been taken no matter who we lost to, so there's no need to panic. The only thing to worry about is our lack of adjustment when faced with adversity this season. It's quite disconcerting to see a team on the back end of a back-to-back on the road getting stronger as the game goes on when a team coming off of 4 days of rest at home would come out flat in the 2nd half of its biggest game of the season.

Season Prediction

Offense, coaching, and heart in face of our biggest test of the season says...our first downgrade in our season prediction - we're back to thinking that 50-32 and 2nd in the division is about right.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Game Observations - Hawks @ Hornets

Preamble Ramble

They say better late than never and we always go with what THEY say...so, here's our game recap, which really won't be a game recap but more of our first real problem with a component of this season's direction...and after much effusive praise of the Hawks and our coach - yes, the time to call it out is here!!!

Game Recap - Hornets 96, Hawks 88

Overall Observations:
  • You can't win them all. As we noted in our Rockets game recap, this is what you call a trap game. Feeling your oats a little, big break upcoming, and divisional clash for Thanksgiving in the offing on the tail end of a back to back on the road - a perfect setup for a loss!
  • So, we're going to skip trying to delve into our observations and doing our traditional game recap format because you can't win them all and nothing that happened in this game gives us any pause and go straight to a major complaint we've had during the Coach Woodson administration...
Soooooo, Mike Bibby gets injured in the 6th minute of this game. The Hawks only have 4 guards on the roster. The Hawks only have 2 point guards on the roster. Inquiring minds would like to know what else does it take to get Jeff Teague into a basketball game. Let's enumerate the reasons why this bothers us so...

  1. Jeff Teague needs minutes to develop as a NBA point guard. What other time than when the starter goes down should the backup play?
  2. We're playing back to back games with the final game on the road. Even if Bibby wasn't injured, Teague should have been playing to reduce the wear and tear on our starting guards (one who happened to play 40+ minutes the night before).
  3. If Paul was playing, maybe it would make sense to not have Teague get embarrassed, but again - the only way to get 'em ready is to play 'em. I recall one of Acie Law's finest moments being that he did play Paul straight up for a quarter on the defensive end. Why wouldn't be we think that Teague can't produce in the same way?
  4. This last note is even more ironic because we weren't even playing Paul and yet we LOST due to two rookie guards who were drafted AFTER Jeff Teague who got 34 and 26 minutes, respectively.
  5. We still fail to see what happened during the 5 minutes Teague did play other than the team cutting lead by 6 that necessitated him sitting on the bench for the rest of the game.
Bottom line, we think it sends a terrible message (a message that was sent to Acie Law, Salim Stoudamire and damn near every young guard in the Woodson regime) to not trust your backup point guard when all the stars have aligned to say he should play. Starter goes down, other guards playing heavy minutes, team struggling and looking for a spark - uh, check, check, CHECK!!

We have gone through great pains to understand some of the decision making with regards to how minutes are divided by Woodson. He has gone through the motions every offseason and some games in communicating what he needs to change and how he has to 'find' minutes. The reason to play Teague couldn't have been more gift wrapped. We lost anyway - why not lose seeing if Teague can outplay the very players (i.e. Collison and Thornton) you thought he was better than anyway and showing the young point guard that when injury happens (or even just the need for a spark) - he's expected to play and produce. That didn't happen since Teague didn't show up in the game until a quarter later.

It again furthers our belief in the theory that Woodson's lack of a contract and 'win the battle with no vision to win the war' strategies negatively impact the growth of the Atlanta Hawks. You may say that this may be overblown, but we think it bears watching. The Hawks' familiarity with each other has gotten them off to hot starts the past 2 seasons, but there is evidence that last season we plateau'd (or some would say regressed) over the last half of the season. We want to see Woodson employing methods that not only win games, but also provide avenues for the team getting stronger and more cohesive over the course of the year in preparation for winning games in the postseason with whatever personnel is necessary. Last year should have been the perfect example of why it's important to develop players on the roster that you know you're going to need and showing them (not just saying) that you trust and EXPECT them to perform well when given the opportunity. During this game, the message sent to Jeff Teague is not a good one. It wouldn't be good if it was the Lakers, but it's awful since it was a game vs. the Hornets who were getting major production from 2 just as green as Teague is players to defeat your team even though the guy in front of him is injured. Here's to hope that this is the exception and not the rule going forward and that that lack of trust doesn't force Bibby back into the lineup earlier than necessary. Let's remember it's a marathon, not a sprint...

Off til Thursday and let's hope we have this game circled and are ready to deliver the message that the Magic have delivered to us three times in the past year (one albeit in preseason) emphatically that we're not close to as good as they are. Let's show them that that's not the case...Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Game Recap - Rockets @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

7 Game Win Streak...Best record in NBA...beware of the Sports Illustrated cover that's sure to be covered, followed by Josh Smith broken ankle, Joe Johnson voice box transplant, etc. Yep, we're in heady times. So, without any further ado - let's talk about it!

Game Recap - Hawks 105, Rockets 103

Overall Observations:
  • Let me be the one to say - the economy is absolutely having an effect on attendance. In a time where the Atlanta has always been a town that loves a winner and supports the NBA like no other city, I won't accept that sellouts can't happen on a Friday night unless money is the culprit.
  • Take your hat off to the Houston Rockets - any team that takes the Lakers to 7 without its top 2 players must be well coached and a HARD working team. No disrespect to the Hawks, but they could learn to play as hard and scrappy as the Rockets consistently. Hats off to their effort tonight
  • Memo to Josh Smith - you are getting all the love and accolades you deserve for your hard work. There's one (well , two - free throws are on that list) thing that is stunting your likability factor. The carping with the refs MUST STOP NOW!!!! The same switch that you or someone flipped to get you from behind the 3 pt line needs to be flipped with regard to complaining to the refs. Please take every note from Rasheed Wallace and do the opposite. PLEASE!!!! It's just sad at a point...and it won't stop refs from making calls - both good and bad. I mean you complain so much and on calls that actually are fouls. It invalidates when you complain about calls that actually are bad. Your attitude on this really is becoming tragic...someone help him with this!!!
Str8 Butter Award - It's obvious and since we've bucked obvious the last two games - we won't do it again...Marvin step right up. Only Woodson could cool you down but we hope this is a sign of things to come.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - The 29 points were nice, the 9 boards were nicer..thanks for showing your difference making ability. That said, we need to see much more of this to keep us from feeling that you should be displaying this offensive firepower from the bench.
* Josh Smith - Complaining to refs aside, you get the game winner doing essentially what the Rockets were beating us over the head with - an offensive rebound! Ah, the rich, thick irony.
* M. Bibby - One more time...GO GET THE BALL from our forwards and run the break. Why is the first thing you learn as a point guard with regard to running a break not apply in Atlanta? That said, we were really excited to see an end of game play run through the point guard.
* J. Johnson - If we're going to be mad about other players being consistent, then we have to be mad at Joe sometimes, but we gotta be super excited about our ability to gut out a victory when Joe is off and see him used as a decoy and contribute in other ways. On the sad side, 45 minutes on the front half of the back-to-back. We'll see how that affects his performance tomorrow.
* A. Horford - A very efficient offensive night and a disqualification - something felt good about seeing him use all his fouls and getting the max out of his time on the court.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - I wonder if we'll start using the old good Josh and Bad Josh moniker and transfer it over to Jamal. While we mull that over, we'll just take the Good Jamal that was on display.
* J. Teague - Actually was impressed to him get some first half love. but of course, Joe's 2nd half struggles at no point necessitated a 2nd stint on the first half of a back to back. Let's hope his fresh legs come in handy in New Orleans.
* M. Evans - For the first time, a good reason for Evans to be on the bench - a hot Marvin!
* Joe Smith - I actually kept wondering why Joe Smith didn't have more time esp. with Josh on the bench. it would have been nice to see Zaza and Joe attempt to kill the second chance-apalooza happening in our paint all night.
* Z. Pachulia - Zaza didn't bring the same spark tonight, but he'll have it in spades for tomorrow.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I'll forgive some of the minute distribution and lack of a counter for small ball for this reason alone - a play drawn up for someone other than Joe to win the game. I mean it's easy to defend a play that everyone knows is coming. I was waiting for Joe to dribble until taking a shot and to have a different play that ultimately won the game (even on 2nd chance) was more evidence that Woodson is employing all of the tools at a coach's disposal and for that...big ups to Coach Woodson!

Str8 Talk Love

No words today - quiet night on the arena front, but it was bailed out by what was a fantastic game. Please come see our Hawks continue to dominate the league. Next up New Orleans and THEN a big one vs. the Orlando Magic. Let's see how we respond to the upcoming trap game in anticipation of playing a team that has SMACKED US SILLY!!! More tests upcoming

Dance Team/Game Ops update - I'm kinda over this section, so we'll be sure to only bring it back when there is something worthy of it. We do consider it a success that the A Town dancers had on tank tops today. The man breasts were really not worthy of viewing for anyone.

Shout Outs - Will, Andre, Kim, T Luv, Amy, and more...

Final Notes - No new notes other than 12-2 is in our grasp with the SE division title on the line on Thanksgiving. Could there be a better gift than a Thanksgiving night victory to launch us to a division title win just like it did for Orlando last year.

Season Prediction

53-29! Nothing more to see here - LET'S GO HAWKS!!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Game Recap - Heat @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

Listen, we're trying to come up with new things to say about the Hawks and we will. Upcoming - a mea culpa to Mike Woodson, Josh Smith, and Rick Sund. How's that for Str8Talk? Let's get to it...

Game Recap - Hawks 105, Blazers 90

Overall Observations:
  • We'll start with the superficial - there really isn't anything better than looking at women who come to big basketball games in Atlanta (and yes, I've been to games at Madison Square Garden, Staples Center/Forum, & Miami Arena - if you have a better venue for women watching...put it in the comments).
  • Yes, many are fairweather, but when the building is full and the voices are loud - Philips is almost as electric as any place in the NBA..(and that's with the understanding that at its best - Golden State and the Knicks are the loudest fans you'll ever hear)
  • To the basketball, aside from Michael Beasley (who looks like Josh Smith circa 2006 - talented, but not dialed in yet) & D Wade...is there ANYONE save Haslem that you'd want on your team? And with that answer, I'll just repeat - there's no reason that team should have pushed the Hawks to 7 games (via blowouts mind you).
  • Can WE PLEASE give the ball to the guards after getting the rebound, Al & Josh? Pretty please! We like you filling the lanes and finishing the dunks, thank you!
  • Our criticism of Mike Woodson's motivational capabilities is at an all-time low. There has yet to be a breakdown by this team that is typical of both this team or any championship level team.
  • Also, our concern over whether the Hawks could possibly tune out the lame duck coach is extinguished. In fact, maybe we should give him a one year contract every season from here on out...
  • Of course, that would come along with a built in reason to NEVER trust a young point guard with minutes with any consistency.
  • As long as we're winning, we'll shut up about it, but seriously - say what you want about the Teague's ability over Law's, but track the comments and the minutes and Teague is trending almost exactly like Acie Law (save Law being injured). Point being - Woodson has proven me wrong about a few things, but not his ability to find minutes (even in blowouts) for young players.
  • Josh Smith, you actually failed me last year when I touted you as our most talented player (with Joe as our best player) and well, now - I think I would like to re-institute my assessment that Josh is our most talented player and that he wants to be our best player. Let the friendly competition begin!
  • Final observation - it looks like Woodson and Marvin (against all odds) read the blog b/c it sure looked like everything I've been saying about Marvin being better served on the offensive end to play with the reserves was true. We made a deal with Hoopinion to let him D up with the starters, so I'll cede to that for now, but I reserve the right to pull that back if his defense doesn't trump him looking like an offensive bump on a log.
  • Only downside to this start is that this team is showing that they have the talent to be a serious factor in the Eastern Conference, which means - yes, there will be a slump and we'll have to see how we respond, but I will NOT accept ONE excuse (not injury, not lack of superstar, not even bad coach) for us not to make the 2nd round and giving a team hell in the postseason. The excuse train for why we can't lose by less than 10 in the postseason is OVER.
Str8 Butter Award - Another night where I SHOULD give Joe Johnson the award, but I can't in good conscience leave Josh's rebounding and all around domination (particularly in the 2nd quarter and on a cold shooting night) unrewarded. Josh simply looked like a superstar in the first half. It's goose bump worthy when you see Josh play his heart out...so, another Str8 Butter award for the kid.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - The experiment should continue - quick hooks for Crawford, return with the 2nd team and then, attack the basket and have plays run for you with the reserves. Worked like a charm.
* Josh Smith - Don't know what else to say other than - who thought that on a night when Joe goes for 30 and Josh shot his first 3 that he'd be the best player on the floor (in my opinion) and he'd shoot 6 for 16 to boot.
* M. Bibby - the bat it up in the air and Josh go get it oop was special. Maybe Ramon Sessions can't do that...
* J. Johnson - Actually, I thought this was Joe's best game. Not a ton of overdribbling, actually ran Joe off screens and bought him open looks all game...now, this is the way we want to see Joe be our Alpha dog! Not by quantity and volume, but by quality...
* A. Horford - The board work remains constant and the transition game was on point - if at some point, we can establish an inside game with regularity - I see big things for Al.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - A Mike Woodson managed Jamal has good things written all over it (did I just say that?)
* J. Teague - A Mike Woodson managed Jeff Teague has Acie Law rookie campaign written all over it (uh, that's more like it).
* M. Evans - Nothing to mention here...
* Joe Smith - There was some lingering doubt as to what Joe Smith had to offer this team and we've seen glimpses, but watching Joe Smith on the defensive end when he's showing on the double team - it looks like a veteran who can show Josh and Marvin and even Bibby what other things that don't show up on a stat sheet that makes a difference on the defensive end.
* Z. Pachulia - Same old Zaza (and that's meant as a good thing)
* R. Morris - Nothing to see here other than the fact that I actually saw Randolph jump off the bench during the 2nd quarter run as if he was excited about the basketball game. First, NBA, ESPN (both Stein and Hollinger rankings) have us #1 and now this...
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Again, we have been very hard on Woodson (deservedly so, I think), but we're not going to try to find holes that don't show up on the W column. Yes, we are concerned that Joe may work too many minutes (just wait for a slump) or that Jeff Teague won't see enough minutes to get him ready for the postseason, but if we can continue to rebound and play defense - all those complaints about the offensive philosophy and rotation and all that just go out the window.

So, let's take this time to say that Woodson deserves lots of credit in a contract year for his work. He's been quick with the hook for a struggling Marvin Williams and has even been heard saying that he has to trust the bench. There have been lots of things that history says we should expect from Woodson, but maybe the trust had to go both ways - with talent, coaching gets easier. It's true in fantasy football - I guess it's the same in the NBA. Let's take our hats off and hope that we don't jinx the good vibes.

Str8 Talk Love

We'll say it again - nothing is better than people watching at Philips Arena. Diverse, fun, not obnoxious (how could we be after the past 12 years?), and simply beautiful. Now, get on down to Philips to be a part of it. Good to see the celebs (Thrashers, Chris Tucker, etc) back in the building and now to the one thing that has slipped...

Dance Team/Game Ops update - Ok, as we sat with our friend and former dance team member Sasha (not her real name) - we are finally of the mindset that the Hawks Dance Team is one of the worst in the league. Sorry, but that's just unacceptable. I mean it's bad enough that Sky Hawk is missing more dunks than ever (yes, it's a new Sky Hawk) and some of the games are becoming tired and old and not as fun, but my goodness - the best thing you can do is just pick some hot dancers. Is that that hard? If it is, don't worry about HOT - just make sure you find some women who can DANCE...I'm talking flat out rock it, don't stop it dancers. Too often, these girls aren't working hard enough to make anyone think they are dancing or even know the routine and it's depressing me as a guy who has spent significant time in Atlanta's finest entertainment venues and have seen some of the most innovative dancers in the USA. Go recruit some girls from the many dance studios and figure out how to get them on the team. Forget all those auditions since that's not working...go FIND some dancers!!! Please...

Shout Outs - Will, all the folks in row U, and to the Hawks for an entertaining night out...

Final Notes - One more game in the home stand and then a Paul-less Hornets - let's go get 12-2, please!!!

Season Prediction

Thanks for not making my 53-29 prediction look crazy! Could that be good enough for first in the Southeast with Orlando's injury woes, let's see!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Game Recap - Blazers @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

First, know that it's always Str8Talk's objective to keep it real...not get too high and not get too low. Well, it'll probably be debated by some, but there's no doubt in the mind that this was the BEST win of the year. Maybe in a few years...why? See below! While our friends at Hoopinion, THHB, Peachtree Hoops, and The Vent will have all angles covered, so here's our impressions from the Highlight Factory.

Game Recap - Hawks 99, Blazers 95 (OT)

Overall Observations:
  • Who knew that Juwan Howard was still stealing money?
  • Toughness, grit, heart...we've been saying that's what's been missing from this team's run for glory and well, for the first time in a long time - we gutted out a victory over a really good defensive team.
  • Who needs Brandon Roy when you can have Shelden Williams?
  • Watching Steve Blake shoot open 3s reminded me of Josh Smith (YES, you got your J back) last year
  • Listen refs - it's ok to call a foul in the last minute if a player gets hit across the bridge of his nose and goes sprawling to the floor esp. against one of the 'I'll foul you for the hell of it' players in the NBA (insert G. Oden here)
  • Atlanta Fans - it has been stated already that the fans haven't yet recognized that the Hawks are a good team striving to be great and greatness needs FAN SUPPORT! Well, in a half empty Hawks gym - the fans stood up in the fourth quarter and joined Josh and Joe in leading the Hawks to victory! Hairs raise on my head when thinking of the same outcome with the other half in the building. D-Wade on Wednesday...be there!
Str8 Butter Award - Here's the thing...we should give the award to Joe Johnson for manning up and taking over in the 4th quarter, but there's just something about Josh Smith (again, we're giving Josh his J back...not because he's hitting them, but because he's given up on shooting them as his base offense) that has transformed him into a cog as important as Joe Johnson is to this team. On a night when the shots weren't falling for anyone, Josh goes 8 for 14 and kept the Hawks in the game by playing defense on Aldridge and pulling down 16 MORE rebounds. Yes, that's str8 butter...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - He struggled on the offensive end and frankly, I don't see that changing much in this offense, but if Marvin accepts the challenge of becoming a defensive stopper - there may be a championship level effort in you, yet.
* Josh Smith - A whole career has been consisted of these quotes - can't make jump shots, starts too many fast breaks, can't make free throws, doesn't make good basketball decisions. Well, guess what - some of that still exists, but just like players like Shaq or Ben Wallace, etc - Josh's game is starting to overshadow those flaws in a way that it makes us proud to say - if you can play to your strengths...we can accept your weaknesses!
* M. Bibby - Actually only one comment - please go get the ball from our forwards when they rebound the ball, so you can run the fast break. Please!
* J. Johnson - No complaints about minutes or anything like that - the Hawks needed you tonight and yes, we have serious concerns about the conundrum we face when our crunch time offense degenerates into iso-Joe exclusively, but when it works - it works. For someone as talented as you, it will ultimately work to some degree, but there still is a question of whether it's by design or by character flaw...but Joe will try to beat a double team and on nights like tonight - it'll work.
* A. Horford - Again, yeoman work in the time you were on the court. Double Double and solid defensive work.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - simply put - we will be at the mercy of Woodson's ability to keep Jamal from shooting us out of games, but we do respect the heart it takes to try to win games solely on his shotmaking ability
* J. Teague - Thanks for attempting to inject your imprint on the game in your 5 minutes.
* M. Evans - Unfortunately, you aren't like Teague and can't just take the ball and try to inject your imprint on a game, but we're ok with that...
* Joe Smith - Like Mo Evans, you can't do much when not granted the right to do much. Not complaining much, but what is different about a championship frontcourt in Boston and young frontcourt at home vs. Portland that keeps you from getting more minutes.
* Z. Pachulia - The 9 rebounds and solid defense were key!
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

We're really beside ourselves when we say this - we actually liked what Woodson did tonight. First, you'll have nights when the shots won't fall. That's not a Woodson issue (maybe in design, but open shots are open shots), but the attempt to let the second team change the momentum or tempo (with the rookie even) was a stroke of good coaching. Things didn't really change, it's that trust that allows Joe Johnson the rest to come back in the 4th quarter and go the rest of the way and TORCH the Blazers (pun intended). That's where the growth in Woodson can be measured. Not always in a substitution that results in a 16-0 run, but sometimes it's in sitting a player on Sunday in order to have him ready on Monday. Or sitting him in the face of a deficit and trusting that rest will be useful in the 4th quarter.

The old Woodson plays Joe Johnson the entire 2nd half and he doesn't have the legs to attack for 15 straight minutes. Now, I'm still not sure why Mo, Joe Smith, and Teague were not trusted to possibly turn around the game (yes, Woody - sometimes, the RESERVES...not just Jamal can change the game), but we won't quibble on what we thought was good coaching management.

Str8 Talk Love

There's never a dull moment when joined by the homies at the Hawks games. The kiss cam, the organ, the oft repeated segments (and even today's awful attempt at some staged dating thing with the dance team members and Harry - please pull that one from the game operations playbook), and what not all make a difference, but let's be clear - it's always about the games! ALWAYS! Now, when a boring Paul-less Hornets comes to town - those things keep your attention, but tonight was a GREAT game and it's made greater when everyone who is a fan comes to see it, so we implore you Hawks fans - come see our Hawks. Call Will Stephens and get your discounted tickets now! It's great fun and in a town where the Braves are down, the Falcons could be back to another .500 season - it could be your Hawks that make the town sizzle come May and June! So, let's get this thing moving in the right direction where the stars are out, the heat is on, and the groupies are plentiful :).

Dance Team/Game Ops update - At the expense of our ability to date multiple dance team members, this dance team really is uninspired. Overheard by two people was the quote 'is this REALLY the best Atlanta can do for a dance team?' And that about sums it up...as a true Atlanta defender, all that dances in my head are my forays to Miami Arena and seeing how wonderful those girls look and dance. A SOS is out for 2010-2011...

Shout Outs - the chef who made the Bananas Foster tonight! I hate the acronyms, but OMG!!! Next time you see it - stop and make yourself purchase it. Nothing is worth the price at Philips, but never have $7 been given away with more glee.

Final Notes - We'll say it again...best win of the year for what it represents. We've seen this team win big games before, but almost exclusively - it was when most things were going right. When things are going terribly wrong against a really good team, we regularly lose that game. Tonight, we fought and won and all of this in the face of unprecedented accolades for the Hawks. Yes, #1 in NBA.com and ESPN.com's power rankings would qualify as unprecedented. Winning all games during a week when we play Portland, Houston, Miami, and New Orleans would qualify as reason to say - maybe i was COMPLETELY wrong about our ability to be a part of the Big 4!!!

Season Prediction

53-29 and a run at the Southeast Division title...with games vs. Miami and Orlando over the next 2 weeks - we'll see whether or not we are prepared to send a message this year that we're serious about winning our division and by extension NOT being happy with a top 4 finish this year. Not sure if I've ever seen a goal set for us to win the division or conference, but if someone has it - show it to us. It's time to do big things!!!! Let's Go Hawks!!

Game Recap - Hornets @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

One more victory in the books and the Hawks are looking for more ways to instill confidence in the fan base. While our friends at Hoopinion, THHB, Peachtree Hoops, and The Vent seem to have all angles covered, we'll simply highlight the rights and wrongs of our assessments of the Hawks season to date.

Game Recap - Hawks 121, Hornets 98

Overall Observations:
  • No coach, no All Pro guard...no chance!
  • Osh Smith has one more game to prove his worth as a decision maker and we are returning the J to Osh's name.
  • David West does NOT look like the All Star he was 2 seasons ago.
  • Marvin as super sub has been revised to simply Marvin as a sub. At this rate, Mo Evans as a starter sounds like the only way this season could get better.
  • Atlanta Fans - it's ok to show up to the games on time (or even late) for the #1 team in the East. Particularly with the Blazers coming to town for a little get back.
Str8 Butter Award - Osh Smith - in a nutshell, 17 and 17!!!! This is the sort of thing we want to see from the league's top shot blocker, top 20 steals maker, and now - no 3pt taker! This is precisely the talent that we want displayed frequently against the lower tier teams and with some regularity vs. the the upper tier teams in the league. Oh wait - is that Portland coming to town?

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Admittedly, maybe this blog has something to do with Marvin's slump. Maybe there is some belief that we believe Marvin doesn't have the talent to be a starter. Well, let's put that to rest. Marvin could score 15-20pts for about 20 teams in the league as a starter, but just not this team AS A STARTER. The offense doesn't lend it self to the # of shots or even the type of game where Marvin's jump shot could be taken advantage of consistently. And that's why we want a move to the bench. Marvin working off of Jamal's isolation plays would result in more scoring opps with Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia picking up the garbage buckets. Someone pass this note to Coach Woodson...
* Osh Smith - Let it be repeated...#1 in blocks, top 20 in steals - Yes, let's go ahead and start the All Star and Defensive Player of the Year buzz...
* M. Bibby - As we alway say, if you can score and manage the game to a draw vs. your defensive assignment, then it's $6M/yr well spent.
* J. Johnson - Manageable minutes, good shooting percentage, and a continuation of the 'we are making strides, but there is work to do' rants maek this fan very happy.
* A. Horford - The end to the double double train isn't a bad thing when your front court counterpart is essentially gobbling every rebound in sight, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Al is in the top 10 in rebounds...yes, rebounding has returned to the Highlight Factory!

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Uncle! Yes, Crawford is Murray 3.0! That would be a few generations ahead of the old version. The fact that the defense is kinda porous is trumped by the fact that 3.0 is a version that passes the ball. Not to mention being the 2nd leading scorer - stay focused on the rim, Jamal
* J. Teague - Ok, bring me back off the ledge with more playing time. And while thinking about that - is there REALLY that much difference btw the #10 pick and the #19 pick? I mean Brandon Jennings - are you really doing it like that?
* M. Evans - Remind us when we should write something other than solid D, spot up Js
* Joe Smith - Not really going overboard with this, but Joe - follow Osh's lead - no 3pt shots from the power forward position.
* Z. Pachulia - No words...just regular Zaza productivity!
* R. Morris - You'd think a smile would cross your face when you get PT and 6pts and 2 boards in 4 minutes. Is that like a career high?
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

No complaints AT ALL - Yes, that's a HS8T first. So, we'll stop talking now before we figure something out.

Str8 Talk Love

There's never a dull moment in the stands on a Saturday night...unless Chris Paul doesn't show up. We guess that everyone got wind and said - let's save our voices for the Heat on Wednesday. And that's a shame since it was my first time checking out a game with my younger brother, Lamar. While it's like he came from another mother when it comes to cheering for the Hawks, it is always a good time to be had with baby bro.

Not only that, it's doubly good when the seats put us in visible sightlines of the gorgeous Rosci of BET as well as the many celebrities in town for the two movie shoots - Stomp The Yard 2 and Lottery Ticket.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - Will Stephens, Parris, Craig, Jen, Kat, Katherine...

Final Notes - There are no more notes necessary. Just happy to see us kill a wounded duck with minimal effort.

Season Prediction

51-31...yes we can! Go Hawks!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Celtics

Preamble Ramble

Great win! Great win! GREAT WIN!!!!! As is our wont - we saw good and we saw some bad, but contrary to some critics - here at HS8T HQ, we are encouraged greatly by the fact that there were problems with the Hawks attack and yet, we still won by 11 in Boston. So, no - we're not going to wax poetic goodies about everything that happened last night, but we are greatly encouraged that on a night when we were only sublime on the boards that we soundly defeated an elite team on their home court.

Game Recap - Hawks 114, Kings 101

Overall Observations:
  • The Hawks are doing everything possible to rebut my contention that we did nothing to improve our rebounding prowess this offseason.
  • The Hawks have also taken exception to my contention (which was noted multiple times on the ESPN telecast) that the Hawks aren't good at taking a punch from an elite team on the road.
  • Adding Rasheed Wallace to a team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins just means that the likability quotient of the Celtics has reached all time lows (not to mention the fact that these guys clearly don't realize that sniping at referees all games probably isn't going to win you many 50/50 calls...)
  • It didn't affect the outcome (partly due to the fact that we owned the boards), but it's not comforting to continue to see Joe and Jamal taking contested jump shots off one on one moves in crunch time.
  • The Hawks heart was not to be questioned last night. If anything that came out of this game, the heart plays can overcome mediocre execution (loose balls, good defense, great rebounding, contesting every basket). That's more encouraging to me than any individual efforts. Seeing us go down twice in the 3rd on the road and seeing us fight and then hold off every run in the 4th was VERY, VERY encouraging.
  • Joe Johnson's newly found voice as leader of the team should have gone into the locker room and immediately said - hey, let's not get too excited, we were playing this well the start of last season and got worse. he should also note that the Celtics didn't take advantage of Rondo vs. Bibby (really, any switch on Bibby) and won't let us beat them on the boards like that again and that they probably won't miss 14 of 15 3pters again. Essentially, we beat 'em, but they didn't play well and until we beat them at their best - we still have work to do...

Str8 Butter Award
- The FrontCourt! Joe Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford, Osh Smith, and even Joe Johnson for all getting on the boards and owning the Celtics. Very encouraging to see that two of the things that we didn't take advantage of last year - rebounds and free throws - have turned completely around. So, Str8 Butter awards to everyone who showed their heart in Boston.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - It's certainly too early to worry too much about Marvin's contributions, but it should be noted that the minutes that we thought Crawford would be taking from Johnson have really been taken from Marvin. It's hard to argue with it from a production standpoint, but let's continue to keep an eye on this because there's no doubt that the Hawks will need more from Marvin Williams this season than what we're getting.
* Osh Smith - How good it is to have the only complaint with Osh's game center around free throw shooting (and we're still trying to figure out what happened in the past 2-3 years to make this go south of 70%), but yes - it's another active game with boards, blocks, and energy.
* M. Bibby - Give credit to Woody - if they aren't going to take advantage of the defensive mismatch that was there for the Celtics, you can use Bibby to max effectiveness for this team and he was big when used as a point guard. (more on this soon)
* J. Johnson - Another subpar shooting effort and it's pretty apparent why - you can't shoot high percentage as a shooting guard if you're going one-on-one for a large % of your shots. Now, if you're going to lead - you just simply can't dominate the ball in crunch time and hope to be successful UNLESS your team rebounds like they did last night. That said, Joe did all the other things you need to do to win a basketball game, so overall effort was very solid, but the offensive execution down the stretch ... not so much
* A. Horford - Another double double and solid effort, but what else is new. The rotation kept him fresh and focused on being a factor on the inside. Be the BOSS, then.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Tongue has been held on Crawford's shot selection, but it probably needs to be said now. The rumors were true - Jamal will shoot us in a game and can shoot us out of one. Again, our board work makes this a small footnote vs. a major complaint, but there's no doubt that at least 5-6 shots taken in the 2nd half really should have been taken. We love his fearlessness, but as much as we complain about Osh's selection - we are adding Jamal's shot selection to the list of things we want to monitor.
* M. Evans - No production to speak (or complain) about..
* Joe Smith - It's good to see Joe show why he is not only better than Solomon Jones off the court as a veteran leader (we would like to think he's in Osh's ear about those jump shots), but it's great to see it on the court against an elite team as well. Solid D - blocks, boards, spot up j! Those things are useful in postseason basketball.
* Z. Pachulia - Similar to Joe Smith - just solid bench production as we have come to love and expect from the restaurateur.
* J. Teague - There's not much production to talk about, but I'm just happy to see that he played in the 1st half after not getting any burn against the Knicks (the Knicks...Woody!), but again - monitoring this situation as well (that's three - Marvin's play, Jamal's shot selection, and Teague's minutes)
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - Gotta love Hoopinion calling Jason Collins' line a Mario West
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Listen, whatever motivational speech you gave - continue to give that one. Well, every thing except the 'we have to play a perfect game' to beat the Celtics. That's a little too much deference and not enough belief that you expect this team to reach for the brass ring of a NBA title this season. I understand the realities, but if you (and the players) are to believe that they can beat anyone anytime, then it shouldn't be coupled with - hey, we have to do our very best to attempt to beat a team. With that logic, we beat a team because they didn't play well, not because we were better than them. But only consider that a quibble

Anyway, no complaints today b/c the things we didn't like are woven into the fabric of the team and we can't blame you for that every game recap (i.e. the ISO-Joe - and now, ISO-Jamal and the switching defense..oh, and can we add whatever philosophy that says that our forwards will take the rebound and then run the break - it's really done too frequently), but the rotation was tight, the game management was on point, and so we give you a game ball, Woody.

Str8 Talk Love

Finally, we're back in Philips and I'll be in the building. Expect a recap tomorrow since the game is followed up by the Pac-Man beatdown of Miguel Cotto...big things poppin'

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - Can't mention how hard it is to watch Rasheed Wallace play basketball. Cut the beard, shut your trap, and play the good basketball you know you can play. If we didn't have impressionable Osh Smith, I'd think about how much I wish you were on our team...but watching you - uh, not so much.

Season Prediction

Ok, another uptick...if we can rebound and make free throws like we have been, yes - it's time for an upgrade in our season prediction - we have gone from 47-35 (you see that, Anonymous Guy) to 51-31! 4 game uptick based on road victories over Portland and Boston.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Knicks

Preamble Ramble

Let me start with a few comments from the post-game interview with Joe Johnson. Joe made it clear that wins and losses will not drive the positive/negative vibe we've become accustomed to (i.e. we won - so the team was hustling, had energy, played well or we lost - so the team was awful, no defense, no passing, etc). While people have been a little confused by the outspokeness from Joe, we applaud it. Nothing makes me feel warm feelings more than a leader not being swayed by the result and simply using each game to highlight what will make us better. To be specific, he was CLEAR about the fact that even in a 25 pt victory over a top level team at home, there was room for improvement and stated the obvious in saying that "if we make jump shots, we are tough to beat, but that's true for most teams. The true test of the Hawks mettle resides in how well we compete when the shots aren't falling" (mimicing a longstanding Hawk Str8Talk talking point).

Sorry, but a game where we win by 25 pts over a good Nuggets team when both teams were coming off back-to-backs and the leader of the team says 'hey, we need to get better and improve, the defense still needs word' and is still steaming over the loss the night before - well, that sounds like PROGRESS!!! And then, we had the first half vs. the Knicks...(I'll let the recap speak from now on)

Game Recap - Hawks 114, Kings 101

Overall Observations:
  • Toney Douglas sure looks like a player. Looks like if you wanted a guard - the 2009 draft was where to find one with the way Jennings, Flynn, Lawson, Evans, & Douglas have performed early this season. With all the gushing in Atlanta over Teague, we wonder who will turn out to be the star (Rubio, maybe?)
  • Looks like without saying so - other bloggers are starting to make my argument even stronger for making Marvin Williams a super sub. We're 4 years in and I'm still not sure Marvin is suited for the role he must assume in our starting lineup with our offensive scheme and that's - SPOT UP SHOOTER, GARBAGE MAN! There's just not enough shots in the starting lineup for Marvin to look comfortable and consistent in his production. By the time, you know if Osh, Al, Joe, and Bibby are off and that we need Marvin - Jamal or someone else will be shooting the ball and working on ways to win us a basketball game.
  • Part 2 of this is - Maurice Evans REVELS in the garbage dunk, spot up 3 game that makes our starting lineup a lot more balanced. If you want more evidence of this, please see the Knicks game when Evans was playing with the starters.
  • There were 13 games played in the league last night. Out of those 130 players that started for teams about 13 played 40 minutes or more. Of those players, 8 of them are franchise players. Of those 13, only 1 team had more than 1 player assuming that many minutes EXCEPT 1 - the Hawks playing 3 guys 40+ minutes to defeat...the KNICKS! Just sayin'
  • On a bright note, we outrebounded the Knicks (which we should) and we were good at shooting free throws. Last year, these were areas that I thought were under reported (well, the free throw shooting at least) and I want to give credit to the Hawks for getting better at the charity stripe - if Osh Smith is the only person dragging that stat down - I can live with that.
  • Gonna keep saying it, but I don't like the handling of the minutes when Zaza, Teague, and Joe Smith don't play especially against a BAD Knicks team.
  • Another team pet peeve - why can't we let the guards bring up the ball? Hey, that's a beat writer question I want answered ASAP.
Str8 Butter Award - Maurice Evans - he simply was the glue when the Hawks were not playing up to snuff vs. the Knicks. Yes, Horford and Smith dominated inside, but my mama told me not to get excited about people doing what they are supposed to do and simply put - we SHOULD dominate the Knicks inside. So, I give the award to the player who came in and played well in the face of a bad first half. Doesn't hurt that his effort simply supports what I've been saying for 2 years - Evans should start, Williams should bring offense off the bench.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - I'll let my blogger brethren tell you why they aren't worried or that he's in a slump. I'll continue to just say - he'll continue to be inconsistent as long as he's the 5th option in the offense and that's essentially what he is
* Osh Smith - Can't say much more about Osh other than - a non-jump shooting Osh Smith is really a dominant force on a basketball court...any time we can get him on the boards - this team can be great.
* M. Bibby - A Bibby that distributes the basketball and makes open shots is a Bibby that shuts up our desire to have Ramon Sessions. A Bibby that plays defense is a Bibby that makes us say sit Teague for the rest of the season. File that.
* J. Johnson - While it's getting a little old to see Joe struggle in the first half, it can't be said that Joe doesn't figure out how to adjust in the 2nd half and let's use that as a metaphor for the season - struggle in the first 41 games, but explode in the second half and playoffs.
* A. Horford - Another dominant performance and if I'm taking the Joe Johnson leadership method on this, it's not really worth getting too excited about - it's the 4th time we've ever seen it AND it was the Knicks who have exactly zero options on the inside. We should be upset that he wasn't the focal point from the start of the game, frankly.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Welcome back to New York! Where was the 50pt game at, bro?
* M. Evans - We've said it above - simply a great glue performance.
* Joe Smith - garbage minutes?
* Z. Pachulia - 5 minutes?
* J. Teague - garbage minutes? Again, I'll simply say - the guy can't learn the game from the bench and it's games like this when you let him learn because, in all likelihood, we're going to win no matter what mistakes he makes. His minutes in the past 5 games - 0, 5, 20, 16, 2! Yep, I'm sure he knows his role and is going to be ready for every game with minutes like this.
* R. Morris - garbage minutes he should be happy with
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Why we would struggle with a Knicks team after 4 days is beyond me? Why Zaza, Joe Smith, and Jeff Teague didn't get a chance to change the dynamic of the game in the first half or to pile on in the second half is beyond me? So, yes - it's a win, but we're supposed to beat the Knicks. They suck. Period. Let my distress over our coaching continue...

Str8 Talk Love

Thank goodness - I determined that it was better to celebrate with free drinks last night than sitting at home and watching the game. Thanks Judgment & Thanks DVR!

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - the Knicks really are bad - no way they get LeBron!

Season Prediction

Still of the belief that 49-33 is our destiny...let's get a win in Boston tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Game Observations - Nuggets @ Hawks and more

Preamble Ramble

Yes, it's been 4 days since this game and only moments away from the Knicks game, but it's better late than never around here, so let's go with game observations vs. worrying about a full blown recap. We also want to touch on LeBron James, Shelden Williams, and Joe's Eastern Conference Player of the Week award...Seacrest In!

Game Recap - Hawks 125, Nuggets 100

Overall Observations:
  • I'm sure that others will disagree, but really I'm not sure there's anything you can glean for the long term from this game. The Nuggets didn't come to play, so take everything we say with that in mind.
  • The Hawks did what they were supposed to do. Blow out a disinterested team at home.
  • The Hawks responded to Joe's carping about lack of effort. That would be considered a great thing.
  • If you want to know if we've grown up, let's see if we can dispose quickly of a bad Knicks team on the road on 4 days rest and not look past them toward the ESPN telecast and clash with the Boston Celtics.
  • Now, to Joe's carping about selfish basketball, it's been said before by other bloggers, but we'll just reiterate that Joe is correct about the selfish basketball. Though it's selfish by nature of the scheme almost and the iso-Joe is by definition SELFISH. So, my question is - are you calling out the players AND the coach's philosophy? Also, are you calling out yourself? It sounds like leadership when you acknowledge your own failings at the same time. It sounds like bitchin' (some well needed) otherwise.
  • While we're on Joe (yes, we've left the game notes b/c that was all that needed to be said about that game), uh - I thought Osh (thanks Third Falcon for keeping me on point about not giving Osh his J back until it is deserved) and Jamal played better last week than Joe, so it stands to reason that there might even be others who deserved it on other teams. A week when Joe and Chris Kaman are the players of the week reeks of some sort of Donaghy type balloting.
In other NBA news, I would like to make a plea to the Atlanta Spirit. LeBron James said last week that max money is NOT the #1 thing he'll base his decision on at the end of this season. I submit that you make an overture to let LeBron know that WE want YOU. We'll do a sign and trade with whatever players you want. The point being - I want to feel like Rick Sund is positioning us to get a better player than Joe Johnson and that Joe would be our fallback plan. So, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh - if max money isn't #1 on your list...WE WANT YOU!!!!!!

Final note, not as a dig, but is it time to add Shelden Williams to the list of players who we didn't know how to utilize while in Atlanta? He (not Marvin Williams) was the biggest mistake of the Billy Knight era and he certainly should never have been selected #5, but he sure looks like a good rugged big. Our only question is - is it coaching, player leadership, or something else that is making him look that way?

Oh, and I wonder if anyone is still skeptical of my offseason prognostication that it won't be easy to get that #4 seed - we just didn't know that it was going to be the Heat fighting us for it. Let's see if the Wiz (who thought Arenas would be the iron man so far vs. the rest of his team?) or any of these other 'contenders' (yes, you Bulls, Raptors, Sixers) can get the chemistry together.

Let's go Hawks!!! Seacrest Out!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Game Recap (or Not) - Hawks @ Bobcats

Preamble Ramble

Here's the heartfelt feeling about this game. There will be no full game recap. If the Hawks can't figure out how to play hard, then why should I waste part of my evening & afternoon compiling a blog worthy of an effort that didn't come, so this will be abbreviated. To be fair, losing this game is not worth losing sleep over. We don't play well in Charlotte, last game on 4 game road trip, still learning roles and team dynamics. In all of that, the team is 4-2, so little picture, it happens.

The big picture problem - which hasn't really been reported by our more on point blog brothers and sisters - is that the Hawks since the end of last season and seen in our first two losses is an inability to fight back. It can't be a good trend that when you get down in a game that a blowout is the likely outcome. With that said, we won't complain about the lack of rebounding, toughness, selfish offense, bad defense, yada, yada (all the stuff we normally complain about) and we will give credit (yes, credit) to Woodson for the one thing that he did right yesterday. The quick recognition that we can't win and that Teague should finish the game was a stroke that we haven't seen from Woodson. Saving Joe's legs for tonight and getting Teague more experience was all I could think about toward the end of the 3rd quarter. Thanks Mike for showing me that all was not lost.

Game Recap - Bobcats 103, Hawks 83

Overall Observations:
  • None worth sharing - we sucked. Well, 1 - everyone else thinks Joe is overreacting by complaining and yes, it's a problem that Joe doesn't see that he's part of the selfish offense problem, BUT I've been asking for leadership and accountability, so this looks like a start to me. Not ideal, but a start - now, if I can see a shirt tug during the game where Joe tells Josh to quit shooting jumpers - THAT'S when we'll be making some strides.

Str8 Butter Award - None

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

*No words other than welcome to the season, Randolph and Jason.

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Already gave a kudo, so let's just move this along.

Str8 Talk Love

Final note - Marvin Williams better show me something within the first 10 games of this season before I start my 'www.startmoevans.com' website and no one wants to see that. Let's get it started.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Season Prediction

Winning 2 out of 3 means a 54 win season, so 49-33 is gonna stick. That's all, folks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Kings

Preamble Ramble

We'll start with a few shout outs...shout to Sekou Smith for his fine reporting of the Hawks for the past few years as he moves on to NBA.com. You'll be missed - we'll see how takes up the mantle..Bret, a job just opened up :). CoCo's Vent has been on a game recap tear and YES - we are taking full credit. Please check her out...

Close road wins happen to all teams, so I'm not going to beat up the Hawks at all for being pushed by the Kings. As much as I love to analyze these things to death, years of losing this type of game give tons of perspective. Any critique below is just a footnote to the thought - this game resides in the win column. If this happens in Atlanta on 1-2 days of rest, we'll have a different take.

Game Recap - Hawks 113, Kings 105

Overall Observations:
  • Jason Thompson and Kevin Martin look amazing when playing the Hawks
  • Tyreke Evans doesn't look as good as Brandon Jennings as a basketball player, but he is a physical specimen.
  • There should be no correlation to Osh Smith being on the bench when the game is still in the balance and fan nerve endings being erect.
  • If we were on Judge Mathis, Jamal Crawford trade being a heist vs. Hawk Str8Talk is looking like a slam dunk. In fact, we might not even get on the show.
  • The Joe Johnson burnout watch is at code Orange. Jeff Teague playing fairly well (i.e. he didn't turn the ball over or get overrun on defense) has only resulted in 2 minutes less per game for Joe. As a contrast, the San Antonio Spurs are a contending team and their rookie (some guy from Pittsburgh is averaging 20 minutes a game and is delivering 8pts and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes.) In fact, no Spur is averaging 30 minutes a game. Just sayin'
  • Another game where we had superior rebounding and block totals. Can't tell you how good that feels.
Str8 Butter Award - Yesterday's attempt at diversity has to go out the window - Jamal Crawford is no Flip Murray. Sorry, but no disrespect to Flip but Jamal just may end up as our 2nd leading scorer in much fewer minutes. That has some great and terrible unintended consequences, but let's just revel in his scoring greatness while it's still being done in a rather efficient manner.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - A start worthy effort doesn't change the visual of seeing Marvin languishing in this offense. Of course, Jamal playing with an Iverson like abandon might extinguish any belief that a move to the 2nd team would change this. Eyes are watching...
* Osh Smith - Limited outside shots, no turnovers, 4 blocks, activity on both ends, only held back by foul trouble...yep, the challenge of regaining your J is moving in a good direction.
* M. Bibby - We were hoping for a 30pt game from the old lad to go with the win, but we'll take one of Bibby's most acrobatic layups in years.
* J. Johnson - Joe knows how to make 4th quarters work for the Hawks. Let's just leave it at that...
* A. Horford - It's a win, so we'll take it, but there is fear when Horford doesn't dominate (or the Hawks don't recognize that Horford needs the ball to dominate) the Kings frontline. Maybe it's the offense, but having the Josh/Al battery outscored on the inside by Jason Thompson/Spencer Hawes brings sadness

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Whatever was said yesterday...repeat that
* M. Evans - There's really nothing new to say about Mo other than we're glad he's a Hawk.
* Joe Smith - Another abbreviated appearance.
* Z. Pachulia - Incomplete
* J. Teague - Another promising short stint...promising - good; 1 short stint - not so much
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

We won, so consider this a question, not a critique (it's too early for critiques). How do you help a player learn the position if you don't play him during all types of games. A DNP and 5 minutes on a back to back (esp. when the 2nd game is against a team where an extra 10 minutes probably doesn't lose the game) speaks to what? Trust? Skill? How do you reward good play in short stints? What is the plan for the role you want one of those 4 guards on the roster to assume? Again, not critiques - just a request for understanding...A critique happens when we didn't win back to back games on the road or when we look back and see that Jeff Teague has as many less than 5 minute performances as Acie Law IV. Until then, we want to know the plan vs. offer a critique...until next time.

Str8 Talk Love

There wasn't a lot of love in that game, more like - too boring to stay all the way awake and so insignificant that there was no Hawks Live afterwards...damn you SportsSouth.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - Simply put - it's a win. Deal with it...

Season Prediction

So, the 49-33 sticks. Gotta love growth - 2 road back to back wins...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Blazers

Preamble Ramble

How quickly can things change? Well, there was a lot of discourse in this blog regarding how good of an offseason the Hawks had. Much of it hinged on Jamal Crawford. Well, color me convinced that Jamal is an uncompromisingly excellent upgrade from Acie Law IV and/or Craig Claxton. Now, we are only a DeJuan Blair knee collapse and Ramon Sessions to the NBDL away from completely obliterating my turn at GMin' the team to a faster ascent to championship contender status. With that as the opening paragraph, let's get to the business of recapping this game in time for ANOTHER late night with the Hawks. [Note: All gushing exterminates if 1) we lose to the Kings and 2) Jeff Teague doesn't see the court for more than 15 minutes tonight]

Game Recap - Hawks 97, Blazers 91

Overall Observations:
  • Osh Smith might have gotten the worst foul call ever seen for his 2nd call - it was "justifiable Mike Woodson AND Osh Smith should have gotten Ts in Rasheed Wallace-like fashion" bad.
  • 2009-2010 Game 4 4th quarter - Start of Osh Smith's reel for Defensive Player of the Year (Help Side Edition)
  • Thanks Jamal for making it even clearer that we have options when Joe Johnson is having a tough quarter. This should make the need for 46 minutes from Joe disappear...
  • Rebounding edge vs. the BLAZERS..ok, maybe DeJuan Blair was useless to us for games like this
  • Of course, the person we picked instead didn't do us much good either in this game.
  • Have we ever explored the concept of offensive and defensive substitutions? Bibby and Crawford down the stretch doesn't inspire confidence when a stop is needed. Evans or, dare I say it, Teague...maybe?
  • Might be the only time I ever say this - Shelden Williams probably looked more effective in his last game than Brandon Roy did last night. 1 out of 200+ games ain't bad...see, I'm not bitter about how that turned out for us...
Str8 Butter Award - In the vein of diversity, we have to give credit to Zaza Pachulia for holding the fort together when it was quite possible that Osh might not have seen the court for the rest of the half. His 12pts, 3 blocks, and solid defense in 14 minutes were key to keeping the Blazers from running rampant on the inside where the Blazers' length could have caused lots of foul and rebounding disadvantages. Kudos Zaza...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Can I repeat this any more times? Marvin looks lost in the starting lineup. I can't help but think that there are a lot of small forwards with less ability who can just play defense and take open 3s (and for less money). There has to be an effort to make him more aggressive during the beginning of games (or our suggestion ... sending him to the ben...oh, nevermind)
* Osh Smith - Simply put, this Osh Smith (flaws and all - yeah, we saw those jumpers) is the one who actually buys himself a few ridiculously launched jumpers. If that comes coupled with altered shots, steals, MANLY blocks, drives to the basket, jump hooks, transition and garbage buckets, we'll take it. We'll give you your J back, we'll do whatever possible to just get a sustained 90 more games of that. It would cause us to have a Peachtree Hoops to Zaza like love affair with you. Doesn't that sound appetizing!!!
* M. Bibby - 4 games in - we like the veteran presence, but let's just say...you better be mentoring Teague for his STARTING job in 2010-2011
* J. Johnson - We could say that we're happy that he made up for that absymal first half like a star should or we can say we're disappointed he couldn't get some rest during this back to back, but we'll just leave it at - that was some great D on Brandon Roy.
* A. Horford - Another double double and in a game when traditionally the thought is that the opponents length will adversely affect his production. Of course, there weren't enough touches in the post, but what can you expect when Crawford comes in and dominates like he did.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Crawford = X Factor! We are fully on board and, while there was evidence of that questionable shot taking (about 3 heat check jumpers too many), when you come in and put up 27pts, 7 assists, and no turnovers - we can't quibble and we have to almost immediately think of how this weapon translates into games vs. the Magic, Celtics, and Cavs. Can't wait to see it...
* M. Evans - It would have been nice to see Evans relieve Johnson of the Roy lockdown responsibilities for a few minutes, but we won't complain about results.
* Joe Smith - Incomplete
* Z. Pachulia - Str8 Butter Award says it all...
* J. Teague - DNP. Did I not call this?
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Let's stick with the 99% good. Basically, he did the things that I normally don't associate with Coach Woodson. He saw how effective Crawford was and gave him more minutes. He realized that Osh Smith needed to play, so he didn't keep him on the bench all 1st half after those 2 fouls and Osh ended up with (wait for it....) 2 fouls. He even brought Evans in the game for defensive purposes at the very end once we had enough points to win the game. It really was a well managed/no panic effort. And I liked when he went after the referees on behalf of his players. Really everything you can ask of your coach during an in-game scenario. We'll never be fully on board with our off/def philosphies, but let's not talk about that today.

And for that 1%, as we called from a mile away, no Jeff Teague after what has to be called good production. Let's just hope that there was a discussion with the young PG regarding why he probably wouldn't get much burn AND that he's re-inserted in the rotation tonight on a BACK TO BACK night to rest our starters.

Str8 Talk Love

No love today other than our bottomless pit of awesome man love for the Hawks.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - None.

Season Prediction

Last night's win makes for an uptick in the record guess - 49-33! Yes, winning on the road against an elite team should count for something. Be on the lookout for this to end up at 45 or less though if we lose vs. the Kings. Believe it!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Game Recap - Hawks @ Lakers

Preamble Ramble

Let's just start with the obvious - the Lakers are better than the Hawks! So, our observations and comments are not complaints as if we were supposed to win, but are thoughts for what will prevent the Hawks from beating great teams consistently.

Game Recap - Lakers 118, Hawks 110

Overall Observations:
  • It seems like Mike Woodson is on the yo-yo regarding this minute distribution. Yes, we want Joe to get rest...no, we don't want Joe to get rest when he's KILLING the Lakers. So, you can rest him when we play the Kings or the Timberwolves to make up for the extra 6 minutes playing the Lakers...
  • So much for regaining the J in your name, Osh Smith.
  • The upside to this game was Jeff Teague and fuel for my Marvin as a Super Sub mantra. Marvin didn't show up and I think it's because he's not ever going to be someone who we are trying to get going with this starting 5.
  • Rick Sund, are you sure Al Horford is a center? Even without Pau Gasol, the length of the Lakers (and we're talking Bynum, Mbenga, Powell) gave Horford fits on the inside. And especially if Osh isn't going to play as a 'get me rebounds' power forward.
  • The third period was our case study for 'Why we give the ball to the point guard to run the offense from the time we get the rebound until we get into our offensive sets'? (I know, what offensive sets?, but work with us on this one)
Str8 Butter Award - We will give our award to Joe Johnson for his first quarter outburst, but that's it. No other words need to be said.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Ok, just repeating here - using Marvin as a spot up shooter in this offense is not going to provide the Hawks the bump in productivity that would look like a major leap for Marvin. So, let the Marvin as Super Sub machine start...
* Osh Smith - Ok, just repeating here - designing ANY offense where Osh Smith is on the perimeter in a shooting position OR that doesn't drive the point that you must make all shot attempts outside of 3 seconds on the shot clock INSIDE 10ft is bad offense. It should really be a fireable offense to have it work that way.
* M. Bibby - No turnovers from and some good shooting early in the 2nd half was good. Not having the ball in your hands as the POINT GUARD in the 3rd period was bad.
* J. Johnson - You tried your best, but once the other team decided to do what we would have done to Kobe (if he wasn't scoring in transition so effectively) and that's make someone else beat them - the game was over. Sorry, but if all our 'offensive firepower' goes in the tank when we need it most - it's gonna be hard for you. That said, we probably should have given you the ball more (or better yet, just not sat you down when you were on fire) to see if you could match those 41 from Kobe.
* A. Horford - Let this be my example of 'getting too excited about Al Horford dominating a team for the 2nd time in his entire career' is hazardous for your health, THHB (said in my Ryan Cameron - offensive foul voice). Like we always say, we LOVE Al. You just can't get excited about Horford when our offense is a dribble to beat your man to score offense. That's pretty much it...

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Again, the defense is questionable, but if you can outscore people while you're on the floor - we'll take it. On nights like tonight, the turnovers, no defense, and inability to hit from 3 hurts a bit.
* J. Teague - It was great to see Jeff being given the shot to provide a spark. Hopefully, Woodson will use this to great effect. The best thing I can say without gushing is - maybe you've found your Mario West energy guy in the body of someone with more skills to boot.
* M. Evans - There's nothing here to hype, but Mo has played solid ball this year. Turning into a defensive stopper would aid my efforts to get him a starting role.
* Joe Smith - Not much again to get excited about other than the takedown of Jordan Farmer to FINALLY say - enough with the layup line happening at our rim. That's what we want to see from our veterans - next time, let's start at the beginning of the run, not the end.
* Z. Pachulia - Not really bad on the offensive end, but the length and athleticism of the Lakers bigs made Zaza look really ineffective
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Since I don't want to sound like a broken record, I'll just say a few words. We never thought we'd win this game anyway, so why beat up on Coach Woodson...oh, because we can. A few things that puzzled me - First, why not use your timeouts to stop the bleeding in the 3rd quarter (or to figure out a new defensive strategy in the first half)? Second, I would like it stated once again - I don't care what your defensive rankings are at the end of the year, but against good teams - our defensive strategy will be exploited to great effect. You just can't beat good execution and good basketball players with the philosophy we have. On the good side, I do like the fact that 10 players STILL got to play vs. the Lakers - finding a good mix is the sign of a coach who is trying to trust his bench and is coaching his way to a solution during a game that is getting out of hand. Now, we weren't successful in the end, but seeing everyone still playing was a great sign. Last year, only 8 players played vs. good teams no matter what...baby steps, baby steps

Str8 Talk Love

It was fun watching the game at the crack of dawn to get this out. That's called being a true fan when a full weekend and the World Series cause a delay in watching a big game.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - We also want to note that we like the new Joe Johnson mantra of calling out the team. In this postgame interview, he noted that "the Hawks are too soft". Well, we've been saying this for a while. That toughness, rebounding, perimeter defense, and leadership were the areas we needed to improve. Well, we kinda got some leadership, but the other 3 are still sore spots and last night was an example of why we want more focus on these areas in the vein of building a championship team.

Season Prediction

Nothing's changed - 47-35! Let's see how we measure up against the Blazers, but if we're guessing - this is a crucial test of how we adjust and focus on the road.