Thursday, March 18, 2010

7 Games Down & The Crown


I'm finally ready to do a blog - I won't talk about why I've been MIA, but I have watched all the games and am ready to make some championship level analysis on things. Since I'm prone to write epic opus length blogs, we won't try to talk about all the games, but we will highlight some themes and things we've seen during certain games and overall 7 game streak level let's get to it

1. Hawks have reached their plateau as presently constituted.

I make that comment not to say that there are not ways that the team could play better, grow as players and a team, but with our current philosophy in team offense, team defense, and a pretty consistent lock on the rotation and lack of changes in our strategies. We are who we are. Anyone who thinks otherwise will need to show evidence of it. Our problems with 4th quarter offense, with playing elite level defense, and with focus are well documented and frankly - nothing has changed about that all season.

2. The Hawks should not worry about selling the farm to become the #3 seed.

After everything is said and done, the battle for the #3 seed has the Celtics playing a tougher schedule than us. While they have proven to be a much better road team than us, you would hope the Hawks can attain that seed. It's only a psychological hurdle though because the Celtics have proven that they can compete on the road and have a championship under their belts. For all the down with Celtic stuff that you hear, the Celtics are not worried about going on the road. Not only that, it really doesn't matter b/c the Celtics aren't beating the Magic or Cavs in a 2nd round series anyway (which is the only way that having the #3 seed could potentially matter). So, I say that to say - Woodson, please rest our players when they are hurt. Don't burn out Bibby when he's hobbled. Let Joe Johnson take as much time as he needs to get his Achilles healthy. Involve the bench players you think will help us in the postseason as much as possible, so they enter the postseason ready for bear.

3. Jeff Teague = Acie Law IV (and I told you so).

Listen, I've been the biggest 'get Teague some minutes guy' all season, but I will battle ANYONE on this contention - any potential that Jeff Teague has for this franchise is being destroyed by Mike Woodson's use of him and for that - I'd rather him just not play anymore. Not only that, I told everyone very early in the season to not believe what Woodson said about having a 10 deep roster and playing Teague. He has said several times that he'd play Teague, then he said if players got injured that he'd certainly play Teague, etc - well, like I said, early on - don't believe what he says, believe what he does. With Jeff Teague - that has been 100% true.

It's easier for a rookie to just realize that he hasn't gained the trust of the coach to play minutes for this coach or team. Let's just trade him or let him languish to the point that we decide to get a veteran who the coach trusts to play backup point guard now and can grow into our starting point guard. The way he's being deployed certainly doesn't inspire Teague to feel like his coach has trust in him - as he noted, he was scared to make mistakes, which we've said here is EXACTLY what you feel when you think every mistake means you are coming out of the game, but I'd offer that more damaging is that Teague isn't being used as someone that the Hawks should use our the future QB of their offense. Why would any of the starters believe in Teague's future here? Similar to Law, they were never allowed to 'run' the offense while in the game and certainly were jerked from the lineup enough to know that there's no confidence in their games. That could be due to a lack of talent. Bottom line, the best thing Mike Woodson could say to Jeff Teague is that he's not playing and tell him what he needs to do to be a starter in 2010-2011. Telling the media that Teague did ok and that you lost no confidence in him after his first start followed by taking him out of the lineup and playing him less than 10 minutes is not our example of showing 'confidence' in Jeff Teague.

As I said prior to this past 2 game road trip, Teague won't play more than 20 minutes in either. He played 17 minutes in the game he started and 8 in the following game. Again, you can look at the micro picture and say - well, he struggled. I'd say well, that's what happens when you're a rookie. Every rookie that has shined this year has done so. Most did so in their first starts if they started at all. The problem is that for our rookies - there are no carrots when Teague's doing well, but certainly a hook when he's not. Player development doesn't occur that way. Confidence for the playoffs is certainly not built in that fashion, so just shut him down. If you can't get more than 20 minutes vs. the Nets (struggles or not), then you are not ever going to play meaningful minutes. (Quick note: I will say that his start did result in what I expected and desired in a start Teague scenario, which was at least 2 stints in a game - to start each half - just thought it could happen with Joe Johnson - without him, I figured more time would be in the offing esp. with the defensive backcourt of Bibby and Crawford staring at us for a back to back).

3. Coach Evaluation should include - did your team get better during the season?

This year, the Hawks started 19-6 and now are 43-24 (that's 24-18 since).
Last year, they started out 15-10 and got to the 67 game mark at 39-28 (that's 24-18 since). They ended it 8-7. Last year, the Hawks played one notch better to start the season than to end it. This year, they played two notches better to start the season than they are at this stage. We have not improved as a team in any ways that matter for postseason success. The defense isn't stronger and the offense is pretty much the same (which is above average unless you take the 4th quarter woes into account). So, as we watch certain teams getting better and playing better down the stretch (Dallas, Orlando, Cleveland, Milwaukee), we are not better. Some surmise that that has to do with the fact that those teams have pieces that needed to get comfortable and integrated into their systems, so they take some time to get better over the year whereas we have the essentially same players and coaching and system every year, which leads to great starts while teams are catching up, but plateaus at some point (hence, point #1)

4. The Hawks will be the #3 seed.

We have an easier schedule than the Celtics and the Celtics don't need a better seed like the Hawks do. The Hawks will not receive any benefit from the additional seeding just like the Celtics won't, but the Celtics realize that they are a great road team and that it's better to be playing well and get healthy and integrate Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and Michael Finley into the system. Conversely, the Hawks always are looking to have a better record for the psychological effect it has for the team and the coach's desire for a new contract, so I fully expect that we'll get the #3 seed, which means very little with regard to winning a title, but it's something that will happen.

5. Why Losses to the Knicks, Heat, and Raptors don't bother me anymore?

My last game recap was on the 1st vs. the Bulls. Since then, we've beaten the Sixers, Warriors, Wizards, Pistons, and Nets. We've handled them (with the Warriors being the exception) as we should have, then we lost on the road vs. the Knicks, Heat, and Raptors. I won't spent a lot of time railing against the losses and forgetting about the wins. Simply put, there's nothing that happened in those games that's really upsetting and here's why: the Hawks are not an elite team. Above average teams get beaten by inferior teams on the road all the time. When you get to the point that you feel certain that the team you cheer for is a notch below elite and not a title contender, then you learn to accept (not like, but accept) that your team will succumb to its flaws and lose games. If we were losing games in ways that were unfamiliar to us, then we'd have something to say about it, but there's nothing new there.

As I said a while ago (which spawned my 'start Teague/Evans' blogs), the Hawks are a good team. We spend so much time dissecting what's wrong with them. We forget what's right. We forget how good Josh Smith has been (even with the jump shots), we forget how Al Horford has progressed on the offensive end (despite the lack of touches), we forget how prolific Jamal Crawford can be (with or without Joe Johnson), and we forget how good Joe Johnson is (despite him not being a Tier 1 star in this league). So, there's a lot to be happy about - there's no shame in being a top 10 NBA team. I say that with no relaxation of our rule that this blog is dedicated to commentary that focuses on things that move us to a title, but for the remaining 15 games - there's no belief that anything more can be done to help us toward a NBA title.

We missed on opportunities to add any depth (Larry Hughes, Michael Finley, etc) in the event of any backcourt injuries, so that's it - our team is who it is and we'll see what happens in the postseason and offseason to get us where we want to be. Everything else is just a season being played out and we hope it includes some great moments in Hawks history.

So, with that - here's our final prediction for the year...51-31 and that #3 seed...

Go Hawks!!!!


CoCo said...

Tell em why yyou mad Luv! LOL Let me just say again, If Mike Woodson is such a great evaluator of talent that he can tell in 7 minute stints whether a guy is a good NBA player, he is in the wrong profession. He should be a scout.
I can't really argue with anything you said. The Law/Teague comparisons are spot on.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I'm just waiting for the Acie Law sucks comments while missing my entire point that - I'm not say that Law or Teague or any of these guys that have sucked for us - they could be Chris Paul and have struggled with the player development methods of our coaching staff.

No player on our team that's been drafted has gotten better without weathering their bad stretches. Not Josh, Not Marvin, Not Josh Childress, Not Al Horford. Not ONE there's no telling how good these guys are because we don't give these guys enough of a chance to be good. I would have bet donuts that Darren Collison would suck after watching his first 10 games. Now, that fool is fueling rumors that he possibly could force a Chris Paul TRADE with his play.

Anyway, I'm not mad. I've resigned myself to the fact that we're a 2nd round loser and that there's no shame in that even if there is a possibility that we could have been more under other circumstances. That's where I am - might as well soften the blow before it comes, I think.

Lang Greene (Atlanta Hawks Examiner) said...

Teague needs more minutes down the stretch ... for the future ...

Ron E. said...

I don't think there's all that much difference between your view of Teague and what most of the posters at PH think. Virtually everybody agrees Teague should have gotten more minutes to

1) better develop him and
2) give Rick Sund a better sense of whether Jeff is a player to be counted on in the future so he can make good decisions on constructing the roster for next year and beyond

The main point of disagreement is you have argued Teague should start and most of the rest of us say he hasn't earned a starter's job yet and can simply be given more minutes in his current role as a backup.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Ron E, I don't disagree that my idea is a little more radical than others, but what I have YET to understand is why it's really that radical.

I would agree with everyone that Jeff Teague hasn't earned starter's minutes, but the fact that he starts means very little. Jamal Crawford has earned starter's minutes and gets them (over Bibby), but he doesn't start. Same I've yet to really hear a rational argument for why Jeff can't start if you believe he needs more minutes (and by extension, more time with the starters).

I consider his rookie season a complete waste. He didn't play any meaningful, pressure minutes (not one). No fourth quarter minutes that weren't garbage. Wasn't given a chance to play with the starters for a good portion of any game, so the real point of start Jeff Teague wasn't to make him play starter minutes. It was to make sure he played with the starters for one and to force Mike's hand to play Teague just a little more when he saw Teague play well. The start Jeff Teague point is much more about Mike Woodson than it is about Jeff Teague. Jeff Teague would determine whether or not Jeff Teague can stay in that position, but several teams start certain players because it balances the roster a bit (hence, my desire for Mo to start and Marvin to be on the bench). Mike Woodson hasn't ever really shown an ability to give his bench minutes.

Plus, I'd like for guys to feel like the starting jobs can be won and lost. I don't think I've ever seen a player lose his starting job despite not playing well enough to deserve to keep it. That's not a good model for a player to work under. So, if Bibby is slumping, I like a coach that says - hey, we're going to try something else while you're trying to get it together. Provides a spark sometimes.

Anyway, I know what my point was with the Jeff Teague/Mo Evans starting deal, but I don't think anyone was open minded enough to see the complete argument - they just saw 'start Jeff Teague' and said hell naw before reading what, why, when, and how. It's cool though.

I still believe in it, personally. His one start was a bust and we won by 20. Pretty much what I figured could happen if he started. Didn't have to finish. Didn't have to play 35 mins - just had to start and get on the court with the starters.

rbubpp said...

The news from last year is even worse, actually, on the records--they started 21-10 in 08-09 and ended at 47-35, or 26-25 the rest of the way.

This year looks a lot like that, and golly gee, NO injuries.

Please, Hawks, go get Larry Brown already.

rbubp said...

on this--"I would agree with everyone that Jeff Teague hasn't earned starter's minutes, but the fact that he starts means very little"--Atl, I know what you mean here--it doesn't mean much in the context of substitution patterns and the real importance of the fourth quarter, etc.

One problem, though, is that you never know who it might actually mean something to in other terms like contracts, personal pride, all that stuff. Team chemistry is a difficult balance and there is a good chance that starting carries more weight in player terms than you or I give it.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...


Well, I will just repeat what I noted last year about this team and that's that I have a very hard time blaming the players or assessing our ceiling b/c I think it's limited first and foremost by our coach and coaching philosophy. So, yes, a coaching upgrade would give me a bunch better feel for whether the things I think about Bibby or Williams or even Josh and Joe sometimes is because they are overriding the coaching or just they aren't getting much coaching. My belief is the latter and that's also why I defend so vigorously when people question why I say what I say about Woodson b/c I really have no ax to grind on him.

I really, really, really wanted him to be a good coach for social, collegiate, and family reasons. He's not and so, if I'm going to be true to my blog's name - I can't lie about that.

Final note - I understand what you mean about Jeff's starting having team chemistry (off the court) ramifications and it's possible you missed it, but I made it clear that that was one of my two caveats for it happening. I only proposed it with the contingency that Bibby could accept it and that Bibby continued to not shoot well. Without those 2 things, all the stuff I wanted it to do for the team would be for canceled out (or even have a worse effect).

rbubp said...

Best case scenario would be that Teague earned the playing time through getting actual chances on the court, but I am totally in disgusted agreement with you about Woody's lack of use of his bench and inability to find some room for a player who is very obviously better than Acie Law was ever going to be.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@rbubp, Welcome to the dark side :) And I want you to know that I've never been one to say that Acie was the answer, but that we never got a true chance to see if he was worth more than he showed and now you can see the same with Teague - he might not be better than Bibby, but we'll never know at this rate.

And more importantly, I think any confidence that Law or Teague may have had is effectively squashed with our use of them. So, for every flash I see in Teague, if he's never given a crunch time minute, never given a chance to make a mistake, then prove to the coach that he understands it and then not make it during the following possessions and stints on the court. It just becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, the funny thing is that I think Teague has earned more time on the court (forget the starting part, that's just my unproven theory for how to get more out of the team) and just isn't getting it. He totally loses me when he says defense matters and then plays crunch time with Crawford and Bibby together. I truly believe Teague's athleticism alone makes him our 2nd best defensive perimeter player and if you can find roster spot for Mario West (over the Finleys, Hughes, etcs of the league) - you can find time for Teague.

rbubp said...

I've never been a Woodson apologist. I thought Acie Law didn't play because he wasn't any good, frankly. I still think that, and it's been borne out by his lack of reps with other teams too. I was afraid that Teague was actually Acie Law V...then we saw, Well, he really does have some potential, and now we're seeing, Well, he probably is Acie Law V anyway because of Woody.

I've felt the same about the talk about defense. I do still believe that he says it just to remind players of it more than actually expecting them to do it well. BUt here's the thing: Woody doesn't really hold ANY of the starting 6 (yeah, 6) to any kind of real standard, because they can do anything they want and still stay on the court.

So why would we expect that to change when we're talking about defense? He says a lot of crap, and none of it means anything because he won;t back it up with sitting players who do the wrong thing.