Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes, 2010 Edition

For those who hate to hear someone tell you I told you so...skip this entire blog. it's long on words, short on analysis for Game 3, but instructive what's happened over the past 2 postseasons. Interestingly, though, it's not going to be the type where I say I knew what was going to happen in the 2010 NBA playoffs would happen (with the lack of heart, effort, competitiveness, booing, etc) because I truly didn't expect the Atlanta Hawks to not compete in the postseason when the lights are brightest. We've been exposed and the emperor's new clothes are on full display. That exposure starts at the top and filters all the way down...let's count the ways:
  1. To the ownership for trying to field a championship level team on the cheap. Blame is yours for keeping a coach who is unable to take this team to the next level, for not allowing the GM to sign more than 12 players, and for not expressing publicly what you expect from the organization and making changes when those things are not being accomplished.
  2. To management for not making better use of your draft and roster spots, Blame is yours for bringing back Mario West, Randolph Morris, and Jason Collins when better use of our roster spots were there for the taking at the beginning of the season, at the trade deadline, and after the trade deadline. Watching 2nd round or undrafted rookies like Ronnie Price, Wesley Matthews, Marcus Thornton, etc doing well in the regular or postseason should again highlight that talent evaluation has not been that stellar. We haven't even discussed the $15M invested in Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby for the next 2-3 years.
  3. To the coach (and we won't go into all of the problems tactically) for not being the type of coach that actually disciplines your team when they don't follow your tutelage and matching words with actions on display. Your media training is simply awful.
  4. To the players without much pride, heart, toughness, accountability, and determination when faced with adversity.
Of course, no one in the organization will admit to that and their perception of reality will differ from mine, but what's eerie to me is that I spent some time today looking for the right angle for today's blog. Everyone's up in arms, everyone has an opinion...well, I decided to read all my blogs from the playoffs in 2009 and it's clear that I was onto something then regarding the changes that were necessary to prevent this year's debacle. It's not just what's happening with regards to the play on the court. It's what's not happening BEFORE and AFTER we finish the 48 minutes. That's why the Hawks are what we are. We have enough talent to win 53 games. That doesn't mean that it's the kind of talent that will work together toward the goal of a championship.

If you have the time, read (or re-read) the blogs I wrote in May 2009. I spent an inordinate amount of time in Bill Simmons-like fashion talking about the failings of the Atlanta Hawks organization and chemistry. There were the Cavs recaps, my blog about extending or firing Woodson (the thing I was really wrong about), what the Bulls and Rockets should have taught us, the one where we highlight the record for the number of 20pt losses in a NBA postseason only 2 playoff series was attained by the Atlanta Hawks, the Leadership Vacuum, and several other rants. What I learned in that reading these blogs is that nothing changed from last year to this year other than we got Jamal and won 6 more basketball games. That's it...

It's pretty jarring to go back and think that I could just change some names and scores in the Cavs recaps, delete the Woodson blog, exchange the names Thunder and Jazz for Bulls and Rockets, replace the all time record for 20pt losses in a NBA postseason with the alltime record for 30pt losses in a NBA postseason, and then just update the roster names and we have NBA playoffs 2010. Think about that for a second... The only thing that's different is that we lost once by less than 10 points. So, instead of saying that we've lost 17 of 17 games by double digit totals - it's 16. Instead of talking about the improvement from an injury plagued postseason where we lost on average of 18 pts, we are now averaging a loss by 29pts while 100% healthy. That's what we're reduced to. The post game press conferences are still bad, they are still lying to themselves, they still lacking true leadership. So, let me leave this ramble and just talk about the game and cut through the BS and get to the point that I never thought I'd get to.

Game Recap - Magic 105, Hawks 75

The Mickey Fickeys:
  • So, if there's any takeaway from reading my May 2009 blogs - it was that I tried to cover every problem the Hawks faced - the offense and defense that aren't built for postseason wins, the lack of leadership, the lack of heart, the lack of toughness, the lack of coaching adjustments, the lack of truth in postseason commentary. Well, none of those things changed in 2010, so rather than complain about ALL of those things - I spent this offseason trying to cover the angle of psychology and why that would tell me everything I need to know about the Atlanta Hawks this offseason. It started with the over-reliance on home court advantage in our speeches and utter lack of confidence and belief in our ability to win on the road (i.e. the 'we need to figure it out' quotes).
  • Well, here's the quote among so many that tell the story for me from Joe Johnson: "It's basically on me. I just tanked on being aggressive and was just taking the shot when it was there," Johnson said. "Them getting off to great starts and sustaining it for 48 minutes, somehow, someway we've got to come out with a burst and try to sustain that the whole game." Forgetting for a second that Joe killed any shot at being beloved in Atlanta ever again with quotes we'll address later, let Dr. HS8T tell you what that's really saying - "Uh, after the game didn't start well, I gave up on trying to stick with a strategy of being aggressive and started just taking contested jump shots. Since the Magic are coming out playing well and keeping it going for the whole game, we should try to do that too." I'll forgive the fact that Joe's having a bad series. It happens. The indictment is in his tacit admission that it's not the Hawks way to play 48 minutes. It's been said numerous times by almost every player and coach. The Hawks don't play full games and therefore, when matched against teams who DO (AND happen to be better than us) - blowouts happen.
Anyway, there's tons I could say - lots of blog angles I could write, but it's just repetitive to write that the Magic look like a team and beat us by 30 on a night when the starting backcourt didn't do anything noteworthy. It would be repetitive to say that we shouldn't have signed Bibby or Marvin Williams or selected Teague or fired Woodson last season. It wouldn't be new to say that maybe everyone should rethink whether our offseason was really all that successful or that we again did not develop the bench enough to make them confident and playoff ready.

We have all spent an enormous amount of time talking about the Hawks and what would happen if we didn't change what was happening and now, it's kinda painful and sad to say I told you so. It would be so much easier to feel like a critical observer wouldn't be able to see this mix blowing up at precisely this time of the season. We've lost readers who said we were too negative about the team and that we were seeing things that weren't there. There was a belief that we just hated the coach and the 'superstar' when really we just wanted to say...hey, if you want to win a title your coach can't be Mike Woodson, your starting PG can't be Mike Bibby, your best player can't be Joe Johnson.

Maybe we could have said that in a different way, maybe we could have shown more love, but that's why we are Str8Talk - we want a title in this town and we want to believe that it's possible to do it here. So, for every person who wanted me to see it different - I don't. I flirted last season with calling for us to blow it up, but stopped short due to injuries and upside. I've been on record saying that you just can't even judge the Hawks until they have a championship coach. For all the deserved criticism of the players, until I know that they are being coached at a high level, it's hard to know if Josh's immaturity is ingrained in him or simply a product of not being coached ever (remember he's a product of AAU, high school, and then Coach Woodson)...I am not ready to discard Josh Smith. I'm not even ready to discard Joe Johnson unless he's still considered our best player.

Anyway, these are all just thoughts - nothing really coherent about them. We'll do post mortems on this series later, but the interesting thing is that this offseason is really going to be about me and my love of the hometown team. You see, Joe, you should give a damn about us. I have never boo'ed this team. I have watched a 13 win team play hard. I watched a team play the Celtics to a 7 game series when a sweep was more likely. I watched a flawed team have success for the past 2 years. It was frustrating and exhiliarting, but this fan base (myself included) has some blame too. We never have forced the organization to do better, expect better, and to play with heart, determination, and toughness. We had been starved for wins for so long that we didn't know when we were watching something that was destined to crash and burn. So, it's our fault that you hadn't been boo'ed before Joe. You should have been boo'ed last year when you lost by 20+ pts to the Clippers at home. You should have been boo'ed when we lost to the Knicks at home twice. You should have been boo'ed after any number of games when it wasn't execution or tactics, but simply not playing hard to win games. Had we boo'ed you then, maybe you wouldn't be sitting on the national stage for the 2nd straight postseason getting exposed with the Emperor's New Clothes. A postseason when the Emperor who wants more max money doesn't even show up for any post game press conferences to face the music. That's what you don't get...I didn't boo you and never had, but for those who did - you deserve it. Not just for Game 3 but for all the times we didn't and you deserved it. We allowed you to walk around the kingdom naked and never said anything about it. Times have changed and they should...

I'm happy to support the Hawks, but I won't do it again with all my heart until the Emperor and his subjects put back on their clothes. That's the point I never thought I'd get to and that's saying they instead of we. Saying that a part of me can't cheer for a team with no heart, no soul, no determination. The heart can't take it and won't support it. Never thought I'd say it, but in reality, it should have been said as soon as the clothes came off...maybe the Hawks haven't learned a lesson in all this, but I sure have.


CoCo said...

Wow. I'll just say, maybe things change this summer when there's finally a majority owner. There are way too many people, who are all concerned with keeping the money they've invested in the team. Everyone knows you have to spend money to win a championship. Unfortunately, the current ownership group is not willing to do so. So, if a sale goes through this summer, maybe things will change.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Yep, that's what I'm hoping for. An owner or a GM who just won't settle for anything less than a title and will do what it takes to make that happen. Until then, I'm not sure I can support this team any longer. It's either Woodson or me at this stage.

CoCo said...

Hahaha! Yes, we're going to have to draw the line! I need to put something on the blog, but I didn't watch the last two games, so I felt no need to recap them. There will be plenty of time for me to vent about the things that are wrong with this team on Tuesday when this series mercifully ends.