Well, it's a terrible time for the hometown Hawks and yet, a great time for the blog's credibility. Why? Well, credibility is being gained for almost everything we've screamed from the rooftops for 2 years. Finally, comments are starting to come in with their grudging agreement that this blog has been pretty on point about this team for the last year. Our Tweeps are asking our opinion on what we think should happen in the future since we have a way of being ahead of the curve and yet, I'd pay any amount to get the OPPOSITE treatment. How gleeful would I feel to have rbubp, Anonymous, Xavier, and company telling me what an idiot I was regarding my 'Kanye Shrug' toward our offseason moves, angst toward our coaching decisions, our pointing out that the team has trended downward after the new year for the past 2 seasons, our highlighting out that we simply had too many excuses, too little heart, and too little toughness to really be considered a contender regardless of what our record said. As a guy who likes being right, being 10000% percent doesn't equal wanting to be right. I wanted HawkStr8Talk to be truth telling, but about things we can all agree on like 'Welcome to town, D Wade' or can disagree about like 'Jeff Teague should spell Deron Williams for 5 more minutes a game'.
We have plenty of time to point out what we should do in the future, our season recap, and what not and this time - maybe I'll say something crazy and it'll be taken with a little more respect and thought than last year. I think it's important now to say something regarding my stance on player and coach movement - this thing is like fantasy football to me. I've won 4 championships in the league I've played the longest and the main reason is that I have never fallen in love with a player past that player's usefulness on the court or in value. Simply put, I'd trade Michael Jordan if it made my team better. You wanna give me Barkley, Magic, and Hakeem for Jordan. Adios #23! I know that's extreme, but I say that to say - if we flip the entire team, it's not going to bother me a bit as long as we get the appropriate value.
I'm still committed to a dogged pursuit of following a team that is focused on making what I call 'championship moves'. Now, every move you make may not result in a championship, but it would at least be done with the idea that this will propel the team toward a championship. An example of a team focused on making championship moves would be the Oklahoma City Thunder - young nucleus, smart coach, cap space, draft picks, nothing focused on short term success... So, it's why I waited until the postseason to validate what I said this past offseason and that's that I thought Rick Sund did a pretty bad job as GM this season (ASG hamstrings included) and why I'm not comforted that this ownership and management are in charge of making tough decisions to move our team forward.
I could spend this blog talking about things such as my belief that this team's special season quotient went out the window on the management side when we signed Mario West during the season and on the psychology side when Mike Woodson spent the better part of two weeks talking about how we were screwed out of a Cleveland Cavaliers victory instead of what even made that game close and correcting that 4th quarter collapse problem we were having, but I won't (Aside: That was my homage to the Hawks post-game comments where I say I'm not going to talk about something while I'm doing it...see, I learned something this year).
I will point to Hoopinion as the on point blog king regarding the Hawks readiness for the championship glory. He's been on the Joe Johnson must go wagon for a few summers now and he hasn't said it as clearly and boldly, but there's nothing in his blogs that would provide a great argument for Mike Woodson's return. I only give demerits based on his love of Nick Fazekas. Now, that's not meant as a salvo to the abilities of the my blog brethren Peachtree Hoops, Soaring Down South, AJC Hawks' Blog, etc. because it's clear that they aren't dedicated to the championship pursuit angle that I am. They are fan blogs focused on game recaps and trying to find the fun, the good, the bad, the in the moment, favorite players, quotes, etc. That doesn't speak to the fact that The Vent isn't really giving you answers, just pointing out what a fan sees as bluntly as possible. So, it's with that thought that we blog about the last game of 2009-2010.
Game 5 Recap - Magic 98, Hawks 84
- Joe Johnson - Thanks for coming to Atlanta. For everyone who thinks we overpaid for you, I disagree wholeheartedly. You have been a great asset to our team and raising our profile. I appreciate you for proving that a free agent can thrive here. It's with that backdrop that I also say - it's time for us to part ways. For you and for us. You need to be on a team where you acknowledge from day 1 that you are the 2nd or 3rd best player (if you are on a team that claims championship aspirations) and that can't happen here. Forget the fan comments (which were unforgivable), but trust me - if you were LeBron or D-Wade, we'd get over them, but you aren't and I've been saying for years that unless Al and Josh surpass you (and you accept the notion) in talent and importance to this team, then we don't have a shot to be better than a 2nd round flop. Since that's not clear yet, it's time to let you go. EVEN if that means we don't use the cap room to replace you. Again, the point is to get a title and if we can't get D Wade or LeBron or Kobe (and we can't since we didn't prepare last season for the possibility that a lame duck coach and poor leadership could turn toxic - that's not possible) - we aren't going to be a title contender for 2-3 years at best. So, let me go ahead and say this now...Atlanta Spirit - save the money unless you can get a budding or established star. Do not spend the money you were going to pay Joe. Yes, I'm saying that signing Joe for ANY amount is a bad idea. Your highest paid player for a contender is desired to be a vocal leader, but at a MINIMUM has to perform when needed and it'll take the kind of constitution I'm not sure Joe has to defer to a point guard and front court going forward. That's not a knock on Joe's basketball ability (or maybe it is), but it is my way of saying - I'm sorry you had to go out the way you went out, but going out is what has to happen for us to move forward (and that may require us going backward from a record standpoint).
- Josh Smith - You are now on the clock. I don't want you to leave. I am giving you one more season to not turn into Rasheed Wallace. A top 10 talent who simply lets inner demons keep him from greatness. I've long cast my lot with you. You are the most talented guy on the team and it's not really even close, but you need a coach to help you realize your true potential. There's no other way to say it than you need better people (in a basketball sense) around you. If you are running the break, shooting outside of 10 ft, loafing during the game, trying to overtalk the coach during timeouts, or talking to the refs - you are no longer useful to the team's championship dream. You either can become a Kevin Garnett like talent OR you can be Ricky Davis. Mercurial talents both, but one with a head and another without. I say this with love. Prove the people who doubt you wrong. I watched you play half a season of great ball and another half of season where you regressed AGAIN, just like last year. Mike Woodson shares the blame for allowing you to develop these habits, but it's up to you to make sure I am right about you.
- Mike Woodson - Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again. You were the right coach for 3 years. The last 3 - you weren't...many tomes have been written about this. I'm not mad at you for taking the money and doing what you were allowed to do, but it is what it is. We need a coach to take us to the next level and you aren't the guy. You've staked your claim as a defensive coach and we aren't a defensive team. I've yet to hear your plea for better defensive talents and when you've had defensive players at your disposal - you haven't used them, so I don't believe in your ability to move us forward. Not only that, I don't believe you at all. Your words and actions rarely match up, so I can say with a clear conscience that I like you as a person and I am happy to call you a fellow Hoosier. I hope you land on your feet, but my desire to win a title usurps love, much less like. It's time to move on. I'm not going to mince words - if you are back as the coach...I won't spend a dime to go to ONE game again until that changes (Note: I don't pay for 95% of the tickets anyway, so that's a partly empty promise, but since I pay for the big games and playoffs - that's pretty heavy since I've only missed one playoff game in the last 15 years). Best wishes on your future endeavors.
- So, we don't make this blog the longest ever - let's just say that Rick Sund, you have my permission to renounce the rights to or trade Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Jason Collins, Joe Smith, Randolph Morris, and Mario West. Whether ANYONE wants them is the only question at this point. This permission also goes with the thought that I didn't want any of them in the first place.
- Let me go ahead and be on the record about this too - without a strong point guard presence, defensive mindset, and offensive strategy out of our next coach...I also endorse moving Jamal Crawford to another team better suited for his talents. And if you decide that a coach can make use of Josh Childress - I endorse his return to the team or as an addition to the package of players needed to make us better.
- Here's how bad the last two home games were - the man who has sat through every poor performance over the past 5 years ended up leaving both games by the 4th quarter. I never leave games, but I simply couldn't take it.
- Further evidenced by how ridiculous I think Peachtree Hoops and Mike Woodson (and even Hoopinion) are about Jeff Teague is the thought that some of these guys are ready to pencil Jeff in as the 2010-11 starting point guard without ANY real experience playing THIS past season. Our biggest playing rotation mistakes were not starting Jeff Teague (when it was obvious that Bibby had nothing left in the tank) and not making some of these players earn their starting spots (i.e. Marvin Williams or Josh Smith when he didn't bring max effort). [Note: these things would not have resulted in a title. They would have resulted in finding out what your players are made of prior to the postseason/offseason. This organization has only ONE player they can count on going into the offseason and that's Al Horford.
- Final salvo - Stop with the Al Horford is indispensable stuff. He's NOT indispensable by any means. I've come around on how much better he can be offensively, but not that far. Seriously, he's only great to us because of the contrast in his effort and energy to the rest of the team. Get everyone playing at his effort level before we start anointing him as the next great something. He's a team player and we love that, but let's not overrate it. I don't want Al to go, but the fact that we'll always be undersized with Al at center means he's not indispensable. I'd take Brook Lopez for Al in a nanosecond. Again, has to be right move, but we can move Al too if it makes the team better.
Str8 Butter Award - Child please!
Here's my final thought...ok, I get why most people want to hold on to a 53 win season and the 3rd seed. I don't care for any part of that feel good story. Again, I'm focused on championships and even more, championship EFFORT. So, you aren't going to convince me that a season where you thought you had a CORE of at least 3-5 players who you could build upon for the next 5 years is now whittled down to 1 player you can be sure about (and that's at a position where he's doomed to be dominated by a player at his position in his DIVISION) without any feel good regarding ownership, management, coaching, and all but 1 player. If I was playing fantasy basketball and a guy turned that team over to me, is there anything I can say good about the owner who turned that team over to me? I don't know, but with all this reality - I had to shift to a fantasy world to keep me sane and full of perspective, which is just my way of saying that this was going to be an expletive-filled rant about how a team could lose in playoff record fashion and simply not try hard enough for their own pride's sake. Even if you wanted to get the coach fired or wanted to go on vacation - there's just NO way...you could lose that bad unless the milk had gone completely and totally BAD. So, just let me have this blog reside in a bizarro world of fantasy because the reality stinks to high heaven. Stinks so bad that it's going to take a serious effort to convince me to be a full-fledged card carrying #1 fan of this team in 2010-2011. I didn't sign up for spending time, money, and good natured wit on a team that doesn't feel the need to play its hardest. That's why you oughta care, Joe b/c otherwise - I'll just spend my time telling every team imaginable why they are wasting anything over $10M for your services. Who wants that on their curriculum vitae? Fantasy or otherwise...