Friday, December 3, 2010

Addition By Subtraction?

Since we last posted here, there have been a lot of things that have occurred.

  • We signed Damien Wilkens.
  • Jeff Teague had, for a moment, fallen out of the rotation.
  • Al Horford and Josh Smith have made the case for All Star berths.
  • Oh, and this last little thing, Joe Johnson is out for 4-6 weeks.
Now, you know that we've been very critical about the Hawks' front office and their ability (or inability) to provide the coaching staff with personnel to execute game plans at an elite level.  With that backdrop, there are a few things that struck me over the past few games.
  1. Joe Johnson should take as MUCH time as possible to get healthy.  For the short term (this year) and long term (those other 5 years on your contract), the Hawks are served best by not rushing Joe Johnson back into service.  Coach Drew should use this as his opportunity to explore lineups that develop the depth we seek for a deep postseason run.  This injury provides enough cover should you not make the playoffs (highly unlikely) or high seeding to prevent an offseason firing, so coach as if a championship level team is what you are molding.
  2. Jeff Teague's time in Atlanta should come to an end.  I've always had a way of being ahead of the curve on these things, so just go with me.  Yes, I've advocated that Jeff be the starter and I stand by that, but, as painful as it is to see another 1st round pick leave this organization as a failure, it's obvious that the coaching staff has no faith in Jeff Teague's ability to run this team.  The benchings after every mistake are exactly what happened with Acie Law IV. That coaching style didn't work for Law and it's not going to work with Jeff.  The coaching staff has made it apparent that they are only comfortable with veterans and therefore, it's time to move on and find a point guard that the staff can trust to lead the team.  The signing of Damien Wilkens and the lack of a 'next man up' philosophy should highlight that point. Our ceiling is limited until that happens. [Note: See my Rick Sund note regarding this.]
  3. Al & Josh should use this time to seize complete control of this team. Al should assume the leadership mantle and Josh should assume the talent mantle.  I rarely admit complete ineptitude on evaluation of things Hawk related, but I must say that my post two years ago about Al Horford not being special was probably foolhardy (ok, let's remove the probably).  He's definitely a special talent. What I probably should have said was - Mike Woodson (and now, Larry Drew), why don't you structure the team's offense and defense as if he's a special talent.  We let Josh demonstrate his talents, but why not Al? Hopefully, these two men will take this month to display how much more we can and should rely upon the talents of Horford and Smith.  I would say that for other players, but I don't think they really matter. Williams, Bibby, and Crawford aren't going to show us anything as a result of Joe's injury.
  4. GM Rick Sund, it's time to make your money.  First, let me say - I really like Rick Sund. Very nice guy. Bumped into him last night at a downtown restaurant and he mentioned a few things off the record (where they will stay), but he didn't seem willing to acknowledge a silver lining in Joe's injury, which was strange since he mentioned very quickly how the 33 assists vs. the Grizzlies were a season high and that that bodes well for us.  Of course, I was more interested in hearing that he wanted Jeff Teague stepping up, Josh and Al putting the team on their backs, and getting more players to grow into roles necessary in the playoffs. It gave me the impression that they really do think that Joe's the franchise player despite the evidence that this season provides in that he's really our 3rd best player.  That said, I'm wrong and we're not witnessing the second coming of Michael 'pay me before I get hurt again' Redd.
So, we're currently at 12-7, a half game ahead of the 12-8 Heat. Let's see if the Hawks can start to put together more home wins and better competition vs. playoff bound teams despite some injury woes.  Will this be used as an excuse or an opportunity? We shall see, but that 46 win and 5th seed is looking more and more real everyday.


Ron E. said...

Welcome to the Horford bandwagon! What took you so long? :p

I've seen signs the past few games that Teague is emerging from the doghouse and actually starting to play like somebody who has a future with this team. The Hawks aren't going to find a replacement for him during the season who would be any better anyway. Might as well keep him.

Marvin also seems to be stepping up his game. It's always seemed to me like his problem is deferring to Joe, so maybe an extended injury to Johnson is what it takes to get Williams to take that long awaited next step.

If only we had a GM like Miami's who saw the ceiling his team had, blew it up, brought in the best free agents, and will probably earn multiple titles in the next 5 years as a result. I don't know if that strategy would even work for Atlanta (would top future free agents even consider coming to Atlanta to join Josh and Al?), but it stands a better chance of winning a title than the current plan of maintaining a 53 win team and losing in the 2nd round every year.

Xavier said...

Maybe a not so fast my friend on Marvin not showing us anything in JJ's absence.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Ron E, I think it had to do with the fact that the Hawks neglected him so much that his production to me and the value on him seemed to be skewed by what I saw AND that I believed the viewpoint of him being elite was based on a dearth of good centers more than him actually just being a great one.

That said, I think you have to acknowledge that he's been even better this year. Same for Josh. As much as I hate him shooting jump shots (for reasons other than his past at missing them), he definitely has improved his stroke.

Now, as for Marvin, I'm not sold. Gonna take a lot of games to get me to think that the 4-5 years of being a mediocre small forward is because of deference to Joe. I hear you, but most players get a few nights where they explode. Marvin's always seem to coincide with injuries, so that doesn't really help us much when Joe comes back. I'll hold out hope, but not much hope.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Oh, as for the GM, as I always say - I do hope and rely on the GM to have a healthy sense of our weaknesses and to address them, but we always have to be aware of ownership's role in this. If he can't pick the coach or manage the budget for smart reasons, then I understand why even someone who sees the ceiling would just stand pat. I still blame him for filling the bench with bums, but it's not all his fault.

I think the fact that we don't seem to be focused on a championship is reason why top free agents don't come here. There is no sense of urgency with this franchise or honesty about what we need to move forward. It's painful to see the lack of understanding that our point guard situation and defensive TALENT has to be upgraded before we're a contender. If I'm a free agent, that's the issue I'm faced with. That said, I STILL fail to see why people think free agents won't come to Atlanta - I think free agents just don't want to come to the Atlanta Spirit. Athletes LOVEEEEEE Atlanta.