Friday, December 17, 2010

Evidence Is Mounting...

Since we last saw you, the Hawks defeated the Indiana Pacers and lost to the Pistons by 23 and the Celtics by 12.  Tonight we play the Charlotte Bobcats.  So, since last week, what have we learned about the Hawks and its organization?  Let me provide my perspective on why I have yet to find the path away from 1st round playoff series...

  1. If the Hawks don't win a 2nd round playoff series, the Joe Johnson contract is a failure. How do I come to that conclusion?  Well, in the games without Joe Johnson, I think I'm convinced that this is still a playoff team.  The worse that could happen would be that we end up as the 6th seed (it's possible that the Bulls and Knicks would be ahead of us with or without Joe Johnson), but every team below them is not going to pass us in the standings (unless the Bucks find their inner 2010 Playoffs mojo).  I did say that before we signed Joe Johnson, but then it was conjecture..now, there's tape that says that the Hawks can continue to defeat mediocre and bad basketball teams while competing and mostly losing against good to elite teams.  So, to me, the answer for whether there is ANY redeeming value in Joe Johnson is him catching fire in the playoffs.  Period. Anything other than that and he's only served to severely compromise our finances for the next 5-6 years.  Note: Joe Johnson earned every cent of contract 1, but probably is going to be stealing money (and possibly starting in season 1 of contract 2).  Let's hope that this sounds the alarm that our fair GM should be on the hot seat to the extent that you can blame a GM that is probably neutered by his ownership group.
  2. Our Player Development Process is why I refuse to give Mike Woodson Larry Drew any credit. As I watched the Celtics game, I was faced with the fresh, virgin feeling of wanting to be a Celtics fan.  Not because I care about the team per se, but because there's something very refreshing about seeing a team being expected to win despite any injury or issue and that the players are played with the belief that their development matters to their short term and long term improvement and that it is reflected in playing time.  Look, I've spent an inordinate amount of time communicating that developing a player in this era's NBA requires consistent playing time (see my rants about Acie Law and Jeff Teague).  Outside of Al Horford (the rare polished product), no young player for this organization gets playing time unless forced.  Josh Smith, Josh Childress, and Marvin Williams were played because the Hawks were forced to do so. There has been no consistent effort since to develop the future of this franchise.  It's clear that acquiring or developing a point guard and defensive talents are needed to move this team forward.  Developing players in the past have resulted in useful pieces for this organization...Here's an example of how ridiculous this episode has been. Jeff 'Hawks Proclaimed PG of the Future' Teague has played 13.5 MPG. Most of those minutes have been in garbage time. This has occurred on a team that has only 5 guards (I reject any notion that Damien Wilkins or Maurice Evans are considered guards). Only 2 of those guards are point guards.  The two top shooting guards have dealt with injuries.  The other is a rookie.  With this as the backdrop and a complete NEED for the Hawks to have a better point guard and defensive presence, Teague has played fewer minutes than Semih Erden who is averaging a minute more and the same amount of points on a team that has 7 Big Men (2 of which have been injured more often than not). So, I need someone to explain why you need 2 of your 5 guards to be OUT in order to get 25 minutes of playing time you should be getting EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!!! You can find minutes for Damien Wilkins, but you can't find minutes for your future point guard.  Again, I say - Teague will not be a part of the Atlanta Hawks in 2011-12.
  3. Jeff Teague, Part 2.Ok, here's one last point. People often use Teague's inconsistent play as the reason not to play Jeff Teague.  Here's what I say to that. Why would you expect consistency from a player who doesn't get played consistency?  It was predictable to watch Teague make mistakes down the stretch vs. the Celtics.  Here's what was foreign to him - extended playing time, playing with the starters (some new ones at that), being expected to score, being expected to initiate the offense without Crawford or Johnson to take the ball as soon as he crossed midcourt, being asked to run the break vs. Josh or Al since they weren't in the game, being in the game with the game on the line, being in the game vs. a good defensive team.  With ALL of that, Jeff Teague was your 2nd best player last night. That's why I hate the way they are treating Teague. He may not be the answer at starting point guard, but nobody knows that until you give him the ball and say...PLAY!  Mike Bibby's days as a starting point guard ...get this...for an elite team are over.  If you want to be elite, he must be an off the bench shooter for your team.  A veteran presence when Jeff Teague isn't able to bring what you need to steady the team.  That's it.  Asking for anything more just proves the point that we do not have a clue on how to build a championship team. 
  4. Our Leadership Vacuum Continues. I think Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce's post-game comments were instructive and they were in a nutshell. Yeah, we have injuries and so what...we expect to win. Josh Smith's post game comments were that we can't judge this team until our team is complete.  If that isn't a microcosm of the difference in these teams, I don't know what is. 
  5. D League Anyone? The Pape Sy and Jordan Crawford to the D League watch continues. Can there be any useful purpose of having a developmental player who probably needed seasoning overseas would sit for an entire season? Again, how is it possible that a team with financial woes BOUGHT OUT Pape Sy and isn't seeing him develop on a basketball court somewhere other than practice?
Our Predictions' Progress:  Feeling more and more confident that there's no way this team wins a 1st round playoff series vs. the Bulls, Celtics, Heat, or Magic.  Our hope is that the Knicks can continue this run and sneak into a position that allows us to play them.  Otherwise,  I can't wait to see the spin on the season and the value of Joe Johnson to this team. 

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