Sunday, February 28, 2010

Game Recap: Bucks @ Hawks (2/28)

Preamble Ramble

I feel the same way I felt going into February and that's that the Hawks aren't playing better basketball down the stretch than they did to start the year and that's exactly how I felt last year. Not a good sign for a young team, but it's simply what happens when you don't give the players who are the players who have the most upside and can help you in areas of need a chance to indeed do those things. So, with no further ado, we have a recap AND an announcement of monumental proportions...

Game Recap - Hawks 106, Bucks 102

Overall Observations:
  • Let's just say it - Joe Johnson in OT was great. Joe Johnson during most other parts of the game was not...
  • Jamal Crawford - you sir are very talented offensively, but when you don't have really ought to learn how to be a decoy and that passer you tried to be during game 1.
  • The Hawks frontcourt at some point has to think about a coup against the backcourt. When your frontcourt goes 18-31 (1-1 from 3) and 9-11 from the FT line for 46 pts and 10 asts vs. your 15-48 (2-11 from 3) and 10-11 from the FT line for 42 pts and 11 asts, I think a team meeting where I get to say - hey, the frontcourt has been doing work and we deserve more opportunities to win the game down the stretch b/c we're the ones getting us the lead for the most part in the first place. Letting you guys shoot us out of the lead AND try to shoot us back in is not a fair deal.
  • I would kill to have Chauncey Billups making decisions for us down the stretch of basketball games.
  • Again, Jeff Teague sure didn't do anything to make me believe that he didn't deserve more minutes tonight.
  • As a contrast, when Ridnour and Stackhouse brought production from the bench, they sure didn't get put back on the bench for much of the rest of the game. Also, now, I'm just thinking that Stackhouse was available for how long...might he have been an upgrade over Mario West.
  • John Salmons wanted that victory!!
Str8 Butter Award - Tonight's Str8 Butter Award comes with an announcement - Josh Smith was the reason we won the game and he's the reason we are as successful we are because....drum roll, please - he's now our best player. We know he didn't make the All Star game and he has brain farts with this jump shooting thing, but after watching the other contenders for the best player title - they have warts too, so Josh's wart is a 2-3 time a game thing that I have finally come to grips with and when I look at the many ways he impacts the game - he's simply the Hawks best and most important player. To say otherwise is that you're living in the past...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Good night...some defense, some made shots, and that's really it...though we were happy to see him play in the 4th quarter.
* Josh Smith - 22 and 15 and 6...yeah, that's real baller status, Josh
* M. Bibby - Hmmm...the Jeff Teague starting campaign is not threatened by this effort.
* J. Johnson - Thanks for the OT love...
* A. Horford - A double double and good defense...the All Star Center formula

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - finding a way to be good contributor when not making shots...which means - making free throws...ding, ding, ding!
* J. Teague - Good first half stint...that's all that needs to be said
* M. Evans - Mo, good energy and it was nice to see some offense/defense trade offs down the stretch from Woody. Nice!
* Joe Smith - It's actually funny seeing guys try not to stop action in the game because they know it'll mean it's the last time they will play in the game.
* Z. Pachulia - Not sure what happened to mean Zaza, but I certainly expected to see him try to light up his former team tonight
* R. Morris - Inactive
* M. West - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I've already done the I don't understand Woodson blog, so I'll let my disappointment with so many things ride right now and talk about a few things I like - like a full court press and like offense and defense exchanges with Evans and Crawford and like ...oh, that's it. We'll revel in that part, but we do want to just log this complaint. Who puts players in for one stint a game in the first half and doesn't play them again no matter what they do with that stint? I just can't recall a coach that plays a player for a stint in the game and never goes back to them consistently.

Str8 Talk Love

No love...

Season Prediction

53-29..ok, so as much as I've felt like we've regressed - we only have 5 more games vs. teams that are tough or tougher than us. 4 of those 5 games are at home. So, only the road and lapses in our game should prevent us from having a 50 win season (or an injury)...with that, I have to change my prediction for the rest of the season and give us the benefit of the doubt that we'll handle our business and end up as the #3 seed. Let's go Hawks!!!!

What The Mavs/Hawks Game Taught Me...

Normally when our game recaps are a day or two late, it's because we've got other things to do, life to lead, or just laziness, but this time - it sincerely had everything to do with being utterly at a loss for fair, balanced straight talk about the Hawks. I actually was about to figure out if there was a Brother Mouzone (Wire-heads know what i'm talking about) that I could find. It was that serious.

So, I needed a few days. I need some perspective, so we're not going the traditional Game Recap route and we're going to just provide some things that we thought the Hawks taught us that evening:

The Good
  • Josh Smith - 3 years ago, I said that Josh Smith is so good from a talent, physical toolset perspective that he's actually the only player who has the capability of getting a quintuple double (pts, rebounds, steals, assists, and blocks). So, it's no surprise that he flirted with a quadruple double. Now, tell me again why he's not an All Star
  • The Hawks fight after a quick lapse in the first quarter
  • Joe Johnson's ability to calmly put up 27 pts, 10 assists, and 5 boards
  • A reminder that Mike Bibby can make clutch shots
  • That Al Horford would even be afforded the opportunity to go 4 for 16.
  • That despite it all - I really love the Hawks...too much sometimes...
The Bad
  • Josh Smith - jump shooting...nuff said
  • Joe Johnson's desire for a max contract from a team that believes it can contend for a title went down the drain at every instance of being unable to beat J J Berea for a bucket (read that again)...
  • Blaming the bench for every failure during basketball games. Our bench's problem isn't totally about skill on the level of other benches - it's about lack of role setting and expectations and confidence. These guys don't know what to do when they get in. Only two know why they are being brought in - Jamal is meant to score and Zaza is meant to rebound. That's it. Otherwise, they come in and don't really know what they should be doing and that's their problem. Now, that said - I watched the starters lose a 13 pt lead in about 2 minutes, which I've NEVER seen the bench do (which probably is due to opportunity), so let's dispense with the Hawks bench being awful. It's not the best, but it's serviceable when deployed sensibly.
  • Jeff Teague should not like our coach. If I played well for the past 3 games and the guys in front of me had trouble guarding J J Berea and Jason Terry, I'd expect to play. I didn't - we already know why, but we're just reiterating the fact that if Rick Sund called me and asked me for an extension endorsement - it wouldn't be forthcoming.
  • Fans should stop fixating on things that don't really lose playoff games. So what Jason Kidd may or may not have done something smart? So what if it was a move that would be 'kick you off a playground' worthy? This is the NBA, things happen (like they did in Cleveland, etc), but if we are playing better basketball and if we had the presence of mind to just take ONE timeout - I seriously doubt that Jason Kidd gets that desperate to find a point. Far as I'm concerned, if Jason Kidd didn't force that T - we don't even make it to OT, so let's focus on how we lost that lead, not one measly point that won't be replicated in the postseason.
  • Mike Woodson should probably stop tinkering with things that he's been doing well with such as...calling timeouts when momentum is swinging the opposite direction. I've praised Mike Woodson many times with his ability to stop the momentum. I've criticized him for not giving the team a new game plan to leave from those breaks, but I believe that to be a matter of coaching acumen, not a lack of awareness that you need to change. Now, unless he's adopted the Phil Jackson philosophy that a team should learn how to stop momentum on their own and work through those issues (and frankly you'd have to tell the team that that's what you're doing and then practice that ALL the time), what happened in the 4th quarter is unacceptable. I can't remember a time in a game when I said to myself we need a timeout and then 4 more possessions ensued and that a technical foul on the COACH led to that stoppage. I'm talking about 25 years of serious basketball watching at the high school, college, and professional basketball levels. So, I can't say much else other than ... when a new plan or wrinkle was needed - we went with....nothing.
  • Watching one of your core members (or so you tell us) sit for the entire 4th quarter while less talented defensive players are on the court not making shots.
  • Jamal and Mike Bibby are really useless when they aren't making shots. They do nothing else on the court to help the team...evidenced by the lack of putting us in position to score in the 4th quarter.
  • Finally, I still haven't figured out how a team goes away from what's WORKING!!!! I mean contested jump shots weren't working...3 point shots didn't get us the lead...just can't figure you guys out in the fourth quarter.
One thing we haven't learned about this team is when faced with true adversity what will happen. Is it bad that I wish we had an injury to just test our team's fortitude? I keep wondering if we could go on the road and beat a team like the Mavs if we didn't have our starting small forward. It's probably too late to want to find out.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The NEW Starting Lineup Should Be...

I know this will probably be ridiculed, but since I've been sick and unable to blog about the T-Wolves game that I just started watching on the DVR. Let me just say this about the Hawks and this game...

START JEFF TEAGUE (...and Mo Evans)! His push and defense are better than anything that our guards can do and it's an element that you can't overstate with the playoffs coming. Yes, we've advocated more time for Teague all season. Despite some of his struggles, we've eschewed all attempts to explain why he should sit. Watching almost all of the rookie point guards get better this season with playing time, we allowed Bibby's experience to be the litmus test. Well at this stage, Bibby is not providing enough to convince me that he can't be that veteran presence that stabilizes the bench in ways that he is supposed to stabilize our starting 5. So, this is as much about giving the bench punch as it is hastening the move to the future.

Not only that, it's an attempt to give Joe Johnson a glimpse of his future with the Hawks vs. a last ditch attempt at what is likely a 2nd round exit. Why not give that exit some upside vs. the look of a future of similar outcomes. I've advocated Marvin being the super sub for 2 years now and still think that's the best move for this team, but now I'm taking it further...this is about performing championship moves. I've always said - my biggest problem with the Hawks is the lack of CHAMPIONSHIP moves - making a bold move to get Teague in the starting lineup would say to me - we are trying to do something to WIN A TITLE. Maybe not this year, but eventually - Teague will be the PG that wins it for us before Bibby will. Or maybe the starting slot would be important enough to Bibby (and Marvin) to step your game up.

In either case, the Hawks, here's the lineups...

starting 5 - teague, johnson, smith, evans, and horford (still 2 3 pt shooters along with a dimension of a push and dribble drive and transition)
second 5 - bibby, crawford, williams, zaza, and joe smith (lots more bench punch)

Personally, I see only one downside - maybe some turnovers in the transition, but teague has shown himself to be one of the best rookies in turnover rate. No downside based on what bibby and williams have provided unless one of them starts some locker room discord, but that's really all I see that could go wrong here. And finally, you actually make our coach - COACH! He'd have to actually not roll the ball out and do some coaching and prove whether he's worth extending...Seriously, wins all the way around.

Can someone not married to the 'don't rock the boat' theorems the Hawks have been wedded to provide a different counter argument...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Without a doubt, this was a good trip,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We are .500 on the road now, and we just have to go take care of business at home.”

I'll simply say that if I can find Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley, Rick Adelman, Gregg Popovich to convince me that losing 2 winnable games is WITHOUT A DOUBT a good trip - I'll buy. Otherwise, we're going to pass with this going .500 on the road litmus test for good. Of all the contenders in the East, only the Hawks are flirting with .500 basketball on the road. Same for the West save Denver. IT would seem to me that if you have different standards on the road for what's acceptable, then you'll continue to lose a lot more on the road than at home. I'm not asking for .900 basketball, but a loss to the Warriors should be unacceptable on anyone's basketball court. Just a thought...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Game Recaps: Warriors & Jazz

Preamble Ramble

I think it was Charles Dickens who said it - it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It sometimes pays to not be so swift with a blog about a game. A game where my DVR must have been so disgusted with my favorite team that it ate the Hawks/Warriors footage. Of course, the highlights and commentary we read did not bode well for a nice forgiving blog. Seeing the DNPs for bench players on a road trip vs. a bad basketball team were blood boiling, but then we played the red hot, yet hobbled Jazz...see what we thought below...

Game Recap - Hawks 100, Jazz 95
Game Recap - Warriors 108, Hawks 104

Overall Observations:

Warriors thoughts:
  • Should we praise the things that begat that 18pt lead?
  • Should that equal or exceed the stink-fest that caused the Hawks to be the first team in 35 years to lose to the Warriors after being up by more than 15 in the fourth quarter
  • Not sure what Joe Smith and Maurice Evans did to fall below Mario West in the player rotation...but whatever it is better include a diss of someone's mom and a unreported gun incident in the locker room.
  • Steph Curry is truly a's amazing to see what allowing your rookie PG to play can result in. Just sayin'
  • So, it looks like Josh has fallen back in love with his jump shot. Guess all that praise was not enough to keep this from happening.
Jazz Thoughts:
  • I'm always impressed at how the Jazz run offensive sets.
  • Mo Evans, thanks for proving on the court what I'm sure you thought vs. the Warriors and that's that you possibly could have helped us beat the Warriors. We'll take it vs. the Jazz though.
  • Josh, once again - the jump shots are really the only thing marring what has been a coming out party. Don't make me take your J away from you again.
  • Joe, once again - you deciding to play like a star is smile worthy...
  • Good thing this happened after the Warrior game because I know I would have dismissed part of the joy of the victory by mentioning that Deron Williams and AK47 weren't playing, but after the Warriors - any road victory is noteworthy.
Str8 Butter Award - Josh Smith...really, everything you do (save the ref complaining and jump shooting) is starting to make me swoon.

Str8 Talk Love

I have no idea what Mike Woodson said to the team or what the vets communicated, but whatever it was - it worked. So, we'll eschew the opportunity to continue to enumerate the ways we don't understand our team and coaching philosophy and just cheer through the random DNPs, 2-3 minute stints, lack of changing tactics that aren't working. We really are at a loss, but we have to respect the fact that 35-20 means that we're only 15 wins away from a 50 game season. That's just bullet proof today. So, Warrior loss meet Jazz victory and let's leave it there.

Season Prediction

Still believe that 50-32 is what's next for us, so no profound words can be said...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Don't Understand Coach Mike Woodson

I have criticized Mike Woodson a lot. I've tried to also praise him for things he's done for balance. I don't want him to ever read this and have him think I had an agenda. I just happen to have a philosophy regarding how to win a NBA title that starts well before you actually do so and I haven't seen much that I agree with in that regard from our coach.

That doesn't mean that he's a bad guy or deserves scorn, but I won't let my love for a black man who went to Indiana University (my family's alma mater) leading the team in concept get in the way of winning the actual title. Lots of text to get to my point, I know (but I have to always tread lightly here because Coach Woodson from what I know of him is a really nice guy)...

Here's the point: I don't understand you Coach Woodson. You're quoted in the AJC today as saying "“I did something last night I haven’t done all year in terms of playing six guys,” he said. “I really thought we could beat those guys like that but it backfired on me because their second unit beat us.”

Ok, a couple of points - technically, you could be correct in saying you haven't done that before, but that's not philosophically the point - you have OFTEN just not played the bench and rode the starters. You've made living not playing our bench. You've never made it a point to instill confidence in our bench. YOu play them when they play well and you sometimes don't play them when they play well, but you NEVER play them when they don't play well. Like you do with our starters - our starters play no matter what they do on the court (well, until this season with Mike Bibby). Now, that brings me to the point - you said that this was the first time you did this...all season you've had to tinker and find things out about this team. So, instead of things like - finding minutes for Teague, Smith, RandyMo etc to see if they can do something for us in the short and long term - or trying new offensive sets or defensive looks to diversify our toolkit for the season - you wait until we are on a West Coast road trip after All Star break to find out whether a poor playing starting group plus Jamal can stop playing poorly on their own instead of using players that had played well vs. said team only a quarter or two earlier.

THAT was your idea of doing something new. Not only do I question the tactic, but I also question the reasoning - it just doesn't make sense. teams are getting better by bolstering their teams 1-11 or 12 and you made the decision to SHRINK the bench on the road in a non-essential game and that was supposed to turn out! Not only that - what message does that send to the bench? I can see sending a message that says - BENCH go win us a game without the starters that even if you lose, you might win, but the reverse is assuredly more likely. You can win the battle and lose the war.

This has been our NUMBER ONE gripe with Mike Woodson. It's lack of foresight for how to prepare a team for the postseason. I'd prefer to see Joe Johnson not play a game or two than trying to burn him out to win a game that we lost anyway and with no regard to the psychology of such a thing. I watched Darren Collison turn the ball over 8 times the other day - he also had a triple double and they WON THE GAME. Darren Collison looked awful early in the season (except when he and Marcus Thornton beat the Hawks), but has gradually gotten better with more PT. I would expect the same from Teague. I'd expect it from Joe Smith, from Maurice Evans (who is playing less and less DESPITE the fact that Marvin is not having a good season). So, I won't say all this and predict doom in the regular season.

I will say all this and say - as soon as we hit Round 2 of the postseason, I'll be resigned to the fact that we don't have a coach who has done enough to prepare us for that stage. He'll say he has. the players will too, but games like last night vs. the Suns will be an example of why I will think otherwise.

Don't get it twisted - I'm a Hawks fan for life and I'll cheer til there's 00:00 on the clock, but I won't put my head in the sand on this...I don't understand Coach Woodson and honestly, I wish the guys who always defend him (or even the man himself) could help me get it...I'm beyond wanting to be 'right' - I just want it to make being his whole approach to winning us a NBA title!

Game Recap - Hawks @ Suns

Another game where it's probably not in good taste to do a full blown HS8T game recap and the reason is: After half a season, I've reverted back to the thought process that our team isn't getting progressively better as the season goes along. Of course, some of this spinning wheels syndrome is due to watching other teams picking up pieces to prepare themselves for the stretch run and feeling like we got worse for no good reason, but the other part of this is tied to a question I asked GM Sund a few weeks ago and that's ...what's our identity?

Suns 88, Hawks 80

Let's start with the main reason for a less thorough game recap - I was drinking and playing cards while watching the game, so there was some attention deficit there, but I do know that while watching us in the 2nd half - we certainly looked like we were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole all night. Which is my way of saying - we didn't try one thing to CHANGE our say uh - the Suns! Who at some point said - hey, the subs are bringing us back and while they are - it's really no good reason to do something else until the Hawks do something to make us. This trend where the substitutes take the opposing team to victory in the 4th quarter vs. our starters is troubling (see Miami Heat at home and this game as best cases). Now, it's not troubling because we shouldn't lose to good teams on the road. It's troubling because we've hitched our wagon to the belief that we don't need a bench to win in the regular season.

I've ceded the thought that you need a full blown bench to win in the postseason (despite evidence that in today's game you need more than 7-8 players to win a title), but I never would cede the thought that you need at least 10-11 players with injuries, slumps, and the like at bay that can keep you from the seeding necessary to position your team in the best position to make a NBA title run. So, on nights where we lose because we have neither a plan B or add'l players to run your Plan A, I worry. I worry because tomorrow isn't promised. Because I see how quickly the Wizards lost their Big 3. Because I don't know if the Knicks will have LeBron, D Wade, and McGrady to terrorize the league going forward. Because I don't know if Bibby will be good enough to finish the season as our starting guard.

So, I won't do a blog about the game. I won't say more about things that I've worried about since day 1. Not because I don't think we can win 50 games because I never really thought it was inconceivable. I didn't predict it, but it is not surprising me greatly. What I am predicting is that we aren't really getting better, tougher, stronger as we go...I am predicting that Coach Woodson has a 1000 excuses for why he never has anything to do with anything while in 'get me an extension' mode. I'm predicting that what I said would come to pass in terms of the bench not understanding their roles (outside of the very helpful to anyone 'just be ready with whatever minutes I give you') and not playing enough to really provide good consistent value. So, we are back to having a team that ON THE ROAD will let reserves who play well to start sit while starters who didn't play. That's WORRYING me...guess it's back to drinking (oh, and cards).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Game Recap: Hawks/Clippers

Here's what we'll can go check out the other blogs and whatever they said - I'll just co-sign and say Al was awesome, I don't get why Al was able to get his milestone and then sit, but Josh wasn't, or why Joe Johnson who wasn't shooting for anything was in the game longer than he was.

Hawks 110, Clippers 92

I've spent all my time trying to figure out what the Hawks can do to convince me that our team and organization is striving to win a title this year. And I've yet to hear anything convincing yet (and no, trading for Jamal Crawford was not it). So, I'm going to say - I hope we win a title. I think I'm probably the only person who is going to be upset with the entire organization that we won't be doing so...and by upset, I mean - I'd consider firing Woodson, trading assets, and doing something drastic to shake us out of the doldrums we'll be in for a few years and instead just build around Smith and Horford exclusively. That would be my answer - my answer probably won't be heeded.

What does this have to do with the Hawks/Clippers? Nothing really - other than this being a game where Horford and Smith showed every reason why they (even against a poor team) are the present for the Hawks, not just the future.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Truth (and nothing but)...

Well, I waited all week to hear the perspectives of the Hawks and their fans and bloggers and writers regarding why the Hawks aren't involved in any trade talks at the deadline.

To hear EVERYONE tell it, we'd compromise our core, we're set for the playoffs, or some other nonsense. Well, I knew it was a reason I started this blog...and that's to tell the TRUTH - straight!

The Hawks are not involved in trade talks for 2 reasons:

1. Our ownership is not willing to invest more money in a team that is still working at a deficit (and from a business perspective - I don't blame a fan who wants a title - I 100% blame them.)

2. Our fan base and organization is going to be happy as long as the Hawks win the first round and compete in the 2nd round.

Now, let me go ahead and say it - I believe Rick Sund would make phone calls and get us in the Amare, Jamison, Camby, etc races to get us some help. These conversations about upsetting chemistry and we got enough right now and all that are bunk...if the Cavs, Celtics (in past years), Blazers, Lakers (in past years) all felt the need while sporting some of the best records in the league decided that they could get better by signing a player - you can rest assured that the Hawks damn sure can add talent to bolster their chances at winning a title. In a season where our 'depth' has turned into Jamal, Zaza, some Mo, and not much else - you can be sure...talent would be welcomed here.

So, I say all that to say - I believe GM Sund would do it if he could. But he knows that we're not able to do anything with our ownership's pocketbooks. If we could we'd sign 2 more players and let Teague and Hunter and RandyMo play in the D League. If we could, we'd know that Camby would have helped our frontcourt defense/rebounding issues. If we could, we'd add Jamison to provide us a player with real low post moves. If we COULD!, but we can't...not we don't want to, not we think this team is set to win a title. We ALL know let's dispense with the conversations to the contrary.

The second point and one that I think is more damning and that's that - we don't REALLY think we're going to make noise in the playoffs. Now, as a fan, I demand that we do everything we can to win a title, but that's not what I hear from anyone in this organization - that winning an NBA title is the goal. It wasn't until midseason that I heard anything about trying to get the top 2 seeds in the league, very little about winning the division. Most of our discussion is about keeping 11 other teams behind us and trying to make the Big 3...the Big 4 (us being 4th), so now we actually think we can be 3rd or 2nd in the pecking order. But the organization and the fans don't REALLY believe that. They may say they do now after 50+ games, but they really would be happy to compete well in the 2nd round of the playoffs. That's the goal for the season - anything else is gravy. And when that's the goal and nothing has happened that makes you think that's in jeopardy (save the fact that if we do have to play the Cavs or Magic and we haven't improved a bit...we've looking at a 4-5 game round 2 loss), then you don't make a move that may cost you some money now or maybe some upside in your players later.

And this all could be the way to play it. We're a LeBron James move and year more grizzle on the Celtics and Joe Johnson re-signed at reasonable price away from being in a Big 2. So, I'll trust in Rick Sund's ability to keep us where we are or inch us up a tad in the offseason, but let's all keep it 100.

We're not doing anything, not because we don't need to, not because we're totally hamstrung, but because ownership isn't going to pony up and because the fans and organization are happy with the season and will be happy as long as we win another playoff series. That's all - now off to watch the Hawks/Clippers...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grizzlies, Heat, & A Chat With Rick Sund

Preamble Ramble

Everything happens for a reason, so as life intersects with our ability to do timely game recaps (with the good being that the job is oh...5oo ft from Philips Arena..can you say FREE parking anyone? and the bad being ....oh, so much for the late night or midday recaps) - we are now going for quality over quantity and today we provide some quick thoughts on the past two games as we head into the All Star break and then, will spend the rest of our time musing about our conversation with GM Rick Sund last night. More than anything, we want to say thanks to GM Sund AND the Hawks PR department. As bloggers look to create a space for a variety of angles and points of view to give more dimension to the nice coverage being done by the AJC, it is nice to be acknowledged by the GM for the 2nd straight year AND a promise to do a bigger and better version of Blogger Night before the season is up. For the effort...kudos!

Game Recap - Hawks 108, Grizzlies 94
Game Recap - Heat 94, Hawks 76

Overall Observations:

Grizzlies thoughts:
  • Jamal has made it clear that he's always going to be a factor..good or bad - he's going to be a factor. For most of the season and in this role, it's mostly good.
  • This was maybe one of the most balanced starting five outputs all year...and they are all upstaged by Jamal's 28...figures!
  • Nice to see Jeff get 13 minutes and while he didn't play particularly well - it's all about the learning esp. when you are winning as well.
  • Joe Smith - nice to see you
  • Thanks Grizz for having an abysmal bench (how's that Thabeet working out for you guys) or else we may have had some problems.
Heat Thoughts:
  • First, it's sad that a game can be spoiled by Jamal's absence, but see CoCo for what may have been many people's thoughts at Jamal's scratch...
  • We really are tiring of saying something isn't an excuse for a loss, though you mention it first. Bottom line, don't mention it and move on - Jamal Crawford is NOT the reason we lost. D Wade didn't even really play the 4th quarter, Beasley actually didn't play the fourth and we were handled. So, no - I'm not excusing you guys. The Lakers just won without Kobe and Bynum and I'm 1000% sure Phil Jackson wouldn't mention that as the reason they lost if they did (they won by the way)...own your losses Hawks!
  • Perspective check - we're 33-18, so I'm not going get mad about the loss at home. It happens - we're playing VERY well at home, so the only thing I'll mention is - if you want to win the division and want to be a #2 or #3 seed, you CANNOT lose to the Knicks twice or the Heat once at home. Those teams just aren't good enough to lose to and be elite. Period.
Str8 Butter Award - No one played well enough to get a Str8 Butter, but we'll give a shout out to Josh Smith because of his snub of the snub today when we heard that DAVID LEE made the All Star Team. That's a David Stern selection if we've EVER heard one. I mean seriously...Josh Smith is not only better than David Lee, having a better year than David Lee, but he's MADE FOR THE FREAKIN' game. Can you guys imagine seeing the alley oops from D Wade and Lebron - I mean seriously...

GM Sund's Interview
  • Let's start with the fact that we really appreciate GM Sund's appreciation for what bloggers do - he seemed to genuinely care about us and gave us some off the record stuff (like last year) and essentially treated us like journalists (I had to remind him that I'm a fan first, second, and third), so pat on the back to me for asking him to make sure to do it again and it looks like it'll happen twice this year, so score one for asking for what you want and the questions.
  • I really like all the bloggers and appreciate that they do this for free, so I'll say this respectfully - uh, the first question asked about Ray Allen and whether we'd be interested in bringing him here (and a FOLLOW up Ray Allen question to boot) was just a total waste of our 30 minute allotment of time. If you watch the Hawks, you'd see that we have 2 very capable shooting guards...SHOOTING GUARD is the last place we need to worry about acquiring talent unless his name is D-Wade. Seriously...Ray Allen, really, seriously - 5 minutes on Ray Allen?!?
  • Moving on, the first surprise quote was GM Sund's belief that we have guard depth when Teague isn't getting PT. This was made with the thought process that Mo Evans and Mario Evans can fill in in the backcourt. I never would have made that leap and am still very nervous about that prospect, but it didn't seem to worry the GM much.
  • Let's go ahead and put trades to bed - other folks have opined that it was unlikely and I got the very same sense - we aren't making any trades at the deadline. On one hand, it makes sense - he essentially uses my fantasy football trade philosophy which is - there's really no reason to trade for bench players. You trade for difference makers and that's in our core and we're not trading anyone in our core. So, let's be clear - no trades at the deadline unless we luck into something and probably not any signing of players who are bought out of contracts either.
  • More surprises - GM Sund said that 1) he believes Jamal is better than even he thought (I told him to take credit for thinking he was going to be that great) and 2) the team is doing better than he anticipated. I got the sense that he didn't think we could be this good and that expectations have probably changed a bit.
  • He also admitted that he thought we lacked some toughness in '08-'09 and that that toughness (mentally) is what he was looking for when getting Flip last year and what he was hoping Jamal would bring as a shot maker this season. That he's looking for toughness made me smile.
  • Now, I also asked a question from the people about our identity as a team and what he thought it was - I think he missed the point a little in that he talked more about our ability to grow due to our youth and he also mentioned that he thought Josh had grown the most this year and that he has more maturity in his game left. Last year, I kinda scoffed at how much better our young guys would get - this year, I have to just say I believe in his assessments (though he did mention Acie Law as one of those players that would grow with us and we know how that turned out).
  • The D League strategy - Well, we have a defined answer on that now. Due to our roster mandate (aka the Spirit ain't paying for more than 13 players, even though we could have 15), there's no way he can send a player to the D League without compromising the team on nights like when a guy gets a bum shoulder out of the blue. So, no more complaints for not using the D League for the GM and coach, but we'll ask for the Spirit to get an owner who will do anything to make us better and it seems like adding two more players and developing talent would be a good idea. That said, that's not a GM Sund issue.
  • Final note, you can't move Josh Childress' rights at the trade deadline. Josh has to opt out of his deal in Greece before he can be moved. GM Sund did mention that he wishes the rule that prevents a team from trading a player's rights would be changed.
  • All in all - a great session had by all (save that Ray Allen question) and we look forward to the next Blogger Night as we come down the stretch (I remember Dallas being mentioned as an option where we hope we can break the 2 game Blogger Night losing streak).

Str8 Talk Love

For the Heat/Hawks game, we'd be remiss if we didn't give a shout out to our blog buddies of Peachtree Hoops, The Vent, SoaringDownSouth, and the Hawks Real GM guy as well as Hoopinion and The Human Highlight Blog (in absentia) and Ebony for putting up with me (though she's never coming back after bringing bad luck to our fair Hawks). The biggest shout out goes to Jon Newberry and the PR department for hosting us and we will make sure that we get the big suite replete with food and drink (per GM Sund's mandate...or courtside seats...or media passes suffice). ;)

Season Prediction

We're at 33-18 and I've been saying 50-32. That would mean we'd go 17-14 down the stretch, but I don't believe that - i see more like 20-11, so let's make it 53-29 which will get us just short of the division, but could lead us to a 3 seed ahead of the Celtics, which really doesn't help us any, so let's hope we can push the Magic to that 4th spot. (Yes, the Cavs have pretty much locked up the East's #1 seed).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Game Recap: Bulls @ Hawks (& a deal)

Just realizing that this never posted (sorry, HST8 Talk Fans - we're not a machine). So, we're not going to try to do a full recap, but instead we're going to do a few bullets and then give you a deal for purchasing tickets to Hawks/Bucks.

  • First, with all due respect for the ticket procurement (and we say that with true sincerity), the worst tickets you can get are tickets near the floor, but behind the basket. Losing about 20% of the viewing vantage point sucks. I would like to say that I saw Derrick Rose finish one of the nastiest alley oops in a while, but the basket vantage point saw it for us.
  • Ok, nuff complainin' - Josh Smith is the only guy on the Hawks capable of a triple double (or for that matter a quadruple or quintuple double). Yes, we said it...actually - has a quintuple double ever happened?
  • For the umpteeth time, our team looks contender worthy when Joe Johnson is actually playing shooting guard (with the emphasis on being passed the ball in scoring positions).
  • Not much really to talk about other than - looks like even the Friday/Saturday bump isn't in effect anymore...Hawks fans, you now are simply a big game fan base and that's sad.
  • Congrats to Arthur Triche and the Saints - we are sure that this means that the root you put down is now 100% dedicated to the Atlanta Hawks and the teams in our way. NBA title here we come.
Here's a deal for all our loyal fans...snap tickets up while you can...

Contact Info:



Will Stephens


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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Game Recaps - Thunder & Clippers

Preamble Ramble

So, it's time to get back on the game recap train and of course, I have to pick a stinker of a back to back to watch it. Fortunate it is that the Hawks have gotten so much better that a stinker can be a split of two games vs. emerging and submerging talents. Not only that - the Alpha Male battle has begun...see below

Game Recap - Thunder 105, Hawks 99
Game Recap - Hawks 103, Clippers 97

Overall Observations:
  • Hate to say it, but I'm not so sure I don't wish (stripping city loyalty out of it) I was a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Role Players, Alpha Male, Young Stars, and defensive mindset..just simply a great thing to watch.
  • All of the fawning for Jamal Crawford's offensive talents aside, Joe Johnson took the last two games to re-establish why he's really, really, really good. And when he forgets about trying to force us to recognize his greatness - it's that apparent.
  • I gave up on Marvin Williams as a 'Jeff Green' type talent (who'd a thunk that two years ago) a while ago, but it seems like Coach Woodson has as well.
  • The refs are clearly aware that Jamal Crawford is the 4 pt play king and are ready to make sure that record is obliterated.
  • Again, Jeff Teague and D-League..a match made in heaven
  • It's actually kinda sad to see that the book is full blown out on Mike Bibby. I mean they are attacking him like there's no tomorrow.
  • Baron Davis is the poster child for how to get paid and then shut down everything that made you one of the top 5 point guards in the league.
Str8 Butter Award - None other than Joe 'MFin' Johnson. For real...30+ pt nights, attacking the rim, efficient scoring, and it's really wonderful to see and it's depressing at the same time because you want THIS Joe to be there every night. Please...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - A double double and not a whiff of the 4th quarter stretch, we were coming back and winning, but is something brewing here?
* Josh Smith - First, I love Josh more than any other Hawk, warts and all. That said, I told you that Josh falls more in love with the jumper as the year goes along. (Pssst..that would not be a good thing!)
* M. Bibby - Already been said - the decline is apparent and to hear Mike Woodson acknowledge that he's asking him to do less and now wants him to contribute on defense and rebounding is just the kind of quote that really makes us seriously question whether the coach is the right one for this team. (Note: I advocated for Coach Woodson's extension in the offseason and think he's earned an extension despite the belief that I don't think he's a championship caliber coach.)
* J. Johnson - Like Katt Williams, let your star boss player shine...
* A. Horford - Is there a more laborious route to a bucket that's also successful on the low block?

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - the 4 point king ...maybe his nickname should be the 4 Leaf Clover! Luck, steals some Celtic shine..let it sink in, people.
* J. Teague - Jeff Teague complaint basket has been shut down, so just know that as soon as we wise up to the D League idea - I'll provide updates here.
* M. Evans - Not really much to say...
* Joe Smith - Welcome back to the game...I will say that if anyone is equipped to deal with Coach Woodson's player rotation strategy - it's him.
* Z. Pachulia - Guess bottling the Celtic killer Zaza didn't really go so well, huh.
* R. Morris - Inactive
* M. West - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Not really putting anything on Coach Woodson for these two games other than whatever you should say about a coach when the team doesn't really play well on the road or when they almost lose to a team that gave you your worst home loss of the past season.

Str8 Talk Love

Kinda just not really sure what to make of these two games. Are the Thunder better than us? Could we compete in the Western Conference? What are major motivators other than putting Celtic uniforms on each team in the league? Just don't really know what to say about the game ops, the dancers, we won't say a word more.

Season Prediction

31-17 to turn into 50-32 means we'd have to go 19-15 down the stretch. That wouldn't be a progression toward the 60% clip we've been on all year, so let's hope I'm completely wrong, but I feel like without a roster shake up (Bibby and/or Williams) to the bench - we're going to regress instead of progress heading into the postseason. Am I crazy for thinking this?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The HawkStr8Talk MidSeason Review of the Preview

Well, it's time to pay the piper. I'm going to give some grades and critique the team's offseason decisions as well as my ability to be right or completely, unequivocally wrong. So, even though, we're RARELY wrong - we are man enough to admit it when it occurs, so to the business at hand - how the Hawks have done with their draft, trades, signings, and our overall record as a result. And for everyone else - go ahead and grade my offseason thoughts and midseason grades.

Offseason Predictions

Draft - Hawks' Grade: C-.

We made no bones about our desire to select DeJuan Blair instead of a point guard that our coach would not spend the requisite time developing. Coach Woodson has not shown an aversion to playing young bigs, so with a weakness in the toughness/rebounding categories - it seemed a perfect fit for a 3-5 year window (assuming Blair's knees would provide value through his rookie contract). To date, it seems as though that desire would have been rewarded with above average rebounding and inside scoring to provide depth for a team devoid of back to the basket, rebounding specialists. That said, we believe we've seen enough in glimpses to determine that Jeff Teague was not a wasted draft pick. To date, it's simply not a draft pick that has been used as an asset to be developed as a useful tool in advancing the cause of the 2009-2010 Atlanta Hawks, which could come back to haunt the Hawks in the case of injury OR in the more likely case of needing a more prepared and useful starting PG option in 2010-2011 to continue the ascent of our fair Hawks. As for our forays with international players, uh - finding sleeper talent has never worked well, so we're not banking on our 2nd round draft pick ever being a rotation player, so we won't even bother with his name being printed here.

Trades - Hawks' Grade: A-.

Well, it's obvious that I was completely and totally off in questioning whether Jamal Crawford would be equal to Flip 1.0. No, Jamal is clearly Flip 2.0 in the sense that Flip is Window 95 and Jamal is Windows XP (basically the difference btw regular blue screen/system crashes vs. infrequent blue screen/system crashes). So, I will not question Rick Sund's ability to read the market and pick up players via trade or to sign useful players for league minimums (or close to that). The only question I'll make is whether David Andersen's ability to be a rotation player for the Houston Rockets is a testament to Rick Adelman's superior coaching or whether it was a missed opportunity to have a superior version of the 'Garbage Time Boys' (Jason Collins, Othello Hunter, Randolph Morris, or Mario West)

Free Agent Signings - Hawks' Grade: C+

Let's include all of the players with new contracts here - Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Joe Smith, Jason Collins. The Hawks are 30-16, so we could take the easy route and say - A+ all around, but since we are already seeing Bibby provide less value in year 1 than we anticipated - it stands to reason that unless Jeff Teague turns (or is turned loose, per some beliefs) into a starting point guard by opening night 2010 - the Hawks may be on the hook for a contract that won't provide the value it was constructed to do. We screamed for Ramon Sessions or Jarrett Jack (with Jack looking like the smartest pick for our organization right now) and are hoping that that decision doesn't harm our upward progression.

It's early but the same could be said for Marvin Williams. His stint as our starting small forward is not providing enough lockdown defense to make up for the regression in offensive/rebounding productivity necessary to justify his price tag. Short of a bringing a valuable piece to the Hawks in trade value, Marvin may not ever live up to his contract if the Hawks stay as presently constituted. On the bright side, for their price tag, Pachulia, Smith, and Collins are sure to be worth whatever they bring to the table. So, while there were lots of discussions about the Hawks depth and while on paper - it looks like that's true...we'll make a better determination on that come playoff time. We also would like to log the fact that we said that it was a testament to the Hawks that they had gotten better to the point that Mario West was not signed this season. Since he has since being signed for the remainder of the season, we shall see what his impact is for the remainder of the season.

Record - Hawks Grade: A-

Yes, we have lost twice at home to the Knicks and were blown out a few times to teams we should haven't had a problem with, but we have to also account for the fact that no one expected a sweep of the Celtics, road victories over Portland, Houston, etc, so let's just be honest and say - the Hawks are exceeding all reasonable expectations and for that - we have to give them a grade of A contrasted with our prediction that the range for wins was 44-52 with a prediction of 47. But that's why I don't gamble...I mean who knew the Wizards would implode, Pistons' entire team would get injured, AI would end up back in Philly, Memphis and Oklahoma City would have great seasons so far, etc. So, let's just revel in our position and hope that the relatively easier Feb/Mar/Apr will bring more wins at a 65% clip. Heady times I say...heady times!