Monday, March 29, 2010

What Happened To HawkStr8Talk? No Sixers or Pacers recap here

I figured this was a good time to tell the masses what happened to Hawk Str8Talk. Well, people - we really just got tired of talking about the same things. Games are still being watched, games are still being praised and criticized, but there's not the same zeal to write game recaps after game when we're going to repeat some of the same things every week.

So, we lost on the road vs. the Sixers. While I disagree with the overall sentiment that it was effort that was the main culprit (there's such a thing as your tactics just not working and an inability to adjust your game plan being at fault), I will just say - it's a scene we've seen this season. Same for the game vs. the Pacers. Came out pretty flat on the defensive end, but the Pacers simply couldn't keep up once the train was put on the tracks.

So, it's hard for a blogger who is looking for the things that give you confidence that the Hawks are a playoff force to talk about the same ol', same ol'. Things that we still don't have good answers for like:

1. Why has Josh Smith fallen back in love with the jump shot? And more importantly, where is the leadership that would tell him privately and publicly that it's not in our interest that he shoot it?
2. Why Jeff Teague is only good for a first half 5-10 stint? What is really accomplished by this?
3. Why the bench itself after playing really well recently is just now getting a chance to shine? (well, unless your name is Jamal Crawford).
4. Does anyone notice that the backcourt for the Hawks has shot pretty poorly lately?
5. Why the defense being very average is not a bigger item for fodder (switching defense and all)?
6. How hard is it to run the offense through the frontcourt?
7. Why if Mario West is so good at defense for the one possession at the end of the half, then why doesn't he come in and shut down perimeter players who are hot vs. us?

So, this season is turning out as I said it would and just like last year - the Hawks will beat teams it's better than 90% of the time and will beat teams better than it is at home. That results in a 50 win season. It's worth celebrating that, but it's not worth being content over it. So, when you see some pretty glaring holes that prevent championships and no discernible effort to actually solve it, what do you have? Sporadic blogging...

Sorry, but it is what it is...with that said, GO HAWKS!!!!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hawks & Magic OR The New Smoove Play of the Year

Preamble Ramble

Perspective – The Atlanta Hawks are 46-25. Just marinate on that for a minute. Yep, we have to always come back to reality during these heady times. While these heady times probably will result in a 2nd round loss to the Magic or Cavaliers, games like these are just fun for all the right and wrong reasons. Wrong because it gives a gloss over all the things we did wrong and yet still won (i.e. a Josh Smith jump shot in the closing minutes only confirms that there will be more of them…go back and check the highlights as he gave the hand to Mike Woodson as if to say ‘calm down, I knew I’d make it and so you need to just trust my jump shot in those situations, praise be to Allah’) and oh so right as I saw something that seriously, truly made my eyes water up and that’s watching a completely FULL Philips Arena Team Gear store ..wait for it – AFTER THE GAME on last night. Let me repeat this – there were probably 100 people inside the Philips Arena Team Gear store buying Hawks apparel after the game. Now, unless there was some secret sale or giveaway that I was unaware of, my approximately 300 or so games seen in Philips Arena has never seen that. And with that, it’s time for a full old school HawkStr8Talk game recap.

Game Recap - Hawks 86, Magic 84

Overall Observations:

  • Peachtree Hoops 4, HawkStr8Talk 8…yes, that’s my count so far for how many games I think the Hawks could have done the same or better while playing young Teague. While our blog war is over, I’ll concede that tonight was a night when you probably wanted Bibby playing AND he provided some back up to that cause (well, on the offensive end at least), though I will submit that Teague’s one assist was the slickest pass of the entire game. Oh to get more than 5 minutes (or even a 2nd half minute). Oh, if we weren’t clear – it was PH3, HS8T 8 prior to this game.
  • Mo Evans & the rest of the merry band of bench players came to play. Mo got 20 minutes and Mo made a great contribution on both ends. I’m sure Hoopinion would agree with me on this – Mo Evans (off & def) >>>>>> Mario West (def).
  • Maybe it was me, but I was wondering why the players who didn’t play, didn’t play (hello Joe Smith’s 6 fouls, hello Jason Collins’ 6 fouls) – Ryan Anderson and Anthony Johnson both had their way with us last time. I guess we’re not the only team that wonders about our rotation.
  • Honestly, I’m not sure why you even play Mario West cold. His use throughout the season has flummoxed me because we let Othello Hunter go (rightly) and didn’t just leave the spot open for us to sign any of the many veterans who could help us on either end. While no fan of Larry Hughes, Michael Finley, etc – I do know that they would provide us infinitely more value in the regular and post seasons than Mario West. It’s really sad that our only in-season change to the roster is Mario West. I’ll simply repeat – West getting minutes for our team really speaks volumes to me about our ability to be title contenders.
  • Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson – 9 for 31. I won’t even belabor the point, but I do think it’s fun to determine whether or not from 35 ft out whether or not one of our players is shooting. Last night, I was 7 for 8 in predicting who would take the shot. Not that this is rocket science, but to the untrained eye (i.e. the person I went with) I look soothsayer like.
  • Ok, I’ve finally gone long enough without talking about the play. I don’t take liberties like this normally, but I honestly saw the play before it happened. I was saying to myself – there’s nobody in front of Josh and that ball. It probably sucks that I already knew that Joe’s shot was not going to fall.
  • In my ongoing theme of the Hawks season as a slightly improved version of last season, it should be noted that Josh Smith has begun his late season ‘my jump shot is better, though no statistical measure shows it’ swoon. I have to keep saying this – I LOVE Josh Smith. Flaws and all, but now – it’s just become a drama within the game to see when he’ll really let the light go on. He’s proven that he’s forcing himself to continue to think that he has a jump shot, but was using good judgment not to shoot it. Unfortunately, the hammer must be put to that particle in his brain that connects to the reality that he will simply be better if he never, ever, ever shoots outside of 10 ft unless he’s at the line OR in Tim Duncan fashion – it’s 2 seconds on the clock, we’re down 3, a Conference title is on the line, and he winds up with the ball. THEN and ONLY THEN should you shoot a jump shot Josh.
  • Can I repeat again how good the bench looked even without Joe Smith and Jason Collins? Like, did we see how Teague did nothing to show that he shouldn’t be on the floor? I know I said I’d let this go, but I just wonder if he played in the 4th quarter if he could have scored a field goal. Just one…
  • And to think after 6 minutes, I thought we were about to get punked in our own building AGAIN!!!!

Str8 Butter Award – Maurice Evans – you get my baller award, homie. Big shots to get us back in the game…

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams – I know that we shouldn’t do this, but Marvin -16, Maurice +16…you draw your conclusions
* Josh Smith – I’ve said enough about the depths and peaks of having him on my team, but I did hug strangers after the game and who can do that to me other than you. I think this seals it – I’m gonna marry a crazy, deranged woman who goes to church, cooks, and makes love like a porn star. You’ve proven this, Josh. I mean 7-9 on free throws, clutch jumper, and yet – a whole arena can love you and say NOOOOOOO! Before every shot…hilarious. Yep, this is my future life.
* M. Bibby – Bibby!!!! I’ve been on you hard, but you showed and proved. Thank you for that – now, if you can just wrestle the ball from Joe and Jamal to be our point guard – I see great things for this team.
* J. Johnson – Not gonna say anything bad – the guy hit his free throws

* A. Horford – It’s interesting how Dwight Howard makes Al look like Zaza on the defensive end. I know I shouldn’t say that, but really – it’s unfair to put Horford on Howard with no help.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Shot selection of nothingness...yes, we said it.
* J. Teague – that’s 16 minutes in 4 games…no TOs, 3 assists, not abused on defense. Yep, you should be ready for the postseason in no time.
* M. Evans – That’s my Mo – should I do a blog about why you should start and then pick a fight with Peachtree Hoops about it? This is about ratings remember.
* Z. Pachulia – Zaza, you are a bad man. Dirty work yourself on to postseason glory, we say.
* Joe Smith - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP

* R. Morris – Inactive – why isn’t he playing in the D-League? Really?
* M. West – Really have nothing to say other than – I’m not convinced that West couldn’t be used better (i.e. you let him run around on the nights when good players aren’t putting forth effort for effect, not expected results), but I can say – the way he is used is really useless. If your point is that he’s good at defense, then have him shut someone down. I mean if he can shut down D-Wade (and he can’t), then put him out there – I’d accept that shut down vs. no offense, but he’s not THAT good, so you send him out for one stop for nothing, Woody. All you’re doing is wasting timeouts (Eyebrows raised and dinging in background – oh, snap …maybe that’s why you did that – to run out of TOs and let the players just win it for you…Woody, you’re a genius!)

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I’m not going to say anything on this. Game won. So, every iota of energy I’d expend on why the bench that brought you back doesn’t get to stay on the court OR even come back on the court when the starters are screwing the pooch won’t be belabored. And so, I wanted to say something nice, but…I’m going to just shut up. Thanks Hawks!

Str8 Talk Love

Don’t forget Haiti.

Dance Team/Game Ops update – really didn’t pay attention to the dance team for the first time EVER!!! Yep, that’s how far we’ve gone. Like I said, me and crazy women – that’s my lot in life.

Shout Outs – Big up to Kelli (and her friends who didn’t show up until 8 minutes left IN THE FREAKIN’ GAME), which allowed us to leave our seats and head to the Club, to Will, to Harlee & Stacy, to Ryan, to everyone we saw at the game – Todd, Micah…it was a grand ol’ time.

Final Notes – None – like I said, a few weeks ago, I already know how this is written, so I’m enjoying the ride in btw. Next up, Hawks road trips for the playoffs….

Season Prediction


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Josh Smith 10 Ten Plays (or not?)

Just when I was getting excited that was going to break up my work day with a variety of Josh Smith big plays of 2010...we get this - now, maybe I missed the definition of big plays, but I've seen at least 4 Josh Smith plays better than these.

Color me unimpressed with their selections...not one Josh Smith block and run to the other end for the alley oop in the bunch!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bobcats, Spurs, & Bucks - Oh My!


I know that I have become as reliable as The Vent (i.e. not!) in the sea of consistent bloggers like Peachtree Hoops/The Human Highlight Blog, Hoopinion, and Soaring Down South, but there's still room for me in the blogosphere for the purpose of what I call - the reality check...

Now, that's not to say that these other blogs don't have great blogs (they do) and opinions and purposes, but I think there's a lane that we serve well and that's to continue to determine what was learned that highlights whether or not we can win a title with this team (either this season or in future seasons). And so, we are back to an analysis that we made last year (one that I feared ever saying again), so check out the countdown:

1. So, while all of the naysayers have debunked my brazen attempt to get Jeff Teague on the court by communicating why Bibby should start, I give you more evidence of why Teague shouldn't be so I mentioned - several players in this league start and yet don't play significant crunch time minutes - in the past three games, those players were Stephen Graham, Antonio McDyess, and wait for it....Rookie of the Year candidate BRANDON JENNINGS. It was affirming to see Luke Ridnour not only get the bulk of the PG minutes off the bench, but also performed well in his stead. And it certainly isn't lost on me that the Bucks are 15-2 and one of the hottest teams (definitely hotter than us and suddenly a team I don't want to see in the postseason) in the league - while starting a rookie point guard who is often not getting the crunch time minutes. Again, I say - if Bibby's not providing any defense and isn't playing much offense - playing Teague should just not be so scary.

2. Now, forget my little diatribe about Teague starting, I'll simply provide this regarding him simply playing. 3 games in 4 days...Teague 11 minutes, 2-2 from the field, 1 assist, 0 TOs, +/- of 7 and a DNP. Again, forget a desire to develop Teague - it would just seem that if you want your best players to be rested and want an extra spark when playing 3 games in 4 days - you'd find more than 11 minutes in THREE GAMES for the young point guard who when on the court did very little wrong.

3. Josh Smith - you are a great player and we think you can get even better. And so, while we've done very little of this all season with regard to losing perspective regarding what great things you do on the court - we'll just say it again...there's something wrong when you believe that you are a jump shooter. Part of that is you and part of that is our coaching staff, but when you take your shooting percentage over your career outside the paint and conclude that despite fans' eyeballs, other team's willingness to allow you to, and empirical evidence saying otherwise that you'll keep taking jump shots - well, I feel no worry with regard to my belief that our ceiling is a 2nd round loss.

4. Joe Johnson - You too are a great player and I'm not going to get mad at you because you took two very tough shots to win the ball game. There's really no difference between the first one and the 2nd one (save the time you had to set up the last one) with respect to the fact that we did what we always do - we didn't set up a play. We said Joe or Jamal if you get it - make something happen. When you do that - this happens. Sometimes, you get amazing shots and sometimes you don't. I don't know why Joe has to be blamed for that. He's doing what he's always done and what the coach and team support (or uh, let) him doing.

5. Marvin Williams - I'll say it again...Marvin you can be a great role player or even an above average small forward in this league, but someone should be putting a foot in your behind when you can follow up a stellar effort with a STINKER.

6. So, this all brings me to what I didn't want to, we win 2 out of 3 games. The Spurs game was a great comeback and showed some heart and fortitude. The Bobcats win was a good win and one that we were lucky to win, but we fought...great job to stay in it and to highlight why our frontcourt is so important. The Bucks game was a great effort game, but what drives me crazy is feeling like other teams are getting better. The thing I kept saying to myself is - are the Hawks better now as a team than they were in the preseason? When we were 19-6, there was a thought about the Hawks. Are we still that good? Do you see us atop the Power Rankings? Are we being discussed as Eastern Conference contenders? And the answer is no. I see Cleveland getting BETTER with Powe (and while still without Shaq and Big Z), I see the Bucks getting better, I see injuries not impacting the Lakers, I see the Celtics still inconsistent, but while adding pieces into their rotation. I see the Bobcats getting better - the Mavs getting better. I see teams gearing up for the postseason and doing things to get better.

I see the Hawks and I don't see that progression. Nothing to note and say we're doing better. Same 4th quarter inconsistency, same herk and jerk with the bench, same regression with regard to Josh's ability to eliminate the jump shot from his shot selection, and so it continues. No new wrinkles in the offense or defense for opposing teams to account for. So, I will just stand up and say what I said a long time ago and that's that - the Hawks number one barrier to winning a title and even to evaluating this team is Mike Woodson. I won't criticize the players because I truly don't believe they are being coached. I believe he put in a philosophy and then rolls out the ball. that's it. No evidence has shown anything else. If we don't play defense, nothing happens. If we don't play good offense, nothing happens. Nothing happens to change our fate. So, when my coach says he needs to see the tape to see why we lose games, I say - how hard is it to see from a courtside seat? Is it hard to see that you never stopped a hot player over the course of a 4th quarter? Is it hard to see that you count on the same 6 players in the 2nd half every single game? Is it hard to see that your frontcourt barely touched the ball and when they did - they produced?

What's hard about that? Again, I love the Hawks. I think we're having a good season. That's about though...Continue to cheer, but my expectations for a title while he is coach remain at zero. Carry on, Hawks fans...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

7 Games Down & The Crown


I'm finally ready to do a blog - I won't talk about why I've been MIA, but I have watched all the games and am ready to make some championship level analysis on things. Since I'm prone to write epic opus length blogs, we won't try to talk about all the games, but we will highlight some themes and things we've seen during certain games and overall 7 game streak level let's get to it

1. Hawks have reached their plateau as presently constituted.

I make that comment not to say that there are not ways that the team could play better, grow as players and a team, but with our current philosophy in team offense, team defense, and a pretty consistent lock on the rotation and lack of changes in our strategies. We are who we are. Anyone who thinks otherwise will need to show evidence of it. Our problems with 4th quarter offense, with playing elite level defense, and with focus are well documented and frankly - nothing has changed about that all season.

2. The Hawks should not worry about selling the farm to become the #3 seed.

After everything is said and done, the battle for the #3 seed has the Celtics playing a tougher schedule than us. While they have proven to be a much better road team than us, you would hope the Hawks can attain that seed. It's only a psychological hurdle though because the Celtics have proven that they can compete on the road and have a championship under their belts. For all the down with Celtic stuff that you hear, the Celtics are not worried about going on the road. Not only that, it really doesn't matter b/c the Celtics aren't beating the Magic or Cavs in a 2nd round series anyway (which is the only way that having the #3 seed could potentially matter). So, I say that to say - Woodson, please rest our players when they are hurt. Don't burn out Bibby when he's hobbled. Let Joe Johnson take as much time as he needs to get his Achilles healthy. Involve the bench players you think will help us in the postseason as much as possible, so they enter the postseason ready for bear.

3. Jeff Teague = Acie Law IV (and I told you so).

Listen, I've been the biggest 'get Teague some minutes guy' all season, but I will battle ANYONE on this contention - any potential that Jeff Teague has for this franchise is being destroyed by Mike Woodson's use of him and for that - I'd rather him just not play anymore. Not only that, I told everyone very early in the season to not believe what Woodson said about having a 10 deep roster and playing Teague. He has said several times that he'd play Teague, then he said if players got injured that he'd certainly play Teague, etc - well, like I said, early on - don't believe what he says, believe what he does. With Jeff Teague - that has been 100% true.

It's easier for a rookie to just realize that he hasn't gained the trust of the coach to play minutes for this coach or team. Let's just trade him or let him languish to the point that we decide to get a veteran who the coach trusts to play backup point guard now and can grow into our starting point guard. The way he's being deployed certainly doesn't inspire Teague to feel like his coach has trust in him - as he noted, he was scared to make mistakes, which we've said here is EXACTLY what you feel when you think every mistake means you are coming out of the game, but I'd offer that more damaging is that Teague isn't being used as someone that the Hawks should use our the future QB of their offense. Why would any of the starters believe in Teague's future here? Similar to Law, they were never allowed to 'run' the offense while in the game and certainly were jerked from the lineup enough to know that there's no confidence in their games. That could be due to a lack of talent. Bottom line, the best thing Mike Woodson could say to Jeff Teague is that he's not playing and tell him what he needs to do to be a starter in 2010-2011. Telling the media that Teague did ok and that you lost no confidence in him after his first start followed by taking him out of the lineup and playing him less than 10 minutes is not our example of showing 'confidence' in Jeff Teague.

As I said prior to this past 2 game road trip, Teague won't play more than 20 minutes in either. He played 17 minutes in the game he started and 8 in the following game. Again, you can look at the micro picture and say - well, he struggled. I'd say well, that's what happens when you're a rookie. Every rookie that has shined this year has done so. Most did so in their first starts if they started at all. The problem is that for our rookies - there are no carrots when Teague's doing well, but certainly a hook when he's not. Player development doesn't occur that way. Confidence for the playoffs is certainly not built in that fashion, so just shut him down. If you can't get more than 20 minutes vs. the Nets (struggles or not), then you are not ever going to play meaningful minutes. (Quick note: I will say that his start did result in what I expected and desired in a start Teague scenario, which was at least 2 stints in a game - to start each half - just thought it could happen with Joe Johnson - without him, I figured more time would be in the offing esp. with the defensive backcourt of Bibby and Crawford staring at us for a back to back).

3. Coach Evaluation should include - did your team get better during the season?

This year, the Hawks started 19-6 and now are 43-24 (that's 24-18 since).
Last year, they started out 15-10 and got to the 67 game mark at 39-28 (that's 24-18 since). They ended it 8-7. Last year, the Hawks played one notch better to start the season than to end it. This year, they played two notches better to start the season than they are at this stage. We have not improved as a team in any ways that matter for postseason success. The defense isn't stronger and the offense is pretty much the same (which is above average unless you take the 4th quarter woes into account). So, as we watch certain teams getting better and playing better down the stretch (Dallas, Orlando, Cleveland, Milwaukee), we are not better. Some surmise that that has to do with the fact that those teams have pieces that needed to get comfortable and integrated into their systems, so they take some time to get better over the year whereas we have the essentially same players and coaching and system every year, which leads to great starts while teams are catching up, but plateaus at some point (hence, point #1)

4. The Hawks will be the #3 seed.

We have an easier schedule than the Celtics and the Celtics don't need a better seed like the Hawks do. The Hawks will not receive any benefit from the additional seeding just like the Celtics won't, but the Celtics realize that they are a great road team and that it's better to be playing well and get healthy and integrate Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and Michael Finley into the system. Conversely, the Hawks always are looking to have a better record for the psychological effect it has for the team and the coach's desire for a new contract, so I fully expect that we'll get the #3 seed, which means very little with regard to winning a title, but it's something that will happen.

5. Why Losses to the Knicks, Heat, and Raptors don't bother me anymore?

My last game recap was on the 1st vs. the Bulls. Since then, we've beaten the Sixers, Warriors, Wizards, Pistons, and Nets. We've handled them (with the Warriors being the exception) as we should have, then we lost on the road vs. the Knicks, Heat, and Raptors. I won't spent a lot of time railing against the losses and forgetting about the wins. Simply put, there's nothing that happened in those games that's really upsetting and here's why: the Hawks are not an elite team. Above average teams get beaten by inferior teams on the road all the time. When you get to the point that you feel certain that the team you cheer for is a notch below elite and not a title contender, then you learn to accept (not like, but accept) that your team will succumb to its flaws and lose games. If we were losing games in ways that were unfamiliar to us, then we'd have something to say about it, but there's nothing new there.

As I said a while ago (which spawned my 'start Teague/Evans' blogs), the Hawks are a good team. We spend so much time dissecting what's wrong with them. We forget what's right. We forget how good Josh Smith has been (even with the jump shots), we forget how Al Horford has progressed on the offensive end (despite the lack of touches), we forget how prolific Jamal Crawford can be (with or without Joe Johnson), and we forget how good Joe Johnson is (despite him not being a Tier 1 star in this league). So, there's a lot to be happy about - there's no shame in being a top 10 NBA team. I say that with no relaxation of our rule that this blog is dedicated to commentary that focuses on things that move us to a title, but for the remaining 15 games - there's no belief that anything more can be done to help us toward a NBA title.

We missed on opportunities to add any depth (Larry Hughes, Michael Finley, etc) in the event of any backcourt injuries, so that's it - our team is who it is and we'll see what happens in the postseason and offseason to get us where we want to be. Everything else is just a season being played out and we hope it includes some great moments in Hawks history.

So, with that - here's our final prediction for the year...51-31 and that #3 seed...

Go Hawks!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hawks/Nets Preview

In trying to get back into the swing of blogging again, I'll simply say this as my Hawks/Nets preview. I don't care if Bibby or Johnson play today because my coach said that he's always said that he expects folks to step up when given the chance and that they should be ready to perform.

So, we shouldn't worry about anything (particularly my all season worry that we have been playing without real backup guards and that all it would take is ONE, much less TWO injuries to our guards to sink the tenuous attempt to make noise in the playoffs) and I'm not giving ONE pass and I don't want to see any writer or blogger giving the Hawks a pass tonight if we lose to an abysmal Nets team and a slumping Raptors team - not due to injury and not due to being on the road. I'm not giving a pass, people. Just know that...Seriously - not hearing it...

And I'm not hearing anything about Teague if he sucks either - Bibby (since PH tried to convince me that he was worth keeping as a starter has had one start worthy performance in 3 weeks vs. Golden 'we don't play defense' State) has sucked for week, so if he sucks - it happens when you sit on the bench all the time. That said, I am betting that Teague still doesn't make it north of 20 minutes tonight. I'd love to eat those words...

Go Hawks!!

Where Have We Been?

I'll have a real blog with thoughts on the last 2 weeks (5 games) plus thoughts on JJ being injured and Bibby being run down later today, but to those who thought we disappeared - I've been traveling with no internet access and dealing with a family emergency, so I apologize, but sometimes real life gets in the way of fun blogging.

Unlike other blogs, there's no revenue coming from this, so my sports love does get back burnered somtimes. Trust us - we have a LOT to say about the past 2 weeks (like the Teague increase in minutes is becoming more important and obvious (and why would Teague do an interview with Teague hater Peachtree Hoops ...well, he didn't say he hated him, but we're trying to sell ads over here, so if Fox News can stretch the truth, so can we, right? and why if defense is Woodson's calling card - why are not good at it?)

Yep, those thoughts and so much more - just hang in there with me. And shout out to The Casey for at least asking about me (and to his question - I'd NEVER stop blogging because some folks disagreed with me...I expect people to disagree with about 80% of what I say, which is why I started the blog - I didn't think people were being honest about our prospects and method to building a NBA champion - simply go to the AJC comment page or to a few other blogs and you'll see that they are focused on the micro and I'm dealing more with the macro (hence, our Teague/Bibby or Marvin/Mo debates)). Bottom line, I love the Hawks and the blog - it's not going anywhere.

Go Hawks!!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What My Debate Taught Me

I'm so happy that I decided to take on the great Peachtree Hoops in a debate over whether we should start Jeff Teague over Mike Bibby and more than anything it's this....

Atlanta Fans hate change! Abhor it! Are Scared of it more than H1N1!!!!

Now, I already know that Jeff Teague isn't starting for this team unless 2 of our three guards (Joe, Jamal, or Bibby) get hurt and I even got the impression that if that happened - Maurice Evans (and there's even some thought that Mario West could sneak ahead as well) would get the nod. So, I get it - Jeff's not starting, but the prospect and imagery of him starting has spawned all kinds of things from the fan base in the comments fields for Peachtree Hoops. Most of the supporters did the one thing that started the thought in my mind - can we win a title with Mike Bibby? Now, my assessment is NO! So, I proposed something that leads to the path of winning a title. I don't know if Teague is the answer - I'm not going to say that he is, but I certainly want to find out if he's a core player or a bit player. Mike Bibby is not a part of the core of an Atlanta Hawk championship team this year, next year, or the following one. SOOOOOO...why don't we figure out who is? I know that there are all kinds of things to consider - Woody's extension, Joe's signing, Al's re-signing, the Spirit's coffers, Teague outright sucking when the lights are turned on.

To me, the sooner we find out the answers to those questions, the better, but only one can be addressed now and that's Teague's minutes. I think we got some agreement that Teague should have more minutes and we can debate whether that has to happen at the start of the game or not. The funny thing is - if many want to see him play with the starters, then why does it matter whether that's to start the game or not? Is that really affecting the course of each game? I'd make an argument that that's the time when you are least affected by it. I've been clear about saying starting doesn't mean 30 minutes a game and that I'm not asking for 4tr qtr minutes. I'm asking for more minutes with the players he is supposed to lead.

How is this something that's laughable? I have ZERO problem with disagreeing with my answer of Evans and Teague to solve some of our defensive and offensive balance issues. I have ZERO problem with you highlighting what problems this creates. But I have problems with skewing the actual stats (all of them) and not having an answer that addresses the roadblocks in the way of us winning a title. We can't win a title without better perimeter defense We can't win a title without being able to run a better halfcourt offense, particularly in the 4th quarter. We can't win a title if we don't play to our strengths (transition, athleticism, etc). We can't win a title with only 8 players. That's really what is underneath my post - and if you aren't playing by those rules - fine, but just know you're playing a different game than me.

My game and goal here is to talk about the things that matter regarding our ascension to NBA titlist. So, nothing has changed from when I was asking for minutes from Law, from Shelden, from Josh Smith and Childress, cutting Mario West, or any move that isn't about a title. So, a championship seeking move is moving Teague into the starting lineup - which should be confused with me saying that's GOING to win us a title. I just know what isn't going to win one and that's having Bibby as a main cog in the program. And the vitriol thrown my way (not by PH) for suggesting this only suggests what I already know - Hawks fans are so happy to be winning again that they don't want to tamper with that regardless of whether it means we'll lose in the 2nd round for the next 2-3 years or not. They don't want to upset the apple cart, but what Sund should be saying is - we still have more work to do on this roster.

He almost said as much in our interview with him - that he was SURPRISED that we're doing as well as we're doing. He knows that we have more work to do. I wonder if the fan base realizes this as well.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Final Defense of a Teague Starting Job

First, I must say thanks to Drew for making my snow day. A real debate about Hawk issues...gotta love it. Let me also say - from the way Drew looks at this season and its potential, he's right. Bibby should start..unfortunately, he shares a point of view that I don't share, so we'll have to see if he ever determines that if my caveats turn out to be true - whether I'm right.

Here's his closing argument and my final reply:

I’m not saying my answer is THE answer. I’m offering an alternative that I think has some merit. Can it be debated? Sure, and Drew does a good job with it, but there are some holes in it if you are looking at it from my perspective and I’m debating those holes. What I have yet to hear is the defense of the very things that I am saying Bibby lacks. I haven't heard the defense if Bibby continues his slump, if Bibby continues to get WORSE on defense. You can talk about a lot of scenarios, but if you do – make sure they are apples to apples. I admit that if I held Drew's thoughts about the Hawks – debate over, but I obviously disagree with Drew’s assertion that we don’t know the Hawks ceiling. I think I do. I’m pretty confident based on our body of work that unless we play the Celtics – we don’t play a brand of basketball that will defeat the Cavs or Magic in the postseason. Could that be wrong? Sure could…I pray I am wrong, but I offer this – it’s more likely to me that the Hawks win a title with Jeff Teague as PG in the next 2 years than with Mike Bibby this year. That's the basis of my 'let him play now' mantra.

Now, the point being made by me is one where the philosophical point is one being refuted with points that skew to Drew's view of success, so each time I point out exactly WHY I believe this is the best move for the Hawks. If I use Drew's views, then he is absolutely correct. So, since we have different lens, it's hard to call a winner on this. I wouldn’t even propose this if Mike Woodson wasn’t our coach. I’m providing this as an option to help Mike over his inability to ‘find’ the rookie minutes that would allow him to develop. It’s a final attempt to get him to help the rookie develop.

So, that said – here’s my reply:

1. Again, in both instances of Mo Evans and Jeff Teague starting, people seem to believe that having these guys start means they have to play the minutes that Marvin and Mike play right now. I don’t share that belief – I do think the mix for when they play and who they play with when they play could provide positives. So, I watch just as many games as Drew – I’m fairly sure I watch more at the arena in a seat that affords me the same or better vantage point and I agree – Mike Bibby does attempt to help organize the offense both from the court and the bench. And how well is that going for us in the 4th quarter. Drew is correct – we aren’t having a problem starting games – rarely is the game starting effort in question. Ok, there’s a feather in the cap, but that’s not trending toward keeping those other times when Bibby is in the game and we’re playing horrid offense (and defense).

2. I offer different reasons for why Jeff Teague has not played well in stretches (though I’d completely disagree that he’s just bad – he’s also played well in stretches) and it’s that he doesn’t play consistently with a role defined by the coach. This is another thing that I think this move would help. You can’t look at stats completely to make your argument that he’s bad – 60% of his minutes have been garbage minutes. If you can parse out the 40% that show he’s simply a bad ball player vs. an INEXPERIENCED basketball player, I’d agree, but that’s just not a true statement.

3. I think one of his commenters (dmortone) gets to my point a little more clearly, which is if you believe that the Hawks can win a title with this team, then disregard everything I said…I just happen to not share that belief. I share that hope, but my blog is Hawk Str8Talk for a reason, so the realist in me says – we’re a 2nd round team. And to my final point…

4. Rajon Rondo…I repeat Rajon Rondo…
I will give you an example of a player where what I’m proposing worked…his name is Rajon Rondo. Started 25 games in his rookie year, no jump shot, very little experience, little confidence, etc. He went into the following season as the unquestioned starter and was the starting PG for the NBA champion. That’s essentially what I’m proposing with the added benefit of more PT in a postseason. While he had an extra year of play, I give you Rajon Rondo as my example for a player who played some as a rookie and then was turned loose. Now, so we don’t get into a pissing contest trying to find chinks in the analogy. No situation is going to be perfect, but I do think you’re making points that I’m not making because your paradigm is different.

My paradigm is that we aren’t going to do any of the things you want the Hawks to do WITH BIBBY, so I’m focusing on how the unknown now gives us answers to what we hope to do WITHOUT BIBBY next year. So, it makes Woodson coach more, it makes Teague grow up more, it doesn’t give you a magic (pun intended) bullet for how we beat the Cavs, the Magic, or Celtics. It also doesn’t sink it either…b/c I keep saying – you can sit the guy if he’s deer in headlights. That can happen too. And the reason it worries me little is because I don’t see us beating those teams anyway (well, the Celtics can be had, but it’s unlikely that we’ll be playing them in the 2nd round).

So, it’s a friendly debate and I cede to Drew's thoughts IF I believed we were going to be in the ECFs or had a shot at getting the top seed in the East. I don’t, so I’d rather just get on with the final piece of rebuilding. As for Marvin, I won’t argue the point further other than to say – I’ve always argued that Marvin as the 5th option on offense makes him passive and useless on offense in a way that him playing with the 2nd string could possibly change and unlock his offensive aggression. As for the defense, again – not asking for more Mo minutes, but trying to balance out the offensive and defensive contributions. So, that’s less of a debate than just a way to get more than 3 good offensive games out of Marvin this year. Is it proven? No. Would I do a debate on that with you? No. just would love to see Woodson try other ways to unlock the potential in the team. Anyway, it was fun..and I don’t pose it in anything less than fun. If I could get a guarantee that Teague goes into the offseason as the unquestioned starter next season, I’d back off of this a tad, but I don’t trust Woodson and Sund on this one. Just don’t…

Anyway, it is hypothetical b/c we all know it’s not going to happen. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. Cheers!

Blog Wars: PH vs. HS8T & Bibby vs. Teague

Well, it looks like we have something to debate over the next few days with our friends at Peachtree Hoops. I sloppily threw out a challenge for why Bibby had to be the starter of this team if he doesn't shoot the ball well and so...PH decided to tell me why. Oops! Check out his thoughts here

First, let me set the scene for this debate a little...I make my position based on 2 things (things that I said in my Start Teague and Evans blog would be necessary for starting Teague). The first is no locker room discord. If it can't be sold amicably, it doesn't work. At least not this year - next year, I really don't care how Bibby takes it. Teague needs to play 25 minutes a game next year no matter what. Since we've never seen how the Hawks handle adversity or big coaching moves, this is the biggest unknown and that unknown is what you have COACHING for - it's what we pay Woodson to manage. Second, is that Mike Bibby continues to shoot poorly.

IF those two things could happen, I 100% wholeheartedly endorse making this move happen. As we often say around here, this is a move made with the goal of CHAMPIONSHIP in mind. Not this season because I don't think the Hawks can win a title this season no matter who is at point guard, but in getting Teague into the crucible NOW, so he can hit the ground running next season and next POSTSEASON. Let's go ahead and say it - Teague isn't playing any non-blowout minutes as a reserve as is. We already know that about Woodson and what's the reason going to be - well, he's not ready and that's going to be because you didn't ever ONE TIME decide to let the boy play just to see what he could do with more than 15 minutes. I don't expect a point guard who is leading the team for the first time to make a significant step forward for the team, so the point here is that every dribble taken this season helps us toward a championship next season. And I'm very convinced that every minute on the court with Mike Bibby as your starting guard has a ceiling that falls well short of a championship.

So, let's address the things that PH used as the litmus test for saying that a Teague move would be a chance not worth taking (Note: I am not deluded in any way that this is going to happen and actually have serious doubts it will happen next year.)

1. Mike Bibby Sets Up the Offense.

Well, let's set aside that I don't believe that to be true (A point guard who doesn't bring up the ball more than 70% of the time is not setting up an offense. There's a huge difference between he's set up a play occasionally vs. our point guard sets up the offense), but I think we've ALL complained about the offense and the fact that we take a quarter each game at doing something other than running a legitimate offense. The #1 play for the Hawks is the isolation play, not to be confused with just passing until someone decides to do something that allows us a shot opportunity. That isn't an offense that depends on a point guard. Our fastbreak is led more often than not by our power forward and center, not by our point guard. There really is nothing valid about a statement that Mike Bibby sets up the offense. Now, there is validity to the fact that Teague is sometimes not spacing well and the starters have to help him with that - well, that happens when you DON'T play with the starters. Which is the point - having him play with the starters would solve that quickly. I can't imagine that spacing is an issue that a point guard would have a problem picking up. What's more important is having your point guard garner the respect of the starters and their ability to allow him to lead them in actually setting up an offense.

This is core reason for my suggestion. To have us actually counting on a point guard to run an offense, to run a fast break, to penetrate and bring a dynamic that we normally don't have. I'd prefer to have my point guard missing floaters in a broken down interior than missing open jump shots and unable to get back or do anything else other than miss jump shots. I agree that this 'offense' isn't set up for a slashing point guard, but that's the point. The point is that this would actually force us to have an offense. There's nothing complicated about what we do now that changing point guards affects in any shape, form, or fashion. Bibby can't do anything better than Teague other than shoot and pass alley oops to Josh Smith. And when his shooting is down...advantage Teague!

2. Change of Pace.

Well, since we aren't running when Teague comes into the game now, I'm not sure what the point is. I could agree with Peachtree Hoops if the bench came in and ran, but that doesn't happen. Teague doesn't play enough now to make the argument about changing pace. It's not what he does, it's what he could do - he basically brings up the ball and passes to Jamal and we run the offense. I don't know why Bibby can't do that with Jamal. You may bring up the defense and that would be a good point IF they weren't playing them that way NOW. Bibby and Jamal play together in the 4th quarter a lot. Teague isn't being used as a defensive counterbalance (though frankly when we are getting beaten by perimeter offense in the 4th quarter - it's something to consider since our best defensive back court is TEAGUE and JOHNSON). If your argument is that Bibby sets up the offense, then why can't he set up the offense with a slashing Jamal who creates opportunities better than Jeff right now and run it from there. In that context, you have 3 shot makers on the floor (Evans, Crawford, and well, in my scenario - Bibby isn't shooting well, but he's more of a threat from 3 than Teague on his worst day). So, I hear you PH, but your answer presumes that's how he's being used now and frankly, he's not.

3. The Problem

I have already acknowledged this point, so I'll just use this time to reiterate that starting Jeff doesn't make him play more than 15-20 minutes. If he's playing well, he stays. If not, the veteran Bibby plays more or Jamal and Joe handle more of the load. So, let's not confuse start Teague with play Teague 35 minutes a game. The biggest benefits are that Jeff plays with the starters and gets experience with that and it tempts Woodson to play Teague more than one stint a game (who does the one non-garbage time stint a game other than Woodson?!?) when he's playing well like almost any coach does when he has reserves or starters that are playing well.

4. Risk Reward

This is the place where I actually disagree most with PH. Maybe you haven't been watching Darren Collison or Ty Lawson or Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry or ....(or maybe you've been watching Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, or Ricky Rubio), but the key here is that we don't know if Jeff is one of the former or the latter, but I think if we hit on the former - Jeff actually makes us a true contender for the Eastern Conference Finals. That's a reward I'm willing to risk something for. And why? Because we aren't winning a 2nd round playoff series any other way. That's the whole point of this suggestion - to squeeze more out of this season than what we're looking at right now. It's not to play it safe. It's not to hope we can win 50 games and still lose in the 2nd round. The point that seems to be made is that the Jeff Teague we see every game (when we see him) is the Jeff Teague we'd expect to see if he started every game. I'll say what PH isn't saying - he's saying that the Teague we've seen wouldn't improve. Well, almost every rookie PG I've seen is MUCH better than they were in month 1 (T. Evans and B. Jennings exempted) - Stephen Curry looked no better than Royal Ivey for the first month, but the point was that he had to figure the game out. That's exactly what I'm hoping this move does. I know our Mike Bibby ceiling. Maybe you don't OR maybe you are afraid that Teague's floor is lower than Bibby's. If it's the former, come on. If it's the latter, why worry about that if we aren't going to win the title?

Listen, I'm very aware that this move would cost us a few games, but it can't drop us below the 4th seed. We very likely aren't going to overtake the Magic no matter what, so again - my suggestion is about taking one step backward possibly to take 2 steps forward by season's end. And with the experience taking us 3-4 steps forward next season. Why do I have to wait tomorrow for something that seems like a good gamble today (with the point of my gamble being that you take the best risk to get the best reward)? Plus, it has the intangible of me seeing whether or not Woodson can make a coaching decision and philosophy change work to fix problems that he must see impacting our ability to win a title. So, I know what Bibby gives us - that isn't changing. What Teague gives us just might. He might starting hitting floaters, he might hit open jump shots, and he might run a team out of the gym in transition. Now, I only ask Mike Woodson to manage Teague well enough to see him do those things along with the defense that is already better than anything Bibby does, so that he doesn't lose us games in the postseason. That's it.

So, let's not make claims I am not making. This move wouldn't have made us in a 60 win team, but it may have made us a more dangerous playoff opponent. Last I checked - winning 60 wins doesn't guarantee a title. This isn't a regular season move. It is exactly what I always ask the Hawks to do for us and that's to stop trying to win every battle (regular season games this year and next) in an attempt to win the war (a 2010-2011 championship title). I don't want to hear about increasing the win total again. I want to see us win a 2nd round playoff series. That is the ceiling I want us attempting to break through. To the points of what it hurts, I'll just say that our jump shooting can't get much worse - we're winning by going inside. Anything that encourages us to lean more on our frontcourt, I'm all for. Anything that changes our expectations gets our complete endorsement and that's essentially what I'm asking for.

PH, it's on you....

Game Recap: Hawks @ Bulls (3/1)

Preamble Ramble

Vanguishing a hobbled opponent on the road on the back end of a back-to-back. The question is really - should credit be given for doing as Chris Rock would say 'the $#%@ you're supposed to do.' Our answer below

Game Recap - Hawks 116, Bulls 92

Overall Observations:
  • Marvin Williams needs to do what he did vs. the Bulls in a game that matters vs. players who aren't woefully mismatched to make me rescind my belief that the Hawks should start Mo Evans. Yeah, 18 and 9 are nice, but can you make Larry Bird-esque behind the backboard shots...Mo can!
  • I sure hope we can figure out the time when the playoff seeding and 50 wins have been assured because I wouldn't mind seeing Jamal get some rest for that shoulder. It's not like he's going to stop shooting and it's not like Mike Woodson is going to just look out for it on his own.
  • While I'm on Jamal (and Joe for that matter), there's something about volume shooters - they will make you think they really have had great games and numbers if you just take the AP game recap to heart. Jamal shot his way through garbage time to high scoring honors (and while I take nothing away from Jamal), but he really didn't have anything to do with this win.
  • It should be the formula used every single time we play the Bulls. Give the ball to the frontcourt and watch them put up prodigious numbers AND win the game. 50 pts, 37 rebounds, all tied for the TEAM lead in assists, one rebound short of everyone getting a double double. Yep, the game can be that simple...
  • Again, Jeff Teague sure didn't do anything to make me believe that he didn't deserve more minutes tonight. (I only repeat this because Hoopinion quoted me for saying so last night...maybe it'll happen again and it's not like it wasn't true). Another upside to playing Teague more - guaranteed more touches and shots for our frontcourt. If they have it rolling, it's getting to the point where you almost HAVE to pull Joe and Jamal off the court.
  • We've waited long enough - yes, Josh you made me proud to have called you our best player last night only to back up the point with a game worthy of being called such.
  • Really, is it me or does it seem like our entire backcourt's ability to take really good shots has regressed? I won't do you like Bush did us - YES, we are in a RECESSION!!!!
  • Now, to be fair, it really is important Jeff Teague that you learn how to hit a floater in the lane. As a former little guy on the basketball court, I KNOW how important it is and would expect that a professional wouldn't be able to miss as many as you have come to miss, so please for both our futures (mine as a blogger with any semblance of credibility and yours as the starter for this team) - FIGURE IT OUT! This only serves to give Peachtree Hoops a small window with which to say emphatically that Bibby should be our starter (and other than locker room discord we would like for a 'looking at today's reality' debate on this topic with PH - yes, we are calling out PH on the campaign trail, little kiddies).
  • Mr. Colangelo, now why was Kirk Hinrich in the USA Basketball pool again? What did you see in him that you can't see in Josh Smith for the 2012 pool?
  • Please see my All Star Thoughts and check out Josh's recent surge and let's just say...Called It!
  • Final point - when the other team's coach concedes, CLEAR THE BENCH! Oh, yeah - and that answer is - I don't give you proved something to me for the playoffs credit for doing what you are supposed to do. We still need a Lakers and Cavs road victory to wipe the two Knicks home losses off the ledger. That's all...
Str8 Butter Award - I'm torn btw encouraging Marvin's effort and being self serving in patting myself on the back for Josh's continued excellence as our best player over the past 4-5 weeks. Since humility is a strength of mine, we'll go with Marvin...yep, Marvin wanted to stick it to me (thanks for waiting 60 games to do so) for starting the year saying that Evans should start. So, in an effort to keep my drumbeat for change alive (Teague! Evans! Starting '09/10, not 10/11 - ok, my slogan work needs

No Player or Coach Smackdowns Today!

Season Prediction

Looked at the schedule again and if the Hawks don't win 53 games, it'll be a travesty. I'll say it again - there are only 5 games we should really be challenged in and 4 of those 5 are at home. I'm tempted to increase my prediction, but injury, slump, or just over confidence is sure to claim a victim or two. So, I'll just stick with where I'm at...