Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's A Fan To Do? Get Out a Vacuum?

Here's the big conundrum associated with producing this blog:

Are you abdicating your fan-dom by cheering for what you think are the long term, championship interests of the team vs. the on court wish for a victorious outcome no matter the circumstances. So, to be more plain about it...if you are a Cavs fan, are you less of a fan if you openly hope to tank a season if it nets you LeBron James and a clear path to a future NBA title.

That's what last night's game has placed on this fan's weakened, weary heart. As I watch people talk about the particulars of this playoff series, I'm conflicted between a desire to see this particular team reach its potential (a potential that I think maxes out at tough 2nd round playoff loss) and a desire to paint a picture so clear that the ownership & GM determine that they will do what's necessary to move us to the next level. Further complicating this is having to acquire a belief that the ownership and GM are aware of and would commit the resources necessary to reach the next level of success for this team. Hearing the questions about Joe Johnson's heart, Josh Smith's head, Mike Woodson's everything, and so on...just make this a mess!

None of those things are clear and thus, complicates this issue. In a vacuum, I would start with hiring a disciple of the GM tree from the San Antonio Spurs. All those accolades that were heaped upon Rick Sund are starting to sour as we see that having a 6th man of the year and re-signing all components of the 'core' is not the same as having perimeter defenders, rebounders, true veteran leadership, and coach to mix it all into a great tasting gumbo. While acknowledging early on that I was wrong to lampoon Jamal Crawford's acquisition as simply Flip Murray Plus, but the belief that we could have used this past offseason to make championship moves is still in contention. An argument can be made that Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, and Zaza Pachulia's money could be spent on Jarrett Jack or Ramon Sessions, Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse, and/or Kurt Thomas along with the contracts of Acie Law & Speedy Claxton as a stop gap toward a move to sign Dwayne Wade.

But that's in a vacuum...we don't live in a vacuum. An argument can be made that we should have been on the trail of the next Scott Brooks. These are all arguments balanced against the fear that many have about making steps backwards in terms of wins and losses. Is it really a backwards step if you are making no progress toward the championship? Yes, it's tough to get rid of an average coach when you could end up with one worse, but doesn't that just mean that like many other organizations - you simply have to continue firing and hiring until you find the right leader. Which is the best method? Do you keep trotting out Dirk Nowitzki year after year because he's splendid or do you try to get other players who may not be as splendid, but give you an undefined shot at a NBA title? Again, vacuum...

I offer all of these items up for debate because as a Hawks fan - I literally felt kicked in the stomach last night, but was never able to shake the thought that maybe the owners and GM felt as sick as I did to the point that they decided that changes would be made to push for another outcome. Without doing yet another assessment regarding why Woodson isn't the coach for a championship team, it's simply clear that what we should be able to settle on is that Woodson is comfortable with setting a rotation and a philosophy and riding it out - win, lose, or draw. Unfortunately, that is not a championship make. Sometimes, a team needs to bench a star (a la Tony Parker or Lamar Odom) for balance and the value of that coaching is in managing the ego for the greater good. Sometimes, a coach has to employ a new strategy just to determine if the element of surprise works for you vs. against you. Sometimes, a coach has to play players who aren't in the short term interests of the team for the long term benefit (i.e. George Hill or Brandon Jennings - lest we forget that Jennings sucked after the first month of the season and still started every game despite having Ridnour playing most of the crunch time minutes).

You see - we've watched players chirping and disagreeing all season. We have had a great player exhibit bad habits all season and at the same time call out his teammates, but never criticize himself. We've heard excuses for simply being outplayed or outhustled all season from our coach, yet rarely question himself or have specific answers when legitimate questions are asked. It's instructive when we see the greatest coach of our time call out one of the best players ever for his shot selection (and to see Kobe respond). After 87 games, we can't still say - 'I don't know', 'we need to figure it out', 'our effort isn't there', etc. A follower of the blog said this last night "He @hawkstr8talk said it best supports EVERYTHING Barkley said". I don't quote that to pat myself on the back, but to say - I actually forgot what I saw when I sat in the very seats I was in last night. I forgot how I didn't get a sense that we were a team in sync then vs. the Raptors.

But when I read what I said then, I recalled just how nothing gleaned from sitting behind the bench on two occasions speaks that this team is ready for the next level. There was still no togetherness, still no coaching of Teague on the bench, still no paying attention to the coach during the timeouts, plenty of sniping amongst of the players, lots of yelling by the coach without much sense that the players were paying attention (or respected the position), and so in that context - is there anything left to do but to make changes?

Nothing that happened yesterday said that Joe Johnson shouldn't be anymore than a sign-and-trade bait partner for a player like D Wade or C. Paul or someone who we can build around. In fact, I'm fine with every player on the roster being on the trade block this offseason - I've seen enough to know that we need a coach with strategies to maximize our player's talents and I'd want to see that before we move any player, but whatever we have to do to get players that will perform what the coach wants I'm for.

And all that drivel I just spat out doesn't answer my question for me....I'm as big a fan as you can conceptualize of this team (I mean I was THISCLOSE to just staying in Milwaukee and risking my job to see Game 3) and yet, my disgust with how we play, how we account for ourselves, and the overall lack of faith in the organization's plan for success is making me question my fan-dom. Should I blindly follow and support or should I openly continue to question and critique at the risk of not feeling really fan-like. It takes a lot of energy to be upset with the direction of your hometown organization. It's important to note that the last time I changed my allegiance for a team was when in junior high, the Atlanta Falcons just lost my faith and I've been a Miami Dolphins fan ever since. Is it time to flee? Seriously, what's a fan to do? Hoover - where are you when I need you?

Game 5 - Hawks/Bucks (or the culmination of every bad habit)

Preamble Ramble

Disclaimer: I'm angry right now. I know I've spent my entire HawkStr8Talk blog career trying to explain why this isn't an organization that has been committed to making championship moves, employing a championship strategy, and having championship heart. But it doesn't feel good to be right about anything. It was the first time I've bought fantastic seats for a Hawks game in over 3 years. Sat right behind the bench and ended up just continuing to verify in my mind that it's not just the coach - it's the psychological makeup of this team that allows a team to implode, so we won't talk tactics and game breakdown - we'll leave that to the more talented at breakdown folks from Hoopinion, Peachtree Hoops, Soaring Down South, AJC Hawks' Blog, etc. We'll also blame The Vent for abdicating her responsibility as a fan. It's to our angry blog....

Game 5 Recap - Bucks 91, Hawks 87

Overall Observations:
  • Brandon Jennings is the best player in this series. He is more poised and more explosive than any other player playing right now. So much for rookies shrinking in the playoffs (or as Mike Woodson would call it if he played for us 'throwing him to the wolves')
  • Of the many things, we didn't expect in this series - near the top was Marvin Williams having a great game and the Hawks losing in spite of it.
  • There were many things discussed this offseason that the Hawks needed this offseason to help us make the next step. Those were rebounding, physical/mental toughness, veteran leadership, and heart. Forget the talent, forget the tactics...just give us a team that plays hard all the time and I'll accept the outcome. As a fan, there's nothing more I can ask of a team than to do the best it possibly can do. Right now, that's 75% of my disappointment..nope, anger at this squad.
  • From my 2nd row seat, I can say for certain...there was very little team togetherness, hand slaps, encouragement throughout the game. It could be like that all the time, but it certainly looked like the team was pressing and tight all game long.
  • In the category of leadership, as soon as it looked bleak and the Bucks took the 4th quarter lead, both Josh Smith and Joe Johnson went to the opposite end of the bench and said NOTHING instead of encouraging and exhibiting the togetherness that they have always said they have. Most culpable was Josh Smith - he was visibly arguing and complaining during the final timeout while Coach Woodson was trying to design the play WHILE sitting on the courtside press bench instead of with the team.
  • Defensively, Coach Woodson is supposed to be the guru. It's telling that the Hawks are one of the worst remaining in the playoffs AND he has no backup defensive plan (no zone, no press, no man to man) to change up the strategy. Gurus have backup plans.
  • Offensively, there hasn't been a change in the offense this season. Adjustments matter in the playoffs.
  • Those two points do speak to tactics and our coach. Oops, I said I wasn't talking about talking about tactics.
  • The fact that we were talking about home court advantage as if it was a crutch for this team is also both deflating and indicative of why we are not championship ready. Again, psychologically - we have hunkered down on a home court will save us for the first round mentality when the championship is built through having to win at a bare minimum THREE road victories. How does that happen?
  • Losing Joe Johnson was not why we lost - spending all season focused on iso plays down the stretch with only 2 players then leaves you in a panicked state when players (fully capable of scoring) are faced with unfamiliar situations could be. So, as a point, it's not just Jeff Teague who will look bad when they are first faced with a situation that they've ever seen #reasonswhyyoudothingsintheregularseasonincaseyoufacethemintheplayoffs
  • Leaving the hot hand of Marvin Williams for the cold in the playoffs Jamal Crawford does speak to a coach who feels comfortable with what he's comfortable with and never leaving the box he's used to. And that speaks to the psychology that is passed down to the team. More plainly, it's why the post game rants of the coach and players after losses that say 'we've got to figure it out' can't do that. If you ONLY do the same things over and over, then how can you figure it out. Doing different things is how you figure out what the team is capable of. Who thought that Tony Parker (Finals MVP) could be an awesome 6th man and George Hill could be a more than viable starter until ... they actually TRIED it.
  • Ok, enough of the psychology, simply put - the Hawks haven't looked championship ready since the 1st 2 months of the season. Been saying that for months and, unfortunately, a less talented team is beating us because they have continued to fight and claw their way to victories and ours hasn't. Said it for 2 postseasons in a row - heart matters. Teams that fold don't make championship runs...
  • One last BAD indication - the players declining to go to the podium to accept questions from the media and only taking them from their locker room. You have to be a man and stand up to the effort you put on the court. That's why you get paid millions. So, it says nothing positive that you can't give full account for what you put out on the court. Like I said, this speaks to who our team is and that's very disconcerting.

Str8 Butter Award - Child please!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Thanks! Still lost...moving on..
* Osh Smith - All the sniping that is usually directed at the refs - you gave it good to your teammates. I'm actually sorry that I sat so close to the bench because I saw what everyone has said negative about you in action. Coasting, sniping at coach and teammates, and simply a dog like effort to go along with poor shot selection.
* M. Bibby - Would have rather seen Jeff Teague than you...again, if we're going to lose - let Jeff get the playoff experience that Brandon Jennings is getting.
* J. Johnson - I haven't said much about you getting your money this offseason and I don't care if you get it - just not in Atlanta. If we're giving away max money, sign and trade for D Wade. Period. I don't care for a max player who has a lot of mouth in the post game comments, but doesn't have that mouth during the game OR doesn't show and prove on the court to justify it.
* A. Horford - Until you take the leadership reigns, I really can't call you a cornerstone for this team either. Harsh, but true.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Whenever you want to be 6th man of the year, it'd be nice. Maybe this is why you haven't been to the playoffs.
* J. Teague - Might as well not have played...
* M. Evans - Might as well not have played...
* Joe Smith - Might as well not have played..
* Z. Pachulia - Do you see a pattern here?
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* M. West - DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I've said enough about Woody and I'm not going to go overboard. The postseason exposes everyone. So, Woodson's offensive and defensive strategies have long been questioned by me as not awful for the regular season (I've often said that you can win against the average to bad teams with our tactics), but straight up killer in the postseason. It's been exploited to blowout effect in several postseason games and now for the 2nd straight game - we've been outgunned and outgutted because there's been no adjustments to the things the other team is doing well. So, no in-game adjustments and a bad, static, unchanging method of playing basketball is choking the life of yet another season.

And why is there some part of me that says - let's lose another game. Because losing could be winning. Remember that the goal is winning a championship, not winning more games each season. Let's not forget - we're playing a team without its best TWO players. They aren't complaining about it. We don't hear the complaints from the Bucks after each game about what they don't have. That is an indictment on you, Coach Woodson. Sure, it's an indictment on the players as well, but you can't fire all of the players. So, sometimes, you have to shuffle the deck and if that means that Joe Johnson doesn't come back - so be it. If that means you don't come back, so BE IT.

Str8 Talk Love

Did I mention that I'm furious...I'd give updates and shouts and notes, but I can't for the life of me even remember any of that. I just remember that I bought 2nd row tickets for a playoff game. We had it won and yet, we lost. That's all you get from me.

Playoff Prediction
I said in my last blog that the Bucks made us HOPE to win the series and now, I don't know whether to hope we lose, so that ownership and management will shake this team up or to hope we win and see if this is some Lakers/Rockets '09 or Hawks/Celtics '08 situation. Seriously, don't have an idea of what to think and yet, I keep saying - we're SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE BUCKS!!!! That just can't be understated. If anyone has a better answer, leave it in the comments.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Game 4 OR where the Hawks show why they are on NBATV

Preamble Ramble

I actually AM surprised by this...nope, not the loss. But a loss of less than 10pts...yep, that's stunning in this Woodson era. Ok, I kid, but let's not get it twisted - I can't tout that stat anymore, BUT we don't have to act like it makes the loss any easier to take or even the root of the criticism for losing by larger margins and that's that we don't compete well when things aren't going well for our team. Save the Celtics - we simply don't get up for any other games. As we've noted again and again, the Hawks are not a lunch pail group, simply put. The coach says his defense works - well, not this postseason! The offense takes care of itself (and to its credit - in lots of cases, that's true, but it's due to talent, not any cohesiveness), but not when it really counts. So, we'll just focus on the things we saw in our first insta-blog of the postseason.

Game 4 Recap - Bucks 111, Hawks 104

Overall Observations:
  • Joe Johnson was the only player who brought the requisite fire and determination needed to win playoff games, yet we only lost by 7. That should be a place to start in explaining why we are better than the Bucks.
  • Marvin Williams can determine that he wants to show up for this playoff series at ANY time now.
  • Josh Smith is essentially erasing every measure that said - he's all grown up now...please stop with the Rasheed Wallace act.
  • Add Kurt Thomas to the growing list of players we could have added to the team to address our gaping leadership, toughness holes
  • Yes, I said it - we got no heart. We basically lost because Kurt Thomas took the heart from our team. Unacceptable!
  • I'm still waiting to see the Mike Woodson stamp on this series.
  • Take away Bibby and Delfino and it was a horrid 3pt shooting performance by both teams.
  • Larry Brown - you sure you want to run the Sixers with Mike Woodson as your coach...seriously! Here's what we'll do - we'll give you our first round pick to take Woodson with you.
  • Guess Mike's 'figure it out', 'the shyt works', 'things we gotta clean up' mantras are wearing thin.
  • So, after watching the Mike Woodson's post game conference - he's obviously DELUSIONAL! He said 'we've been mentally prepared for every game this season' (which wasn't even true in Game 3, which was ADMITTED by your own players). He then said that there's no road problem. Kept going back to the 'we need to look at the tape' crap - that's laughable...uh, we had no HEART! Say that...
  • Which leads me to this - YOU DON'T NEED TO LOOK AT THE TAPE. I don't believe the tape and making adjustments is your forte, Woody. You even defended Evans shooting 3 shots in crunch time as shots he normally makes instead of saying - hey, we didn't get the ball to players who we pay to make those shots. You should not feel good about the position we're in - no way you should feel good about what we did!!!!
  • Who shortens the roster and then sits their All Star Center for most of the game for fear of ..not the deer..but fouling out.
  • Did we just let the BUCKS shoot 55% from the field? With the DPOY runner-up on the floor at that...
  • I'm going to reiterate - we are WAYYYY better than the Bucks from the shoulders down. We just didn't have the intensity and focus and sense of urgency to win a playoff basketball game. Not effort - we had effort, but that Bucks team played like a team and WANTED to win - we didn't. Plain and simple...
Str8 Butter Award - No one gets a Str8 Butter Award until we actually play a great game - win or lose!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - I've already said enough about you.
* Osh Smith - I would like to say good things about you, but you are sniping with the refs too much.
* M. Bibby - Again, you came out and shot the ball from 3 well, but didn't stop anyone on defense, so it's a big ol' wash.
* J. Johnson - While you made a mockery of my 4 dribbles or less theory, you didn't inspire the team to play harder, so you too gets no love.
* A. Horford - How many ways can you ice your own player? Woody, choose one.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - If you played any defense, you would get some love from me, but nope.
* J. Teague - DNP
* M. Evans - Woody said you normally knock down those shots, so I'll leave it at didn't, but the coach believes you can, so keep shooting in crunch time.
* Joe Smith - DNP
* Z. Pachulia - Zaza - would it help if I said that we are playing the Celtics?
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* M. West - Might as well be a DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I've already made it clear that I don't think Woodson is the coach to take us to the next level. And that was encapsulated by the fact that he called a 1st quarter TO just to argue with the refs. Not spend time getting his team on track, but to only argue with the refs...Sorry, but you and your team aren't good enough to use TOs just to complain to refs. That, by itself, says everything about why we are what we are. What message does it send to a team that isn't playing well on the road if you send the message that the refs matter THAT much in the first quarter. It was bad enough that Thomas took our heart, but when the refs, the crowd, and the players are in our heads too - the coach's head even. You already know that we're a tender headed team, so to feed into it was just another indication of how mentally unprepared we are for championship dreams from top of the organization on down...

Str8 Talk Love

I have no words...

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - N/A

Playoff Prediction
Since I predicted hawks in 5, I will just say - let's hope we win the series, period. The Bucks made this into a 'hope' situation. The Bucks I say...really disappointing night.

The Unsurprising Game 3 Blowout

Color Us Unsurprised

Preamble Ramble

First, let's just not be the least bit surprised that this happened. It's not any more acceptable, but simply put - the Hawks being a superior team to another talent-wise doesn't have anything to do with whether or not we'll lose a game on the road. So, Bogut or not...I am not surprised we lost. What I am surprised at - is that we couldn't prevent ourselves from yet another double digit loss to the opposition in the playoffs. Seriously, it's beyond embarrassing at this point that if we don't have our best game going OR if we do and the other team actually dares match us - we have no intestinal fortitude to actually make a game of it in the 4th quarter.
Despite the fact that there are teams who are in more precarious situations than us, it is with few exceptions that those teams are at least playing games down to the wire. So, no - I don't want to be the Lakers, the Nuggets, or the Mavs right now, BUT one more double digit loss and my next blog might be the sacrilegious post that includes the phrases 'let's lose' and 'fire Woodson'. In reading all the analyses of the blog nation and media, the most laughable one is the Hawks Fan Blog that mentioned the fact that the coach should get a pass for that loss. THAT easily is the one post this year that even the most ardent Woodson supporter could co-sign on.

Game 1 Recap - Bucks 107, Hawks 89

Overall Observations:
  • Let's start with the good - Joe Johnson...yes, the 9-22 shooting from the field Joe Johnson. That and the shooting of Zaza Pachulia. Pretty much all that we had going for us and a team fighting for its life on the road is not going to lose to Joe Johnson and former Buck Zaza.
  • So, I'll just go back to the same things I've said since midseason for why the 2nd round is our ceiling, which lead to my 100% utter lack of surprise at this loss and the size of it. This team has no heart (unless we are playing the Celtics). No leadership. No alternate coaching tactics.
  • If there's anything that the playoffs should be teaching us, it's that teams aren't going to quit regardless of injuries or inferior talent. It would be wise for the Hawks to remember that.
  • Is it fair to say that despite my contention that Woodson will be retained (and should be) at the end of this season that this should be stated with the fairly large disclaimer that we not be taken to 7 games by the Bucks AND we win a 2nd round game? If I hadn't said that, I am adding that to my contention.
  • The Hawks will lose 100% of the games that require Mario West to be inserted outside of his 5 second stints.
  • Osh, so much for trying to prove that you are mature enough to bring it every single game.
  • The irony of this post is that it's being written while I'm on my way to Atlanta (THROUGH Milwaukee). What kind of luck would I have to have to get a few flights cancelled so that I'm stuck in nothing to do Milwaukee. Which would mean that the gods absolutely want me to be in the house?
  • Oh and Brandon Jennings and John Salmons are good...just wanted to make sure no one got that confused.
Str8 Butter Award - No one is getting an award after I spent 3 of my Los Angeles vacation hours in a sports bar watching my team get waxed. Not only that - I was in one of the best restaurants in town in a HAWKS throwback...think of all of the ladies I sabotaged my chances with for the sake of a butt kicking. award!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Marvin, show up for the playoffs, please.
* Osh Smith - Osh, play before you speak...please!
* M. Bibby - Thanks for giving me a reason to write a 'why Jeff Teague should start in the playoffs blog, just to piss off Peachtree Hoops.
* J. Johnson - You got your props, now let's keep it moving - 4 dribbles or less..ok?
* A. Horford - You too get no pass - 3 rebounds is NOT going to cut it...and I've now also determined that you are the only player who can reasonably be a leader on this team, so I need you to lead as well...starting tonight!

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - At any point at which you want to start acting like you want to be in the playoffs for long - we'd appreciate it.
* J. Teague - You already know you aren't doing anything this postseason, so no comment.
* M. Evans - Now is the time for you to also step up as a leader...right after you bring your A game to the playoffs.
* Joe Smith - So much for the revenge on your former team...
* Z. Pachulia - Way to go, bro. Too bad you were the 2nd best Hawks player despite being the 8th best player on the team...yeah, that can't end well for us.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* M. West - Well, I said he'd only play in blowouts and sure enough - he played...and it was a blowout.

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Simply put, I'm just repeating what I've said all year, all last postseason, and nothing has changed. It's not always effort, it can be getting outplayed because the team you're playing doesn't know how to adjust to your adjustments. It's an indictment to me that you can't get your team to do the things it does poorly. It's an indictment of large proportions if your team doesn't fight back when it takes a haymaker on the chin. The Hawks have taken playoff haymakers for 3 straight years and when it connects - it's a wrap. I hate to say it, but we're the Glass Joe of the playoffs. Now, unlike Glass Joe, we actually have some firepower in our fists too, but seriously - you can't keep losing by double digit totals and convince me that you're for real. And this is a problem in coaching - the expectation of this team isn't to fight to the final whistle by the coach or the players. I don't need Coach Woodson to overcoach this team, but I do need him to call out the team and publicly explain the expectations here. Not once have I heard that - I've just heard about effort and denials of trends that negatively portray this it's no surprise that blowouts happen against good teams in the postseason. That this is the case after 3 postseasons is disappointing to no end...there's no excuse.

Str8 Talk Love

No love, but thanks to Nichole, Lamar, and the Katsuya staff for cheering me up and allowing to cheer against the Lakers only steps from Staples Center. Watching the heart of the Thunder just made me feel better (and even made me wish I could trade the entire Thunder organization for the Hawks one. I really, really like that team.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A

Shout Outs - N/A

Final Notes - Did I say that I wish my team was the Thunder? A team stolen from Seattle...that's who I want. Yep, this is what happens when you continue to lose by double digits against bad teams (yep, the Heat last year were bad).

Playoff Prediction
All that said, still rolling with it - Hawks in 5!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Tale of 2 10 Pt Dubs

Preamble Ramble

So, we lied. Lots of things have transpired and we have gotten to the point where The Vent is doing more blogs than us during this playoff season. Yes, we've fallen off. Our demise was true. Our zeal to write about the Hawks has been usurped by the desire to keep 3 businesses in the air. But then, I remembered I made a promise and so, in an attempt to make good AND to express a few under discussed angles - here we go with the main takeaway up front...the 2 games at home get a big ol' Kanye shrug!

Game 1 Recap - Hawks 102, Bucks 92

Game 2 Recap - Hawks 96, Bucks 86

Overall Observations:
  • 2 games, 2 easy victories (as easy as playoff victories can be for this team), 2 Smoove double doubles.
  • Funny how Game 2 felt like a complete blowout and Game 1 had some doubt...and yet, still 10 point victories.
  • What is it about the Hawks in that they can't win or lose games by less than 10 points in the playoffs?
  • Losing 1 game to the Bucks is only happening if the Hawks lose focus, which is certainly possible.
  • We discussed this ad nauseum during the offseason. This is when we get to see what the Hawks are made of. The only message that can be sent is to SWEEP the Bucks. Simply put, the Hawks are vastly superior to the Bogut-less Bucks, so the only thing that can be learned about the Hawks is built into our ability to lose more than 1 game vs. an average team. Last season, it was proven that our demise was foretold well before the injuries affected the Cavs series by the fact that we were getting blown out by an average Heat team. Our toughness, mental and physical, and leadership is on trial during this series. The outcome is not...Hawks in 5 (though we should sweep).
  • Speaking of injuries, just in case the Hawks are believing that we can't be defeated b/c the Bucks are undermanned - I'd like to point you to Exhibit A (Portland Trailblazers) and Exhibit B (Boston Celtics).
  • Which leads us to remind everyone why I was VERY critical despite injury woes last year in the playoffs. We lost as much because we weren't prepared for adversity and had little heart or toughness as the injuries. Good thing, we don't have any excuses this year, but to be clear...we don't want to hear any reasons why we lose games other than talent and tactics this postseason. No effort excuses...seriously!
  • Before we get too analytical about the Bucks Game 1 comeback (as much as you can call losing by 10 a comeback), let's just remind everyone that EVERY team in the playoffs is having close games. Cavs, Lakers, Celtics, Suns. Teams who don't want their season to end will play hard and try everything possible to prevent their demise.
  • Smoove as LeBron - we can dig it. This would mean that you'd have to give him the ball enough to be that...let's try!
  • The players who don't need 20 shots to score 20 pts and fill other parts of the box score deserve to get the most headlines. Not a knock on Joe, but seriously - Al & Osh are the reasons we're up 2-0 (well, that and Bibby turning into a Game 1 scoring machine).
  • Bibby...we thank you for bottling up your game and making your stand. You as a starter are confirmed and verified.
  • Here's what we call coaching...Popovich & Jackson calling out their franchise players for less than stellar efforts. then, seeing players showing that they hear their coaches. Not necessary yet, but it wasn't lost on us that all of the motivational efforts are on the table for our best coaches...take note!
Str8 Butter Award - Osh's almost triple double was the game of the series so far..sorry Brandon (but yours came in a loss) and it's not even close. If you can get Osh to bring that kind of game and effort EVERY game, we'll say it again - you can have your little 2 jump shots a game (but no more). Oh, and we'll see you in the All Star game, DPOY award podium, and on All-NBA teams as a result. Fulfill your destiny...

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Decent production...nothing to write home about, so we won't. something to write road us!
* Osh Smith - Will say it again - 10 talent. Please be dat...
* M. Bibby - I'll just repeat what I've always said and that's that if Bibby's shot is falling, then he's very playable. If not, he's not. Shot is falling, so fire away...
* J. Johnson - I've established a new theory for Joe. When he dribbles less than 4 times, he's a superstar. When he doesn't make a decision before those 4 dribbles, he's an above average player. His 4 dribble decision making is really stellar...kinda like Josh's non-jump shooting decision making, but it's marred by how often he dribbles more than 4 times a touch. In Game 2, during Joe's 9 point explosion, he scored each time off less than 4 dribbles. Prior to the 9 point explosion, 3 straight possessions of pounding the basketball resulted in a missed shot and 2 turnovers. Make a move or move the ball, Joe. Thanks.
* A. Horford - As loudly as Smoove blocks the rock, let's give Al some blocked shot credit. It's quiet and understated, but Horford has turned into a shotblock master. Can a guy who is routinely the shorty at Center be an All Defense that being discussed somewhere?

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - I had a crass virgin joke to put here, but I'll just leave it be and say welcome to the party, Jamal - now, let's show what you can do.
* J. Teague - Jeff, you actually got a chance to play with the starters in Game 1! I've asked for it all year and so, why was I stunned and a little confused when it happened. Well, it's because you waited until the PLAYOFFS to unveil this and predictably - it looked a little uncomfortable. Then, Game 2 happened and you looked lost. As we discussed, not seeing Teague this postseason is the way to go UNLESS we need to shut down Jennings...oh wait, we tried that and he roasted you.
* M. Evans - You must ensure that you play as well as you did down the stretch. If not for your future earning potential than to put the final nail in the 'you should start' coffin.
* Joe Smith - Just bring some leadership in the locker room and bench because you are looking quite unplayable right now...
* Z. Pachulia - What happened, Zaza? Former team vs. your fire and desire - let's get this double double going, bro.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - Inactive
* M. West - I'd like to say that he's only playing in blowouts...I'd like to say he's only playing in blowouts...

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Already mentioned what we want to see in the face of adversity. There's been no adversity, so we'll just shut up and say that the coach does factor into why the Hawks have looked good and I'm not even going to mention the Game 1 second half that most are since almost EVERY playoff game I watched had runs where the winning team had a it's ok as long as we can muster those same runs when necessary.

Str8 Talk Love

All the stars and loud Hawks fans have shown up - let's keep the fire alive. Also, shout out to my mom who I brought to Game 2 of Hawks/Heat last year and who I brought back to Game 2 of Hawks/Bucks. A loss in Game 2 would have resulted in a revocation of playoff attendance privileges in perpetuity.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - Game 1...yes! Game 2...yes and no (i.e. the dunking Woolendas need to actually make the dunks, seriously - it's only the playoffs!)

Shout Outs - None other than Will (get better, bro) and all of the regulars. Love seeing you guys loving the Hawks

Final Notes - Not really sure how to excited about the fact that we should be stomping this team, but let me get my rally rag, pack for LA, and get ready to cheer with my west coast Hawks family. Yep, I'm going into Laker land and I'm gonna rock the Hawks throwbacks...say something!

Playoff Prediction

Hawks in 5...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And So It Begins...

It's time for us to resume vast praise and scathing criticism over the prospects of our fair Hawks. It would be fair to say that this is our blog's time. As a professed fan who wants to see a NBA title for the Hawks and will blog about everything that highlights our ability to achieve it, THIS is the time when around the clock coverage is at hand.

So, expect to see the game recaps, the NBA TV interviews, and whatever little nuggets will highlight our ability to defeat the Bucks and any future opponents. I don't need to do a big ol' preview of the playoffs regarding the players (though I want to do an end of season blog soon) and comparisons, etc to say this easy thing - the Hawks in 5. It's important that we dispatch with an inferior team to prove a few things:

  • Are the Hawks mentally tough? No one talks about this, but it matters to this blogger greatly that in 2 years - we haven't lost a game by less than 10 points. It mattered vs. the vastly superior Celtics in '08, but it mattered even more that we couldn't keep a game close on the road and at home vs. the inferior Heat.
  • Are the Hawks going to ever get over the 2nd round hump? This franchise just can't get past the 2nd round...if we are to convince any free agent that that can change - we need to put up a credible effort in these playoffs. Winning convincingly and quickly would be a step in the right direction.
  • Can Woodson change the game plan? We shouldn't have to, but if faced with matching wits with Scott Skiles - Coach Woodson needs to show that he can make adjustments. You only have to have a mini-slump to get sent home. That can't happen in these playoffs with JJ and Woodson's futures on the line. Will Woodson sit a slumping starter for a hotter reserve? Will we try a different defense if the switches don't work? Will we make changes? That's sure to be a question that needs to be answered..
So, we'll say again - the Bucks without Bogut should mean a quick playoff victory. The Hawks are just better and they need to show that they can simply dominate a team because they are better. That won't be the case in Round 2 and need to get on a roll today. That said,


Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Be Scrubbin'

Preamble Ramble

We will set aside our blog's objective in this particular entry. Our goal is normally to provide fodder that translates to our attempt to win a NBA title. So, of course, you really learned nothing to highlight any bullets that translate to a NBA title run (this year or any future year). Yep, the biggest cheerleader for Jeff Teague is going to ignore this game as a 'nothing to see here' moment. Shocking, I know...bullets upcoming!

Game Recap - Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83

Game Musings:
  • Kinda want no parts of a game where Mario West is a starter
  • How sucktastic must it be to pay full prices for a game where Georgia State vs. Cleveland State breaks out...
  • I don't blame either team, but you do have to give Michael Jordan credit where credit is due - he never took a game off..home court advantage clinched or not!
  • I won't do a 'I told you so' on Jeff Teague based on this game.
  • I'll be the first to say it - that was the first time Teague looked like a POINT GUARD of the Atlanta Hawks, not simply a guard giving a few minutes of rest for the starters. I will continue to say the psychology of players is as important as the talent.
  • Let's hope this is the last time I see Jason Collins, Randolph Morris, Mario West, and even Jeff Teague this postseason. Now would not be the time to try to coach 'em up
A big ol' damn to my prediction of 52-30, but hey - who can complain? While I do believe we saw our best Hawks basketball in the first quarter of the season, let's not spend too much time saying that this season has not set up as a success. Now, we believe an accomplished season would be to make the Eastern Conference Finals, but success doesn't have to end in a title. To see another stride by Horford, Osh, Jamal and the steady play of Joe, Mo, and Zaza more than balances the inconsistent efforts of Marvin and Bibby. You create all those magical moments of the regular season to get us to the tourney. The tourney, though, is where your name is written in lights and so, today - we'll celebrate a 53 win season. An underachieving 53 win season - THINK ABOUT THAT! I think that 53 win seasons aren't what they used to be, but they also aren't 13 wins either, so let's give honor and credit to the Atlanta Hawks for a good season. Now, let's make it great...

End of Season / Playoff Preview report coming soon....

Note: I'm looking for encouragement for me to go to Milwaukee for a road playoff trip on Saturday. Anyone with hookups on tickets and a place to sleep on Saturday night? Leave your thoughts in the Comments area...(uh, can I express my disappointment in the road playoff destination? I mean seriously...the Nets couldn't pull that game out! Really!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Did We Say....

Keeping it really simple - Hawks. 3 seed. 52-29. Yep, already predicted (well, except for the fact that we said 51-31 at the time of this blog), but let's just hope the fact that this is done means - ALL BACKCOURT players get the rest they need...

Seriously, Mike - don't play us (literally or figuratively)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hawks/Bucks - Yes We DID!

Preamble Ramble

We did it! We did it! The best case prediction for the Hawks has come true (dismissing our preseason belief that our win total would be 47)..wait what do you mean there's one more game...oh, against the Cavs! Ok, we're still safe. Fifty-t...what do you mean LeBron is not playing (and probably no one else of consequence)...AHHHHH! Well, ok - so maybe the best case prediction could be off by 1 game, but why does it feel like we really could be 57 or 58 games in the clear?

Ok, today's not a day to dwell in what could have been and whether we could truly have threatened for the 2nd seed in the conference as well as the division. No, we want to simply say - sit all starters. Not for me, but to preserve any health fortune we've had. A starting five of Morris, Collins, West, Teague, and Joe Smith would make for a compelling game vs. the Cavs if you ask me...and now, to the game nuggets:

Game Recap - Hawks 104, Wizards 96

Game Musings:
  • No Jamal, No Problem
  • 2 Teague Stints make this guy happy
  • Zaza!!!! Yes, bring that hard work to the table this weekend.
  • Hawks Playoff Run begins this weekend - be there Hawks fans!!!
  • Thank you Scott Skiles for leaving Stackhouse on the bench (whom I think joins our long list of players who are better than about a quarter of our roster, were available for nothing, and yet are playing elsewhere) in the 2nd half.
  • Thank you Bucks guards for deciding to wait until it was too late to employ the 'whomever Bibby is guarding is who we will attack mercilessly' strategy
  • Thank you Brandon Jennings for using Osh Smith '07-like shot selection to shoot your team out of the game.
  • Thank you Hawks for confirming what I said was the case a few weeks ago - Hawks #3 seed, 52-30 regular season. Not bad, not bad at all!
  • Ok, let me not misstate the obvious - Joe Johnson was a beast tonight...
  • Unlike Hoopinion, I have been hesitant to lob very harsh criticism your way, Mr. Joe 'Beast' Smith, but against a former team - you looked very below average, bro. You are here for playoff help and I really need you to not look as wack you do right now.
A road victory to end the season is moving in the right direction for playing real games - let's just hope that the Celtics lose, so we don't feel compelled to try to beat a Cavs team that will certainly NOT be playing anyone worth anything to them. Follow suit, Hawks and see you on Saturday or Sunday...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hawks/Wizards: 51!

Preamble Ramble

Since December, we have predicted that the Hawks would win anywhere from 50-53 games this season. At some point in late Feb, I settled on 52 as the number and I still believe that we can win 53, which would awesome since my most expansive review of the schedule of marking down Ws and Ls - had me at 53 wins. Of course, the games we lost and ones we won weren't exactly in sync, but hey - that's why they play the games. There's really very little that was worth saying that hasn't been said before regarding our readiness for the playoffs (which is - the Hawks are who we thought they were, not who we think they can be) and so with that, we have some game bullets below:

Game Recap - Hawks 105, Wizards 95

Game Musings:
  • Jamal and the refs have to have an agreement on this...yes, we've seen fouls on 3 pt shooters, but I've never seen every single one get called the way they do with Jamal. I can't fathom that the league isn't aware that Jamal will make a 3pter with or without the foul, so why risk it over an above the stupid decision to foul a jump shooter anyway. Seriously, NINE 4pt plays this year... is this not the most amazing meaningless stat of the season?
  • This Jamal Crawford can replace Joe Johnson...not that I want that, but if given the choice of keeping Joe at the max or just extending Jamal and getting another piece - let's get another piece.
  • Let's add Shaun Livingston to the list of players who the Hawks could have gotten for the league minimum to bolster our backcourt depth. (Note: I'm biased toward this one courtesy of the fact that Livingston is one of the nicest NBA players I've ever met...took me and my friends out during last season's road game blog in Miami and I've been rooting for him ever since to make it back to the league).
  • The Injury Watch continues...
  • Maybe Coach Woodson is getting the memo - yes, when given the same minutes...Maurice Evans can outperform Marvin Williams. I never believed Mo should start because he was better, but because he was a better fit in our starting rotation. Now, I have to say that Maurice looks like he might simply just be BETTER. Simply put, Marvin has had enough time over the past 4 years to determine who he is...and he's simply a piece. Maurice, on the other hand, hasn't played consistently enough with around 30 minutes a game to determine whether he could perform better than Marvin (at a much cheaper price). Predictably, Marvin is superior rebounding forward, but otherwise on a per minute basis - Maurice is performing at or better than Marvin in almost every category. Yes, I'm using this as further evidence that shaking up this roster this past offseason might not have been the worse thing we could have done.
  • It's the sign of the times that I can look at the Wizards roster and only recall Earl Boykins and Mike Miller as players who were recognizable from their college basketball days. Cartier Who?
So, let's get back to our prediction - 52-30 has been on the books for weeks and we still think that will happen. Don't know which game we'll win, but we can win both. Both teams will be without major cogs (not that that has mattered when it comes to winning and losing with this team), so let's just finish it right...beat both the Bucks and Cavs. Make me wrong... Let's Go Hawks!!!!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hawks/Raptors: The Floor Experience

Preamble Ramble

I am always aware of the fortune I have in getting the opportunity to see my favorite NBA team up close and personal almost whenever I want. That coupled with this forum for expression of things that the normal fan doesn't have access to. I don't say that with any boastfulness - just gratitude, so during this game - there was no shortage of excitement when I found that my seats were going to be right behind the Atlanta Hawks bench...yep, Mike Woodson cam in full effect. So, here's what we saw as the Hawks won their 50th game and continue their run to the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.

Game Recap - Hawks 107, Raptors 101

Game Bullets:
  • I don't know the best way to prepare for a playoff series, but the fact that other teams are resting their players for the playoffs keeps me from believing that rest trumps rhythm going into the playoffs - Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby, you're on the clock.
  • It's really hard to explain how badly the Hawks started this game. Osh's energy level was particularly poor. Even Al looked like he didn't particularly care to play hard...
  • Point, Peachtree Hoops...Mike Bibby looked like the only halfway capable point guard on the team yesterday (that's me eschewing any pretense that Jamal is a point guard). Now, I blame Coach Woodson for why it's so and the lack of opportunities to make up for 3-4 minutes of poor play, but Jeff Teague looked mighty bad out there last night. I repeat - don't expect any postseason minutes for Jeff Teague.
  • Soooooo...the Raptors outplayed us for most of the game - not bad effort when without one of the best players in the NBA. Still waiting for the dominate gene to kick in for my team. Really tiring of hearing - we aren't where we need to be. At game 79, let's add the proper addendum "and that's not going to happen until tactics change or personnel changes"
  • Another 4 pt play by Jamal. I've seen some questionable ones, but that was a legit - smack the arm, make the 3 anyway - 4pt play. Yep, Jamal is a shotmaker for sure...
  • Welcome back, Joe Johnson - we missed you...
  • One more time for the energy of Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia
  • Interestingly enough - if Toronto played ANY defense and stopped shooting 3 pt shots - they could have won that game going away..thanks Raptors!!!!
And to the behind the bench observations...

  • I know that it's rare that you get all the players paying attention during TOs, but I thought it was telling that there seemed to only be guards paying attention to Mike Woodson during each timeout. That can't be good.
  • I noticed something that I don't think I've ever seen (and again, maybe this is my lack of NBA basketball bench dynamics knowledge), but I watched on FIVE occasions where a player was summoned into the game by Mike Woodson and they looked at the coach and....CONTINUED to sit. First, this happened with Al Horford (and most demonstrably) where he was asked 3 times to go into the game. Everyone around us looked at each other to see if we were watching Al not go into the game. Now, I don't know why and maybe this happens all the time, but it certainly was interesting to see the coach seemingly ignored. This happened in the second half with Josh and Marvin... This did not happen with Maurice, Mario, or Jeff who looked all too eager to get their minutes.
  • Why this mattered to me is three fold. First, I've never watched a player not go into a game up close and personal. Heard about it, but never seen it happen and certainly was shocked to see Al simply sit. Second, it made some sense of my assertion that the Hawks win in spite of the attempts to coach. Maybe at this level - players can manage things themselves...and that's accepted. It's not like anyone was blinking or nudging the players to go into the game from the coaching staff or other players. Third, it broke my belief that the coach is the ruler of all that happens on the sideline. My belief in a coach's power has forever been changed. Maybe Jeff Teague is getting called to go into the game in the 2nd half and he's saying - NO!
  • Other notes regarding this time behind the bench. No one talks to Jeff Teague. Throughout the game or after he makes mistakes - I saw yelling to the court, but no coaching is happening with the young man. At least not during the game...
  • It was also a little disconcerting to watch Horford have an open disagreement with Coach Woodson for about 1 minute complete with a wave off...the same wave off that Josh gave, a similar wave off that Mario West (yes, Mario West) gave after the dumb foul once he got in the game, and another animated discussion Marvin and Mike Woodson had during free throw attempts by the Raptors. Now, it is entirely plausible that this happens with all teams - it could be that the team dynamic allows for frustration and carping about things and it all going away after the game, but it didn't feel like there was a synergy for what was happening. There was just lots of frustration, very few offensive play calls, and lots of yelling that never really changed what happened on the court (save shots just falling)
The end result: more belief that this team isn't going to get better with Coach Woodson. Now, it could be my rose colored glasses about Coach Woodson, but there was nothing that said he had control of the team in tactic or simply player relationships. Maybe after 6 years - the style is wearing thin. That's how it felt. More bench watching will be coming up in the playoffs to see if I can see something to counter that belief. Simply not a team energy that looks anything like a team that believes it can contend...

Sorry, I have to say that - can we get this prediction right please? 52-30, 3rd seed...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hawks/Pistons (or what should call Insanity Has A Foothold)

Preamble Ramble

This blog is dedicated to my complete distaste for the way our team is coached. Before anyone says, tell us something we don't already know - I would like to simply say that I have refrained from spending all season railing against Coach Woodson. We've discussed his changes in foul management, timeout use, management of Jamal Crawford, and an occasional motivation tactic (by occasional - we mean 1). Now, 10-20 games ago, I said that Jeff Teague's rookie season was a complete and utter waste. I still maintain that position. I'd make the same claim regarding Marvin Williams and whether we've learned anything about his ability to make the quantum leap necessary to make the Hawks a very dangerous team. So, without further ado, here's my ode to why the Hawks, who CoCo has so adeptly reminded us, might not make it out of the FIRST round.

Game Recap - Pistons 90, Hawks 88

  • No Joe Johnson excuses when 4 of the best players on the Pistons team are not playing. And to think that the same story was written in the first Hawks/Pistons game. Hobbled Pistons beat are you not up for this game to get some 'get back' for the first time they beat you in the Palace?
  • Did I mention how much I hate the Pistons?
  • I simply can't understate just badly mismanaged Jeff Teague's year has been by Mike Woodson. By every discernible measure, this is just something I really can't ever ignore on a game by game basis. It's kinda like Hoopionion and his love of Nick Fazekas (except we want Teague to be our point guard of the future, not the 14th man on our roster).
  • I also will say that, despite a below average game, Maurice Evans looks like another beneficiary of increased minutes. He's proven that if you give him minutes he looks better than if you don't. A complete no brainer option off the bench for this team over Mario West under any game situation that isn't...garbage time or fouling time.
  • Finally, these last few games have highlighted exactly why Mike Woodson is correct in not starting Jamal Crawford. There isn't a shot that Jamal thinks he can't make. I actually believe that Osh Smith is following Jamal's example of not knowing how to play to your strengths.
  • So, let me get to the thing that made my blood boil...yes, as a blogger, who reads and watches all quotes that pertain to my fair Hawks - I should be very accustomed to the quotes that aren't supported by fact or just plain politically vague to deflect any true criticism, but in game 78 - the height of illogicity (i'm submitting this word to Scrabble) would be to hear your COACH saying - "we've got to figure it out" to a problem that has been staring you in the face for much of the season. That's just not possible that that was said. Worse, is not hearing a media person say - well, what do you plan to do to figure it out? (but I digress). You can't tell me that at game 78! After Game 78 (or 68 or 58 or 48 or how about preseason), you have to outline a strategy for actually CHANGING that issue. Now, as a blogger, I've taken heat for making suggestions that change our mix - who to go to, what players to play more or less, even playing style, but the 'we have to figure it out' falls to YOU TO FIGURE IT OUT!!!!! The players have already shown themselves incapable of FIGURING IT OUT. So, I need the coach to do something to show that he is not going to keep rolling out the same ball, players, and strategy and expecting different results. That's insanity personified. Yes, we have reached insanity levels here.
  • Thank you Marvin for doing something to shut me up about how terribly bad I want you to go to the bench.
  • And so much for thinking that simply running would work - last night we ran more than i recall us ever running and yet, we still lost. Not really a ringing endorsement...when you're playing the Pistons.
  • Last Note: For all that's good and holy, I promise that if I see unhealthy Bibby, Zaza, or Joe Johnson playing the rest of the regular season and it shows itself in the postseason. Trust me - every good thing I've ever said about this organization will come to quick halt. I have never said an outright FIRE WOODSON, but you can rest assured that despite every reasonable measure that says he's coming back (remember: I said that we should sign him to an extension in the offseason despite my belief that he's the wrong coach to take us to a championship) will be replaced with every tool in my utility belt aimed at firing the coach. Y'all thought Tiger's skeletons came out the closet fast...just test me on this one. I'm checking domain name availability on RIGHT NOW...
Anyway, I'm not sure if there's anything to be said other than the fact that they are just mocking my prediction of 52-30 and the 3rd seed at this stage, but I won't change it. They can win 3 of 4. It can happen and it should happen. Not at the expense of the team's health, but otherwise - I still believe it should. I know that's insane to think, but I think we realize that insanity rules in Hawk land - why shouldn't I sample a bit?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Player Development 101

Thanks to friend of the blog Anonymous...he of many offseason battles - posted a great link that I can't even begin to praise enough as it relates to why player development is so key and even more pointedly - explains in better words than I probably have ever written - why I feel so strongly that Law, Stoudamire, and Teague have gotten raw deals under Woodson's regime and, conversely, why Mario West has managed to stay in the NBA.

Simply put, this article basically explains why down the stretch so many rookies chosen after Jeff Teague look great right now and why Jeff Teague looks like he's playing in game 6 and not game 77. Furthermore, it's why he won't be our opening day starter in 2010-2011. Not because he can't handle it, but simply because he hasn't been groomed in any way, shape, form, or fashion to do so...


The Game Where Fears Are Realized

Preamble Ramble

Let me explain very clearly what went through my head before this game - it went something like...I don't care if we win or lose, but I do want to see us compete well and I want to see if Coach Woodson will tell me that effort is the reason we lose (if we lose). Let me explain what went through my head during the game - it went something like...Atlanta Spirit and Rick Sund, I blame you for not having enough talent on the team that Mario West is playing minutes in this game and then, it went something like...Coach Woodson, if I'm an agent - I would never let a developing player sign with a team you are coaching unless I'm a project that you happen to have a lot of affection for personally. Let's get to it...I apologize in advance if this sounds like much of what I said in the offseason about this team's makeup and outlook.

Game Recap - Hornets 109, Hawks 100

The points that need repeating:
  • The Hawks will not be a championship team without strong leadership, role knowledge, and a bench longer than 8 players.
  • Yes, that was me at the Hawks Blogger Night this year who asked the question - are you worried about our backcourt depth, Mr. Sund? His response: "No, we have Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, AND Maurice Evans and Mario West." I also recall Mike Woodson saying - "you don't think that if we have injuries I won't play Jeff Teague." I'll simply reply to this by saying - 1) I will continue to say that the Hawks either are too cheap (which could easily be the case) or not savvy enough to realize that Larry Hughes, Michael Finley, or a host of D-Leaguers would be better served in our backcourt than Mario West and (if you'd play them more than Teague) Jeff Teague and 2) I called BS then and I'm calling it now...with 2.5 guards available to you - you managed to only play Jeff Teague 22 minutes.
  • Regarding Jeff Teague, it's what I have said since day 1. First, I didn't think he'd play much and I questioned whether he was really the right point guard for this team, but once you get beyond that - the fatal flaw for Coach Woodson's point guard development plan is that it's completely predictable that Teague would look scared and lack some confidence in his first few times playing with the starters. IF this would have happened in November and December instead of April, we might see the value he could bring. Woodson's inability to play his bench players through their mistakes or slumps only contributes to this issue. You can rest assured that if any one else was available, Teague's first stint of bad basketball would have been the ONLY stint of basketball last night, but like all other players (and as our starters are quite familiar) - if you come back to them, the law of averages and their talent will eventually bring benefits. It's no surprise at HawkStr8Talk HQ that once Jeff settled down during his 3rd stint of the game that he actually let his natural talent carry him to made jump shots, fast breaks, and assists and played on the level of anything I've seen from Mike Bibby 90% of this season.
  • A few of our blog followers asked me to write another Marvin vs. Mo blog. I think I'll let this game footage simply be my Marvin to the bench blog. With about 25 shots available to be had, Marvin managed 4 and looked bad doing it. I'll continue to say it - start Mo and make Marvin earn his way back into the starting lineup (or simply let him find some aggressiveness on the 2nd unit). Save all that - we need him on defense and the boards stuff. If we need him on defense vs. LeBron or Pierce, etc then start him for those games. Otherwise, Maurice Evans is a better fit for our starting 5 than Marvin Williams and you can't convince me otherwise.
  • One more shout for veteran leadership, mental toughness, rebounding, and all that jazz
  • Tell me again about our defensive prowess...and why when it fails us - it's effort and not tactics. Again, I'll simply say - by itself, switching defense isn't bad. As our only option and when it fails, it's pretty awful.
Final Note: So, how do I feel? Basically, I was very ready to say that this game is meaningless, but then I realized it's game 77 and we looked like crap on the road. No, I'm not willing to cede the fact that Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby weren't there as the reason. Why? B/c that's why you build depth and have leaders and have pride and develop toughness. That's why you have a coach with a game plan. All season, we have had the luxury (or curse if you ask me to a degree) of being healthy. The downside to that is that your bench has never truly been without the crutch of the starters. So, as we go into the postseason hobbled (how I wish the issue of minute distribution and older players wearing down was not dancing in my head right now?) at the position we depend on most, you would probably have me believe that it's the injuries. I will reject that and say that I believe the organization is to blame and, unlike most Hawks fans, I'm not going to accept an injury excuse this offseason. I didn't accept it last season since I felt that the biggest issue was that we never used our bench effectively enough that they could compete like the Bulls or Rockets did amidst equal (and some bigger) injury concerns in the playoffs and I certainly won't accept it this season after hearing from our management and coaching staffs that we are deeper and more equipped to handle injuries.

Looking like my prediction of 52-30 is not in some jeopardy...gonna stick to my guns though.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Game Recap - Hawks/Pistons (and no Joe)

We won't even begin to insult the intelligence of our readers and basketball fans alike by saying that we're going to do a full blog about the Pistons game. It was during the Final Four and I'm writing this after a full Easter and halftime of the NCAA championship game, so just excuse us for not being thorough and verbose as usual. We're going to make some points and get back to the game...

The points:

  • Jamal can replace Joe Johnson, BUT ONLY if you have a strong point guard presence. Jamal Crawford hasn't seen a shot he can't resist taking and so, for the balance and future of the team - we really need a strong point guard (i.e. not Mike Bibby) to make the decisions on when Jamal and when our frontcourt should get the ball.
  • That said, I'm not going to say this game's effort proves that we can get along without Joe Johnson.
  • And so.. as soon as I say that as long as Josh shoots 50% - I'll forgive a jump shot or two, he goes asunder and hence our new name for Josh until he proves otherwise - OSH Smith is back...
  • So much for the injury giving Jeff Teague more time...
  • So much for Marvin Williams being more aggressive with more shots to be had...
  • A big ol' I couldn't have been more wrong about Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva making a difference for the Detroit Pistons. Listen, I never said they'd make them great or even playoff worthy, but I figured they'd at least start and put up numbers and uh....they are stealing money! Seriously, it's a testament to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement that they actually have a mechanism to allow teams to cut players making the kinda scratch these guys make without any production. So, to those who clowned me about my assertion that they could matter - I swallow my prognostication in spades...
  • Coach Woodson/GM Sund - meet Will Bynum, the real Georgia Tech journeyman/free agent signee that you keep bringing back to the team because when given minutes he actually can make a difference for your team...the one we have - uh, not really the version of scrappy difference make we hoped for.

Final Note: Thank all parties who were involved in sitting Joe Johnson - there is no true value to this season in the 3rd seed or 50 wins that outweighs Joe Johnson's health. NONE! So, don't play him until he's healthy or the playoffs have started. That goes for any other player who is hurt or fatigued. Please don't sink to any temptation that 50 wins means anything. 40% of the NBA has an opportunity to win 50 games this year, so it's not that exclusive a club to make it there. And with that, we're back to the NCAA championships.

Hawks, let's focus on our ONE SHINING MOMENT!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Game Recap - Hawks/Cavs

Preamble Ramble

This won't be a long blog. There were some really simple things that happened here. The Cavs are better at home than we are. The Cavs are better on the road than we are. The Cavs have the best basketball player on the planet. Simply put - with all that said, the Hawks did compete and really that's what we should be focused on. It shouldn't be scorn-worthy to lose to the Cavs on the road and so, from this blogger, it won't be. We'll just highlight some thoughts

Game Recap - Cavs 93, Hawks 88

Overall Observations:

  • I cannot be convinced by a reasonable, rational person that LeBron James isn't the best player on the planet.
  • LeBron is really only one championship ring away from having that be universally acknowledged b/c the numbers he's putting up are really only surpassed by Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
  • Jeff Teague, who played well in 2 stints versus the 2nd best team in the league, played 0 stints vs. the best team of the league. There's a good logical reason for this, but I'm not sure what it is.
  • Joe Smith, who did not play versus the 2nd best team in the league, played vs Cavs. Outside of hoping that he'd want to play his best vs. actually doing it, I'm still looking for the reason that this happened.
  • The Hawks played their 4th quarter game once reason to be surprised - it's what you should come to expect from a team that does pretty much the same things every game on offense and defense. Great teams will attack your weaknesses.
  • I've heard a lot of hope for playing either the Magic or Cavs and you can discuss those pros and cons. Here's what we need to hope for...A first round upset! Otherwise, it doesn't matter which team we play. Seriously...
  • Thanks Michael Cunningham for being a serious beat writer (and that's no knock on Sekou Smith). I don't need you to beat up on the team, but asking serious questions almost invalidates my need to do this blog. You say what I'm thinking when you desire to know how the team feels about not meeting the most important goals of the year - i.e winning the division, getting a higher seed than last year (which could still happen), .500 on the road. 50 wins has a psychological feel and may save Coach Woodson's job (which should only be in jeopardy if a title is ever the #1 goal of this organization), but 50 wins is meaningless if you can't do anything about getting past the 2nd round of the playoffs.
  • I know that Hoopinion hates to see Josh shoot jump shots. I do too, but when he goes 9-16, I'm willing to just suck it up. It's the other players and their inability to make shots, but yet take more that needs more scrutiny.
  • And by scrutiny, I'm talking about Jamal Crawford...he's only good for a 50%+ game every 4 to 5 games. Otherwise, Coach Woodson needs a better job of managing his minutes b/c Jamal is gunning as soon as he gets into the game
  • Let it not be lost on us that Marvin Williams' best, most aggressive sequences in this game came when he was playing with the reserves.
  • Final note - I wonder if Coach Woodson realizes that his answers in post-game press conferences are really not feathers in his cap. A master of using the media to his advantage (both for his team and to his bosses) he is not.
Season Prediction

52-30...only 7 games left, but I'm sticking to my guns

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Game Recap - Hawks/Lakers (All kinds of Awesome)

Preamble Ramble

Always want to do a perspective filled blog, so it took a minute before this could be submitted. If you were one of the people who comes to one game a year or rarely watches anything but the big games, let me be the first to say it – the Hawks looked damn good, our bench outplayed their bench, our coach outcoached maybe the best coach of all time, and there was not a point in the game when the Hawks were not better than world champion Los Angeles Lakers. For that group, playoff tickets should be scooped up in short order and expectations should be sky high for the upcoming run for a NBA title. For those who do more than that (like a blogger or Hawks lover), then you can still have sky high excitement for last night’s game (I sure do), but let me use the observations section to communicate why you might want to scale back your thoughts a bit.

Game Recap - Hawks 109, Lakers 92

Overall Observations:

  • First, it’s a packed Hawks Gear Store after the Magic game, now a post game, Philips Arena corridor-filled with fans cheering ‘Let’s Go Hawks’. Complain about the Laker fans being a part of the record crowd all you want, but if you ever want to see the Highlight Factory filled with Hawks fans – THAT’S how you achieve it.
  • That the Hawks so thoroughly dispatched the Lakers either is very exciting or makes losing the Knicks at home twice even MORE vexing, particularly when a few of those unforgivable losses are the difference between us and the #2 seed. Take your pick or be both.
  • If I’m going to say for Teague and Bibby and for the 2nd year for Evans and Williams, I guess I’m going to have to say it for Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmer – yes, Farmer should be starting for the LA Lakers.
  • While we’re talking about Bibby and Teague, this would have been one of those games where despite my call for a starting position for Teague – I would have started Bibby (you see, unlike some people, I’m not rigid about this starting thing…it’s called making adjustments for a reason).
  • Might as well talk about Evans and Williams too – simply put, Maurice Evans plays off of the other starters much better than Marvin. I’ve been saying it for 2 years and I think last night is the best case example for that fact. I’d much rather have Marvin being an active, aggressive offensive player playing off Crawford and coming in to bring defense with the starters than what’s happening right now. After that first bucket, Marvin was done for the night. Sorry, but I still only recall about 6 games this entire season where I felt like – Marvin, you really were a stud tonight worthy of starting for this team (that shouldn’t be confused with me believing he hasn’t been a factor all season, just saying that only 6 times did I think his effort made an idea to have Maurice Evans start the game and play with the starters was a bad idea).
  • Might as well get used to it, Hawks fans – Josh is getting the jump shot ready for the playoffs. That’s the only explanation I have. Seriously.
  • Now, to the first downer bullet, this game really only showed you what a focused Hawks team can do, but what it shouldn’t do is make you think the Hawks are capable of being consistently focused? There isn’t a team in the league that has a hard time with focus when the LA Lakers come to town (talent maybe, but focus and desire to beat the Lakers…not a chance). For those who haven’t been paying attention, only once in the last 8 years have the Hawks not beaten the Lakers? So, it’s what I tweeted before the game – sun’s out, people out early, downtown buzzing, I feel a W coming.
  • Sure would like to know what Joe Smith did to get nailed to the bench lately…
  • Finally, as an example of why Phil Jackson is who he is, not only has he been blasting his WESTERN CONFERENCE LEADING team in the media, using different tactics and lineups, but he actually played Adam Morrison in the first quarter to get something out of his team. Didn’t work, but it’s simply the reason why we do doubt Woody so much. It isn’t always as simple as saying ‘effort and the sh#$ works’ when a title is what you are striving for.

Str8 Butter Award – Maurice Evans/Zaza Pachulia – man, if we can see these dudes playing at this level for the playoffs – I promise not to cap our hopes at 2nd round playoff loss. Seriously, well – that’s if Woodson will actually deploy them in the same way where he actually gives stellar play more minutes and not going back to starters just because they are starters.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams – In my mind, this starting slot has been lost. Convince me otherwise someone…
* Josh Smith – We’ve already noted the point of Josh’s jump shot ad nauseum, so we’ll make our next step the removal of Josh’s J…next jump shot you miss Josh and you’re Osh. That said, that fool had some serious passes last night. Remove LeBron from the discussion and there’s serious merit to calling Josh one of the best passing forwards in the L.
* M. Bibby – Love how Bibby came out the box. With a PG like Derek Fisher, there’s no doubt that Bibby should have started this game. I’ll take Bibby over Fisher in on court play every day of the week.
* J. Johnson – An excellent game..truly, the kind befitting a guy making the scratch Joe makes.

* A. Horford – Not that Al did anything wrong, but it was refreshing to see him sit while Zaza brought the heat.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford – Still a little scared of his shot selection, but we have to just continue to hope that Mike Woodson keeps the leash on tight.
* J. Teague – Seriously, did I watch Jeff Teague do well in the first half & then come back and actually play again in the 2nd half. Did that just happen? I’m not sure what happened, but I’m not betting on it continuing. That said…Teague played 2 stints in a game that wasn’t over (well, it was, but we weren’t sure at the time).
* M. Evans – That’s Mo as in momentum…from the time he got in the game, momentum was his. I mean I don’t think I’ve ever seen Marvin go at anyone the way Mo went at Kobe. Way to make me look like a guy who knows a little something for continuing to call for your starting job.
* Z. Pachulia – Zaza, really – words can’t really express how proud we are of you and now, you’ve raised my expectation of you for every game left in this season
* Joe Smith – DNP – For real, did you drop your album and piss Mike off?
* M. West – Well, at least you got a foul in to ensure that there wasn’t zeros across the board…

* J. Collins – You really scored…yeah, Lakers definitely were in the clubs on Tuesday night

* R. Morris – Inactive –

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Straight up – I don’t think I’ve ever said this…wait, I did when we defeated the Jazz at home last year, but it probably hasn’t been said more than twice – Mike Woodson was the best coach on the court when faced with a Hall of Fame coach. Use of the bench, letting players who played well stay on the court, resting players once the game was in hand, managing game situations…it almost makes you feel comfortable with the guy for the postseason. We won’t mention one word that could take something away from this. (We could, but we won’t)

So, I just want to say hats off to Coach Mike Woodson on getting a team ready to play in what was our most complete game all season.

Str8 Talk Love

There’s really no way to express how the energy before, during, and after was during this game. The Lakers bring it like none other. Lakers Suck, Let’s Go Hawks post-game, pictures, all kinds of jerseys and what not…it was simply devine. Now, we had our perch in the Club Level, but it was seen all over Twitter, Facebook, and every media outlet…the Hawks arrived. Every celeb in town was there, every groupie was in tow, and they even did us a solid by ensuring that the Lakers were partying ATL style right before the game. This certainly wouldn’t happen in a NBA Finals series, but hey – we take what we can get. It is our home team advantage…

Dance Team/Game Ops update – It’s hard to say what happened after Keri Hilson messed up the national anthem – it was simply a complete carousel of flesh from that point forward, but I did catch the Dance Team and they did a great job. I don’t say that much, but it was the kind of energetic performance that was needed. Thanks for recognizing the crowd dynamics and matching the performance to it.

Shout Outs – Big up to the regulars and well, everyone else. See you next year (or in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals).

Final Notes – None – it was awesome, it can’t be expressed how awesome it was.

Season Prediction

52-30...we’d like to say that we’re going to do better, but I just have to follow my head and know that we can easily lose (not wishing it, just saying our norm is to lose focus after such displays) 4 of our last 8. That said, let’s go Hawks!!!