Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mo' Interviews, Mo' Problems???

A week ago, I said that I was surprised by my lack of interest in the leading candidates who happen to be African American (Dwayne Casey and Avery Johnson) for candidates who I absolutely am interested in having us interview such as Tom Thibodeau, Bill Laimbeer, or Jeff Van Gundy (shoot, why not Larry Brown - he'll only give you 2 years, but...one of those may include a title if we do it right).

If I'm to believe that money is no object (and I don't), then any coaching interview that consists of Avery Johnson should also include Jeff Van Gundy. Sorry, but while I can find something to not like about all of these guys - my biggest issue right now is that we are not interviewing ALL candidates. What else do we have to do, but to interview every single candidate to see if you find something that you may need to hear. Where's the Rooney Rule when you need it? How can we find our Mike Tomlin if we aren't interviewing everyone?

Well, let me read through the tea leaves here - we have interviewed Dwane Casey (former Sund employee), Avery Johnson (in my opinion - a smoke screen..i.e. we're not hiring Avery Johnson), and ..... Derm Demopoulos.

DERM DEMOPOULOS!?!??? WT...? Ok, let's be clear - I'm not one of those Americans who doesn't believe giving opportunities to people you know and it seems like since he was a former Sund employee as well - he gets to interview for a job he doesn't seem to be qualified for by outward appearances. Since Sund has lost my trust based on his track record last year with signings, I can't say I trust him now if he's only going to interview people who worked for him when neither he OR those individuals have ever won anything. So, if you interview about 10 people and then PICK Derm, then fine. I'll expect that he did his due diligence and is willing to stake his job on a pick. I admire swinging for the fences, but this reeks right now of cronyism of the worst kind. I mean - we got the Bulls asking Phil Jackson to come back to presumably woo LeBron James to Chicago. What exactly are we doing that speaks to a desire to actually WIN A NBA TITLE? It sure ain't Derm D.

And that's the concern right now...that we aren't interviewing everyone. This team needs a real coach that you believe has championship pedigree and aspirations, so you interview until you get a true feel that says - this is the guy I'm willing to stake my reputation on and you're not going to convince me that you can figure that out with 5 interviews between 3 people. We can't make interviewing a problem..can we?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why We Should Care About the Lottery?

Fans,

So, yes - it's been a few years since we've had a hand in the lottery, but don't let that feeling give you any false sense that this lottery has no meaning to Hawks fans. You should absolutely be cheering from some teams during the lottery tonight. Any team that has an asset that will be a duplication of skill is on our wish list. Who do I think that should include? Well, we're glad you asked...

1. New Orleans Hornets - That's right, I have all my hopes on the Hornets winning the lottery. In a year when they won a Super Bowl, God should continue to shine down brightly on New Orleans in a sporting sense in a way that might not be how He's viewing their environmental, coastal, and political needs. A team that has the sublime Chris Paul and a budding Darren Collison should surely want to win the lottery, so that they can be faced with the trade possibilities that would come from having a shot at John Wall. Surely, the Hawks would take every effort to dangle Bibby, Teague, Williams, our draft picks, and anything else needed to put a franchise level point guard in Atlanta. This is our #1 focus for the draft and you can't convince me otherwise.

2. New Jersey Nets - So, we'll go from the pipe dream to the reality of the matter. If John Wall is the #1 pick of the Nets, that leaves a pretty talented Devin Harris on the chopping block. And if that's available - I say ...LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!! That's right - I see a Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby trade that should ready to go with a draft pick (future draft picks even) to make certain that we have a good quality point guard to work with.

Philadelphia and Minnesota also fall into this category, though I'm not convinced that their point guards are going to be better than Jeff Teague at this stage. So, if that's the case, then you can only hope that shooting for the fences might be the prudent way to get us a dominant young guard in what is a mostly guard driven league.

Make that happen and THEN, we can discuss what our next steps are for asking Joe Johnson or another talent in the league to join us in the A-Town...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where are the white guys?

There was once a time where having a coach of African-American descent was so important that some times - it usurped the cause of victory and championships. To be clear, it was still important, but the cause of proving that black people can lead was probably more important than competence, which is ironic because competence at the job is the proof.

So, it was with joy that the Atlanta Hawks at a time were led by a black GM and black head coach, but times change and movements advance. So, while there is a desire to see more black general managers and certainly more owners, the ceiling has been broken thoroughly enough that the competence is the MOST important thing. So, there has been a lot of commentary about who the next coach should be...and it's almost jarring to see how many of those names are of African American descent. It really is about the content and the ability to lead men. So, it's with that that I actually offer the names that I think should be up for serious consideration for this job and amazingly, it's all white men.

I don't know how to explain it, but I want a coach who doesn't really have any connection to these players (sorry, Larry Drew) so, there can be a valuation on the players SOLELY on what they bring to the court, so here's the list.

  • Tom Thibodeau - My current favorite. Title, Defensive focus, involvement with one of the greatest organizations ever (hope for some spillover effect)
  • Bill Laimbeer - My wild card. I'm not sure about Bill, but he had a lot of success in the NBA as a player and in the WNBA as a coach. This could be a home run or the biggest strikeout ever, but if you're swinging for the fences - I like this. We know he's not going to tolerate a lack of toughness and leadership.
  • Lawrence Frank - My opposite of everything I said I want. There are lots of examples where a coach wears out his welcome and needs a 2nd opportunity to round out the rough edges of the first attempt. This could be the example here since he doesn't have a title and doesn't really have any demonstrated experiences with being a leader or tough guy. Not sure, but thinking that a completely different approach could again be exactly what the team needs.
  • Jeff Van Gundy - My Moneyball. Bottom line, we know he can coach. We don't know if he can win a title, but he's been close and has been in the battles. Definitely knows what it takes on the defensive end. So, along with Avery Johnson - these are the most 'NBA coach' ready of the group. Enough tape out there on this guy to determine if you like what he brings to the table. Only problem if he's the one is 'can you pay him'.
I am intrigued by Mark Jackson, Terry Porter, and Avery Johnson as men who are point guards and have an understanding of why PG is so important as well as an ability to determine how an offense and defense should work together, BUT with Mark's lack of coaching experience and title; Terry's inability to make it work with a talented team; and Avery Johnson's price tag - I'm focusing on people who I think we can actually make work in Atlanta. And this may change as I do more research, so comment away with the caveat that I don't really know what I want yet.. I'm still just happy that we're looking for something new.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Billy Knight is smiling somewhere

Honestly, there has been a thought that I've had for a while. First, I was always honest about saying that picking Shelden Williams over Brandon Roy was a fireable offense (or a resigning offense if he was TOLD to pick Shelden). Yes, there were some problems in some of the selections and moves that Knight made, but let's keep it real..

Knight has collected talent on this team. That's what the GM does...that plus hiring the coach. He's made great (Josh Smith/Al Horford) and poor decisions (Shelden/Marvin (though word has it that he wanted Deron and was told to pick Marvin/Acie). Made some good ones like trading for Bibby and Johnson, but he also saw that Mike Woodson wasn't going to take us to the promised land and tried to fire him. Somewhere, somehow - he had to be saying..I told you so during that Orlando series. Had to...

On The Clock...

So, Mike Woodson was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. There's no reason to throw any more dirt on his grave because we've always been clear about separating the person from the job. The job wasn't being done to at a championship level, so we needed someone who can. Thanks for saving my fan-dom any further heartburn. Yes, there's time to talk about the draft and free agency, but that's not today's thrust.

There was some consternation from a few prior to Round 2 about the value of Coach Woodson and even the weaknesses of the personnel on this team. The worry was that we might not win 53 games again or get seeding higher than we ever had. Well, my friends, we submit to you that now that you've got that taste of 50 wins and seeding that could have gotten you homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals that we now elevate our goals to solely be focused on the title. Not the trappings of win totals and seeding and awards. Not TV appearances and glory. Simple title aspirations. Admittedly, I was wrong about the 3rd and 4th seed mattering since I didn't see the Celtic resurgence coming, but upon reflection, that should make the Hawks lack of urgency, heart, and competitive fire even MORE sickening to live with this offseason, so the overall point remains - the #1 thing that the organization had to do by firing Mike Woodson is to communicate that we are making steps to raise the ceiling on our team's aspirations.

It struck me as odd that when we had a meeting with GM Sund a few months ago - he said he was surprised at how well the Hawks had done this season. It said me at that time that there was a subtle admission of the fact that he was happy with direction and tenor of the season. Now, anyone who reads this blog knows of our discontent with the team's makeup and coaching, so it would be disconcerting if big moves weren't made this season to shift the makeup of this team. This was a way of saying we're willing to possibly drop some wins and seeding to build this house on a more solid, stable foundation. Mike Woodson is the first step, but we hope it's not the only step. We are certain that a new coach could address the maximization of our talents on the offensive and defensive ends as well as deal with the psychology and in-game adjustments that are necessary during long stretches of basketball.

What we're uncertain of now (and the next step in GM Sund's summer of reckoning) is whether the coach will be right and if the pieces that start next season can execute what the right coach puts in front of us. Lots of questions - not a lot of answers...I've surmised that GM Sund has been overrated in his run as GM, but that's all about to be put to the test this summer.

People have asked me who we should consider as coach..I don't know just yet. I have always thought that two types of coaches would work best for a team that isn't going to pay top dollar. It would be a former point guard/player who has a title OR one of the assistants from a top notch team. So, the idea of a Jeff Van Gundy would be nice, but does Mark Jackson sound good? Well, my #1 thought right now is Tom Thibodeau - a coach who really does have a defensive background, has a ring, and has worked with some of the elite in the game. So, before you tell me why these coaches aren't the best ones for the Hawks or whether they'd even want the job, let me be clear about what the coach needs, GM Sund...

1. Offensive & Defensive Strategies that work in the postseason
2. Backup plans when those strategies don't work
3. Tough, Honest discourse with the players and media about what happens in games and our ultimate expectation (not homecourt advantage, but actually saying we want to win the title)
4. Player Development

That's what I want out of my coach...I hope we can make that a reality and that players will buy in, but I'd rather expose the players than placate them to the point that they win you battles without a way to win the war. We've seen how that has worked for 3 years now and it's time to figure out how another path works. GM Sund, it's up to you to pick the coach and then give him the groceries to make a fantastic meal together. Tick Tock....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Fantasy Good Riddance

Preamble Ramble

Well, it's a terrible time for the hometown Hawks and yet, a great time for the blog's credibility. Why? Well, credibility is being gained for almost everything we've screamed from the rooftops for 2 years. Finally, comments are starting to come in with their grudging agreement that this blog has been pretty on point about this team for the last year. Our Tweeps are asking our opinion on what we think should happen in the future since we have a way of being ahead of the curve and yet, I'd pay any amount to get the OPPOSITE treatment. How gleeful would I feel to have rbubp, Anonymous, Xavier, and company telling me what an idiot I was regarding my 'Kanye Shrug' toward our offseason moves, angst toward our coaching decisions, our pointing out that the team has trended downward after the new year for the past 2 seasons, our highlighting out that we simply had too many excuses, too little heart, and too little toughness to really be considered a contender regardless of what our record said. As a guy who likes being right, being 10000% percent doesn't equal wanting to be right. I wanted HawkStr8Talk to be truth telling, but about things we can all agree on like 'Welcome to town, D Wade' or can disagree about like 'Jeff Teague should spell Deron Williams for 5 more minutes a game'.


We have plenty of time to point out what we should do in the future, our season recap, and what not and this time - maybe I'll say something crazy and it'll be taken with a little more respect and thought than last year. I think it's important now to say something regarding my stance on player and coach movement - this thing is like fantasy football to me. I've won 4 championships in the league I've played the longest and the main reason is that I have never fallen in love with a player past that player's usefulness on the court or in value. Simply put, I'd trade Michael Jordan if it made my team better. You wanna give me Barkley, Magic, and Hakeem for Jordan. Adios #23! I know that's extreme, but I say that to say - if we flip the entire team, it's not going to bother me a bit as long as we get the appropriate value.

I'm still committed to a dogged pursuit of following a team that is focused on making what I call 'championship moves'. Now, every move you make may not result in a championship, but it would at least be done with the idea that this will propel the team toward a championship. An example of a team focused on making championship moves would be the Oklahoma City Thunder - young nucleus, smart coach, cap space, draft picks, nothing focused on short term success... So, it's why I waited until the postseason to validate what I said this past offseason and that's that I thought Rick Sund did a pretty bad job as GM this season (ASG hamstrings included) and why I'm not comforted that this ownership and management are in charge of making tough decisions to move our team forward.

I could spend this blog talking about things such as my belief that this team's special season quotient went out the window on the management side when we signed Mario West during the season and on the psychology side when Mike Woodson spent the better part of two weeks talking about how we were screwed out of a Cleveland Cavaliers victory instead of what even made that game close and correcting that 4th quarter collapse problem we were having, but I won't (Aside: That was my homage to the Hawks post-game comments where I say I'm not going to talk about something while I'm doing it...see, I learned something this year).

I will point to Hoopinion as the on point blog king regarding the Hawks readiness for the championship glory. He's been on the Joe Johnson must go wagon for a few summers now and he hasn't said it as clearly and boldly, but there's nothing in his blogs that would provide a great argument for Mike Woodson's return. I only give demerits based on his love of Nick Fazekas. Now, that's not meant as a salvo to the abilities of the my blog brethren Peachtree Hoops, Soaring Down South, AJC Hawks' Blog, etc. because it's clear that they aren't dedicated to the championship pursuit angle that I am. They are fan blogs focused on game recaps and trying to find the fun, the good, the bad, the in the moment, favorite players, quotes, etc. That doesn't speak to the fact that The Vent isn't really giving you answers, just pointing out what a fan sees as bluntly as possible. So, it's with that thought that we blog about the last game of 2009-2010.

Game 5 Recap - Magic 98, Hawks 84

Overall Observations:
  • Joe Johnson - Thanks for coming to Atlanta. For everyone who thinks we overpaid for you, I disagree wholeheartedly. You have been a great asset to our team and raising our profile. I appreciate you for proving that a free agent can thrive here. It's with that backdrop that I also say - it's time for us to part ways. For you and for us. You need to be on a team where you acknowledge from day 1 that you are the 2nd or 3rd best player (if you are on a team that claims championship aspirations) and that can't happen here. Forget the fan comments (which were unforgivable), but trust me - if you were LeBron or D-Wade, we'd get over them, but you aren't and I've been saying for years that unless Al and Josh surpass you (and you accept the notion) in talent and importance to this team, then we don't have a shot to be better than a 2nd round flop. Since that's not clear yet, it's time to let you go. EVEN if that means we don't use the cap room to replace you. Again, the point is to get a title and if we can't get D Wade or LeBron or Kobe (and we can't since we didn't prepare last season for the possibility that a lame duck coach and poor leadership could turn toxic - that's not possible) - we aren't going to be a title contender for 2-3 years at best. So, let me go ahead and say this now...Atlanta Spirit - save the money unless you can get a budding or established star. Do not spend the money you were going to pay Joe. Yes, I'm saying that signing Joe for ANY amount is a bad idea. Your highest paid player for a contender is desired to be a vocal leader, but at a MINIMUM has to perform when needed and it'll take the kind of constitution I'm not sure Joe has to defer to a point guard and front court going forward. That's not a knock on Joe's basketball ability (or maybe it is), but it is my way of saying - I'm sorry you had to go out the way you went out, but going out is what has to happen for us to move forward (and that may require us going backward from a record standpoint).
  • Josh Smith - You are now on the clock. I don't want you to leave. I am giving you one more season to not turn into Rasheed Wallace. A top 10 talent who simply lets inner demons keep him from greatness. I've long cast my lot with you. You are the most talented guy on the team and it's not really even close, but you need a coach to help you realize your true potential. There's no other way to say it than you need better people (in a basketball sense) around you. If you are running the break, shooting outside of 10 ft, loafing during the game, trying to overtalk the coach during timeouts, or talking to the refs - you are no longer useful to the team's championship dream. You either can become a Kevin Garnett like talent OR you can be Ricky Davis. Mercurial talents both, but one with a head and another without. I say this with love. Prove the people who doubt you wrong. I watched you play half a season of great ball and another half of season where you regressed AGAIN, just like last year. Mike Woodson shares the blame for allowing you to develop these habits, but it's up to you to make sure I am right about you.
  • Mike Woodson - Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again. You were the right coach for 3 years. The last 3 - you weren't...many tomes have been written about this. I'm not mad at you for taking the money and doing what you were allowed to do, but it is what it is. We need a coach to take us to the next level and you aren't the guy. You've staked your claim as a defensive coach and we aren't a defensive team. I've yet to hear your plea for better defensive talents and when you've had defensive players at your disposal - you haven't used them, so I don't believe in your ability to move us forward. Not only that, I don't believe you at all. Your words and actions rarely match up, so I can say with a clear conscience that I like you as a person and I am happy to call you a fellow Hoosier. I hope you land on your feet, but my desire to win a title usurps love, much less like. It's time to move on. I'm not going to mince words - if you are back as the coach...I won't spend a dime to go to ONE game again until that changes (Note: I don't pay for 95% of the tickets anyway, so that's a partly empty promise, but since I pay for the big games and playoffs - that's pretty heavy since I've only missed one playoff game in the last 15 years). Best wishes on your future endeavors.
  • So, we don't make this blog the longest ever - let's just say that Rick Sund, you have my permission to renounce the rights to or trade Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Jason Collins, Joe Smith, Randolph Morris, and Mario West. Whether ANYONE wants them is the only question at this point. This permission also goes with the thought that I didn't want any of them in the first place.
  • Let me go ahead and be on the record about this too - without a strong point guard presence, defensive mindset, and offensive strategy out of our next coach...I also endorse moving Jamal Crawford to another team better suited for his talents. And if you decide that a coach can make use of Josh Childress - I endorse his return to the team or as an addition to the package of players needed to make us better.
  • Here's how bad the last two home games were - the man who has sat through every poor performance over the past 5 years ended up leaving both games by the 4th quarter. I never leave games, but I simply couldn't take it.
  • Further evidenced by how ridiculous I think Peachtree Hoops and Mike Woodson (and even Hoopinion) are about Jeff Teague is the thought that some of these guys are ready to pencil Jeff in as the 2010-11 starting point guard without ANY real experience playing THIS past season. Our biggest playing rotation mistakes were not starting Jeff Teague (when it was obvious that Bibby had nothing left in the tank) and not making some of these players earn their starting spots (i.e. Marvin Williams or Josh Smith when he didn't bring max effort). [Note: these things would not have resulted in a title. They would have resulted in finding out what your players are made of prior to the postseason/offseason. This organization has only ONE player they can count on going into the offseason and that's Al Horford.
  • Final salvo - Stop with the Al Horford is indispensable stuff. He's NOT indispensable by any means. I've come around on how much better he can be offensively, but not that far. Seriously, he's only great to us because of the contrast in his effort and energy to the rest of the team. Get everyone playing at his effort level before we start anointing him as the next great something. He's a team player and we love that, but let's not overrate it. I don't want Al to go, but the fact that we'll always be undersized with Al at center means he's not indispensable. I'd take Brook Lopez for Al in a nanosecond. Again, has to be right move, but we can move Al too if it makes the team better.

Str8 Butter Award - Child please!


Here's my final thought...ok, I get why most people want to hold on to a 53 win season and the 3rd seed. I don't care for any part of that feel good story. Again, I'm focused on championships and even more, championship EFFORT. So, you aren't going to convince me that a season where you thought you had a CORE of at least 3-5 players who you could build upon for the next 5 years is now whittled down to 1 player you can be sure about (and that's at a position where he's doomed to be dominated by a player at his position in his DIVISION) without any feel good regarding ownership, management, coaching, and all but 1 player. If I was playing fantasy basketball and a guy turned that team over to me, is there anything I can say good about the owner who turned that team over to me? I don't know, but with all this reality - I had to shift to a fantasy world to keep me sane and full of perspective, which is just my way of saying that this was going to be an expletive-filled rant about how a team could lose in playoff record fashion and simply not try hard enough for their own pride's sake. Even if you wanted to get the coach fired or wanted to go on vacation - there's just NO way...you could lose that bad unless the milk had gone completely and totally BAD. So, just let me have this blog reside in a bizarro world of fantasy because the reality stinks to high heaven. Stinks so bad that it's going to take a serious effort to convince me to be a full-fledged card carrying #1 fan of this team in 2010-2011. I didn't sign up for spending time, money, and good natured wit on a team that doesn't feel the need to play its hardest. That's why you oughta care, Joe b/c otherwise - I'll just spend my time telling every team imaginable why they are wasting anything over $10M for your services. Who wants that on their curriculum vitae? Fantasy or otherwise...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Distilling My Blog's Work Into One Article

It's almost as if Michael Cunningham read all my blogs, then summed up what the Hawks should do (without saying get a new coach and do better as a GM).

Read and compare while I determine if this is a compliment or an indictment on my inability to say things this succinctly...

http://blogs.ajc.com/hawks/2010/05/10/atlanta-hawks-at-magic-personnel-philosophy-and-payroll/?cxntfid=blogs_hawks

And So It Continues

This article is today's edition of how quickly the bottom can fall out from under you...Joe Johnson's max contract = Greek Economic Stability...

Please read J.A. Adande's quote as well - totally forgot that Joe said the best players are made in the playoffs. SHDM!!!!

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2010/news/story?page=DisappointingPlayers-100510

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes, 2010 Edition

For those who hate to hear someone tell you I told you so...skip this entire blog. it's long on words, short on analysis for Game 3, but instructive what's happened over the past 2 postseasons. Interestingly, though, it's not going to be the type where I say I knew what was going to happen in the 2010 NBA playoffs would happen (with the lack of heart, effort, competitiveness, booing, etc) because I truly didn't expect the Atlanta Hawks to not compete in the postseason when the lights are brightest. We've been exposed and the emperor's new clothes are on full display. That exposure starts at the top and filters all the way down...let's count the ways:
  1. To the ownership for trying to field a championship level team on the cheap. Blame is yours for keeping a coach who is unable to take this team to the next level, for not allowing the GM to sign more than 12 players, and for not expressing publicly what you expect from the organization and making changes when those things are not being accomplished.
  2. To management for not making better use of your draft and roster spots, Blame is yours for bringing back Mario West, Randolph Morris, and Jason Collins when better use of our roster spots were there for the taking at the beginning of the season, at the trade deadline, and after the trade deadline. Watching 2nd round or undrafted rookies like Ronnie Price, Wesley Matthews, Marcus Thornton, etc doing well in the regular or postseason should again highlight that talent evaluation has not been that stellar. We haven't even discussed the $15M invested in Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby for the next 2-3 years.
  3. To the coach (and we won't go into all of the problems tactically) for not being the type of coach that actually disciplines your team when they don't follow your tutelage and matching words with actions on display. Your media training is simply awful.
  4. To the players without much pride, heart, toughness, accountability, and determination when faced with adversity.
Of course, no one in the organization will admit to that and their perception of reality will differ from mine, but what's eerie to me is that I spent some time today looking for the right angle for today's blog. Everyone's up in arms, everyone has an opinion...well, I decided to read all my blogs from the playoffs in 2009 and it's clear that I was onto something then regarding the changes that were necessary to prevent this year's debacle. It's not just what's happening with regards to the play on the court. It's what's not happening BEFORE and AFTER we finish the 48 minutes. That's why the Hawks are what we are. We have enough talent to win 53 games. That doesn't mean that it's the kind of talent that will work together toward the goal of a championship.

If you have the time, read (or re-read) the blogs I wrote in May 2009. I spent an inordinate amount of time in Bill Simmons-like fashion talking about the failings of the Atlanta Hawks organization and chemistry. There were the Cavs recaps, my blog about extending or firing Woodson (the thing I was really wrong about), what the Bulls and Rockets should have taught us, the one where we highlight the record for the number of 20pt losses in a NBA postseason ...in only 2 playoff series was attained by the Atlanta Hawks, the Leadership Vacuum, and several other rants. What I learned in that reading these blogs is that nothing changed from last year to this year other than we got Jamal and won 6 more basketball games. That's it...

It's pretty jarring to go back and think that I could just change some names and scores in the Cavs recaps, delete the Woodson blog, exchange the names Thunder and Jazz for Bulls and Rockets, replace the all time record for 20pt losses in a NBA postseason with the alltime record for 30pt losses in a NBA postseason, and then just update the roster names and we have NBA playoffs 2010. Think about that for a second... The only thing that's different is that we lost once by less than 10 points. So, instead of saying that we've lost 17 of 17 games by double digit totals - it's 16. Instead of talking about the improvement from an injury plagued postseason where we lost on average of 18 pts, we are now averaging a loss by 29pts while 100% healthy. That's what we're reduced to. The post game press conferences are still bad, they are still lying to themselves, they still lacking true leadership. So, let me leave this ramble and just talk about the game and cut through the BS and get to the point that I never thought I'd get to.

Game Recap - Magic 105, Hawks 75

The Mickey Fickeys:
  • So, if there's any takeaway from reading my May 2009 blogs - it was that I tried to cover every problem the Hawks faced - the offense and defense that aren't built for postseason wins, the lack of leadership, the lack of heart, the lack of toughness, the lack of coaching adjustments, the lack of truth in postseason commentary. Well, none of those things changed in 2010, so rather than complain about ALL of those things - I spent this offseason trying to cover the angle of psychology and why that would tell me everything I need to know about the Atlanta Hawks this offseason. It started with the over-reliance on home court advantage in our speeches and utter lack of confidence and belief in our ability to win on the road (i.e. the 'we need to figure it out' quotes).
  • Well, here's the quote among so many that tell the story for me from Joe Johnson: "It's basically on me. I just tanked on being aggressive and was just taking the shot when it was there," Johnson said. "Them getting off to great starts and sustaining it for 48 minutes, somehow, someway we've got to come out with a burst and try to sustain that the whole game." Forgetting for a second that Joe killed any shot at being beloved in Atlanta ever again with quotes we'll address later, let Dr. HS8T tell you what that's really saying - "Uh, after the game didn't start well, I gave up on trying to stick with a strategy of being aggressive and started just taking contested jump shots. Since the Magic are coming out playing well and keeping it going for the whole game, we should try to do that too." I'll forgive the fact that Joe's having a bad series. It happens. The indictment is in his tacit admission that it's not the Hawks way to play 48 minutes. It's been said numerous times by almost every player and coach. The Hawks don't play full games and therefore, when matched against teams who DO (AND happen to be better than us) - blowouts happen.
Anyway, there's tons I could say - lots of blog angles I could write, but it's just repetitive to write that the Magic look like a team and beat us by 30 on a night when the starting backcourt didn't do anything noteworthy. It would be repetitive to say that we shouldn't have signed Bibby or Marvin Williams or selected Teague or fired Woodson last season. It wouldn't be new to say that maybe everyone should rethink whether our offseason was really all that successful or that we again did not develop the bench enough to make them confident and playoff ready.

We have all spent an enormous amount of time talking about the Hawks and what would happen if we didn't change what was happening and now, it's kinda painful and sad to say I told you so. It would be so much easier to feel like a critical observer wouldn't be able to see this mix blowing up at precisely this time of the season. We've lost readers who said we were too negative about the team and that we were seeing things that weren't there. There was a belief that we just hated the coach and the 'superstar' when really we just wanted to say...hey, if you want to win a title your coach can't be Mike Woodson, your starting PG can't be Mike Bibby, your best player can't be Joe Johnson.

Maybe we could have said that in a different way, maybe we could have shown more love, but that's why we are Str8Talk - we want a title in this town and we want to believe that it's possible to do it here. So, for every person who wanted me to see it different - I don't. I flirted last season with calling for us to blow it up, but stopped short due to injuries and upside. I've been on record saying that you just can't even judge the Hawks until they have a championship coach. For all the deserved criticism of the players, until I know that they are being coached at a high level, it's hard to know if Josh's immaturity is ingrained in him or simply a product of not being coached ever (remember he's a product of AAU, high school, and then Coach Woodson)...I am not ready to discard Josh Smith. I'm not even ready to discard Joe Johnson unless he's still considered our best player.

Anyway, these are all just thoughts - nothing really coherent about them. We'll do post mortems on this series later, but the interesting thing is that this offseason is really going to be about me and my love of the hometown team. You see, Joe, you should give a damn about us. I have never boo'ed this team. I have watched a 13 win team play hard. I watched a team play the Celtics to a 7 game series when a sweep was more likely. I watched a flawed team have success for the past 2 years. It was frustrating and exhiliarting, but this fan base (myself included) has some blame too. We never have forced the organization to do better, expect better, and to play with heart, determination, and toughness. We had been starved for wins for so long that we didn't know when we were watching something that was destined to crash and burn. So, it's our fault that you hadn't been boo'ed before Joe. You should have been boo'ed last year when you lost by 20+ pts to the Clippers at home. You should have been boo'ed when we lost to the Knicks at home twice. You should have been boo'ed after any number of games when it wasn't execution or tactics, but simply not playing hard to win games. Had we boo'ed you then, maybe you wouldn't be sitting on the national stage for the 2nd straight postseason getting exposed with the Emperor's New Clothes. A postseason when the Emperor who wants more max money doesn't even show up for any post game press conferences to face the music. That's what you don't get...I didn't boo you and never had, but for those who did - you deserve it. Not just for Game 3 but for all the times we didn't and you deserved it. We allowed you to walk around the kingdom naked and never said anything about it. Times have changed and they should...

I'm happy to support the Hawks, but I won't do it again with all my heart until the Emperor and his subjects put back on their clothes. That's the point I never thought I'd get to and that's saying they instead of we. Saying that a part of me can't cheer for a team with no heart, no soul, no determination. The heart can't take it and won't support it. Never thought I'd say it, but in reality, it should have been said as soon as the clothes came off...maybe the Hawks haven't learned a lesson in all this, but I sure have.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Championship Basketball Is and Isn't

Normally, I'd do my normal opus, epic-like tomes of bullets and commentary about this topic. You can see probably 150 or so blogs on this site that convey why the Hawks are not going to win a title without a first class coach OR much better players at certain positions (or BOTH), but today's example of why the Hawks won't win a title this season is encapsulated in three quotes. See below:

(Note: I am going to completely ignore this article where Mike Woodson and Josh Smith insult my (and anyone who watched the 2nd half of Game 2) intelligence by telling me because I'm not a coach or player that I can't call out a player for not playing hard for 48 minutes or simply visibly see that you are not playing hard. This is ironic because Josh Smith has often been quoted as saying that all the Hawks need to do to win is to play a FULL 48 minutes - see a quote below. Kinda how Joe Johnson talks like a leader in post-game press conferences, but yet his name is never in the what I did wrong discussion since despite the fact that I'M worried about Joe Johnson's disappearance - our coach says he never worries about Joe. If Phil Jackson can worry about Kobe, you fill in the blanks. It's as if all these guys will do anything to avoid being criticized personally.)

Oops, that was an aside..ok, here's the quotes from today's article in the AJC about the Hawks being at home.
  • This is the response to Orlando being an elite team for the past few months: “They have,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said Friday. “But it’s good to be home.' There is comfort at home for the Hawks. They posted a 34-7 record there during the regular season and are 9-4 in postseason games on their court over the past three years. “[The Magic] took care of home,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “We’ve got to be able to play a full 48 minutes and get our crowd into like they got their crowd into it.”
  • “It ain’t so much what they are doing,” Woodson said. “It’s what we are not doing. All you can do is keep showing [his players] on tape, and normally we pick it up and learn from it.”
  • “I don’t think our guys get too worried about where the game is,” Van Gundy said.
These quotes are why, from a psychological perspective, the Hawks are not prepared to win a title and the Magic are. When you are consistently worried about the venue you play in (and no, we aren't dismissing any team's increased familiarity and energy level at home - it's a fact that you get a boost at home no matter the quality of the team), you are not ready to win a title. The Lakers, Celtics, Cavs, Suns, etc are not openly discussing the home/road discrepancy. We continue to harp on home and road and that's just an indicator of the fact that we aren't mentally ready to take the next step. Not only that, we are still under some assumption that tape is going to fix our problems...tape is not going to make players play harder, tape is not going to make perimeter defense occur, tape isn't going to make players stop relying on their isolations, tape isn't going to make us share the ball, tape doesn't make an adjustment or change a tactic or play a rotation. And why are we waiting until they see the tape to make these points in game 92...If you still are having to show the tape in HOPES that we will pick it up and learn it - the war is lost.

As I've always said, the Hawks will never win a title as long as they are trying to win battles without executing a plan that wins the war. The Hawks are battle warriors, not an army prepared to win a war. We'll win a battle, but the war...not so much. Unfortunate, but true...that said, it's time to get ready to head to Philips Arena, so they can prove me wrong.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Game 2 Recap - Hawks/Magic

Let me go ahead and tell you what you aren't going to hear from this blog and that's some nonsense about we played better and gave outstanding effort and showed heart. The first part is a foregone conclusion just by showing up at the game, the outstanding effort is debunked by what I saw from Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Joe Johnson's 2nd half, and Marvin Williams....

Heart - well, again - we got kicked in the teeth toward the middle of the 3rd and it was all downtown from there...so, you're not getting me to tell you that a 14 point loss on the road is a result of playing better with effort and with heart. No, we made some shots and then our ugly tendencies showed up and we couldn't keep ourselves from doing what we know doesn't win basketball games. Plain and simple, so I'm not giving the guys credit for things they should do every single playoff game (i.e. I'll give a pass for not doing this 82 straight games).

Time for some game bullets:

  • I hate my coach for saying it takes a near perfect game to beat the Magic.
  • I hate every blogger and writer and commentator who says that they like what they saw from the Hawks tonight.
  • Kudos to Hubie Brown for doing what Mike Woodson should have done 2-3 years ago and publicly called out Josh Smith for dogging it during this game. Josh Smith should have been benched for his play in the first 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter. And by benched, I mean - for the rest of the game. I'm sorry, but I will not lose with players who aren't committed to the team and to the game. And this from someone who has always thought of Josh Smith as my favorite Hawks player.
  • Dwight Howard is getting protected by the referees. He committed 9 fouls and only got called for 5. Though you gotta give him credit - he made free throws tonight.
  • No one wants to talk about this loudly, but let it be me - Joe Johnson is playing about as well as Mike Bibby, only Bibby is sitting on the bench as a result.
  • Here's why stats can be misleading. The Hawks have the #3 offense from the regular season, but yet have a bad offense. Why is it bad? Well, because the offense is built on a faulty foundation. Our foundation is built to weather a regular season marathon. It's not built for the postseason sprint. You can't win a title shooting jump shots off isolations. You can't win a title when you don't attack the weaknesses of the other opponent. You can't win a title when you are a fast breaking team and you don't actually fast break. You can't win a title if your franchise player can't play like it. So, on a night where you are 60% from 3, 97% from free throws, and better on the FG%, you didn't do bad, but when your power forward is turning the ball over, shooting jump shots at the WORST time, and simply not on his game - your stats can look ok and it still be part and parcel for why you lost the game.
  • All season I've been hearing about why Mike Bibby is so valuable come playoff time and why we can't develop Jeff Teague at the expense of Bibby's valuable jump shot and playoff experience. I will use the 2010 NBA playoffs as my final salvo to Peachtree Hoops and every commenter who wanted to clown me for emphatically saying that if we want to win a title in the future - Jeff Teague should have been STARTING for this team THIS SEASON. If nothing else, Jeff could be guarding Jameer Nelson just a tad better than anyone else is right now...oh, and maybe he'd be taking us on fast break or two.
  • The Orlando Magic are really good.
  • So, you want me to believe in you, Mike Woodson. So, now you want to be the adjustment master...RandyMo, Jason Collins..really!?! Those guys deserve PT and yet, Joe Smith and Jeff Teague don't.
  • Rick Sund, you don't escape any criticism too - so, no one else was worth picking up outside of Mario West. No one...
  • What does it say about me and my fandom that I bought tickets for Game 3 and 4, and have all the hope in the world that we can even this series despite every logical measure telling me that we're going to be swept.
  • Jameer Nelson is making a mockery of every doubter of his NBA ability.
  • Oh, and that's 14 of 15 playoff losses in the past 3 years where Hawks have failed to keep the losing margin inside 10 pts. Again, debunking ANY thought that there's a moral victory to be had...it was close for a minute, then you just gave up...AGAIN!

Did I mention that I'm calling out anyone who starts with the Hawks and outstanding effort/heart angle? Seriously, if I see that after playing only 30 of 48 minutes, I'm going to blow..AJC, Hoopinion, Peachtree Hoops, The Vent, Soaring Down South...you're on the clock.

An Elegant Way of Saying What I Always Say

So, ESPN Writer John Hollinger wrote an article about something I've been on record about for 3 years now (and that I've been writing about and communicating to folks since the blog started)...
Basically, he's saying - our offense while effective against regular season play & defenses is not the kind that can stand up against good playoff defenses (or so the evidence would suggest). You can read his elegant view if you have ESPN Insider...here's the take from True Hoop (and a shout out to Hoopinion who also linked to this earlier today)
  • John Hollinger (Insider) has just written one of the most insightful basketball things I've read in a long time. He notes that two offenses -- the Hawks' and Blazers' -- are among the most efficient in the NBA with a similar style. They slow the pace, isolate their perimeter star (Brandon Roy or Joe Johnson), get a lot of offensive rebounds, and end up getting more field goal attempts and fewer turnovers than teams with less discipline. But what you won't see is a lot of ball movement. And guess what? Both the Hawks and the Blazers have seen their offenses basically go to hell in the playoffs. Hollinger writes: "Perhaps the Hawks and Blazers have just had some bad games against some pretty good defenses. But between the two, we've built up a 31-game sample showing that something more nefarious might be at work. Obviously, this has important implications for Atlanta's Game 2 in Orlando on Thursday. Iso-Joe has had its moments; Game 4 of the 2008 Boston series, for instance, when Johnson single-handedly tore apart one of the best defensive teams in history. But in the aggregate, its failures have been far greater than its successes, and it's notable that the most similar offensive team has faced similar troubles. Is there something about iso-heavy offenses that makes them vulnerable in the playoffs? We can't say it with certainty yet, but the case is building rapidly. The Hawks have three games left to show that Iso-Joe can be as effective in May as it is between November and April."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two More Other Game 1 Nuggets

1. I think it's cowardly to not have one of your best paid players to come out and account for what happened to the media.
2. I would like to mention again that once the Hawks know they are going to lose - they lose. Make that 13 of 14 games lost in the playoffs over the past 3 years by more than 10 pts. Average pt difference is over 20pts.

And I'm supposed to think that this mix is seriously going challenge for a title at some point. Come on, son.

Hawks/Magic - Game 1 Recap (Updated)

So, I'm not going to do formatting. I'm not going to do a lot of bullets. I'm going to leave all that and tell you really quickly why we need a new paradigm. Go to the other Hawks bloggers for an 'analysis' of the ass kic..oops, Game 1. I'm going to just keep hammering at the psychology angle.
  • I'm watching the postgame press conference with Mike Woodson and these questions illustrate very clearly why I don't believe in our coach. I'm sorry, but you need to be FURIOUS. You need to say that folks are lacking heart. You need to say that the end of the season is over if we don't play 5 times better than that. You need to say to Joe that he's about to lose $40 or $50M if he can't play better than that.
  • Charles Barkley said it best - he's disappointed in Mike Woodson's post game comments. He was too calm and he's talking about the fact that we missed too many shots we normally make (which is WRONG - we miss jump shots all the time) and that's not Atlanta Hawk basketball, but no mention about the 114 points we gave up. This from our DEFENSIVE guru coach.
  • Zaza, I'm listening to your WACK ass press conference too and so, starting off with the 'we only had one day to prepare, so they were waiting for us, BUT there's no excuse' is shameful. That IS an excuse - KILL the one night rest crap. That doesn't account for 43 pt losses.
  • I will continue to maintain that Mike Woodson is a nice guy. I don't have an ax to grind for him, but I don't believe in him. Period. There's nothing about his coaching that I can believe in and if you are a Woody fan or even neutral - just go to the Video section at NBA.com and explain in non-we keep winning more games each season fashion why I'm supposed to believe he knows what he's doing. (this just in - the first sub off the bench was....wait for it - JASON 'I got DNPs for days' COLLINS!!!!)
  • We already have lost to the Magic by 17, 20, and 32 points and won one game by 1. The Hawks lost by 43 tonight (or 6 more points than the Bobcats point totals in 4 games).
  • For as good as the 1st quarter was and then to lose by 43 over the last 3 quarters just defies every odd I can think of.
  • I acknowledged a long time ago that Jamal Crawford for Speedy/Acie was a slam dunk, but it's the REST of our offseason moves that are still up for debate and making me rethink whether or not Speedy/Acie wouldn't be nice to have off our books this offseason.
  • Let's be clear - Joe Johnson is good, Josh Smith is good, Al Horford is good, Jamal is good, Marvin/Bibby/Zaza/Maurice are ok, but as a team - we are what we thought they were. A team that can defeat most teams on talent (hence, the 53 wins), but when it comes to having to gut out a victory over a similarly (or better) talented team...we are going to have trouble.
  • As I tweeted, shooting almost exclusively from the perimeter in the 3rd quarter was the most glaring case of 'we give up' I think I've ever seen in a conference semifinal basketball game.
  • As a fan, I love my Hawks, but I will stand up and say this to the world...If I see this type of effort again, I will completely (and I do mean completely...as in, go back to paying for tickets to watch a 13 win Atlanta Hawks team) support a blowing up of this team. Sorry, but I don't care if you have to trade every player and the coaches to start over. I'd rather do that than watch talented, heartless, gutless players play for my hometown team.
  • Last bullet - the Magic tried to completely embarrass our team. If we don't play them to the last minute on Thursday and show an account of overselves, again - fire the coach, let Joe go, and blow it up! Seriously!!!! I've never seen a team without pride win anything. Never!
As I said before the series, it's hard to see how we can win more than 1 game, so I'll stick with Magic in 5, but if a sweep sends a message to GM Sund, then I'll hope for that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

On To The Next One

Normally, I would do a full recap of Game 6 & 7, but since I never expected to have to report on those games - they only get bullets. The good, the bad, and the ugly...

Let's start with the good...

  • The Hawks won the series.
  • When they put their mind to it, the Bucks were revealed to be the inferior squad that we all said they were.
  • Mike Woodson actually made some adjustments to show his coaching acumen. This is a great prospect for the remainder of the playoffs.
  • The defense played by the Hawks in the last 2 games is the stuff that could make us rethink the 2nd round ceiling we've placed on the Hawks.
  • Jamal Crawford did indeed live up to the nickname of The Difference.
  • Bibby played like a man who has been in a Game 7 and put to rest the contention that maybe we should play the rookie.
  • Al Horford played like a man who didn't want to go home and for that we thank you.
  • Despite an uneven offensive effort, the games were never in doubt. Finally, the obvious disparity in talent showed itself.
The Bad
  • It took 7 games. It still is stunning to this fan that this team defeated us 3 times. If Bogut and/or Redd were playing, ok! But Salmons and Jennings vs. the Hawks is simply a mismatch. A bigger mismatch than the Heat last year and yet, we were the ones sweating.
  • Nothing good can come from a series were the LOSING team looks like they accomplished the most, learned the most, and played the hardest.
  • Joe Johnson's asking price in the summer of 2010 just plummeted. No one pays max money for a guy who plays good defense, but pretty below average offensively....wait, no one SHOULD pay max money for a guy...
  • Josh taking more jump shots in the postseason can only be married to superior blocking, rebounding, steals, and minimal ref carping or else it's just simply unacceptable.
  • Maurice Evans' production throughout the playoffs.
  • Using Mario Evans at any juncture during a game that isn't a blowout. This end of half stuff must stop - Teague and/or Evans can assume that job.
  • So, now that we've gotten the defensive adjustment, we are still waiting for the offensive adjustment that will give us the faith that the Magic won't be able to simply do what they always do to defeat us.
The Ugly

  • Our press conferences - I listened to almost all of the press conferences and the quotes and I still don't think the Hawks have an understanding of why fans and the greater public thinks our team is unprepared to win a title. Coach included.
  • It started with the almost total focus on the fact that we worked all season for the home court advantage and that that would take us home. Today's examples consisted of the tired 'no one expected us to win' 'no one believed in us' 'those men in that locker room have heart' crap. Sorry, but we ALL expected you to win and easily...almost as easily as any other team in the playoffs and so, we were perplexed and dismayed that a team that really didn't have enough bullets in the chamber, but somehow killed 8 players with 2.5 rounds. Maybe this is necessary for motivation, but it reeks of how the psychology of our team is focused in the wrong places. Home Court, Us Against the Press/World, Heart/Leadership, and even how good the Bucks are, which they weren't.
  • That plus struggling with the Bucks give us pause to ask for more than 1 game in this series. Not to mention a much better team in the Orlando Magic
  • Lastly, these past two games may have given the false sense of security that the coach and Joe Johnson are worth opening the piggy bank for. That's truly ugly.
Still looking for the postseason reason why we shouldn't have left Bibby and Williams unsigned and made the overtures all season to convince D. Wade, C. Bosh, or L. James that this is just as good or better place to come to in exchange for a sign and traded Joe Johnson. Loyalty doesn't win championships...talent plus heart and leadership wins championship!

Prediction - Magic in 5. Let's hope this prediction is as horribly bad as the first one was.