Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Repeating History...

Good people,

On the precipice of the Annual Season Preview and an attempt to find the fire to write about a team that has lost 95% of the buzz and sizzle that we all had this time last year, we provide a few nuggets from the mind of the HS8T braintrust.

Looking at last year's Hawks/Magic preseason game - it's eerie how similar they were.  We were blown out, we looked listless on both ends of the court, and we didn't say anything afterward that really explained it other than - it's the preseason (which could be a good enough explanation).

That said - here's my thoughts so far this preseason:

  1. Keeping the core as a strategy should allow for a new system to take hold easier than not, right?
  2. Larry Drew has not given us any reason to believe that he's the answer to our leadership and motivation issues.
  3. Larry Drew should be given until at least midseason before we determine whether the defensive and offensive schemes are going to help this team become more competitive come playoff time.
  4. Waiting for anyone (front office, coaches, players, fans) to explain how a team that stood pat is going to become better than teams who were better than us and managed to make additions.  This seems to be the reason for the lack of buzz.
  5. Last season, there were offseason and preseason predictions from the team.  This year, there have not been any announcements of the expectations for this team from the team.  This, to me, says everything about how everyone in the Hawks organization feels about this team (i.e. it's better to not say - yes, we will compete, but we don't expect to contend for the division, the conference, or the title and we don't have a roadmap for how that is going to happen.) Alert me to the first time someone says - yes, our team's goal is to win the NBA title.
  6. Losing to the Magic by 29 points was entirely predictable.  
  7. It won't be the worst thing for Jamal Crawford to make hay about his contract..all the way up until the point where the team decides to re-up on his contract.
  8. Jeff Teague is not going to earn the starting position at this rate and I still believe that if he's not going to be the starter on game 1 (unless health is the issue) - this team should subtract 5 games and any shot at winning a 1st round playoff series.
  9. Finally, Josh is still shooting jump shots. 

Also, I did see a note from Jeff Van Gundy about what Mike Woodson did so wrong that he didn't keep his job.  Mr. Van Gundy, have you been watching this team?  Listen, you make a compelling point about the talent deficit between the Hawks and the elite teams in the league, but PLEASE stop using the tired - in 2005, we won 13 games and now, we're winning 53 reasoning.  A bunch of young guys SHOULD win 13 games.  Over 5 seasons, you SHOULD win more games.  A guy making 20M a year should bring you from a miserable total to different level.  So, yes - we got better, but let's not overrate the job done from the coaching position and why is it so hard to conceive that if you have an opportunity to get rid of Maurice Evans for someone who is better than you do it.  Same for coaches...if you have a guy who is decent, but have a chance to get someone better than decent to match a team that you think is better than decent, then you do so.  Simple as that...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Obligatory Basketball Pre-Preview Grades

Hawks Friends & Foes,

It's ALMOST time for the NBA season and, by extension, the Hawk Str8Talk (HS8T) Season Preview. Now, this time last year - we had spent an entire offseason debating the goodness and badness of our offseason pickups and having optimistic thoughts about a 50 win season and making noise in the playoffs.  Despite some of our blog haters, the very items we said were going to be issues for the Hawks played themselves out in disappointing fashion. Those were:

  • Leadership - This can be broken into three areas - front office, coaching, & player.  Unlike many teams, what happens at the top permeates throughout each level of leadership with the Hawks.  Our front office leadership has never done anything that spoke to the point of winning a championship. It has always lended itself to saying - we want to be relevant.  And if that's your judgment for success, then job well done.  Since this blog speaks to everything championship leaning, that's not really all that valuable to us and so, in essence, it's no surprise that GM Knight and GM Sund did not (or were not allowed to) make the moves that had a risk/reward that lends itself to championship levels. Which leads to why our players are not developed or used with the goal of a future championship.  We've yet to see a true leader emerge for the Hawks and we don't expect that again this season. Due to this, our #1 concern is what we get from Jamal Crawford.  Short of good coaching and leadership, expect Jamal 'Gunning for a New Contract' Crawford to be on full display.  Grade (relative to last year): D
  • Strategy - This is where we probably got the most schizo feeling about the season.  On one hand, it's inconceivable to us that the Hawks championship fortunes are ultimately going to be changed by hiring the assistant coach of the coach that you ultimately blamed for our failure in the postseason.  Bottom line, it's not just X's and O's that were problems for the Hawks - it's just the general motivation and energy from the bench that were at fault.  The in-game strategy was not that great and so, it's easy for the assistant coach to read the tea leaves and say - I'm going to change everything.  Who wouldn't do that?  That said, this experiment still doesn't change the fact that you have BAD defenders. You have offensive players who aren't making ANY offensive system championship level.  So, to change the coach and none of the main rotation still means nothing.  That said, on the good side, Coach Drew hasn't spoken about keeping any of the old strategies.  That's good and portends that there is upside to be found somewhere if executed well.  So, that's what we'll look for (though again, I'll say this - if Teague is not the opening day starter and doesn't get at least 30-40 games to prove that he can handle the job...flush any shot this team has at winning 50 games this season). Grade (relative to last year):B-
  • Toughness - So, our changes are Jordan Crawford, Josh Powell, Etan Thomas, Pape Sy, and Coach Drew (and his staff - hello, Nick Van Exel). I'm not going to even to try to tell you that there's some belief that these additions will make the Hawks stand up and be present when punched in the mouth, so just call this a big ol' fail and move on  Grade (relative to last year): D
  • Defense - Strategically, if Teague gets 35 minutes a game, then the defense gets an upgrade.  If the scheme changes, we'll see how that changes things, but we like the attempt to change things.  That said, we didn't change any players.  In fact, we got ANOTHER shooting guard in the draft, which is just silly unless you trade Jamal Crawford for someone who DOES address your glaring defensive talent issues. Grade (relative to last year): F
  • Front Office Woes - Basically, the feeling that we'd be better off with David McDavid or Belkin should tell you everything that needs to be said about our front office. I've yet to feel like I've been dealt with honestly as a fan with regards to a championship product.  So, if they just come out and say that they just want to be able to make the playoffs each year, then I get mad that our aim is set too low, but I settle into understanding why we do what we do.  Anything short of that and it's an epic fail. I mean we replaced our bad coach with one of the people who have followed him for the past 6 years and expect me to believe he's the answer. Right! And for the record, I am no longer saying that we're cheap - I'm saying that we're just not smart with the money in the name of cheapness.  Meaning I think we were trying to be cheap by selling the draft pick we acquired in the draft this year without understanding that if we get a useful player in the draft that it's cheaper to keep them over time than picking up the Thomases & Collinses of the world at the veteran minimum. Again, just dumb... Grade (relative to last year):F
  • Familiarity Breeds Success? - The jury will be out on this.  Familiarity breeds 2nd round playoffs, but we're not sure why the Hawks have been so reticent to make real changes each year.  Each year, teams BETTER than ours are making upgrades and changes to their rotation.  EACH YEAR!  The Hawks, not so much...and I can't say I know why. Our salary number say it's not even about saving money Donald Sterling style. Grade (relative to last year): C .
So, next week, we'll publish our Season Preview and Prediction.  We got a lot of hate last year because we like to revise our prediction as we see things that tell us to change it.  That's just our way of doing things, but we always come back and compare our original projection with the actual result.  Last year, we said that the Hawks best case record would be 52-30 (meaning good years, good health, etc) and they won 53 games in the best case scenario.  I predicted 47 wins.  I was off by 6 games and folks are hatin'.  Presumably, that was because we were right about the things that we discussed above leading to getting killed in the playoffs.  I said that then and I'll repeat it.  The Hawks can win a lot of games in the regular season again and get killed in the playoffs if they don't address these issues above in a real, substantive way. 

So, yes, I'm going to do predictions, but they really are meaningless.  The regular season record is a function of health for the most part.  As the Celtics showed, taking off the regular season didn't hurt them with regards to winning the title.  Losing Kendrick Perkins is what did that.  So, I'm saying that as presently constituted at our best health - all things considered...we have work to do.  How much work will be revealed next week....

With that said, it's time for Hawks basketball...jump on board with our game recaps, Hawks community updates, ticket discounts, and much more...

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