Let's start this Honesty Corner off with a shout out to the greatness that's Atlanta weather. It was so awesome that I quickly forgot how disgusting the Atlanta Hawks played vs. the Miami Heat (or maybe that was the special sauce I was sipping that caused my memory loss). Unfortunately, not much is awesome in Hawks land these days and so, it stands that the Corner must be written, but before I do so - you can read this blog or this one and see the progress we've made so far this year. As always read the disclaimer and then, let's get to it...
Disclaimer: As always, all criticisms come after blaming the Atlanta Spirit Group first, management second, and then coaches and players last. Those criticisms come through the prism of winning championships (or the things that result in championship team building).
Truth 1. Larry Drew Has No Clue.
Not only does it rhyme, but it's become more clear that it's true. Take the 20 minutes out of your day to listen to this audio and tell me that you're dealing with someone who actually believes what he's saying. Listen, this is not specific to Larry Drew because Mike Woodson had the same problem, but anytime you are asking more questions at the END of the season about YOUR team than you were at the beginning of the season - that's a coaching problem. The Hawks have not been better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning since 2007 and so, it stands to believe that the coaching philosophy is being tuned out and that the program being offered is not being bought into. Let's discuss the ways that our coach has no clue.
- Jeff Teague's player development (or lack thereof) - This has been discussed ad nauseum and is simply a carryover from the Mike Woodson era, but what's worse - it has cost us our Jamal Crawford replacement and any other additional help by way of a 1st round pick. Bottom line, I won't mince words here. Jeff Teague will never be an effective player for the Atlanta Hawks under Larry Drew. Drew doesn't trust him. It's obvious - let's just dispense with the pretense that anything else is true. And I wouldn't put this at the top of the list if he wasn't OUTRIGHT LYING TO US ABOUT THIS.
- Roster Balance - I've been hollering from the top of Stone Mountain about roster balance for 3 years now. Marvin Williams should have been coming off the bench with Jamal Crawford at the beginning of LAST season. It's a lot better for the balance of the starting and bench players to have Teague, Johnson, Smith, Horford, and Wilkins/Evans, so you have talent (and this extends to defense as well) coming off the bench. There's a reason that Ginobili came off the bench for much of his career - it's because the roster works BETTER that way. Too bad, Coach Drew hasn't figured that out yet.
- Damien Wilkins - When a guy you signed off the scrap heap is the ONLY player you can claim is neck and neck with Al Horford as the players who have improved from last year to this one, you can't be doing a great job at coaching 'em up or motivating them. On top of that, he shines as the example that if you give him consistent minutes - a player may show himself worthy of more. Unfortunately, Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia are not getting that chance despite being at worst 2 of your top 8 players.
- Mental Toughness - Coach Drew has been on the staff for over 6 years (repeat that 10 times) and we still are talking about having mental toughness issues. This is new??!? At game 70, we're still talking about this. Yep, this is a culture problem and the fact that you haven't changed it means that you were the wrong coach.
- Leadership - How many players' only meetings are you allowed to have a year before you realize that they aren't working? My PO meetings count is at 5 for the year. The PO means that what the coach is saying is not helping, so we the players need to address it ourselves. In my days of working toward championships (from high school to intramurals), the max on PO meetings is 2 per year before you just realize that your team as constructed is what it is. The Hawks are what they are. Average defense. Average offense. Deficient in leadership, heart, and toughness, but talented enough to overcome their deficiencies vs. bad basketball teams. Sorry ASG, you need new people.
Truth 2.Al Horford is following the Hawks lead.
I know that the love affair with Al Horford is strong, but he won't be the player he needs to be for this franchise until he stops crying about what's happening and simply does something about it on the floor. Get in a player's face. Demand the ball in the post. Call out the best players, the coach, the management, but do something to show that you are actually a leader. So far, he's just shown that he's a warrior and that's great, but it shouldn't be confused with leadership. You're only a leader if they follow. Not to mention, he's turned into a jump shooter along with the rest of the team. Looks like he's falling back to the mean (i.e. the rest of the Hawks) and not ascending to the extreme and dragging the team with him.
Truth 3. First Round Sweep would be a blessing.
I know that most fans would cringe at the sight of another playoff slaughter, but let's look at the bright side. Maybe losing money leads to selling the franchise, canning the coach, and looking for a new GM and players. Yes, all of these things need to happen to move this franchise forward and so, while it would be embarrassing - this is what this team needs to realize that major changes need to be made. Can you say Orlando averaging 20pt victories in 2011 otra vez? I can.
Truth 4. Rick Sund is stealing money.
I just want to reiterate that the best moves of his Hawks career have been to a) trade for a limited and expensive Jamal Crawford (yes, I consider a player who doesn't play half of the court - limited) and b) to sign Damian Wilkins. That's it. No other moves have been worthy of anything (save signing Josh Smith and Al Horford to reasonable contracts). To not have a plan for beefing up our roster or the flexibility to position the roster for last summer or ...the summer of 2012 (hint, hint). It's just laughable. No draft picks and no more upside on the roster (no, Jeff Teague doesn't qualify) and I'll be the guy to say it - Rick Sund is about to go the way of Billy Knight and Mike Woodson, which is from a nice little NBA job to no other team ever wanting them to be a part of another NBA franchise ever. In an old boy's network, that's extremely hard to accomplish. Which leads me to...
Truth 5. There is no more upside on this roster.
I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss my arguments in 2009 and 2010 about Marvin needing to go to the bench for roster balance and Jeff Teague needing to start in 2010 (yes, here's the blog war with Peachtree Hoops last year and the fact that Bibby was traded and that we got swept just like I said we would in 2010 vindicates my entire premise. Check that exchange out here and here and here.), but it bears repeating. There is no 'core' to believe in anymore and there isn't a hot shot on the bench to look to for growth. Jeff Teague has no trust in the organization and the other players, Pape Sy and formerly Jordan Crawford (of the 'I'm averaging more points than Jamal Crawford in less minutes' Crawfords) have Elmer's Glue on their bench seats. So, how do you get better? Where does better come from? It's not from maybe the most tenured starting 5 in the NBA. We've seen what they can do and the answer equals regression to the point that they could get swept out of the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive year. That can't bode well for the Hawks sales team come this offseason.
Bonus Truth. The Start to DNP Strategy = Dumbest. Move. Ever.
Bonus Truth. The Start to DNP Strategy = Dumbest. Move. Ever.
Yes, in all my 30 years of watching NBA basketball and 25+ years of studying Hawks basketball, I have never, ever, ever, ever seen a team garner any level of success where they start a player (oh, say...Jeff Teague or Jason Collins) and find them with DNPs unless 2 things have happened - 1) they were insubordinate or 2) the ownership/management made the call down to the coach and said - get so and so off the court OR get so and so into the game and if that's at the expense of 2nd so and so...so be it. So, I'm just sayin' until I hear that one of those things has occurred - Larry Drew's starting of Jason Collins vs. certain lineups, but not playing him against almost anyone else and his ability to start Jeff Teague vs. the Portland Trailblazers (a playoff team) and not play him at ALL vs. the Detroit Pistons is the DUMBEST coaching decision I've ever seen. Seriously. There simply is no way a player can be consistent or believe in a coach who can start him and DNP him in the same week, particularly if said coach waxes poetic about how he has/is always in his corner.
Note: It still boggles the mind that Jason Collins (our 3rd best center by far) can start over Horford and Pachulia when either are healthy, but if he's good enough to start a game, then why is he unworthy of PT during any game he doesn't start. It also boggles the mind that our best defensive guard is not needed to defend in every game.
And with that note, that's this week's 5 Truths....agree or disagree if you must, but if it's the Honesty Corner, then it can't be lies. See you in the comments...