Time for another Postseason Edition of the Honesty Corner, so 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. Jeff Teague is the best Hawk on the court this round.
Yes, Joe Johnson was sublime in Game 1, but the odds of Joe duplicating that effort again are slim. The odds that Jeff Teague will be able to continue to score in double digits, play good defense, and not turnover the ball are repeatable is much higher. His play so far supports my belief that there is a personal issue between the coaching staff (Woodson/Drew's) and Jeff Teague (or young guards in general). There's just simply no logical reason that can be offered for why Jeff Teague is not starting for this team at best and a regular rotation player at worst.
We've waxed poetic about the fact that this coaching staff does not value defensive talent as part of the reason a player should get minutes. Sure, Jeff Teague is inconsistent offensively and probably would be for a while in an offense where he'd be the 4th option at best, but the ability to hold his counterpart to a minimal carnage vs. the Hawks has been long undervalued. Of the 9 games he's started as a Hawk, I recall at least 3 that he was the BEST HAWK on the floor. It's borderline criminal what has occurred with his minutes this season and it's what gives me the most pause in entrusting another campaign to Larry Drew. If I heard my boss tell me that he's ALWAYS had faith in me and reward that with a begrudging start only due to injury, I'd say kiss my a$$. You can bet that if I was Jeff Teague, I'd walk into Sund's office as soon as the Hawks' season is over and say - either fire Drew or trade me. No in between.
All that said, Jeff Teague has proven that he belongs on the court with the best players in the league in all situations (starting, closing, clutch, defensive stops, etc). As an example, in only one game - Drew realized hey, if I want to cool off a perimeter player, then I best put Teague on him. In Game 1, when Korver started heating up due to JC1's
desire inability to get through screens, it was Teague who put an end to open looks. Same for Rose. It just makes me angry even thinking about how much better Teague could be at this juncture if we'd just followed the HS8T plan of starting Teague LAST season down the stretch (not to mention Jordan Crawford and 1st round pick we'd be using to bolster the roster next year).
Truth 2. Josh Smith is a liability, but let's not let Al off the suckage hook.
Listen, I'm not going to mince words - Josh Smith has gone from my favorite Hawk to a benign cancer. I can't come up with another way to put it. Yes, he's talented and a wonderful transition player (when not dribbling) and help defender. He even is a force inside offensively, but if you don't recognize your strengths, then you are not helping the team. The best teams' players know exactly what they do well. How crazy would it look if Kyle Korver was trying to shoot free jumpers off the dribble or posting up for sky hooks? That's how ridiculous it is to have Josh Smith on the perimeter. I blame him (and Larry Drew) and anyone who even passes him the ball in those situations at this stage. This isn't the regular season. Every possession must be valued and Josh has proven that you can't trust him to make sound basketball decisions.
But here's the thing - we KNOW this about Josh. We take the good with the bad and yes, I finally advocate seeing if there is a package that includes Josh that can improve this team this offseason, but we also must take Al Horford to task. He's an All Star, our All Star - supposedly our heart and soul...and uh, he's not really dialed in this postseason. No, he's not completely missing in action like Marvin Williams, but we are used to Marvin being missing. We aren't used to Al not being a force. He has to be a force. We're winning games in spite of the fact that our front court is NOT imposing its will on anyone. I see this as a good thing in that we can get BETTER, but let's be honest - for everyone who is mad at Josh...uh, reserve about 80% of that criticism for Al too. He's supposed to be better than Josh and he's not doing much better - that's a problem.
Truth 3. A Split is Great, but...
Unlike Game 3 of the first round, I thought Game 2 was the key. If we could get that game, the series is over. Of course, the Hawks didn't come out with the 'we want to put the dagger in your chest' mentality and so, now we have a series. Yes, the Hawks have handled their business at the Highlight Factory, but we also have to continue to not be deceived into thinking that our team's mental state is not our best attribute. We can collapse at any time, so when we are competitive - we need to capitalize with a victory.
The killer instinct must be present every single game. There's nothing wrong with getting a sweep, guys. I know we want to complain about refs and laud the desperation card, but aren't we desperate? Is the taste of a title enough to want every single W available? Just saying...
Truth 4. Game 1 Joe is worth $100M.
That's really all I want to say about that. I don't know that we'll see him again this postseason, but I did want to say - whatever is the cost of 1/89 (regular season plus postseason games) of his salary this season...he was worth that in Game 1. Stealing money most of the rest of the season, but this game - pay that man!!! Can we get our money's worth for the rest of the postseason, please?
Truth 5. The Disrespect Has Been EARNED.
Every fan who has talked about the postseason Hawks and why we aren't getting any respect and all that. Let me keep it real...I hate to listen to it, but it's DESERVED. Teams that don't play to their strengths, who don't recognize their best players, who don't play their best reserves, who lose to teams at home by 30 points, who don't have a lot of heart and what not... yeah, they must PROVE more than once, maybe twice or thrice that they aren't who we thought they were. There's a difference between potential and hope vs. demonstration and belief. Hawks fans see the potential and hope for the best, but everyone sees what they demonstrate. So, let's end the complaining about respect and wanting something we haven't earned and let's just focus on earning what we deserve. Seeing articles about Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Teague makes me happy for the simple reason that they earned them. Their play was the reason someone decided it was worthwhile to write about.
Hawks, quit crying for attention and make them pay attention. The Mavericks ain't crying about why folks don't believe in them - they are showing the Lakers and the rest of the country that they aren't who they've been for the past 5 years. So, let's get to the Eastern Conference Finals and prove that we belong in the elite. I still have major reservations about saying we're there (and I've bet my blogging career on it), but trust me - nothing would make me happier than to hang up my writing career. Let's do it....
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...