Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Honesty Corner's 5 Truths: Vol. 11

We'll be providing a complete Year In Review once the NBA Finals are over, but for now - here's some truths to tide you over - mostly dedicated to the news that Rick Sund will continue to be our GM...

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 needs to keep his nose clean.

There will be a report tomorrow on the Today Show discussing his role in an alleged sexual assault. Now, I will let the legal system determine how much truth there is to this, but I will say this to Mr. Jeff Teague.  There were already rumors about your lack of dedication to your craft early this season and let's just say - if you know who your coach is (and will likely be next year), then we'd advise you to stay on the narrow path of goodness.  Primarily because as a human, that's just what you should do, but also because of the fact that you know it takes very little to get Larry Drew to put you back on the bench (and if you were actually involved in a sexual assault, then you are dead to me.)

(Let me find out this girl is affiliated with Larry Drew or his circle in any way and the season long quest for what really is happening is solved.)

Truth 2. Consistent Inconsistency = Player Movement.
I'm going to spend more time during the offseason proposing the right changes for the Atlanta Hawks, but I'll just reiterate what I've been saying for the past 2 offseasons and that's that - short of new owners, a new GM, and a new coach - the players have to change. We'll talk about who at a later date, but I think it's pretty clear when watching the remaining teams in NBA playoffs and you can see a marked difference between the Hawks and those teams.  The Hawks do not look like a team, but instead a group of individuals playing for the same organization.  There are pockets of fire and energy, but outside of that - Joe, Al, and Josh do not look like they are on the same page and it's 4 years in on this journey.  If you can't put it together in 4 years (while the Heat were able to get on a page in half a season), then you probably are never going to get on the same page.  

We have watched the Hawks be consistently inconsistent for over 2 years and now, it's time to make moves.  We know that the fan base is leery of moves due to our track record with trading our assets, but this isn't a time for timid, passive management. If we want to win, bold and aggressive moves must be made.  The time is now (or whenever the CBA says so).

Truth 3. Year In Review Preview (The Pluses).

So, let's make a list of the things that were positive this year.

1.    Damian Wilkins - Anytime you can sign someone off the street and they can contribute in any way.  That's a win.
2.    Jeff Teague’s Playoff Performance – We have no idea if it’s transferrable to the regular season and is sustainable over the rest of his career, but for the offseason – the Hawks and its fans can finally settle on the idea that they have a point guard who can contribute on offense and DEFENSE. 
3.    Al Horford – Playoffs excepted, Al had his best year yet.  He’s deadly with the pick and pop. We won’t discuss whether this is enough to move the Hawks forward, but for the season – it’s hard to say All Star and 3rd team All NBA are negatives.
4.    Zaza Pachulia – Simply put, when he played consistent minutes, he played fairly well.  Every team needs a Zaza.

Truth 4. Year In Review Preview (The Negatives).

So, let's make a list of the things that were negative this year.

1.    Player Development – For Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia (and Damian Wilkins upon the revelation that Marvin Williams has regressed tremendously) to not receive consistent minutes for this team, just continues the poor use of the meager assets at our coach’s hands.
2.    Joe Johnson – Yes, he made the All Star game. No, he didn’t get one vote for All NBA. To be one of the top paid players in the league and to only have about 3-4 special games in an entire season and to decline in almost every category says – epic fail. 
3.    Marvin Williams – He just regressed to the point that he was usable in the biggest games in recent Atlanta Hawk history. You can blame Billy Knight for drafting him, but isn’t it worst if you re-sign him and he provides you less than during his formative years.
4.    The Bench – When Damian Wilkins is your coup signing, you’ve failed to bring much needed help to a bench that consisted of little used Teague, sometimes used Zaza, and over used Jamal. 
5.    Regular Season – When you lose 9 more games than the year before with the same cast and winning a 1st round series that you have won the last 2 years sounds like success, then you really had a bad regular season.  Simply put, the fact that you played hard in the 2nd round is looked at as progress sends the signal that you really didn’t put forth a regular season’s worth of professional efforts.

Truth 5. Billy Knight runs laps around Rick Sund as a GM.

Let me preface this with another truth – I don’t want Billy Knight back as the GM for the Atlanta Hawks, but I’ve written this before and after seeing that Rick Sund was given an extension – I figure it’s time to try to understand once again why people think Rick Sund has provided this team with assets to make us viable contenders. The Sund era is much closer to rivaling the Babcock era than coming close to the star-crossed Knight era.

Let’s recount what happened during the 2003-2008 tenure of Billy Knight.  He did the following:
·         Positives:
o   Dismantled a team that was last in attendance, at the salary cap limit, and devoid of draft picks due to Pete Babcock (the players he had to get rid of were – Abdur-Rahim, Terrell Brandon, Alan Henderson, Theo Ratliff, Jason Terry (who we could have kept, but he signed a $8M/yr contract that we matched and wasn’t worth that), Al Harrington, Antoine Walker.
o   Acquired 4 additional first round picks and 1 second round draft over his tenure
o   Drafted the following NBA players (Josh Smith, Al Horford, Boris Diaw, Josh Childress)
o   Signed or traded for Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia, Mike Bibby
o   Attendance increased from last to 20th (not huge, but it’s positive)
o   Rumored to have had a deal for Amare Stoudamire (ASG intervened)
o   Attempted to fire Mike Woodson
o   Had the finest wife of any GM I’ve ever met

·         Negatives:
o   Drafted Shelden Williams, Acie Law, and Marvin Williams (though my sources have continually said that he wanted to draft Deron Williams, ASG wanted Marvin Williams)
o   Signed Speedy Claxton
o   Got little value out of our 2nd round picks
o   Too much love for Mario West
o   Had the worst haircut in the NBA

The Rick Sund tenure includes the following:

·         Positives:
o   Traded for Jamal Crawford (though this is a small positive since there was no signing that brought defensive talent to compliment Jamal’s offense)
o   Signed Damian Wilkins and Flip Murray for cheap (I’m reaching here)
o   Re-signed Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Zaza Pachulia to market friendly contracts
o   Drafted Jeff Teague (conditional to whether he gets to play)

·         Negatives:
o   Drafted Jordan Crawford
o   Sold 1st round draft pick & getting no value out of 2nd round draft picks
o   Resigned Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, and Maurice Evans to cap killing contracts
o   Traded away 1st round draft pick and Jordan Crawford for Kirk Hinrich (further muddying our cap situation)
o   Poor cap management
o   Hired the backup of the guy he fired
o   No use of the D League for players who need seasoning.
o   Started falling back in attendance to 22nd
o   Signed Joe Smith, Jason Collins, Josh Powell, Randolph Morris, & Etan Thomas to all be back up big men (did I mention that we sold a 1st round draft pick while signing these guys?)

So, explain to me why I should want Rick Sund to continue to lead the franchise.  The only thing that Sund didn’t do is make the big mistake (Shelden) and the perceived mistake (or what I call – taking the bullet for his bosses on Chris Paul or Deron Williams), but he did take this franchise and make a relatively large jump in viability that we haven’t seen from Sund’s tenure.  In fact, we’re regressing and we have few assets to even make any changes.  Think about this – we have $3M remaining to sign 6 players for next season. He basically bet the farm on the core and I don’t know one fan who believes in the entire core any longer, so why again are we spending any time on Knight? Shoot, as far as I’m concerned, Knight has proven qualifications of cleaning up the messes that guys like Sund make.  Again, NO – I don’t want Knight back because he presided over two franchise changing picks and he has to be accountable for that, but on the Josh Smith pick ALONE – he’s done more for the Atlanta Hawks than Rick Sund could dream about. Knight in a KO!!!

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...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Honesty Corner's 5th Truths: Vol. 10

[Note: this was written before game 6, but with the outage could only be posted now.]

Going to focus on Game 4 & 5 and the Atlanta Hawk fans, so let's get 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. The media is lazy.

The Atlanta Hawks fan base has been hit hard for far too long.  Listen, the fans in Atlanta are not the most rabid fan base in the country.  That's not news, but I want to dispel the myth that the Hawks fans are not good fans. Media, if you're going to lob a grenade at us, do your job and lob the right one.  If I hear one more 'it's 50/50' when it's really just about 1000 tops all in the same proximity, I'm gonna scream.  Here are the reasons other teams' fans are in Philips Arena (in order):
  1. Everyone has moved to Atlanta!!!! I don't know why this point never gets offered up when we wonder why there are other team's fans in the building.  No one is TRAVELING to Atlanta for these games.  They all live here and have money just like me.  In the last 15 years, 3 more million people live in the 28 county metro area (note: there were only 5 counties that made up the metro area when I moved here when I was 5).  So, it's a fair statement to say uh...a SIGNIFICANT (read: hundreds of thousands) number of those people might come from cold as hell Boston, Chicago, New York and from expensive as hell Los Angeles.  Those are the only cities that bring fans to our arena.  Is it that hard to figure out that when tickets go on sale that those individuals could go and purchase the 1-3 games when those guys are in town?  Unlike us the true Hawks fans who have 41 games to choose from...economy's tough and yes, it's a transplant town. And before you bring up other arenas - let's just keep it all the way 100%. No other NBA city is like Atlanta.  Only DC, NYC, Miami, and LA can claim that people are moving to those cities in the numbers that they could actually buy a BLOCK of seats and cheer for their home team, but only in DC and Miami (pre-LeBron) could you actually buy those seats.  NYC and LA seats are sold out all season no matter what. Why? Because win or lose, there are 20M people who live there. Supply and demand says - those games will always sell out. So, this phenomena is only possible in two cities - DC and Atlanta.  And it's not going to happen in DC because the Wizards suck.  If I move to any city with a NBA team, put my Hawks tickets in pen and I'm gonna cheer my butt off and if 1000 folks like me live there, we'd sound like we were running the building too.
  2. Fans everywhere are pretty much fairweather until their 'team' is winning.  Guess how many people I've found out were from Chicago these past two weeks. Uh, a ton.  How many did I ever hear from before this year? ONE! Only one fan base can I respect as a fan base that always is cheering on their team (in a delusional fashion in many cases) and that's the New York Knicks fans.  I hear from them all the time, all year and I have to respect that, but Bulls fans - never heard from them until they figured out ..hey, we might actually be good this year.  Same for Laker fans and Celtic fans and Heat fans.  When those teams are losing - you're not hearing any MVP chants, they don't want my free tickets, and they are not crowing about any championships. Simple as that.
  3. We don't have a superstar. People follow superstars. Free agency killed the blind allegiance to the front of the jersey, so until we get a superstar - no one is REALLY following the Hawks.
  4. We don't play hard.  If the Hawks played hard, the people would follow them more than they do now.  No one is trying to follow schizophrenic teams.  Maybe in Portland or Sacramento where there are no other pro sports (or nightclubs, lounges, strip clubs, weather, etc).

Truth 2. Larry Drew has excelled at the assistant coach functions, not the head coach functions this postseason.
It grates on me each time I hear that Larry Drew deserves credit (probably my Teague treatment bias) this offseason, so let me illustrate why Larry Drew has been an assistant coach for so long (and should remain an assistant coach once his head coaching tenure ends).  First, he's made great use of making game to game adjustments to the starting lineup and defensive adjustments to focus on the matchups.  You can tell that it has given Chicago something to account for throughout this series. 
Similarly, when faced with making those in-game adjustments and substitution patterns, Drew has been too reliant on hoping the players he likes most (veterans) will reward his faith instead of going with what his eyes are showing him.  So, if Zaza has 11 points in the first half, see if Zaza can get 11 more in the 2nd half.  If Jeff Teague is slowing down Derrick Rose, then don't ask Jamal Crawford to try to mimic that effort.  It's ok to use Damian Wilkins in a situation where you have seen no sign of Marvin Williams providing anything in this series.  That's what we expect from a head coach.  We expect a head coach to not rely on what he's always relied on come the 4th quarter and to take the ball out of the max contract guy and the 6th man's hands if they have shown that they aren't able to make shots.  I know that's risky, but no risk/no reward.
Not only that, he's made very little use of the media to a) motivate his team (the energy and effort excuses are really getting old) and b) to express the point that we deserve calls from the officials too.  Game 4 was ridiculous.  You want the team to stop bitching the refs, then that means YOU have to bitch for them.  You can't allow them to make terrible calls without at least once in a while losing your ever-loving mind.  The refs are human and you can bet that if they know that you won't be ripping them a new one - you just might take a few extra bad calls or never get a make up one.  You played in the league, Drew - you know how this works.  Now, time to make your money, Drew, or show us why you should have stayed an assistant coach in the first place.
Note: Is it only ironic to me that the guys who have gotten the biggest shafts from Larry Drew have played their best this playoff season and the guys who have been trusted the most by him have been the most inconsistent?

Truth 3. Changing of the Guards (the Jeff Teague edition).

I'm sure this will seem self-serving (but when has that ever stopped me before), but it's probably the appropriate time to highlight my thoughts about Jeff Teague's impact on this season back in November. It's been well documented how much I believed that every person who believed that Jeff Teague shouldn't have been starting (yes, starting) LAST SEASON after the All Star break was short sighted and that any belief that he needed to 'win' the starting job this season was insane if they wanted to see the team (and Teague) take a step forward.  CoCo and I were pretty close to alone in believing this. Again, I will simply say with much more confidence...welcome to the party everyone.  I don't say this with an 'I told you so' because I'd believe it if he failed miserably this season (because it would allow us to determine what to do with the point guard position this offseason), but I do take some pride in seeing Woodson and Drew exposed significantly on this issue on the brightest stage possible.  Teague has proven this so thoroughly that even Acie Law is asking for retribution.
As for his on court performance, I'm at the point where I don't feel good about any possession where Jeff isn't a part of it.  If he's not there to play defense, I'm nervous. I'd rather Jeff break down his man one-on-one than Joe or Jamal.  He's shown no inclination to take numerous bad shots, turn over the ball, or to not play hard.  What more do we want from our point guard?  He's had 5 straight solid, if not spectacular performances.  Who on the Hawks has done that? No one else. Sure, we had some better performances, but overall - offense and defense..only Josh's Game 4 compares.  As soon as we start to value defense as a skill to covet as an organization, we'll start to see that Jeff has the upside to be more valuable than Joe Johnson to this organization (which says more about Joe Johnson than Teague but I digress).
There are questions still being asked such as - what to do with Hinrich (trade or new 6th man), Jamal (sign and trade!), and whether Jeff should be starting when everyone is healthy to which I say - this is no longer a question, people.  For a capped out team with no draft picks, you must start Teague not only on merit, but because he costs you next to nothing and you need to better utilize the cap room taken by Crawford and Hinrich (and Williams, Thomas, Powell, Collins, and J. Johnson). So, let's not be fooled.  The Teague era is here - let's just hope that we have a coach who is able to value and push Teague vs. retard his growth. [Note: I'm on record that what's happened to Teague is worth Drew losing his job all by itself.]

Truth 4. The officials are affecting this series.

Those who follow my blog - they know I don't do the official blame game.  I think it's useless and discounts the human error factor. That said, I must say - every delusional Bulls fan who thinks that the Bulls aren't getting the benefit of some extra help from the officials isn't watching the games. The only thing I'll give them is that the mistakes they are making that the Hawks are benefiting from have just been a little more bizarre and egregious (an inadvertent whistle? Really?), but in general - I'm watching both teams in the paint getting contact, but only one player is getting a call each and every time.
I'll just say what I always do and that's that - great players are already great.  They don't need any extra help to make them greater.  That said, let's hope that the officials don't help on either side and may the best team win Game 6 (and Game 7)

Truth 5. Where is our All Star production?.

I have high expectations of our best players and all I can say is - this is the time when you prove that you're an All Star or All-NBA.  So, this last truth is pointed at you, Joe Johnson and Al Horford.  The best players for the Hawks this series are Jeff Teague and Josh Smith.  Think we might be able to win this series if our All Star/max player and recently minted All-NBA center were actually performing as such.  Yep, I do too. We already have seen the complete disintegration of Marvin Williams (and an unwilling replacement of him for Damien Wilkins) and the inevitable shooting slump by Jamal Crawford, but while we can overcome them with energy and effort - we can't overcome the lack of elite production from our most talented (expensive) talent.  Simply put, the All stars have to step up and prove their elitism (and earn their paychecks).

Let's go Hawks!!! Game 6 starts now...

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...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Things My Grandmother Could Teach About Basketball

On this Mother's Day, I will be celebrating by taking my mother and my grandmother to the Hawks game.  Now, this sounds self serving, but for a family that has significant Indiana roots where basketball is king - trust me, I'm going to win the "who got the best gift for Mother's Day" crown for years with this one esp. since no one even remembers when my grandmother has attended a NBA game (she being the biggest NBA fan I know).  So, we're going to ignore the fact that she's a Bulls fan and just go with family over fandom.  I give this preamble because there are some things when talking to my grandmother that even SHE sees that bother her about the Hawks and I figured I'd share them before we head out to Game 4.  Here's the list:

1. Fast Break

I've always shared my distaste of the power forward and center leading the break.  I'm not sure where this became the phenomena, but it must stop.  Since rec league, Grandma and I agree that you should give the ball to the point guard and fill the lane with very few exceptions.  Not only that, (Note: Grandma didn't share this one, but it needs to be said) 90% of your fast breaks should end with a shot taken AT THE RIM.  I'm going to blow a gasket if I continue to see 3 on 1, 3 on 2 breaks continue to end with jump shots.  I know we're a jump shooting team, but that is ASININE!!!!!  Do they not do a 3 man weave drill in Hawks camp?

2. Be Aggressive

It's not just a high school cheer.  Maybe the reason we like jump shots is because of something else Grandma notices and that's that we don't like contact.  Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague are the only players I've seen in the Bulls series that have gone into the paint looking for contact.  I don't know if it's because we're afraid to foul and get pulled per Larry Drew's rules or it's because we're soft and simply don't want to BE fouled, but that fact has us looking very much like punks.  In the NBA, to the aggressors go the spoils.  (See Memphis Grizzlies for video evidence)

3. Your Power Forward Shouldn't Shoot Jump Shots

I know it's piling on, but I'm just speaking on what Grandma said...and even she can see that Josh is great inside the paint and he's not outside the paint (reserving Stevie Wonder joke). Again, if your power forward was so good at shooting 3s and long 2 pt shots, you should have some offense designed to take advantage of it.  It should be curious to the team and the player that you are always open for said shots.  There is another element that doesn't get spoken on regarding this and that's that his teammates should a) not pass it to him unless the shot clock is a factor or b) DIRECT HIS ASS TO THE LOW POST. I mean is it a NBA rule that you can't waive a guy off a spot and point to where you want him.  I recall my days in the rec league as a point guard and whenever players didn't have the IQ to perform tasks that they were good at - I told them what tasks to perform.  i.e. when Craig and 'nem were at the 3 pt line and we knew Craig and 'nem couldn't hit that shot, I gave a simple direction while dribbling to move to where they can make shots so I could give them the ball.  No movement, no ball.  Sometimes, it was a simple wave of the hand, sometimes it was yelled, sometimes it was whispered during timeouts...but it was clear that when possessions were golden and precious - we're not wasting it on Craig and 'nem's 3 point dreams.

4. If You Can't Take The Heat, Get Out the Kitchen

This one isn't something Grandma said, but she sure would co-sign this because my mom taught me this.  Be available to take the heat if you're available to take the glory.  Not much has been made of this, but it says something to me regarding the leadership vacuum in Hawks-ville when our co-captains are never available for post game press conferences.  I watched Dwight Howard take the heat for his teammates' failings throughout the first round of the playoffs.  Joe Johnson (twice) and Al (once) showed up only after wins.  Josh has never showed up.  Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague are NOT our captains. They should not be speaking for the team when we lose, yet Jamal is almost always the player who speaks for us when we lose.  Not only that, Joe Johnson wasn't even available to be INTERVIEWED after Game 3.  This has very little to do with basketball ability, but it does have something to do with accountability.  Athletes are always very vocal about their worth and why they should receive what they should, but those contracts do come with some obligations and I'm sorry, but our captains (and specifically Joe Johnson) should always be available to answer for the performance of his team - win or lose.  Every big money player does it and I'm not sure why it's even allowable that he shouldn't.  It speaks to the lack of leadership that has permeated this team and why we have such uneven performances.

5. Why Don't They Cut To The Basket?  

Cutting to the basket is what you do when a player is doubled and your shot is not an outside shot.  So, the perimeter guys can spot up for threes and the big men can CUT TO THE BASKET.  But you can't have everyone sit at a spot up position waiting for the doubled player to just pass it.  That's not how basketball works if you're trying to make it easy.  I can't recount how many times I said - uh, someone cut to the basket. Simple concept...

6. Body Language

You can see it in our body language when we are having a tough time playing the game, but it also extends to the bench.  When our players go to the bench, there's very little engagement with the game.  Only Josh seems to jump up and stay engaged with the game and the players when he's on the bench.  It is a stark contrast watching the OKC/MEM and LAL/DAL series and seeing the stars of those teams cheering and giving direction to their teammates while they are on the bench.  Something about that strikes a chord that those are teams in the truest sense and the Hawks are just guys who play together.  

Let's hope that some of these things change between now and Game 4 or else my blogging career will be alive and well for yet another year.  Let's Go Hawks!!!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Honesty Corner's 5 Truths: Vol. 9

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...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Prediction Time

I'm going to do my 2nd round truths tomorrow, but here's a few things on my mind before the games start:

1. I hate Larry Drew for continuing to lie about his faith in Jeff Teague.  I hope Teague goes for 30 tonight in the EFF YOU game of his life.
2. Those who have been talking matchups - here's how I see it...we have a matchup advantage at shooting guard and center and 6th man, but they have home court, coach, the other 3 starters, and the bench.  Doesn't look good for the Hawks.
3.  I don't know how we win more than 1 game in this series WITH Kirk, so I'm going to say Bulls in 5 just because the Hawks always do something that's outside of their character and jump shots are bound to fall in at least 1 game this series.

So, Bulls in 5 (closer to 4 if you had to ask me to bet on 4 vs. 6) and let's hope this is motivation for them to prove me wrong and end my blogging career.

Let's Go Hawks!!!