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Monday, January 30, 2012
Honesty Corner's 5 Truths: Vol. 14
In previous episodes of HS8T, we spread such truths as Horford's injury won't have any 'getting to the playoff impact'; Ivan Johnson's job saving ability; why Jason Collins shouldn't start; and why Larry Drew needs a technical...so, it's time for mo' TRUTHS!!! Read the disclaimer and then...let's go
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. Marvin Williams just might be the non-Teague X Factor.
Listen, we've all had our Marvin Williams sucks moment. Whether it was relative to the greatness that is Deron Williams or Chris Paul, relative to his ability to sit in the background of every game, or relative to his lack of finishing touch around the rim - we've all been upset at Marvin Williams (see missed alley oop dunk vs. the Hornets as example #1). But let's just keep it real - maybe it really was an injury that caused Marvin's regression last year. Anyone who is getting pulled for Damien Wilkins and seeing the production from his position increase significantly cannot be that valuable and no, Marvin was not valuable last year. Coming into this season, it was widely believed that like most of the 'core' - the growth could only come from a better bench and Jeff Teague. Well, Marvin's touch from 3, ability to get to the line, and his rebounding have been markedly better. Should this Marvin be at full tilt when a healthy Horford joins the team - maybe the calls for Marvin to become a super sub will be forever retracted and maybe, just maybe the ceiling for this team can be raised. Speaking of ceiling...
Truth 2. The Hawks have raised their ceiling from guaranteed 2nd round loss to likely 2nd round loss.
First, I'd like to see what we do in the event that Al Horford cannot come back for the playoffs and whether we prepare (appropriately) for the future by making a move (bye, bye Kirk Hinrich), but I'll just be honest - this team has a variability that if the team plays at its highest level and that includes the poor decision making and FT shooting of Josh Smith - this team actually finally has a potential that can be built upon. There is a lot to be happy about regarding these Hawks. Tops is the development of Jeff Teague (still boggles my mind what the coaching staff was watching for 2 seasons in practice), but less obvious is the fact that if healthy, the Hawks don't have to hit on every cylinder to be successful. Every one of the starting five with Horford has the ability to put up a 20 spot. T-Mc can summon his past every 5 games or so. V-Rad can hit 4 3s in bench time. Willie Green inexplicably has found a soft spot in my heart by channeling his Jamal/Flip-ness for the veteran minimum price tag we should have been paying Jamal/Flip. Ivan has brought some toughness and is the crunch time fill-in for Josh Smith when we need free throws to be knocked down. Zaza has shown that he is a capable big man and can be counted on when his minutes are not jerked around by the coach who doesn't like him. We haven't even talked about Kirk and Jannero Pargo (a very capable 5th guard for the vet minimum). This is nothing to sneeze at people. There's true depth there. And we can even get rid of Stackhouse and/or Collins to get players who are jettisoned at the trade deadline or who are waived. Simply put, we have reason to believe that the Hawks can take advantage of an injury to the Heat or Bulls OR even just playing lights out in a way that we've never seen our All Star caliber talent perform in the postseason. So, let's not write them off for a real playoff run yet, but why haven't I made the turn..
Truth 3. The Hawks record vs. .500 and over teams is still cause for concern.
So, my pessimism about the Hawks in encapsulated in this one thing (non-Larry Drew category): we can't beat good teams consistently. Last I checked, you have to defeat the best teams 4 out of 7 times to advance. Right now, there are 4 good to great teams in the East - the Pacers, Sixers, Heat, and Bulls. The Magic and Celtics could get mentally and physically up to that level, but for now - lots of reasons say that the Magic and Celtics run is over, but these other teams require you to beat them 4 times in ways where we may be as talented or less talented. To beat teams that are as good or better than you, you have to execute, your best players have to perform, and you have to have mental toughness (oh, and the coach has to not get outcoached). So far, to the order of a 3-6 record, we can't beat good teams. We've lost to the Sixers, Bulls, Pacers, Heat, Rockets, and Spurs. Now, we should have won 2 of those games (Bulls and Heat), but the fact that we didn't win those games is part of the problem. To turn the corner, you must consistently beat the good teams in the league. Anything else turns this into...
Truth 4. The method is different, but the season's outcome is pretty much the same.
So, I'm getting a little more excited about the season and I've certainly gotten to the point that DESPITE the Al Horford injury - I'm ready to revise upward my prediction for the Hawks. It's possible for the Hawks to have a 3 seed and a 66% to 70% winning percentage if everything breaks right (and nothing else breaks wrong). So, let's keep it real - the Hawks have been beating up on the worst teams in the league for 3 years running now. That's what we do. We dominate the teams (and sometimes luck into a W or 2) who are bad. That's why they are bad. The Pistons being the Pistons allowed us to win that game in the same way that the Hawks being the Hawks allowed the Heat and Bulls not be swept by us so far this season. So, why should I believe that this season is the same. The vets and the playing style (more defensive and penetrating) still haven't pushed us over that final hump of beating GOOD teams consistently. Until I see that, it's hard to say much more can happen than any other season...this leads me to truth #5....
Truth 5. Fans and bloggers need to quit crying about national attention about our start.
Hey, fans - here's a little secret that you haven't gotten clued into. The Hawks deserve all the disrespect they've gotten the last few years. Charles Barkley, SI, USA Today, PTI, etc all have reason to NOT believe in the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks when in the biggest spotlights have failed miserably. In the playoffs, we barely beat the Big One's Heat, the Bogut-less Bucks, and were swept soundly for 2 years. We beat a really awful Magic team and then had a good game in the playoffs vs. Bulls. How many ESPN/TNT games have we flubbed? How well did we do vs. the Heat without their stars? I say this not to tell you that your team sucks. I don't believe that to be the case, but if you are a casual observer, then why would you believe that things have changed. We still have Rick Sund, Larry Drew, the Atlanta Spirit, and the same leadership running this ship, so let's wait until the end of the year and the playoffs before you starting crying 'disrespect'. The Hawks are being afforded exactly what their past says they should receive. Let's channel that energy into requiring the team and its management to give us the assets to change how the rest of the country feels about us. That means Teague must keep ballin', that means Joe needs to be that All Star, that means Josh Smith needs to MAKE the All Star game, and we can continue to push the Heat for the division title and I promise you - we'll get all the publicity and attention we desire and it'll be for the right reason. Right now, we want accolades without doing anything different from what we've done in the past. We've done the great regular season, beat up on the scrubs thing before...let's sweep a team, upset a contender, etc before we ask for that awards that should come with achievement.
Next week, we'll discuss - whether we should make a trade or wait for Al Horford? Until then, 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...