1. Danny Ferry Agrees With Me – Most weeks, I’m going to be more interested in what the organization is doing to remake itself into a first class organization than I am interested in the short term implications of this season. Wins and losses are desired on game day, but ultimately the success of this season isn’t defined by records, seeding, and playoff results. The success is based on pointing this organization’s trajectory on a path in the upper tier of organizations on the order of Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Dallas, and the New York – Knicks & Nets (yes, I said Nets). Therefore, it was good news to hear that planning for upgraded locker rooms, new practice facilities, and even spending money on training for coaching, trainers, and staff to help them do their jobs better strikes the right chord with this fan. All indications that I’ve received is that there is no mandate for this year, no expectations for our team. And there shouldn’t be…9 new faces; 11 up for new contracts, and 1 coach who has no guarantee he’ll be back next year all line up for Truth #2
2. The Season Is An Audition – This season will be one for patience. It’ll take until Game 30 or so to get a true read on this team. It’ll be a season where the Hawks can get roasted by James Harden on one night and defeat his former cohorts a few nights later WITHOUT their best player. It’s the reminder that this team is not talentless. It’s just chemistry-less. That chemistry will be tested from the GM to the coach to the players. Chemistry that leaves Ivan Johnson and Anthony Morrow on the bench one night and puts them on the floor the next in crucial situations. Be ready for guys to start one night and DNP-CD the next. So, be assured that it’s audition time. Some for other teams and others for a future with the Hawks. Either way, we should be clear to not let panic set in as it’s important that we all support the process that the team is embarking upon and that’s to remake the organization and figure out who fits and who doesn’t.
3. Rookies Stand Down – Of course, missing from this audition are John Jenkins and Mike Scott. Now, we knew that Mike Scott was unlikely to see some time this early if at all, but when you’re the 1st round pick of a team that’s in transition (pun intended) – you probably want to get the 1st round pick some experience for when he’s actually called upon in the future (i.e. 2013-2014). Now, it’s Game 2, so there’s nothing to panic about here…unless you were expecting to see him in the preseason or to even hear his name from anyone these days. If you’re looking for the first chink in the armor that Danny Ferry has put on as the general manager, not seeing him even close to a minute could be cause for criticism. He certainly shouldn’t play before Lou Williams, but otherwise, there are no special players ahead of Jenkins that mandate that he should be bolted to the bench. In this case, I always say follow the money – the guy who has a contract beyond this year should ultimately play more than those who don’t. For context, there are the 40 rookies who have played so far. How many were selected after Jenkins? 25. How many are playing for teams in the tier of the Atlanta Hawks (mid-range, but not a contender)? Maybe 6 have played real minutes in every game (3 play for the Dallas Mavericks), so I only mention this for those who will reflexively respond with – “rookies shouldn’t play, need to earn time, etc.” This is true for teams that won’t be radically different and are building toward or contending for a title. The Hawks do not qualify for this designation just yet. Play the kids…
4. The Darkhorse Is Still Buckin’ – This little ditty came across my RSS feed this week and I think it gives more fodder to my dream that Howard and Paul are not against playing for the same team (and this team should be the Atlanta Hawks). Now, there’s a LOT that can be read into this article, but my red, white and blue colored glasses came away with three things. A) Paul & Howard would like to play together, B) the assumption that it won’t happen came from the WRITER and not that it can’t happen at the end of the season, and C) that the faulty assumption that players won’t come to a destination because of the previous year’s team (see Heat, Miami from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 OR Celtics, Boston ’06-07 to ’07-’08). So, again – we’re the darkhorse, but I’m still unconvinced that a Josh Smith prodded, Danny Ferry overhaul and updated organizational structure can’t pull this off. Journey said it best – Don’t Stop Believin’
5. Extend Larry Drew TODAY – Lastly, if I’m only taking the temperature of the Hawks fan room, Coach Larry Drew is not winning any fans in Atlanta. Let me just put up the 3rd quarter of the Indiana game as an inexcusable and unacceptable excuse for coaching. I’ll attempt to blame many things that I don’t like about Coach Drew on his lame duck status, but that quarter isn’t one of them. That said, maybe it’s his way, his rotations, the team’s lack of identity, but I have heard some rumblings in the Hawks organization that it’s possible that if the team doesn’t look good through the All Star break that he could be fired. So, when there’s no strong indication that he’s not coaching for his job (i.e. an extension), you’re coaching for your job. But if the Hawks are more flush with cash (and I’ve heard that the days of saving staples and paper – true stories – of yesteryear are over), while I strongly believe that Larry Drew should no longer be the coach, he can’t coach this group effectively without an extension. I’ve said this for 2 seasons now – extend the man so he can coach knowing that a) the players can’t effectively submarine his efforts as easily and b) if unsuccessful, his paper won’t be affected for at least a hot minute. There’s no way he’s asking John Jenkins to enter a game when he can ask Lou Williams. No way he’s asking Josh Smith to rest that ankle an extra day when he can NOT and hopefully win an extra game. So, that’s a problem. So, it’s worth whatever his 1 year salary extension is to make this season useful. GM Danny Ferry, make it happen.