Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hawks beat Nets 105 - 88

Looks Like Joe's got his groove back...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Every Team Needs A Smuckers

And for this Atlanta Hawks team, Rick Sund may have found the perfect one - Flip Murray. In July, I nearly pissed myself when I read about J-Chill's decision to bolt for Club Olympiakos. I, along with many of my friends, thought that the Hawks were making just another bonehead decision - along the lines of drafting Shelden Williams, signing J.R. Rider, and having some chick dress up as Sky Hawk and jump all over the arena. I understood Childress' reasoning, and frankly, I thought he was making a smart business decision. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the choice he made to head to Athens would work out so well so far this season.

After the Childress departure, Hawks GM Rick Sund signed free agents Flip Murray and Maurice Evans. Both are NBA journeymen who have been in the playoffs and bring a much needed veteran presence to the team. I can think of other journeymen that Sund could have signed - Ira Newble, Othella Harrington, and Kevin Willis (What's the NBA without a Kevin Willis on-court sighting?) - but Sund signed Flip Murray and Maurice Evans.

At the beginning of the season, Bill Simmons said about the Hawks bench, "The Hawks should just have Feces Night and have their cheerleaders shoot dog doo out of T-shirt cannons at their fans. What a disgrace." Bill Simmons had no idea, and neither did either of us, that the Hawks bench would hold their own thusfar in the season. The reason why? Evans, Murray, and Zaza Pachulia.

Flip Murray is the jelly man. He can do a little of everything. When the whole team was healthy, Flip comes off the bench to play excellent defense and score. He's scored over 15 points 10 times and is averaging over 10. In addition, he's hit a bunch of clutch 3's and has had many games with multiple steals. These stats are excellent for a jump shooter, especially one that comes off the bench.

I never knew the difference between preserves, jelly, and jam...but I think Flip Murray is all three. He veteran presence has helped keep the team together through injuries, winning streaks, and losing streaks. To me, this is the true definition of a Smuckers - someone who is like jelly. Ronald "Flip" Murray? A true Smuckers man.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Knicks Beat Hawks 112-104

If only she could be Buffy the New York Knicks Slayer:

They're not who we thought they were!

Earlier today, Smildress asked me "Honest opinion, do Hawks win tonight?" Without hesitation, I answered "Yep, 106-93". After seeing them lose 112-104 at the hands of the New York Knicks, I'm not so sure I'll answer that question as quickly in the future.

The Hawks, so far this season, have been hard to figure out. They've had taxing injuries to two of their star players, and have managed to play well enough to stay in the middle of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. However, in so doing, they've seemingly pulled wool over their fans eyes. Too many times I've read "If only he was healthy, they definitely would have won the game" or "They won without ____, just imagine if he was healthy!" While that might seem like decent logic, no benefit of the doubt should be afforded a team that has made the playoffs once in 10 years. Injuries are part of the game and every team has to adjust to them - playoff teams overcome injuries, while lottery teams use them as an excuse. What will the Hawks do?

During the month of January, one thing has dawned on me - maybe the Hawks aren't quite as good as we thought they were or were hoping they were. Any team that can't compete without their full lineup is a team that won't go very far in a league like the NBA. Not only does fatigue play a factor, but everyone goes through rough patches (See Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby) in a season. When a star player is off, the rest of the team must step up. When a star player gets injured, the rest of the team must step up. If the guys want to go to the playoffs with home court advantage, they must step up.

Someone told me in 2005 that they hoped the Braves would miss the playoffs. Not only would it cause the fans to actually appreciate the playoff atmosphere instead of taking it for granted, but it would also give the organization some humility and realization that sometimes you have to shake things up to truly progress. Now, I'm not one for shakeups. In fact, Hawks GM Rick Sund told us the other night that he's somewhat conservative when it comes to roster moves. However, it's times like these when you know what you have. When you have players injured, and when you have players on cold streaks, you find out who is going to step up and who is going to emotionally lead the team to a victory.

Over the first moth of the season, the Hawks players and fans used last season's appearance in the playoffs as a turning point for the franchise. In fact, some of the players acted as if since they made the playoffs last year, they would make it there again. They must have forgotten one key thing - no team is ever guaranteed an appearance in the playoffs. In order to make the playoffs, everyone on a team has to play within their roles, and step up when they are depended on. Furthermore, the coaching staff has to instill a winning attitude amongst the players. Finally, the players need to have a sense of humility along with a keen swagger that gives them an emotional advantage over their opponent. Right now, the Hawks are showing that the possess none of these attributes. Until they do, these losing streaks will continue.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heat beat Hawks 95 - 79

Well that is what we like to call really ugly. Let's hope this beauty from NBC's Friday Night Lights helps you overcome the loss.

Rick Sund said what?

As our (three) loyal readers knew, last night we were treated to a Hawks game for the promotion of Hawks Blogger Night. While the social circle that was the Hawks bloggers were not afforded our due screen time on the jumbo-tron, we were able to enjoy the game from a suite, go down to the coach's post game press conference and talk to the Hawks General Manager, Rick Sund.

All of this was really great and we would like to extend a huge thanks to the organization (and Micah Hart) for allowing us this opportunity. A full review and more information regarding the event will likely follow from my colleague Speedy, but for now I'd like to give you some highlights from the Rick Sund conversation. A lot of this is not going to be direct quotes but I will try to give you the gist of what he said.

First he talked about him coming to the organization and what he wanted to do once he arrived with the Atlanta Hawks his main thing he emphasized was that he wanted to LISTEN to the organization and determine what would be in the best interests of the team. He talked to many people within the organization (including players) to try and hear what they felt like were good ideas and good recommendations for moving forward. He acknowledged that some change was needed but also some continuity. This was most evident in his approach to Woodson and his coaching staff. He believed that Woody had deserved to stay to see if he could take the team to another level but determined incremental improvements were needed especially to his staff. I believe this is where we see the addition of new coaches like Price being assembled and added to the staff.

Sund also determined that this team needed more veterans on the roster as was declared by Joe last year and sought to bring in some quality NBA journeymen. Without the draft picks this year he sought out older players through free agency that he felt like could help this team acheive what he described as "tangible objective goals." These goals were to make the playoffs with a winning record to show the league that the team is a legit contender. To acheive this goal the team would have establish a home court presence and win more than 25 games there. The team has 17 wins there already and has a very good chance of acheiving this goal. The other goal was to increase the road win total from last year's 12 wins to somewhere in the 15 - 20 win range. This would allow for let's say 18 wins away and around 30 wins at home giving the team 48 wins or very close to 50 wins which Sund equated to winning 90 games in baseball.

Of course someone asked about the contract situation regarding Mike Bibby and Sund answered the question in a typical general manager fashion - by declining to talk abou this during the season. He acknowledged that Bibby was a nice fit with the team and organization and that both sides were happy that he was here. Sund does not see any potential trades on the horizon (even going so far to tell us that one trade he worked on in Seattle took almost a year to finalize) and feels as if this team is pretty good and still has room to grow. He mentioned how hurt the team has been due to injuries this season (Smoove, Zaza, Horford, Marvin) and that the team has weathered these pretty well - a testament to both the team and the coaching staff. He next was asked a question regarding our lack of a quality big man to which Sund seemed agitated and proceeded to just rave about Al Horford (seriously like 5-7 mins about the guy). He felt that Horford was not playing out of position and that he is best suited for center in this league even going so far as to say a potential top 5 center in the league. And, get this, that Al would have probably made the All Star game at the center position if he had not gotten hurt. (This is very interesting considering opposing coaches vote for the other players to make the team so Al must have a great reputation in the league).

Sund then went to talk about the future of the team and that he likes what he sees in Acie Law, Solo Jones and (start laughing) Othello Hunter. In fact, to all the concerns about Acie not getting playing time, they knew when they signed Flip that it would cut into Acie's minutes but the team seems to be happy with his progress. He also mentioned that he loves the team chemistry and the fact that the players (specifically Joe) love the locker room and the guys in it. Sund would go on to say that he believes that three of our players have reached their full potential, Bibby, Joe, and Zaza, and that everyone else on the team has plenty of room to grow. In fact he believes that Smith, Horford and Marvin all SHOULD get better.

To the other minor issues which you fans would be concerned with, Sund said that he was not worried about the summer of 2010 with all the free agents that will be available (a big sigh of relief from me) and that the media was making this a bigger issue than it really was. When it comes to draft picks he does not really follow the workouts more on what they did in college and in fact likes to sit down with each pick and have film sessions to see what the players think. Lastly, there was no update on anything that could happen with Childress and trust me that question was asked.

So there you have it. A somewhat brief review of what went on behind closed doors with Rick Sund and all your favorite Hawks bloggers. As you can see he was very open with us regarding the team and his feelings about where the team can go from here. After our little meeting, he went down to the seats and not a single fan turned their head or acknowledged that the GM was walking past him. Such seems to be the life of the Atlanta Hawks GM, meeting with bloggers who criticize his every move then allowed to slip into anoynmity in his team's own arena.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Live Blog: Hawks vs. Suns & BLOGGER NIGHT

So we arrived at Philips Arena just over an hour before the game, headed to our box seats for Hawks Blogger Night...and in walks Hawks GM Rick Sund for a 30 minute Q&A (details about the session will follow later).

For now, here's the (world-famous) Ehlo and Smildress in-game blog:

To the two readers viewing this tonight, we appreciate your support. And to one of ya'll, thanks for the Spurs pick - you know who you are.

First Quarter:

CE: The game has started off pretty well, and after hearing what Rick Sund said about everyone playing within their roles, it is cool to actually see that happening.
JS: 8:15, Nice steal by Joe, and a good pass too. There had to be a foul somewhere, and the bloggers seem to agree.
CE: 7:37, Timeout by the hawks. The Suns were going on a run, and Woody must have noticed a defensive problem.
JS: Redd just went out for the season, your fantasy team is done, Ehlo.
CE: 6:30, It's 18-8, and like Smildress said pre-game, we may be in for a long night.
JS: Elle Duncan, the philips arena sideline reporter, is kinda hot.
CE: Smith has been complaining about foul calls (as usual), but finally we get a call on Phoenix. Joe to the line for 2, hits the first one (and solo comes in for Zaza). Misses the 2nd...no surprise.
JS: Ryan Cameron seems to be the only person in the arena that's excited about Solo's appearance...including Solomon Jones himself.
CE: 4:30, Marvin hits a jumper and seems to be really engaging himself on both ends of the floor

*Smildress is clapping along with the DE-FENSE chant.

JS: 3:20, Great defensive set after that 24 second violation.

*Random guy yells defense deep and loudly in the suite next to us.

CE: 2:43, Timeout Phoenix, can we get some free hot dogs up here? The answer seems to be no...
JS: On the jumbotron, the team was asked "Name 2 people you'd like to have dinner with". Biggest surprise? Randolph Morris - Kurt Cobain. Also, only one mention for Obama (Mo Evans)

* With 1:00 left, the Hawks seem to be making a mini-run to keep it close.

CE: Great pass by Flip to Joe in the corner for a three to bring the Hawks within one. Smildress, get your face out of the Media Guide...breathe, man.

*End of the First Quarter, Hawks down one...and some high-flying folks are dunking off trampolines. They're much better than the ones at Georgia games.


Second Quarter:

JS: 9:35, Great pass from JJ to Solomon Jones, who dunks it. Shaq looked like the burger he probably ate for lunch is slowing him down. The Vortex will do that to ya.
CE: Joe seems to have taken a lesson from the LeBron book of Crab Dribbling...what a move!
JS: 7:30, Shaq didn't even make it up the court and Steve Nash just took the Hawks on his own. At least we have a Randolph Morris sighting!
CE: 5:48, Josh Smith should be able to keep up with Amar'e, he has the potential to be on that level...if only he was more defined. Hit the gym, buddy.

*Pause for the dance team.

Ok, we're back.

CE: One Hawks strategy, which has been working, has been to foul the crap out of Shaq. He's 3-5 from the line thusfar, and I'll take that.

Josh Smith just posterized Nash...highlight dunk of the year, arguably his career. Where has that been all season?

JS: 3:12, Kiss cam time. This is the single best reason to come to a game. Two girls about to kiss each other and the two dudes in front of them stand up! Dammit!
CE: 2:07 Good move Marvin, another "score an 1 more!"...his second of the game.
CE: The highlight of the game thusfar - A rare Othello Hunter appearance!!!!!
JS: Ehlo, keep your cool.

And we've hit halftime - 57-55 Hawks. They came from behind again, and have been able to take the lead. This game has had a little of everything, including some unreal highlights. Now we have some 12-year-olds playing a game for the halftime show...which has gone completely down hill. What happened to the dude who could spin 45 balls on his body at once?

JS: Watching these kids is like watching Oklahoma City play.

3rd Quarter
And now you will be entertained by your favorite blogger where I beat Craig Ehlo 251 - 8 in an online poll. I have it on high authority that Ehlo voted for himself 6 times, so whoever you other two are, I'm holding it against you.

CE: I wish I could see that Josh Smith dunk again. He dominated Nash on that one.
JS: Come with me to Ramsey this week and I will recreate it over you Ehlo.
CE: How come are fans do not do anything behind the basket. The team needs to give them pinwheels or something.
JS: This is evidence of what Bill Simmons likes to talk about all the time. The fact that the crowd only does what the jumbo-tron tells them to do and thus will not make noise unless prompted.
CE: Know your role Josh, shooting jumpers is not.
JS: What a shot by Smoove. Hopefully Shaq's sweaty arm pit did not put Smoove in a funk. More evidence of the jumbo-tron culture is the fact the "everybody clap your hands" was just commanded. The delay in a post was me clapping my hands. What, everybody was doing it.
CE: I wish someone would take a picture of me with my media pass on.
JS: I don't have a camera, but I'll take a mental note.
CE: How did we end up down 3?
JS: I wish I knew, this blogging does not let me get to watch much of the game.
JS: We are back during the 3-point takeoff where Marvin was predicted to take the shot to win the skymiles. Marvin's not even in the game.
CE: Another steal for Joe that's like six already. I wish I could get a free t-shirt.
JS: Marvin comes in the game and hits a 3. Unbelievable prediction. By the way, CE is wearing cowboy boots and is definitely the only one in this building wearing them. Actually the A-town dancers came out and their new dance is to Cotton-eyed joe. They are wearing cowboy boots.

During this lull in excitement, let me just say that after meeting with Rick Sund we have both come away very impressed with not only how he handled himself but also his answers to our questions and how up front he was with his responses. There will be more on this interview later so be checking for that.

JS: Marvin has played an amazing game with 17 points at the end of the 3rd quarter. What a bank shot by Flip Murray made famous by none other than Dwayne Wade and not Tim Duncan.
CE: I can't believe all we have talked about is fantasy and the fact that my team is going in the tank. At least Bibby is not making me look bad for trading him. Right now he is at 1-10 shooting...just abysmal. Damn that last second three by Barbosa is a back breaker.

4th Quarter

CE: The fourth quarter where the men separate themselves from the boys. Well Barbosa just separate himself from Joe with that breakaway layup.
JS: Great play by Joe with the rebound and fastbreak followed by the assist to Flip for 3.
CE: A score and one more for Solo. Maybe he is the guy to pickup in fantasy?
JS: With that Smoove dunk we get treated to two Sportcenter highlights here tonight. Just another instance of the Highlight factory turning out quality.
CE: Someone made a sign with the Falcons logo.
JS: Someone else needs to tell him that their season ended about 4 weeks ago. And that their building is down the street across the park.
CE: Amare is playing pretty well. What was that trade the Hawks tried to do for him again?
JS: Wow. An old school Shaq dunk without him staring at his hand afterward though. I guess he finally knows what it looks like.
CE: You know, one of the A-town dancers went to high school with me.
JS: I'm not impressed.
CE: Bibby's got to do something now and he must have heard me cause he drains a 3.
JS: Joe on Amare?
CE: Well if Amare is going to shoot jumpers I am not going to complain.
JS: What just happened with Joe and Marvin missing dunks? With Shaw at the line and the Hawks needing the fans to get loud, the jumbo-tron requests the fans to make some noise. They respond with noise.
CE: Josh Smith has fallen in love with his jumper yet again and every blogger here is not too happy with it. If all of us can see this, why can't he? Also like to add that he is in the running with Rasheed for biggest crybaby in the NBA.

Ok we got to head out of here to go down to the Coach's post game press conference. Hopefully we can ask him how they won despite terrible shooting performances from Bibby and Joe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thoughts on National Television & MLK

A running commentary between Smildress and I has been the mind-numbing decisions that the NBA makes in determining which teams to show on national television, and when to show them. For the sake of argument, let's begin with 1/22/2009, and continue through the rest of the season. The following is just a sampling of some curious decisions by the NBA, and who they've decided to put on national television:

First tier:
Cleveland - 15 games
Boston - 14 games
LA Lakers - 14 games
Phoenix - 13 games (An average team in the West)
Dallas - 13 games (An average team in the West)
San Antonio - 12 games
Detroit - 12 games (An average team in the East)

Second tier:
Houston - 8 games
Utah - 8 games
Denver - 7 games (One of the best teams in the league)
Golden State - 6 games (One of the worst teams in the league)
New Orleans - 6 games (One of the best teams in the league)
Washington - 6 games (One of the worst teams in the league)
Portland - 5 games

Zeros:
Indiana
Atlanta
Charlotte
LA Clippers
Memphis
Minnesota
New York Kicks
Oklahoma City
Sacramento
Toronto
Milwaukee (has 1 game)

Now, I understand the reasoning behind putting the best teams on national television as often as possible. They are, understandably, the league's bread and butter. However, there is simply no excuse why every team doesn't get a nationally televised game. First, there are fans of each team dispersed throughout the country who would love to get a glimpse of their team at least once. Furthermore, by placing all of their eggs in a few teams' baskets, the league runs the risk of being unable to highlight the play of any up and coming teams - instead choosing to focus on the old yellers of the league. Additionally, every owner, who is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to promote their team and participate in the NBA, should be entitled to display their investment on national television. Also, if the NBA allows a team to enter the league, they should also be willing to grant them a television slot out of fairness. Finally, every player on an active roster deserves a chance to showcase his talents (at least once) on the national stage. Putting all the teams on national TV would allow the NBA to market itself as a league of superstars. Both Smildress and I agree that Joe Johnson (and to a lesser extent Josh Smith) would be a bonefide superstar in the league if the Hawks were on national television more than once.

Last November, the Hawks had their first rematch against the Boston Celtics in Boston. It was the teams' first quarrel since their unbelievable playoff series in May of 2008. Not only was the game hyped in Atlanta as an exciting rematch between two new rivals, but it was exciting all the way down the stretch - when Paul Pierce (the biggest thug in the NBA) hit a turn-around jumper at the last second to score a 2-point victory over the Hawks. What game did the network choose to put on television? Portland @ Miami. Not only was Miami not expected to be any good, but they chose a mediocre matchup between two mediocre teams over the potential classic between the Hawks and Celts.

In the NBA, the teams play an 82 game season, many without any national television exposure at all (nearly 30% of them). Common sense would say that out of 82 games, each team could have a nationally televised game without any consequence or detriment to the NBA. Put the Boston-Charlotte game on tv. If you think that'd be boring, put Charlotte-LA Clippers on tv. That might be even more boring, but it knocks two bad teams out at once.

Don't even get me started on the Hawks. They've gotten the NBA shaft for years, and this year may be more offensive than any other. After making the playoffs for the first time this decade, exceeding everyone's expectations in their series with the Celtics, showing off talents in Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, and Al Horford (many are young stars), the NBA rewards them with ONE national game this season. One. That's it. Washington has 6 left for this season, and they're the worst team in the league. Someone explain why the Hawks only have one game on national television this season. Please. Because I simply don't get it.

On television, the NFL does it right. I don't agree with all of their television policies (namely the TV announcers, blackout rules, etc.), but they do have one policy that the NBA should emulate - Flex Scheduling. The NBA should have the ability to choose great matchups later in the season to put on television instead of the teams they had picked at the beginning of the season.

The NFL does another thing right: Showing an annual Thanksgiving Day game on national television in Detroit. Whether the Lions are the best team in the league or the worst team in the league, they have still hosted a turkey day game every year since 1934 and they have been nationally televised every year since 1962. The NBA should adopt this policy for an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game in Atlanta. This past Monday, the Hawks hosted their 10th in a row - a 2:00pm start that wasn't even in HD in Atlanta.

The history of race and MLK in Atlanta along with King memorial being in downtown creates the perfect background for a nationally televised annual game. The broadcasters could use the airtime to focus on the accomplishments of Dr. King and the personal stories of NBA players and the effect of race in their lives. Atlanta provides the perfect backdrop for this annual tradition, and the NBA should seize the opportunity to promote the accomplishments of Dr. King in the city where he is memorialized.

Annual nationally televised MLK Day game in Atlanta in primetime...make it happen, NBA.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

4 is the new 5

So apparently the Hawks never read the rules about being allowed to have five players on the court at one time. Yesterday, in appreciating the memory of MLK, the Hawks beat the Raptors on their home court by getting points from four players on the team. (OK so Evans had 2 points, but please ignore that as it came in the fourth quarter).

My first gripe deals with the fact that it is amazing to me that with only four players scoring the Hawks have the ability to win a game. I wonder if that has ever before happened in the league where four players beat the other team. In fact, when Kobe scored 81 points he had contributions from five other guys. The Hawks had five guys score last night, with one of them scoring only 2 points.

Is this not bizarre? Does this say more about the Raptors then it does about the Hawks? Yes to the first question and no to the second, although the Raptors really are hurting now. The Hawks won a game at home with only four players doing anything, imagine what is going to happen when we get to full strength with Horford and Marvin both coming back. If we can win with four, there is no excuse for us to win with six.

If you have been reading this blog, or anything else on the Hawks, it seems they are all saying the same thing - criticizing the team for its play as of late. Me, I am impressed with this 4 v. 5 effort especially with the win that came out of it. If we had lost, this post would be about how piss poor it is for the Hawks to lose a game especially since only four players did something. Instead, we win and I say how amazing it is for us to win with only four players contributing. See how that works. If you win, we shut up and do not have anything to talk about. So keep winning and leave me with nothing to say.

My second gripe is the fact that MLK is from Atlanta, has a big presence here in the city, and yet the Hawks are relegated to a 2pm contest against the Raptors not shown on national television. The NBA needs to do something about this where the main MLK games should be held in Philips Arena. Am I right?

Side Note: How did Thomas Gardner get more playing time than Acie Law. Did Acie run over Woodson's dog and that has caused Woody to hate on him so much? With the amount of disrespect thrown Acie's way I'm guessing he ran over one of Woodson's kids.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First quarter jitters? Just Flip your strategy.

In the world of Hawkland (oops, I mean HAWKLAND), there seems to be 2 potential outcomes to each game. One, come out strong and perform well early...leading to a victory (albeit by generally a small margin). The other, and obviously less positive, is to putz around in the first quarter and play from behind throughout the game. You don't need me to tell you that the Hawks have taken the second route a little too often recently.

In their previous 5 games, the Hawks have been outscored by 48 in the first quarter alone. Furthermore, they haven't had a first quarter lead in any of them (tied at 30 at home against Philly is pretty close). Coming from behind is a very difficult thing to do night-in and night-out in any sport, but it might be toughest in basketball, where the game is short and any additional run by the opponent could put you away. You could say that 48 points over 5 games (just under 10 per game) could be overcome since it's the first quarter. To that, I agree. However, compound the first quarter deficit with the amount of times it has happened, and you get a recipe for disaster. The team just can't continue to overexert energy for three quarters every game and expect to make comebacks great enough to win.

But the first quarter has not been the crux. Over the past 5 games, the Hawks have been outscored by a total of 56 points at halftime, and in one of those games, they led by 8 (Houston). Notice the only victory in the past 5 games was the game in which they led at halftime. Additionally, they only once outscored their opponent in the third quarter, and that was by a mere 2 points in the Philadelphia game. Obviously, if you get outscored, you lose, but to be dominated in the early few quarters of recent games is not only demoralizing, but it puts the team in an insurmountable hole nearly every night.

So, what do they need to do to start quick? If I were coach (which I'm not, and have no business being), I would have them run all over the place. Run, Run, Run, Run. I don't care if the opponent has had time to set their defense or not. I also don't care if Josh Smith throws a terrible pass to Marvin, which rises 5 rows into the stands. Personally, I would rather a bad pass on a breakaway than an ugly jumper with 8 seconds left on the 24. The Hawks have the personnel to outrun nearly every team in the league, but over the past few games they have played slow, lethargic, boring basketball - and they've gotten beat.

Now, you could say that in each of these games, they've lost to teams with big, tall, (somewhat) dominant centers...and to that I would agree. Dwight Howard, Shquille O'Neal (and Amar'e Stoudemire), Yao Ming, and Samuel Dalembert (not so much), are all great centers. In fact, they are some of the best in the game. But even without Al Horford in the lineup, the way to beat an inside presence has always, and will always be to outrun him and drive to the basket on almost every possession. Even if you miss your attempted layup, there is the potential for a foul on the big man (not to mention the exhaustion from weighing 300 pounds and running 94 feet so many times), and I'd try and use that potential to my advantage.

To their credit, the Hawks have been attempting a fair amount of free throws...they just haven't been making them. (See prophetic previous post) Generally I would say that the free throws attempted in their recent games show that they were attacking the basket, but the fouls charged to each center leave me curious - Yao (3), Howard (4, 3), Shaq (3), Dalembert (3). Based on what I've seen (and confirmed through the box scores), the team simply isn't attacking the big man when he's in the game. Why? I'm not sure. There are, however, 3 guys on the team that seem to attack the basket more than the others - Joe Johnson, Acie Law IV, and Flip Murray.

Let's take a look at Flip Murray's +- over the past 5 games to confirm my feeling that driving to the basket consistently will help, not only with getting the opponent's big man in foul trouble, but also to spread the floor:

New Jersey, 1/2: +8 (second best on the team)
Houston, 1/3: +15 (best on the team)
Orlando, 1/7: +15 (best on the team)
Orlando, 1/9: -11 (better than all the starters...by a lot)
Philadelphia, 1/11: -5 (second best on the team)
Phoenix, 1/13: +18 (best on the team by 12)

That said, Flip should not be starting - he's perfect in the 6th or 7th man role. However, maybe the rest of the team should take notice at the energy, fire, and smarts that Flip plays with and try and model their brains to his - attack the basket, play smart, and it will open up the whole court.

Hawks lose to Suns 107 - 102


Thanks to that disappointing effort last night, you all get to see Sloan from Entourage.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Response Not Given

To our loyal reader, I would like to apologize for the long layoff between posts for me. I had encountered some difficulties with my computer and now that it has been fixed I am hoping I can give you something to read while making your many potty breaks during the day.

So while we were away, it looks as if the Hawks put up some pretty good numbers and did not lose many games. However, it looks like their past two games put a serious damper on the team's prospects and opinion from around the league. These two losses occurred right as I was telling everyone that the Hawks had cemented themselves as one of the top 10, heck maybe even 5, teams in the league. Boy is my face red now. My problem with these two losses was not the way it happened, although a beat down is never something to be happy about, but rather how flat they came out in the second game.

If you are reader on this blog, you are either a huge Hawks fan who keeps up with the news surrounding the team or, you accidentally found this page and stuck around for the pics of the beautiful girls that are littered throughout the page. (You can be both). To the people in the second group stop reading here as there will be no pics in my post today (except for this one), to the Hawks fans, I have to assume you read Sekou Smith's blog posted on ajc.com. If you do not, then you are missing out on some seriously good Hawks insight and I highly recommend you stop reading this and go there to read more.

In Sekou's post before the Magic game last Friday night he spoke about how angry Woodson was with the team due to their effort at home a few nights earlier. In fact, Sekou said "If the Hawks’ don’t kick off the game with their intensity sky-high I’ll be afraid for their safety." This was due to the earlier comments where he proceeded to tell us how Woodson just chewed into our players not giving preference to who was getting yelled at. He went on to describe the practice session as "a session the family could [not] have attended, as there were far too many interesting words uttered by Woodson for anyone with sensitive ears to be allowed in."

So Woodson laid into the team and what happened? The team came out extremely flat falling behind 22-6. The game was over before it even began. How to explain the coach reeming the players and the players responding with a terrible game? I'll give you one hint, it involves the fact our coach is not the one to get the job done. I know you are thinking "great another fire Mike Woodson post, what a surprise." But I am here not to say that, rather to say he has done his job and now it is time for the next guy to come in and as we say at UGA, finish the drill.

Woodson developed our players and they look legit now. But let's be honest, the team does not respond to him and from the looks of it do not even care to implement his coaching strategies. The reason the Hawks have a winning record right now is due to their talent level, but the reason the team could win more, starts and ends with the coach. If you wanted another reason to be angry at the season, look no further than the flat game we played last Friday night. Thanks to the extreme practice beforehand, I am afraid to see what would have happened had the team not been chewed out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kryptonite?

Everyone has their kryptonite. For Bruce Willis, it's water. For Ohio State, it's the BCS. For vegetarians, it's the Big Texan Steak Ranch. For the 2008-2009 Hawks, it's Jason Kidd's old team, the New Jersey Nets.

Who?

Exactly.

The Nets are 17-18, and are currently in second place in the terrible Atlantic division, and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They've lost home games against Charlotte, Toronto (by 22), New York (by 12), Washington (by 20), and Indiana - amongst others. However, three of their 17 victories have been against our Hawks. THREE!!! That's close to 20% of their wins, and nearly 30% of the Hawks' losses. Furthermore, so far, those are the only three games the teams have played against each other. The Hawks are 0-3 against the Nets on the season, with their last tilt coming at Philips on January 30.

The most critical stat of the three games seems to be Free-Throw shooting. In the first game, the Nets were 32-39, while the Hawks were 17-23. That kind free-throw discrepancy will almost always result in a loss, and the Hawks lost by 7.

The second matchup, in which the Hawks lost by 12 in Atlanta, the Nets were 31-36, with the Hawks at 28-36. 3 Free-throws are not a huge difference, but the big difference in this game was who was taking them. For the Nets, they had their excellent FT shooter, Devin Harris, get to the line 14 times and sinking 13 of them. Meanwhile, the Hawks were scattered all over the place, with Joe Johnson taking 8 and making 6, and Flip Murray taking the second most, going 6-6. It is critical that the good free throw shooters on the team take the ball to the basket and attempt to get to the free-throw line. If they don't get fouled, they'll have a higher-percentage shot opportunity, and if they do get fouled, they go to the line. Just look at the shooting percentages in the second game - the Nets shot 38-69 (55.1%), with the Hawks coming in at 35-76 (46.1%). The difference in shooting percentage correlates to the types of shots the players were taking, and it is evidenced in the fact that our best ballers were taking jumpers and not getting to the line.

The third game, a 2 point loss in overtime, was also lost at the line. The Hawks went 10-20 (50%) from the line in that game, while the Nets went 9-12 (75%). Obviously, if the Hawks had made an extra FT or 2, they would have won the game in regulation. Shooting 50% from the free-throw line is simply unacceptable.

I'm still afraid the Hawks aren't exactly sure who they are. Are they the defensive juggernaut that can hold any team under 90 points when they make that their priority? Are they the running/gunning offensive team that can score 120 when needed? We know this much - if the Hawks get into a free-throw battle, it won't be pretty.

For your enjoyment, here are some random free throws:



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Loyal readers - 

Much like a once-innocent, twice-pregnant, once-hairless pop star, we're back!  Smildress and I have returned and are getting right back into the swing of things.  Thanks so much for your continued visitation even through our lull period known as winter (or Christmas) vacation.  Expect more Hawks news, info, opinions, and commentary in the coming days, weeks, months, years, and millenniums.