Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Woody...Please Go Away

*Sorry in advance for the long post, but I'm extremely pissed off right now. I hope you'll read it anyway and share your opinion in our comments section*

Five years ago, the Hawks hired a defensive-minded assistant from the World Champion Detroit Pistons to lead their team out of the basement of the NBA and into title discussion. In all honesty, I thought the Woodson hire was a good one. The team, at that time, had few gifted athletes that could outscore an opponent, and the idea of playing defensive ball seemed like a good one for a squad that could maybe steal some wins by being tenacious on-the-ball defenders and energetic, hustling, and harassing pains-in-the-ass of our opponents. That year (2004-2005), they did steal some wins...13 of them.

At that time, it was safe to say that very little could have gone worse than it did. The Hawks gave up 102.5 points per game in Woody's first season, and guys like Al Harrington and Antoine Walker were not able to adjust to his system. Defense first was not their motto, and it was clear that they had no intention of adopting that type of play. So the GM at the time, Billy Knight, decided to turn the team around through the draft - and he drafted 2 guys that gave the franchise hope and seemed poised to fit perfectly into Woodson's system - Josh Childress and Josh Smith. Was Childress, a career 6th man, a reach at the number 6 pick in the draft? No doubt. However, he was the kind of gritty, hard-nosed player that would work well in Mike Woodson's system.

The following offseason (Summer 2005), the Hawks signed Joe Johnson and drafted Marvin Williams with the second pick in the draft. Needing a point guard and a solid center, they got neither (although they did sign Zaza Pachulia that year). Assuming Woodson had input in Knight's offseason plans, it is unquestionable that Woodson made a strategic error - he began to get personnel that didn't fit his system. Joe Johnson is indeed a defensive stopper - he is one of the better defenders in the game. However, the team had no answer to defending a point guard nor an answer to defend an NBA center. For a strong defense in the NBA to succeed on an everyday basis, beyond the intensity and fire that naturally shows up for playoff games and rivalry games, they must have the personnel to stop a point guard and stop a center. The Hawks had neither, and won 26 games that season.

In the 2006-2007 season, the Hawks drafted Shelden Williams and added him to practically the same lineup as the previous season (albeit without Al Harrington). I'm guessing Knight and Woodson thought Williams could defend the bigger men in the league, but at 6' 9" they were foolish in that determination. Naturally, fans of the Hawks called for the firing of Knight - how could a GM possibly make such inept draft selections year-after-year and expect his team to grow and succeed? The goal in the NBA is to win championships, and it was clear that after 3 years the Hawks were no where near that point. To their credit, the Hawks did limit the opponents' points per game from 102 in the previous season to 98.4 - and they increased their win total by 4 to 30.

Their defense swayed last season, however. The team, after making their best draft in years, gave up 100 points per game. They drafted an interior defender in Al Horford who was too small to defend the elite bigs in the game (I love Al, but he just isn't big enough), and traded for a point guard (Mike Bibby) who was too slow to guard even an average NBA point guard. Still, they won 37 games, made the playoffs, and took Boston to 7 games. These were all signs that maybe the Hawks were turning a corner. For the first time all season, they showed intensity, fire, and a drive to prove their doubters wrong...and to some extent, they succeeded.

After many years of rebuilding, 6 under Knight, 4 under Woodson, the Hawks made the playoffs. However, that wasn't enough to quiet the growing outcry for Knight's demise as he stepped down following last season. After Knight's resignation, the Spirit hired Rick Sund to put together a roster that would lead the team to more victories, and eventually, compete for the NBA Championship. Sund evaluated the players and the coaches, and decided to keep Woodson for 2 more years.

So where are we? The Hawks are 33-24, winners of 5 of their last 10, and are currently 1-3 on their west-coast road trip. They are playing with even less passion and desire than they have over the past 5 years, which is truly saying something. They start games slowly, show no emotion, and seem to have no idea what they're doing on the offensive side of the ball. Whenever a player gets 2 fouls in the first half, he sits. Whenever the game is on the line, Joe gets the ball and everyone else watches. Whenever we play a good team, we get destroyed. Whenever we're on the road, we look listless. And still, the only times the team looks amped are when they play Boston, Cleveland, or Los Angeles (the latter two only at home).

While you may place blame on Knight or Sund for personel decisions, it is clear that Woodson, in addition to making bonehead in-game decisions like benching players after 2 fouls or deciding which version of "give Joe the ball" to run, is in charge of making the players feel excited to play basketball - a job he has clearly failed over the course of the past 5 years. That job is outside of the X's and O's. It is the responsibility of the head coach to make his players treat each game - all 82 of them - as critical games in the scheme of the season, and Mike Woodson has completely lost any ability to do that.

Furthermore, it is fair to say that Woodson has had a hand in the makeup of the team's roster. Just like a college coach recruits players for his system, Woodson should be directing the GM to make moves for players that fit his system. If Woodson has influenced some of the decisions to support his system, his system is idiotic. As a defensive oriented coach, he has gone 5 years without a defensive-stopper at point guard and a defensive-stopper at center. Allowing teams to penetrate at will and screen and roll to perfection is not the way to play defensive basketball. Sure, we have Josh Smith, who can (when he feels like it) block some shots and disrupt the middle...but he must leave the player he's guarding in order to do so. Regardless of who you blame for the clear disassociation between the strength of each player's game and the ideal set forth by Woodson, it is clear that some part of the equation isn't working.

In the NFL, a team would never hire a 4-3 coach if the players are better for a 3-4. Furthermore, the team would never hire a west-coast offense coach for a roster better suited for a pound-it-up-the-middle game. However, in almost all sports most coaches are given some time to get players that fit their system. For example, Bruce Webber, the basketball coach at the University of Illinois, went to the National Championship game in his second season with Bill Self's recruits. He then had a significant fall from grace while he recruited players that fit into his system. After 3 years, the Illini are back in the top 25 and seem poised to stay there for the next few seasons. Webber used his rebuilding years to get players that fit into his system. In his 5 years, Woodson has failed to complete this task.

In five years, and 2 GMs, the Hawks have yet to put together a roster that resembles a unit that can shut down its opponents on a nightly basis. Sure, they can begin the season with desire and emotion and win 5 or 6 in a row. And sure, they can play Boston to a last second shot. But what they have yet to do is sustain that intensity throughout any significant stretch of games. Let's get one thing straight - this is not a roster that can win defensively based on talent alone. They need the fire and intensity that they displayed at the beginning of the season in order to succeed playing that style of ball, and over the past 2 months or so they simply haven't showed it...any of it. So who is to blame for lack of intensity? Of course some blame goes to the players, but a lot must go to the coach - who seems to have lost any ability to inspire his squad.

Inspiration wouldn't be necessary if the Hawks had a roster that was naturally able to play the defensive-style that Woodson desires from his team, but they don't. Marvin is actually OK defensively, Bibby is slow, Joe is worn out, Josh is lost, and Horford is undersized. Rick Sund told us a few weeks ago at blogger night that Horford is an NBA center and that center is his natural position. To this, I agree - if he's in the right system. In fact, each of these players is at the right position, and if in the right system they could succeed.

Further proof of the necessity of inspiration can be found by looking at the Hawks' road record over Woody's tenure. While last year's playoff series taught the Hawks that they can play with anyone in the league at Philips Arena, their road record continues to be embarrassing. In Woody's first year, the team was 4-37 on the road. The next? 8-33. Then 2 straight years of 12-29 and now 13-18. The Hawks road record is the most telling sign that Woodson can't inspire the team. Needless to say, it's one thing to come out and win at your home arena, but when the fans are rooting for the other team the game becomes a whole different animal.

What we have here is a situation where the coach is too stubborn to try something new, and has an ego too large to admit that his method might not be the best one for this set of players.

The Washington Redskins had a similar problem over the past couple of years. After hiring Joe Gibbs back to coach their football team, they realized that Gibbs' method just wasn't going to mesh with their roster, and his strategies just didn't work anymore. Gibbs retired in 2008 and the Redskins found a new coach in Jim Zorn. Gibbs was known for his system, and his system didn't work for that squad.

The same can be said for Woodson. If Mike Woodson wants to be a defensive coach that is known for having his players always playing swarming, intense, fiery defense, he needs to motivate his players to play that way. If he wants to have gifted defenders that need no motivation, he needs to advise the general manager to put together teams that have these gifted defenders. In the event that he is unable to accomplish either of these resolutions, he needs to change his system. Granted, we've had 5 years of Mike Woodson at the helm, and the team has been able to incrementally increase its win total every season. What should not happen is a continuation, year after year, of the lackadaisical Hawks play that shows a clear deficiency in the Coach's ability to inspire his players to play his style.

It is time for Mike Woodson to give in or take a hike. If he wanted the swingmen on his team, he needs to let them loose. Marvin, Josh, Al, and Joe all have excellent fast break ability. They are young, motivated, and can run with just about anyone. If Woody continues to demand excellence on the defensive end, he is stunting their growth - both offensively and as all-around basketball players. Furthermore, if he continues to require that the players play to his style, they will continue to lose interest and desire to play for him...and the team will continue to barely beat the average teams in the NBA while getting smashed by the better teams in the league. So Woody is now stuck with three options - One, he can retool the roster (again) to try and create one that fits his style. Two, he can change his style to fit the players that are on the team. Finally, he can stick to his guns, and to his players, and have them continue on their current path.

I'm actually glad he's (apparently) already selected option three - one that will almost certainly cause him to lose his job. As a result, the question now is not if Mike Woodson will be fired, the question is when. The answer? Not soon enough. Woody, for his five years of disappointment, should add one more loss to his 138-236 coaching record - being fired would make him 138-237.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Get Your Game Face On

So the other night, a friend and I were discussing the way the Lakers were putting a hurting on a team. The way Kobe just took over the game and got real serious and emotional and we could tell that he had no intentions of losing the game. You have seen this game face and change of emotion upon many different players in the league (LeBron, CP3, Paul Pierce, KG) and to be fair, Joe does show glimpses of this face and the ability to take over a game. But how come when these other superstars begin their push to dominate a game they look like they are eager to win and will stop at nothing to do so, while our superstar looks as if he wants to be anywhere but on a NBA court.

Amongst all the NBA pundits, it seems that right now Joe is struggling to get through the rest of the NBA season let alone the month of January and now Febuary. My opnion is not that he is tired but rather that Joe just does not look like he wants to be playing basketball anymore. Watch him as he goes through the motions of another Hawks game. He is chucking shots, not driving to the basket as often, playing lazy and tired, and...that face. I know many people say that what they like about Joe is the fact he comes out there and gets his job done, but come on Joe, show a little emotion here.

The name Josh Smildress came from an idea I had about combining Childress' NBA IQ and Smith's basetball athleteism. As you sit there and ponder about the truly amazing love child those two would have, think about combining Horford's intensity with Joe's overall game. The results would be astonishing.  The Hawks would have a star player who, when he wants to win, will lead the team to victory. Horford seems to play with all the intensity in the world, and if he could just lend some of that energy over to Joe - just imagine.

One reason which I think causes Joe to act as if he does not care stems from the amount (or lack thereof) of coaching that is taking place during the games. Joe has to have gotten tired of the terrible scheme (or lackthereof) that Woody seems to implement during the games. Is Joe sabotaging the team in hopes of getting Woody fired? Doubtful, but still he might now be at the point where he is tired of listening to the coach and his inepititude in running the team. Either that or Joe might just not care anymore (please don't be true).

Anyways, I hope none of you take any of this the wrong way. This entry is not an article blasting Joe. I, like many others, just want to see him have the sort of enthusiasm he displayed in the playoffs when we beat Boston in Philips Arena. If he displays that sort of intensity, the Hawks would be a dangerous team to play - even more so then they are now. But with this lack of intensity comes games where the Hawks come out flat and lose to inferior opponents. Joe is the leader of this team, and in being so, needs to lead the team with his on court mannerisms as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ESPN Recognizing Talent

I know the mood is glum around Hawksnation due to the recent struggles and Joe's poor play, but here is some good news for you. Looks like the basketball nation is getting excited about watching the Hawks play more and thus the March 1st contest against the Cavs will be broadcast on ESPN at 8pm. Don't believe me? Check out this link.

ESPN to broadcast Hawks v. Cavs

2/18/2009 Preview: HAWKS vs. Sacramento Kings

After severe bouts of overnight depression (my icon was demoted to the D-League, and my favorite team got absolutely destroyed at the hands of arguably the best team in the league), as well as severe stomach pain from trying to eat this, I have decided to forgo tonight's preamble. Therefore, we will delve right into the predictions:


Top Scorer:
Josh Smith - 26
Kevin Martin - 22

Top Rebounder:
Zaza Pachulia - 10
Spencer Hawes - 9

Top Assists:
Mike Bibby - 8
Kings - Unclear

Ehlo's Game Prediction:
Josh Smith comes out in complete attack mode after a terrible game last night. He, Marvin, and Al are all busting ass on the glass. However, since the Hawks are on the road, this game will be much closer than it should be. Nonetheless, the Hawks pull it out and win 102-87.

Ehlo's Excellence (Prediction Record):

Famous Kings:

King Solomon:

King Kong:

The King:

And of course, The King:

Hawks Lose to Lakers, 96-83

The final score was closer than the game. No amount of women makes me feel better after this loss, so I guess you'll have to find one yourself.

Try this first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2/17/2009 Preview: HAWKS vs. Los Angeles Lakers

After taking a few days off for the all-star break (and much needed rest for all of the guys), the Hawks head to the land of Pink's Hot Dog Stand and The Griddle Cafe for a basketball affair with the Andrew Bynum-less LA Lakers. The Lakers, who were on a seven game winning streak before losing their last game to the Utah Jazz in Utah, are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 6.5 games ahead of the 2 teams tied for second place in the West - San Antonio and Denver. The Lakers are 5-1 without Bynum in the lineup, so his loss hasn't exactly derailed their drive to the NBA Championship. In those 6 games, they won at Cleveland and at Boston, with the only loss coming at Utah by 4 points. LA has now become a three-headed monster, with Kobe Bryant leading the charge and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom fitting in nicely.

It's a good thing the Hawks won't have to play against Bynum, although they haven't faced him in a game since February 5, 2007 - when he scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against an inferior Hawks team (although Bynum wasn't what he is now, either). Needless to say, the Hawks haven't had their best games when trying to defend the elite (and tall) centers in the NBA.

Even though the Lakers are widely considered one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the league, the Hawks may give them a run for their money. Winners of 4 of their last 5 (the only blemish being the forgettable game against the Clippers), the Hawks come in after a much needed all star break rest. Hopefully Joe, Mike, Al, and Josh were all able to rest up for the back stretch of the season, which begins with a 5-game western conference road trip that makes stops in Sacramento, Portland, Utah, and Denver - all after tonight's game in LA. The Hawks should beat Sacramento and Portland, so if they can do that and steal a victory from one of the other three teams then you can consider the road trip a huge success. Of course, any more wins would be icing on the cake (but losses to either Sacramento or Portland will be deserving of our scorn).


The Lakers team name comes from 1948, when the team began in Minneapolis and named the Minneapolis Lakers. Minnesota is known as "the land of 10,000 lakes" - hence the name Lakers. The Lakers were bought and moved to Los Angeles in 1960, and the new owners decided to keep the name.


Top Scorers:
Mike Bibby - 29
Kobe Bryant - 33

Marvin Williams - 11
Pau Gasol - 12

Joe Johnson - 7
Jordan Farmar/Pau Gasol - 5

Ehlo's Game Prediction:
The Hawks try to steal a game on the road in LA, and actually manage to keep the game close with an unbelievable amount of hustle and heart. However, the matchups with Lamar Odom (6-10) and Pau Gasol (7-0) prove to be too much for the fairly undersized Hawks to handle. In the end, LA outlasts Atlanta and wins 112-104.

Ehlo's Excellence (Prediction record):

Random Lake Statistics:

Largest single lake:
Lake Superior with a surface area of over 51,209 square miles

Deepest lake:
Lake Baikal in Siberia (Russia) with a depth of 1.017 miles

View Larger Map

Only saltwater lake inhabited by crocodiles:
Lake Enriquillo (Dominican Republic)

Lowest lake:
Dead Sea, where you really can read a newspaper without sinking!
(1,371 feet below sea level) (Considered a lake even while named "sea")

Only other world with a lake:
Titan, Saturn's largest moon

My Favorite Menu Item in LA:

The Millenium Dog @ Pink's
(Jalapeno hot dog, chili, guacamole, grilled onions, and tomatoes)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hawks Mid-Season Super-Superlatives

Dear Loyal Readers,

Smildress and I were thinking of ways to repay you for the 7 comments you've left us, the 1500 page views we've had since December, and the generally happy mood we're in from our Uncle Otto's lunch. We thought about firing shirts out of a cannon, dropping cows from our roof, or posing for kiss cam, but ultimately we decided to give you our take of a midseason report. Without further ado and hopefully no more doo-doos, we present to you Ehlo & Smildress' "now yearly Atlanta Hawks midseason super-superlatives."

Best Career Reinvention since John Travolta in Pulp Fiction - Mike Bibby
For a point guard thought to be past his prime, Bibby has had a surprisingly strong first-half. He's shooting at his highest level in five years and at a career-high three-point percentage. Furthermore, he's averaging more steals per game than he has in the past 4 years, and the lowest turnover rate in nearly 7 years. Either he knows it's his contract year, or he's in a system that truly fits his style of play. To me, it's both...Smildress says "contract year". Additionally, Bibby has only missed one game this season, which (in the 121-97 loss to the Clippers at home) highlighted his importance to the team. I shamefully suggested that the Hawks trade Bibby a few weeks ago, but he's caused me to eat my words - he's simply too valuable to the team to be traded at this point in the season. Although his defense, as well as the missed layup against Orlando, drops his grade a bit, Smildress and I agree that Bibby has been the integral cog whose offense makes up for nearly any mistakes that he's made thusfar.
Issue: Will Bibby's high-level of play continue for the rest of the season? If so, how do the Hawks tackle his impending free agency?
Grade: A-

Most Likely to Injure Himself Stepping Onto the Team Bus - Speedy Claxton
Seriously, what the hell is with this guy being injured all the time? Trade him for 3 five-dollar foot longs or something - take whatever you can get.
Issue: When will he get shown the door?
Grade: F

Best Reason to Have Forgotten About Josh Childress - Maurice Evans
In what most people will admit was a tough loss this offseason, Childress decision to bolt to Europe instead of play with our beloved Hawks, most league pundits wrote off the Hawks bench as being that of the quality of poo-poo. Cue Maurice Evans who was a quiet signing by new Hawks GM Rick Sund. A starter on last year's Orlando Magic playoff team, Mo has come in and accepted his role as the team's 6 1/2 man. One of only two players to have not missed a game, Mo has come in and given the Hawks exactly what they needed off the bench with Childress leaving. Mo defends, rebounds, scores and provides a solid backup to Marvin, Joe, and Smoove. The ever versatile player that he is, Mo has even seen spot duty in the starting lineup for all the players listed before. Providing a solid three point threat off the bench, Mo plays a smart game averaging nearly one turnover every two games.
Issue: Can he become the James Posey of the Atlanta Hawks?
Grade: A

Best Eyelashes - Al Horford
Ehlo: Really?
Smildress: Yeah, he really does have beautiful eyelashes. There's even a Facebook group called "I wish I had Al Horford's eyelashes".
Ehlo: Keep your bizarre obsession to yourself.

Although his numbers are down from last year, Horford is still the backbone of the team. Even if offensively he's not the centerpiece, he does seem to be the vocal leader that will accept nothing short of tough, hard nosed hustle from himself and his teammates. Even though Horford does show flashes of pretty good offensive play, the Hawks do not need him to be a dominant low post scorer. However, if he does develop that skill over the off-season, the NBA better watch out. He's only in his second year in the NBA and has a lot of room to grow. Thusfar in the season, Big Al has been everything the Hawks could want - he plays smart and within his own capabilities. Rarely does he try to do too much, and for that he deserves praise.
Issue: Will Horford ever make Smildress' day by batting his eyes in Smildress' direction?
Grade: B+ (Due to lack of offensive progression)

Elmer Glue's Best Hands - Othello Hunter
While totalling 6 points, 3 fouls, 3 blocks, 7 rebounds and zero free throws made (4 attempts) in 10 games, Othello Hunter should be most known for his great hands - My boy has zero turnovers. While still the 12th man on the team, he's shown enough potential to cause an Ehlo standing ovation when in a game, but not enough to cause Smildress to take notice. At blogger night, GM Rick Sund specifically mentioned Hunter as a player with lots of potential - let's hope we see some...next year.
Issue: The Hawks have had a multitude of injuries on the season, but none have caused an increased in the O man's PT. What will it take to get OH on the court?
Grade: N/A, too many coach decision absences.

Most Likely to Pass Out in the Middle of a Game - Joe Johnson
What can be said about Joe that has not been mentioned already? The Hawks' lone All-Star has taken the team and once again put them on his back in hopes of gaining the appreciation from the league that he already has amongst Hawks fans. Joe has played an average of almost 40 mins a game, which surprisingly is less than last year's 41 mins. The overall wear of minutes has seemingly taken its toll on Joe as the month of January saw him post averages much less than his normal play. He also sat two games recently for a sickness that could only be caused by his lack of rest due to Woody playing him at such high minutes. Joe has done everything that has been asked of him and more and he continues to play at a superstar level. Soon enough the league must take notice of this rising star and give him the recognition he deserves. People say stars are made during the regular season and superstars are formed during the playoffs. By leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference's fourth best record, Joe has set up the potential to receive's the nation's recognition as one of the league's best players. If he continues his play into the postseason, we could be complaining less about his non-superstar status and more about next season's inevitable ticket price increase.
Issue: Will Joe get the rest he needs to be dynamic through the duration of the Hawks' hopeful road to the championship?
Grade: A

Most Similar to Free-Based Rock Climbing - Solomon Jones
Much like free based rock climbing, which sounds totally awesome until you're on the mountain with no ropes thinking "what the hell am I doing up here?", Solo appears to be a great NBA player who seems to have no idea what he's doing when in a game. Don't get me wrong, he does show flashes of brilliance - and at times seems like he could eventually be a solid player who earns plenty of playing time. However, at this point in his career, he seems to be somewhat of a lost player on the court. Whether that's due to a lack of playing time, Woody's consistently inconsistent lineup rotations, or just a simple lack of developed skills remains to be seen. The point remains that Solo still seems awesome, and one day he hopefully will be.
Issue: Will Solo ever go free-based rock climbing?
Grade: B-. Not really enough playing time to grade better or worse.

Most Resembling a Joker in a Deck of Cards - Acie Law, IV
Everyone likes to look at the picture of the joker, but when it comes time to play the game, he is removed from the deck. Much like the Joker, when Acie Law gets into the game he acts as somewhat of a wild card. There are times when we think he's the point-guard of the future. Meanwhile, there are other times where he simply looks lost on the court. A fan favorite, Acie should be commended for knowing his role on the team and not disrupting team chemistry by asking for more playing time - even if he's earned it.
Issue: Have his stat lines earned him more playing time in the Hawks rotation?
Grade: Incomplete (Limited body of work has shown glimpses of great play but is marred by limited playing time)

Most Likely to get an Ass Splinter from the Bench - Randolph Morris
Randy, you came to the Hawks for playing time. You come into the game behind Horford and Zaza, and leave shortly thereafter in foul trouble. In fact, you have more fouls on the season (20) than rebounds, steals, blocks, assists, and turnovers combined. If that's Woody's strategy, keep up the good work.
Issue: Will RaMo end the season with more fouls than all other stats combined?
Grade: N/A, too many coach decision absences.

Best Resembling Miller Lite - Flip Murray
Much like Miller Lite, which tastes great and is less filling, you score at will without filling up other stats. Do not take this the wrong way, what Flip provides to this team from the bench can not be overstated. For a team that lacked a consistent scorer of the bench, Flip has provided the natural scorer the team thought they had with Salim Stoudamire. Averaging two more points than his career average, Flip has been a somewhat consistent contributer to the Hawks sucess during the first half of this season. Sometimes he runs around like a chicken without a head, but for Flip, this is rarely a disadvantage. Flip is the only other player to play in every single game this season (Mo Evans).
Issue: Will Flip be able to continue his recent great play or revert back to his early-season turnover prone style of play?
Grade: B

Most Likely to Have Voted for John McCain - Zaza Pachulia
Zaza Pachulia, the token caucasian on the team, seems to have a style of play much different than that of the other 11 guys on the team. An oafing bruiser, Zaza collects rebounds as if they were double cheeseburgers. One to throw around his body and never back down from a fight, (check last year's playoffs for evidence of this) Zaza has shown the ability to be a solid back-up center in the NBA. He has even shown the ability to be a quality spot starter if called upon as was needed with the recent injury to Al Hoford. Zaza is the type of player every coach has to love (even if Woodson does not) as he goes out every night and leaves it all out on the court. In one of Billy Knight's best moves, Zaza is even signed to a reasonable contract and provides the Hawks with the down-low rebounder the team needs off the bench.
Issue: Will Zaza give KG what is coming to him when the two team's meet again on March 27?
Grade: B+

Best Habitat For Humanity Bricklayer - Josh Smith
Don't get confused with the volunteer organization listed in this superlative. While Yankee Stadium was known as the house that Ruth built, Philips Arena is brick-by-brick becoming the house that Smoove built...literally. Does Josh have unbelievable talents? Yes. Is the sky his limit? Yes. Is he one of the most atheletic players in the league? No doubt. But any player that continues to shoot nearly 2 three-pointers a game when his career average is 25% should be benched for stupidity. Josh, you have other-worldly talents and when you drive to the basket, no one can guard you (except Smildress). But, as a 5th year player in the Association, it truly is time to know what your strengths are - and to perfect them. You are not a jump shooter, and this season you won't be. Maybe your offseason goal should be to work on your J, but for the next 30 or so games, you really should play to your strengths. Be extremely active on the defensive side of the ball, and attack the basket on offense. The Highlight Factory has a good enough foundation, stop adding bricks to it.
Issue: Will Josh Smith have a lower free throw percentage than Shaq? (Josh - 58.3% and dropping, Shaq - 61.9%)
Grade: C-

Most Likely to Pull a Mario - Mario West
Although your averaging less than 3 mins a game, we salute you Mario West, for your hard work and hustle that helps you overcome your lack of natural ability and keeps our starters from recording unnecessary fouls at the end of each quarter.
Issue: Will you lead not only the team, but the whole league in Mario's this year?
Grade: B+ (he does what he's supposed to do, can't argue with that)

Most Comparable to Ryan's Steakhouse - Marvin Williams
Much like my favorite dinner buffet, Marvin brings a little bit of everything to the table while providing nothing spectacular. Marvin is averaging one more rebound and one less point than last year, but he's still averaging 14 points and almost 7 rebounds per game with a couple of assists, very few turnovers, and pretty good percentages. His hustle reminds me of Ryan's fried chicken - not what the steakhouse is known for, but possibly its best menu item. It is clear that amongst all the players on the team, Marvin has changed his game the most this season - He's made 44 threes thusfar, but only attempted 10 last season. I still think Marvin has the biggest upside of any player on the team - he's probably 2 years away from putting all of his talents to their best use. Smildress agrees, saying "Marvin has become a decent third option on the team. Even though he's no Chris Paul or Deron Williams, he's one or two offseasons away from truly being a good (if not great) player."
Issue: Can he increase his scoring by 2-3 points per game, truly making him a solid offensive option on a team that is offensively inconsistent?
Grade: B

Most Damning - Mike Woodson
To be fair to Woody, it is very hard to argue with the team's current record as they have reached 31 wins before the All-Star break and only compiling 37 with last year's playoff team. Woody has also had to manage a lineup that has dealt with their fair share of injuries and still has managed to keep the team fighting for home court advantage in the playoffs. While we, and many other fans, love bashing Woody and his owl-like face, objectively it truly is hard to fault him much thus far into the season. Still the team's lack of consistent play, failure to show up in the 1st quarter, failure to close games in the 4th quarter, and keeping teams in games when they should clearly be blown out, all reflect on Woodson's coaching skills. Watching player's shake their heads when coming out of team huddles, make both of us wonder whether Woody is still the best available coach for the job. Would this team have more wins under a different coach-hard to say. But still, as loyal Hawks fans, we can not complain too much with the job Woody has done.
Issue: Does Woody have the ability to inspire the team to play to their full potential and finish the season as strong as they started it?
Grade: B

So far this season, the Hawks could be compared to peanut M&Ms.  They're not the smoothest, but they taste just as good.  For now, the Hawks aren't quite at the elite level of the best teams in the NBA, but they're fun to watch and always have the potential to surprise all their critics.  Furthermore, at 31-21 going into the All-Star break, they have a solid hold on fourth place in the East.  Who are we to argue with that?  Here's to a great second-half of the season, filled with many wins and consistent play.  From the not-such-a-highlight-factory, Ehlo & Smildress say Good Night, and God Bless the Hawks. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hawks outlast Pistons, 99-95

Big win at the Palace to go into the All-Star Weekend with 31 wins and a 3.5 game hold on the fourth spot in the East!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Nike Commercial

Look at our boy Joe getting some face time in the new Nike commercial. Let's hope this adds to his superstar status.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2/11/2009 Preview: HAWKS vs. Detroit Pistons

The Hawks, after destroying the lowly Washington Wizards, travel to the Motor City to take on the 27-22 Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, at #5 in the Eastern Conference, are two games behind the Hawks in the standings...needless to say, this is a game the Hawks need to win to get some breathing room heading into the All-Star Break.

The Pistons are 5-5 in their last 10 games, and like the rest of the Eastern Conference, have been bumbling around for the past month or so. The Hawks, meanwhile, are also 5-5 in their last 10, and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference - a whopping 9 games behind Orlando, the third place team. In a conference that's been playing fairly poor basketball over the past few weeks, both the Pistons and Hawks have had opportunities to separate themselves and stay with the three elite teams in the East. However, neither team has capitalized.

Last time these teams met up, the Hawks used stifling defense to hold the Pistons to 78 points in an 85-78 victory in Atlanta. Even though Allen Iverson may be out (Flu), the Hawks are still going to need to bring some defensive intensity if they want to end the first half of the season on a good note by winning at The Palace.

Dear Marvin,
Please bring your A game tonight. The team is going to need you to stretch the floor on offense and stay active on defense to pull this game out at the end. Just think, in a few hours you'll be able to rest for 4 days!


Top Scorers:
Joe Johnson - 33
Rasheed Wallace - 20

Josh Smith - 12
Rasheed Wallace - 8

Mike Bibby - 8
Rodney Stuckey - 5

Ehlo's Game Prediction
Both teams, after playing the night before, will come out surprisingly hot to start the game. However, as the game goes on, expect the Hawks starting 5 to outmatch the Pistons en route to victory. The Hawks will be looking to end the first half on a positive note, and will do so by winning in Detroit, 96-89

Ehlo's Excellence:

Smildress' Just For Fun Spread Prediction
(4-1 SU, 3-1-1 ATS)
Prediction Coming Soon

Famous Detroi-ans:

There are many, so we'll start with a list:
Horace & John Dodge (of car company fame), Henry & Edsel Ford (of car company fame), Charles Lindbergh, Mitt Romney, Aaliyah (since age 5), Elizabeth Berkley, Jerry Bruckheimer, Francis Ford Coppola, James Earl Jones (since age 5), Ed McMahon, Obie Trice III, Eminem, Kid Rock, Madonna, Bob Segar, The Supremes, Xzibit, Stevie Wonder, Kirk Gibson, John Smoltz...

And of course:

B. Joseph White, the president of my Alma Mater, the University of Illinois (B. - if you're reading this, bring back Chief Illiniwek.)

Home Improvement

Oscar Mayer

The Steiner Brothers

The Only Pistons Fan in Georgia:

Congrats Joe

The two of us here at BKTMLM would like to congratulate Joe Johnson on his selection to participate in the first annual All-Star H-O-R-S-E competition.  Good luck, Joe!

For more information:

Furthermore, keep checking back for the anticipated return of the much-missed Ehlo game preview for tomorrow's Hawks-Pistons battle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are the Hawks better off without Joe?

The short answer to this obvious question of whether or not the Hawks are a better team without JJ is no. Take away tonight's victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and you will understand this team just cannot compete with the top level teams in the league without our superstar. Sure if you watched the game you could have seen the Hawks display some great ball movement, you might have seen some glimpses of great play from Josh Smith and Bibby, heck even Marvin looked like more above average than his usual decent game. But I go back to the question and just cannot get myself to admit the Hawks are better off without Joe.

Look towards the way the Hawks played tonight. They had a 15 point lead going into the fourth quarter and Speedy Ehlo turned to me and said: "watch the Hawks will find some way to blow this lead." My response was laughter and me commenting, "Speedy, surely you jest." He replied by saying he jests not. I just could not see a way for the Hawks to lose this game with the style they were playing. They were passing the ball, they were moving without the ball, they were playing defense, they were scoring, they were making their free throws and usually the Hawks play their worst basketball early in the game saving their best for last. However, once the fourth quarter started the Hawks played as if someone told them it was the first quarter and started to stink up the joint. Ehlo kept saying he told me so and I kept ignoring him.

How could the Hawks play so poorly in the fourth quarter after doing so well early on in the game? The answer goes back to the first question posed. The Hawks simply need Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter. Joe does most of his scoring in the first and fourth quarters going nearly invisible when it comes to the middle two quarters. Personally, I am ok with this as long as he makes his baskets when it counts (and making them has been difficult as of late for him). It seemed the Hawks were lost on offense in the fourth quarter due to their usual standing around and watching Joe make something happen once the clock starts counting down in the fourth. So when the time came for something to happen and when the Hawks needed baskets they had no one to turn to.

This is where Bibby needed to step up and do his damage and to be fair he did step up and do some damage with his 3 point basket late in the quarter that pretty much sealed up the game being the best example. (Side note on this, after this huge momentum grabbing and game ending shot was made, nobody on the Hawks bench jumped up and cheered. What's up with that? The T-wolves bench was up on every play. Our bench looked like they would have rather been anywhere else) Even though the Hawks did close out this game, a situation will come up when they need a big time scorer in the fourth quarter, a guy who will create his own shot for not only himself but others on the team as well. This is why we need Joe. This is why, even though with a victory tonight, we are not a better team without him. Do not listen to the haters, Joe come back, cause although we beat the Timberwolves, we might not be so lucky later.

Hawks hold off T-wolves 94 - 86

Oh Horford, how we have missed thee