I don’t know how many of us would claim that they saw the Hawks having a 20-10 record after 30 games. But hey, if you did, then you deserve the bragging rights! Formula or no, this team has proven that another fast start was not a fluke. Of course, there are 50 games remaining, but who doubts that we can’t win at least half of those, assuming we maintain a reasonably healthy team? Like it or not, such winning ways inspire loftier expectations among the fan base. So lets explore a couple of ideas on why this team is so much better than in years past. I’ll expound on just a couple of things that come to mind first, then everybody feel free to agree, disagree, and just generally pile in on the subject.
One of the biggest reasons has to be Mike Bibby. And I’m not talking about what he brought to the team last year, when we managed to get into the playoffs. No, I’m talking this year. I don’t know about you, but it looks to me like Bibby is reliving the ATL version of his old Sacramento. Back in Sac-town, he did not have to be a pure point guard (something I thought he might need to transition to HERE…I was wrong). No, he led by promoting good ball and personnel movement, sharing the ball with everybody. Back there he had guys like Webber, Divac, Miller, etc. These guys all knew how to pass the ball around. Consequently, they all got a handful of assists, and that only helped Bibby do what he did best: shoot the lights out of the gym. Flash forward to Atlanta, and Bibby is doing it again. Is it a coincidence? Hardly, with unselfish guys like Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford. And each of these guys is quite adept at making good pass plays with the ball. Sacramento all over again, only with greater athleticism.
With Bibby constantly involving the “bigs”, and Joe Johnson following suit in more effective fashion than he has in the past, the game has changed completely for the Hawks, and even more so for their opponents. And what are the dividends? Not only are the bigger fellas getting theirs, but the dynamic duo backcourt is even more effective than ever. Why? Because with that much ball movement, everybody is a threat. This can only add to the effectiveness of Joe’s ISO when the game is on the line.
The second thing that comes to mind is Marvin Williams. Yes, that Marvin Williams. I can see Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) in those old Jordan commercials right now, asking Jordan why he was able to do what he did: “Is it the shoes?” …. “No Mars.” “Is it the shorts?”….”No Mars, it isn’t the shorts.” “It’s gotta be the shoes, man, it’s gotta be the shoes!”…”No Mars, it isn’t the shoes.”
Well, if I was Mars Blackmon, talking to Marvin Williams right now, I’d be saying that it has to be the haircut! “Is it the ‘Do Marv? Is it the ‘Do?”….”Naw Ray, it ain’t the ‘Do, but I’m glad you like it. But I didn’t forget you making fun of me on the blog..” Ah, well, uh…anyway. Whatever it is, Marvin is NOT the same guy he was the last three years. Check that. He’s not even the same guy he was 7 or 8 games ago. THIS Marvin is everywhere. Dunking on people, tipping in shots, driving to the basket and drawing fouls, and then stopping for the occasional sweet three point stroke. And that’s just on the offensive end. On the defensive end, Marvin has used his exceptional length (that’s right, he has a greater wingspan than either of his starting froncourt mates) and lateral quickness to truly bother opponents, none more apparent than Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, last night. Not only that, but he has challenged shots effectively, and shown himself capable of getting the occasional block.
Marvin’s coming out party has begun, and it has helped tremendously on both ends of the court. His defensive improvements have made it mostly unnecessary for guys like Horford and Smith to rotate and overextend themselves with help defense, because he can hold his own. And on the offensive end, Marvin’s hustle and improved scoring ability have made it nearly impossible for defenses to key on Joe or Mike. I still think it’s the haircut. But between that and the greatly improved play, I think Marvin needs a new nickname. A cool one.
Anyway, we have Indy tonight. and at their place. They pasted us one last time we met. Josh was out with injury, and Horford got injured (playing less than 7 minutes) during that contest. Time to let them know what we look like at full strength. We owe them one. To sum it up, Nesterovic and Granger did what they wanted, Murphy grabbed nearly half as many boards by himself as our whole team did, and their bench showed up well. This time, we need to limit Granger (limit is about it, stopping the guy seems to not be an option). Another very key part of this game will be our effort to outwork them on the glass. If Foster, Nesterovic, and Murphy are allowed to rule the boards, it will be hard to win against this team. Finally, the Pacers have lost 4 of their last 5, all of which have been VERY close games. Only one of the losses was decided by more than a point or two (loss to the Clippers by and the lone win was by a single point. so yet another key will be getting ahead, and then stomping on their necks…just like we did to Denver last night. But enough of my pontifications…
What are YOUR thoughts on tonight’s matchup?