All those discussions, regarding Woody’s sparse use of his bench earlier this season, always had an air of foreboding. Injuries, to key players, is a reality of the NBA (and all professional/collegiate sports). So when a coach like Woody makes a conscious decision to under utilize his bench, on an ongoing basis, it can mean one of two things:
1) He’s too worried about winning each individual game, to an extent that he’s willing to roll the dice, risking the season, as a whole, and leaving his team without a well-developed bench, ill-prepared for an injury like the one to Horford, or,
2) He doesn’t believe the bench he has, no matter how much run he gives them, is capable of competing against opposing teams. He doesn’t believe he can win with those players.
Since the latter theory contradicts the general consensus of most Hawks’ fans, that Woody has the strongest bench he ever been provided with, by simple exclusion, it points to the former (that’s point #1 for those of you confounded by references to “former” and “latter”). If this was a new concern, if Woody hadn’t ridden his starters like dogs, all last season, there might be more of a question as to what gives. But, as folks have been chatting up SINCE last season, this is no surprise here.
So, today, with Al Horford out, the Hawks got spanked at home by the Sixers. And let’s not lay too much weight on Horford’s absence without highlighting that the Sixers are without all-star power forward, Elton Brand. We were outrebounded by 15 primarily by a small forward (Young) and a rookie (Speights).
Add to this train of thought the long-standing opinion of many (certainly me) that continuing to play Horford at center, instead of his natural position of power forward, would limit the upside of this current team. With the recent run of losses, this thought has apparently re-emerged (based on what I’ve read from folks). With Horford out, our starting frontline, for the next few games will be (in my ongoing opinion) two small forwards and an obvious second-team center. This is going to present a very real challenge for the Hawks during Horford’s absence. And I think games like today are going to create an ever-evolving blueprint for how opposing teams attack the Hawks.
It seems like Woody doesn’t have much of a choice but to give Solo and RandMo some run here. He lost without them today. So the outcome can’t be any worse if he gives them a chance. And it’s the only hope he has, that the Hawks have, of developing a reliable bench. From that perspective, Horford’s injury, if it was to happen at all, and it appears that he will not be out for an extended period, couldn’t have come at a better time.
But all this really then comes back to the front office and ownership. How do they feel about the development potential and ability of the young big men they’ve provided for Woody and the team? If they have a seemingly higher opinion, in that regard, to they push their head coach to give these guys a chance? Or do they now look to make some moves?
What’s become pretty clear is that the Hawks are not in the same class, as the roster is currently constructed, as the Cavs, the Celtics and the Magic (in my opinion).
Does the organization make a concerted effort to build on the potential of this years’ team, by looking to acquire the kind of improved front line talent that could conceivably give them a shot to take on the first-tier of the Eastern Conference? Or do they settle (and that’s almost an unfair term to use for a situation that sees the best Hawks team in over a decade, but failing to seek in-season improvements to your roster, is, by it’s very definition “settling”) and go with what they’ve got?
And, finally, as most of you know, I’ve been running an ongoing commentary on my belief that the ASG is in a very tenuous position, from a cash flow standpoint, with annual operational losses, a significantly higher payroll (as long as Bibby stays here) and a credit market that’s extremely unwilling to extend cash to support under-performing businesses.
So the question isn’t just about whether the front office and the owners WILL make an effort to bolster this season’s roster: it’s really a question of whether they can AFFORD to.
What do you folks out there think about all that??