One Foot In, One Foot Out

…You put your right foot in,

You put your right foot out,

You put your right foot in,

And you turn yourself about,

You do the hokey-pokey,

And you turn yourself around,

That’s what it’s all about!

I can’t follow my pal HB Ando’s ode to Bon Jovi, but I sure can remember a song from early childhood. The problem is that what mimics a nursery school rhyme also best describes the play of the Atlanta Hawks lately.  While injuries have taken a toll, this team has learned how to win with a key player, starter, or reserve out of the action. What’s frustrating is the lack of consistency, sometimes on both ends of the court, and the love/hate relationship the Hawks seem to have with the inside game.

It’s not like it’s a secret or anything. The Hawks have a dynamic starting backcourt duo which they’ve made the focal point of their entire offense, and the rest of the league knows it. We have one scorer/combo guard to back up the two starting guards. Sometimes this offensive system/design works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, it REALLY doesn’t. Most good teams are able to shoot and score from the outside, but they understand the need to score inside. So it is with most good coaches. The only exceptions tend to be teams like Golden State and New York, and coaches like Nelson and D’Antoni. Guys like that are unique, and so are their offenses, which are also dependant on certain types of players.

The Hawks have been roundly criticized for not having that scoring inside presence, and rightfully so. But has it been a lack of personnel or a lack of something else?

Unfortunately, Horford has missed the last several games (8, I believe) due to injury, but his scoring has gone up a bit this year, and his moves are a little better than before. Josh Smith has proven that when he’s focused (which has been a lot lately) and when he’s given the ball in the right place, he can really hurt teams. Fans (and probably players and coaches) have yelled and screamed for him to quit hanging out on the perimeter, taking lazy, uncontested jumpers, and the man has responded by doing his work inside on a variety of hooks, drives, finger rolls, and vicious dunks. He’s raised his field goal percentage to a career high 49%. In the month of January, Josh has recorded 20+ point performances in 7 of 13 games, with 17 and 19 point contributions in 2 others. A couple of 13 point performances, an 8-point, and a 14 pointer round out the month. That’s good for 19.2 ppg on 54% shooting for the month. Add Horford’s 52% shooting and 10.8ppg, and we have something to work with. No inside presence? Two guys beg to differ…

What’s mind-boggling is the fact that after the proven effectiveness of going inside, the Hawks just cannot seem to stick with it. Too many times we’ve watched Horford, or more recently Smith, get hot in the first quarter or half, only to get frozen out for the better part of a quarter (sometimes two), with the plays going right back to the guards. As was mentioned earlier, when it’s working, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s usually too late to try and re-establish the inside game. Not only that, but the Hawks have a bad habit of going away from the hottest shooting player. Bibby gets hot, then suddenly we aren’t running screens for him anymore. Marvin gets hot, and suddenly we don’t give him the ball. Flip gets hot, and suddenly he’s back on the bench…to stay.

The bottom line is that the Hawks have to pay attention to more than just the usual Woody-isms. Sure, you have to play defense and rebound. But you also have to take advantage of what is working for you. And you have to adjust at the proper times, and as often as necessary. There are only so many superstars in the NBA. Wade was very good last night, but he’s not what really beat us. What beat us is what keeps on beating us: failure to contain role players. Miami played more than a quarter without Wade, who only managed about 34 minutes, due to early foul trouble. While he had a fine game, why weren’t we able to go on a run and pressure Spoelstra into putting him back in early? Speaking of Spoelstra, he seems to be doing quite the job with one star player, and a pile of role players. Oh, and a rookie point guard. But that’s a story for another day. What’s bad is the fact that we couldn’t stop guys like Daquean Cook, Mark Blount, and Udonis Haslem. Offensive juggernauts they aren’t (particular without Marion, and Beasley only played 8 minutes), but they beat us like we stole something, and added 12 blocked shots as insult to injury.

Up next is the New York Knicks, on their home turf. These guys are going to be even more of a challenge, due to the nature of their coach. With D’Antoni, if you can shoot, you’re on the court. If you’re on the court, you have the green light. These guys will be gunning from beginning to end, with no slow-down in between. To beat them, you have to make them slow down, contain their best shooters, and NOT GET BEAT BY THEIR ROLE PLAYERS. On a team like this, role players are not the shooters. They are the guys who rebound, play defense, and just hustle in general. The Knicks are by and large NOT a defensive team, and we have guys who can score. The trick will be taking away what they like best, and imposing our will on them on the other end of the court. That, and go with what’s working. If we’re beating a team by going inside, we need to KEEP going inside, rather than chucking one miss after another from the outside while we let the other team creep closer and closer.

Games will be harder as we reach the halfway point, and beyond. The last place you want to be in the second half is doing the hokey-pokey….

One foot in, one foot out….

92 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

January 28th, 2009
12:37 am

First Bon Jovi, then the Hokey Pokey… I gotta admit I have no idea what’s coming up next.

Matt = niremetal

January 28th, 2009
1:01 am

Ray,

This diatribe (man, I spent WAAAAY too much time on this, and still didn’t get in everything I wanted!) is in response to a post you made on the last Sekou blog:

**Ray**,

A few responses to some things you said in your post on the last blog.

First, you said that a superstar is someone who plays like an All-Star all the time. That’s something of a silly definition. Even the very best players in the league go through rough stretches where you can say that they didn’t play like a superstar. The only even arguable exceptions that I can think of to that rule are Kobe, LeBron, Tim Duncan (although even he is slowing down a bit), and – recently – Chris Paul. That’s it. 4 guys. If that’s all that’s included in your definition of superstar, that’s cool. I’d just point out that that’s a hell of a narrow definition. Which brings me to…

Your example of Dwayne Wade, which was, I thought, a bit overblown. Wade is having the best year of his career right now, but there were definitely stretches in the past two seasons where I remember the ESPN talking heads saying that he didn’t have what it takes to carry a team without a superstar alongside him. I’d also take JJ’s defense over Wade’s by a comfortable margin – Wade is a good one-on-one defender who racks up some steals, but he rarely is given the team’s toughest defensive assignment, and his team defense has been consistently questioned during his career.

As for Wade’s supporting cast, I’m amazed at how easily you dismissed Beasley and Marion. You implicitly dismiss Beasley as a rookie. Come on…Beasley might be a rookie, but he’s also the #2 overall pick and undeniably a phenomenal offensive talent. Teams already never leave him open, which is more than can be said of Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams or any other Hawk not named Joe. As for Marion, he has missed just 7 games and he’s played 36 minutes a game while averaging 12 points and 9 boards on 48% shooting. Marion is also one of the most underrated defensive players in recent league history (I marvel at how defense seems to play no role in most people’s definition of a superstar). In any case, teams also never ever leave him open – even when he’s hobbled.

The presence of Beasley and Marion makes it much harder for teams to key in their defense on Wade like they do on JJ. No Hawk besides JJ is regularly tagged as “never leave open.” How many times have you seen teams leave Marvin or Smoove or Bibby wide open because teams double and triple team JJ? (And, contrary to some people’s assertions, JJ almost never forces a shot in those situations – which is more than can be said for many undisputed superstars)

I’ve watched the Heat a lot on League Pass this year. Wade doesn’t get double teams half as much as JJ does. I’ve never once seen him triple teamed. Teams are too scared of what will happen if Beasley or Marion get a clear path to the basket. On the flip side of the coin, JJ is double teamed on almost every single possession. When he has the ball and the clock is winding down, he usually is triple teamed. The only – and I do mean the *only* – player in the NBA who gets as much defensive attention as JJ is LeBron James.

As for the point about Wade only averaging “just” 1.7 mpg less than JJ. Well, for one thing, that 1.7 mpg adds up in a hurry. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise. Second, the killer for JJ is not just the sheer number of minutes he plays, but *when* Woodson gives him respites. Woodson has no clue how to “milk” the game clock so that his stars get decently periods of actual rest while only missing a few minutes of game time (Jerry Sloan is a master of it, which is one reason Stockton had such a long career). Wade usually gets relatively long rests in the middle of the half, while JJ usually only sits down for a minute or two in the middle of the half + a somewhat longer half-time respite (when he’d get a good 20 minute rest anyway). My frustration is not just over how little JJ gets rest. It’s how idiotic the substitution pattern is.

Furthermore, even now – when JJ himself admits that he’s toiling – he’s averaging 17 points and 7 dimes per game. Those are basically All-Star stats. And he’s probably going to make the All-Star team for a third straight year. So…I don’t see where this perceived inconsistency is.

As for the Suns letting him go, etc…I’ll just point to Tracy McGrady and Steve Nash as examples of star players who blossomed into superstars after coming from teams that didn’t quite know what they had.

Lastly, JJ scored 20 points in the 4th quarter last year against the best defensive team in the NBA. That was a superstar performance. He hasn’t played like that every night since then, but no NBA player does. That’s why in my eye, it’s impossible to define what a superstar is. How much weight do you give to consistency versus clutch performance? How much weight do you give to total stats versus efficiency stats? How much weight do you give to defense?

Anyway, all I know is this. No player in the NBA besides LeBron is asked to do as much for his team as JJ is asked to do for the Hawks.

Man…I burned way too much time on that post. Back to work.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
2:12 am

Matt,

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy diatribe every now and again, my man!

I understand what you’re saying. But here was my actual quote:

“To me (and this is just my opinion), a superstar is a guy who can play at all-star level, no matter where he is or who he’s playing for, or with.”

And here is you misquoting me:

“First, you said that a superstar is someone who plays like an All-Star all the time.”

No, that is NOT what I’m saying. Everybody has bad games, and I’m not nearly dumb enough to even suggest that even the best don’t. I’m saying that superstars will excel at a consistently high level over the course of a season, regardless of external circumstances. And here’s another quote of what I said:

“Again, I’m not bashing Joe. But superstardom is a hard road to get to. If Joe were a true superstar, would he have been the 4th option on offense for the Suns? No. Would they have let him go the way they did? Don’t think so. Joe is awesome, but he’s not quite there yet, IMHO. I agree that he is called upon to do a lot, and too much in some ways. I agree with just about everything you said about Woodson. And there’s no need for Joe to be called upon to do what he’s asked to do. But for that, we point towards the coach, and management. Joe’s clearly an all-star and a very special player. But I don’t think we’ve seen him yet turn into the guy who can take over any game at any time, regardless of what the defense tries to do.”

As to some of your other points: Wade is hard to double and triple team. They don’t call him “Flash” for nothing. He does not put himself in position to get double and triple teamed because he is either going to the basket (and drawing fouls), or he gets rid of the ball quickly to a teammate, so that teammate can score, or get the ball back to him. Wade stays moving, and that’s the key.

I never dismissed Beasley and Marion as non-factors. But just how potent is a #2 pick? We have one of those….is our #2 pick a top threat? As for Beasley, he’s averaging 13.2ppg, and 5rpg. Not exactly scary numbers, but good for a rookie. Who makes rookie mistakes. I’ll tell you what IS scary-THIS #2 pick is easily already at the production level of OUR #2 pick. Yikes. Tell you what else is scary-Beasley is not the top rookie. Rose, Mayo, Westbrook, B. Lopez? All ranked higher and producing more….

Then there’s Marion. Missed 8 games already. A career 18ppg guy who’s averaging a career low 12 points a game, and shooting a seriously career low 19% from 3-point range.

These are the guys keeping Wade from being double-teamed? Two guys who might combine for 25 points a night….

JJ gets more defensive attention than anybody but Lebron James? If this is true, then there can only be a couple of explanations.

1)Everybody knows Woody’s gameplan. We’re don’t even need to go there right now…

2)JJ holds onto the ball too long, and everyobdy knows it. Trust your teammates more and get the ball to them early and often, and watch the double teams dwindle. It works for Wade, who by the way, averages more assists than JJ. Again, this is why Wade doesn’t get the double and triple teams. He won’t let them come to him like JJ does. Pounding the ball on the floor and getting forced to the sideline…it doesn’t work, and JJ has to stop it. Move the ball around, and drive to the basket (another thing Wade does FAR more than JJ).

It’s funny that you credit Beasley and Marion as “don’t leave open” guys, then discredit OUR players. Bibby is averaging 16 ppg and shooting 41% from 3 point range. He is a “never leave open” guy, because he will kill you. He’s done that enough this season to prove it (and in past seasons). Josh is averaging 16 a game. Marvin is our 4th option on offense, and he’s averaging as much as Beasley, and more than Marion. Are you kidding me?

Again, teams leave these guys and go after JJ because he’s the most dangerous scorer on the squad, true. But it’s also because he’ll hold onto the ball long enough (eating up enough of the shot clock) for them to effectively double him. He doesn’t force shots? The guy is shooting his lowest percentage from 3-point range and overall field goals that he has IN THE LAST 5 YEARS. And this is with a healthy Mike Bibby next to him…

I completely agree on the Mike Woodson stuff. But I maintain my opinion that JJ is not quite yet a superstar. I know he scored 20 in the 4th quarter against one of the best teams in the NBA last year. Name me a time he had a performance anywhere near that SINCE then? I don’t see a guy who takes over games that often, which is what superstars do. We will probably just agree to disagree on this, as “what makes a superstar” is indeed a broad definition and what not. Mine and yours just aren’t the same, which is no big deal.

As for JJ being asked to do so much…I feel like it’s ridiculous, because there IS NO NEED for it to be that way. We have guys who can score inside and outside. We have guys who can play defense and dish out assists. We have plenty of talent (more than Miami and a lot of other teams). So JJ shouldn’t have to do 20 different jobs. If the pieces aren’t there, we lay that at the feet of management. If they pieces are not properly utilized, we lay that at the feet of coaching.

BA

January 28th, 2009
2:55 am

In fairness to Johnson, Wade is much faster (as doc would point out). I can’t dispute a lot of this, Ray- Johnson IS doing too much, and the 3 pointers are down. I think that has hurt his effectiveness this season more than anything, because the last two years his threes have been automatic.

This is a good time of the year for Johnson to go through this slump- because as a result he HAS been taking it to the lane more (in the case of last night, with mixed results). The other benefit is that he HAS to get the other players more involved, and I’ve seen him doing that more in the last couple of weeks. I think Woodson has been preaching that, for them to get to the basket, less jumpshots. Joe has been trying to lead by example, but maybe to the detriment of his shooting touch.

Can Marvin score? Sure, like you said, inside and out- but for whatever reason Marvin doesn’t seem willing to go for the kill- only Bibby, Johnson and Smith on this team have really honed that instinct. When Marvin does, it will take pressure off the other three, and with Horford being the rock, this team would look a lot like the 6-0 crowd at the outset.

Clyde

January 28th, 2009
7:08 am

O'brien

January 28th, 2009
7:29 am

Speaking of JJ, interesting quote from Woody. “I’ve got find a way to get him some better shots and to get him some more looks at the free-throw line,” Woodson said.

How many times has Woody said “I’ve got to find a way to…”.
1)play the bench more.
2)find a way to get Joe some rest.
3)do a better job bringing Acie along.

Does he do it? Talk is cheap Woody!!!

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
8:26 am

BA,

Very good point. This IS a good time of the year for JJ to go through (and hopefully come out of) a slump. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Damn, that was a VERY good point….

I hate that JJ is working the way he is. With Smith being more consistent in scoring inside, Bibby around to help from the perimeter…these things shouldn’t be happening. Marvin is clearly more capable offensively these days, but as you say, he’s not willing to go in for the kill. I’ll be glad when Horford comes back, and I would really like to see him get more looks and touches on offense. Why? Because he will only help things. He usually makes very good decisions with the ball, and will be in a better position to dish off to Josh, or receive a pass from him. Those two can work the high post-low post if it’s given a chance, I think. But for it to happen, the play has to be run…consistently. This will open things up for the guards.

Matt=niremetal,

I hope I didn’t come across too heavy-handed in my reply. I have a bad habit of getting tunnel vision, trying to zero in on the points I want to make in my argument. Everything I said is debatable, obviously. Don’t want you to get the impression that I’m trying to make this a right/wrong thing. You always bring out some of the best arguments in me! :)

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
8:27 am

O’Brien,

If we’ve heard it from him once, we’ve heard it a thousand times, eh?

Sautee

January 28th, 2009
8:31 am

A couple of comments:

About the Heat:

Beasley is not even the most valuable rookie on the team, even if he WAS the #2 pick. Chalmers (and DWade’s health) has been the biggest difference in last year’s Heat team and this year. Marion is a factor, but Chalmers is the biggest difference.

About Joe Johnson:

I saw one particular play against the Heat that perfectly shows Ray’s point. JJ had a chance to pass it to an UNCOVERED Zaza in the paint. Looked RIGHT AT HIM and kept pounding the ball (It’s like Lue with worse decisions!) and drawing a double team and finally throwing the ball away with 2 seconds on the clock.

An early pass to the post would have been the right decision. I’m much more worried at this point with Joe’s suddenly poor decisions than with his shot not falling.

Yes, his assist totals are up, but so are his turnovers. And the turnovers always seem to be in crunch time. If he’s half as frustrated as I am, then no wonder his body language is so poor!

shresee2

January 28th, 2009
8:54 am

I know teams have to lose but it is how they lose that is a concern. Bibby to Josh has been money in the bank. Most teams cannot deal with Josh when he is driving to the basket. I think we would have won that Suns game if we used the players that were getting it done. Flip and Evans have been very good off the bench the last few games. In the Suns game why Biddy and Joe who were struggling down the streach was in and Flip was on the bench was ridiculas. Woody says he wants to get Joe more rest but when he is visiably tired and missing easy layups, take him out and rest him. I know Al is missed and needed and making sure he is 100% for the end of the season and playoffs are key. The Hawks are good but could be better even without a trade. I hope the allstar break allows the team to get some much needed rest mentally and physically.

MannyT

January 28th, 2009
11:37 am

Here’s your smoking gun/accounting of ASG cash issues
http://www.ajc.com/sports/content/sports/stories/2009/01/28/hawks_thrashers.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab

It will be interesting to see what happens after this ownership deal is settled–regardless of who wins. The credit markets are not friendly to businesses that keep losing money.

BWAF

Clyde

January 28th, 2009
1:13 pm

FIRE WOODY

JJ is an all-star but I think he needs his rest. I know the Hawks have a better record but I think Devin Harris is more deserving this year. Get your rest JJ and get ready for the second half of the season.

Matt = niremetal

January 28th, 2009
1:44 pm

Ray,

Never any offense taken, man. I enjoy the back-and-forth.

One quick response: I think you mistook what I said about Beasley/Marion versus Bibby/Smoove. I wasn’t making a normative judgment on whether they *should* be left open, but rather was making an observation about whether they *are* left open. The truth is that teams routinely bring their point guard off Bibby to guard JJ on the perimeter. If he starts to drive, the people covering Marvin and/or Smoove instantly converge. That’s why Bibby’s 3-point % has been so good – teams have routinely left him wide open for threes (although they’re starting to wise up now).

All I’m saying is watch a Hawks game and watch opposing teams’ defensive rotations. Then watch the same thing with the Heat. You’ll see what I mean – when Wade gets doubled, it’s almost always the opposing point guard who peels off. It’s almost never the guy guarding Beasley and never, ever the guy guarding Marion (when Marion is on the floor), unless Wade has driven within 5′ of the basket. This means that the double team on Wade usually is both (1) from a player who is smaller than Wade (whereas JJ most often faces someone who is his height or a bit taller); and (2) coming later than JJ’s double teams.

Having 2 extra seconds against a shorter defender makes a huge, huge difference. It means Wade gets several more clean looks per game – both at the basket and at his open teammates – than does JJ.

Melvin

January 28th, 2009
1:49 pm

By Melvin

January 28, 2009 11:43 AM

WOW the ASG has lost over 174 mil since 2002. My Gosh, with those type losses maybe the ASG have (or had) deeper pockets than we think. I can’t blame them for being Broke now. It will be interesting to see how much Belkin will receive (or if any) from the buyout being that he hadn’t contribute funds the past few years like the remaining members. It will be a sweet deal for Belkin if he can walk away with more than he contribute and not sharing in the losses along the years. That would be one heck of bond/golden parachute for him. One would think, if the ASG is losing so much money why not cut some of their losses and sell the team back to Belkin….

cp

January 28th, 2009
3:52 pm

Why do they even interview Woody. The guy has been saying the same crap for the past 3 years now. We need to get it together. We lose a few more games and we will be looking up at the Heat in the standings.

HB Ando

January 28th, 2009
4:27 pm

Manny, is that not what I’ve been saying since early summer?

Bang-bang….Is this thing on???

If I had a nickel for every time somebody’s questioned my position on the financial status of this ownership group……..It’s never been an attack on the ASG; just logical inferences about cash flows and the impact on this years’ elevated payroll.

Don!

January 28th, 2009
4:46 pm

Yeah, I’d like to think the reason we don’t have a (another?) capable big man on the roster now is the ASG’s cash flow issues. I know of two rumored/potential trades for a big that were likely shot down because of cash flow issues.

But, look on the bright side — we don’t have someone like Starbury weighing down our cap this season either. Of course, my biggest fear for this season and next is the status of Mike Bibby. I still think Gund will make a move to trade him, to a) reduce salary now — and to get something from him, since it looks doubtful that the ASG would go over the cap to keep him.

In related news, Speedy bruised his left toenail in a horrible whirlpool accident at the team’s training facility today. Sources say this injury might be season ending. Can we fire BK all over again, based just on this one signing? I mean, just put out the announcement again, so I’ll feel better about it, okay?

Anyway, these are the dog days of the NBA season. The reason it’s called an 82-game grind. Not to mention the playoffs, which can go another 20 games for the teams in the finals. I still hold out hope for us to make some move to get a little help for this team before the trading deadline … but I’m also just as afraid we might be sellers due to the ASG’s cash flow situation.

Later,

Don!

Melvin

January 28th, 2009
5:12 pm

I understand everyone point about the potential cash flow issues for the ASG however, if these guys are bleeding for money than why would they increase payroll this year after losing $174 mil the last 7 or 8 years? I know I’m not privy to all info but it does make sense to me unless these guys have access or more money than we think… These are just my thoughs…

Melvin

January 28th, 2009
5:13 pm

should have read “it doesn’t make sense”

HB Ando

January 28th, 2009
6:22 pm

Melvin, not that this is a comprehensive answer, but the “payroll” for this season is still “projected”. They have many ways, and additional time, to shed their final obligation for the season. I’m not saying they will (though I have predicted they will). But it’s not $68 million until the season ends.

With some level of objectification, from the courts and the AJC’s report, it’s clear that they HAVE BEEN, AND CONTINUE TO, lose money.

Again, the numbers that have now come to light are the basis for my ongoing opinions since this past summer(it’s still a shame that I had to waste repeated posts trying to explain the fairly obvious difference between “predicting” Bibby would be traded, due to financial issues, versus “wanting, or calling for” Bibby to be traded). And they still don’t include the cash necessary for a Belkin buyout.

HB Ando

January 28th, 2009
6:45 pm

Melvin, just to generate an example, we’re at mid-season, and Bibby makes $15 million. If he were traded, say tomorrow, then the Hawks would save roughly half of his salary (now, before folks jump into the obvious issue of cap equity, in the NBA, understand that picks, rights to players previously drafted who are unlikely to come over from Europe, and expiring contracts of players who’s remaining salary, like a LaFrentz, will be covered by insurance, are all ways to get around the “within 25% match” for traded contracts).

In other words, there are still a lot of ways to dump salary/payroll in this league, if finances dictate it.

The confound, now that the Hawks are playing up to the most lofty of predictions, is can the ASG shed payroll without creating a PR nightmare? I’m not sure they can. So if no moves are made, to lower their expenses/payroll, then they’ve got some kind of “recoup” plan, or better financing than one would assume, given the overall lending environment.

You can’t even disregard the idea that the end game could be the ASG selling part, or all, of its local professional sports holdings. Again, not a prediction, but a logical possibility, given the “loss data” reported by the AJC, and the pending settlement with Belkin.

None of this should distract from the great season the Hawks are having, but all these issues do weigh on players who are up for contract renewal/extension. And those issues can affect chemistry, as the natural inclination of any player looking to optimize his next contract is to “get his”.

Time will tell on all these interrelated issues.

This is why I keep mentioning the phrase “rock and a hard place”. At some level, it’s there. Just not sure where, or how much, it will effect the remainder of the season………

Melvin

January 28th, 2009
7:36 pm

Ando, I understand your perspective completely but I don’t think the ASG is in Fire Sale mode nor do I think they are splurging either. I dont think we will know which direction this franchise will go until this season is over along with the court rulings. But I don’t see the logic in acquiring Bibby (15 mil) mid-season that cost them 2 mil more than the expiring contracts(13 mil) that they gave up, if they were trying reduce their expenses only to comeback the following season to trade him again at midseason to save 4-6 mil that season after losing up to 171 mil prior to the time they acquire Bibby. The ASG could have easily kept the expiring contracts on their books and not resign JSmoove and trade the rights to Jchill all for the intent to reduce expenses. Yes, your “rock and a hard place” phrase maybe true but this all could have been avoided had they chose to go the cheap route and not trade for the guy last season.

With all that said, you could very well be right and the team trade Bibby(or not resign him) but the moves up to this point doesn’t seem like an organization thats trying to save as many dollars as possible. Also, I two believe the Hockey team will be sold…

HB Ando

January 28th, 2009
8:49 pm

Melvin, your side of the coin is clean. If I had to stay with the logic, and address why they would grab Bibby, even with a slight bump in payroll, it would be that he only had a year-and-a-half left on his deal, and the guys we gave up for him AJ, Lue, Wright and Shelden, had no real value, as players. Shelden is a bust, maybe one of the biggest in the last decade. The other three are vagabonds.

The answer would be that the Hawks wanted to take a run at the 8th seed, which they made, and they wanted to entice ticket buyers with the commitment a Bibby acquisition represented.

Man, I just don’t know what the truth is. I do know what the Hawks position is right now, record-wise. And I think that whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, from here on out, will fill in the blanks. The range of outcomes have been represented by the broad range of opinions that populate Sekou’s, and hopefully the Hacks’, blogs. So somebody is going to look like a genius when this all plays out.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
8:51 pm

Matt,

You know what? Excellent point. I really did not see it that way, and I didn’t even have to watch the game closely to see that. You’re absolutely right. That DOES make a difference when it comes to reacting to and defeating double teams. And once again, this points more towards Woody, who of course says he needs to find a way to get JJ more looks, and better ones. Gee whiz, what an epiphany. Now if only he could think of a solution.

I’m sorry. Is my “inside” voice talking on the “outside” again? :)

Sautee,

Excellent point about Mario Chalmers. What a great pick by Miami. Dude can ball, and I see a bit of a Mo Williams in him. He’s what Boston and Minnesota wished Sebastian Telfair was. By the way, have fun and be safe on the road trip, my brotha! Buzz me when you get back.

Don!,

You are killin’ me. Funny post!

Melvin,

The whole cash flow thing is what illustrates just how insanely stupid the ownership divorce was. Then again, you could say it illustrates how stupid the marriage was in the first place. And guess who set it up? Yep…David Stern had his hand in this one. Have no idea how it’s going to turn out, and to be honest…I have no idea where this franchise can go with a group of money-losing owners…Hopefully things don’t get so bad that we end up in the same boat as the citizens of Seattle.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
8:57 pm

Well, it appears that our dynamic backcourt duo is still struggling, but the good news is that our frontcourt is handling business JUST LIKE THEY SHOULD BE against their Knick counterparts.

Marvin has shown up big time, and Josh? Oh, this is the Josh we’re used to. Dude is ALL OVER THE GLASS, hitting one shot after the next, grabbing at loose balls, and swatting shots. I LOVE it, don’t you?

And Flip Murray is earning more than his share, if you ask me.

One of the keys to the game, as outline before, was not losing the hustle game to New York’s role players. So far, we’re not losing that aspect of the game. Good job, Hawks!

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
9:13 pm

Here we go again.

I do not like getting into a shoot-out with a shoot-happy team. It makes no sense. And like clock-work, we’ve gone away from what’s working: feeding the ball into the frontcourt.

JJ and Bibby continue their version of the gong show, but at least they aren’t turning the ball over like they have in the last few games.

Josh Smith looks like the all-star on this team…He’s going to get 25 and 15 tonight if we let him.

And still, we miss Horford..

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
9:28 pm

Geez, Josh is straight murder on that free throw line. What gives?

Paging Mark Price….

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
9:42 pm

No defense whatsoever, and anemic free throw shooting. Yeah, we’re losing this one. Great.

Big Ray

January 28th, 2009
10:32 pm

Talking to myself on the blog again…oh well…one last thing to say, then I’ll leave myself alone. :)

I could see the energy just getting sapped right out of Smith towards the end, the way these guys were playing. We didn’t go to him nearly as much is the second half. Gee, never saw that coming…

On the other hand, his horrendous free throw shooting really hurt us. Even if he made all of his free throws, the best we could manage was a tied score. That doesn’t make up for yet another bad game by JJ, and another even worse game by Bibby.

I wonder why they are both struggling at the same time, while a young fella like Josh Smith is excelling despite being without his stalwart frontcourt mate?? Hmmm…interesting.

Marvin was fantastic tonight. Wonder if we’ll see another game like that from him for the next 20 games or so?

Flip was good too, and has been very good for us alot here lately. 20 points off the bench was a 6th man of the year type of performance. The way offensive options 1 and 2 are playing, we need more of that…..

HB Ando

January 28th, 2009
10:50 pm

Turn your mobile on, big Ray…..

Reggie

January 28th, 2009
11:10 pm

Fact: Joe Johnson could be a top 5 NBA player if he had the aggression and mentality. I rarely see him get pumped up on the court and really getting into it. He has the talent and skills. Fact: He might not be an all star right now because of it. Fact: Next year Marvin Williams could very well average 20 points a game. The guy is very versatile and really seems like he has the scorers mentality. Fact: Mike Bibby won’t be here next year I hope. I feel for the best need of this team is a fast paced point guard who can really pass the b-ball. Bibby wants to score too much. We have johnson, jsmash, and williams who all can score plenty and we; don’t have to have one in bibby what we need is a quick PG who can distribute the ball. That would complete the team for me. I would say a good guy would be raymond felton but suddenly the bobbys are in the playoff hunt so that’s really a fantasy. Anyone else agree about bibby. I just don’t feel he fits with this team

The Hawksta

January 29th, 2009
12:08 am

We need to do more posting on this blog during the game because we get real time response. I think someone said that already(lol)!

So much for being the last poster BigRay. Think I gotcha beat!

HB Ando

January 29th, 2009
12:28 am

Hawksta, in Real Time!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about…..

BA

January 29th, 2009
7:24 am

Like I said the other night, if Marvin can be a more aggresive scorer, we should win.

What’s that? We lost anyway?

Trade for Nate Robinson. He’ll look great in our 2010 backcourt with D Wade.

The worst thing that could’ve happened for teams like Atlanta was D’Antoni coming East. Obviously it was a poor showing for OUR team last night, but when’s the last time you saw a Knicks team play with that much energy and chemistry?

Will Stern let us skip VinSanity? You know, put it off, reschedule-

I don’t want to see New Jersey the way things are going already.

Melvin

January 29th, 2009
10:30 am

Although he’s not playing well, at least you have to admire Bibby for taking responsible

“If I do anything at all we win,” said Bibby, who was 2-for-13 from the floor and finished with five points and seven assists. “They outscored us by 16, and that’s my average. Give them credit, they picked it up, but we weren’t scoring in the second half and they were scoring easy. That’s the game right there.”

And our ALL-STAR and Captain wants to include everyone instead of stepping up and showing some leadership when this team needs it the most.

“We’re going to keep getting our [expletives] kicked if we play like this,” Joe Johnson said. “We’re playing like [expletive] right now. Plain and simple

HOMEGROWN aka E.J.

January 29th, 2009
10:34 am

Ray, could it be that Josh had time to rest while he was out with the injury? Bibby and JJ are no spring chickens and this first half has been taxing on the mental/physical side of things. JJ is trying to be THE leader on a team that should meet every exspectation that has been placed on them.(I think that they are a playoff team; maybe one of the top 3-4 in the East with health and adequate coaching and I think that we have been cheated in both.) Not to mention that he has been trying to be the man and live up to that contract that could be chocking him out a little bit and with no rest, he is running on fumes. Bibby has a contract to worry about and his minuets have not been that small either.
I don’t want to bang on Woodrow, I see both sides of the coin, but I don’t understand why he continues to just look at the game from the sidelines and not make the key adjustments to change the game. Would you have tried to at least show a double team on Robinson last night. Is there anything that you would have done to slow him down?

cp

January 29th, 2009
11:01 am

Woody is known not to make adjustments. That is one of the most frustrating things about him. If plan A does no work he usually does not have a plan B.

HOMEGROWN aka E.J.

January 29th, 2009
11:29 am

He reminds me of Jim Mora formally with my other birds. He would come out with a good game plan and when good coaches found a way to beat it, he would continue the same gameplan in the second half. What happened: 6-2 first half of season, 2-6 second half, then fired. I wonder what will happen if the second half of the season does not go the way we hope?

Melvin

January 29th, 2009
11:41 am

To add your point HOMEGROWN, Woody remind of a old running style Coach (say Lou Holtz). They are going to stick with the run (they like to call it staying discipline) in hopes that the next drive will result into a score, no matter how many 3 and outs they had in between. Woody is going to ride Joe and Bibby every game no matter how successful it is. Don’t expect to see any adjustments. Woody is not going to change the way he approach the game. Those guys (Bibby/Joe) will work they way out of this slump (i.e. we must remain discipline)…

Yeah right, the ship ain’t sinking it just the water level has risen….

Big Ray

January 29th, 2009
8:34 pm

HomeGrown,

I don’t want to bang on Woody either. But he doesn’t make this easy. Still, can’t blame everything on him.

Joe says they are playing like crap. Yeah, I agree with that. Of course, that also depends on his version of “they”…

I tell you what, tomorrow night’s game against Jersey is as good a time as any for a great pick-me-up game. We beat them in our own arena, and that’s a boost. We’re falling back into our old ways on the road, but you have to take care of home court. And Jersey has given us two whoopings already. Time to get one back. I’d really like to have Horford back for this one, but I don’t see it happening.

Bibbs and JJ are going to have to play better for this to work. It’s either that, or the gameplan and substitution pattern has to change. Between those two choices, all I can say is we better hope our starting backcourt can finally turn the switch on, because option B ain’t likely to happen.

doc

January 29th, 2009
10:48 pm

ray, good stuff. feels like i have one foot in and one foot ou,t having little time to more than just admire the blog you and ando do. great responses from the buds at the liars table. also been a sense of the ajc having the one foot in and one foot out having been a trial getting over to see your stuff from time to time. seems like some of the glitches are repaired, cudos to the ajc!

to say it straight, from reading your notes above. it is time for jj to say he just isnt doing it and it is costing his team. i get tired of the ” they arent playing good” when he is playing like sh!t in so many areas. let the other guys speak for themselves. a leader speaks for himself or as a we, not in the they vernacular. go ahead joe and say it … I AM NOT GETTING THE JOB DONE THE WAY I WAS AND IT IS COSTING US.

all the same, i am glad he is on the all star team and want him to come back with a renewed energy to get the job done like he was before he went into this EXTENDED slump.

been warning about the next two months, february with only three home games and then a crucial stretch of home games against top notch competition. lately we have been failing against those teams below us as much succeeding so no one can assume anymore that this team is going to pull it out. i will acknowledge a healthy horford will help a lot. on the other side of the issue is who is to say there wont be a significant injury to someone else only as a reminder it a s grind and all teams have the same issues with overcoming injuries.

time for our coach to start preparing the whole team to play instead of the few or when he does give time he somehow gives some inspiration instead of trash if he has put guys into a fail-fail situation. basically these are his words paraphrased in the sense of saying i cant expect these guys to be ready to play if i havent played them. gee, havent we been saying the same since the summer and now once again woody is talking to the choir here?

BA

January 29th, 2009
11:36 pm

doc makes some valid points. But with all of this bench discussion, I have one question-

Does anybody really think that we would have more wins if Morris, Law and Jones had logged more minutes?

I’ll concede that it’s a possibility. But from what I’ve seen in their limited minutes, it seems unlikely.

Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that the three of them (and West as well) just aren’t very good players, or for whatever reason aren’t grasping Woodson and co. system.

If that were the case, how would a good coach deal with the subject in regards to the press?

Would he say “well, these guys aren’t really good enough to play. They get killed in practice, Law and Morris are turnover machines and Jones is a walking foul”.

Or would he say what he’s been saying, blaming himself?

When I read that Woodson says he can’t figure out how to get these guys to play four quarters, to me that shows humility, and accountabilty. He isn’t saying “these guys WON’T play four quarters”, he’s saying “I can’t get them too”. That’s the way a good coach looks out for his players- just look at the baseball guy across town, it’s worked well for him for the better part of twenty years.

There’s two sides to every story, we only get to hear the one they choose to present to the media.

Like Ray said on the Smith blog, there are good teams (Utah, RichBrave’s Eddie Jordan Wizards) and there are elite teams (Spurs, Boston) that have a legitimate chance to win it every year. Atlanta went from being the Clippers the last few years to being the Suns for three postseason home games.

We know they’re good enough to be a perennial playoff team with this young group. But they’re not elite yet. Just not enough pieces, not enough depth- Morris and West are NOT the kind of depth that an elite team goes to war with, whether they play 10 or 20 minutes a night.

A rough stretch, for sure- but not the kind of thing that you fire a freakin’ coach over. They need more off-the-ball movement- that New York game was a LOT of standing around. They need better help defense, and they need Horford back to run that pick-and-roll that he’s gotten quite good at with Bibby. And hit some of those @#@$#$^&$* freethrows.

I’ll be on here like E.G. if they lose to the Nets again…

BA

January 29th, 2009
11:38 pm

E.J., not E.G. My bad, bro

doc

January 29th, 2009
11:55 pm

BA, i have NEVER called for the head coach to be fired, just want to see a light bulb go on and stay on.

neither you nor i can say whether the teams wins and losses would have changed if there had been consistent use of the bench. what we have said and continue to say is that the team is faltering from over use and it is barely past the mid way point. me thinks if the trend continues even you might begin to say maybe we should have sued the bench a little more or the GM to come up with a replacement or two that can play bell instead of fill out the bench or back row in a suit.

i have NEVER heard bobby cox say he couldnt get his players to play a whole game, NEVER. it strikes of false humility to me BA or places the blame on the players as much if not more than himself. next question is what he means in specifics to his statement. you know woody if thy arent paying a whole game then what is the problem … uh fatigue or poor substitution patterns where you dont sub out the hot guy for a guy cold off the bench or you dont somehow keep fresh legs in there so guys dont have to take time off in the thick of things? maybe there is a coach that doesnt understand flows in games? my boy rick gets to ask or does ask those questions i hope.

Big Ray

January 30th, 2009
6:54 am

Doc,

You make some really good points, and thanks for the kudos. You know us, we’re just trying to do our thing. I agree, there could be another significant injury before the season is over. Maybe more than one. My bet if it happens is that it’s either Bibby, or more likely, Johnson. All I know is, I don’t want to see a second-half collapse. I’m not panicking by any stretch of the imagination, but the possibility remains. And if it happens, it will shock some people, while others grab onto the “same old Hawks” bandwagon.

Hope this doesn’t happen. I see a different and better team this year, with a lot more capability.

BA,

You make a lot of good points, too. The question about Law, Morris, and Jones logging more questions is a bit of a sand-bagger though. I don’t think anybody has said that we’d win more if they played more (but maybe somebody did, and I missed it). We could really pick any statement out of the air with that kind of primitive logic. “If Joe scores more, we win more.” “If Marvin is more aggressive, we win more.” “If Bibby hits 3 three pointers a game, we win more.” All statements that guarantee nothing.

For me, it’s not just about these guys getting more playing time. It’s also about starters getting more rest. In most cases, it’s about Joe getting more rest and not being asked to do EVERYTHING on a team that has enough talent and capability to do more than it does. We have versatile guys. Why does Joe have to do everything? Better yet, why does he THINK he has to do everything? Looks to be taking its toll, lately.

Not only that, but it’s about WHEN these guys play. Horford has been out, meaning that Pachulia (who is good off the bench) has had to start in his place. Solo is the back-up, obviously. But things can be situational. Against Phoenix, I didn’t see why RandMo doesn’t get more burn, playing against Shaq. All you have to work with down low is Pachulia, RandMo, and Solo. Why not let RandMo get some burn since he’s harder to push around than Solo, and you need to save Pachulia for the 4th quarter stretch? Just a thought.

Let’s say we’re playing a different team. Flip is doing his usual thing scoring, but the defense is loading up on him, and he’s turning the ball over and dribbling into traps. You need somebody to move the ball around and get everybody else involved. Bibby is tired and shooting 2-10, while getting destroyed on defense. Why not play Acie in the backcourt with Flip (so JJ and Bibbs can rest), where he can defend the opposing team’s quick pg, and allow Flip to score off the ball? If Flip’s not on, Acie will at least drive it and either score, or make a play for a teammate. Again, just a thought.

It’s entirely possible that these guys aren’t doing so great in practice, or they don’t play as well as Woody would like for them to in his “system.” You’re right: in their limited minutes, they haven’t shown a lot. Who does in limited minutes? Of the bench players, I think Law and Jones are the best. Woody doesn’t see it that way, yet he has said (and I quote) “Law was great for us” at times. But I have a question (or two). What exactly is Woody’s system? Whatever it is, are you impressed with it?

No, I don’t advocate firing a coach whose team is currently winning more than it ever has at this point in the season. But the season ain’t over yet, either. And the guy has both class and a sense of responsibility. He knows what we know: his record is not a winning one, and he has yet to prove that his “system” is a rock-solid winnng system. Unfortunately, he has not followed through on a lot of what he says. We don’t know both sides of the story, it’s true. That’s life as a fan, I guess.

I agree that West and Morris are guys you don’t want to go to war with. Laying that one at the feet of management….but I do feel like we have a team that should be able to go 9 deep when at full health. But that’s just me.

Count me in your rant/rave corner if we lose to Jersey. I’ll bring the beer…:)

Big Ray

January 30th, 2009
7:07 am

BA,

By the way, I was not suggesting in the first paragraph that YOU were the user of primitive logic. We have seen such examples before, however (have we not?), and it would not surprise me if somebody had used that one (”we’d win more games if these bench guys played more”), or agreed with it…

Melvin

January 30th, 2009
9:54 am

“We know we have to start coming out and getting off to better starts,” said Hawks captain Joe Johnson, who has been in a shooting slump all month. “And I have to take a lot of the responsibility for that. But as a whole, we’re not doing the things that we were doing earlier in the season.

“I think we’ve got to play basketball the right way and make the right plays. That’s what we haven’t been doing. Earlier in the season we were out there free-lancing and playing well and we didn’t care who scored or who was doing what. Now all of a sudden everybody thinks they can do it alone. And we’re just not going to win like that.”

Ok I will give Joe some credit for finally taking some responsibility like a Captain and Leader of his team should. But in his next breathe, he indicts the entire team for their poor play. I’m sure they wouldn’t advise such a thing in a leadership seminar/class. As much as I like Joe, he’s simply not a leader. He seems to be a great person and talent basketball player but leader he is not. Instead of complaining about the team, why don’t he pickup his play. Hint, he’s been in a slump for the ENTIRE month. The only way to rally your troops is to set an example. How about try playing with a little more emotion or something simple like diving for a loose ball. Let your teammates see the extra effort you’re making and maybe they would do the same. Hence, him leading by example…. Now let’s beat NJ Nets tonite…

Clyde

January 30th, 2009
10:24 am

FIRE WOODY!!!!!!

Big Ray

January 30th, 2009
10:32 am

Whassup, Clyde!

Big Ray

January 30th, 2009
10:44 am

Melvin,

What gets me is that one part: “Earlier in the season we were out there freelancing and playing well and we didn’t care who was scored and who was doing what. Now all of a sudden everybody thinks they can do it alone. And we’re just not going to win like that.”

Now who exactly is he talking about? Who is acting like they can do it alone? All I can say is that if this is the issue, the numbers tell a story he might not want repeated…