Did you ever see the movie “The Three Amigos?” Do you like Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short?
Personally, I thought Steve Martin was funnier opposite Queen Latifah in “Brining Down the House”, with a little Eugene Levy sprinkled in. I’ll never forget a corn-row hairstyled Eugene Levy (he had ‘em at the end, anyway) telling Queen Latifah, “You got me straight trippin’ Boo..” Had me rollin’ like a tumbleweed in a an old Western. But I’m getting sidetracked. Back to The Three Amigos, which I don’t remember much about, other than their signature move was something eerily like a more stiff version of the Macarena (and before that song’s time, too). But that’s not the point. Yes, I’m getting to a point, believe it or not. The point is, there were Three Amigos, not two. Three gave it balance. Three made it more effective and more laughable. It made the movie a better blend of three different comic spices. Each different, but each compatible with the other.
So it is, or should be with our own three amigos, the Atlanta Hawks own forwards (I still refuse to call Horford a center, but that’s a point for another day), Al Horford, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith. The problem is, this three amigo setup is working off of just two amigos…and that just ain’t right. But let’s check ‘em out so we can see who’s MIA from the set:
Al is easily and obviously the most rugged of the three. He’s the tallest, though not by much at all, the strongest, and probably the heaviest (though again, by a slight margin). He does the best dirty work. He’s the most fundamentally sound when it comes to rebounding and post defense. He may be the best passer of the three, though Josh has some definite skill in that area. Al is a rock. And lately, he’s blossomed into that which some people saw in him before he was drafted. While having a solid, but otherwise unspectacular season, Horford has suddenly blown up, with some very nice production. In his last 8 games, Horford has had 5 double-doubles, a 16 and 8, 14 and 6, and a 4 and 6 performance (against Portland, where the entire team struggled). In those 5 double-double games, Horford averaged 18 ppg and 14.8 rpg. Heady stuff, particularly if he can keep it up.
Our second Amigo, Marvin Williams, has also increased his production of late. His shooting stroke is the sweetest of the three, and has legit range to out beyond the arc. Marvin is clearly not the player he was the three preceeding years. He now drives to the basket well, taking much better angles than before, and finishing in traffic nearly as well as he does on the break. His first step is now deceptively quick, and rather long, surprising opponents and fans alike. In Marvin’s last 5 games, he has averaged 20.6 points and 6.4 rpg. Not to mention, Marvin has played some very good defense, including against opponents like King James himself. As it stands right now, Marvin looks to be the clearest and most reliable scorer outside of Joe Johnson right, and the one most likely to tag a defense with 20-30 points…if he’s given the ball enough. Make no mistake, he is both consistent and efficient. Marvin has never taken more than 17 shots in a game all season long. Here are a few facts about Marvin this season: He has only taken 13 or more shots (17 being the high, and that only 3 times) 18 times. Of those 18 times, not once did he fail to score in double figures. Let’s broaden that a bit to give it even more perspective. Marvin has taken 10 or more shots in 34 games. Only 4 times did he fail to score in double figures, and two of those were 9 point offerings. Consistency, thy name is Marvin. And if this trend continues, along with a change in the way the Hawks play the game, you may be looking at Marvin, not Bibby, as the #2 option/producer on offense.
So much for our first two Amigos, who have obviously shown up and showed out. That makes the third and final Amigo our missing guy, Mr. Josh Smith. His stats are nigh unmentionable, but for the analogy to be complete, I have to mention them anyway. While it may not seem fair, we’re going to go back 10 games on Josh just to get this into perspective, since I believe that his last truly good game was a 16 point, 15 rebound effort against the L.A. Clippers. Since then, only one game has seemed decent to me, and that was the 14 point, 8 rebound performance against Miami. So, in this 10 game span, Josh Smith has averaged 11.6 points and a perplexingly anemic 3.9 rebounds per game. That’s right, 3.9. Yeah, I did the math, like, 5 times to make sure I was seeing it right (no, I wasn’t counting up just the offensive rebounds). I’ll bet some of you won’t protest so loudly in retrospect to my incredulous diatribe about that L.A. Lakers game, in which he snagged 0 rebounds, huh? Add this to an even more confusing and sudden inability to hit free throws, and somebody should be putting this guy’s face on the side of a milk carton.
So what gives? Coaches, teammates, and fans seem to be at somewhat of a loss to explain this dire phenomenon. After all, Josh is the highest and most explosive leaper of the three amigos for certain. And he has shown more than once that he can be very hard to deal with on both ends of the floor when he wants to, when it comes to rebounding, scoring, or defense. Josh may not possess the body-up, toe-to-toe defensive capability of Horford, or the laterally quick and lengthy perimeter and sideline defense of Marvin, but he’s still the Hawks’ scariest defender. Why? Two things. One, if he gambles and makes the steal (especially in the backcourt), just hang it up. He’s gone and you won’t catch him if he gets even a half step on you. And two, this guy will block anybody’s shot, from anywhere on the court. He measures people. He baits them into shots. He will catch you on the break, even if you THOUGHT you were five steps ahead. He’ll get you from the weak side, even though you swore you saw him on the other side of the court right before you turned your back and did your spin move. And when you let the ball go in the air, and see him take flight…you know…it’s already over. Not only that, but when he gets the ball and is in a groove (read: minimal perimeter scoring attempts and maximum rim attacks), he can be nearly impossible to stop.
The Hawks are going on a tough stretch run through the month of March. Out of the next 14 games, only one team does not pose a serious threat on the boards, and that is Sacramento. Perhaps Dallas could be considered a second, but I wouldn’t bank on that, especially since Mark Cuban’s latest ultimatum to his players. Every other team has the capacity, if not the reputation, for either competing hard with, or dominating opposing teams on the glass. And for the Hawks to have a chance at surviving this stretch, let alone doing well in it, they have to be able to hold their own in the rebounding category. Up next are Charlotte and Detroit, neither of which suffer fools gladly on the glass.
Consider that Coach Woodson is likely to hold to his 8 man rotation, so no backup is coming. If the third Amigo doesn’t get his act together and get on the set quickly, this happy, feel good comedy could turn into a sad slapstick also-ran in no time flat.