“Remember, Woody always sounds good this time of year,” longtime Hawks fan MannyT remarked to me once, in a response to an admittedly overly exuberant blog post by yours truly.
All too true. I’d been a bit too excited over some of the things Hawks head coach Mike Woodson had been saying (hey, in my weak defense, they were things we hadn’t heard from him the whole time he’s been here), when my fellow Hawkster brought me back to earth. Was I guilty of being overly bouyant? Probably.
Let’s review a bit. We’ve heard that we’re going to run more. Put simply, it didn’t happen. Oh sure, we tried it for a couple of games. Then things got a bit shaky, and right back to walk-it-up offense we went. Again, it’s a debate. Were the Hawks not running because they simply weren’t ready, or were they not ready because they didn’t push through the inevitable misfires that come when a team begins to consistently run a fast break for the first time?
How about the edict that we must find ways to get Joe open? Uh, I don’t know about you, but I still haven’t seen that one. You’d think somebody besides Mike Bibby and Al Horford knew how to set actual solid screens. And I’m not picking on the rest of the team, either. It’s design. The Hawks just don’t effectively use something so fundamental as a screen nearly as often as they should. We ran the pick and roll alright, but I swear that half the time, there wasn’t much of a “pick.” Besides, the pick and roll is not the only time you should set a screen.
Case in point: Why should Joe Johnson be seeing so many double teams? Set a screen on one of those guys, and suddenly he’s one-on-one. Now “Iso Joe” makes sense, no? Seriously, how many guys do you know that can hang with Joe one-on-one all game? Not many, and those that can do it for a time are probably only doing so in confidence because they know that help defender is coming, regardless of whether or not they’re already in trouble. Some people swear it’s the Hawks players that are at fault. Even if that were true, if I were Mike Woodson, I’d be running screen drills all day in practice until it became second nature for the players.
So what’s the latest from Woodson? He wants to get more scoring out of Horford, Williams, and Pachulia. Huh….
Seems to me that Marvin was already set for that early last season. The injury he suffered came late in the season, so in my opinion, that’s not a good alibi. Why wasn’t he featured more, earlier? Two games of the season, he went ballistic on offense only because a key starter was missing. Let me rephrase that. He went ballistic as a featured option on offense…only because a key starter was missing. The debate on Marvin overall still rages, but how much is there to the chick-vs-egg argument? Some contend that Marvin doesn’t get the ball because he’s not aggressive enough. Others say that he doesn’t produce more because he doesn’t get the ball. Yet here we have not just Woodson, but team leader Joe Johnson insisting that not only can Marvin score more, but that they need him to be featured more. If this Detroit model is going to work, Marvin’s game has to come up a notch or two. Whether that depends more on Marvin to get it done, or Woodson to get him involved still remains to be seen.
Then there is center Al Horford, who has been about as close to a double double as you can get without rounding the numbers up. The knock on Horford usually starts with his size. Getting past that, there are many who are quick to say that he doesn’t have much of a solid offensive game. And just like Marvin, Al has shown last season that he can produce when featured. How often was that? To put it into perspective, Horford took an average of 8.8 shots per game, good for 6th most on the team. The good news for Woodson is that his apparent stated goal is hardly a challenge. He wants 12 or 13 points per game from Al, according to this article http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=Aj_Kj71pP3XtC3L6u3lENq5FT74F?slug=teamreports-2009-nba-atl&prov=sportsxchange&type=team_report.
Considering that Horford averaged 11.5 points last year, I’m not overly impressed with the set goal. I think 14 or 15 per game is more to the tune of what we need. Either way, adding in Zaza for 8-10 ppg is going to be interesting. Do you up his minutes, draw up more plays for him, or what?
Truthfully, such goals require a totally different concept of offense, one that Hawks fans certainly haven’t seen yet. Is this the year that what comes out of Woodson’s mouth in the summer/training camp/preseason actually comes to fruition on the court? In the past, there was room for excuses. Guys weren’t ready. Injuries occurred. Last season especially, Woodson was able to fall back on the fact that despite not following through on what he initially said would be done, the Hawks were still more successful than many expected. He maintained that though people may not like how it was done, the got the job done. This season, the Hawks may not meet with achievable success without following through with what Woodson says they must do.
The way I see it, Marvin and Al are two guys who have and always will do what is asked of them. Pachulia has warmed quite well to his role, as was evidenced last season.
It’s always on the players to produce and execute. But Woodson has to make sure the delivery is made. So what do you think? Will the offensive design change and evolve as it needs to? Will Woodson fade back to his old habits the first time the Hawks encounter a losing streak, or ride the tough times out? What has to be done to involve the frontcourt more, and will that come to pass finally?