Wow, who are these guys?!
As all of you must know, the Hawks opened the regular season with a 120-109 home court victory over what looked to be, before tip-off, an inferior Indiana Pacers squad. After opening a lot of eyes in the preseason, by crossing the century mark 5 times, the Hawks cranked it up like the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets. Was that Mike Woodson prowling the sidelines, or Mike Westhead. For those of you unfamiliar with the Paul Westhead-coached Nuggets of that season, they averaged just under 120 point per game. Unfortunately, they gave up 130 and won only 20 games.
Now, clearly, coming off of last season, where the Hawks nailed down the fourth seed in the East, and had their best season in over a decade, there are no concerns about the Hawks “running and gunning” their way back to the basement of the conference. But the lack of defense, especially coming from a Woodson-coached team (with his track record as a “defensive” coach not only well established, but often times a source of criticism from folks who have believed that the recent Hawks’ teams were built to “run” and were being held back by Woodson’s half-court oriented approach to offense), was just a bit disconcerting.
Now the bottom line is:
1) We Won!
2) It was Fun (to watch the Hawks put up 120)!
So, you might say, “Ando, enjoy the W and don’t over-analyze just one, single game, especially the first of the season!”
Well, that’s what we do here, I say. We tee up just such a topic so you, the Hawks’ fan, can step up and speak your mind!
This is where we get into expectations for this season, which are the highest they’ve been since Dominique was having epic showdowns with the Celtics and the great Larry Bird.
As several of you have pointed out, the Hawks are looking like a Western Conference team, given their performance last night and during the preseason. But the Eastern Conference is known for it’s rugged, defensively-focused style. And the three teams that finished ahead of the Hawks last season are still built that way, with the Celtics, who’ve added ‘Sheed, the Cavs, who’ve added Shaq, and the Magic, who thrashed the Hawks in the final preseason game, and who have a guy you may have heard of in the middle, Dwight Howard!
The Hawks have their most talented roster in close to 15 years. And the added depth of the front court is certain to be of value as we start the season. But we now have a log-jam of scoring guards in the back court, who look like they will be battling each other for both shots and minutes. And how will the front court players get enough touches with JJ, Bibby, Crawford and the Talented Mr. Teague all looking to get their groove on?
If someone told you before last nights’ game, that the Hawks would reach reach half-time with only 4 turnovers committed, and 14 forced, a +9 in steals, 17 dimes on 26 made buckets, while shooting at a 56.5% clip from the field, would any of you (raise your hands, or just feel free to post your confirmation) believe that the Hawks would be leading by only 1 (one!) point??
The track record for success, in the Eastern Conference, is clearly defined:
And while I love a good, old-fashioned, Western Conference-style shootout, I’ve got to wonder how last nights’ outcome projects over an 82-game season in the nasty, physical East.
This is going to be a tremendously fun team to watch, based on early observations. But I think holding on to the fourth-seed is going to be even tougher than cracking the top-three (which just doesn’t seem feasible, given the additions the Celtics, Cavs and Magic made in the off-season).
Rick Sund has handed Mike Woodson the keys to a very, very fast car. But, without the contract extension Woody was/is seeking, he’s essentially given him a one-year lease on the ride. Will Woody focus on showing everyone, Sund most importantly, that he can hang with Nascar’s best? Or will refrain from the tempting urge to gun it every night, and steadfastly seek to park this Ferrari squarely in the slot reserved for the home-court advantage that comes with repeating as the fourth-seed in the East.
Winning takes care of everything, as we all saw last season. But it will take defense to successfully navigate this years’ challenge, with much of the East looking to have improved (as have the Hawks) during the summer.
What say you guys?
Does Woody put the pedal to the metal and dare the rest of the league to catch the Hawks (an approach that has fallen short in Phoenix, Dallas and anywhere Nellie has coached)?
Or does he figure out how to balance this offense with a little (OK, a lot) of his historically defensive-minded approach?
Going to be fun ride, but if going too fast makes you nervous, then this may be a scary season for the weak of heart……….