Hawks Party Like a Ferrari!

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!

and,

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:

Defense wins.

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……….

80 comments Add your comment

Wabe

October 30th, 2009
10:17 pm

And yeah Big Ray, I hadn’t really taken much notice of it until you pointed it out. As soon as you mentioned it, we saw JJ backing down a defender, drawing the double, and kick it out to Marvin for the 3 in the corner and then a couple posessions later, he dished to a cutting Josh who found a wide open Horford for the slam. It’s definately a great adjustment from what we’re used to seeing Joe do with all the dribbling trying to breakdown defenders. Plus, it doesn’t take as much a toll on JJ.

Big Ray

October 30th, 2009
10:23 pm

Hawks take it against the Wiz, and finish with a double digit win and century-mark scoring again. I’ll take it.

The defense was better.

I love what Jamal Crawford brought tonight on offense. We needed his quick 16 points, especially on a night where Joe was shooting around 30%. I don’t know which was better, the fact that Jamal shot over 40% from the field and provided a great offensive spark, or the fact that this meant Joe only had to play 30 minutes?

Marvin looked like the invisible man for much of the game, but you turn around and see that he nearly finished with a double double, and very quietly kept his man from scoring much. The 9 rebounds he had really jumps out at you. Normally he’s a 5 or 6 rebound guy. Some of that was due to Al and Josh tipping rebounds away from opponents, but guess what? Marvin kept possession.

Josh Smith looked much more mature. He played quite well, and was a serious hustler on the boards, keeping a lot of balls alive (that won’t show up in the stat book), and challenging many more shots (there’s not almost-blocks in the stat column either). It was also another good shooting night for Smith, leading the team with 20 points. Clutch plays on both ends of the court towards the end of the game, he was the biggest difference.

Horford had a rough game offensively, but he finishes with a double-double again, and that’s what you know you get from him minimally.

Bibby was another bright spot in the backcourt. Savvy as all get out with his passing.

Joe Johnson did not shoot well, but he still managed 17 points, the mark of a truly good player. I didn’t like some of his offensive attempts (there was no double team, but he drove into the teeth of a defense that was waiting on him and gave him nothing but an impossible shot), but some of that was play-calling. He more than made up for that by turning the bulk of the ISO plays into post-ups, which forced better personnel and ball movement, and resulted in a positive net gain nearly every time he did it. And who can get mad at a man who gets you 5 boards and 6 assists along with the rest of it?

Gotta give Woody props. The bench got serious minutes and guys like Joe Smith and Mo Evans had nice contributions.

Big Ray

October 30th, 2009
10:25 pm

One more thing on Joe. He should have gone to the line more. You’d think with the whistle-happy refs, Joe would have had another 6 points on free throws alone…..at least. But not, they want to call slap fouls on Zaza and Smith…

Big Ray

October 30th, 2009
10:28 pm

Another thought on Josh….he got a little excited on offense, turning the ball over with a sloppy pass here or there. But he calmed right down after that, and made good plays. Against tougher teams, he will have to keep the turnovers down, because they will certainly turn them into points. The Wiz are capable of doing that, but they’re not good enough yet on offense to do so.

The Lakers? They’ll kill you with that. So will the Spurs, Celtics, Cavs, and Magic.

Big Ray

October 30th, 2009
10:35 pm

Wabe ,

That was a great idea by Joe Johnson. This is what I meant in an earlier blog when I said there were some things that Joe could do to make the way we play better, despite Woody. Woody likes to call ISO. Joe kept it ISO, but turned it into something far more effective than what we used to run.

Props to Joe. That’s how you overcome a coach’s temerity and need for a security blanket. That’s the mark of a truly good player. Now all he needs to do is remember that, and exploit it against teams that he can exploit it against.

But his teammates have to remember it, too. If they keep moving to spots where they can be effective, then Joe can draw the double team effectively, or score on the block and/or draw the foul. If not, then it’s not effective. Looks like his teammates knew what to do, and I could see Joe talking to them some, as well. Love it….

niremetal

October 30th, 2009
10:40 pm

At least 3 and possibly 4 or 5 of JJ’s “misses” should have been foul calls. Take away those and his shooting percentage looks a lot better, and he probably ends up with 23-25 points. But as you said, Ray, it looks like the refs were too busy calling touch fouls on Josh, Zaza, and JoeS.

Big Ray

October 30th, 2009
10:45 pm

Looks like the Cavs finally found a team they could beat. Heh…the T-Wolves…

niremetal

October 30th, 2009
10:49 pm

Flip seemed tentative about trapping JJ, which led to a lot of easy looks for the other Hawks. That’s what happens when you run plays for the other players. As I said, the moment where Woody shouted for the ball to go to Joe, but Bibby set up a different play instead – Marvin set a screen, Bibby went against it, fed Josh, who got an and-one. Joe played his part in it, heading to the corner early in the clock to draw his defender away from the action.

That’s what our guards might have to do when Woody calls ISO Joe on a play where everyone in the building knows it’s coming…

niremetal

October 30th, 2009
11:01 pm

Interesting analysis on 82games:
http://82games.com/starsandbusts.htm

Marvin isn’t on the list of the 50 “worst value” picks in the NBA today. And that’s just based on his stats, which seems to be the main point of the criticisms against him. Hummmmmm…. :twisted:

niremetal

October 30th, 2009
11:06 pm

Notice who’s #8 on that list, though: Shelden. Just “ahead” of Darko and Olowokandi. Yikes.

Also on the list: Yaroslav Korolev (#23), Cal Bowdler (#48). Dunno how Priest Lauderdale and Roshown McLeod escaped the list. Worse still: Not a single Hawks draft pick in the top 50. Double yikes.

The Hawks also tied for dead last with the Knicks for “worst-drafting team”:
http://82games.com/bestdraftingteams.htm

Triple yikes.

Ed

October 31st, 2009
1:08 am

Very good win but Woody has already shortened his bench and this only the second game of the year. Zaza & Teague got only 9 mins each which doesn’t help either player’s confidence. This is especially true with JT…if he’s going to be a player this year you have to consistently give him meaningful minutes.

niremetal

October 31st, 2009
1:42 am

Zaza was in foul trouble. And much as I love JT0, he hasn’t earned a consistent 18-20 minutes yet. Not with Bibby and Crawford playing as solidly as they are so far. As long as he plays every night and averages 12-15 minutes per game, his development should come along fine. I don’t want to see too many 8-9 minute games, but the occasional one should be expected for a rookie.

KevinA

October 31st, 2009
6:51 pm

Looked to me we drifted to the back court jucking up to many jumpers. Not overly so but noticeable. I see no reason for that with the play of Josh, Al, Joe Smith and Evans. Hmmmmmmmm noticed the FG% for the big’s? Marvin was off some but if they would ran a couple of plays for him to drive he might of snapped out of it early.

Crawford gets much credit but who gets the ball to Evans? The Hawks hottest player? Isn’t it a given you should pass to your hottest player? His hot streak goes back into preseason. No reason not to pass the ball more.

Was coach saving ZaZa for LA? Refering to Al’s 39 minutes.

Still a great win. No big problems, just observations.

KevinA

October 31st, 2009
7:28 pm

niremetal

October 31st, 2009
1:42 am
And much as I love JT0, he hasn’t earned a consistent 18-20 minutes yet. Not with Bibby and Crawford playing as solidly as they are so far.

I agree with you on JT but a few more minutes should go from Bibby to Crawford. His D seems better than Bibby’s. He should concentrate his attention to defense. Seems to me has the best potential among JT/Bibby/Crawford to guard at this point.

JJ 35
Bibby 20
JT 12
Crawford 21

In respect for the vet, Bibby starts, if he is hot me should get more. If Bibby is not hot,
Crawford may get more. On back to back nights the minutes could change also. For JT to get more minutes he would have to explode on offense and guard well. Could happen in any given game.

Crawford should shoot less and work on his assist totals. If he can effiectivly get JJ and Josh Smith a shot at all star consideration with his great skills, I think he will become harder and harder to take off the floor.

I give him the same goals as JJ and Bibby. If you cant shoot a FG% of .450 or better, you need to be setting up your other team mates.

At the end of the day we will not beat the best teams unless we shoot at least .450

Great game with no real problems, just a couple of observations. .

niremetal

October 31st, 2009
8:20 pm

KevinA,

Sorry, but I don’t agree that Crawford is any better on D than Bibby. Crawford always goes under screens and makes no effort to deny penetration. Bibby is slower but much savvier as a defender; Crawford plays neither hard nor smart on that end, from what I’ve seen. Not only that, but Bibby so far seems to mesh perfectly with the rest of the starting 5, and increasing Crawford’s minutes will mean that he’s playing more with the starters. Right now, Crawford looks great leading the second unit and giving us a “different look” occasionally. I don’t agree at all that we should curtail Bibby’s minutes considering how well he’s playing right now.

junebaby

October 31st, 2009
10:46 pm

i get the feeling on a lot of the comments, that they are a little bit hyper-critical. it’s still only the 2nd game of the season, and nothing is set in stone yet. not defensive rotations, offensive sets, or minutes. players are still getting a feel for their games, and only playing games over time can give them that. the more time they have in game situations, the better feel they get, for where to be, when to rotate, where to set-up, etc. etc. jto will have nights when things don’t go his way, he’s not in kansas anymore. i worry about where collins’ mins. will come from, because he will be needed in the future, and i worry that he won’t be sharp! but all-in-all, two good wins, and i’m looking forward to the game sunday night.

Big Ray

October 31st, 2009
11:03 pm

Nice observations, guys.

Of course, if we wanted to be overly technical, we could end each and every opinion with “..but it’s only the second game of the season.” But that’s no fun.

I like a good bit of what I see so far, and while there is always plenty to nitpick about (especially if you’re a serious nitpicker), I feel that there is more to like so far, than there was last year (and we started fast last year as well).

There have been suble reactions/interactions among the players that weren’t there before.

The Lakers game is going to be a serious test for this team, and for the coach. We’ll see what happens.

Ed

November 1st, 2009
2:29 am

In the end, Woody will be Woody and everything will revert back to last year’s pattern of player rotations only with different players. It’s just a matter of time before some of the bench players start bemoaning their lack of consistent minutes and acknowledging their lack of understanding of their role on the team.

Sautee

November 1st, 2009
4:20 pm

NIre,

No disrespect intended, but lately you sound like Ariose when he was Salimfan. ;-)

I don’t know if I’ve EVER seen a player so stubbornly defended, even when there is no need to defend.

So, I’ve decided to call you JJFan from now on. ;-)

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
4:41 pm

Sautee,

I’m sorry, but what? Only one of my posts on this thread was primarily about JJ. And that one was hardly a vociferous defense of him – if you look at my comment on Sekou’s thread at about the same time, I said it was good that he was taking most of his shots in the paint now, since he didn’t do that in the past.

So seriously, what the hell prompted that?

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
4:48 pm

And no, I’m not amused by the little winks and nudges in your post. When the rest of the post is uncalled for, making it look friendly doesn’t change that. Because to be blunt, I’m close to dead last on the list of people around here who bash their disfavored players and pump up their favorite players without cause.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
8:56 pm

Ummmm, okay then.

Well, new blog will be up soon, before the game starts at the very least.

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
9:12 pm

You can’t make this stuff up. Manu Ginobili hit a bat out of midair that flew from the rafters onto the court during a game. On Halloween:

Here’s the picture. And here’s the story.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

November 1st, 2009
9:57 pm

Wait, is this the place to be to blog now? Cause I was getting disappointed over at Sekou’s blog. :( None of the regulars from last year were there.

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:05 pm

Reggie,

Yeah. Think of this blog as akin to Cheers – it’s not as busy as the place up the street, but it’s a place where everybody knows your name :)

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:06 pm

And lemme apologize to Sautee for snapping at him much harder than was called for. Blame it on my continued indecisiveness on who to pick for those last 3 spots in League Pass Choice…

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

November 1st, 2009
10:07 pm

Niremetal:
Okay, I think I’ll hang out at the place where everybody knows my name.
Maybe Rod/Sam won’t be able to find his way here. ;)

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:15 pm

If we’re Cheers, I think I’m definitely Cliff.

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:24 pm

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
10:45 pm

Hey guys, new blog is up…finally. Having computer troubles of all sorts…