Thirteen games left in the month of January, and only two of them look anywhere near winnable, given the way the Hawks are playing now.
Intensity. Effort. A modicum of execution. Did they leave it all in Cleveland? What has happened to the Hawks? Okay, so I get it, it’s only four game losing streak. There are worse things. But if you’re a Hawk fan, you know what those worse things are, and you fear that they may be coming. In the distance, in between the deep, nerve-bending knell of a fateful bell, you hear the voice of some ancient and mythical Greek or Roman soothsayer wailing, ”Beware the Ides of”…..January? Just what is going on here?
Make no mistake about it, things only get tougher from here on out. So how to stop this shipwreck before it really happens? Well, a win against Eastern Conference doormat New Jersey wouldn’t hurt a bit. It’s a start, but it’s not nearly enough. In fact, it’s probably not even a tuneup for what comes next. Boston. Then Orlando. Then Boston again. The Hawks match up fairly well with Boston, but the Celts are playing good enough to be at the top of the Eastern heap. And Orland always seems to have our number. In double digits, that is. So how to right the ship?
Backcourt Blues, Part II
Right now, Mike Bibby is playing as well or better than anybody else in the backcourt. That is to say, they are ALL struggling, most in more ways than one. Jamal is struggling, Joe is struggling, Mo doesn’t get much PT, and Teague is probably trading text messages with Acie Law, because he just can’t be learning much about the NBA game right now. Jamal seems to attack the best, Bibby handles and runs the offense the best, and Joe gets the most points. The problem is that Bibby is back to getting exposed on defense, Jamal is back to streak shooting, and Joe is back to having to take way too many shots to get his points. Really, none of them is playing solid, consistent defense. And like it or not…in the game of basketball, the defense starts on the perimeter. What to do? How do the Hawks get their guards back in the groove?
The Disease Is Spreading
Against New York, our frontcourt showed up big (well, except the local walking missing persons report known as “Marvin”). Now before we get all down on Marvin, let’s try and look at the situation from all sides (ha….we know better). Marvin is the fifth option on offense, and it would seem that most people, Woodson included, want to see him assume a role in which he contributes through defense and rebounding, along with the occasional bucket here and there. This SEEMS to sit well with Marvin, only he’s not filling that role consistently. Against Cleveland, Marvin showed up, giving Lebron James a run for his money in the first game. In the second game, well, we all know what happened there. Lebron is not a guy you can do that to, two games in a row. Against New York? Poof! Like it never happened. On the other hand, what about the nights that the Hawks are struggling badly on offense, and Marvin’s few shot attempts are rining true? What’s wrong with riding a different horse for a little while, you might actually compete in the race! Sometimes all it takes is a change of pace to rejuvenate things. Nobody said Marvin has to get the ball all night and score 30 points. Is it out of the realm of possibility that he score 10 or 15 and open things up for his teammates?
Al Horford is few things if not consistent and reliable. I like to call him “Mr. double double or dang close to it.” That’s what he does, normally. He makes good decisions with the ball, he fights for rebounds, he defends. The same could be said of Josh Smith, when he’s got his head in the game (something that has happend a lot more often than not this year), only he is more dynamic than he is reliable. But the backcourt disease is a spreading virus.
The complaint you hear all the time is how Josh and Al are not dominant post players. True, but they can score, and have shown the ability to do so. So what do you do when you have good-but-not-dominating post scorers? You get them involved early, and let the offense flow from the inside, out. When those guys can’t get into rhythm, it’s often realized too late. By then, what good does it do to try and get your low post guys involved? Or conversely, the frontcourt has gotten into a rhythm, only to be forsaken for the backcourt, who is ice cold. Either way, it destroys leads and wins. How do the Hawks keep finding themselves in these same predicaments, game after game? The disturbing thing is that it is present in both wins and losses, in good games and bad. What’s most consistent about the Hawks? Their method of failure.
Do I have one? Heh, not likely. But somebody has to come up with one. The team has to come up with one. The team leaders, to be more specific. Some say that the team lacks leadership. The coaching staff has to come up with one. The head coach to be more specific. Some say the head coach is part of the problem, and emminently incapable of providing the solution. Well, the buck stops somewhere, and that somewhere is the General Manager. Identifying the problem doesn’t seem to be an issue. Just ask Mike Woodson, he can tell you what’s wrong after every single game. Just ask team captain Joe Johnson, he seems to always have that answer as well. Or anybody else you can stick a microphone in front of, though the aforementioned individuals tend to be the most…..candid, if I may….about it.
But the Hawks don’t need to be worried, interested, or consumed with what’s wrong. They need to be consumed with how to fix it. Fail to do it as a player, and it assuredly falls to the coach. Fail to do it as a coach, and it will assuredly fall to the general manager. That’s where the rubber will finally meet the road. We tell ourselves one more time, it’s just a 4 game losing streak. We hope that it doesn’t get worse, but never has the potential been better for that to happen, then now. And just think, we aren’t even experiencing any injuries! So how to right the ship before it wrecks? How to avoid that approaching iceberg (they, like trees and telephone poles, apparently have the ability to move into your path)? How to avoid what is merely hypothetical now, become reality later?