I’m guessing a lot of folks won’t be up for tonight’s game against the L.A. Clippers, which takes place at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Which of course means that much of the chatter will be based on reading box scores and things of that sort. In the end, all that matters is whether there is a “W” or an “L” added to the record, right? Hah! Now what fun would it be if we didn’t split every hair and dissect every reason why we won or lost, or by how many points, or whatever other details we come across? At any rate, let’s go over Hawks vs. Clips for a minute or two, and talk about some other issues.
Joe’s The Man
If you’ve been reading Michael Cunningham’s articles, you’ll see that the normally reserved Joe Johnson has done a bit of talking during and after all-star weekend. For a sample, here’s a link to some of MC Blog-a-lot’s (copyright, MannyT) latest stuff:
Now we’ve been through this a thousand times before. Joe was brought here to be “The Man”, and while people still tend to argue whether or not he’s that kind of guy, he is our top player and leader, for better or for worse. But lately, Johnson has been less critical and more encouraging. Remember earlier in the season when he seemed to be slinging stones in every direction (except, perhaps at himself)? Quite the little dust cloud that seemed to kick up amongst us fans (but apparently not among the players). Some said that was Joe being a true leader and calling the team out for not getting things done. Others said it was Joe pointing fingers and not accepting responsibility. Others simply fanned the flames wherever they seemed hottest (um, yeah, that shoe fits a little too snugly). You know, a typical day at the blog. Heh, that last sentence was a trip down memory lane for some of you who have been around a couple years….if you have, you know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, back to Joe. I was watching part of the all-star game and I believe it was David Aldridge who was interviewing him while he sat on the bench. Joe was asked about Horford, and whether or not he was nervous or feeling out of sorts during the game. The ever-so-glib shooting guard replied “Naw, he’s good, he’ll be fine. He’ll be ok.” No smirk, no silly Lorenzen Wright style jokes about a younger or less experienced player, nothing. Just support for a teammate who had earned his way to this honor. You could call it politic or diplomatic, but I think he was being sincere. And he was right. Horford held his own and then some in the all-star game. So much so that even the satirical Bill Simmons made mention of it.
But as the article link above will show you, that’s not all Joe has been saying. The man has stepped up and said he is ready to “set the tone” for the second half of the season. Sounds like a man on a mission to me. That’s something you definitely want to hear from your team captain. He’s talked the talk. I can’t wait to see the walk.
Fan In The Mirror
With less than 18 hours left before the official trade deadline, it’s time to talk trade and free agency, only not in the usual fashion. With the Hawks likely to stand pat with what they have, let’s look at the moves that have been made, the ones that didn’t, and do it from a different perspective. Longtime Hawks fan and blogger Astro Joe brought the idea of a ‘fess up session. Who were you lobbying for GM Rick Sund to bring over? Were you calling for the guys we re-signed to sign back up, or were you looking for them to get traded for other guys? How about the guys you wanted here, but never made it? How are those guys doing NOW? Joe says, “Look in the mirror and grade your scouting skills. For example, remember all of the love for Chris Wilcox? What is he doing this year? Wasn’t Garrett Siler supposed to be a diamond in the rough… is he even earning a basektball paycheck? Brandon Bass is MIA in Orlando, would that have happened here?”
And before anybody starts in on Astro Joe, he’s already issued a “my bad” on Jamal Crawford. So let’s get it started. Are you “Fan” enough to admit where you were possibly wrong? Or did you call it right, and want your bragging rights? What about your projected performances of existing players? Did some do better or worse than you’d said or thought they’d do? Let’s here it!
I’ll be the first to admit that I was on the fence about Rasheed Wallace, lightly endorsed Chris Wilcox as an offensive low post option, begged for Brandon Bass, and championed the trade that brought Jamal Crawford. In the end, I was happy to get Joe Smith, and that hasn’t turned out so great. I thought re-signing Zaza was a wonderful thing, but wasn’t too crazy about keeping Mike Bibby around. Both guys have taken a dive in their production. I thought Marvin Williams’ new deal was a bargain. Until recently, it has looked like anything but. That story is far from finished. i hoped for, but can’t say I predicted Josh Smith’s sudden change in the way he plays the game. I did think Al Horford’s offense would look better, and it has. I didn’t think he’d make the all-star team, though.
Am I forgetting anything? Probably. I have enough confessions to make any priest have to put in overtime. If I missed some, I’m sure you’ll be happy to remind me. Heh, heh, heh! Now let’s be nice, guys and gals. This is a confessional, not a dart-throwing competition. However, I’m realistic enough to know that some darts are still going to fly. Let’s just keep the poison off the tips, shall we?
HAWKS VS. CLIPPERS
The last time these two teams met, it was in the Highlight Factory. Final score: Hawks 103, Clippers 97. The Clippers big man duo of Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby combined for 30 rebounds as L.A. pounded us on the boards, nullifying a very solid effort by our starting frontline, which featured 10 rebounds each from Horford/Smith/Williams. However, L.A. committed several more fouls and couldn’t overcome the lethal combination of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, who combined for 56 points all by themselves.
Fresh off a trade, the Clippers look different, and it expects to show in the post. Gone is Marcus Camby, along with his 12 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game, along with his defense. In place of him is Steve Blake, who may or may not see decent playing time behind starter Baron Davis. Also added to the mix is Travis Outlaw, who will compete with a small forward-by-committe that features Rasual Butler and Al Thornton. Did the Clippers get better or worse?
If you ask me, they’re going to have a harder time defending Smith and Horford now, and they weren’t able to do it all that well last time (Smith and Horford got 16 and 10, and 15 and 10 against them, respectively…though Smith was 6 for 15 from the field). Though Clippers shooting guard Eric Gordon can be a pest on defense, he’ll no doubt recall the 34 point torching that Joe Johnson gave him last time, while harassing him into a 6 for 17 effort, himself. My guess? Things won’t go much better for the young guy. Even if they do, what are the odds that Jamal Crawford would have a bad night as well? Double trouble!
Will the Hawks be fully focused on the second half of the season? How important is it to win a road game (much less out West) coming off the all-star break, with a few more Western road games right after it? Could this stretch of games set the tone for the remainder of the season? Will Marvin Williams continue his most recently strong and agressive play? Will Josh Smith continue to prove that he should have been/should be next year, an all-star? Should the Hawks really stand pat, here in the 11th hour of the trade deadline?