Hawks weather storm, enter tempest

Post Game: HAWKS VS. BUCKS

There is nothing like a blowout win to seal the deal. With “win or go home” staring them in the face, the Atlanta Hawks ended a rough first round series with a tough-minded Milwaukee Bucks team in fairly fine fashion at Philips Arena, setting a date with the Orlando Magic in the process.

Rather than spend time telling you what you already know, I’ll highlight what stood out to me most. Mike Bibby did what this team needed him to do most by hitting shots and putting forth effort on defense, and on the glass. Al Horford led the way with his play on both ends, dominating the way he should against a team lacking great interior size. Jamal Crawford justified his Sixth Man of the Year award, played like a veteran, and gained some playoff confidence. Marvin and Zaza played their roles instead of getting lost in the mix. There was more that happened, and much of it will be needed in the next series. For in the amount of time the Hawks took to learn the lessons they did, they’ve a bigger challenge coming soon.

Taking it to the Next Series

The Hawks did indeed learn some tough lessons, and they need to take them to Orlando. You see, 53 wins was almost like a mirage. Were these guys really entering the playoffs as a better team than last year because they won 6 more games? Or were they entering as a more talented team? There really is a difference. We can hash out stats and argue what stat sites are saying until we’re blue in our respective faces (or computer screens for that matter). But what this team survived or overcome many a time in the regular season is what nearly deep-sixed them in the postseason. What lessons did the Hawks learn, and how can they apply them in the second round? Feel free to jump in with your own observations or call me out on mine. For what it’s worth, here they are.

Defensively Speaking

All this time, we’ve squawked and blathered about these guys not trusting each other on offense. Did it ever occur to us that part of the problem was not trusting each other on defense? Has it been a matter of the frontcourt and backcourt not trusting each other, or the other way around? Maybe it’s been certain guys not trusting other guys. Really, does it matter all that much? What does matter is committment. For the Hawks to compete, much less win, they have to be committed on defense in three ways:

_ Players have to commit to playing defense at the individual level. No matter how you spin it, back or forth, so much depends on this. Players cannot depend on  their “system” to work for them. They cannot give 50%-75% effort, then rely on their teammates to give the rest. I realize that some guys are much better defenders than others, and some guys have had some bad habits for very long periods of time. Effort is something that you can bring, and must bring, anytime you are able to get on the court. Lack of effort cannot be made up for, not by the world’s greatest shot blocker, not consistently. Sooner or later, something gives.

We’ve heard Mike Woodson say that he has used the switching defense to hide certain players. I understand this, but the time comes where that will not suffice. Sometimes it happens during the regular season against smarter, tougher, or more talented teams. But it’s guaranteed to come when the playoffs arrive. There is no hiding in the postseason. If you have a problem, it will be exposed, and soon.  

Bottom Line: Each player on a team is responsible for his own personal effort to play defense. Individual plays and results will vary from player to player, based on what they are capable of. Some will make great plays (a block, a steal), others will do things that won’t show up in a stat column. The only thing that truly hurts a team 100% of the time is lack of effort.

 

_ Players must commit to playing defense as a team, which involves constant communication. The idea behind a good screen  is to separate the offensive player from the defender. The defender who is on the ball-handler simply cannot see every screen coming, which means he has to rely on his teammates to let him know about it. He certainly cannot see everything that is going on with the other 8 guys on the floor with him. In the switching defense, communication is especially important. If players do not communicate, they will be lost. One breakdown leads to two, and then the play is well and truly busted. We’ve seen this from the Hawks too many times, and they’ve been through that joke show enough by now, to know better. Shooting your teammate a dirty look for missing an assignment as you run back up the court is NOT effective communication. The idea is to correct the problem, no exacerbate it. This also involves admitting your mistake when you make it, and then redoubling your efforts to not make that mistake again.

The problem with the Hawks has been their attitude. Some guys cover other guys’ mistakes, but don’t try to help and encourage them to get to the right places. They just keep doing it, and then won’t say anything until a post game interview. How is that supposed to help? Other guys make sure they are playing defense, but don’t help out when others are struggling. This is the NBA, which means there are players who simply cannot or will not be stopped one on one in every single play, and some almost never. Help defense exists for a reason. Either players work together and help each other, or the defense breaks down. This includes over-committing to compensate for other guys. There is a two-fold problem here: keep doing this and some guys will naturally slack off if you keep trying to take over for them. And, if you keep doing it, the other team will quickly figure out how to exploit you by anticipating your move, and coutering it with off-the-ball movement and open shot opportunities for the guy you were supposed to be guarding.

Some guys will watch others give a half-hearted effort, and the disease begins to spread. Soon enough, everybody is taking plays off, and guess what? They’re all doing it at the same time, more often than not. The other team goes on a run, and the inevitable happens. Post game quotes? “We didn’t commit to playing defense. We just have to play better defense. We got away from doing that.” No kidding.

Bottom Line: Trust your teammates to bring the individual effort. Help them when they need help. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Ask for help if you need it. Lend a hand when it’s asked for. Observe what is happening, and talk with your teammates about it. Encourage and cajole each other.

 

The coaching staff must recognize what is working, what is not, and adjust accordingly, in a timely fashion. Naturally, Mike Woodson is most responsible as head coach. However, his assistants have a duty to observe the game every bit as keenly, and point out to him (and the players) what they are seeing. We ride Woodson because it took 3 games or more for some defensive adjustments to come into play. By then, the Hawks were facing elimination. Now, some may want to put that blame squarely on the head coach and nobody else. Does he listen to his assistants at all? One would imagine that he does (or hopes so), but what are these guys telling him? Assuming that this is not a pure dictatorship (and we have no credible reason to believe so right now), that means that several guys wearing suits on the bench ALSO failed to make or even suggest adjustments. This is what the “coaching staff” is here for. “A meeting of the minds”, “Five heads are better than one”, and so forth. These guys are going to have to do quicker and more efficient work. More talented teams make you pay for mistakes and bad habits quicker. Players cannot be counted on to counter stategy, largely because they are in the game, not observing it.

The coaching staff is also accountable for making adjustments on offense, and calming players down. When Joe Johnson is struggling, who is talking to him on the sidelines? A coach, or some guy who spends 98% of his time sitting on the bench? That’s not to say that coming out of the game should include a good talking-to. If a guy needs a breather, then let him rest. If he’s out because he’s struggling or failing to get something done due to lack of effort or focus, shouldn’t somebody have a word or two with him? A word of encouragement or a suggestion couldn’t hurt, and it need not take up the entire time the player is on the bench.

Bottom Line: The coaching staff has to have these guys ready to play, and in the right mindset. They need to closely observe throughout the game and recognize what is causing a team to slide, or what could cause them to rise. They have to be fluid and fleet. The playoffs don’t give you time to sit back and idly ponder the wonders of the game of basketball. Correct what is wrong, encourage what is right. Their failure is the team’s failure. Their success is the team’s success.

 

All in all, these three cogs in the wheel of defense feed off of each other. Individual effort on defense supports the effect of team defense. Team defense attitude helps to encourage and lift up individual efforts. Mike Bibby may not be able to stop Jameer Nelson on his own, but if he doesn’t allow Nelson the open shot, and funnels him towards Josh Smith or Al Horford, then Nelson’s shot could be altered or blocked. By the same vein, if Horford or Smith comes and helps out when Bibby gets nailed with a screen, or Nelson beats him off the dribble, then Bibby knows he has backup. When the coaching staff recognizes how the opposing team is exploiting the defense in a particular way (especially if they repeat the play a number of times successfully), they can change the way the Hawks are defending it, forcing the offense to try something else, something less comfortable. It all works together, but effort and communication are at the root of it.

 

Offensively Speaking

We all know that the Hawks do well when they share the ball. We know the fast break only works if it’s kick-started by good defense and rebounding. We also know that this team has some good individual scorers.

Talking about this team’s habitual ISO offense (that would be ISO anybody, not just ISO-Joe) gets old, but it’s inevitable. The Hawks have been slow to make adjustments, but one key to competing with the Orlando Magic is making them work on defense. Dwight Howard is the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second time, but can you name anybody else on this team that is known for their defensive effect on games? Pietrus, perhaps, but he’s not that dialed in all the time. Matt Barnes? Jameer Nelson? Vince Carter??? Give me a break! Those guys can be made to work hard, and when they do, the “magic aura” fades considerably. Better yet, put a lot of pressure on them and Howard will begin to overextend himself, leading to foul trouble.

What ways can the Hawks poke holes in the Magic defense? How can they expose them for the one trick pony they are on this side of the ball, even if that one pony is a heck of a horse? What wrinkles might Mike Woodson and his staff try to put the pressure on Orlando? Playing not to lose to these guys will only result in just that….losing. Play to win, and you have a chance. It doesn’t just require tough defense. It requires smart, aggressive, opportunistic offense.

Is the glass half empty, or is it half full? That would depend on your individual perspective. Some would prefer to see an up and down Hawks team go home early, just for the sake of change being made. Nevermind the details, just make some changes, right?  Others are more wary of such thinking, and are probably just glad that the Hawks pulled this one out, but anxious to see if they have learned their lessons at all. Should the Hawks have knocked the Bucks out earlier? Absolutely. However, that is for later summer pontificating. For now, the Hawks have weathered the storm…just in time for a raging tempest.

256 comments Add your comment

Sautee

May 2nd, 2010
8:32 pm

Ray,

Excellent piece. Well done.

As far as poking holes in their defense….. I think that Horford needs to make Howard work. He needs to hit some jumpers, but when Howard comes out to guard, MAKE HIM MOVE HIS FEET. Even if he gets a block, MAKE HIM MOVE HIS FEET. He gets WAY too comfortable sitting back in the lane.

doc

May 2nd, 2010
8:52 pm

nice ray, nice.

astro from previous blog”

astro:

“Regarding Sekou’s article… we’ve seen this before in other team sports. If there aren’t many options that have been practiced and executed during 87 previous games, is it really a good idea to try to install a new wrinkle in 48 hours?”

yes, a resounding yes, AJ only to add, WTF took you so long?

also seems woody was playing possum a bit when he said there would be nothing new, eh?

i assure you woody cant wait 3 losses before making tweaks and adjustments. afterall AJ, these guys are pros and should be coached up to make adjustments moment to moment, time out to time out; not in games.

O'Brien

May 2nd, 2010
9:05 pm

Great blog Ray,

As for whether or not Woody’s assistants are making suggestions, it’s hard to say. I remember last year in the playoffs, his assistants urged him to double DWade, and Woody refused. Two seasons ago, his assistants urged him to play his bench more, and he refused. And I think Woody is a stubborn coach (like Bob Knight and Larry Brown), who likes to do things his way.

He took 3 games to make adjustments in the Milwaukee series, and he took 6 games (3 games last season, 3 games this season) to make adjustments against the Magic. In this series, he needs to step his game up, because we will need adjustments within the game, and from game to game. His job is on the line, so this series will be his chance to prove that he deserves an extension.

JJ needs to step his game up too. The last 3 games, he goes 6-16, 8-24, and 4-14. He wants a max contract, so this is his chance to show that he belongs in those discussions with the elite guys (which is what he said at the start of the season when he turned down his extension).

Crawford struggled against the Magic all year, so he needs to keep it going, and I say foul Howard early and often if necessary. He sucks at the FT line, and the last thing we need is for him to get the crowd into it with his dunks.

I think Nelson has a big series (Bibby can’t guard him). And if we put JJ on Nelson, then Carter will eat up Bibby. But Hawks need to play good team defense, because the Magic swing the ball around, and everybody must crash the boards.

If we can get game 1 (nobody thinks we will), then the pressure will be on Mouse Daddy.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by theworker89, Lisa Cahone and Mary Cervantes, Michael Cunningham. Michael Cunningham said: AJC's fan blog: Hawks weather storm, enter tempest http://bit.ly/aWoPTm [...]

doc

May 2nd, 2010
9:54 pm

sorry astro, i just saw you mea culpa to some degree buried in the last blog between the 100 dollar posts. surely you got it by now.

And yes, Woody did add some wrinkles to the defense and he did the right thing by not disclosing those wrinkles to the media prior to the game.

yup, you are a stand up guy. when you have egg on your face turn it into custard or something like that.
;-)

[...] Big Ray on Hawks Big Series Victory [...]

i_am_soulstar

May 2nd, 2010
10:45 pm

great point Ray, make them work on defense, and we’ll have a chance at winning this series. Inside-out ball’s tough against this team though. Howard usually doesn’t require much help down low on defense, so if they’re not doubling Josh or Al, creating open shot opportunities usually becomes a bit more problematic.

Plus there’s so deep, it’s ridiculous.

Anyone think Woody may extend the rotation?

You gotta think Jason Collins is gonna see some minutes against Dwight and Joe Smith against Rashard Lewis..

PD

May 2nd, 2010
10:51 pm

i_am_soulstar

May 2nd, 2010
10:58 pm

We can play this game through Horford. Make Howard step out to guard him because he’s such a high percentage shooter, and that opens up the middle and Horford can facilitate from there.

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
1:03 am

Sautee ,

Thanks. Although, I need to proof read a little more carefully. I agree on the Horford tip. Make Howard work, rather than letting him play volleyball with shots at the rim. Now that’s not to say that trying to dunk in there is not an option. Get blocked? Try it again, just don’t serve it up for him.

I_am_soulstar ,

Horford can be a major key to this series, but he will have to be aggressive and creative. Nobody is making Howard work, and he’s getting lazy. Making him work harder also causes him to occasionally overextend himself, which leads to foul trouble. When we beat them, I recall that we got both Howard and Gortat into foul trouble (unless I remember wrong). That was a big help.

We gotta watch for those newly famous Howard Elbows as well…

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
1:14 am

Doc ,

If you ask me, tweaks will have to come “in-game” against the Magic. Even one game later could be too late, much less 3 games later. Wait 3 games, and we’ll be down 3-0, guaranteed.

O’brien ,

That’s been a question in my mind for some time. I tend to think that Woody keeps a tight rein on his position as head coach, but part of me wants to think he has relaxed that. A couple of years ago, he told on himself (like he always does) and said that he shortened the rotation throughout the season. He mentioned that his assistants fought him on that the whole time. What did Woody think he was really saying? His point was, “you may not like what I did, but it worked.” But is that what the media and general public heard? Better yet, is that what Sund heard when he reviewed this (and don’t tell me he didn’t review it, the guy interviewed players and coaches alike when he got here).

I know his assistants all seem to have this resigned look to them, but I don’t want to read too much into it. We can’t get past the fact that the staff as a whole is responsible, but we also can’t ignore that Woody is head coach, and is ultimately responsible.

In the end, it really does fall on him. And he’ll tell on himself one way or the other. I don’t think we’ll ever really know all goes on between him and his assistants, but if he hasn’t grown past the days of foolishly fighting off the advice of his assistants (especially if they are unified in their suggestions), then he won’t last long. Every head coach needs some help, and not just in practice: “hey, you guys go over there and run my plays with the second unit, I’m gonna take a smoke break.”

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
1:22 am

The funny thing is, I think JJ has more to prove to this team than he does to others. If you think people have the “grass is always greener” attitude here, imagine what others think when they see what we have.

Joe’s playoff performance will affect the leverage he and his agent have for this summer. But for other teams? Hah!

Chicago would love to have him, but it’s not because they see him as a savior of the franchise. They already have their “savior”, they just need a star player to put with him. See how that works? If you’re another team that as elements that this team is missing, JJ probably looks more attractive.

Case in point: Here JJ will be guarding pgs forever until either Teague proves he can hold his own at the position in the starting lineup, or we get somebody who can . In Chicago, JJ walks into a situation with a guy who not only can hold his own at the pg spot, but can dominate there (and does). JJ doesn’t have to guard pgs, doesn’t have to initiate the offense, and can go back to shooting or going one-on-one, like he did in Phoenix. He won’t have to play any SF, either. And no 40+ mpg seasons.

Every team in this league that could acquire JJ would love to do so if they have the proper elements already in place. I’d say having a solid pg is the only absolute key element (though having a solid SF, role player or otherwise, also helps).

Am I saying other teams need him more than we do? Nope. I’m saying other teams can make better use of him. Fit matters so much. Fit is the difference between JJ and Wade. Trust me, JJ could do more for that team than Wade could. All because of “fit.”

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
1:23 am

Having said that, we will need both Jamal and JJ in this series, especially if our frontcourt gets stifled. Speaking of which, Marvin will have to be solid every game, and more than that in at least one game. The Hawks will need everything they can get from everybody they have.

doc

May 3rd, 2010
1:42 am

exactly ray.

JSS

May 3rd, 2010
3:14 am

Big Ray…

Fine job of breaking down the matter NOW at hand. I enjoyed reading it…

To all of the regulars and hardcore of the Hawks franchise, enjoy the next round. I look forward to seeing what it brings,,, Bibby, Williams, ZaZa, Crawford and Joe Johnson will have to be consistent and good from the word “GO!” Josh can not overreach, the game comes to him when he plays within himself… Al is Al, he can be “steady Eddie” like Unseld used to be. It is up to the PG, SG, and wing to get the bigs involved, protect them by making their counterparts play some defense and not getting easy offense and in turn they will be fed with a flowing offense.

Well, that is my opinion…

vava74

May 3rd, 2010
6:46 am

Great post Ray, however, I would like to start out by saying that it is EXTREMELY difficult for a player to continue to work all out and give maximum effort when they are playing a system which does not work.

Without giving a pass to the players for their sub-par efforts in games 3-5, I do want to say that when your leader is a blind fool who asks you to march empty handed against a fire line, the effort will suffer.

EVERYONE within the team felt that the switching D was killing us so it was only natural that the players lost focused and stop doing their best.

As for Woody taking 3 games to make an adjustment, you should be more realistic: it took him – without counting with the pre-season – 87 games, not 3.

O'Brien

May 3rd, 2010
7:47 am

Woody decided that the switching defense is the best way for him to hide certain guys on defense. Given that Bibby is one of those guys, wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to give Teague more PT, so that when adjustments need to be made in the playoffs, Teague could be used as a defensive adjustment? Or to provide a change of pace?

But yet Woody talks about “its good to see a young guy like Jennings figure it out so early”. Part of figuring it out is consistent PT, without the fear of being pulled for every mistake. Bibby has looked good so far in the playoffs. But if he struggles (or gets hurt) against Orlando, what is the backup plan?

As for the players, I think the whole intensity (or lack thereof) is on them. Because I’m sure Woody preaches to them before the game about playing hard from the start, playing 48 minutes, maximum effort etc. So I can’t understand why we struggle so much with intensity/effort.

When it happens so much, you can’t help but look at the coach. But I think its mostly on the players. What I will be looking for tomorrow is not necessarily whether we win or lose, but do we compete, or are we blown out by 20.

As for JJ, here is a conspiracy theory. If you’re the ASG, do you hope that JJ continues to struggle? Because that would make it easier for them to justify not giving him 6 years, $120 something million.

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
8:56 am

O’brien ,

I hope you ducked when you said that, because the size of the spitball coming from Niremetal’s general direction will have NASA thinking that we’re about to get hit by an asteroid. And Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck won’t be able to save us… ;)

On the subject of players and effort, we can harp on guys being professionals and knowing what to do. The simple fact is, it takes leadership to drive them sometimes. It takes leadership to influence and persuade guys to “bring it.” If a team lacks that kind of leadership, or ignores the sources that it has, there will continue to be intensity problems. Also, if a team’s leader struggles, he has to lead by both example (attitude) and verbally.

This is one reason why we struggle, coach or no coach. Joe Johnson is the leader of this team, but he chooses to work hard, at least most of the time, but leaves the vocal stuff behind. Does he get on his teammates on the court? Does he insist that they step it up in the heat of battle?

Al Horford does, but because of his lesser NBA experience, he is getting the “veteran treatment” from some of his teammates, though not all the time. The funny thing is, media quotes show him getting full support from Mike Woodson (and Marvin Williams).

I think that as Horford’s leadership role solidifies, we may see less focus/intensity issues, though coaching plays a part as well. But the leadership roles have to change and become re-defined. At one point in time, JJ was undisputed leader and captain to a near rudderless ship. Then along came Bibby, who provided more voice than JJ did, but didn’t always supply effort. Nor did he often get the heat from the head coach, which also added to the attitude problem among team members. Along comes Al, and it’s all too eery how things that were suspected before are now being verbalized…

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
9:27 am

Vava ,

I do find it interesting that when Woody presented a wrinkle to the switching defense, that Joe said the players were all for it, as they knew the present defense was not working. Obviously, there was some frustration there.

I have no idea why it took Woody so long to bring up that defensive wrinkle. Maybe it was because it worked often enough during the regular season. Or rather, our offense worked often enough, that our defense wasn’t bad enough to lose us that many games. And yet, I can clearly recall Woody turning Joe loose on Brandon Roy in the 4th quarter of both games we played them in. We won both games, and both times…Roy was held to a mid 40s shooting percentage. Same thing happened against Danny Granger and Indiana. Huh.

Well, this isn’t the same as showing switch or zone, then fading back and confusing the offensive team.

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2010
9:27 am

I guess extreme pressure does force some good things to the surface…

Gamer

May 3rd, 2010
9:43 am

DEFENSE, DEFENSE AND MORE DEFENSE WITH INSIDE PRESENCE, CONTESTING EVERY SHOT AT THE RACK IS KEY FOR HAWKS BIG MEN..MAKE ORLANDO EARN INSIDE SCORING!!!!

JOE SMITH, ZAZA AND COLLINS WHEN ENTERING THE GAMES CONTINUE THINKING DEFENSE. MAKE MAGIC EARN POINTS INSIDE…NO EASY LOOKS, NO UNCONTESTED SHOTS!!!

THE HAWKS GOT ENOUGH BIG MEN TO THROW AT HOWARD FOR SEVEN GAMES SERIES…

HAWKS PLAY HARDNOSE STANDUP STELLAR DEFENSE FOR SEVEN GAMES…AND ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!

MAKE BEDLAM HAWKS!!!STRIKE FRIGHT INTO YOUR OPPONENT!!!!!

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
9:45 am

O’Brien/Ray,

I actually kind of would be happy if JJ struggled for a couple games and the Hawks advanced, since that would drive down his market value a bit. I like JJ, sure, but only so long as he’s a Hawk. And as long as he’s a Hawk, I want the Hawks to get him for the lowest price possible ;)

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
9:50 am

Here I go with a bad analogy (again), this time from the world of football. If players are not executing the 4-3 defense the right way, I don’t think that you immediately switch over to a nickel, dime or 3-4 package. I think the first logical step is to get them to defend the way they are supposed to defend in the base defense that has been practiced for years. After they do that, if the opposing team is still scoring, then you adjust to a different scheme. IMO, you don’t change schemes to account for your own players’ poor execution. Eventually, they have to show the discipline to execute, regardless of the scheme.

My guess is that the Hawks will be more focused against the Magic, so Woody won’t likely have to demand more focus from his players in the next round. Adjustments should be more frequent as the effort/focus should be there from the beginning.

As I said about the regular season series, Hawks won’t win unless they put points on the board. I don’t think we scored more than 90 against the Magic this season. Orlando rebounds too well to expect a bunch of fast break points. And it is doubtful they will feel the need to double any of our players in the post, which likely means less open shots for Bibby, Jamal and Joe. I expect that the Hawks will play through Horford. If he can pull D-12 away from the basket, our iso players should be able to make it to the rim. If Horford can’t convert 16-18 footers and if D-12 is allowed to leave him and defend the rim, it will be a short and painful series. Orlando forces opposing teams to make jumpers by using their 2-time DPOY to shut down the painted area. And of course, we led the league in points-in-the-paint, so this is a fierce running team against a fierce run defense. And we know who usually wins ths battles (in football at least). If we can’t get to the rim, then we only win a game or two by being red-hot from the perimeter. We’ll need a few big games from an unexpected perimeter player (Marvin or Mo), to win 3 games in this series.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
9:55 am

I think the first logical step is to get them to defend the way they are supposed to defend in the base defense that has been practiced for years. After they do that, if the opposing team is still scoring, then you adjust to a different scheme. IMO, you don’t change schemes to account for your own players’ poor execution. Eventually, they have to show the discipline to execute, regardless of the scheme.

Yeah. Bad execution was the reason Zaza and Al couldn’t stop Brandon Jennings off the dribble. Right.

doc

May 3rd, 2010
10:04 am

aj, yes that is a bad analogy and incomparable in basketball because football is a game of specialists now and teams prepare that way. basketball is a game of professionals doing their best to learn the nuances of the game. most coaches and teams have a defense called the zone, most teams are able to tweak what they do in times of need to get the job done. i mean dude, didnt the bucks turn the tables ob us with less talent and come up with a newly devised system in three days. now is it my imagination or do you think our guys are dumber than theirs so we cant do it. yes aj go back and come up with another of your analogies because most of them work well. this one is off the charts and truly apples and grapefruits.

now why arent you asking along with the rest of us, WTF took so long like 87 games including several against very poor competition called the knicks, for example? why isnt that the question instead of sticking like woody does and continue the same stance even though it is easily maligned. and yes he will have to come up with a new twist or embellish the h]last games efforts and hopefully doesnt depend on the excuse of we were tired after the celts.

doc

May 3rd, 2010
10:10 am

yeah nire effort will work every time even if you dont have the physical skills it takes to do it. that is like asking a mini cooper and a pick up truck to go through a maze and have the pick up stay close. yeah aj an analogy not as good as yours but more apt than the one you used.

O'Brien

May 3rd, 2010
10:35 am

AJ,

Offense was a big problem for us against Orlando because we only averaged 82.3 ppg against them. And we had some of our worst scoring quarters against Orlando (14, 11, 16, 19, 16, and 18). However, Orlando averaged 98.5 ppg, so we still have to do some work on defense too.

As for the 4-3 defense vs the 3-4 defense, nobody would expect them to switch in-season, because it is a completely different philosophy, and some players and coaches are better suited for one vs the other. For the Hawks to change defense, not much is required (as we saw in game 6).

It takes Woody, and execution from the players.

I didn’t see the Magic-Bobcats playoff games, but I know that D-12 was in foul trouble for most of the games. Our guards need to drive the ball and try to draw the contact, and stop settling for jumpers. When we won the game in ATL, it all started when Howard went to the bench with foul trouble in the first quarter.

And that’s the one area of JJ’s game that frustrates me. His willingness to shoot floaters and jumpers, rather than lean in to draw the contact (and to make it worse, refs don’t give him the calls). We need him and Crawford to challenge Howard.

Nire,

I’m with you. As long as the Hawks win, I don’t care if JJ struggles or not. The Hawks need him to resign with us, but I also don’t want to give him 6 years, $126 mil (or whatever his max contract works out to).

From previous discussions, the assumption is if the Hawks don’t make a deep run (ECF or better), then chances are they won’t go over luxury tax threshold. That being said, if JJ gets a max contract, then Sund will have to be very creative to round out our roster and upgrade our bench.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
10:39 am

O’Brien,

I’ve said it before: The Hawks could max out both Horford and JJ and still stay under the tax threshold. I think people assume that the tax threshold is lower than it actually is. Remember that Jamal is a free agent in 2011, and there’s pretty much no way he gets more than the mid-level next summer assuming we keep JJ.

doc

May 3rd, 2010
10:57 am

woody needs to undderstand the magic are more than a one man wrecking crew and exploit them the way charlotte did without giving up as much tot he perimeter. the bobcats are not that bad of a team and the magic made them look very bad taking them in four. we cant allow our focus to be howard and allow him to beat us and make sure he goes to the foul line if necessary. he is good but i dont hnk he is capable of 50 a night as wilt was in his heyday. howard is not of that ilk. if he scores 30 fine if the perimeter is only shooting 35% or less and not getting free looks at threes.

all season long i have not feared vince though he has had good games against us. i was pleased they got him in fact thinking them weaker than stronger. he is yet to show he can play under the pressure of a big game or series. i dont want him to learn on us. overall we can be please one of the losses in the string of victories was against us. that says something there, unless woody tries to play his way, instead of the winning way.

MannyT

May 3rd, 2010
10:59 am

The Hawks glass is getting a soda from a fountain. You might think it’s full, but it bubbles down to less. If you actually try to fill it in one shot, it bubbles over with excess. It is a tricky balance of adding, stopping, & adjusting to get that cup filled to its max potential.

As much as people complained about switching D, the Hawks didn’t close this deal until they committed to swtiching the types of D more often to throw off the Bucks. So in reality MORE switching D was needed ;-)

We need some wrinkles for Mouse Daddy. They have had over a week to prepare. We know they will be rested, but will they put in any new tricks? While we are on regular NBA schedule, we need to surprise the Magic in some way. I’d like to see some more inside out movement of the ball. I could really get into more guard post up (Joe) and more high post offense from Al to keep Dwight Howard a little farther away from the basket.

As usual, I think we are a much better offensive team if we can get Marvin going. He usually has an advantage as the opponent puts their best perimeter defender on Joe. Marvin needs to be the offensive mouse trap!

BWAF

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
11:21 am

nire, that’s the way I’ve always been taught to handle problem resolution issues. Isolate all of the variables and determine where the problem lies. I don’t recall the 5-1 switch being problematic in the first 2 games, even when Jennings scored well. Last I checked the objective was to win not to deny an opposing player great stats. I honestly don’t recall how Jennings scored his free throws at the end of game 5, but that was the only time I recall his scoring making a tangible impact on the game.

doc, we lost game 3 as expected…. I think most of the teams down 2-0 won their home game 3. We lost game 5 when Joe fouled out (which had not previously happened in 80+ games) and a series of bad shots and bad fundamentals. Remember two missed free throws, bad shots by Jamal, a 3-point heave by Josh and a missed defensive rebound off a missed free throw (no switching involved, dudes just didn’t block out)?

If you had installed a defense, don’t you first need to see the defense executely properly before making modifications? Doesn’t a cook have to follow the recipe verbatim before deciding to make tweaks to improve the output? If players never dedicate themselves to properly executing any scheme, then how can you provide a scheme that delivers with a sub-standard effort?

Maybe I’ve heard to many rumors over the weekend about player focus (or lack thereof) from spending too much time listening to local sports radio… but let’s just say that the “road maturity” issue that Joe mentioned after game 4 extended to off-the-court (allegedly). I don’t know if that speaks to IQ, maturity or a little of both. But I was reminded how they were thrilled they weren’t going to South Beach because allegedly, guys weren’t focused on those road games last year… and some were making the same mistake this year (even in Milwaukee).

But hey, it’s nice to imagine that our players can’t be “led into temptation”… and that every poor game effort is a result of something other than the previous late night activities (allegedly).

MannyT

May 3rd, 2010
11:24 am

Not getting into major cap mode until the season is over, but I did want to throw this out there after all of the Joe & his contract chatter. Joe is the 25th highest paid player this season. These things move in waves based on when you are a free agent.

This years cap was $57.7 million while the luxury tax amount is $69.9 million.

28 teams were over the cap, so they had restrictions on how they could add to their teams. Of the other 2 (Memphis & Portland), one player made more than Joe (Zach Randolph of Memphis). Portland is blessed with many young players on their original contracts. 14 teams were over the luxury tax so they pay welfare to the other 16.

When you are bad, you have to overpay to get free agents. When you are good, you can get a player or two because the chance to get a championship ring is the thing. The best unrestricted free agent that the Hawks have gotten this century is probably Zaza X 2. (BK got him here originally. Sund got him to sign again even though I’d suspect there was more $$$ for him elsewhere. It’s not Bibby b/c his contract was above MLE so only the few teams below the cap could offer him that money. Every team could have offered Zaza more than we did as his deal was below MLE.)

Some team WILL give Joe more than he was offered at the beginning of the season (4 yr/60 mil). Will it be the Hawks? Will they give up the sub luxury tax money to get a MLE free agent? Will they find additions to ownership to put more $$$ into the team? (Not calling them poor, but I am saying either Belkin pays up or they would want people to fill that financial gap. Probably several minority owners are more likley than one big money person.)

There will be some spreadsheet action in the ASG offices during the offseason. I’ll pick up this train of thought during canniblogging. For now, it’s all about beating the Magic. Talk to your Wicken, Voo Doo, and cosmic pals, because this will require some significant work. 8-O

BWAF

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
11:26 am

Astro,

Your stubbornness is just remarkable to behold. In games 3, 4, and 5, the switching killed us repeatedly as the Bucks’ guards got into the lane at will. We ended up dropping 3 games to a team with far, far, far inferior talent. I give credit to Woody for making the adjustment. It’s beyond me how you can continue to deny that an adjustment needed to be made.

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
11:35 am

nire, please show me where I said no adjustment needed to be made. I said first, the players needed to improve their execution BEFORE the adjustment needed to be made. And I stand by that. I have no idea how any coach in any sport can allow their players to dictate a strategy adjustment by giving poor effort. It is a multi-step process, but the prerequisite to any great strategy is great effort. Is that even debatable?

doc

May 3rd, 2010
11:41 am

astro says” …..we lost game 5 because joe fouled out?”

aj, you are kidding me right. that was a very strong over simplification of that game my friend. it is shwn because we tore them up when we made adjustments to their adjustments. that hawks team i saw was in desperation mode before he fouled out and was trying too friggin hard to make a play to dig us out of our hole when he fouled out was my take. also we had seen that look on our faces too many times as leads were frittered away by lack of cohesiveness on both ends of the floor i.e no stops and iso plays.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
11:49 am

Astro,

My problem is that you are attributing the Hawks’ struggles with the switching defense to lack of effort. That is an absolute load of $h!t, certainly as applied to the Bucks’ series.

Let me break it down, and you can tell me where my logic is failing:

1) The Hawks were using a switching-on-all-screens defense in games 1-5.
2) The Bucks beat us in 3 games in large part because they adjusted to our switching defense after game 2. The adjustment was to exploit our switching-on-all-screens defense by creating mismatches where our big men were out on the perimeter trying to cover their guards.
3) This adjustment led to many easy baskets for the Bucks, either off drives as their guards took our bigs off the dribble, jumpers because our bigs had to stay back in order to avoid getting beat off the dribble, or drive-and-dishes where our help defenders collapsed on the guard who had beaten our big, leaving someone else open.
4) Those easy baskets were a large part of the reason we lost games 3-5, and certainly the largest defensive reason.
5) In that situation, Zaza/Al/Josh’s inability to cover the Bucks’ guards was due not to lack of effort, but due to their limitations as perimeter defenders.
6) Considering that Zaza/Al/Josh are big men, it is not a poor reflection on them as players that they are limited as perimeter defenders and thus were unable to cover the Bucks’ guards on the perimeter.

Explain to me where I’m wrong.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
11:54 am

Here’s the crux of it, Astro. Explain to me how our defensive struggles were due to lack of execution. You seem to have a pretty strong opinion to that end, but I have yet to hear you describe how lack of execution was a problem or cite any examples where poor effort or execution led to significant numbers of points for the Bucks.

Stop talking out of your ass and say something useful.

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
12:28 pm

doc, was that all I said about Game 5’s lost?

O'Brien

May 3rd, 2010
12:34 pm

There were times when our players did not execute properly (for example, being late on their rotation/switch, like when JJ didnt rotate, leaving Delfino open for 3 from the corner).

However, the majority of the defensive breakdowns (especially in game 3 – 5), was because the Bucks passed the ball until they got the matchup they wanted. Which was a guard on Big.

I did not see First Take this morning, but somebody on MC’s blog said Jamal was on there. And they asked him who was the “teacher’s pet” so to speak.

Jamal’s (alleged) response? “Mike Bibby. He is like Woody’s son”.

Can anyone confirm the report?

vava74

May 3rd, 2010
12:41 pm

nire,

why do you even bother? it’s pointless.

every now and then I still write something directed at Astro, however, right now I only spend 1/10 of the words I used to and only when I am extremely bored.

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
12:42 pm

nire, weren’t the post-Game 3 quotes almost exclusively about effort, energy and closing out on open shooters? Am I mis-remembering those quotes? Or were the players talking out of their behinds?

It seems to me, they were saying “we need to fix the technique”.

I still return to the basic premise of my argument…. effort is a prerequisite to strategy… and the Game 3 quotes from the players, who played the game, in Milwaukee, and who practice the strategy, over about 7 months, said they needed to improve the execution of the strategy. Or maybe they need a law degree to understand basketball.

Is it possible that the lack of effort allowed the strategy to be more easily defeated? Surely, Skiles isn’t the first to notice that the Hawks switch on almost all defensive possessions. Didn’t other coaches notice that during the 82-game season? One of these days, when I have entirely too much timeon my hands, I’d like to see our performances against lesser teams on the road in weekday games. I suspect that the predictor for Games 3&4 could have been found in our ongoing lackluster effort against lesser teams whom we take for granted. And Skiles was able to exploit that.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2010
12:45 pm

Pointless to keep trying to talk to you about this, Astro. As usual, you made no effort to address what I actually said in my posts. You really just read the things that are convenient to your argument, interpret them how you want, and ignore everything else.

O'Brien

May 3rd, 2010
12:51 pm

AJ,

Follow up question. If the players are not executing, should Woody just throw his hands up in the air and say “well, the players are not executing, so there is nothing I can do”.

Or, should he have tried something different and see how the players respond to the change? Who knows, maybe their execution would have been better if he tried a different defensive scheme.

MannyT

May 3rd, 2010
12:58 pm

@O’Brien

Confirmed. Bibby is like Woody’s son. Horford is like the A student. Josh is like the B student/class cut up/most likely to be in detention,

BWAF

doc

May 3rd, 2010
1:02 pm

AJ maybe something more appropriate for them to say is, “their coach didnt have a clue and kept putting us in situations that didnt play to our strengths?” yeah right AJ, what else do you expect them to say except it is their fault since they know whatt here coach is going to say to the press. now go read the comments after game six where they essentially said, “we were given a better formula/game plan that worked well for us considering what we had to work with against what they were doing to us” to paraphrase.

Daniel

May 3rd, 2010
1:31 pm

Ray- very good blog. I think you summed up the situation for the Hawks very well. As most of you know, I am in the camp of effort, communication and defense being our problem all year. We spent so much time worrying about Teague’s minutes or IsoJoe(haven’t heard that in awhile) or “offensive scheme” on this blog, and all along the issues have been a competitive desire, commitment to defense both as team and individuals. The frustrating part of being a Hawks fan has been that when they make those commitments (AND THE COACH MAKES ADJUSTMENTS) this is a VERY, VERY good team. Why can’t a whole group of grown men (including players and coaches) see what works for them? It gives me stomach cramps wondering which Hawks team will show up night to night. Now, every team has good and bad games (same with players) but it seems like a bigger underlying issue with this team. Somehow a commitment to team concepts is lost on them (is that poor coaching? bad chemistry? youth?- I think that is the biggest question that Rick Sund has to answer this off season)

I also think that would make a great topic for discussion, instead of the usual It’s all… fault, fire Woody, it’s an offensive system, blah, blah, blah.

The problem is obvious, the solution is obvious (very well outlined by Ray) but WHY can’t the Hawks see that on a consistent basis? Who is to blame, what is to blame, and how do we fix it? The team’s ability to figure that out will be the difference between pushing forward over the next few years or falling back to the middle of the pack.

What is the answer?

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
1:41 pm

OB, I expect the coach to make adjustments, which is what he did. Ultimately, the hawks were in NO jeopardy of losing in the last 6 quarters of this series. Ultimately, the hysteria of Game 5 was for naught.

And IMO, the nehavior of under-estimating a team and slwo to make adjustments is at least anequal sin and one repeated too often.

doc, why is it that we can use some quotes but not others? If some can use “I don;t care about offense” like it was something other than hyperbole to stress his focus on defense, than surely I can use the quotes of players who may toss something out that may not neccesarily be the truth… right? Isn;t there something about gosses and ganders (whatever the heck a gander is)?

It’s fun debating when we stopped being alcoholics in a land of drunks. Again, one of the final 8 teams and we’re debating how fast we got there. Much beter than debating why we’re not there.

Astro Joe

May 3rd, 2010
1:53 pm

nire, is defensive rebounding part of defense in your view? If so, how about grabbing the defensive board on the missed free throw in game 5. How about Josh repeatedly going for steals as opposed to playing straight-up defense? How about Marvin defending players to drive byholding his hand down to the waist as opposed to being ready to defend a jump shot (I honestly don’t recall specifically which game I saw him doing that a lot). How about Crawford… well, I saw plenty of mistakes from Jamal.

doc, we’re not talking about different things here. They fixed their part and then Woody fixed his part. But you have to follow the recipe first before you can say that the recipe results in a bad cake. If you fail to blend ingredients as directed, you can use 5 different recipes and still end up with a less than satisfactory product. First, execute the recipe as instructed, then, judge the output and make adjustments. You don’t make adjustments based on bad execution.

It’s not that difficult of a concept.

Don’t I need to make sure my child has good study habits before I judge his teacher? Or do I blame the teacher for poor standardized test results even though my child has poor study habits or a 3 minute attention span? Really, this is not a difficult concept. One comes before the other and they both contribute to ultimate success.

Melvin

May 3rd, 2010
2:24 pm

This clown Kelly referred to Mario as a PF… Do these guys even watch the games? How about at least get your facts right if you are going to write an article…

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Questioning-the-Hawks;_ylt=Am6K7yeCtmdL2yzHSUVi2oa8vLYF?urn=nba,238085

Lee

May 3rd, 2010
2:35 pm

I’m convinced the Hawks need to lose so that we get some change in coaching. I like Woodson, as a person and as the coach that have taken the Hawks this far. But he has not proven to be the motivator or innovator to take this team to the next level. And I’m convinced JJ is leaving no matter what, which means this team is worse next season. Let’s get the leadership in here who can win with less talent.