Okay, so now we know Lebron is going to play for Miami. Talent-wise, we know the southeast division just got a lot tougher. But, if there’s one guy I may not want to be right now, it’s Eric Spoelstra. Now he has two and a half big egos to manage. That’s if he even gets that far. For all we know, Big Boss Pat Riley could decide to swoop back to the sideline to get himself another ring (or three), particularly if the Heat don’t start the season 25-0. It would certainly seem that the balance of power in the NBA has shifted. The irony of it all? Well, let’s just say that in the Southeast division, much less the East, having a center who can deal with Dwight Howard is no longer the biggest issue. On the other hand, we also now know Lebron for who and what he is. The best players in the game, the guys who headline the hall of fame…they work to be the best. They look to lead and will their teams to victory. I thought Lebron would be one of those guys. Bosh claimed to want to be one of those guys. Clearly, neither guy is on that level.
And the Cleveland fans? They deserved better. Oh well, moving on, and I’ll let the real basketball experts say their piece on this one.
With Joe putting the ink on his huge new contract, the Hawks look to push on in free agency and possibly trade exploration. At Joe’s signing came some familar verbage, however. That’s right, the whole business of making sure the “core” remains intact. But should that be the goal? Keeping Joe Johnson around doesn’t make this team better, but it does provide some stability and all-star power. How does keeping the exact same guys around lead to a deeper playoff push? As has been discussed ad nauseum, changing head coaches is only a step in a different direction. Changing players has to be next.
Fix the Bench
As important as reserve players can be, they just don’t play the bulk of the minutes in NBA games. On most teams, the first five are the guys on the court the most. Some teams have a sixth man who plays around 30 minutes a game. And, they might have another guy who gets 20 minutes. More often than not, a rotation of guys playing at least 20 minutes per game each, doesn’t go beyond 7 guys. You may or may not find an eighth man in that bunch, but I think that to be a rare case (research guys, correct me if I’m wrong). So why focus on the bench?
Depth is important, but quality depth is the goal. You need guys who can come into the game and either provide a spark or a change of pace. Or, you just need them to steadily hold the line until the starters have had their rest. In some cases, you need your reserves to fill in when an injury occurs. But, you also need guys that fit your scheme, and bring things that you may not have as much of in your starting lineup. The Hawks need better defenders in the backcourt and on the wing, but they also need some roughnecks in the post. Adding such elements will help the team push farther and compete better. But the fact remains – reserves only play so much. That’s why they’re called reserves.
The Core of the Problem
For the Hawks to be a better team, and compete better in the playoffs, the core has to be better. But how do you make it better? Is keeping this so-called core group of players together the best way to go, or should the Hawks think about tinkering with this group? Like it or not, the five (or maybe six) guys who spend the most time on the court are going to be the difference night in and night out. They will determine where this team goes. The biggest problems with this team are within this group. The players themselves have to be determined to get better, on an individual level. The only other way it can happen is if….
The core is changed. Now is the time to examine this. Hawks ownership and management constantly say they want to be winners. They have to decide if they think they can truly win with the group they currently have. Can they compete? Yes, we’ve seen that in the regular season. Can they take the next step? They proved that they could not do this in the past playoffs. Should they expect different results from the same group of core players, even with different reserves and a different coach? I don’t think so. Even as they evolve, these guys are who they are. Some will get better at who they are, and others will not. Should the Hawks again gamble on certain players simply “growing up?” How do they expect team chemistry to improve with the same group, or do they suppose that all of this comes from the sideline? What’s different about Joe today, than Joe yesterday….besides the size of his bank account?
While the experiment of “let’s see how they do under Larry Drew” begins, the Hawks need to be sharply focused on their top six guys. Where the Hawks can go, what they can do. It’s all about this core. This core, and nothing more.
Should the Hawks keep this group of guys together? For how long? Do you expect organic growth to give another jolt to the team, making them even better than last year?
If you feel the Hawks should re-tool their core group of players, where should they start? Who should they move, and what should they be getting in return?