Well, the NBA preseason is finally here, and the Hawks lost their opener to a Memphis Grizzlies team that is looking to compete better in a fairly tough Western Conference.
I didn’t get to see the game, but if there is anybody who did, please share with the rest of us! What can be gleaned from what we’ve read or seen of the first preseason game? Of course, we’ll go through all the usual motions about how the preseason just isn’t the regular season, some teams are coasting, most are experimenting or trying new personnel out, blah, blah, blah. However, there are still things to talk about. Some of them old, some new, and some are just ripe for drawing premature conclusions. But we love those, don’t we?
It Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Apparently, team defense is still an issue for the Hawks, as evidenced in their 115-111 to Memphis. For all those hollering about Larry Drew’s defensive philosophy, he’s more or less laid it out on the table now. Drew has as much said that camp was about learning the offense, and the preseason would have a defensive focus. Fortunately, he hasn’t been as bland and vague as the “guard your man or else” tactic that some feared he might take. Instead, he has identified the root of the problem, and voiced it. And that’s not all. One of his newly minted team captains (Al Horford) is supporting that by getting into more detail as to what the problem actually is: effort. At any rate, here is a list of observations either reported by media personnel, that I’ve read. Again, if you saw the game, add your own perspective. As we know, things don’t change overnight, much less long-standing habits. And while it’s annoying to see that some issues are still present, other things bring us some measure of hope. Even if it’s very reserved hope.
_ Marvin Williams played pretty good, notching 18 points and 3 assists, while hitting 6 of 7 free throws. He was accurate with his long ball (2-2 from 3 point land), and I don’t know what his defense looked like, but he outplayed Rudy Gay by adding 10 rebounds (Gay had zero), and getting to the line more often than his counterpart. Of course, we’ve seen games like this from Marvin before. Just not all that frequently. Wake us back up when he plays like this on the regular (though the stats need not look quite like that every night, obviously).
_ Josh Smith wasn’t happy with a foul call or non-call. He showed it. Larry Drew told him to get his butt back on defense. I read that somewhere and can’t remember if it was observed in this preseason game, or in practice. Doesn’t matter. How long is this going to take?
_ The Hawks had a 20-point lead going into the half. They gave up over 40 points in the third quarter, and eventually lost the game. It wasn’t just the points given up, it was the turnovers. Yes, there were bench players in the game for the most part then. That doesn’t make me feel any better. How about you?
_ Jeff Teague was aggressive, totalling 20 points and 6 assists in about 30 minutes of work, while hitting 8 of 13 field goals. Three of those misses were three point attempts. He also had 4 fouls and 4 turnovers. Still a work in progress, but if the level of aggression and confidence is there, then that makes the inevitable bumps more worth it. But wait…seems Teague had a pretty decent preseason last year as well. What’s different? Anything?
_ Josh Powell and Zaza Pachulia joined Jeff Teague in the foul trouble category. On the plus side, Powell and Pachulia were pretty active on the glass on both ends of the floor.
_ Joe Johnson and Josh Smith led the team in turnovers with 5 apiece. Tied with them was Josh Powell (Josh Powell?? What gives? ). Yet, Joe and Josh are integral to this team’s ability to rack up asssits, and both contributed in this category as well, as the Hawks out-assisted the Grizzlies 26 to 16.
_ Apparently Jason Collins brings more to the table than just a big body. He can also hit jumpers. Who knew?
_ Jordan Crawford is not shy on offense, even if the results are not unlike those of the “other” Crawford sometimes (5-15 shooting, 0-6 from beyond the arc). At the same time, the rookie guard gathered in 4 rebounds and 3 assists, and committed only a single turnover in 29 minutes of work. Not too very shabby.
_ Did Mike Bibby even play in this game? It says he was on the court for 22 minutes. Maybe that 2 points, 1 steal, 1 foul, and 1 assist belonged to somebody else…
Wondering for No Reason…
….If Jamal Crawford’s back is that bad, or if he feels less than motivated to get to work for a team that doesn’t seem too worried (or inclined) to give him a contract extension before the season starts. Every day missed is a day he can’t get in sync with his teammates. They’ll be in serious game shape by the time the real games begin, if Drew has anything to say about it. Crawford will be behind in the count. Is he hurt or is he just sitting back and seeing how things play out? Maybe I’m just making up conspiracy theories?
….If Marvin Williams will finally make Mo Evans less of a need than he has been at the small forward position. If so, then Coach Drew can use Joe Johnson there when it suits him and use Evans to hound opposing shooting guards if needed, instead of getting into foul trouble against small forwards. And then Evans can take himself and his “undervalued” contract elsewhere at the end of the season.
….If Mark Price has a voodoo doll with a Hawks jersey on it. Price never seemed to have the effect on the team that he was hired for, when he was here. In his absence, the Hawks shot a miserable 27 of 44 (61.4%) from the charity stripe in their first preseason game. What’s up with that?
More to Come
The Hawks travel to Detroit on Monday, and Washington on Tuesday of next week to continue their preseason run. Hey, it’s just the preseason. But it beats the offseason, right?