Season opener

The NBA regular season opens tomorrow evening with three games, and you can bet the vote getter for “headliner” is Boston vs. Miami. For Hawks fans, however, things get kickstarted on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, whom the Hawks also faced during the preseason.

The preseason affair may or may not be an indication of how the Hawks will do in their opener. A high scoring loss marred by both a massive amount of turnovers and haphazard defense is something that neither the team, coaches, or fans want to see again. At the same time, there were things in that game that we’d all like to see, such as Jeff Teague’s aggressiveness, Zaza Pachulia’s committment to the glass on both ends, and Marvin Williams playing quite well. That said, let the series of experiments begin. It all starts with whether or not Larry Drew can get more out of this core of players. But as always, the devil is in the details. Here are a few things to consider.

A tale of three captains

Joe Johnson sees a lot. He knows this team. He knows what ails this team, and was known (and criticized) for saying so during post game commentary. The problem is, he’s right. The Hawks don’t play hard every night, they don’t play hard all game long sometimes, and they have issues dealing with serious adversity. Al Horford feels the same way about these issues, and he is beginning to express his concerns more vividly, now that he too, is a team captain. But what of Josh Smith, the third team captain? While he has an affinity for the defensive end of the floor, he doesn’t always focus on the offensive end the way he should. More importantly, does he share the same view as his fellow team captains on attitude, work ethic, etc? We are already hearing some of the same exact stuff as we did last year, in regard to the shortfalls of this team. But Josh tells us not to worry.

What happens when these three guys aren’t on the same page? ARE they on the same page? Many have questioned Larry Drew’s decision to name three team captains, let alone naming the emotional and still maturing Smith.

 

The future is…not yet

Despite being given the chance to win the starting job from Mike Bibby, Jeff Teague will begin the season coming off the bench. Chalk it up to lack of consistency. Whether that is from Teague spending much of the preseason on the bench with injuries, his youth and inexperience, or the continual question of his passive-aggressive mindset. Whatever it is, Teague has time to get it together, but who knows exactly how much time. One thing is for sure – the Hawks know that Mike Bibby is not as capable as he once was, and Teague provides the speed and potentially the defensive edge that the Hawks need at the point guard position. He’ll get some serious minutes, but what will he do with them? Atlanta already has one starter with a passive mindset and they don’t need another, least of all at that position. Teague can’t continue to be a guy that his teammates and coaches must constantly coddle. Either he steps up and shows that he can get the job done, or he doesn’t. In which case, the Hawks continue to be haunted at the point guard spot, forever trying to find that player who represents both now and the future.

Though Larry Drew maintains that he seems him as a shooting guard, keep an eye on Jordan Crawford. You just never know how these things turn out.

 

This and That

_ Josh Powell may be the first guy the Hawks have had at power forward, that allows Josh Smith to be out of a game without it hurting too much. Powell appears to be the kind of low post team-first and tough guy the Hawks have been needing for what seems like forever. Much is made of the results of minimum contracts, but Powell may yet debunk the bemoaning of such moves.

_ This has been said before, but I don’t think there is enough emphasis placed on it. Simply put, the Hawks have also been saddled with the fact that Zaza pachulia was their only option at center if Horford is out of the game. Despite whatever issues he had with former coach Mike Woodson, this has worked to his favor. Zaza had better hope his head is as clear and his zeal renewed as he says, because Jason Collins looks like a totally different player than last year. And again, if Etan Thomas shows he can stay healthy and be effective, he’ll also be vying for playing time. Zaza can’t afford to have lapses or bad games. Or, he’ll lose minutes.

_ What’s up with the Hawks and Al Horford’s contract extension? Al says he isn’t surprised by the way things are going, and that has to make you wonder how this is going to turn out. We know that the Collective Bargaining Agreement is due for a re-hash, but we also remember Josh Smith getting an extension offer the year before he became a restricted free agent. Is this that different? Will the Hawks wait until the last day, then make a low ball pitch to superagent Arn Tellem, or will they “git ‘er done?” Meanwhile, Horford says he’s not worried. Well of course not. Horford knows his value, and knows he won’t be hurting for a job. We shouldn’t worry either.

 

Should we?

136 comments Add your comment

woodie

October 25th, 2010
9:52 pm

I saw Josh Powell play in high school at Riverdale. He was good but had a laziness about him- he didn’t work that hard. I hope he has become more aggressive. By the way Riverdale’s best player was Chris McFarlane fo what it’s worth.

O'Brien

October 25th, 2010
9:53 pm

Ray,

That was my concern with naming 3 captains out of a 5 man starting lineup. Will they be on the same page? When things are going bad on the court, who does Bibby and Marvin turn to? Does marvin look to Josh while Bibby looks to JJ?

I understand that LD wanted to help Josh with his issues on the court, but to me, it is also telling that LD thought the best way to get Josh out of his bad habits was to make him team captain.

Whatever happened to a coach telling a player “Dont do that anymore, or else..”

BrittishAnger

October 25th, 2010
9:55 pm

jhan

October 25th, 2010
9:57 pm

What’s up Big Ray? Nice blog topic once again. Never been first before – should I be excited?
I think Josh needs to really grow up this season. He’s a vet & captain that needs to be consistently good every night. No more whining & crying – just production at an All-Star level.

I look (hope) for Teague to become a steady contributor after about 25 games. He needs to come through for this team to be successful. I don’t see Jordan Crawford being any kind of answer at the point. I wouldn’t be suprised if he played plenty this season – at the expense of Mo & Marvin if I had to guess. JJ could see plenty of time at SF – something Doc & I have agreed on for several seasons now.

Watch for good production from ZaZa also. I think he will be very solid off the bench. Could possible average 15 – 20 minutes per game.

Not worried about Al’s extension one bit. They will make it happen – they really have no other choice. Unless they decide to trade Josh, Jamal or Marvin for a center. No way they let this kid walk.

O'Brien

October 25th, 2010
9:58 pm

As for ZaZa, i think he is a good backup center. The problem is, (imo), he is not a good backup for the Hawks.

Our frontcourt is small, and we need a backup center who is physical, or has size, and can play better defense. ZaZa’s best defense is to foul you. But that’s all we have for now.

As for teague, we should know a lot more about him by the All-Star break. Like AJ says, its not necessarily about him taking the starting spot. The issue will be will he earn 24 mpg on a nightly basis, even if its off the bench.

[...] Season openerAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Al Horford feels the same way about these issues, and he is beginning to express his concerns more vividly, now that he too, is a team captain. …and more » [...]

doc

October 25th, 2010
10:47 pm

steve brown

October 26th, 2010
8:34 am

An undersized NBA point guard who can’t shoot from the outside can still be a real asset, to a YMCA pick-up team.

nunna!!

October 26th, 2010
8:34 am

Always enjoy you insights BIG RAY,
i see things a lot different than most on here.
1.People will have to respect our offensive players more with the new offensive scheme..
(people are always talking about how we’re gonna be able to defend others but im glad that now,our opponents will have to lock in on our offensive strengths as well..Horford’s game,josh when he is down low and slashing,joe,jamaal,then don’t forget when he’s on we’ve got marvin,powell is ok i guess,and we still have bibbs and teague off the dribble and his speed..)

2.this team will be “Denver of the 80’s East”..
(i see us scoring over 115 ppg most of the season with the offensive players we have now,its what we give up that bothers me)..

3.jamaal will do a lot of showboating and reaching that will cause all to question his agenda this year..(there is a reason that this guy has been bouncing from teams,and it seems that if he is pouting about something-like a contract extension-he is gonna give u what he wants and not what the team needs..having said that,i just don’t trust jamaal at all this year without his extension..) i hope im wrong

4.i see us winning 48 games this year but being better than years past and going further into the playoffs..yes i think we’ll lose either in the 2nd round or the conference finals by upsetting miami and playing either orlando or milwaukee(my sleeper for the east finals) but we’ll be more competitive and with the trades we’re gonna make during the season before the deadline,we’ll be even better

nunna!!

October 26th, 2010
8:41 am

teague will be successful mr.steve brown if and only if,he plays to his strengths and not try to do things he know that he can’t do!!
he has to forget the outside shot period!!
forget about trying to make people play him honest..if he is open and beyond the 3point line he must drive to the hope and either dish or float one or lay it up,its as simple as that..let him draw contact,get fouled and go to the line,because he is an outstanding free throw shooter..attacking the paint with his speed is his major strength,and he should not shy away from it..it should be a major part of his limited offensive arsenol..

nunna!!

October 26th, 2010
8:53 am

another thing about teague is that if he plays like i said in the earlier post at 8:41am,he will be responsible for at least 20-25 percent of all our points..
his assists should be in the 10-15per game range..he should be at the line at least that many times as well..and with the floaters,layups,dunks,from fast breaks and steals that should equal another 6-12 points on different nights,he should help us score 50ppg..on a nightly basis..

and that is if,and only IF he has the ball in his hands..

steve brown

October 26th, 2010
8:59 am

nunna!!-hope you are right.

i_am_soulstar

October 26th, 2010
9:43 am

The PG position can be effective, as Bibby’s veteran savvy is needed in games where the other team has no real point guard threat, and Teague’s quickness is needed for teams with quick point guards, so this may come down to Drew’s coaching more than anything. Teague is like a point guard version of rookie Josh Smith… all the right tools, someone just has to show him how to use them.

Jamal Crawford’s most efficient basketball is driving the lane and getting to the free throw line, not jacking up contested 3 pointers from Centennial Olympic Park. If he continues making regular trips to the charity stripe, that’ll go a long way. And he can, because NOBODY can guard him.

If Jordan Crawford becomes efficent, one great thing about this offense is that it easily allows JJ to move over to the 3. And with JJ showing the world that he can guard Lebron the other night, I don’t see him having problems with any other 3 in the league (besides maybe Carmelo).

Josh Powell is the best backup PF we’ve had in awhile. We give alot of crap to Sund, but some credit must be given for his under-the-radar offseason acquisitions.

Jason Collins showed up ready to contribute! Nothing more to say.

Rufus1

October 26th, 2010
10:24 am

WE win 55 Games!!!!

2 Reasons….

1)4th QT scoring breakdowns will be limited and that cost the Hawks about 4-5 games.

2)LD will not allow the opposing teams PG to destroy Bibby for 35 min…He will play teague for defensive, that cost us 4-5 games(3 games against the Knicks)

Jamillion

October 26th, 2010
10:30 am

I personally think the move the hawks can & should make but won’t. Though it will save this franchise, bring in a championship buzz for the next couple of years, and make us a title contending team. I would trade Al, two first round picks, mo evans, and possibly bibby or second round pick for melo and birdman .Then sign dampier. Melo a do the deal for it would be the best team he’s ever been on, he’ll get his money before the new collective agreement& and his wife can persue her music in the music capital. We won’t have to over pay the 7th best pf to play like the 6th best center.And our bench a be legit wit bird,jamal, marv,z,jc2& bibby.It’s there for the taking denver wants a good big

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
10:30 am

Maybe while the Suns are loading up on middling perimeter players, we can convince them to take Crawford for Nash :lol:

In all seriousness, Nash was the league’s best PG last year, and he will be in the top 3 again this year. Writing off any team with him on it is stupid. If there were a way to bring him here without having to give up JJ or Al, I’d do it, no matter what combination of players we needed to use to seal the deal. Reuniting Nash and JJ now that JJ has matured into a true #1 option would just make the Hawks impossible to stop on offense. And the plus side is that our perimeter defense probably wouldn’t get any worse…I’d have said Bibby > Nash defensively a year ago, but not now. And Nash > Crawford defensively simply because Nash tries.

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
10:48 am

As for prediction…I always prefer to give a range rather than a specific number.

My “top” number is 56 wins. That’s if JJ looks as good in the offense for the whole year. as he did against the Heat last week, and the rest of the team commits to it too (which I honestly think will happen as long as JJ and Al do). Also, the team would need to stay quite healthy, with no major injuries to Joe, Al, and Josh. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Josh needs to buy into the offense way more than he did during preseason. If all those things happen, though, the team could challenge for a top 3 seed again.

My “bottom” number is pretty low – I’d say 41 or 42 wins is worst case scenario. That’s what would happen if any of the following happened: 1) We lost JJ for a significant (ie 15+ games) chunk of the season, especially early in the year while we’re trying to learn the offense; 2) We lost Al for a major (ie 25+ games) chunk of the season; or 3) one or more major rotation players regularly ignores the offense and does his own thing. Based on what I saw in the preseason, the most likely culprit is Josh. This was the most troubling thing I read all preseason:

Against the Heat, Smith launched a jump shot early in the game on a play that called for him to work in the post. He also attempted a 3-pointer late in the game.

Each time Smith takes a bad jumper, Drew is there to let him know about it. Smith doesn’t always appreciate the feedback.

“He snarled at me a little bit early in the game yesterday, but I was fine with it,” Drew said. “I want him to establish himself down low. I don’t want him to rely on making perimeter shots.”

The biggest risk of running a flex offense is that the system breaks down if one player doesn’t do what he’s supposed to. If Josh stays on the perimeter when he’s supposed to be on the block, or if he launches midrange jumpers instead of working through the system to create a higher-percentage shot, it breaks down. What’s more, if one of our captains snarls at his coach for having the audacity to tell him to not take shots that he missed 71% of the time last year, then tensions will mount in the locker room.

Also, if Teague goes half the season or more without finding his rhythm offensively (which would necessitate leaving Bibby on the floor longer), that’ll shave a good 4-7 wins from our total. But in the regular season, I don’t expect that alone to be enough to derail us completely.

So my range of 41-56 wins sounds like hedging, I know, but I honestly think there are too many variables floating around this season to be more specific. But for what we saw/heard from Josh in the preseason, I’d probably make the range 45-56, but I can’t pretend it’s not a potential issue. It’ll be a veeerrrry interesting first few weeks…

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
10:50 am

Whoops, the “Against the Heat” paragraph shoulda been italicized too. Here’s that article:
http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-hawks/sluggish-hawks-lose-to-688415.html

newkid

October 26th, 2010
10:56 am

doc, because the Suns are in re-build mode (Nash clearly recognizes this), could now be the time for Sund to pitch a Marvin/Jamal/Bibby/1st for Nash & Hedo? Hawks concede defense at SF and a pick; Phoenix gets a very young SF/PF at reasonable price to help with re-building, salary relief, and a mid-round 1st. Hawks get real firepower @ SF and the point guard that could take them to the next level (while continuing to develop JQuick); and Nash gets yet another opportunity to possibly go deep into the playoffs over the last couple years of his career.

newkid

October 26th, 2010
11:01 am

Sorry Niremetal, didn’t see your 10:30 a.m. post before pressing enter at 10:56 a.m. Seems we’re thinking along similar lines with regard to Nash.

Clear the cold outta your eyes

October 26th, 2010
11:15 am

Boy Oh Boy! Nunna were you drinking when you wrote that 3 page dissertation! I hope you’re right though but I don’t see it and I do have my eyes open. Barring injuries on other teams, i.e. Miami, Boston, Orlando, Milwaukee. The Hawks will fall in line behind these teams and you may be able to throw in Chicago. Again, barring injuries on these other teams. Oh, also of course barring injuries on the Hawks.

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
11:29 am

newkid,

If Nash were traded, I’m pretty sure Robert Sarver would be forced to go hide in a cave for the rest of his life. That was wishful thinking on my part. Nash is beloved in Phoenix in a way that is impossible to understand unless you live there, from what I’ve gathered. Even if the team is rebuilding, I can’t fathom Nash being traded unless he demands a trade…and since he has built such close ties to the community, I can’t see him demanding a trade.

O'Brien

October 26th, 2010
12:51 pm

When Nash signed his extension, I think he knew that a rebuilding was possible (given Amare’s pending free agency). And I doubt they would trade him. Even if they lose 40 games, it will probably still be an exciting 40 games.

nire,

I didnt like that from Josh either (bad shot, snarling at the coach). And I also dont like his response to the preseason (unlike JJ and Al).

I wonder how many teams in the NBA have 3 captains? Better yet, how many teams have 2 captains?

As for win range, my guess is 47-52.

newkid

October 26th, 2010
1:40 pm

Maybe (wishfully thinking here) Sarver pulls a Pete Babcock (remember the Dominique trade?).

Astro Joe

October 26th, 2010
1:58 pm

My range is 45-52. My best guess is 48. And as I said on MC’s blog, LD will be fine as a coach, but the “sacred core” will be exposed as not being quite as divine as Sund/ASG seem to believe. I’d like to think that the team will get beter as the season progresses, but frankly, I have always doubted their mental make-up. If things don’t go well in the first 25-30 games, we could be looking at an epic melt-down of selfish play and in-fighting. And I have zero confidence in Sund making any team-changing trades in February to right the ship.

http://www.hoopinionblog.com/?gcid=C12289×022&gtkw=Hoopinion has posted several predictions from across the web. It’s a good read (if you’re interested in diverse opinions).

O'Brien

October 26th, 2010
3:09 pm

“And I have zero confidence in Sund making any team-changing trades in February to right the ship.” AJ .

I would like to see a trade to help us get over the hump. The trade deadline is a good time to use the $3+ mil exception we received from the Chills deal.

But I will not be surprised to see the exception expire because we dont use it.

It will be important for the Hawks to start fast, because it will promote more buy in from the players. Also, if I’m not mistaken, the schedule gets a lot harder in December, so we need to be clicking by then.

doc

October 26th, 2010
6:39 pm

nire i agree with ranges but i suspect your range will allow you to keep from being wrong for sure. it is a safe bet and one i might even wager on. 41 to 56 that is the largest range suggested by any blogger in the seven years i have been here. so, i see you have no confidence in this team right now and feel it is a team blowing in the wind.

my range is 44 to 48 with 46 being the target number i see in my muddy ball. i dont see the upside that many speak of primarily because of the learning curve. over 50 is going to be hard to reach. i do see the potential for downside risk especially in regards to what happens if there is a significant injury. i also see better competition from others but those lottery balls do play a role in how competitive some teams stay so that could quickly change like it did last year.

i also think the road will be tougher this year, especially out west. finally, suspect we get the fifth seed, lose home court and are brushed away in the first round unless LD is truly a magician and pulls the guys together to become a machine like they were to start the season last year as they rivaled the league’s best for margin of victory early on. of course the wheels came off and we had a hard time holding onto leads because of poor defense as much as poor offense. if they dont correct the transition defense we are sunk as in LD’s system the number of turnovers is going to go up, as will easy buckets against the likes of bibby’s and jamal’s inability to get back to make a difference.

doc

October 26th, 2010
7:44 pm

too funny, shaq hanging on the rim.

drmaryb (*_*)

October 26th, 2010
7:48 pm

doc

That rim must be titanium! I was looking for the glass to shatter from all that weight swinging on it. He He

drmaryb (*_*)

October 26th, 2010
7:51 pm

I see Teague playing on Rondo’s level. But Rondo has more muscle mass – Imo.
Teague said he worked on his leg strength this summer, because his legs were so tired, now the ankle sprain. I would like to see Jeff bulk up

vava74

October 26th, 2010
8:27 pm

miami being exposed…

bosh is showing that his low post game is only wishful thinking…

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
8:47 pm

Alright doc. 46-51 wins with a margin of error of +/-9%. Better? ;)

O'Brien

October 26th, 2010
8:51 pm

Jeffvan gundy said the heat will win more than 72 games. He must not have factored In adjustment time.

I’m glad Celtics are taking it to them.

doc

October 26th, 2010
8:53 pm

nire rofl, heh heh.

that’s the way to man up bro! ;-)

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
8:58 pm

If someone put a gun to my head (or told me I’d have to watch another Delaware Senate campaign ad) and told me to pick a number, I’d say 49 and the 5th seed. I’d say that I generally expect the team to go about .500 (or perhaps a bit below) out of the gate, pick up steam in December, slump in January or February, and finish with a flourish.

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
9:00 pm

Oh, and my “bold prediction” for a specific player is that Al will average 16 and 10 this year.

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
9:09 pm

Anyone seen MannyT? This was his prediction last year:
http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-hawks-blog/2009/10/21/turning-the-page/#comment-3323

Ray–I could save this for the prediction blog, but let this thought pass through the mind. Boston’s age shows. They play well enough to win division, but not well enough to dominate. Hawks don’t outdo Orlando, but show they have the depth to be a serious challenge. End result–we don’t win SE, but we do have 3rd best record in East after Cleveland & Orlando…winning more games than last season 50 something.

I mean…damn!

vava74

October 26th, 2010
9:36 pm

After 3 quarters, Lebron has now 25 pts on 8-16 from the field.

This can only mean that Marvin sucks and that he can’t stop him after all… :-D

Melvin

October 26th, 2010
9:59 pm

From NBA FanHouse. You may have to overlook the key errors…

“Duffy confirmed two of his other clients from the 2007 draft, No. 4 pick Mike Conley Jr. of Memphis and No. 14 selection Al Thornton of Washington also will not sign extensions by Monday.”

http://nba.fanhouse.com/2010/10/26/greg-oden-to-be-restricted-free-agent-next-summer/

O'Brien

October 26th, 2010
10:02 pm

Miami is missing miller, because he is their best shooter. Lebron needs him to knock down those open shots.

I hope hawks are watching Boston’s defense and intensity.

niremetal

October 26th, 2010
10:05 pm

Wow, the refs are doing a late-breaking job on the Celts.

vava74

October 26th, 2010
10:06 pm

where is Shaq protecting the rim? :-D

vava74

October 26th, 2010
10:10 pm

yeah, great refereeing… I guess that Miami being wiped off the floor by a geriatric ensemble is not good for business and the refs have to make it at least close…

MannyT

October 26th, 2010
10:23 pm

I’m shocked, the Heat won’t go 82 – 0.

What will the glamour boys…er Heat do? 8-O

It’s all about the games, not the summertime decision!

MannyT

October 26th, 2010
10:27 pm

Looking 4 me and time machine of sports predictions…on the way in a few minutes…after watching Stern do his thing as Rev. Ringman.

MannyT

October 26th, 2010
10:30 pm

The things you cannot do, but would laugh to see.

Phil accepting ring #11…saying one for the (censored) 8-O

Big Ray

October 26th, 2010
10:32 pm

Jhan ,

I think that’s a fair barometer for Jeff Teague. If it takes much more than 25 games, then we should know why, and management may want to look at shoring up the position, especially if Mike Bibby is playing no better than he did last year (or worse). The only other glaring option is Jamal Crawford.

Nunna!! ,

Thanks, glad to see you’re still kickin’ it around here.

10-15 apg for Jeff Teague? Man, those are even above Steve Nash numbers. One thing about Teague’s jumper: he still needs to have a reliable jumper. It need not be 3 point range, it could be a mid-range shot. But he will need it, because the better defensive teams will scheme to keep him from penetrating, if he shows he can be that effective.

Big Ray

October 26th, 2010
10:48 pm

Jamillion ,

I understand the real target is ‘Melo in your trade proposal. But if I’m dealing Al to Denver, I gotta have Nene. Why? Because the Bird man is a bench player and a weak side defender (not unlike Josh Smith in that respect). There’s a reason why he has played behind Nene, Camby, and Kenyon Martin. Over his career, he’s averaged 5 points and 5 rebounds, in 18 mpg. Great for coming off the bench, but not a starter by any means. I guess that makes Dampier the starter, huh? Hmmmm. I liked the idea of Dampier on our bench, not sure how he’d fare as a starter, given his history, but not a bad fit (just lacking the up/down speed and athleticism that our lineup is known for).

Big Ray

October 26th, 2010
10:51 pm

Niremetal ,

Exactly what I was driving at when I mentioned the difference between our first two captains, and our third. Maybe there was more to that particular “conversation” between Drew and Smith, but what we heard was definitely disturbing.

AJ ,

I don’t know how long this fabled “core” has, before a change is made. In all likelihood, they have all of this season. As mentioned before, who ends up the odd man out could be a surprise.

My prediction? 48 wins. I’m sure I’m wrong. ;)

Big Ray

October 26th, 2010
10:52 pm

Not all surprised about Boston’s win tonight. Miami will get better, but they are dealing with a true contender, not just a team that can beat them.