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.