Josh Smith steps up…and leads

Head coach Larry Drew kept saying that the Hawks would have to win by playing defense, rather than endeavoring to simply outscore opponents. The man couldn’t be more correct, and it looks like the Hawks listened to him when it counted, pulling another victory from the jaws of a potential defeat for their fifth straight victory. A win is a win, but there is always more to take from it than that. How a team wins is important, too. Being tired in a back-to-back game when you’ve just come off the road, your leading scorer struggling from the field, not having the services of two of your main rotation guys – all of these things are obstacles. Figuring ways to get over those obstacles and winning the game serves as a confidence builder, but this is also one of those moments when a team truly gains some positive chemistry.

The Hawks experienced both against Detroit.  

 

The First Signs

No doubt many of us raised our eyebrows at the idea of Josh Smith being a team captain. Why not? His has been a legacy of brilliant plays one second, bone-headed the next. Whining to the refs after nearly every call that didn’t go the way he thought it should. Going for the big play on either end of the floor. Not playing within the flow of the game. Then last season, Josh began to show some real maturity. Still, many thought this was an unprecedented move by Larry Drew.

Tonight was the first true signs of Josh becoming the leader Drew thought he might be. On a night when his team looked sluggish on defense and on the glass, Smith never gave up. He never got overly frustrated, and he never got out of the flow of the game. Yeah, we all clown him about those jumpers. Some of us have always thought he needed to develop a perimeter game of some credibility, but we didn’t want him to try and make a living off of it. I don’t know about you, but those darn jumpers looked awful good last night. If he can hit a couple of those every game, what’s to complain about? The best part was the fact that he mixed it up really well, taking advantage of a Pistons front line that had no real chance at stopping him, and then bravely stepping up to that daunting free throw line. Could it have possibly gone better?

Even though Josh ended up being the go to man on offense, his impact was felt moreso on the defensive end. It wasn’t just the blocked shots. It wasn’t just the challenge to nearly every shot in the paint. It was the man defense. It was picking up the ball handler at the half court line and never giving an uncontested inch of hardwood. It was the relentless effort, the fight for the rebound, and the exhortation of his teammates that got Atlanta back on track. He blocked, they contested shots. He challenged passing lanes, they got their hands on the ball. He led. They followed. The Hawks ended up making the extra effort and doing the things that they didn’t do in the first half, or early in the third quarter. It wasn’t Josh trying to take over on his own. It was Josh trying to rally the troops, and succeeding.

One game does not make a guy a team leader. But this one game showed the first real signs of leadership in Josh Smith. He’s on the path. If he can stay on it, great things are coming. How about that appeal to us fans during the post game interview?

 

Youngsters and Wing Mates

Marvin Williams’ stats for the game may not be very impressive, but the box score won’t tell you the story if you didn’t see the game. Marvin’s rebounding is key for the success of this Hawks front line, which is maligned for its lack of size, but lauded for its athleticism. It wasn’t just Marvin’s 8 rebounds that made a difference. It was his willingness to use his leaping ability and impressive wingspan to go after rebounds that helped the Hawks even up the fight on the glass. Marvin’s game looks the smoothest it has since he’s been in the league, and if he can remain aggressive, it will bode well for the Hawks in every game. Meanwhile, Marvin’s defense has been a good bit more consistent than it was last season. Again, in a frontcourt like this, Marvin’s contribution is vital.

Al Horford shouldn’t be sneaking up on anybody after making the all-star team last season. How did he get 18 points? I swear he didn’t hit that many shots, but a quick rewind shows it all, including a crucial 6 points scored in the final 6 minutes or so. After contributing to a lopsided and losing rebounding battle with the Pistons, Al made some key grabs as the game got tight, and helped the Hawks to a win with his solid post defense, despite some impending foul trouble. 18 and 8 isn’t 20 and 10, but it’s darn close.

With Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson struggling to get much done, and Jamal Crawford out, it was time to see what Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford could do. Both guys deserve some serious credit for manning up to the challenge. Despite facing the taller McGrady and the always deadly Gordon, Teague kept at it and showed some very active hands on defense. Better yet, he showed some of his “hidden” aggression on offense, pressing the attack on most opportunities. Jordan Crawford got beat on a couple screens, but he clearly wasn’t afraid to defend anyone, and both guys made some pretty good passes. Not bad at all, if you ask me.

 

Going Unnoticed

It’s hard to watch Joe Johnson struggle the way he has in the last two games, but it happens to the best players in the world. To Joe’s credit, he never let it get him down, and never really pressed his game too much. Best of all, Joe kept making plays for his teammates, racking up 8 assists with some very timely passes. It was nice to watch him get that “And 1″ towards the end, and I’m sure even he had to laugh when he threw up that none-too-serious three pointer to beat the shot clock in a game that had already been decided. Swish…

Zaza Pachulia’s offensive efficiency continues to fly under the radar. The Hawks’ backup center piled in 12 points, only missing one of seven shots, and that proved to be a major boost off the bench. What’s not to like about a guy who gets the job done with opportunistic scoring?

So….Can the Hawks make it six in a row in Minnesota?

189 comments Add your comment

coachwalker

November 4th, 2010
3:52 am

first? GO HAWKS!

Coach D

November 4th, 2010
3:54 am

FIRST! Just like the Hawks in the East!

Coach D

November 4th, 2010
3:56 am

Just win baby. I hope the Hawks continue to play hard & Josh continues to lead. If they take every game seriously I can still, somehow & some way, see them in the top 4 teams in the East.

coachwalker

November 4th, 2010
3:57 am

and i feel a 6-0 start

Real Talk

November 4th, 2010
4:14 am

They better win all they can now because They will be back to Square 1 after Monday when Dwightmare get a hold of them

Marcus

November 4th, 2010
7:03 am

We go 6-0 in MIN, despite all the early-season injuries. If MIN has M. Beasley @ SF, this thing might be a tough out.

Mike is back

November 4th, 2010
7:42 am

Big Ray, Excellent commentary on Josh…and really great stuff!!

Yeah, I think we go 6 AND 0.

GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

O'Brien

November 4th, 2010
7:49 am

I think Joe is tired. With Mo Evans out, Joe has played minutes at SG and SF. And with Jamal out last night, he was forced to play even more minutes.

Hawks were virtually injury free last year, but so far the injury bug is starting to appear. I hope they can weather the storm.

Ray, .

LD never told Josh not to shoot jump shots. He wants him to establish himself inside first, and then go from there. I’ve been crtitical of Josh and his jumpers, but I must say, he looked better last night.

Great game overall for Josh, and everybody contributed.

I’m happy the Hawks won, but I’m still keeping it in context until they play some good teams.

The Hawks are 5-0 this season, which is great, but except for Memphis, we havent been dominating, and the teams they have beat (Memphis, Philly, Washington, Cleveland and Detroit) are a combined 5-17 .

These are games we might have lost last year, so it was nice to see us pull it out. I hope we get all our guys back before Sunday’s Phoenix game, and definitely before Orlando’s game.

GA Blue Devil

November 4th, 2010
7:51 am

Really noticed Josh and Al taking over the game. Josh rebounds, outlets to Al past mid court, dunk. Next pleay, Josh draws help defense, Al is by himself, Josh gets him the ball, six foot off the backboard. Josh had four assists and Al eight points in a very short stretch to start the closing run. Well done. Yes, I am the one who yells “move!” when the team falls to last years offense, and screams “no!” when Josh lines up at the three. I would like to see this team play some better teams to measure how they really are.

wordsmithtom

November 4th, 2010
8:01 am

Not to worry, Ga Blue, better teams are on the horizon. :)

Sorry Marvin hurt his knee, but injuries happen. Hope they don’t rush him back and use the bench to weather this road game. JS, Horf, and Zaza playing together more minutes with Collins picking up minutes from the bench. Time to go deeper on the bench and let Marvin heal while not overworking JJ at the 3. If they have to eat a loss, better that than overworking JJ at the 3. We can spare 4’s to fill in Josh’s minutes; we can’t spare JJ if he gets hurt overplaying 3 minutes…..

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No Woody for Me

November 4th, 2010
8:36 am

The difference between Josh’s jumpers this year vs. prior years is that now they are coming in the flow of the offense. If the ball rotates to him and he is unguarded at 18 ft, he needs to shoot it, in order to keep the defense honest. No problem with that, it’s part of the the new offense. Much different than when he would get the ball behind the arc, wait 2 seconds and then launch a no-rhythm trey.

Ray

November 4th, 2010
8:55 am

This was a nice article by Big Ray.

My only problem I have with some people is they make it seem like these 5 teams we’ve played are just push overs. Their not the Bulls, Celtics, Lakers, Magic, Heat, or Portland, but their not Indiana or Minnesota. These 5 teams we’ve played some could sneak into the playoffs this year just maybe.

So all in all I give the hawks credit where credit is due cause I could easily have been one of the people that said “This team sucks…..they can’t beat Boston if they can’t beat Cleveland”.

Something I didn’t know we have like 5 rookies on the team go figure I knew of JC2 and Pape Sy, but there are 3 others.

Decatur Native

November 4th, 2010
8:59 am

dude hit solid jumpers last night, I was so shocked to see him play that way, the one play that stood out was when he recieved the ball on the wing fake the shot to draw the defender and then went to the hole strong, he showed me some great b-ball IQ on that play, if he can hit enough jumpers to make defenders have to put a hand in his face it will open his game up as it did last night.

i_am_soulstar

November 4th, 2010
9:09 am

Josh did a great job last night. 2 blocks, but he probably changed 10+ shots at the rim. LAY-UP + FEAR = MISS.. Other than Gordon and Charlie V, no one was confident about their trips to the rim.

But he has to take baby steps with the jump shooting. Once last night, and once in the game against Cleveland, I saw Smoove attempt a fadeaway jumper.

Babysteps Josh. Nuff said.

I see Joe growing as well. Recognizing that you’re off and getting everyone else involved is an excellent leadership attribute. His low-scoring, high assists games won’t bother me if he’s making everyone else more effective.

This 3 guard line-up that we may have to use against Minnesota would’ve sucked if Beasley was still healthy.

Melvin

November 4th, 2010
9:49 am

Good stuff Big Ray. Very classy move to write this blog…

dap01

November 4th, 2010
9:52 am

What is the extent of Marvin’s injury?

niremetal

November 4th, 2010
10:20 am

This is either bizarre or just plain sad. I tend to think these people were con artists rather than actual ticket reps, but either way…just read it:
http://phillyist.com/2010/11/03/an_open_letter_to_the_76ers_organiz.php

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
10:32 am

I truly don’t understand why Josh seemingly can’t be criticized. He is obviously capable of having a bad game (or two), just like every other NBA player. Given that he has never achieved elite status (All-NBA, All-Star, etc) there clearly are times when his performance doesn’t meet his potential. Yet, when he is criticized, it is almost considered criminal. Josh plays VERY well at home.. you could win a lot of money by betting that a poor road game will be followed by a GREAT home game. It’s his pattern. The Hawks have played a lot of road games so far and Josh has mostly gotten off to a disapppointing start to the season. he entered last night’s game averaging as many points as Marvin with a lesser shooting percentage. As we play more home games, he will likely have more of these stat-filling games. It’s the pattern.

Yes, he is a terrific shot-blocker. And that is consistent. But since when does one great skill make up for the mistakes elsewhere? It doesn’t work that way for any other Hawk… Bibby’s ability to run the offense doesn’t compensate for his physicaly inability to defend. It’s like demanding more of someone is a bad thing. That makes no sense to me… accepting less shows more apathy than love.

yodaddy

November 4th, 2010
10:43 am

don’t worry Astro Joe…Josh Smith will be on the All Star team this year

Ray

November 4th, 2010
11:12 am

@ Astro Joe

I don’t know what you’ve seen these past five games, but I see promise in Josh Smith and Marvin Williams. Just because a player doesn’t go off and shoot 22-30 pts per game, grab up 12 boards, and block 7 shots per night. That just doesn’t equate to him having a disappointing start to the season.

Example the Cleveland game he had only 6 points on 3-11 shooting, but yet grabbed 11 boards that game with 5 blocked shots, and with 2 steals. That’s not disappointing to me.

Actually looking at his stats it seems he played better on the road this year then at home. Even though they’ve been on the road 1 game more I’ll give you that.

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
11:19 am

Ray, when I compare historical performances to the start of the season… and several categories are down, that translates into a “dsiappointing start”. It doesn;t mean that dude suddenly sucks and will play the next 75 games that way, but if any other Hawk can be called out for a bad game or three, I don’t get why any one guy would be the exception. Current results don’t guarantee future performance… but if Joe is shooting <40% over 4-5 games… and someone calls him a bum for those 4-5 games, then so be it. And if Josh averaged 10 points on <40% shooting for 4 games, well…

YoDaddy, I hope so. He needs to have more performances like last night and less like some of the earlier games… and it would help if he impressed fans in other arenas as well. You know, play well on the road.

niremetal

November 4th, 2010
11:19 am

Ray,

Did you watch the Cleveland game or just look at the box score? Your whole post was about stats. Josh was shown up something fierce by JJ Hickson during that game. It was one of the worst on-ball defensive performances I’ve seen out of a Hawk other than Crawford in a long time.

I agree that Josh and Marvin have promise. I don’t Astro would disagree with that, either. But his inconsistency and frequent lapses where he becomes a jump shooter and shows little interest in defense unless he has a chance at a block are more than just frustrating. They are downright maddening after 6 years in the NBA (same as Marvin’s continued lack of aggressiveness on offense).

Dept. Of Unintended Irony

November 4th, 2010
11:21 am

“These 5 teams we’ve played some could sneak into the playoffs this year just maybe. ”

Yeah, maybe……. if ALL of the playoff teams from last year suddenly keel over and die, then yeah, maybe………

doc

November 4th, 2010
11:33 am

cool, j smash at his best. can i hope for the marvin the mauler model to return?

i was about to say something negative after the me stuff that MC reported the night before. oh well just josh talking and i am glad i kept my mouth shut. i have long felt he needed to keep working on his outside shot as very few bigs come into the NBA with one and the guys that have them have the capacity to stay longer. i just dont want him to become enamored by it. i like the fact he is fearless to do things and not one to back off from challenges. if he and his coach are on the same page and communicating then i am happy with it. personally i have liked his stroke, just needed touch and confidence. what is he 60% from the three stripe? i know not enough attempts to make it statistically valid.

ugly win is a win.

unfortunately, it does remind me of how this team looked early in the season last year. i hope their is growth instead of stagnation. i like the fact LD lets guys stay in games and learn rather than be made to stew over their mistakes on the bench as they are pulled at the first one. everyone makes them, you got to learn to forget them and play on and not repeat them. cant do that if you are on the bench.

[...] what that landmark really means … The Hawks improved to 5-0 with a win over the Pistons and one fan blogger at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Josh Smith was a big reason why … Eagles linebacker [...]

doc

November 4th, 2010
11:44 am

nire, sounds like scammers to me.

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
11:49 am

Ray, the last two seasons, Josh shot around 50% from the field. In his first 4 games of this season, he shot 40%. I don’t care if he scores 15 or 25 points, but a team’s starting PF needs to be more efficient than 40%, right? So if player A has a 150 game average of 50% shooting and suddenly goes down to 40%, I think the word “disappointing” is fair.

If it is unreasonable to expect more than 10 points/game on 40% shooting from Josh Smith over any 4 game period, then let me know. Heaven knows, those numbers from Marvin (at 40% less salary) wouldn’t be tolerated.

yodaddy

November 4th, 2010
12:02 pm

Astro Joe

Josh posted a double double last night. 22 Pts and 11 rebounds….leads the league in blocks

I don’t see how it’s disappointing….points are down individually across the board and the team hasn’t mastered the brand new offense just yet. Plus a 5 game sample is not really much to go off of…if it wasn’t Mike Conley would be an all star.

Fundamentals

November 4th, 2010
12:16 pm

Excellent Post Big Ray, now what’s Marvin’s status? Dude was finally finding his niche and #%@#$.

O'Brien

November 4th, 2010
1:24 pm

An interesting stat. Josh is 3-5 (60%) on 3 pointers for the season. Marvin Williams is 1-9 (11%).

So far, Josh is averaging 12.6 points, 9.4 rebs, 4 blocks, and 3.6 assists per game.

Get the scoring up to 15+, keep the other numbers close to where they are, and he becomes an all-star.

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
1:31 pm

yodaddy, I thought that I clearly stated the first 4 games… which excludes last night. Dude is GREAT at home, no doubt about it. Leading the league is blocks is offset by allowing career highs to Arthur and Hickson (IMO). His coach said “guard your own man”… remember?

JuneBaby

November 4th, 2010
1:59 pm

The Hawks could go 98 and 0, and it still wouldn’t be enough for the hyper-critical people on the Hawks blog. What are they expected to do? Win every game by 20 points, and look good doing it. Are they never allowed to have a bad game, even if they win it? What can Josh do; 20/20/10//10 every game, without ever taking an outside shot, or showing any emotion? How about Joe, Bibby, Crawford, or Al; are they supposed to be perfect every game, never miss a shot and gather every rebound, convert every assist? Who do you guys think they’re playing against, the WNBA players. Those other teams are professionals also, and take pride in their games. It’s not going to be easy against any NBA team, and it’s not supposed to be. A win is a win is a win any way you get it. Personally I don’t care if the hawks shoot 10% fgp if they win the game. It’s one thing to harp on peformances in a loss, but to be negative about every aspect of their game, even when they’re winning is beyond absurd. Check out the Heat, Majic, Lakers, Boston, or any other team, are any of these teams ever perfect? NO, NOT EVEN FOR ONE GAME, much less 82 games!!!!

yodaddy

November 4th, 2010
2:41 pm

@Astro Joe

How can you conveniently omit a game just to make a point??

Bottom line is that Josh is doing his job and doing it well. Points are down but the wins are up so it’s all good. And no matter what happens to his scoring he will always play defense, block shots, grab boards and get steals because that’s primarily what he does. He was never a type of player that might light you up for 30 any given night. But allow him to get steals and offensive rebounds and get to dunking the ball he becomes the player that affects the outcome of the game in a hurry.

Don’t act like Darrell Arthur and Hickson were only guarded by Smith the entire game. And don’t let two games let you think that his man is always out there dominating him. It’s not like it was a bunch of layups and dunks…contested fadeaway jumpers that were going in. I’ll take it. That happened 1 time and won’t consistently happen. NBA players are going to have good nights. JJ Hickson is a good player, Arthur not so much but when you getting blown out somebody has to score.

doc

November 4th, 2010
2:52 pm

o’b look at my post, we are often parallel or at least on the same page. ;-)

Ray

November 4th, 2010
4:17 pm

@ niremetal Josh may have been shown up by J.J Hickson, but someone had to score during that game.

So what if it was Mo Williams that had 31 or Anderson Varejao had 31. Instead of Hickson what would you say about Josh then because he didn’t guard Williams that’s Bibby’s/Teague’s Job.

@ Astro Joe the reason Josh and others have less FG% then last year is because of the new offense it’s creating for everyone so Joe doesn’t always have to hit 30 pts per game for us to win now.
He can actually chill out and help more on defense just saying.

BBgenie

November 4th, 2010
4:18 pm

Hey Big Ray, we should handle T-Wolves with no problem tonight, But let’s see how we play against the next 4 teams. All playoff level, Suns, Magic, Bucks & Jazz. This will give us a better reading on what this current Hawks team is about. Contenders or Pretenders???????

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
4:21 pm

OK, you all are right. Josh has been fantastic in each and every one of these 5 games. Every bit as good as he was last year. He is clearly building off his success from last season. And the new offense will naturally make field gola percentages lower… since guys are in constant motion, it’s harder to make shots.

I have just earned myself a massive lump of coal for the holidays. :evil:

BBgenie

November 4th, 2010
4:24 pm

J.J. Hickson is the reason why the Cavs lost last year!!!!! They didn’t play him, They went with THE Big Disel. And it cost everybody their Jobs!!!!!!! Bottom line the kid can play, he will score 30 pts on a few NBA players this year. One player can’t beat FIVE.

niremetal

November 4th, 2010
4:48 pm

So what if it was Mo Williams that had 31 or Anderson Varejao had 31. Instead of Hickson what would you say about Josh then because he didn’t guard Williams that’s Bibby’s/Teague’s Job.

*ding*

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
5:02 pm

nire, you and I need to start battling again. I may disagree, but at least… oh, never mind. Civility to all who cheer for the Hawks… that’s my motto. :grin:

Dept. Of Unintended Irony

November 4th, 2010
5:06 pm

“It was one of the worst on-ball defensive performances I’ve seen out of a Hawk other than Crawford in a long time.”

Yeah, since last May vs. the Cavs. A very long time ago. Of course in real terms that was just 12 games ago (7 preseason, 5 this year).

JuneBaby

November 4th, 2010
6:05 pm

My apologies to everyone! It just seems that the Hawks players(esp. Josh) are being held up to performance standards that they can’t even begin to meet. Kobe doesn’t get a triple double every night, neither does Lebron, not even close, although we know they’re capable of doing it! So does that mean they’re suppose to average that tripIe because they’re capable of doing it in a particular game? I know of only one player in NBA history that averaged a triple(2 if you count “The Big Dipper”). I don’t recall ever seeing any NBA team, or player for that matter, have a perfect quater either offensively, defensively, or on the boards, much less a half or entire game. If the greats of the game couldn’t do it, why would you expect that out of Josh or any other player? The only things we should ask of these players are that they play hard, play smart, and play to win!!

niremetal

November 4th, 2010
6:12 pm

Hey Dept. of Unintended Irony: We didn’t play the Cavs last May.

niremetal

November 4th, 2010
6:14 pm

Btw, is it just me or is “Dept. of Unintended Irony” making a lot of posts about things that are not, in fact, ironic? How’s that for irony :twisted:

Ray

November 4th, 2010
6:53 pm

@ Astro Joe

Hey I’ll give you this much you can criticize Josh Smith he’s not without his faults, but my only thing is I’d rather ya’ll wait for about say 10 more games.

Cause 5 is such a small number. Stat wise last season yes Smith was better then right now, but again only 5 games it doesn’t give us much to sample with.

No hard feelings man didn’t mean to turn this into a heated debate.

Astro Joe

November 4th, 2010
8:37 pm

Ray, no hard feelings taken. It’s a blog… if we wait until the proper sample size, we’d have nothing to talk about for a few weeks.

Dept. Of Unintended Irony

November 4th, 2010
9:00 pm

“Btw, is it just me or is “Dept. of Unintended Irony” making a lot of posts about things that are not, in fact, ironic? How’s that for irony :twisted:

Glad that SOMEBODY got it.

vava74

November 4th, 2010
9:51 pm

Thibodeau’s vaunted defense allowed NY to score 70 points on the first half…

Big Ray

November 4th, 2010
10:05 pm

JuneBaby ,

I think the criticism you hear on a blog is nothing in comparison to what the team gets from the coaching staff. I mean, we might be armchair quarterbacking this from our computers, but imagine the guy stalking the sidelines, barking at you every other play?

No one here expects perfectin. Criticism and negativity are two different things. Make no mistake about it, everyone here loves this team, and we all have different opinions about different things. It’s all good. :)

GaBlueDevil ,

I suspect you are NOT alone when it comes to yelling “No” when Josh lines up for a 3 pointer. Not by far. Trust me, there is an audible groan from the fans in attendance, LOL.