As if you haven’t heard enough about the Atlanta Hawks and their chemistry issues, here is just a bit more. The mean mugging has turned into finger pointing, with some heated exchanges here and there. What is wrong with this group of guys? Do they just not like each other, or is it only a problem when things aren’t going well?
1) Should the Hawks have hired a different coach? Already we are hearing so many of the same things coming out of Larry Drew’s mouth, that came out of Mike Woodson’s mouth. It’s uncanny, really. If that alone is not enough to convince management that the problems involve the guys wearing the jerseys, then I don’t know what else can be said. Drew seems to have a good plan on both sides of the floor. But even now, the way these guys are playing (or not playing), some people are beginning to question his abilities. Some called for the hiring of Dwayne Casey, Avery Johnson, or some of the top assistants who were coming up the coaching pipeline. Would any of these guys have the Hawks playing better? Would they have been able to adjust the culture in a positive way? Something tells me that the Little General would have gone all but crazy dealing with the issues the Hawks have, and may have turned them off even worse than they are now. Or, maybe he would have had the opposite effect. What do you think?
2) How soon must Sund make a move? Everybody has a trade idea, and the Hawks are struggling as an entire unit. However, key positions are suffering, and the latest losing has only magnified the problems that we already knew were there. Can GM Rick Sund afford to wait until around the trade deadline, or must he make a move now? Of course, we do not know that is available in the trade market, and making a move for the simple sake of making a move is never really a very good idea, unless the assets involved are expendable and depth is not an issue. But since when is that ever the case? So….when does Sund make a move, and what moves should he put the most priority on?
3) Which one of “the core” needs to go? The core concept exists with every team, even if it seems like the Hawks are the only one completely stuck on the idea. However, it has become glaringly clear that the Hawks need to make some hard decisions on their core. With this much unrest and finger-pointing, clearly the issues involve more than the bench, and are actually bleeding from the starting unit as well. Like it or not, major changes must occur, and the less emotion involved, the better off the Hawks will be. Oh, and this is a trick question. I said which ONE must go, but there is nothing to say that more than one shouldn’t go. Who do you pick to be shipped off, why, and in return for whom (or what position)?
4) Is Jordan Crawford good enough to take on a part of Jamal Crawford’s role? While it may seem like this question is coming out of left field, the fact remains that Jamal Crawford is a popular pick for making a trade, and many believe his days in Atlanta are numbered. Then again, there are trade rumors involving Josh Smith, too, so take it all with a grain of salt. Either way, trading Jamal makes sense on a number of levels if the right assets can be had in return. If Jamal goes, the Hawks may want to consider getting a small forward in return, allowing the Hawks to use Mo Evans at shooting guard, along with Jordan Crawford. Or, the Hawks could stick with Evans platooning time at both shooting guard and small forward, and using Jordan Crawford as the backup shooting guard. The rookie has absolutely no fear, no lack of aggression, and has the killer instinct of any true scorer. While his defensive capability is a work in progress, could he be any worse on that end of the court than Jamal? We haven’t seen the rook play a whole lot, but lately he has gotten in some PT. What do you think? Does he have enough of the goods right now to help justify a Jamal trade? Can he step into a 10 minute per game or so role?
Of course, there are a slew of questions behind all those, and you should feel free to add/ask your own.
5) Do other teams have these kinds of problems? Nothing is fun when you’re losing, but I’ve seen teams with worse records doing better than this. The Hawks have a winning record (for the moment), and they look and sound like a hot mess. Is it mere panic to be talking like this less than 15 games into the season, or is the sky really falling? How about those teams that experts predicted would be better than the Hawks this season? The experts are looking more and more right every day, proven so by your very own Atlanta Hawks, which is a sad commentary in and of itself. If the other teams are better, it’s because they are actual teams, not simply a group of guys wearing the same jerseys. Among the many disturbing comments I’ve read to date, this was the worst, from guard/forward Mo Evans:
“The Celtics know who they are,” Mo said. “We don’t have an identity, unless it’s when things go bad we go the other way. Maybe that’s out identity and we don’t know it.”
What does that say to you? Is this a player speaking out of frustration, or a guy trying to use a media outlet to justifiably call his teammates out? Does it even matter? Is this really our Atlanta Hawks?
HAWKS VS. NETS
Tonight’s affair will tell a lot about the team. What good will a closed door meeting have? That works for teams who are together already, and know who they are, as well as what they’re capable of. It doesn’t work for teams who have yet to figure themselves out, and don’t seem at all committed to each other. All the same, the Nets are still one of the worst teams in the East, and a game against them should be a good opportunity for the Hawks to put another notch in the win column. Yet, nothing is guaranteed. The Hawks could get through this on talent alone, or they could play the way they are capable of playing. Or….they could go through a single tough stretch during the game, and fold like a deck of cards. If this happens, it might be time to find that panic button.
It could be the growing pains of the league, or adjusting to life under the Little General, but Nets center Brook Lopez hasn’t looked as good this season. His shooting percentage is dismal for a big man who spends a good amount of time near the basket (42%), and his rebounding is way down from last season (6.3 rpg). This makes him an easy target for the surging Al Horford, who could work his counterpart for another 20 and 10 performance, or close to it. To put that into better perspective, rookie sensation Derrick Favors is averaging just a smidgen more on the boards in roughly 15 minutes less per game. Meanwhile, the Nets rely on tough man Kris Humphries, who is giving them just under 8 points per game on 66% shooting, and 7.3 rebounds in about 21 minutes per game. In fact, out of all of the Nets front court guys, Humphries could be the key. If the Hawks reserves (Pachulia and Powell) don’t ante up, Favors and Humphries will beat them like a drum on the boards. Let’s also not forget Troy Murphy, who the Nets may decide to employ against the Hawks more than his usual playing time.
The Nets also aren’t shy about shooting from the perimeter. Troy Murphy figures in here as well, along with Travis Outlaw, and Anthony Morrow looking to go deep from time to time. In fact, the Nets have six guys who like to chuck it up from 3 point land, and only Murphy is truly struggling (27.3 %), although Devin Harris (31%) and Jordan Farmar (30%) aren’t exactly hot from that distance. Still, the other guys are anywhere from 36% to 43%. What does that mean? New Jersey will try to stay in the game or win it with their jumpers, and if the Hawks let them have uncontested shots, look out. Perhaps more key here will be Josh Smith and Marvin Williams keeping the bigger New Jersey shooters under wraps. This has been a real problem for Smith, lately.
At point guard, Mike Bibby needs to continue his admirable efforts on both ends of the floor, to make Jersey guard Devin Harris work hard. Harris is a bit under the radar as far as point guards go, but the guy hasn’t lost a step of speed, and his stats this season (16.8 ppg, 6.8apg, 46.7% shooting) are healthy enough. Backing him up is the heady Farmar, who manages to make enough of the right passes (4.2 apg) to offset his horrendous shooting (34% from the field). Jeff Teague will get another good lesson, but will Jordan Crawford see some playing time?
And who knew that in the midst of a stormy season, that Mike Bibby would be steadier than most?