Forget the panic button, I was all about pushing the one that says “despair and depression” after witnessing the recent losing streak of the Atlanta Hawks. A blowout against Washington at home in front of a fairly sparse crowd probably felt better than it should have. This was something the Hawks were known for doing to bad teams all last season (for the most part), so why get excited now? Well, it did show some determination and focus on the part of the Hawks players, which had been missing in the two or three previous games.
Now, after dispatching a fairly talented Knicks squad on its own home floor, the Hawks are back on the upswing again. Or are they? You see, the trouble is this – the Hawks aren’t having much trouble at all with the non-winning teams. They can beat Toronto tomorrow, and do so by double figures. What will it prove? It proves the Atlanta is not on the bottom of the pile. It proves that they can actually beat teams that they are clearly superior to. What it doesn’t do, is prove that the Hawks are as good as last year, let alone better. For the moment at least, the Hawks have proven that they don’t belong to the 500 club….that zone where a team is but a win or loss or so away from being over or under .500. The Knicks know how that is, they’re still there. The Hawks were there a couple of games ago.
I’m sure this wasn’t the Hawks’ goal for the year, so avoiding the 500 club is a less than palatable treat. Does that sound like complaining about wins? It probably does for a team that is struggling and trying to make its way off the floor and up the food chain. For a team that has come off of 47 and 53 win seasons, wherein talent has been increased over time instead of decreased, I’d say it’s not complaining at all. But what do I know…what do YOU think?
The Shake Up
Is there something going on with guards Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford? Of late, Teague’s playing time has become a subject of discussion, to the point of where some questions have been put to Larry Drew. Personally, I think he’s not telling any fabrications, but he’s also hedging. I said earlier on that we might see some developments along this line, and I still think we will see more, but there’s still not enough to push us towards a definite conclusion. It comes down to this – which guy impacts the game more positively when he comes in – Jeff Teague or Jordan Crawford?
Teague seemed to be the guy, at least defensively. The quickness, certainty, and aggression he lacks on offense appeared to show up quite a bit when on the other end of the floor. But then, even that went away, at least against the Celtics. Of course, it’s hard to get on the second year man when the entire rest of the team is stinking it up in the same game, but this is a guy who should be fighting for more than the 12-15 or so minutes per game he was getting. Even with Rajon Rondo missing from the game, there was no fire from the youngster. And instead of ruling the roost in garbage time against Washington, Teague again looked half-hearted at best. What gives? In the meantime, fellow guard Jordan Crawford hit the court hard on both ends, and largely played like a man whose very bread and water depended on every minute of his performance. Again, what gives?
Here’s the deal. Maybe Larry Drew should keep putting Crawford in and letting him get his lumps. He tends to get beat on defense, but he can learn, and he doesn’t shy away from it. On offense, the kid is scorer, pure and simple. Yes, he can go 4-15, or he can go 5-5. Either way, he is going to give it a go, and it won’t be half-hearted. What would the results be? One of two things, at the very least, I’m thinking. Either Crawford learns and turns into a viable rotation player sooner (those wanting to trade Jamal Crawford would be glad of this), or this provides the perfect fire to help unleash the “inner dog” that Jeff Teague supposedly has. For all we know, that dog has wandered back to the Wake Forest campus and taken up residency there, because we sure haven’t seen it around Atlanta lately.
I know, I know. I said I’d give him 20-25 games before criticizing Teague too heavily, and that maybe half a season would produce a better sample size for a hypothesis. It’s been 17 games, and pardon me when I say it ain’t looking good for the home team. But that’s where YOU come in. Should Larry Drew play Jordan Crawford more, or stick with the guy he says is our backup point guard? Something has to be done, or it becomes infinitely harder to trade Jamal Crawford, if that is what the Hawks should do. Why? Well, right now Jamal is still playing the part of backup point guard AND backup shooting guard. It’s great on nights that the Hawks aren’t facing a better than average point guard, or a couple of such point guards. It’s great when he shoots above 50% and scores around 20 points. It’s not so great when either one of those things is going the other way for us.
UP NEXT – Hawks vs Raptors
I’ll keep it simple: the Raptors are not a good team, as their record would suggest. However, two things are worth paying attention to:
1) They have three speedy guards in Barbosa, Calderon, and now Jerryd Bayless.
2) In their last game, they lost to the Boston Celtics by just 9 points, in Boston.
Point #2 could simply mean that the Raptors played hard against the Celtics (whereas the Hawks didn’t come close to doing so), but that would also indicate that they won’t go quietly. At the same time, there is no one on that Toronto team capable of truly imposing their will on the Hawks. At most, the speed of their guard will be an issue, as Calderon and Barbosa will be looking to penetrate and outrun our backcourt guys, while scrappy/heady player like Linas Kleiza and Reggie Evans will be looking to make a dent through hustle and tenacity. If the Hawks want to avoid further trouble, they’ll keep the clamps on those guys, while also not ignoring the shooting capabilities of Peja Stojakovich and Andrea Bargnani. They key to Bargnani? Close out on him before he gets his perimeter game going, then bang on him in the post every chance you get. He’s just not made for it, despite being a somewhat adequate rebounder, and a more than capable scorer.
Those are my keys to the game. What are YOURS?