A tale of three team captains
When the Hawks lose, you can ask Joe Johnson what happened. He is likely to tell you he doesn’t know. You can ask Al Horford. He’ll likely tell you what the problem was, and all but name who was responsible for it. You can also ask Josh Smith. He’ll tell you that the team will get their heads together, they are a tight knit group, and everything will be okay. Is any of this confidence inspiring? Why are they all saying different things?
Let us get one thing out on the table, and it is something that some of you/us have already been saying since the beginning of the season. It was a mistake for Larry Drew to name three team captains. Or do you disagree? Let’s extend that even further – it was a mistake to name Josh Smith as a team captain. Perhaps you disagree more vehemently with this than the first assertion. Perhaps not. Either way, can anybody prove this was a successful venture or even a good idea? These three team captains don’t think alike. They don’t play alike. They don’t react alike. In fact, I’m feeling a bit hard-pressed to come up with something that they have in common at all. It seems that Larry Drew tried to force this team into forming its own locker room and on-court leadership. But his idea of putting three guys into such a position resulted in what looks like more confusion, which has done nothing to increase leadership. Three guys, one position. One seems like he never really felt destined to be a leader, and maybe he should have had that burden thrown on him. Another doesn’t know how to follow, so how can he lead? The third can’t lead if others won’t follow. How was this supposed to work again?
From the Sidelines
Mike Woodson’s tactics, leadership, and his overall body of work was questioned, and it led to him parting ways with the Hawks. General Manager Rick Sund then proclaimed that the Hawks needed to “hear a different voice.” So, he brought them (perhaps at the behest of his host of bosses) a familiar voice and placed that voice in the big chair. Perhaps the results have spoken for themselves. You hear a familiar but previously quiet voice saying the same things the old voice used to say. It seems the “different” voice begins to show signs of strain and frustration. The different voice seems to have given in. The different voice doesn’t know what to do. The different voice screams accountability, but can’t follow through. The different voice…doesn’t seem so different after all. Of course, its not just about the voice.
Here is where one of Larry Drew’s biggest problems may be brewing: with Josh Smith. We used to not like it when Mike Woodson and Josh Smith got after each other. But, at least Woody got after him. And, Josh got after Woody. It wasn’t good. Josh doesn’t get after Drew. Why? Maybe because Drew doesn’t get after him. Drew has agreed to disagree with his team captain on how to play the game. Worse, he’s made this known through public quotes. How in the world can you get an entire team to listen to you when one of the team captains is allowed to disagree with you and do what he wants to do? That’s not to say that Josh isn’t a good player, or even a good person. He has shown more maturity (or at least it seems like it) in most areas, and has put up some pretty good numbers. But….can a team operate like this, when one of its best players is constantly at odds with the head coach on such basic things as when to take certain shots or when to let the point guard run the break?
Let me put this another way – if you can’t convince a team captain not to take long jumpers at the wrong times, then how can you convince the rest of the team to not do so? Just watch the games. See how many long jumpers are being taken, regardless of how unsuccessful that venture turns out to be. Then watch how many times Larry Drew talks about taking too many long jumpers after a loss. And, it’s not just Josh Smith by a long shot. It’s a bunch of guys. Unfortunately, Josh is a team captain, which puts things in a slightly different light.
This isn’t the only problem. Maybe this isn’t really a big problem. Maybe it is. What do you think?
Breaking in the new guys
The arrival of Kirk Hinrich really helped Atlanta on the defensive end, but as scores and fourth quarter numbers have indicated, that’s not all there is to the story. The problem with the offense is that this is where the leadership of this team (or lack thereof) really suffers. A guy like Hinrich knows how to play the game. How long before he becomes frustrated with the way the Hawks play? Everybody within the organization and the fan base can talk about Hinrich’s leadership and toughness until they are blue in the face. It won’t matter. Why? Because we have three team captains already. How is a guy like Hinrich to have a positive effect when all he can do is try to lead by example (something we’ve recognized as a good but incomplete form of leadership)? Can Hinrich even say anything in the locker room? Who will listen?
On the flip side of the coin, Hilton Armstrong has it easier than his backcourt teammate. All he has to do is provide energy, defend the rim and the paint, and grab some rebounds. Maybe even set some screens on offense and be ready to score at the rim if he actually receives the ball. Of course, Armstrong can’t be certain of his role, as neither can Zaza Pachulia (who is very playing-time sensitive) or Jason Collins. Drew doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with his bench or his frontcourt some days.
More confusion, more disarray.
If Larry Drew and the Hawks aren’t careful, they’ll stunt their own internal growth.
The Final Word….
……comes from General Manager Rick Sund. The normally quiet Sund stated before the deadline that the onus was on this team to prove who they were and what they were capable of. He said that this team would show itself and be judged on what they did through the final stretch of the season, and in the playoffs. By saying this, Sund also put the burden on himself and his bosses. After all, if the proof is in what this team does, and the team falls below expectations, or simply last year’s accomplishments, then who else can be responsible for the final product?
Sund says this core is at the witness stand. He’s right. And after they testify, he’ll be going to the stand next. This summer, in fact.
Call it Now
Hope springs eternal, but its not the offseason yet. Forget gaining ground for now, can the Hawks even maintain their current position? Is this just a late season rut, or is the writing on the wall? If patterns hold where they are, the Hawks face the Magic in round 1 of the playoffs? Can they survive that?
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest