Atlanta hawks: Is disarray here to stay?

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?

Your call…

 

Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest

286 comments Add your comment

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
6:44 pm

No Boozer just means more Gibson, and the Bulls have done just fine with Gibson getting big minutes this season. No Deng, though, means more Korver, and the Hawks showed in their previous meeting that when they attack Korver with pretty much anyone they are capable of succeeding. LD would be smart to run some plays where Joe gets matched up on Korver inside the 3 point line. That’s the kind of matchup that could get Joe out of his slump.

Excellent point.

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
7:13 pm

It honestly doesn’t feel to me like Joe’s in a “slump” in the usual sense of that word. He isn’t shooting a terrible percentage. He just seems more disinterested than before the break. Maybe he’s saving himself for the playoffs. I dunno. I’d actually be less concerned if it simply were a matter of him shooting terribly from the field, but he’s not (although he is shooting terribly from 3-land). But it doesn’t just seem to me that it’s his shot that’s off.

Ken Strickland

March 11th, 2011
7:44 pm

NIREMETAL-Do you think Hinrich controlling the ball, which limits JJ’s ball dominance, along with our limited ability to run our full OFF sets, has had anything to do with what you preceive as JJ’s disinterest?
One thing is certain, something is certainly affecting the ability of both JJ and Jamal to be consistent.

Ken Strickland

March 11th, 2011
7:48 pm

DRMARYB-Where are you young lady? I haven’t heard from you lately.

Melvin

March 11th, 2011
8:38 pm

Hawks are not even a threat to take anyone off the dribble… And do Joe still play for the Hawks. My goodness, his game is off…

Melvin

March 11th, 2011
8:46 pm

Dont know why LD is playing Marvin extended mins. He’s doing nothing.

Melvin

March 11th, 2011
8:50 pm

Yall may beat me up for this but I think the Hawks matchup better with the Bulls than any of the top four teams in the East….

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
9:09 pm

doc

March 11th, 2011
9:13 pm

nire, at first look, i am just left with mouth open gaping after your 7:13 statement. geez, what is he, 2 for 25 in the last five games? what does it take for reality to hit that jj along with jamal have bombed out this season in comparison to expectation from last season. it may be why you were so complacent about what needed to be done in the off season when folks suggested this might be the path.

you are right though, he shows absolutely no emotion whether he makes or misses, whether you call it disinterest or not. he is 29% from three this year and pumping away. really the problem is, maybe he is just not that good because he is only avg two points less a game this year as in years past. maybe it is a function of the contract gets in the way of us all seeing him for what he is a good player incapable of really putting the team on his back for long stretches. gosh, i hope he finds his touch soon.

meanwhile, we keep it close in chi-town, leading at the half.

shout out dmb.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
9:25 pm

Melvin ,

I would have disagreed with you prior to the arrival of Kirk Hinrich. But with him here, you could be right.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
9:27 pm

Ken ,

No way. JJ’s issues, whatever they may be, existed before Hinrich got here. I think I know where you’re going with this anyway, though…

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
9:38 pm

Doc,

Gape all you want. No shooters stop shooting just because they hit a slump. His pre-surgery slump seemed to be caused by his injury, and then there was a stretch for 5 weeks in Jan/Feb where he shot 38% from deep. I am not aware of a single player in the NBA who has had JJ’s sustained success as an outside shooter over the course of his career who has decided to just stop shooting because he hits a slump. You’re expecting JJ to do something that no player does.

Most of y’all seriously are becoming caricatures of yourselves. No matter what actually happens during games, you bash the same players you always bash and defend the same ones you always defend. Playing devil’s advocate is becoming quite dull.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
9:45 pm

Doc ,

I see Niremetal’s point. JJ is shooting 44% from the field, which is right in line with his career average. Sure, we’d rather see %45-%47, and we’d be more impressed if his scoring average for the season had a “2″ in front of it instead of a “1.” And, he’s really only averaging 2 less ppg than last season.

Here’s more detail that makes it feel like a slump –

1) Joe has had just six 30 point games this season. He had 11 of those last season, though we have to take into account the fact that this was over the course of a full 82 games. This year, he has only played 71 games. But it’s unlikely he will have 5 more 30 point games in the last 12 contests. Either way, 30 point games aren’t a real test of whether a guy is in a slump. It’s just a small sample size of simple stats, not much else.

2) Joe has had 13 games where he has scored 12 points or less, and 22 games where he has scored 15 points or less. And, that is after 71 games.

Compare that to last season, where Joe had just 10 games of 12 points or less and just 16 games of 15 points or less…. all season long .

3) His %29 shooting from 3 point land is 7 whole percentage points below last year’s, and his worst since 2001. It ain’t pretty.

Do any of these stats prove that Joe is “in a slump?”

No.

But they are all noticeable. Enough so to where not everybody is comfortable with his performance.

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
9:49 pm

Sorry doc, thought you were referring to my earlier posts, not my 7:13. With my 7:13, I think you just need to work on your reading comprehension, although that’s a running theme with you.

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
9:51 pm

I read my 7:13 again and then your response, doc. Yeah, you kinda need to get some reading comp lessons.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
9:56 pm

Should JJ stop shooting? Of course not. Might he change the way he is trying to get his points? Yes, to an extent (go to the basket more). Was this new offensive scheme supposed to make it easier for him to get his shots without dealing with as many double teams? Yes. Has it worked? No, not always.

And nobody has a proveable explanation for why he had such a wonderful January and has not been nearly as impressive for the rest of the season. The injury was a good explanation for the pre-surgery part. The rest? Who knows.

But, something has to give at some point. If this performance level continues, the wisdom in awarding him such a huge contract will continue to draw criticism (if not increased criticism), especially where it relates to the continued theme of not approaching the luxury tax level to improve the team. It is what it is.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
10:01 pm

Niremetal ,

Would it be correct to assume that you feel like JJ is having other issues than just his 3 point shot being off? As in, there is another, possibly deeper issue (thus the comments about him being disinterested)?

If so, that’s how I see it as well. I don’t know if it’s the offense, or if it’s just the cultural poisoning that seems to keep going on. LD clearly doesn’t have the reins to this wagon anymore, if you ask me. The team chemistry isn’t getting any better until someone actually messes with the core and makes a change at that level. Until then, even such solid moves as bringing in someone like Hinrich isn’t going to have the effect we need it to.

Nothing changes until this summer (hopefully), I’m afraid. If JJ is disinterested, there is surely a reason why.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
10:07 pm

Derrick Rose simply cannot be stopped. He’s getting a lot done from the charity stripe since we’ve caused him issues in the way of shooting percentage.

However, I’m sure this will spawn some of the usual spewage, considering Jeff Teague got ZERO minutes so far in this game, and we all know that if he had played, we coulda stopped Rose short, right? :twisted:

Actually, solid performance from a lot of Chicago’s role players. I seem to recall them getting a complete dismissal from some corners during the offseason, but the dividends are paying themselves even as we watch. Hard to make that argument now with Chicago on the verge of their 46th victory…

…a place we are suddenly hard-pressed to get to. 46 victories, that is…

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
10:08 pm

Ray,

With your 10:01, you got exactly what I was getting at.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
10:08 pm

And my stats from earlier had a couple of mistakes. We’ve played 64 games, not 71.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
10:09 pm

Nire ,

Gotcha. Thought that was your train of thought. Couldn’t agree more.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
10:17 pm

Another sub-80 point game. Not good at all. Well that whole thing was nice and ugly.

Here’s a funny one…Jamal had one of the better games, statisitcally at least. Cue rant of dissension from Vava :twisted:

Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly…

Elsewhere, Philly beat Boston.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
10:19 pm

After that second half, I would like to formally apologize for any good things I have ever said about LD.

Jamal was almost single-handedly responsible for Rose’s 3rd quarter explosion, and LD chose to leave him in there to get torched while Teague sat on the bench. Absolutely ridiculous.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
10:19 pm

Blog monster

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
10:22 pm

“However, I’m sure this will spawn some of the usual spewage, considering Jeff Teague got ZERO minutes so far in this game, and we all know that if he had played, we coulda stopped Rose short, right? :twisted:

Rose’s 3rd quarter explosion directly coincided with Hinrich going to the bench and Jamal playing the point for the rest of the quarter. vava74 would be completely justified in ripping Jamal for his defense in this game, but more importantly, for LD to just continue to roll with Jamal vs. Rose without even trying Teague was flat out idiotic.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
10:23 pm

I mean, it’s not like Jamal being on the floor ahead of Teague resulted in better offense. The Hawks scored a grand total of 26 points in the second half, 20 prior to Teague entering the game with the scrubs in garbage time.

O'Brien

March 11th, 2011
10:42 pm

Big Ray,

Teague would not have stopped Rose, but we have seen Jamal fail time and time again as the backup PG, but yet LD continues to go to him at that positon. Whatever happened to giving Teague more burn since he played decent on defense after the trade? Is this how you build his confidence?

It’s like LD is saying “Jeff, sit and watch our backup SG (who probably wont be here next year) get torched on defense playing backup PG (which happens often), even though you are a better defensive option. Oh dont worry, we’ll get you some garbage minutes when the game is out of hand.”

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
10:43 pm

Round up the usual suspects.

O'Brien

March 11th, 2011
10:52 pm

Big Ray, nire,

Whatever the problem is, I think JJ is a part of it. if it’s the culture, well, he has been the captain for years, and all we have heard is he leads by example. If he is unhappy about something, he needs to speak up, and I dont get the impression that he says much.

O'Brien

March 11th, 2011
10:59 pm

I dont know what’s going on with these Hawks. i would have liked to hear LD’s post game. That being said, Rick has put the players on notice, but things are getting worse.

Usual suspects?

1) Jamal: bad defense on Rose, 4 turnovers
2) Marvin: 1-5 in 18 minutes
3) JJ: Only 16, 4 and 2
4) Al: 8 shot attempts, 7 rebounds in 40 minutes
5) Josh: 4 turnovers
6) Team: 4th quarter scoring
7) LD: Cannot reign in the players, doesnt always backup up his words

And the list goes on. Its hard for the Hawks to win when they have so many usual suspects.

niremetal

March 11th, 2011
11:10 pm

O’B,

I think there are 99 problems with this team, and many of the things that JJ does are on that list. Like I’ve always said, I’m a counterpuncher when it comes to blogging. When someone starts bashing Josh and blaming him for the failings of this team, I play devil’s advocate then too. But that doesn’t happen much around here. Same with Al.

My “round up the usual suspects” line is meant as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that no matter what goes on in a particular game, most the people around here point their finger at the people they always point to. Ken will point to our starting PG, Astro will point to LD, vava will point to Jamal, you will point to JJ, Melvin will point to JJ/Marvin, doc will point to JJ/Jamal, etc, etc, etc.

In any case, the problems are painfully obvious on both ends of the floor. But the players don’t seem to care enough to fix them, and the coach doesn’t seem to have what it takes to get them to care.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
11:34 pm

Smoove tries to do too much, Al doesn’t try to do enough, Joe has his usual decent but unspectacular and ultimately unimpactful game, Marvin disappears, Zaza disappears, Jamal gives up two points for every point he scores, and LD’s substitution patterns are straight out of the bizarro world.

There’s your game. What’s new.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
11:35 pm

Najeh ,

Don’t take my post about the “usual spewage” to be a shot at you or anyone else. All I’m saying is two things:

1) Rose is having an MVP season. He can’t be stopped. Not by Jeff Teague, not by anybody. Rose went to the foul line 15 times, and I only count 4 fouls on Hinrich (and Zero on Jamal), so that means the dude was determined to get something done.

2)No doubt Teague would have done better defending Rose than Jamal ever would. But, Teague may have added to those trips to the foul line. And if you look at the box score, you can see that Rose wasn’t missing when he got there (14-15). In my opinion, that would not have won us the game.

Having said that, I agree that trying Teague is something LD could/should have done.

ONLY….

I think I know precisely why he did what he did. It’s been the same problem all year long. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I agree , just that I understand . Big difference between the two.

Fact is, LD’s vaunted offense isn’t producing points. The players aren’t producing points. Take your pick of which you’d rather blame, or combine them however you like. Yet another game, we can’t even reach 80 points. Al feel short, JJ fell short, Marvin hardly existed, Smoove fell short.

Hinrich plays less than 30 minutes and gets into foul trouble (because he WILL play defense). Who do you put in? Another guy who will get into foul trouble against Rose, or a guy who might make 50% of his shots or more?

LD is going to go offense every time, just like his predecessor.

Again, not saying it’s wrong or right, just saying it is what it is.

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
11:37 pm

New blog up, and Niremetal dang near spoils my theme with the last paragraph of his 11:10 pm. post.

How dare you be thinking what I’m thinking at the same time! LOL…

Big Ray

March 11th, 2011
11:44 pm

Kirk Hinrich proves my point:

Hinrich was asked how the Hawks held down D-Rose last time: “He missed shots.”

Najeh Davenpoop

March 11th, 2011
11:53 pm

Dude, I never take anything as a “shot at me”.