Atlanta Hawks – Slippery slope part II

It’s happening again. The Atlanta Hawks are slipping, and they’re gaining speed as they go down the slope of losing. Sure, teams struggle and that is the nature of the game. Struggling like this is a different story, though.

Writing On the Wall

Rick Sund said the Hawks were essentially playing to stay within the 3rd to 5th seed range of the playoffs. Perhaps we can guess that this means retaining as much as the 5th seed in a conference that has experienced some major moves that have increased the talent level, is acceptable. Maybe this is a reasonable thought, considering that the Hawks would have been hard-pressed to make any moves that could match the splashy significant of the triumvirate in Miami, the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony in New York, or the move that brought Deron Williams to New Jersey. In fact, the only move the Hawks did make seemed rather vanilla to most folks. Sure, it was a good move, but it was never going to be enough. Sund indicated that what the Hawks needed most was to change from within.

So, as the Hawks’ chemistry continues to be a problem, what seemed a distant threat at one time is now creeping up with a nearly inevitable feel – the Hawks are going to fall into the lower seeds of the playoff bracket. Fortunately, they won’t have to worry about falling completely out of the playoffs. Indiana is currently the 8th seed in the conference with a whopping 27 wins, while trying to stave off Charlotte, who has an identical record. So, the Hawks don’t have to worry about teams that are 10 games behind them.

But what of New York and Philadelphia, the current sixth and seventh seeds in the Eastern Conference?

 The Knicks now have a serious swagger and the talent to back it up. They still don’ t play defense well enough to win against the upper echelon of either conference on a consistent basis, but they’re a more credible threat than most, what with their star power. At 34 victories and with a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, the Knicks could overtake the stumbling Hawks.

The Sixers are going about their business much more quietly, but they too have now managed 34 victories after beating Boston tonight. Their record in the last 10 games? Eight victories, two losses. Like the Knicks, the Sixers have struggled at times against the better teams in the League, but they’ve pretty much stomped on those with inferior records. Worse yet, they have something else in common with New York – both have proven they can beat the Hawks into the hardwood this season.

Can Atlanta win enough to keep these two teams in their current places? Or is the writing already on the wall?

 

Cancelled Due to a Lack of Interest…

The way things are going, I can’t tell who is less interested right now – the fans or the players. Maybe both realize that not much is going to change this season. It was nice for a minute, watching the Hawks play better defense. However, this offensive ineptitude gets tiring really quickly. Some moments, the team seems like they’re sleepwalking while one player tries to do too much (usually resulting in a turnover these days). Other moments show frustration from some players (again…usually resulting in a turnover) and perplexingly subpar play from the team’s best players. All the while, the post game quotes and comments are becoming more and more bleak. Or should we say, apathetic? Larry Drew seems to have lost or let go of the reins to this stagecoach.  Tonight’s game clearly showed that once again, he’s talking to nobody in particular when it comes to his game plan. Are his days numbered as well?

It’s not that the Hawks are the only team struggling. There have been tears in Miami and anger and outrage in Orlando.  Even fans of the reining League Champs have something to gripe about. No, the Hawks aren’t the only ones with problems. But it just might be that they are the only ones who don’t seem to care.

 

UP NEXT

With 17 games left to play, the Hawks return to Atlant for a six game homestand that may or may not help stabilize things. First on tap are the Portland Trailblazers, a team that Atlanta beat on the road a couple of weeks ago with doses of offensive effectiveness from Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. Between the lackluster play from the Hawks and the Blazers’ dual bid of wresting 5th place from Denver while staving off 7th place New Orleans, there is just no way to predict how this might turn out. But if the Hawks can’t find a way to motivate themselves to play better at home (at least), then they are likely to keep right on sliding….

 

….right down that slippery slope.

 

 

Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog

344 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:02 pm

Smoove posts up, draws a double team, kicks out to an open Joe… who holds the ball long enough for the Nuggets to reset, gets Nene matched up on him, and shoots over him instead of driving on him.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:04 pm

No defensive adjustments so far.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:05 pm

AJ, Najeh,

Great minds think alike. JJ settled for the jumper, when he should have looked for the drive.

And we pay the price for when LD feels forced to go offense for defense.

Jamal in the game…trickle down effect on defense…

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:07 pm

That wasn’t the first time he got the ball wide open, waited for the defense to reset, and settled for a jumper in this game. Nor was it the first time he’s done that this season either, for that matter. That, above all, is probably the most infuriating thing I ever see Joe doing. It’s not even the jumper that gets me as much as how he takes forever to make up his mind and completely negates the significance of Smoove (or anyone else for that matter) drawing the double team and allowing him to get open.

vava74

March 16th, 2011
9:07 pm

Jamal, as usual, as been exploited at will.

Another great LD performance with Jamal playing the later part of the 3rd quarter and the 4th at the PG slot.

I don’t have the stat, by I think we lost at least 80% of the games LD did that.

It’s that simple: Felton forces a scramble with Jamal always lost in the shuffle, we rotate poorly, and the Nuggets score comfortably.

vava74

March 16th, 2011
9:09 pm

Great effort Jamal!!! Way to go LD!!!

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:10 pm

Sometimes the Hawks play like my son’s YMCA team. Instead of moving and getting open to receive a pass from the man who has lost his dribble, they stand there with feet glued to the court and expect something good to happen.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:10 pm

Najeh,

My theory is if JJ would go quicker when he gets those passes, the Hawks offense would be better. But more recently, he seems to pound pound pound, and then when the double comes, he pounds it a little more… before finally making the pass out of the double team.

I wish he would be more selective with his passes out of the double team…and with the shots he gets when somebody else gets double teamed…

And why can’t LD get Josh to stop those jumpers?

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:11 pm

Looks like less than 10K in the arena tonight.

niremetal

March 16th, 2011
9:11 pm

I blame O’Brien’s 8:53.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:13 pm

Next time you see all of that Joe pounding, see if any of his teammates are moving to get in position to receive a pass.

niremetal

March 16th, 2011
9:14 pm

We finally had a decent offensive quarter at least in terms of points on the board, but we forgot to defend. *sigh*

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:14 pm

What’s up with our starting backcourt getting so little second half love from their head coach?

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:15 pm

Also, if Al would play with Nene’s mentality, dude would be averaging 20 and 10 easily.

Melvin

March 16th, 2011
9:16 pm

Terrible effort by the Hawks tonight…

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:16 pm

Teague = Cinderfella! I think midnight struck immediately after the Portland game and no one told LD.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:17 pm

*Should have said “I wish he was more decisive”

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:20 pm

nire,

He giveth, and he taketh away :smile:

AJ,

And the same thing happened last year when Woody would run his ISOs. Players just stood around, with poor movement, and poor spacing. When will they learn…

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:25 pm

It looks like Hinrich left with around 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter and was never heard from again despite the Denver backcourt having their way offensively in the 4th. What’s up with that? Did he break his goggles or something? Did LD forget about the trade and thought Bibby was sitting over there?

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:26 pm

“Did LD forget about the trade and thought Bibby was sitting over there?”

To be completely honest, I think LD does forget that he has certain players on his team at times. I can’t think of any other explanation for his substitution patterns that makes more sense. I really do think he forgot he had Hinrich (and forgot that Hinrich played very well in the first half).

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:27 pm

“Teague = Cinderfella! I think midnight struck immediately after the Portland game and no one told LD.”

He didn’t play well against the Nuggets at Denver either. In every other game since the trade he has been outstanding defensively even if he was inconsistent offensively; against the Nuggets, he’s only been OK.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:32 pm

LD’s comments (I’m guessing)…

1) We took too many jumpers
2) We didnt play tough enough
3) We didnt play with the type of defense we needed…

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:36 pm

Najeh, with Hinrich here, I’m not sure that Teague can continue to start and be a non-factor on offense (as he was last night and tonight). I could see the next experiment being replacing Teague with Damien. Which leads to an interesting diemma… do you like LD tinkering with the line-up and rotations this late in the season or do you give him props for continuing to tinker? There is a fine-line either way… not a clear cut answer.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:41 pm

LD said “we were being seduced into taking a lot of quick, long shots in the first quarter”. Kind of like the serpent tempting Eve with the apple.

“Josh, don’t you like the way the net sounds when you hit those pretty rainbow shots? Isn’t it lovely? Don’t you want to hear that beautiful string music? Shoot me, Josh, make me sing the lovely string music you so like to hear. Shoot me Josh, shoot me from back here.”

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:41 pm

Charles barkley always says “You dont live and die by the jumper. You only die by the jumper”.

Sometimes, the hawks just dont play smart.

AJ,

I think Teague can continue starting. However, if his struggles on offense are an issue, then LD can make a quick switch, and take him out.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
9:42 pm

And dont forget Josh’s guy (whatever his name is), who would text Josh and tell him “you dont need anybody’s approval”

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:43 pm

Oh yeah, and as a frequent and vocal detractor of Zaza, it wouldn’t be right for me to not acknowledge the excellent game he had in this one. Played within his limits, crashed the boards, and when he got involved in the offense he did so confidently. The Hawks’ defense still suffers when he’s in the game since he can’t contest shots at the rim at all (and this problem was compounded by Smoove’s foul trouble limiting his aggressiveness on defense) but it’s good to see Zaza playing this way.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:44 pm

Oops, I screwed up that previous post. Should LD settle on his rotations and get guys used to a certain combination/role or should he continue to tinker? Pros and cons both ways. IMO, he can continue to tinker until there are about 10-12 games left, after that he needs to leave it alone and let guys get used to whatever role they will play and the guys who will likely be on the floor with them. But I think he has to give them at least 10 games to adapt.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:47 pm

“do you like LD tinkering with the line-up and rotations this late in the season or do you give him props for continuing to tinker? ”

I’m not really in the mood to give LD props for anything, but it’s not like the Hawks have really great on-court chemistry right now that would be disrupted by ongoing tinkering.

As far as this particular lineup is concerned, I’d rather give it a few more games to see how effective it can be before deciding whether or not to make a switch. With that said, the Hawks really don’t do enough to take advantage of the quickness of this back court. To me, it is a damn shame that this team doesn’t run pick and rolls. They still run the offense as if Bibby was playing point guard. Kirk and especially Teague should be coming off screens with a full head of steam attacking the hoop the way Lawson and Felton were doing for the Nuggets.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
9:52 pm

And it also bears mentioning that the key stretch the Nuggets used to blow this game open came when neither member of the starting back court was in the game, so I don’t think this game says a whole lot about the effectiveness of this back court.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
9:57 pm

Najeh, assumning that LD didn’t forget about Hinrich & Teague, not having them in the game during that drucial time does speak to their “forecasted” effectiveness in that situation. I mean a head coach plays the guys who will most likely give him what he needs and when he needs it, right? Ultimately, he didn’t trust either of his starters to help him close a game that at one point was a 4 point deficit. Isn’t that significant?

niremetal

March 16th, 2011
10:00 pm

LD’s rotations tonight were just bizarre. Why Teague and especially Hinrich didn’t make an appearance in the 4th quarter is beyond me. They were shredding us from the perimeter and we had Jamal at PG.

Hinrich was one of the few guys who actually looked decent on both ends through the first three quarters (Zaza and Marvin were the others). Why was he suddenly riding the pine down the stretch?

And Al and JJ treated the ball like it was a hot potato today. If our All-Stars aren’t being aggressive, we don’t have much of a chance.

niremetal

March 16th, 2011
10:01 pm

I mean, when Josh and Jamal are the only guy on the team who want to take shots, this is what’ll happen.

But seriously, LD. WHERE THE HELL WAS HINRICH IN THE 4TH?

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
10:04 pm

“I mean a head coach plays the guys who will most likely give him what he needs and when he needs it, right? Ultimately, he didn’t trust either of his starters to help him close a game that at one point was a 4 point deficit. Isn’t that significant?”

I think it’s significant in that it shows just how poor LD is at “forecasting” effectiveness of his players and his various lineups. If after 58 games he still doesn’t realize that Jamal at point guard is a recipe for disaster and Jamal matched up on any key opposing player defensively is a recipe for disaster, I don’t even know what to say.

I can understand not playing Teague in crunch time in this game, since he wasn’t very good offensively and only intermittently successful defensively when he was playing early in the game. But not having Kirk on the floor in the late 3rd/early 4th was just idiotic.

niremetal

March 16th, 2011
10:15 pm

I’ve been lax about this the past few weeks – didn’t post an update after the last 4 games. Somewhat fortunate, because it would have seemed like I was piling on. It was by far his worst stretch of the season. Here’s a cumulative Josh’s jumpers watch update:

vs. LAL: 3-8 (2-4 on 3s)
vs. Chi: 1-9 (0-2 on 3s)
vs. Por: 1-6 (1-2 on 3s)
vs. Mil: 2-6 (0-2 on 3s)
vs. Den: 0-7 (0-1 on 3s)

Total: 7-36 (3-11 on 3s)
FG%: .194
eFG%: .236
eFG% vs. season avg: -.205
vs. ’09-’10 avg: -.049
————————————————————–
His jumper has improved, but not enough to justify the drastic shift toward jumpers that he’s made this year. That drastic shift is the reason I’ve been keeping track of his jumpers. Until this update, I don’t think he ever had a 3-game stretch where he dipped below his eFG% on jumpers from last year.

To his credit, he actually HAS improved his jumper from last year to this year. But he clearly is still way, way more effective inside. Over the past 5 games, he was 20 for 30 (.667) on non-jumpers. That’s even better than he usually does inside (.610 this year).

Josh’s strength, explosiveness, and leaping ability makes him a nightmare in the paint. If Josh made his living in the paint, he’d be an All-Star with no difficulty. I can’t say that about ANY other player on the team. He doesn’t need to keep improving his jumper. He needs to focus on what he does best, not on improving the things he doesn’t do best.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
10:16 pm

Interesting discussion. We often talk about “finishing” being ,more important than starting. And we typically say that in he context of trusting that the coach will finish with the players best suited to help deliver a victory. If you can’t trust the head coach to have the right 5 guys on the floor to help overcome a 4 point deficit (with a fair amount of time left in the game), then how do you trust some of the earlier line-up decisions (including who starts)?

I agree that Hinrich should have been in there (as I said immediately when the game ended). I’ll go so far as to say that the current way LD is utilizing Hinrich seems like a complete waste. When Woody got Bibby, he pretty much gave him the keys to the team from the first day. I think LD should have done the same, instead he seemingly has maintained his personal choke-hold on he offense. Starting Teague at PG hasn’t loosen LD’s grip on the offense, it only reinforces it (as Teague is clearly not ready to assume that responsibility). So Hinrich becomes a smaller version of Damien Wilkins… which we seemingly had in Mo Evans. Seriously, is the Teague-Hinrich backcourt that much different than what a Teague-Evans backcourt would have delivered?

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
10:20 pm

He needs to focus on what he does best, not on improving the things he doesn’t do best. Amen. And contrary to the previous sentiment of “NBA players make money by diversifying their games”. While both may be true, I’m selfishly interested in what makes the team better.

Big Ray

March 16th, 2011
10:22 pm

Ken Strickland ,

LOL. Trust me, I can’t possibly make you look anti-Drew. I’m picking at you because if I had a couple dollars for every post I’ve seen you type up where the name Larry Drew and the capitalized words “STUBBORN STUPIDIDY” appear, I’d have enough money to take my wife to the movies at least twice this weekend. But I digress…

It’s not like you are the only one who has issues with LD. You’re not, by far. But yours are quite well documented, I assure you. Maybe even more than you realize. But, I’ll stop poking at you because you keep taking it personally. Peace…

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
10:27 pm

“So Hinrich becomes a smaller version of Damien Wilkins… which we seemingly had in Mo Evans. Seriously, is the Teague-Hinrich backcourt that much different than what a Teague-Evans backcourt would have delivered?”

Mo Evans was nowhere near as good defensively as either Kirk or Damien.

O'Brien

March 16th, 2011
10:32 pm

I havent looked at the numbers, but vava has been saying most of the year that more often than not, there are key shifts in momentum when Jamal plays backup PG late 3rd quarter and for extended minutes into the 4th.

I dont think LD knows how to maximize the effectiveness of his players. This may be too much to expect of any HC, but…

1) LD needs to limit Jamal minutes some more
2) Play Kirk more in the 4th
3) Find a way to get Josh to cut down his jumpers (especially early in the game)
4) Get JJ to be more decisive with the ball
5) Find a way to get Al more touches in games like this.

Is that too much to ask…

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
10:33 pm

Najeh, we most often saw Mo guarding SFs and Hinrich guarding PGs. If both were assigned SGs (as Hinrich is when he starts in this current line-up) I don’t think the difference is that significant. Let me put it this way, would you trade JC2 and a 1st round pick for that differential between Hinrich guarding a SG and Evans (or WIlkins for that matters) guarding a SG? I wouldn’t even give it a second of consideration. I need Hinrich to play and guard the PG position for 30+ minutes to make that trade.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 16th, 2011
10:52 pm

“Let me put it this way, would you trade JC2 and a 1st round pick for that differential between Hinrich guarding a SG and Evans (or WIlkins for that matters) guarding a SG? I wouldn’t even give it a second of consideration. I need Hinrich to play and guard the PG position for 30+ minutes to make that trade.”

I definitely think Kirk is an upgrade in every way shape and form from what the Hawks had before, he was without question the best player involved in that trade, and his acquisition makes the Hawks better right now. It’s also worth mentioning that Kirk has defended 2-guards very well throughout his career despite his height disadvantage, most notably D-Wade in the playoffs. So I think it’s more than just a marginal upgrade to have him defending 2 guards than Mo.

If you’re going to take into account what the Hawks gave up to get him, though, the discussion changes completely. From that point of view, you could make the argument that the Kirk trade wasn’t worth it even if he does play 30+ minutes at point guard, since the Hawks seem to be headed for a first round playoff exit with or without him.

Your original point, that Kirk is not being utilized properly, is still well taken. For that matter, neither is Teague. Both those players should be coming off screens and attacking the way Felton and Lawson do. I know Kirk isn’t the blur that either of those players are, but he’s still plenty quick enough and crafty enough with the ball that getting him moving toward the basket would open up opportunities for assists for him.

These Hawks have bigger issues, though, and the indecision on how to use Kirk is pretty far down the list as far as I’m concerned.

Astro Joe

March 16th, 2011
11:07 pm

Well I predicted 48 regular season wins and a first round loss at the beginning of the year. I’m in pretty good shape with less than 15 games left.

Najeh, we have Hinrich for about 105 regular season games. I think we could have upgraded the defense at SG for a lesser price than JC2 & a 1st round pick. I thought that we were acquiring a starting PG for the next 105 games. Someone who could settle the team down in half-courts sets. Someone capable of playing 30 effective minutes on both ends of the court. A bonafide starter and finisher. And honestly, someone who could help establish Horford as the team’s leader (on and off the court). IMO, Al could use another serious-minded, hard-hat, team-above-self guy to help him lead by example. I thought Hinrich would be that guy. LD hasn’t “annointed” Hinrich in the way I thought he would/should. And I do think that is a major issue with this team.

But the number 1 issue (IMO) is that our head coach has seemingly lost the battle of wills with Josh and I fear that the team will continue to spiral as a result.

Big Ray

March 16th, 2011
11:33 pm

New blog up. Same story. See ya there…