There’s a place you can go, where the ride is bumpy, the hills are steep, the valleys are deep, and the track is unpredictable. It’s not a safari. It’s not a theme park. It’s the Atlanta Hawks NBA schedule. Why bother going to a theme park when you can just watch these guys play?
As much as we love our Hawks, they just can’t be tracked. Atlanta has had trouble reeling off more than two wins in a row, having done so less than five times this season, with decent sized game spans in between. We knew this second half schedule would be tough, but what’s with the whole “win big tonight, lose big tomorrow night?” It seems that not much has changed. The Hawks have enough talent and cohesion to easily top a lesser team one night, then don’t have enough of anything to even make it close against a team of fairly equal standing the next night.
Home is Where the Heart is?
In all likelihood, the Hawks just don’t know where their heart is. What made them explode against Milwaukee wasn’t present against a depleted Denver squad. With both contests occurring at Phillips Arena, it’s hard to find a common denominator. Where is the competitive fire? Where is the cohesion? Why does it disappear after a night or two? Maybe it wasn’t really there to begin with. One thing is for sure – with a record of 20 and 13 at home, the Hawks have established that they have won more at Phillips Arena than they’ve lost. The problem is that games like the last two are proof that there is not guarantee, even from a statistical standpoint.
How will this play out in the postseason? If the Hawks maintain their current position, they’ll be matched up against Orlando in the first round, as discussed on previous blogs. This matchup seems more and more likely every day now.
More Writing on The Wall
As if the pattern of play wasn’t disturbing enough, there is also the growing and painfully obvious tinge of bitterness coming from Al Horford, our most vocal team captain, who was interviewed after the loss to Denver:
“They really spread you out,” he said. “They have six or seven weapons. They’re a great team. We play like that at times. Other times, we don’t. We’d be a better team if we played like them….We’ve got to share the ball more,” he said. “It shows we’re still an immature team. There’s no question something needs to be done… It’s happened to us all year. This is nothing new.”
Compare that to what was heard from Kenyon Martin, who is playing on a team that just recently lost it’s superstar player:
“It’s fun to play basketball the right way,” Kenyon Martin said. “It always has been, always will be. When everybody’s out there sharing the ball, everybody’s involved, it just makes everyone want to play that much harder on the defensive end.”
Adding insult to injury? Try this:
“We got Zaza Pachulia being their leading scorer,” Martin said. “You know what I’m saying? We’ll take that.”
Something has to be done? I sure hope Rick Sund is taking notes. Unfortunately for Horford, that “something” won’t happen until this offseason. Until then, he and his teammates will have to find a way to ride this out. Or not. As another team captain notes, they’ve got to figure it out NOW.
Larry Drew Quandary
By now we really have no idea what to expect from Head Coach Larry Drew anymore than we do from the team. The question isn’t whether that is part of Atlanta’s problem, but rather how MUCH of a part of the problem it is. Drew doesn’t seem to know what to do when things aren’t working, a problem his predecessor also had. Does that mean there isn’t a true working solution at this time, or does it mean that Drew is simply in over his head? If that’s the case, then winning and losing is all but up to the players. Well, we’ve seen how that goes. I mean, just review what Horford has to say.
Should Drew stick with the lineup of Horford, Smith, Johnson, Hinrich, and Teague on most nights, or should he respond to a loss such as this (against Denver) with more lineup changes? Perhaps the Hawks could use some continuity in the way of a lineup, rotation, and minutes played. Maybe this will help to truly isolate the problems that this team is having on the court.
Drew says he’s not worried about guys missing shots. Maybe he should prove that by sticking with a particular lineup all the time, the lone exception being where certain particular matchups dictate otherwise. But, he has to do something. Time is short.
What should LD do?
It’s much worse than that, if you ask me. The problem with Larry Drew isn’t just that he doesn’t seem to know what to do with his lineups. He also has a desperate grip on the gameplan…and yet he can’t seem to control what happens in the game. How is this possible? Worst of all, it’s entirely possible that Drew has lost the confidence of two of his team captains. Let me break it down even further, and get down and dirtier:
1) One team captain is oblivious to the problems, or doesn’t see them for what they are. There’s an obvious reason for that. Your guess as to which one that is.
2) Another team captain has all but ceased to care. I take that back. He doesn’t care anymore. And why should he? (rhetorical question) You’ll have no problems guessing this one. The question is what conclusion you come to as far as WHY you guessed it right.
3) Another team captain is disgusted. He is the one who will speak the words which ultimately doom Drew. Need a guess as to who that is? I doubt it.
And those are just the team captains. What about the rest of the guys? What about the on-again-off-again rotation players (Zaza Pachulia), the new guys (Kirk Hinrich), or the potential future starters (Teague)? What do they expect from Drew, and are they being disappointed? Do they know their roles, do they see solutions in sight?
This is what is happening right before our eyes. Larry Drew is doing in 3/4 of a season what it took Mike Woodson 5-6 years to do. And somehow, I don’t think that’s an accomplishment he’ll be proud of.
What do YOU think?
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog