It’s that time of year again, as if you needed to be told. Offseason doldrums. Well, if you’re a Hawks fan, that is. With the Conference Finals yet to be finished, and therefore the NBA Finals yet to begin, the draft is ordinarily the next topic of conversation. However, there doesn’t seem like much use in talking draft prospects since the Hawks don’t have a first round pick. They do have a second round pick, but unless it’s a very deep draft or Sund and his team are hot on the trail of some talented foreign prospect that nobody else knows about (think Pape Sy, part II), then there’s probably very little that’s noteworthy in the way of change to the team.
What about free agency and trade? With the CBA gumming things up, and constant investment/sale chatter in connection with the team and Phillips Arena, there is no telling what can be expected. Rick Sund’s administration keeps things close to the vest, so there would probably be few rumors to speculate on anyway. And again…the CBA looms large. What does all of this mean? It may not be wise to expect the Hawks to make any major changes to the team. Maybe not even some that would seriously change the core, something that the Hawks don’t seem inclined to do, as it is. There’s nothing left but internal improvement. So, at the suggestion of our very own Astro Joe, I ask YOU -
Which Hawks players can help this team become more than it was this season, and how should they go about it? Just to get this party started, here are a few thoughts of my own:
There is no substitute for experience in the big seat (also known as the hot seat). However, Drew is still up against a wall. Many are calling for a championship caliber head coach, and while Drew had the Hawks playing competitively and much better in the playoffs, but he wasn’t able to get the team past a third straight second round playoff exit. Many think that a better head coach could or will solve all the problems with player performance on the court. Drew is likely to be staying employed (much to the chagrin of some), so his best bet is to accomplish some of the things that people say he can’t do. First, he could stand to learn how to let his players play through early foul trouble. Drew’s tendency to snatch a guy like Al Horford out if he gets two fouls in the first half is a momentum robbing move, and often affects the player’s ability to get going. Second, he needs to figure out a firm rotation that works, and redefine some roles. Gee, where have we heard THAT before? Third, if all the guys who are here now, remain here, then Drew needs to find a better way of coaxing the best out of them. That might mean tweaks to his offense, which we still are unable to identify clearly.
Simply put, Horford needs to get back to his roots. Even if he ends up playing more power forward than center for the remainder of his career, there is no reason not to play tough. Horford spent the first three years of his career as an ever present double double threat and a guy who most frontcourts preferred to not have to deal with. Horford had a rough postseason performance and while he did average a double double (a fact that seems to continuously elude some of us), he didn’t look like the guy who had just established a career high in field goal percentage and points per game during the regular season. Al needs to spend some offseason time with somebody who can help him with his back-to-the-basket game. That, and maybe he should start eating boiled leather for breakfast. Tough is where it’s at.
The playoff series against Chicago made Jeff Teague look like the legitimate starting point guard prospect that we had hoped he would become. While he may not have the job in the bag for certain, his chances are better than good. The first thing Teague needs to do is maintain a professional work ethic and attitude. One thing bothered me about his reason for playing well, and that’s this snippet from AJC Beat writer Michael Cunningham, which I think a lot of people may have missed, or maybe misunderstood:
To Teague, the difference has not just been playing more; it’s knowing the Hawks need him to play more.
“I would say that’s the difference,” he said. “During the season I didn’t know if I was going to play one game and if I was going to sit the next. Now, knowing that I’m going to get an opportunity to go in every game, I just try to focus and give a good effort.”
Ok, now that seems like an easy “like shooting fish in a barrel” shot at Larry Drew, doesn’t it? And we can go on and on about how much Drew should or shouldn’t have played Teague during the regular season. But the point here is that Teague can’t come into camp with this attitude. If he does, then he doesn’t need to be the starting point guard. A professional player needs to go at it hard and heavy regardless of how much he can “expect” to play. I understand what the young man is saying and why, but if you’re not always mentally prepared to play….then how are you ever going to be ready to play? Thankfully, Teague was ready to go against Chicago. But now, he needs to bring that verve every night if he wants to run this team. He needs to come to camp READY to play, not EXPECTING to play.
Oh yeah…and he needs to work with a shooting coach. Give that young man a better jumper and we’ll be looking at a very potent player who might be the best point guard this team has seen since Mookie Blaylock.
So there you have a few suggestions of my own. YOUR turn!
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog