HAWKSVILLE - I remember laughing out loud at Josh Smith late last season when he was sure the Hawks were going to make the playoffs.
It was during one of the Hawks’ notorious dry stretches, when they were playing so poorly that even snagging the eighth spot (which they ultimately did) looked impossible.
Those dry stretches have been far and few between this season.
In fact, here we are in the final days of March and the a Hawks are in danger of actually clinching a playoff spot before we get to Arpil (and yes, I realize the Spurs, Celtics and Lakers are all coming to town before the week is out).
As preposterous as it sounds, I think I owe the young fella an apology for making so much fun of him a little over a year ago. He talked about the playoffs like it was a foregone conclusion. And he talked like the Hawks were going to be a playoff player for years to come.
It sounded ridiculous to me at the time. After all, they stumbled badly throughout last season and barely made the playoffs. They didn’t have the look, swagger or mettle of a playoff caliber team for most of the season. There were questions about everything from who would be on the roster this season to whether or not Mike Woodson and his staff would be back to coach them.
There was no reason to believe the Hawks would be a 41-29 team at this point in this season based on where they were this time a year ago.
And yet here they are, likely days away from clinching a second straight playoff berth (their magic number is a combination of four games, wins and or losses by the team in possession of the eighth spot in the standings with some tiebreakers tossed in just to keep things interesting).
So next time, I’ll keep my laughter to myself (how’s that for a public mea culpa Josh?).
BIBBY’S SUCCESSOR FALTERS IN SACTO
When the Hawks acquired Mike Bibby at the trade deadline last year, the Kings justified the deal by touting Beno Udrih as his successor.
For a while it looked great for both sides.
Udrih played well for the lowly Kings and Bibby helped the Hawks secure that playoff berth last season. Udrih cashed in with a $32 million deal in the offseason and the Kings assumed they had their point guard for the present and future.
The only problem is it hasn’t worked out so well since then for Udrih or the Kings. Not according to former AJC writer Ailene Voisin. She takes Udrih and the Kings to task for the multi-million dollar miscalculation in Monday’s Sacramento Bee.
Funny thing is, the Hawks will be in a similar predicament this summer when they have to decide how to proceed with (or witihout) Bibby this summer. The veteran point guard will be a free agent and the Hawks have to decide if they want to pay to keep him at the helm or move on with a younger (cheaper and decidedly less experienced successor in the form of Acie Law IV, or someone else) floor general.
I quizzed a couple of scout friends about this to see what they’d do if they were in the Hawks’ position this summer and their answers couldn’t have been more different.
“There’s no way I’d get caught in that game,” my advance scout friend from an Eastern Conference playoff power told me. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if the Knicks have taught us anything this year it’s that you don’t have to overpay at a position like point guard if you do your homework and find the right guy. What they did with Chris Duhon should be a lesson to the rest of the league. If you don’t have a superstar at that spot and don’t want to overpay for a veteran guy, you find a worker bee that fits your system and go with him. That gives you the flexibility to make a move for a bigger name if need be without being strapped with a huge salary guy that’s on the downside of his career. With the way economics are going play a factor this summer, you need to get the bang for your buck at as many positions as possible.”
Not everyone is convinced that taking that bang-for-the-buck risk is worth it for a franchise that’s finally found it’s footing. Especially one with the miserable point guard history the Hawks had over the past six years (pre-Bibby, of course).
“After watching this same team before Bibby and now with him, they better find a way to make it work,” a Western Conference player personnel friend told me. “I’m not sure it’s worth taking the risk to start over at such an important position. Plus, the market is going to be extremely tight this summer. Bibby’s greatest value was at the trade deadline, when a team could have used his expiring salary to facilitate other things. As a free agent, there’s going to be a limited number of teams interested in a guy that still shoots as well as Bibby does but is a defensive liability. They certainly won’t be able to find a replacement in free agency that’s already entrenched in that system and has that kind of chemistry with the rest of those guys that Bibby does. So why risk it?”
It’s a tough call either way. Had the Hawks groomed Law the way they needed to, they might have avoided this dilemma altogether. But they didn’t. And now they don’t have that luxury.
This is way off the basketball path and you’ve never known me to hype anything that doesn’t serve my own selfish interests, but have you seen any of these trailers for the Star Trek movie that comes out in May?
I’m not even a Trekkie and it’s got me juiced.
With a lovely lady like Zoe Saldana playing Uhura, they’d have gotten my cash anyway. But the trailers are fantastic. I just hope the movie lives up to the hype.
Full disclosure, I’m a movie buff of epic proportions. So I get a little sidetracked sometimes by good trailers. I’ve been scouring the web for leaked stuff on movies that won’t come out until the summer of 2010 and beyond, hopeful that someone has found a way to pirate the good stuff for all of us to enjoy. So please forgive my brief indulgence on this topic. I was just in the mood to share.
Kudos if you made it this far. That means you really care about the minutiae surrounding your Hawks.
That’s why we’ll end this with an injury update – and sorry, it has nothing to do with Marvin Williams, who remains out indefinitely with that lower back injury.
We’re talking Law again. He is listed as questionable for tonight’s game against Minnesota.
It’s a huge blow for the Hawks if he can’t get back on the floor this week, as they’re going to need him to help spell Bibby and work with Flip Murray on that second unit with the Spurs, Celtics and Lakers all in town over the next seven days.
I wrote last summer about how his rookie season was lost to injuries and a lack of playing time and now it seems his sophomore season is going to be done in by the same things.