The great (leadership) debate

Don't let the turtleneck sweater fool you. John Shaft was a bad man!

Don't let the turtleneck sweater fool you. John Shaft is a bad man!

MIAMI - Long after his Miami Heat had finished wiping the AmericanAirlines Arena floor with the Hawks Saturday night, Dwyane Wade said something that crystalized the difference between these two playoff combatants.

Asked about the leadership he provides for his team, the Heat superstar described his evolution as a team leader so perfectly, it almost sounded as if a Hollywood script writer had penned the response for him.

“One thing about being a leader is that it’s 24/7, 365 days a year,” Wade said. “It never stops. I was very disappointed with myself in Game 1. I was quiet, and that is not what my team needs. In Game 2 and Game 3 I took it upon myself to make sure that my voice is heard. To drive the points the coaches made and make sure they hear it again before they get on the court.”

You won’t hear anything resembling that from the Hawks. They don’t have a vocal leader in the mold of Wade (they don’t have a player with game like Wade’s either, but we all knew that going into this series). So their won’t be anyone rescuing the Hawks from themselves between now and the start of Monday night’s epically important Game 4 (a third straight loss by the Hawks spells almost certain doom in this series).

All those cliches about leaders being born and not bred don’t register in this case. Leaders emerge in times like this. Leaders rise to the occasion and impose their will in times like this. Leaders of men and leading men are two distinctly different beings in the NBA landscape and beyond.

Wade’s both a leader of men and a leading man. He’s John Shaft (talk about a leader of men and a leading man) in a pair of funky looking shoes and without the sideburns. There are a handful of Shafts in the NBA these days (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, DWade, Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce come to mind with others floating in and out of the Shaftosphere). The mettle required of your team leader in the playoffs isn’t hard to spot. And Hawks’ captain and All-Star Joe Johnson has yet to show if he has it in him in this series. 

The contrast between his demeanor Sunday and that of Wade over the past few days was striking. Wade vowed to revive his crew after that humiliating, 26-point loss in Game 1 and has done exactly that with two backbreaking efforts since then. Johnson didn’t sound a similar alarm Sunday when asked if he was ready to do it himself, speaking in terms of “we” and “us” when it’s clear that he has to pick up the mantle and carry his team back to even in this series.

“We’ve just got to grow up, man,” Johnson said, his voice trailing off with every word. “We hit a little adversity and now it’s as if we’re out of it. But we have to think positive the rest of the way. You’ve just got to believe. And we have to put it in the guys who have never been in this situation and we have to make them believe we can do this. We have to keep talking to them and keep putting confidence into them.”

The words are fine, but in the playoffs a man can only be judged by his actions.

Two of these guys will face off in the next round and the third will get to watch it from home.

Two of these guys will face off in the next round and the third will get to watch it from home.

AND NOW, A MOMENT OF SILENCE for the Detroit Pistons.

James and his Cavaliers tossed the last shovel of dirt on a deceased Eastern Conference behemoth Sunday afternoon at the Palace of Auburn Hills, sweeping the Pistons out of the playoffs in four games.

It’s only fitting that the Cavaliers did the honors, seeing as how they were the first team expose the flaws of the once-mighty Pistons (in the Eastern Conference finals a couple years ago). The interesting thing going forward is what direction the Pistons go with their rebuilding project.

They’ll have plenty of cap space now that the Allen Iverson deal/fiasco is finally over. I suspect Pistons boss Joe Dumars has a plan mapped out already, and there’s no doubt it includes some big names (wish I knew which ones).

It’s certainly going to make this summer a bit more intriguing come July 1, when free agency begins. It’s supposed to be a sleepy summer with everyone waiting on the 2010 free agent crop. But why wait when you can make a splash now?

THE MORNING AFTER GOING DOWN 2-1 IN A PLAYOFF SERIES might seem like an odd time to have a players’ only team meeting, but Hawks coach Mike Woodson gave the session his blessing after the Hawks’ Sunday practice.

”They’ll meet today and try to figure out some things amongst them,” Woodson said. “For me, from a coaching standpoint, this is not the time for me to scream and yell and curse guys out. We’re right where we need to be. We just have to figure out [Monday] night’s game.”

Secret meetings? Josh Smith and the Hawks are pulling out all the stops to get back into this series.

Secret meetings? Josh Smith and the Hawks are pulling out all the stops to get back into this series.

Johnson didn’t give up the particulars of the time or place and barely acknowledged that any meeting would be taking place. Sorting out whatever internal issues they need to before Game 4 is an excellent idea. Because if it’s going to take a secret meeting to get the Hawks back to playing like they did in Game 1, so be it (no one wants to see one-sided blowouts in the playoffs, well I don’t).

”We beat them pretty bad in Game 1, and they beat us pretty bad in Game 3,” Josh Smith said Sunday. So we’re even. We just have to look at ourselves as individuals and as teammates and come together with a solution. There has to be a philosophy where we have each other’s back. In Game 2 it was a hostile environment in Atlanta, it was just them and the crowd. They played together and everything clicked. They had fun. We have to do the same thing.

”Our backs are against the wall. What are we made of? Are we going to fold and let them win, or do we step up and show them this is going to be a series and turn it around?

WOODSON WAS IN FULL SPIN MODE Sunday, casting the Heat as the veteran crew with all the playoff seasoning and his bunch (everyone knows the Hawks are youngest team in the Eastern Conference postseason field) as the “underdogs” according to my man Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

When asked about the Heat’s supporting cast Woodson said, “When you have O’Neal, who has been a six or seven-time All-Star, and [Udonis] Haslem who has played championship basketball, they have veteran guys who have been through the battles. My guys haven’t been battle tested. This is something new for our team. When I came into the series I thought we could make it to the next round. I want them to think that too. This series is a long way from being over if we take care of business tomorrow.”

Are you buying what Mike Woodson is selling?

Are you buying what Mike Woodson is selling?

If this was some master media stroke to ease the pressure on his team, consider that mission accomplished. But it didn’t look that way to me. I honestly didn’t hear it that way. Woodson’s comments on how his team would bounce back against the Heat seemed far more interesting to anyway.

”Our team has been committed all year long, so I’m not ready to put them out to pasture so fast,” he said.” They have been committed. We’ve had some tough times and some tough games, stretches where we didn’t play well. And we bounced back. We haven’t played well the past few games. We have to find what we’re made of. Until we’re eliminated I’m going to keep fighting and I’m going to push them to keep fighting.

”Again, when we won the first game, I’m sure they were down after that. They had to be thinking we had to win three more to get to the next round. I’m thinking the same thing. I have to get these guys thinking the right way. The last two games, we’ve been kind of punched out a little bit. We have to rebound.”

1,132 comments Add your comment

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:11 pm

FINALLY SOME EXTENDED D… AND TRAPS…

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:13 pm

The half court offense still looks a little shaky but I’m seeing a lot more off-the-ball movement early in this game. That’s a very good sign.

2 straight offensive boards on that last possession… also great to see.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:13 pm

LETS GO… DONE WIT DIS SHYT…!!!

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:13 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:15 pm

2 straight airballs for Wade… this is not gonna last all game, and the Hawks better take advantage.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:16 pm

JOSH ON DAT DUMB SHYT… WANTING THEM TO PASS THE BALL SO HE CAN PULL UP.. DRIVE THA DAMN BALL MAN…

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:16 pm

Unnecessary early jumpshots… not good. Josh Smith had a wide open lane to drive on those last two possessions, and he should have taken it.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:16 pm

Damn, Zaza’s eye looks really bad…

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:17 pm

Refs calling some ticky-tack bullsh*t early…

Eric

April 27th, 2009
8:17 pm

Josh Smith might be the dumbest player I have ever seen.

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:18 pm

2 BS calls on Horford…

vava74

April 27th, 2009
8:18 pm

What did I tell you guys??

Al with 2 fouls!

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:18 pm

SEE… REFS BULL SHYTTIN EARLY… BUT THATS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN U SETTLE FOR JUMPERS AND THEY GO TO THE BASKET… OFFENSIVE FOUL ON WADE… THEY CALLIN TOUCH SHYT… I CANT BELIEVE THIS…!!!

Eric

April 27th, 2009
8:18 pm

Mario baby…bring it boy!

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:19 pm

Hmmmm, 2 Hawks with 2 fouls within the 1st 5mins of the game…

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:19 pm

The last two fouls were some straight BS. Come on, let ‘em play, damn.

Wonder how long it will take Mario West to pick up his first two fouls the way the refs are calling it early.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:19 pm

WOW… WADE PUSHIN OFF… BUT EVANS GETS A TOUCH FOUL… ON J. JONES… WHAT?!?!

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:19 pm

GOOD JOB JOSH… ALL U GOTTA DO..

Blast

April 27th, 2009
8:20 pm

I see the refs game plan. Call phantom fouls on Hawks, get them in foul trouble and in the penalty early so you get them off their game.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:20 pm

ALL SERIES… DO HIM WHAT THEY DO TO JOE.. ALL DAY

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:21 pm

GOOD JOB.. GOOD ATTACK JOE…

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:21 pm

I like the energy the Hawks have start the game with…..

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:22 pm

Nice drive and dish by Josh on that last play… he’s a much better passer than he gets credit for, and if the scheme would allow him to harness that ability and use it to his advantage it would make him that much more difficult to defend.

Zaza already bringing the hustle with the tip-out rebound. In this series with Miami’s physical bigs I think playing him more works to the Hawks’ advantage.

KevinA

April 27th, 2009
8:22 pm

Evans can’t guard Wade. Glad to see Mario. We need to drive to the hole – will miss Marvin – only stready driver. Will be a jump shooting contest as always.

Astro Joe

April 27th, 2009
8:23 pm

McDyess was very loyal to the Pistons. They signed him when other teams left him for dead. I’m not surprised that the rats are bailing from that ship. We’ll have the cap space to sign him, but will he be interested in returning to the south?

Nice drop off pass from Smith to Zaza. It’s amazing how many good things happen when Smith drives the ball to the rim.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:23 pm

Overall you gotta be pretty pleased with the start so far. I still think that while D-Wade is struggling the Hawks need to build up a bigger lead than this, because you know he is going to turn it on at some point. When he does, the Hawks will need that cushion.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:23 pm

IF JOE CAN GET TO THE HOOP LIKE HE DID IN GAME 1 WE’LL BE IN GOOD SHAPE…

KevinA

April 27th, 2009
8:24 pm

JJ has to drive and dish they will double team. One game out of three does he respond well to this defense.

vava74

April 27th, 2009
8:24 pm

where can they justify all these fouls by the hawks? where? 2 fouls on Al and 2 fouls on Mo in little more than 5 minutes!!

Miami’s first 5 points were FT… having missed 3 FTs! This is F**king pathetic!

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:25 pm

AIGHT… THEY ARE CHEATING…!!! SAY WHAT U WANT… BUT ITS STARTING TO LOOK LIKE WWE…

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:25 pm

More ticky tack fouls… even if they were calling them evenly this sucks. Refs need to understand that nobody pays to watch them.

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:26 pm

MARIO… MAN.. MARIO…!!!!

KevinA

April 27th, 2009
8:26 pm

Wow I did not know that Mario could do that.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:26 pm

Mario with the drive! Wish other, more talented players would attack the basket…

Another foul… WTF…

Astro Joe

April 27th, 2009
8:26 pm

Hawks need to hang on thru these foul problems. I like their energy, they just have to play thru the foul stuff.

Eric

April 27th, 2009
8:26 pm

Another reason why Woodson is an idiot…he doesn’t ever give West a shot.

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

Dang. Will the Hawks have enough players to finished the first half….

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

WOW… IVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.. BS… SEKOU…?!!?! U WATCHING THIS SHYT…?

vava74

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

Another 2 fouls! ahahahahah… this is a joke! Stern, please just tell out right that you want a Wade-Lebron matchup and don’t torture us!

Astro Joe

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

Amazing all the good things that happen when Smith drives.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

And 1 for Josh… about time a Hawks player drew a whistle… nice drive.

Blast

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

I assume the NBA is watching this game. O’Neal bangs on Zaza in the lane and Zaza gets a foul and O’Neal shoots two?

bigdave

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

THEY HUNGRY GUYS…!!! WE LIKE THE START RIGHT… THEY READY… THEY GOT A LIL FIRE IN EM… A LIL SWAG…

payo2009

April 27th, 2009
8:27 pm

david stern to the refs make sure d wade plays lebron in the next series!!!

Astro Joe

April 27th, 2009
8:28 pm

Don’t say that Fratello, its the scheme that stops him.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 27th, 2009
8:28 pm

Joe with a careless turnover. While everyone else is bringing the energy Joe looks like he was hanging out with Sean Williams before the game. What the hell man… with every second that goes by you are proving Charles Barkley right. Show some pride.

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:28 pm

Do yall think the person with the whistle in the crowd is Who Died…?

Astro Joe

April 27th, 2009
8:29 pm

Bibby needs an Oscar after this season. He’s a brilliant actor.

vava74

April 27th, 2009
8:29 pm

Mario should have tacked the rookie! smacked him to the ground and establish some respect!

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
8:30 pm

These Refs are Awful. Excuse me, Bias…