All smiles at Hawks media day

Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Mike Bibby are all smiles at Hawks media day Monday. The real work at training camp kicked off Tuesday morning.

Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Mike Bibby are all smiles at Hawks media day Monday. The real work at training camp kicked off Tuesday morning.

HAWKSVILLE – You’ve never seen so many smiling faces the day before training camp.

It wasn’t just the players. It was the coaches, the front office brass and even a good portion of the assembled media.

You’ve never seen so many smiling faces on the eve of a camp, at least not recently. And these weren’t forced smiles. These were the genuine kind, the ones you see on faces of teams bound for the playoffs.

It’s strange, in a good way, the effect winning has on people.

“On paper we looked good,” Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said from a corner of the practice court Monday afternoon. “We look real good on paper, so that’s why you see so many smiles around here right now. We’re excited about what this season holds. But the real work starts (in the morning). When the sweat hits the floor, that’s when you know what you’ve really got.”

There’s no doubt the Hawks have their deepest and most balanced training camp roster since I’ve been here, and at least two people in attendance Monday observed that it’s the most seasoned and accomplished group to assemble for a Hawks training camp in a decade.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Marvin Williams said. “Our team itself is pretty deep, probably the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been here. You could split this group for camp up into four groups of five and have some nasty competition. I know there won’t be any drop off when that second unit is on the floor. but we’ll see in the morning. We’ll see all week.”

Williams admitted to never being terribly excited for a “training camp” but confessed that he’s been eager for Tuesday’s start of real action for quite some time. “Our team has gotten better and we have some new guys that we’re all excited to see in action,” he said, “and I think that’s where the real intrigue comes in for everybody.”

One of the new guys, rookie point guard Jeff Teague, put the finishing touches on the meet and greet portion of his experience with his new teammates Monday. He finally got a chance to meet Joe Smith, the one player he had yet to see since being drafted by the Hawks in June.

“The thing you realize when you see everybody here together is that there’s already a great nucleus in place,” Teague said. “It’s something to be a part of. So you get in here now and realize that you want to get off to a good start and get things rolling right away.”

They kicked things off Monday with a team dinner, a function where Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he would lay out some specifics for his team  regarding goals and detailed responsibilities for this season.

“The message is that expectations are always high from where I sit,” Woodson said. “And you can’t be scared of it, you can’t run from it. I’m not scared. I’m not running from it. And the fact that expectations are high means that we have to now try and take that next step. The next step is trying to be in that elite group.”

I reached out to several members of the national media about that very topic regarding the Hawks and received some interesting feedback. While it certainly seems like a possibility, no one is ready to bet house money on the Hawks doing so. 

“The NBA remains a league that belongs to the superstars, and unfortunately for them they have none,” ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande wrote in an email. “They have talent and now there’s experience and cohesion to go with it, but they don’t have that one guy who can singlehandedly take over a playoff game on the road. Kobe, Shaq and Tim Duncan played on eight of the 10 championship teams between this decade. The Hawks don’t have anyone of that caliber, not to mention the updated Eastern mix of LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Boston’s Big 3. Because of the consistency the Hawks learned last year they could get to the second round — if the Bulls don’t beat them out for that final berth in the conference semis.”

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports expressed similar concerns about the Hawks vaulting into that upper tier of the Eastern Conference for the same reasons.

“I think the Hawks’ situation is interesting because more is expected because they were ablet o take another step to the Eastern conference semifinals last year,” he said. “But no one seems to be talking about them in that realm with the big three in the conference. Everybody is talking about Boston, Cleveland and Orlando in the East. So I still think they have a chip on their shoulder.  And if you think about it, this team is going to be better for a lot of reasons. First, they’ve got another year of experience and they’re more playoff tested. They were able to re-sign key players and didn’t lose anybody of importance. Their one major weakness, their bench, was aided in impressive fashion, with Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith and Jason Collins and the rookie Teague, all guys that can start if someone gets hurt. So if you look at the Hawks, they’re actually better than they were a year ago. I think what’s hurt them is the fact that they didn’t finish strong in the playoffs, even with their injury problems. And that kept people from taking them seriously as a team that has a chance to move up into that top three. I do see this as a dangerous team with a chip on their shoulder. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be interesting to see if the Hawks take another step forward and live up to their expectations or everybody else’s.”

We’ve talked about it many times around here since that Cleveland series. But what are your realistic expectations for this team this season?

I like Mike Bibby’s take on things, personally, simple but true.

“We got it on paper all day,” Bibby said. “We just have to put it together. Everybody has to have one main goal this season and that main goal is to win. Everything else will take care of itself if we’re operating with that as our No. 1 goal at all times. Individual goals have to be set aside for team goals.”

310 comments Add your comment

?

September 28th, 2009
6:30 pm

Agree with J.A Adande.

Ray S

September 28th, 2009
6:35 pm

I think that we have the players to improve and finish in the top 2 or 3 with good team play and hard work. Go Hawks.

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
6:37 pm

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
6:37 pm

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
6:48 pm

?, Youre crazy. J.A is full of it. He’s just a Laker Groupie…..no matter we get to take care of them fairly early in the season and quiet the doubters.

I want the HARDWARE!!!! Now!!!! Like Bibby said, we got this on Paper!!! We just have to put it all together. Signing Stack would still be nice…you never know…

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
6:50 pm

Forget the semis, Forget the ECF….I wanna do what orlando did last season and just jump straight tothe big stage…IF we can performace to mach paper expectations, we’ll be straight.

PD

September 28th, 2009
7:07 pm

I am with Ariose let’s go big and really Shock the World

Mike B.

September 28th, 2009
7:08 pm

Hawks will surprise the rest of the league this season. Just watch and continue to doubt.

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
7:10 pm

Looks like the rest of the leauge will get a look into our training camp:

http://www.nba.com/2009/news/09/28/realcamp.release/

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
7:15 pm

SEKOU!!! Does Mike Bibby do these drills? He should be…Get the coaching staff on that!!!!

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
7:58 pm

The Truth

September 28th, 2009
8:45 pm

This statement by Woody is disturbing:

“And the fact that expectations are high means that we have to now TRY and take that next step. The next step is TRYING to be in that elite group.”

If Woody was enrolled in Yoda’s training school, he would have already FAILED before he got started.

“Do or Do Not, Never Try”

Yoda:

Najeh Davenpoop

September 28th, 2009
9:09 pm

Realistically, Adande’s take sounds right — with no real superstars it’s hard to see the Hawks beating any of the big 3 (assuming they are healthy) in a 7-game series, especially if they don’t have home court advantage. But here’s the thing — nobody thought Orlando could beat Boston and Cleveland last year either, and due to matchup issues and injuries they were able to deal with both in the playoffs. Creating matchup problems has potentially been one of the Hawks’ main strengths for a few years now due to their versatility, and if Woodson actually sticks to his word and makes it a point to push tempo more often it could be the difference between a 2nd round loss and a conference finals berth.

I think losing in the conference finals is about as realistic as a goal the Hawks can have this year. About this time last year, I said the same thing about losing in the 2nd round, which is what they ended up doing. This year they have to show, at a minimum, that they belong in the 2nd round (in other words don’t get swept) and preferably they should make the conference finals and show that they belong there.

Sekou Smith

September 28th, 2009
9:29 pm

It’s hard to argue with J.A. on this one, mostly because he has those cold hard facts on his side. You need at least one superstar or something remarkably close (C. Billups) to win a title. I’m realistic, though. I don’t think the Hawks are on the championship track right now. They’re in see-how-far-this-group-can-take-us-and-then-start-to-tinker mode right now. A year from now, if they’re not on the championship track, then I’d have a bone to pick with someone.

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
9:30 pm

Superstar theory?

At this point, offensively, JJ is better than any of the 3 old Celtics.

Carter had a better career, but at this point I’d rather have JJ to finish the game.

This year, if they double JJ, Crawford will score 30+ effortlessly. They can’t double both of them. The open one will go nuts. You think all stars Nelson/MoWill cancover one of these two? JJ+JC combo will be unstoppable.

niremetal

September 28th, 2009
9:31 pm

Co-sign Najeh.

The funny thing about the NBA is that if a team hits a hot streak at the right time – like the Magic did last year, the Cavs did in ‘07, and the Heat did in ‘06 – they can make a deep playoff run.

And success in the NBA breeds success. You didn’t see Orlando spending big on the free agent and trade market until this summer, after they made their deep run (which, as Najeh pointed out, no one saw coming…everyone thought the Boston-Cleveland ECF was pre-ordained). That’s just the way it goes in the NBA if you’re not a traditional basketball powerhouse in a large media market like Bos, Chi, LA, or NY.

The Hawks will need both good coaching and Lady Luck on their side to break through to the Conference Finals, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But if the stars do align, the Hawks will be in damned good shape going into next summer’s crazy offseason.

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
9:34 pm

Sekou, I see your point, but I think this teamhas a realistic shot right now….of course,only time will tell.

Jerrywest, EXACTLY!!

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
9:35 pm

We need to get Stackhouse to get couple of extra unlikely road wins that will do wonders for our confidence. Referees will start to give us calls when we’ll beat one of the big 3s on the road.

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
9:40 pm

Facts about Jamal Crawford,
1. He can play point guard offensively and defensively. He just sucks playing defense against strong shooting guards.
2. He required double teaming and he can score on anybody when single covered.

When JJ+JC will play together, we will have two point guards with 6-8 wingspan who require double teaming. Show me a team that can match up against this combo?

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
9:40 pm

What makes a superstar? Are they just labled that right off the bat? Like Smoove said, we don’t have those “title names” but we’ve earned EVERYTHING we’ve gotten, regardless of what Laker Lover J.A and Haters like John Schuhmann want to say about us. We will get the respect we deserve once we wipe the floor with the competition this season.

We’ve got tons of “Stars” and Talented High draft picks, and I think this year it will all come together and were going to embarass a lot of teams this season. Mark it down…..I said it. ECF Baby!!!!

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
9:41 pm

That is, unless the EVIL Woodson shows up this season and dooms us all…

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
9:44 pm

Jerrywest, I agree. We need to sign Stackhouseor some other Wing befor the preseason starts.

swatguy

September 28th, 2009
9:46 pm

We can be very very dangerous. I really believe it depends on our frontcourt. Will Al be dominant in some way. Will the group be physically effective day in and day out. Our backcourt can be terrifying as Teague matures (and not be scared). I think we do need a Full roster of 15 with extra bigs in tow.
The big question is, will Jamal win the scoring title from the bench? And keep Joe to 32 minutes a game.

A Tribe Called Quest

September 28th, 2009
9:46 pm

?

September 28th, 2009
9:52 pm

I hope the Hawks start the season like last year! They won like 7 in a row.

?

September 28th, 2009
9:59 pm

Together JJ and Crawford form a superstar!

IronJ146

September 28th, 2009
9:59 pm

I think what gets lost by many sportswriters is star-power vs. actual wins. What about those Pistons teams earlier this decade? Billups wasn’t really considered top-tier until he started winning in Detroit. We knew who he was, and he knew he was good, but he wasn’t on the cover of anything until they got a ring. Winning will make these guys “stars”, and that comes with accomplishing our goals. Let them take advantage of another year to fly under the national radar, and once we start knocking people off, we’ll get the respect and have the “stars” everyone’s looking for.

niremetal

September 28th, 2009
9:59 pm

Ariose,

Yup, you’re exactly right. Nike and Adidas decide who is a superstar. Magic and Larry were, Gervin and English weren’t. Kareem and Walton were, Artis Gilmore wasn’t (how is he STILL not in the Hall??). Earl Monroe was, but Wes Unseld wasn’t. I think it’s almost beyond dispute that Tim Duncan is the best player of the post-Jordan era, but the discussion always revolves around Shaq, Kobe, and (now) LeBron. This despite the fact that Duncan won 4 rings and has never played on a team that has lost more than 29 games (and despite the fact that he won a title in ‘03 with the weakest supporting cast on a title winning team in at least 25 years).

And those are just guys whose numbers and wins justified the title “superstar.” That doesn’t even get into the Shane Battier syndrome (if the guy doesn’t do well in the arbitrary world that is basketball statistics, he isn’t worth mentioning).

I honestly think the difference between Wade and JJ is a lot less than most people seem to think – don’t forget the remarkable depth that the Heat had when Wade won his ring in ‘06 (a team on which Wade played alongside 3 future Hall of Famers, was coached by a fourth, and basically didn’t have to (and didn’t) play defense). He averaged 25ppg before teams figured out that the Hawks’ offense consisted of “give the ball to JJ and everyone else stand 20 feet away without moving.” Even now, JJ can take over games, and often does. Anyone who actually watches the Hawks’ damned games would have to be blind to deny that. But those occasions are forgotten in a hurry because we’re not bombarded with images of JJ on Nike and T-Mobile commercials.

?

September 28th, 2009
10:03 pm

So, do the Hawks play a pre season game againts Orlando on ESPN?

Samuel

September 28th, 2009
10:11 pm

I agree that we are not Top 3 material, however, if the cards fall right and we happen to play the Celtics in the 2nd round, we can beat them. I don’t believe we can beat any of the other two teams(Cleveland and Orlando) in a 7 game series. We just don’t match up well with them.

We have proven that we do match up well with Boston and they have gotten a year older. I could see a serious second round series with them.

There will be much more competition for the 4th spot. Miami, Washington and Chicago will be some serious competition this year but I believe we will hold them off due to our new acquisitions.

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
10:14 pm

sounds like shots at Joe to me… i look for the Jigga man to have a big year….

Dan

September 28th, 2009
10:15 pm

I really think this group, as long as injuries do not get in the way, can make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. And, I really think Boston is going to fall back to the pack this year. They are getting old and adding ‘Sheed is not as big of deal as some are making. Hawks will be nipping at their heels all year for the third spot.

I still say the Hawks would have pushed Cleveland hard in round 2 last year, if not for all the injuries.

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
10:15 pm

sounds like non malicious shots at Joe to me… i look for the Jigga man to have a big year….

rusty

September 28th, 2009
10:20 pm

jj cant begin to compare with wade. he moves in slow
motion compared to wade. when wade takes over he is great,when joe tries to take over the hawks play lousy.

Big Ray

September 28th, 2009
10:23 pm

Co-sign Sekou and Najeh.

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
10:24 pm

rusty,

No one is saying JJ is fast like Wade, but he is a hack of a lot faster than Pierce and Ray Allen.

Big Ray

September 28th, 2009
10:24 pm

Rusty,

Yeah, as long as he’s getting all the calls he wants. We saw last year what happens when he doesn’t….

Big Ray

September 28th, 2009
10:25 pm

Jerrywest,

Stackhouse will give us a couple of extra road wins? Damn, you should be his agent. That’s quite a pitch…

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
10:28 pm

Who do you give the ball with 20 seconds left in the game?

1. LeBron.
2. Wade.
3. Agent 0 with Butler & Jamison protecting him.
3(tie). JJ when Crawford protects him from getting double teamed.

Carter, Pierce, Allen, Howard, Garnett, Bosh are not in top 4

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
10:30 pm

i feel great about this year… the only concern of mine is the SF position. as constructed i feel like we can beat the C’s or the Magic if we were to see them in a 7 gm series… however, i still think the Cavs present a problem. to me the key to beating the Cavs is having depth at SF. that Turk/Pietrus dual threat was key to the Magic success that series. i look for a lot of Joe Johnson at the 3 this year… and im banking on Crawford answering the bell at the 2 when needed…

niremetal

September 28th, 2009
10:31 pm

Yeah, the Hawks sure sucked when JJ took over against Boston twice. And they sucked when they went 9-4 in games where JJ scored 30+ last year. And they sucked even more when he took over in Game 7 against Miami. You know, when he played through the pain instead of whining about it like Wade.

jerrywest

September 28th, 2009
10:38 pm

Crawford matches up against Cleveland’s shooting guards well, but he is too weak to guard Carter or Ray Allen. Against Cleveland we can use Marvin and occasionally JJ to guard LeBron. LeBron won’t play any smallish small forward when he’ll play us.

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
10:38 pm

Whooo! Tellem Nire!!! Amen!!! 8-O

I cant wait to see JJ work off Crawford this seasn. It’s going to be a NIGHTMARE for opposing teams to deal with.

Speaking of nightmares:

http://www.celticsblog.com/2009/9/28/1055452/kg-+-sheed-on-court-its-going-to

BTW, I posted the Hawks media day stuff on Sekou’s last blog if you haven’t checked it out yet…

niremetal

September 28th, 2009
10:40 pm

Here was my favorite – in ‘06-’07, back when JJ wasn’t getting the double teams he does now, the Hawks went 12-7 in games where he scored 30+. In all other games that year, the Hawks went 18-45 (including 8-17 in the games where he was out altogether):
http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/players/3520/gamelog;_ylt=AiHDt_uhzY0tCnmBUnp.aCGTPKB4?year=2006

So yeah. The Hawks are just lousy when JJ takes over.

In any case, hopefully now that Crawford’s around to take some pressure off JJ, we’ll see a lot more of those games where JJ takes over. Maybe we’ll see the return of the guy who averaged 25ppg and shot 47% from the floor…

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
10:42 pm

Bigdave, THats why I’ve been calling for another Wing this whole offseason lol. I really hope Rick thinks this through and signs Stack or G.Green or somebody! I really don’t want to have to watch Smoove guard LeBron at the SF spot. Not because he can’t, but because it doesn’t make the best use of his abilities.

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
10:51 pm

Rose…

no its b/c he cant… neither can Mo… a healthy Marvin was decent early in the season against him but they seem to like to call BS calls on Marvin…

Joe Johnson does a number when matched up on Lebron…and Wade… and Kobe… its just he cant (couldnt last year) do it the whole game b/c u knew you had to preserve him for all those mins/double teams/and offensive responsibilities… Crawford having a big year would be huge!! b/c it will REALLY allow “Joe to be Joe” a monster and hell for any 1 on 1 assignment… and i cant wait to see what Teague brings at the pro level…

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
10:54 pm

Rose…

and im high on the Cave Man too… but given his age im not too sure his skill set is what we need at SF…

but another grizzled vet wouldnt hurt… i just want us to reverse last years road record…

niremetal

September 28th, 2009
11:04 pm

Co-sign bigdave’s post. Marvin did a damned good job covering LeBron in the game right before he got hurt, and JJ did a damned good job when he matched up against him in the playoffs. But Woodson was understandably uneasy about using JJ too much on LeBron because it required him to expend so much energy. Add to that JJ’s foot injury…

Josh did an outstanding job against KG in the Boston series last year. But he is most definitely not a good matchup for LeBron. He takes too many risks when he plays on-ball perimeter D, which is fatal since he doesn’t really have the lateral quickness to stay in front of LeBron. Those things aren’t necessarily fatal against most players because Josh is so athletic, but Josh has no chance of catching up to LeBron if LeBron gets by him. If you don’t keep LeBron in front of you, you’re toast.

Ariose

September 28th, 2009
11:11 pm

Nire, So true. BUT Josh DID get that one block lol!!! It’s at the end of his 08-09′ GameTime mix if you wanna look at it again…

Josh would hae to be way more discliplined of he wanted to play SF for extended minutes….I thin that’ll come with more maturity. I think he knows now that he can’t gamble against Lebron…..also we seem to have a few players who need to work on their defensive footwork lol..

bigdave

September 28th, 2009
11:13 pm