Live from Denver International Airport…

Denver – This is a little later than promised (something the editors at my paper have heard more than a few times from me). I thought there’d be Internet access on the plane, but there was not. (I’ve since landed, and am now at a little table finishing up, before going to get my car.)

Anyway, my thoughts on Minnesota.

As I watched the game in the estimable company of Hawks sideline reporter James Verrett and Hawks PR man Arthur Triche, my impression was that the game was a little raggedy, that the Hawks weren’t really sharp and no one, save Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, played all that well. Minnesota was getting open looks at the basket and had more energy.

The man the Hawks call "Big Country"

The man the Hawks call "Big Country"

But, looking at the box score, and certainly the final score, it would certainly indicate that the Hawks dominated. The Hawks shot 48.9 percent and held Minnnesota to 41.1 and forced 22 turnovers. They were 9 for 20 from 3-point range and assisted on more than half of their baskets (22 of 43). They only turned the ball over 10 times.

So it made me wonder if I’ve come to judge this team with an overly critical eye, or if I was focused on how many fouls the Hawks took (29, their second-highest total of the season) and their free-throw shooting (17 for 25), or if the Hawks actually didn’t play all that great but still managed to deliver a 26-point beatdown, which is the  Timberwolves second-worst loss of the year, which, given that it’s the Timberwolves, is saying something.

Anyway, old news. Onto the Nuggets. Don’t know what you remember from last time, but a refresher. The Hawks were coming back to Philips after the West Coast trip that ended with the blowout loss to Charlotte. It was the second night of a back-to-back, while Denver was in Atlanta for a day or two. To that point, it was their biggest win of the season, I’d argue, a 125-100 win. The Hawks shot 54.5 percent from the floor and outrebounded Denver 44-36. Interestingly, the Nuggets shot 41 free throws, making 36, both season highs for Hawks opponents. The Hawks took 33 fouls, a season high.

For what it’s worth, when I did my story about what statistics Mike Woodson and Rick Sund use, I found a story online about how the Nuggets director of qualitative analysis – can you imagine Red Auerbach having one of those? – was helping the team. George Karl sounded what gave like begrudging credit to him for helping shape the strategy to “winning the free-throw line.”

You'd think a diagram on free-throw shooting form wouldn't have the off hand placed under the ball. Nice kicks, though.

You'd think a diagram on free-throw shooting form wouldn't have the off hand placed under the ball. Nice kicks, though.

Using stats through Monday, Denver was averaging 32.7 free throws per game, far and away best in the league. The second-best team was Orlando at 28.3. The gap between Denver and Orlando was about the same as the one between Orlando and the No. 20 team in the league. (The Hawks were at 23.6)

Getting to the line, as I imagine Karl himself would say, is only part of the equation. Some of the teams close to the top are Charlotte, Washington and Toronto.

Digression alert: In the pursuit of my own quantitative analysis, I just looked at how the division leaders ranked in a number of statistics in search of “What do all good teams do?” Leaving out point differential, my parameters were to find which statistic has the most division leaders in the top 10.

Two had five of the division leaders – opponents points per game and opponents field goal percentage. Perhaps you might have guessed it.

Opponents PPG top 10 – Boston, Portland, Charlotte, Cleveland, Lakers, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio. (Hawks are 11)

Opponents FG pct. top 10 – Lakers, Cleveland, Boston, Dallas, Portland, Indiana, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Chicago. (Hawks are 18) (I guess there is a reason Mike Woodson talks about this all the time. I think it’s his favorite statistic. He wants the team to get to 43, 44 percent. Before Minnesota, the Hawks were 45.9.)

end digression

Back to Denver: The thing that I remember most about that game (it was the first game I covered in place of Sekou) was Josh Smith’s block of Chris Andersen, and how he was just all over the floor – 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, six blocks and one turnover. Also, Denver was without Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith. The Nuggets should have them in the lineup, but might not have Chauncey Billups. He was limited in practice Monday and is unsure if he’ll be able to return against the Hawks. That, obviously, is significant.

For what it’s worth, Martin averaged 14.5 points and five rebounds, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor in two games last year against the Hawks.

Two nba.com links on your favorite coach (I guess I’m being literal for some, sarcastic for others).

Woodson as early coach of the year candidate.

Q&A with Woodson.

Denver Post Nuggets beat writer Ben Hochman reports that Karl, who, along with Woodson and Phil Jackson are the only three coaches in the league (I think) on the last year of their contracts (and Jackson is not at all in the same category as Woodson and Karl because Jackson can just say the word and he can come back) has been offered a three-year extension worth $11 million.

On its way to George Karl's house.

On its way to George Karl's house.

Hawks as role models for the Timberwolves, according to the Star-Tribune.

Dime magazine weighs in on if the Hawks can win a championship.

Don’t know if you saw it, but my story on the Hawks’ leading the league in fewest turnovers. I saw Woodson reading it yesterday before the game. That was kind of a weird experience. Part of me wanted to see what he had to say, but, I suppose, another part of me didn’t. I left.

338 comments Add your comment

Daniel

December 23rd, 2009
2:05 pm

yes, I am going to do it…..
First

wordsmithtom

December 23rd, 2009
2:06 pm

First.

Josh Smith should be fresh as a daisy tonight. Used the bench against the weaker sister. Tonight, Josh needs to stay out of foul trouble if our guys are to have a chance.

Daniel

December 23rd, 2009
2:08 pm

Ken,
Can you gently tell ‘Nique that you don’t use marshmellows to make home fries? Yes, he actually said that on the broadcast last night, along with his usual stampede of “more betters” “heat checks” MOO’s(master of the obvious comments)i.e. “that shot went in, so it means we scored.” and poor use of plurals.
Do you and Verrett ever giggle about that?

C’mon you know you do.

Ken Sugiura

December 23rd, 2009
2:10 pm

Ha ha, Daniel. I don’t listen to the commentary when I’m at the arena – not that I don’t want to, I just can’t – so all of what you guys say about Dominique is a little foreign to me. If I get a chance, though, I will let him know about marshmallows/home fries thing. I’m actually hoping to talk to him today for a story.

Westurd

December 23rd, 2009
2:17 pm

Whoa Ken……..I feel like I was just tossed into a tornado and spun around a few times………now what exactly were you focusing on in your blog? Ouch, my head hurts.

I MUS WRITE

December 23rd, 2009
2:27 pm

Daniel- looks like im not the only one who caught that. Hey what can you say man-its Nique ” Heat Check” LOL

Good stuff Ken……..

Hawks win tonight on Denvers floor 21-7 LETZ GIT IT

O'Brien

December 23rd, 2009
2:32 pm

Ken, by not listening to ‘Nique, you miss out on the “Hawks are on a fast break, and they have nimbers” and the “Heat Check” lol.

Josh Smith will be key tonight, because I think Birdman will give the Nuggets some energy. We need Josh to be our spark. And when Josh is blocking shots, it really helps our offense.

I dont know how many minutes JJ played last night, but I hope the guys are not tired, and will not be affected too much by the altitude.

ILL-logical

December 23rd, 2009
2:37 pm

Food for thought; COY can get you fired. In a recent discussion on NBA TV,Sam Mitchell , a former COY , remarked about how-in his opinion- the award sets up expectations that are not easily / realisticlly met and in his and Byron Scott’s case led to their demise.

terrell barron

December 23rd, 2009
3:07 pm

Didnt get to watch the game last night(work), but I saw the box-score this morning and saw that Teaguie only got 3 minutes. What’s up with that? Bibby must have been on fire? Was he? Thats the only way I can see him only playing for minutes. I did see that Crawdaddy went for 26. Guys help me out here. Did he come in an turn the ball over? Was Bibby on fire? Did he get injured? They were playing the freakin Timberwolves and won by 20, so why did our future pg only get 3 min?

Benjamin

December 23rd, 2009
3:17 pm

Tonight may be a loss and will certainly be a test.

Go Hawks.

Hollywould

December 23rd, 2009
3:21 pm

Terrell, teague was the last player to get in. I don’t understand Woodson. Up 20 with one minute left and he puts Josh back in?????? Josh has got to learn to shut his mouth. These refs are gonna put a Donaghy on him!!!

Hollywould

December 23rd, 2009
3:22 pm

Oh and by the way, Rathbun has already said the Hawks have won!!!

theZaZaguy

December 23rd, 2009
3:57 pm

I just realized something. We’re in the meat of the season. Even if we go 27-28 for the rest of the season, we win 47 games. That’s how many we won last season. Also, we’re almost undefeated coming off a loss. How many 3-4 game losing streaks did we have last season? We are slowly doing the things necessary to become elite. It’s a weird feeling…a win tonight will be most impressive.

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
4:23 pm

Zaza this team is built to run and gun! We will win a lot of games that way, Question is what will we do in the half court of playoff intensity when you have to have the talent to create your own shot.

By the way im proud of the way ZaZa is playing and you know ive been one of his fiercest critics

Daniel

December 23rd, 2009
4:30 pm

HOLY MOLELY- Truth just said “I’m proud of the way ZaZa is playing”. Am I in the Twilight Zone?

What’s next Ken says that Woody should be coach of the year and Clyde say HIRE WOODY?

Daniel

December 23rd, 2009
4:32 pm

terrell- The front court was basically playing a little lousy and getting fouls left and right. Woodson stuck with Bibby/Crawford/Johnson longer because until the 4th we were only up 8-12 points. I also think Woodson wanted Teague to watch Flynn so he could see what NOT to do as a rookie. That kid would take the ball up and shoot (bad shots) over and over.

Daniel

December 23rd, 2009
4:37 pm

Guys, I am going to be gone for a week. I will be watching the Hawks though. So to everyone: Truth/vava/IMUS/Ray/Nire/KevinA/Fundamentals/Tribe/doc/AJ/Ken(both)/Gee/Sautee….. anyone else I forgot.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Wishing Peace,Love and Joy to each and everyone of you.

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
4:46 pm

Daniel Ive said all along this year how much ive appreciated Z. The ZaZaMan and I have had this conversation before. its new to you. He and i agree that Z has stepped his game up. I actually dont think Zaza has hit his peak yet. He can still grow.

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
4:48 pm

Merry Christmas and holidays to you and yours Daniel!

OK out for a 4 mile run!

joe r

December 23rd, 2009
5:07 pm

Dominique- worst “color commentator” in the history of the NBA? Rathman has greater insight into the game and is more entertaining though i am not a great fan of him either.

Westurd

December 23rd, 2009
5:47 pm

joe, I don’t think anyone would argue with you, but Nique is Nique…..He put Atlanta basketball on the map!

doc

December 23rd, 2009
5:53 pm

for all those woody for coy award it is really a meaningless award based on this statement … Strange but true: Sam Mitchell and Avery Johnson have more coach of the year awards than Adelman.

isnt byron scott in that mix as well, cant remember if he won coy when the hornets exploded for over 60 wins and now finds himself as a broadcaster? really, what i want is woody to succeed and get his four year extension which would mean to me everyone is committed to something special and we as fans have had a very good 09-10 season to reflect on when woody signs in june. i would much rather see this than a meaningless coy award come his way.

Joe Mama

December 23rd, 2009
5:55 pm

Woodson has already suceeded

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 23rd, 2009
5:56 pm

It’s pretty fun reading the Braves blog right now. :)
Best team in Georgia!!

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 23rd, 2009
5:56 pm

Hawks are first on Hollingers Rankings, and the Lakers and Celtics fans are having a cow about it. Go check out the comments, it’s pretty funny.

doc

December 23rd, 2009
5:57 pm

thanks daniel.

Rufus1

December 23rd, 2009
6:00 pm

Veteran PG

I want the Hawks to try to acquire Kyle Lowry. He is a quick, plays very good “D” and is a veteran. We need a player like Lowry to truly contend in the east. I don’t have faith that teague will be a real contributor this year..

rusty

December 23rd, 2009
6:02 pm

nique is great & is the best ball player atlanta ever had

O'Brien

December 23rd, 2009
6:15 pm

doc,

Plus If I’m not mistaken, Sloan has never won COY either. And Sam Mitchell got fired only 1 or 2 years after winning COY. And it didnt take Avery Johnson long to get fired after winning COY.

I’m looking forward to the game tonight.

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
7:10 pm

Rank Player Team Stats
1 Dwight Howard Orl 2.43 ( 68/28 )
2 Josh Smith Atl 2.33 ( 63/27 )
3 Greg Oden Por 2.29 ( 48/21 )
4 Marcus Camby LAC 2.21 ( 62/28 )
5 Brendan Haywood Was 2.15 ( 56/26 )
6 Tim Duncan SA 2.13 ( 49/23 )
7 Kendrick Perkins Bos 2.04 ( 55/27 )
8t Samuel Dalembert Phi 2.00 ( 56/28 )
8t Brook Lopez NJ 2.00 ( 56/28 )
10 Erick Dampier Dal 1.95 ( 41/21 )
11 Andrew Bogut Mil 1.95 ( 39/20 )
12 Emeka Okafor NO 1.92 ( 50/26 )
13t Chris Andersen Den 1.78 ( 48/27 )
13t Roy Hibbert Ind 1.78 ( 48/27 )
13t Joakim Noah Chi 1.78 ( 48/27 )
16 Andrew Bynum LAL 1.72 ( 43/25 )
17 Marc Gasol Mem 1.54 ( 43/28 )
18 Joel Przybilla Por 1.43 ( 43/30 )
19 Elton Brand Phi 1.40 ( 35/25 )
20t Chris Kaman LAC 1.36 ( 38/28 )
20t Dirk Nowitzki Dal 1.36 ( 38/28 )
s1 © 2009 by STATS LLC.

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
7:12 pm

The answer is blocks

The question is what is a major tool used in protecting the middle.

mystery, where is horford the center?

bigdave

December 23rd, 2009
7:15 pm

everyone favorite shooting foul victim is out 2 weeks… hopefully we can make up some ground on Boston…

http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nba/news/story?id=4768720

bigdave

December 23rd, 2009
7:16 pm

*everyone’s

Truth-Serum

December 23rd, 2009
7:16 pm

I could careless if woodson gets the COY. He is one of the best 5 or 10 coaches in the NBA and his team is winning using his switching and run and gun.

Tonight will be an exciting game, win or lose.

cp

December 23rd, 2009
8:01 pm

With Nique you really never know what he is going to say other than “heat check”, “cooking with grease”, “nimbers” and etc. I call them Nique-isms. I can count on either Nique or Marvin for at least 2 good laughs a game.

Should be a good game tonight. They cant afford to come out sluggish and Josh has to stay out of foul trouble.

Big Ray

December 23rd, 2009
8:26 pm

With ‘Nique, you never know whose name he is going to mispronounce, and just how horribly… :)

Ramon

December 23rd, 2009
8:29 pm

The biggest factors of this game will be the guys in the striped uniform. Every since Josh got ejected, they’ve been calling cheap fouls on him. If they sit back and let him play, instead of calling a foul every time a drop of his sweat touches another player, then this will be a really good game. I think soon Stern will be having a talk with the referees to lay off on Josh. Because Stern realizes Josh is the marketable player that the Hawks have. Josh could score 4 points, and he will still find his way on ESPN Highlights for the game recap.

JeJe

December 23rd, 2009
8:31 pm

Lakers are going to give Pau Gasol 19 mill a year…Probably more?

Jesus.

how the hell does Buss afford all these guys yet we have to wait OVER A MONTH to give Joe Smith the veterans minimum? LAL has 5 great players (3 of them likely All-Stars over next few years) and is loaded enough with those guys to win the West the next 3 years and probably add at least 2 more rings.

Can we please dish out some money this summer and get Dwyane Wade in The Highlight Factory? We have Joe Johnson, who doesn’t even sound like he wants to stay here, whereas the Lakers have all the damn money in the freaking world

doc

December 23rd, 2009
8:33 pm

yup o’brien, a point i made last week. i just want these guys to win baby.

doc

December 23rd, 2009
8:34 pm

nique is the consummate analogy to one of my favs at botching the language, none other than yogi berra.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 23rd, 2009
8:43 pm

Let’s get this show on the road. Big statement game for us.

Ken Sugiura

December 23rd, 2009
8:52 pm

Chauncey Billups is not playing.

O'Brien

December 23rd, 2009
8:52 pm

JeJe,

I know. I wish the Spirit were able to spend money like that. Unfortunately, they just dont have that kind of revenue. Kobe will get 3 years, $80 mil, and Gasol will get 3 years, $57 mil. Wow.

Boston has a tough game against Orlando coming up, and there is no Pierce. And we play them Jan. 8 and 11, so I doubt if Pierce will be back to 100%. Hopefully we can make a move over the next 2 weeks (although our schedule gets tougher).

This is a big stretch for the Hawks. We play @ Denver, @ Indy, and Cleveland back to back. We need to show that we belong.

Big Ray

December 23rd, 2009
8:59 pm

Well, since then, Woodson won 47 games and then a round in the playoffs with an injured team. The young Hawks have obviously grown and matured on his watch. And they’re among the top 5 or 6 teams in basketball, with impressive wins against the Celtics, Jazz, Mavericks and Blazers. Woodson must be doing something right.

What’s the reason to delay an extension? Well, there’s the Dick Jauron lesson. The Buffalo Bills were so smitten by his 5-1 start last season they gave him a 3-year extension on the spot. Then the Bills finished out 2-8. Because of the contract, they were stuck with a coach they eventually fired this season when the losing continued. Maybe some teams can simply write off the financial headaches of letting coaches go with years and millions of dollars left on their contract, but not the Hawks.

Besides, the Hawks aren’t under any pressure to act right this minute. Conducting negotiations with a coach during the season could turn into a distraction. Evidently the Hawks want to see what Woodson’s team does in the spring before they make a long-term commitment. And suppose Woodson takes another job, you ask? Well, there’d be no shortage of coaches willing to take over a good, young Atlanta team. So the Hawks own the leverage here.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 23rd, 2009
8:59 pm

Teague should get good minutes tonight. There is no way Bibby can keep up with Lawson this whole game.

cp

December 23rd, 2009
8:59 pm

lol yea ray how can i forget that aspect of Nique. He called Thabeet “Tibet” during the Memphis game… I think by far my favorite from Nique is when teams leave Bibby wide open and he says ” I don’t know why teams leave Bibby wide open”, Bibby goes on to miss and Nique comes back with ” well he was too wide open on that shot. He had too much time to think”… You have to love Nique lol.

Ken Sugiura

December 23rd, 2009
9:00 pm

Woodson on altitude:We don’t really talk about it. (The reason) they’re so successful here (is) because, I think, a lot of it is the altitude and their fan support. I think they’ve only lost one game here. The big thing tonight is controlling tempo. You’ve got to keep the fans out of the game.

On tempo:
Not turning it over and getting good shots and defending. You can’t try to come in here and outrun this team. We’ll have our chances to break, but we’ve go tot be smart about it when we’re doing it here. We’ve got to make sure we get shots and not turn it over.

bigdave

December 23rd, 2009
9:00 pm

lets get it…

Big Ray

December 23rd, 2009
9:00 pm

Dadgummit.

I was trying to copy the whole article (except for the part that shows the other COY candidates). Oh well, guess I goofed. Bottom line, they’re talking about Woody as an early favorite for COY status. Somewhere in the Atlanta area, a man named Samuel is banging his drum and waving his sign…

:)

JeJe

December 23rd, 2009
9:01 pm

Reggie, what makes you say that?

MINNY Had freaking Johnny Flynn in last night. He is of equal or slightly better talent than Teague. How the hell did we have Bibby (who hit some shots admittedly) in for so long?

Oh I forgot — Any close game we play in, Teague will not get minutes when it matters