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

bigdave

December 24th, 2009
12:07 am

Reggie…

if i had a choice it would be Rafer Alston… he would get us into our offense ASAP… i think everyone’s numbers would go up… he’s a good on ball defender… his shooting touch isnt Bibby like but he can make an open shot (and layup).

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 24th, 2009
12:08 am

I would rather trade for a quick PG right now instead of a big. Al can hold his own against anybody and we have depth on the bench if he gets in foul trouble. They may not be the best but a big is a big. On the other hand, we don’t have depth at guard. We got our main 3 and an inexperienced Teague. I’ve been preaching Raymond Felton for a while now because I really like his game and he’s a quick PG. We can’t continually have Joe guard the other team’s PG. I’m pretty sure that Raymond is only about 5 mil. a year and I think they’re committed to D.J. for their future PG. Any other names you guys think would be a fit at PG?

welikebaseball2

December 24th, 2009
12:09 am

Atlanta Sports Sux: Uh, funny that you’re spending time out of your holiday week (midnight at that) to blog on a Hawks board yet “Atlanta is blah, blah, blah. Atlanta.” LOL! Isn’t there some other board you could spend your valuable time on? Goodie Mob said it best: If you don’t like where I stay fly away.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 24th, 2009
12:13 am

Sorry about the double post there. I didn’t see it at first.

bigdave: I like Alston. But Felton is an extremely efficient shooter. I think with some playmakers on his team, he could be real good. He can score the basketball when he wants to but he also can pass well and control an offense. I watched him put up something like 27 and 9 last week. I just really like his game.

Mac-Town'z Finest 478

December 24th, 2009
12:18 am

JR Smith shot 15-25 overall and 10-17 from 3 pt.

That’s not a concern for me because not every day is somebody going to have those stats.

10 freakin 3s????????

I dont have a problem with teams shooting.

Hell, let em shoot (contested of course).

We get alot of our fast break points and WINS from teams “settling for jumpers” (squads like the raptors, pacers, etc.)

I’m much more comfortable if a team beats us because they just happen to have some UNUSUAL freak performance as a team or an individual……………….rather than watching them do what they want in the paint.

No not all of that is Horford’s fault because

1) Perimeter defenders have to keep their man in front of them
2) It’s not Horford’s fault he has to play C instead of his natural PF.

I just think that it’s like this. We know we have what it takes to get to the playoffs, and into the 2nd round. I just dont think we have ENOUGH QUALITY players of size to compete with the ELITE TEAMS.

Atlanta Sports Sux

December 24th, 2009
12:22 am

Reference to rap? Atlanta is the worst city for rappers on the planet. Keep listening to non-sense like Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka Flame.

“O Lets Do it!!!!…AY!!….DRUG DEALIN MUSIC…AY!!…..I INFLUENCE!!!”

“My Potna Dem”

Atlanta Sux on every level, what kind of low life scum city puts out such music? Degrades the entire genre!!!!

New York is where it’s at!!

bigdave

December 24th, 2009
12:28 am

Reggie…

Felton is a good guard. defends well. definitely has that floor general quality i like, but i always questioned his 3pt shooting…

not making a big deal about tonight’s loss but it seems Bibby is taylor made for what Woodson likes to do on offense, not so much on defense… i just hope it doesnt prove to be costly in a series..

im scared of good shooting teams because we do not play well off picks nor do we run guys off that 3 pt line. then again we have also caught our share of teams who just couldnt miss. at the end of the day good teams know that Bibby cant defend. our front line isnt getting any taller but we create equal mismatches for larger front lines.

welikebaseball2

December 24th, 2009
12:41 am

Atlanta Sports Sux: Huh? LOL! Go away…or, if you so choose, keep wasting your holiday time on an ATLANTA SPORTS BOARD. Hilarious! There, there’s the attention & response you were begging for. Now, get off your mommy’s computer & go to bed. LOL! Consider yourself hereby ignored.

welikebaseball2

December 24th, 2009
12:46 am

Mac-Town: We actually agree on most points. Just different wishes for the squad. I’d definitely love to see us make it past the second round. I’m not sure Woodson has the player management know-how to get us there…no matter who’s playing center. That’s another story though!

MAD-DONNA

December 24th, 2009
12:50 am

The Hawks are a bunch of punks! Even if you are not playing well, you don’t let a team push you around like that! JR Smith was trying to embarrass them with that last” three” attempt! Where is the killer instinct? I guarantee you they won’t win a title without it! To many touch fouls! If you can’t stop the guy, foul the hell out of him! He will think twice the next time he tries to show-out!

northcyde

December 24th, 2009
1:08 am

LOL @ people talking about “winning titles” in December. Shoot . . how about winning the division first?

We just ran into a red hot JR Smith tonight. He has games like these every once in a while. The Hawks didn’t fold tonight. Denver just knocked us out.

Merry Christmas Hawks. See you in Indy in a few days.

RLP

December 24th, 2009
1:09 am

Next Ten Predictions:

Wins = ….6
Losses = 2

Anthony

December 24th, 2009
2:03 am

Gave up 41 points to a BENCH PLAYER. A bench player.

Such a fraud fools gold team. I’m glad the city is not dumb enough to think this team is above mediocrity. They’ve down 3 games behind Boston and are falling in the standings. But don’t worry, they’ll hold on to the meaningless 4th seed as if that’s some kind of accomplishment.

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:03 am

Woody back 2 his old tricks again 8 man rotation, teague last night 2min tonight 6min this 1reason woody should not be back if he continue 2 be inconsistent as a coach.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:10 am

When the hawks was blowing teams out woody was very consistent using his bench, sometime 9 or 10 man rotation and the team was jealin well,now he has gone back 2 being the same old woody.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:15 am

Marvin is not getting the job done at the 3 his lack of production is the team weakest link in the starting line up.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:21 am

Rick sund go get andris biedrins if we want 2 contend for and title, may be a first for biedrins maybe accepted by golden state.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:25 am

STARTE BIBBY, JOE, JOSH, HORFORD, BIEDRINS
BENCH TEAGUE, JAMAL, MOE, MARVIN, ZAZA
RESERVE JOE SMITH, MORRIS.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
2:28 am

I believe marvin would be a better player coming of the bench changes have 2 be made if we are going 2 contend for a title.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

December 24th, 2009
3:32 am

I concur darrell starks

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

December 24th, 2009
3:56 am

Anthony: J.R. Smith is a sixth man who is purposely used as that to come out and provide instant offense. Jamal Crawford could score 41 points this year with the same role

bigdave: I used to question his 2 ball as well, but as of late he is shooting it very well. He’s at 41 % for the season but he doesn’t take a whole lot of them. I think he may have gotten it to where he can at least keep them honest about the 3. He won’t have Bibby’s shot but it’s gotten better. I saw him play a game against NJ where he couldn’t miss- 11-14 FG, 4-4 3FG.

vava74

December 24th, 2009
4:46 am

Daniel,

Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.

By the way, Merry Christmas to the rest of the guys over here!

vava74

December 24th, 2009
4:53 am

Couldn’t catch the game again (2AM tip off over here).

Well, if we had won here, I would instantly consider ourselves beyond title contenders, I would consider ourselves favorites to win the East.

We are still not there, however, I don’t think we should be too worried.

Right now we are suffering from a major problem: Since Josh was kicked out of that match he has been singled out by the refs and he is not getting any calls in his favor and many many against. Consequently his game is clearly down from his earlier All-Star form.

We also need Joe Smith back since he has the poise and the savvy to compensate here and there when Josh misses time in foul trouble.

The above translates into a simple fact: we have been playing undermanned on the PF position creating a team defense unbalance.

Anyone contesting Al’s quality is an idiot: we have not lost a single game on account of Al, no even against Orlando where the refs killed us giving Howard a free pass to commit offensive fouls after offensive fouls and not giving a single call in our favor on JJ’s penetrations of the third quarter.

Then, other losses came out of lack of effort or simply poor performances. This is only natural and will always happen.

The season is long and we are going really well. Let’s be patient.

Clyde

December 24th, 2009
6:04 am

Little Ray where ya boy Samuel at talking that COY sh**? Any coach that starts Bibby over Crawford should be fired. What kind of sense does it make to have your second leading scorer come off the bench.

FIRE WOODY

ILL-logical

December 24th, 2009
8:26 am

We lost. ‘melo was held to 6 points under his league leading average and the front line scoring was even across the board-except for Marvin. JR Smith just did to the Hawks what Jamal has done to some of their opponents: become the difference between winning and losing.

Everyone have a Happy Holiday!

vava74

December 24th, 2009
8:46 am

FIRE CLYDE!!!!!!!!!

newkid

December 24th, 2009
9:57 am

d. starks says:
“Marvin is not getting the job done at the 3…”

Orlando GM Otis Smith says:
“If they’re not a piece that helps us win, then we move it.”

vava74

December 24th, 2009
10:32 am

newkid,

Marvin has not been responsible for any of our losses and although irregularly, he has been contributing with hustle and effort in many games.

Yesterday we faced a freak occurrence which was JR Smith going off like crazy. Our defensive rotations were a bit off and slow and combined with a guy “feeling it” that made the difference.

I don’t see why Marvin has to come up again today in the talks… he was 5-11 from the field in 28 minutes and ‘Melo had a relatively quiet night.

vava74

December 24th, 2009
10:37 am

Also, people have to realize that the Hawks are a POOR franchise.

Just look at this (Simmons @ ESPN – Page 2 – The Sports Guy World):

“… Ken Berger, a CBS Sportsline reporter, obtained attendance figures for the first quarter of the season. Only one ticket-related statistic matters in professional sports: net gate receipts. (The attendance number doesn’t matter because it’s so easy to manipulate; teams either fib or boost the total by giving tickets away for absurdly low prices, hoping to recoup some of it through concessions and merchandise sales.) According to Berger’s information, net gate receipts have dropped 7.4 percent from last season. Eight teams (Philly, Sacramento, Charlotte, Memphis, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Indiana and Atlanta) already reside in the dreaded “We Make Less Than $500,000 Per Game” Club, and that number could swell once non-contenders either gut their teams or start tanking for lottery purposes.”

This is a piece about downsizing roster payroll. We have to be realistic and accept that the Hawks only have a tiny chance of pulling a miracle within the next 5 years (provided that they re-sign JJ and Al Horford and maybe Crawford) since the franchise cannot go into the luxury tax territory.

Even if the Hawks won the championship, they would still lose money!!!

FIRE CLYDE

December 24th, 2009
11:09 am

BIBBY IS A MUCH BETTER THREE POINT SHOOTER THAN CRAWFORD. WE NEED HIS RANGE SINCE JJ AND CRAWFORD DO JUST ABOUT THE SAME THINGS.

newkid

December 24th, 2009
11:13 am

vava74,
Seems we have a slightly different perspective relative to evaluating players’ worth to a side. Rather than asking if a player is ‘responsible’ for a loss or two, I ask does he help us win. Don’t think I’d argue that Marvin (a player to whom I’m partial – in a really good way) was responsible for last night’s, or any other loss. It’s just that I don’t see him making consistent and meaningful contributions to Hawks wins; and that’s past, present, and future. Sure he’ll have the all too infrequent night when he collects 12+ boards, or the once-per-season game when he scores 25 points, but those occurrences are FAR TOO sporadic. And if the foregoing is true, I can’t imagine Sund’s view is much different than that of one Mr. Otis Smith.

Marvin clearly has talent, and he reportedly puts in all the post-practice time you’d hope a player would to try and bring that talent to the surface. And while that’s admirable, it has not yet – in coming up to 5 years – yielded the desired results in the current setting. Will it somewhere else? I certainly hope so. And I can’t imagine caring less where he was drafted, or how much his salary is or isn’t. Starks is correct, the cat just is ‘missing in action’ far too often.

Maybe the odds of my being correct with this next statement is only about 1% (after all what do I know about building a winning basketball franchise?), but I believe we’re much more likely to go deeper into the upcoming and future playoffs, and possibly win the O’Brien, if we use Marvin’s value to attract a player (or players) who’ll give the side much more consistent and efficient offensive production from the 3 spot.

All that being said, I’ll try and cooperate with your suggestion not to mention this sentiment again today. How’s the weather there in Portugal?

Sid

December 24th, 2009
11:26 am

Tough loss to a top 5 home team in the NBA what bothered me about last nights game is that Crawford was still obviously hot from the night before and he only managed to get 16 shots up . Thats 3 more than his average and I found it amazing that we couldnt find a way to get him more shots and Im not talking about just isolation’s . He had Anthony Carter on him most of the night was hot and yet we are posting Marv ?

When Al and Smoove are hot the ball goes into the post early and often

When marv was hot that ONE TIME we fed him

When Bibby has the hot hand the ball is in his hands

and we gave Joe 32 shots to get 40 points

yet when our second leading scorer is hot we throw away possession after possession especially early in the game with everyone just chucking away . We wont get far come playoff time playing like that .

When Odom and Gasol are hot Kobe recognizes it and they get them the ball

When scrubby Mo Williams is hot Lebron find that guy

Whenever Wade can get someone else to help him they ride them .

One of the reasons I liked the addition of Crawford is that his game is not home bound . Hes not just gonna play well at home he has the ability to go nutz in any place but if we dont figure out how to harness that ability on the road against good teams it would be a shame .

Mz. Hawkdafied

December 24th, 2009
11:28 am

124 Nuggets 104 Hawks, lets do a little simple math here.

124 Nuggets Points
- 41 JR Smith Points
_________________
83 Nuggets Points

Now by doing a little simple math one can clearly see the main factor in Denver’s victory was JR Smith. This leaves Mz. Hawkdafied wondering why nothing SEEMED to be done to try to hinder the 3 point show of Mr.Smith. Obviously, the coach as well as Mr. Smith realized that the Hawks were doing nothing so both took it as a green light to just keep on shooting threes beyond the line, near the line, or any point on the court that counts as a three point basket.

Mr. Smith’s 3 point show may have been unsportsmanlike and unnecessary at a point in the game but in all fairness to him and coach Karl, well, quite frankly, the Hawks let him/them do it.

What’s quite funny/irksome is JR Smith missed his free throws but was able to make 10 of his what 13 three point attempts. Hmmm, I wonder if Mr. Smith would have thought twice about attempting anymore threes if the Hawks would have gave him some of those hard fouls that the refs never called Denver for. What fouls you might ask. The one Marvin took to the chest by Carmelo. The face fouls to Mo and Josh, and the ruffing up K Mart did to the head of our rook, Teague. Yes Denver was physical. Left this Hawks fan wondering what the heck constitutes a foul in the NBA.

Now back to what I was saying about the JR Smith show. What I’m trying to say is maybe just maybe if the Hawks had layed JR Smith on the floor (without getting a flagrant) for at least two times then perhaps he would have had second thoughts on launching anymore 3 point shots. If you gonna get called for a foul make it count.

Now on to the Smith with the Atlanta across his chest. Josh Smith has lost that something that he had at the beginning of the season ever since he got thrown of out the game. It’s time to move on from that. Arguing with the refs is not helping. Fouls and refs are a part of the game get used to it. It’s time for Josh to make those fouls count toward helping the team win.

Our Mr. Smith has been so focused on arguing with the refs about fouls that his friend Dwight Howard has over taken him in being the blocked shots leader. SMH!

darrell starks

December 24th, 2009
11:41 am

VAVA i understand everything you say about the franchise losing money but all that is a wash if the hawks become more of a consistent winner and devolop a superstar on the team, sells for tshirt and jersey and the price of the franchise would go up more revenue would come in, just look at the cavs before they got lebron james the cavs owners was losing money now lebron is there the franchise is 1 of the top organzation in the league.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

MAD-DONNA

December 24th, 2009
2:47 pm

Come on people, look closer! The Hawks are a team in total disarray! Don’t be fooled by the 20-8 start. By the All-Star break, they will be just above .500….maybe in 5th place. They have a head coach that when his team gets down, looks like a deer in the headlights! They have a power-forward that’s used as a center! They have another power-forward that at times, thinks he’s a point-forward! They have a small-forward that came out of college too soon, and has not learn a thing about basketball under Woody, and is an 8th man at best! They have a shooting-guard that averages more assists than the starting point-guard! They have a point-guard that is no more moble than I was when I was 40! 45-37 if changes aren’t made!

MAD-DONNA

December 24th, 2009
2:50 pm

My bad! I meant “mobile”!

vava74

December 24th, 2009
8:45 pm

newkid,

there’s no space for more contribution from Marvin. more consistency? yes, but much more than what he is averaging? no, unless you believe that we could be averaging 115ppg.

also, how can you say that Marvin has had no role in our 20 wins? it seems that you measure a player’s contribution only by the boxscore?

one of the major factors for our success is that the players seem to go along really well with each other and have put aside their egos.

there are not many players in this league that do this.

so, if we have a SF which is in his early 20’s, has no ego issues, has visibly improved every single year until now but is struggling this year while the team is winning equaling the Hawk’s best start ever, what is there to change??

robert

January 13th, 2010
7:00 pm

American Fleet is Denver Dia Transportation. they take pride in delivering luxury services safe, courteous and dependable ground transportation that consistently exceeds expectations. So, start your next business trip or vacation with an affordable and hassle free ride to the airporT please visit the site http://www.americanfleet.org