Hope you’re staying warm. I just took a 20-minute walk from lunch with Hawks PR man Arthur Triche and sideline reporter James Verrett back to my hotel. This is my final road trip with the team, so Arthur and James were good enough to send me off with a lunch. James had a pretty big burger, I had a pizza and Arthur, who is on the same veggies and fruit diet that Mike Woodson is on, had a salad. (If you hadn’t heard, new staffer Michael Cunningham will be taking over at the end of the week.)
Anyway, got a big of news and a thought about the Hawks’ slump or whatever term you want to give it, and some links.
News: The Hawks are looking at three players to sign to a 10-day contract – Anthony Tolliver, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Mario West.
Tolliver is a 6-9 center/forward who has spent a lot of time in the D-League and has gotten a little bit of NBA time with San Antonio and Portland. The Hawks may have to move fast on him.
Mensah-Bonsu is a 6-9 forward who was with Toronto, but was let go Jan. 5. I believe Reggie Evans‘ eminent return had something to do with it. He has played in D-League and Europe and is apparently not unwilling to dunk.
West, whom you know about, has been playing in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws, which is a team whose t-shirt I would wear proudly.
Here is some totally awesome research for you. It’s the best and worst 15-game stretches for Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and your favorite team.
Boston: 14-1, 10-5
Cleveland: 13-2, 11-4
Orlando: 12-3, 7-8
Hawks: 11-4, 8-7
Now, 15 games is sort of arbitrary, and we’re not even halfway through the season yet, so the sample size is small. But I picked 15 because a team can get hot for 6 or 7 games, but 20 is more than half the season. And I wasn’t quite sure what I thought I’d find, but I can’t say I’m surprised. What it says to me is that the Hawks can’t sustain a high like the other three and can’t work their way out of a funk like the other three (except Orlando).
To me, what it might mean, and I mentioned it in Monday’s story, is this: The Hawks still don’t know how to, or can’t, compete at a consistently high level. One thing I’ve heard Mike Woodson say is that the team is still learning to win. That’s what the numbers bear out.
A good team can ride out a hot streak better than 11-4, and get itself out of a rut better than 8-7. One thing I heard a good bit as the Hawks were trying to get out of the four-game losing streak is that every team goes through a funk, which I suspect is true. It’s just a matter of how quickly, and to what degree, each team gets out of it.
Obviously, we’ve seen that the Hawks can compete with the best teams in the league. But competing on a given night and consistently doing it are different things. Certainly, there are problems with the team.
(This is an aside. It occurred to me last night that, on this blog, I don’t think there’s one player on the roster, or at least in the rotation, that just about everyone thinks the same thing about. Maybe Jamal Crawford. He’s one guy that you all don’t seem to talk a lot about, except that some of you think he should be starting. And maybe Joe Johnson, specifically his shot selection. But everyone else, I’d think, some of you hold a positive opinion on and some of you think the other way. I’m not sure what it says about the team, or all of us on the blog, or human nature, in general. I just thought it was interesting. End of aside.)
But anyway, maybe what is wrong, if you can call it wrong, is not coaching or personnel, but what’s going on between the ears. I’d suspect that it’s a whole lot easier to go from 37 wins to 47 wins than it is to go from 47 to 53 or wherever the Hawks are trying to get. That certainly doesn’t absolve the Hawks from playing the way they did against Orlando or Miami, but maybe it helps explain it. A 53-team might no’t have let Nate Robinson steal a game at home, but a 47-win team would.
So I guess you’d say it falls on Woodson and/or the veteran leadership to get the Hawks to a point where they do know how to win like a 53-win team does. And I’d say that, with less than half the season gone, I don’t know that this group can’t really begin to figure that out this season. I’m not sure how that works. It does seem easy – play hard. But perhaps it’s a little harder than that. (Read some of the quotes below.) After all, how is it that the Magic can go 7-8 over 15 games when they were good enough to go to the finals last year?
Dwight Howard after Saturday’s game: “We’ve got to play with the same effort and intensity every night.” (Heard that somewhere before?)
Hoopsworld.com rated the Hawks through 30 games.
The Boston Herald’s take on Friday night’s game.
“They feel real comfortable with us right now,” said a disappointed (Kendrick) Perkins after collecting 15 points and 14 rebounds. “They’ve beat us in our house and their house now. I thought this was a statement game for us. I think we played in spurts. I don’t think everybody was on the same page. Our defense was pretty good, but it could have been better. And offensively we just (stunk). We didn’t play Celtic ball tonight.
“I think sometimes we kind of look over them. Guys don’t take them serious, but they take us serious. You can just tell with the way they’re playing that they’ve got something to prove.”
The Boston Globe’s game story.
Doc Rivers: “They come with a sense when they play us, with a purpose, and we just showed up. I thought the first five minutes we were a Sunday stroll in the park. Then we lit a fire and got it going. We’ll find out – we play them on Monday, but right now you’ve got to give it to them; they’re the better team.”
A Lowell (Mass.) Sun column urging the Celtics to get into the Joe Johnson sweepstakes.