Bench Guys Want More Burn, Woody Says They Are Getting It . . . Another Day in the NBA

Crawford gets his minutes off the bench but what about the rest of the reserves? (Photo by Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Crawford gets his minutes off the bench but what about the rest of the reserves? (Photo by Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Let’s start with a couple doses of perspective.

First, the Hawks have won 27 games halfway through the season. They are within a half game of Boston for No. 2 in the East. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be better. It does mean any discussion of Woody’s rotation has to be viewed through that prism. You can argue about who should be playing more and when but remember the Hawks are doing pretty dang good.

Second, all bench players want to play more, and starters usually tend not to want the bench players to take their minutes. Notice how J.J. responded after the reserves sparked the Hawks to that victory over the Kings Wednesday night.

Wasn’t it nice to be able to rest while the second unit did some heavy lifting?

“I guess it was all right,” Johnson said.

So with those truisms in mind, it’s evident that the Hawks’ reserves would like more games like Wednesday, when four of them not named Jamal Crawford played more than 10 minutes, and lots of those minutes came at key times. When Mo Evans says “I was just happy to get a chance to get out there and contribute” after playing 18 minutes, and you see he had played a total of 17 in his previous two games, you know what he’s getting at.

It’s nothing controversial. It’s just the way it is in the NBA. Heck, it’s human nature, right? Woody, being an NBA coach and all, knows this. He says he’s not as inflexible with playing his reserves as they and others might think, and it’s true that Al Horford is the only starter playing more minutes this year than last season. The other four are playing at least two minutes less per game (yes, that includes J.J., even after six 40-plus minute games this month).

“I say it all the time, (the reserves) are just as important as our starters,” Woody said. “They may not think that because they are in and out. But the bottom line, as a coach I am going to do what it takes to win.

“There have been a lot of games this year where starters haven’t even played in the fourth quarter. I didn’t put them back in like a lot of people would. I’m not against playing our bench, even down the stretch. But when they come in, they got to bring it.”

It’s worth noting that when the Hawks’ reserves put the Kings away after halftime, it was their second stint of the game. The lineup with Jeff Teague, Zaza, Smoove, Crawford and Evans gave ground in the second quarter. But Woody came back with his subs in the third quarter and left them out there for the first four-plus minutes of the fourth. So he showed some flexibility there.

Smoove, for one, is fine with more burn for the second unit.

“When you can be able to not rely on the starters all the time to generate energy and play the bulk of minutes it makes our team deeper,” he said. “When we can rely on guys off the bench to provide instant offense and get it going, it doesn’t always have to be the starters to do it.”

Zaza, another sub who was happy the second unit was out there for winning time, said the reserves had to win Woody’s confidence in practice. Now, he says the bench is ready to ball.

“We have great offensive player, inside presence, shooters, pick-and-roll–we can do everything,” he said. “It made the starters’ jobs easier. They didn’t have to be on the court for 40 minutes for the regular season, that way they can save the energy for the playoffs.”

Woody is mindful of that, and points to the starters’ decline in minutes this season. Most of all, though, he said he’s willing to lean on his bench because: “Our bench is better.”

Injury Report

– J.J. (foot), Smoove (thigh) and Joe Smith (ill) missed practice today. All are expected to be ready for Charlotte on Friday.

Smoove took a knee from Kings forward Jason Thompson. “It’s still sore,” he said.

He said he stuck with his plan to sleep with the leg bent so it wouldn’t tighten up. “But I woke up a couple times and it was straight,” he said.

Joe Smith came to practice but was sent home with a headache. “I won’t count him out,” Woody said. “He’s old school.”

J.J. has said he wouldn’t miss any games due to the nagging injury.

104 comments Add your comment

theZaZaguy

January 21st, 2010
4:43 pm

Didn’t JJ have a nagging injury last season?

Melvin

January 21st, 2010
4:57 pm

Many bloggers have argue that the bench players get more mins and for good reason. Look who see the value in the bench and look who doesn’t. I’m confused. I thought player X was suppose to have a low IQ. And player Y was tired in the playoffs b/c of extended mins played during the season…

“Wasn’t it nice to be able to rest while the second unit did some heavy lifting?
“I guess it was all right,” Johnson said.” – JOE

“Smoove, for one, is fine with more burn for the second unit.

“When you can be able to not rely on the starters all the time to generate energy and play the bulk of minutes it makes our team deeper,” he said. “When we can rely on guys off the bench to provide instant offense and get it going, it doesn’t always have to be the starters to do it.”” – Josh

Westurd

January 21st, 2010
5:01 pm

props ZAZA guy for not exclaiming “First”

GeeMack

January 21st, 2010
5:01 pm

MC

Great stuff.

I’m like you all reserves think they deserve more time.

Westurd

January 21st, 2010
5:02 pm

Melvin………say what? Was that English?

GeeMack

January 21st, 2010
5:02 pm

Melvin

Good Point.

Melvin

January 21st, 2010
5:05 pm

Westurd,

I was rushing but I thought you could read between the grammar mistakes.

Westurd

January 21st, 2010
5:18 pm

Melvin,
You’re russian?

theZaZaguy

January 21st, 2010
5:19 pm

I really didn’t have anything to say. I made up something really fast so that I wouldn’t have to read someone else’s word that shall remain unsaid.

Gilley

January 21st, 2010
5:21 pm

When you are a true team player, you shouldn’t worry about minutes but winning. Woody must put his reserves in consistently so their confidence will grow and not against teams like the Kings. He should also go based on the tide of the game and with consideration of preserving his starters for a fourth quarter push which has been our weakness. Giving up leads and having meltdowns.

duker64

January 21st, 2010
5:24 pm

bench has done well lately they should get more time . maybe it will sace the starters legs for later this month when have a back to back.might catch boston next week but have to watch bobcats they are playing great ball right now

welikebaseball2

January 21st, 2010
5:29 pm

I think the bench & starters’ minutes are a bit skewed. The bulk of the bench minutes have come during blowouts in which they pretty much played entire 4th quarters. My problem is the TYPE of minutes the bench gets, not how many they get. Woodson consistently goes to a 6-man rotation (7 if there’s foul trouble) in tight games. I understand he’s “doing what he has to do” to win regular season games, but that doesn’t necessarily prepare or give confidence to your bench in terms of playoff preparation. You just can’t play your bench midst-of-a-blowout minutes & expect them to be sharp for pressure situations (I submit playoffs as an example again).

Astro Joe

January 21st, 2010
5:31 pm

Zaza, another sub who was happy the second unit was out there for winning time, said the reserves had to win Woody’s confidence in practice.

WTF is Zaza talking about? Practice? Proving you deserve PT in practice? He must be speaking that crazy Georgia talk again.

theZaZaguy

January 21st, 2010
5:35 pm

Practice? you wanna talk about practice?!?

ZaZa also used to start. But you haven’t heard a single complaint. And he still goes out there and gives his all with a great attitude. That is why I’m theZaZaguy in section 109.

Astro Joe

January 21st, 2010
5:55 pm

And Zaza has been with Woody longer than any reserve on the squad… so one would think that he has an idea of what the coach expects in relation to practice and playing time.

NDiiBaBii

January 21st, 2010
6:13 pm

Joe Johnson needs to go, that’s all I have to say. Catch me in Section 105 every game screaming sit Joe down!

Hawk Str8Talk

January 21st, 2010
6:14 pm

I’ll continue to say it – don’t go by what Woody says, go by what Woody does. welikebasketball hits the nail on the head – it’s the TYPE of minutes, not just minutes. Joe Johnson’s minutes are down ONLY because we’ve been a part of about 15 blowouts. Now, if we can continue to blowout teams, then sure – it works. If not, he’ll be run out there for 40-45 minutes a game like he always has. See the game logs if you doubt that…I’ll believe that Woodson believes in the bench when I see it. I’ve yet to see him play a hot reserve other than Jamal or Flip in 2 years.

MannyT

January 21st, 2010
6:36 pm

Cosign @Westurd 5:01.

Wink

January 21st, 2010
6:38 pm

Of course the bench want minutes, the bench is also better and at time better than the starters. I say that in contrast to the following quote from Woody:

“There have been a lot of games this year where starters haven’t even played in the fourth quarter. I didn’t put them back in like a lot of people would. I’m not against playing our bench, even down the stretch. But when they come in, they got to bring it.”

He is holding the Bench to a HIGHER STANDARD than the Starters. The starters create the holes we are usually in not the bench; they don’t bring it all the time!!!

The bench makes this team better, and need quality burn to be ready to help the starters when the playoffs arrive.

I agree with ZaZa who said “We have great offensive player, inside presence, shooters, pick-and-roll–we can do everything,”; this unit uses all the aspects of basketball to get us back in the game or push a lead. Against the Kings they were flat out ballin; in comes Joe & Josh and right away we went to Iso Joe and the lead started to come down from 14 points midway the fourth.

Hawk Str8Talk has it right regarding Woody “don’t go by what Woody says, go by what Woody does”.

Let’s see how this bench things shrinks during the playoffs to about 6.5 players (.5 rest of bench minutes).

niremetal

January 21st, 2010
6:42 pm

MannyT,

What, you mean that you don’t adore people who waste perfectly good bandwidth with a meaningless one-word post!

JeJe

January 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

I stand by what I said. Joe had 1 Rebound in 45 minutes against OKC on Monday. This is the biggest 2 guard in the NBA. LOL. The best thing we will do is let Joe walk this offseason and not end up paying him 20 million dollars in 4 years when he’s 32 and injured/burnt out

And it’s tough tracking people’s posts since there’s a new blog every 2 hours lol

MannyT

January 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

Y’all are trying to make this more complex than it is.

Woody has about 5 months (max) on his current contract.

He told you EVERYTHING you need to know about his coaching philosophy.
from MC’s blog notes…

But the bottom line, as a coach I am going to do what it takes to win.

Everyone wants to play. Som guys may not be suited to certain roles, but they all want playing time. Woody probably recognizes that there is a little more focus and harmony when players think they can increase their playing time by doing what he says.

Bench play has significant value during the season if the starters have more in the tank for the playoffs. San Antonio seems to get that better than most teams. They almost stink in November and just seem to get a little better each month.

Moving on….I liked Mo Evans game last night. He was active on offense and defense. I doubt he will get more time on a regular basis, but his efforts showed he was ready to play more minutes last night.

…and props to Zaza for the dunk last night. The Zaza’s Z-fense zone really appreciated it.

BWAF

MannyT

January 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

@niremetal correct ;-)

MAD-DONNA

January 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

The Hawks have had eight head coaches over the last twenty years. Only Lon Kruger has a lower winning percentage(.361), than Woodson(.373). Woody-ball is still a joke to me! Keep in mind, they have at the helm, the second worse coach since Hubie left!

JeJe

January 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

Woodson thinks the bench is as important as the starters?

LOL is that a joke? He doesn’t even play the bench in close games except for last night

idiot

Ken Strickland

January 21st, 2010
6:47 pm

HAWK STR8TALK & WELIKEBASEBALL2-Tell it like it is my friends. There’s a tremendous difference between presenting INFORMATION and INFORMED OPINIONS, as opposed to presenting JUSTIFICATION and UNINFORMED OPINIONS.

Jay

January 21st, 2010
7:04 pm

Same story every year. Woody says he’ll he play his bench more, Woody runs his starters to death, Woody only plays one player off the bench for more than 15 minutes, Woody lets the young pg rot on the bench. It is a tired act. Woody does not deserve an extension AT ALL until he can consistently play his bench.

Woody…they wont get better if you dont give them any burn.

Ken Strickland

January 21st, 2010
7:50 pm

I’m not in favor of letting JJ go, and here’s why.

(1)He anchors both our OFF and our perimeter DEF.

(2)With Woodson’s insistence on starting and playing Bibby major mins, we need him to defend against the players Bibby can’t contain, which is virtually all of them.

(3)It would be very difficult, if not unrealistic, to expect Sund to acquire another SG that could replace his versatility, inside scoring ability, range, accuracy, passing and DEF ability.

With JCrawford being a streak shooter, who would definitely get double teamed, he, like JJ, would end up having to force a lot of shots. Bibby has simply lost too much speed, quickness and athletic ability for teams to consider him an effective threat, unless it’s in the closing mins of a gm. If Crawford starts and isn’t getting it done, who replaces the dynamics he brings off the bench?

If we had a PG that could score, penetrate and create easier scoring oppotunities for other, we could get by with a less dynamic and far cheaper SG. Of course, young players like the Kings TEvans need not apply as long as Woody is still HC, and there’s a vet SG on the roster that doesn’t require a walker.

If we started a PG that could give us more OFF/DEF production, as well as encourage more OFF production out of Marvin, and we made a decision to go inside more to Smoove and Horford, we wouldn’t need an Allstar calibur SG like JJ to be more effective than we are now. Whether you want to accept it or not, Woodson is the kind of HC that doesn’t care how much talent and/or potential or DEF ability a young guard has, he’s not going to trust or give him consistent mins, no matter what. He’d much rather place his trust in veteran guard, even if he’s over the hill and has lost most, if not all, of his speed, quickness, athleticism, stamina and defensive and scoring ability. I Woodson is retained, we’d better hope we can resign JJ.

I’D LIKE TO ASK EVERYONE THE FOLLOWING 3 QUESTIONS, AND I WANT YOU TO IMAGINE YOURSELVES IN THE FOLLOWING SITUATION.

Just suppose you were a really good college guard who intend to declare for this yrs draft a yr early. You just got word that HC MWoodson’s contract was extended and the Hawks were interested in drafting you.

Knowing Woodson’s attitude, treatment and history with young guards,

(1) HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?

(2) WHAT WOULD YOUR REACTION BE?

(3) WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Blast

January 21st, 2010
8:10 pm

Hawks MUST bring it on Friday! The Cats are playing superb bball and they’ve had Hawks number. Hawks will get into trouble if they fall behind early!

Blast

January 21st, 2010
8:34 pm

Though I hate the Lakers, I would love them to beat Cleveland tonight. Knock the Cavs down a peg or too, you know.

KevinA

January 21st, 2010
8:47 pm

If were to lose JJ we have to sign a PG to replace him. A good one with Bibby and Teague as back up. If we are able to resign JJ I would still shop Bibby but we would not be so desperate. If there are no takers for Bibby next summer he will be more attractive the next summer as an expiring contract.

I would like to see Randmo get more burn to see if he can become a more valuable trading chip or the replacement for ZaZa who could then be used for a trade. I hope we can do a sign and trade for Chills to package with JJ or Jamal or Bibby depending on what happens. We need to get something out of him.

In a perfect world we get an owner with deep pockets. Keep JJ, Jamal, replace Evans with Chills and upgrade Bibby with a much better defensive PG with the same passing skills.

KevinA

January 21st, 2010
8:50 pm

Ken,

If I am a young Magic Johnson I would be fine. If I am a Teague I would be worried.

Melvin

January 21st, 2010
9:06 pm

KevinA,

We don’t have to be perfect. Resign Joe, ditch Mo, bring back Chills and I can live with Bibby for another year…

I MUS WRITE

January 21st, 2010
9:13 pm

NDiiBABii-U may get your wish,rumor has it that Chicago will purse Joe really hard come July 1 2010, Possibly offering a Max Contract.

JeJe where u @…. If I remember correctly U said playing he second extened minutes together would be a horrible idea. Looks like you were wrong.
If Joe decides to bail on what were building here then so be it…I say we go after D wade or if that fails maybe Manu Ginnobili-Crawfor Has big tyme game but i dont know how i feel about him as as our only 2 guard. Its also really important to get Horford locked up,that should be our first priority. Joe is a nice player but for every 25 to 30 point game he has there are the 11 and 13 point nights-he definitely sum subpar nights which is why I wouldnt offer max type money.

I MUS WRITE

January 21st, 2010
9:17 pm

Melvin is Russian lol…..

Ken Strickland

January 21st, 2010
9:19 pm

I was curious, so I did a little checking to see where we were, along with the other teams in our division, in comparison to last yr, and here’s what I came up with.

2008/09 2009/10

BOSTON 31-9 27-13

CLEVELAND 35-8 32-11

ORLANDO 33-9 27-15

HAWKS 25-16 27-14

MIAMI 22-19 21-20

NOW CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

(1) You have to consider that last yr at this time, all of the other teams in our division played better and had a better record than this yr.

(2) At this time last yr, we had defeated every team in our division at least once, which accounted for one of the their losses. So far this yr, we’ve only managed to defeat Miami.

(3) So far this yr we’ve been injury free, while last yr we lost both Smoove and Horford for extended periods during this time.

(4) With JCrawford and Joe Smith being definite upgrades over FMurray and SJones, RMorris being much improved over last yr, JCollins and JTeague adding size, speed, quickness and versatility, and the obvious improvement of JSmoove, AHorford, means we’d be hard pressed to say this yrs 2 extra wins at this point means this yrs team has accomplished more than last yrs team. WE’VE BEEN TREADING WATER AT BEST.

cdog

January 21st, 2010
9:30 pm

joe johnson is killing the hawks with his lackadasical play and approach this season. when the playoffs start he should be well rested this year because he has done absolutely nothing so far. thank goodness for jamal crawford. still, i believe rick sund want to see mike woodson gone because he will not get him a quality big man to go along with horford. they will not beat cleveland nor orlando in a playoff series without another big man.

Sautee

January 21st, 2010
9:32 pm

Melvin,

Well it looks like your 4:53 post confused some folks.

I got it right away. Good point.

But by a lot of what we read around here, you’d THINK it would be the other way around.

Strange, eh?

Sautee

January 21st, 2010
9:37 pm

Ken Strickland,

O’Brien and I have been saying a similar thing for the last week. Co-sign.

Melvin

January 21st, 2010
9:44 pm

IMUS,
Not even close…

Sautee,
Just like Woody, I can’t please them all….

richbrave

January 21st, 2010
10:17 pm

If any of you are interested in the foil to ARENAS’ pranks in D.C., there’s a nice background piece on local ATLANTA native JAVARIS CRITTENTON in today’s N.Y. Times.

the link is

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/sports/basketball/21wizards.html?ref=sports

Nothing yet on JAVARIS’ fate regarding the ARENAS gun incident.

KevinA

January 21st, 2010
10:18 pm

Ken Strickland
WE’VE BEEN TREADING WATER AT BEST.

I agree, except we have traded defense for offense. Bibby is worse – Jamal is worse – Marvin is worse JJ is worse – our bench is worse. Al and Josh are better.

The reason we are hanging in there. JJ and Jamal are more efficient along with Al and Josh on offense. We used to rely on Flip and ZaZa to get us back in games. Not this year. We rely on Jamal and JJ more than ever. When you rely on jump shooters you have to expect big swings. We have more blow outs when were hot and lose just as many games as last year when were cold. The reason I pray for more balance between the guards and the big’s.

The good news? Marvin is doing better and Bibby can’t play much worse. I expect better from both of them the second half. I also think because of the emergence of Al we will play more inside out.

If I was Sund I would still look for another PG that can play defense. Mario is not it. Keep doing 10 day contracts and look for a more polished PG than Teague. Bibby is fine at 15-17 minutes a game and more if he is hot. JT is ok when he is hot. Most nights we need a PG that is good enough to take the ball out of the guards hands and get it inside. And make sure we get the ball into early in the shot clock. Something JJ, Bibby and JJ are not good at.

Melvin

January 21st, 2010
10:45 pm

Look like Stackhouse was interested in the Hawks but the feeling wasn’t mutual….

http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=15052

DunwoodyHawk

January 21st, 2010
11:12 pm

Anybody have this feeling that Sund got Crawford as a contingency plan in the event Joe Johnson leaves? (And given that Atlanta gave JJ a nice extension offer, it strikes me that either Joe was waiting to see if the Hawks could climb the next rung this year–or was simply biding time until he could get to a better contender.

So my theory is Joe leaves for greener pastures, Jamal gives Sund a quality scorer at SG position and then…Sund uses the savings from Joe (and Bibby’s expiring contract) to sign … Chris Paul, who will bolt from the Hornets and who has reportedly said he loves Atlanta.

So starting lineup of Paul, Crawford, Horford, Smith, Marvin.

KevinA

January 22nd, 2010
12:16 am

DunwoodyHawk,

What a wonderful dream. Don’t wake me up.

Sid

January 22nd, 2010
12:17 am

There wont be enough savings from Joes contract dropping off the payroll to sign anyone of significance.

So either we feel good about Joe resigning this summer , Joe is traded next month ,or Joe walks for nothing this summer.

tjhook

January 22nd, 2010
1:25 am

Paul is already under contract so forget about a CP3 Hawks jersey. However, we need to look at the professional basketball assassin, James Posey. He can shoot an opposing team out or take out an opposing team’s best scorer. And isn’t that what we were paying Marvin Williams to do. Marvin has proven that he CAN’T do it and we need that third option on scoring opportunities when we play teams with equal talent. Posey sitting on the wing ready to shoot is what dribble penetrators like Crawford and JJ will love. With Smoove and Horford ready to gobble up the rebound. Trade suggestion: Marvin and a future pick for Posey and Julian Wright. Wright can prepare to take Joe Smith’s spot next year.

E43

January 22nd, 2010
2:48 am

the thing about these minutes is the backcourt. jamal crawford has never been a passer and jeff teague doesnt play against top tier teams. i know woody is the coach, and he the best option for the hawks at head coach but i feel like the hawks are just hanging on loose threads at point guard. jamaal is trigger happy and the next option would be jeff teague. the only thing i can do is just hope that bibby doesnt get hurt.

The Grapes of RATHbun

January 22nd, 2010
3:53 am

Nique said it himself: Al Horford has All-Star nimbers!

Buz thompson

January 22nd, 2010
6:50 am

It will never happen because it now illegal. But if such a team could be organized it would be successeful. I wouldn’t watch an NBA game if you paid me to go but I would enjoy watching play in this league. ,I agree, blacks are better athletics, faster, quicker and just plane better. There is no place for the second rate white player to play. He not good enough to play NBA college or High School. He just wants to play . If this league came into being he could play. But If blacks are allowed to play, once again soon they would dominate and the white guy loses his “right” abilty to play. Keep the money keep the frills, Keep the headlines, just let us play. Is that racist? I don’t think so