As Cavs look to load up, J.J. says of Hawks: “We’ve got to be real scrappy”

Dallas– When the post All-Star game discussion turned to the best team in the East looking to add Amare Stoudemire, Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson let out a “Whew!” and smiled.

“They are just being selfish,” J.J. joked.

“They are trying to stack it, man,” Johnson said of the Cavs. “They are trying to do whatever it takes to keep ‘23′ (LeBron) there. And not only that they really, really are trying to shoot for a title. What they’ve got now, I think it’s a possibility, and getting Amare makes it even stronger.”

Does he expect the other East contenders to react to Cleveland’s move?

“Probably not,” he said. “A lot of the top teams, when you look at Boston and Orlando, they are pretty much set where they are at and feeling like they can win a championship with what they got.”

And what about the Hawks?

“I think we’re solid,” he said. “With what we got, we’ve got to be real scrappy and want it more than the next team. That’s the only way we are going to get over the top. We can’t come out relaxed or being too cool. We have got to come out and hit first every night.”

My translation: As it stands now the Hawks may not have the talent or depth to match up with the Cavs or Magic (the latter being the more pressing concern as a potential second-round opponent), so they’ve got to do it with effort and edginess.

The theme for the Hawks when they return from the All-Star break today is “refocus,” and J.J. said he’s ready to take the lead.

“Going down the stretch run, we really have to come together and find our identity and see what kind of team we want to be in the playoffs,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back and pretty much set the tone with what kind of team we want to be. We need to have a no-lose attitude, coming out and paying closer attention to detail and focusing in on what we need to do to position ourselves to get a good spot in the playoffs.”

The improvement likely will have to be internal since there’s been nothing to suggest the Hawks will waiver from GM Rick Sund’s stance that he would not make a major trade before Thursday’s deadline. Those moves have already been made as the Hawks built the core of the team through the draft (Al, Marvin, and Josh) and trades (J.J., Bibby, and Jamal). It’s stayed together through re-signings as the victory totals have increased.

Now the Hawks will see how far this group can go. Johnson said he understands the philosophy.

“We’ve been together for four or five years now,” he said. “Honestly, each year we’ve gotten better, we’ve gotten further. We are still growing as a team, we are still getting better.

“Who knows how good we will be this year? We’ve still got a lot more room for improvement. We’ve got to just keep working and know what’s at (stake).”

Meanwhile, Cleveland will get the headlines over the next few days as it looks to add Stoudemire. The Hawks will quietly try to get better with what they’ve got.

“The owners and Rick feel that way,” Horford said after the All-Star game. “We have grown in the short time I have been here. Hopefully we keep growing and keep developing.”

He added with a laugh: “Stay in the West, Amare.”

MC

127 comments Add your comment

Josh

February 15th, 2010
12:16 pm

man, this time of year is always interesting for the nba

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
12:28 pm

It’s really annoying to see other teams load up on bigs and we are stuck with the bare chicken bones. Does Dallas really now have Dampier/Haywood? I would kill for a player who will commit a hard foul and put a player on the ground. Even if Dampier semi-sucks/is average/overpaid, the guy will protect his teammates and the basket.

We are a soft basketball team. That’s the difference between ORL/ATL and Bos/CLE. Boston and Cleveland have rugged players who commit hard fouls, pick up technical fouls to psychologically mess with you (Delonte), and who look out for each other. We have no players on our team who scare opposing teams besides Jamal. Joe is good, but he doesn’t make other teams shake in fear.
We need someone like Ron Artest at the 3 who will scare other teams and bring the fear factor.

WE ARE A SOFT BASKETBALL TEAM. THAT WILL BE THIS TEAM’S DEMISE IN THE PLAYOFFS. WE ARE NOT UNDERTALENTED, BUT WE HAVE NO ONE TO COMMIT THE HARD FOUL. I’VE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR OVER A YEAR NOW. WE NEED TO OVERPAY IF WE MUST TO GET SOMEONE LIKE HAYWOOD–SOMEONE WHO WILL PUT A PLAYER ON THE GROUND. For example, when Delonte dunked on Smoove a few months ago, where was the return favor from one of our players? Are we just going to let the elite teams clown us?

I still think Boston would beat us in a 7 game series, because it’s all about adjustments, and I FEAR Paul Pierce and Rondo. We have no one on our team that other teams fear that much. Perkins scares me, watching him clog the lane. Horford is soft, Smoove is soft, Bibby sucks, Marvin is trash.

We need to get rid of Marvin somehow immediately

Ree Roe

February 15th, 2010
12:31 pm

Sounds good. Looking ahead, the month of March would seem to be the time we make a move in the standings for the division & the 2 seed. 4 game roadie starting in LA vs. the Clips on Tues, so let’s finish strong Hawks.

I really wish we could find another big man for the bench :-/

-REElentessly Roe!!!

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
12:34 pm

That last quote by Al says it all. If the Cavs get Amare, the Hawks know they can’t match up with them.

MC I don’t care how scrappy a team is…if the other team has more talent and play with the same hunger and scrappiness you won’t win.

The Cavs are the hungriest team in the league, and the only team that can beat them in a 7 gm series is the Lakers.

I wish the Hawks could make a small move like adding a Maggette or Jamison to play the 3 with JJ & Jamal. That will give us a scoring trio that rivals any team in the league.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
12:46 pm

Great blog MC- I love what Joe has to say about the team and what we need to do to stay in the hunt. Let’s hope what he is saying translates into action.

Gee – adding a Jaimson would not constitute a “small” move by anyones standards. The Hawks don’t have anything to offer the Wiz for Jaimson outside of Josh or Al. Would you want to trade one of our core guys?

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
12:48 pm

GeeMack, adding an 18-20 point scorer is a small move?

Joe needs to stop forcing 2-3 shots per game that hurt the offensive flow. But that is not nearly as important as Bibby giving us a little better shooting and getting anyone from the bench to play better. And I think that guy ideally would be Zaza. Maybe the rest will help him play with the energy he used to show (especially on the offensive board). We need that old Zaza, the guy that battled hard for every missed shot.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
12:50 pm

The Cavs are certainly doing everything they can to try and keep Lebron but it also has the potential to blow up in their faces. Amare is not a defensive player, he doesn’t play well with Shaq, he is often injured and likes to be the center of attention (not happening with King Lebron). Plus, the team has won 13 in a row, seems like they are messing with a good thing. But, I understand Clevland is desperate as a city and a franchise to keep the one thing it has going moving forward. They are desperate and it shows. Desperation rarely breeds championships.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
12:51 pm

AJ- you are right on the money.

JeJe

February 15th, 2010
12:57 pm

The reason Bibby sucks now is not because of the addition of Crawford.

It’s because Bibby did not get in shape this past summer. He is severely overweight/too heavy to be a mobile point guard of a young athletic team. I said last summer 234,129,672 times: BIBBY SHOULD’VE LOST WEIGHT LAST SUMMER. He is way too big, cannot move, is clueless on defense (seriously, watch this guy on defense. He gets burnt on any play where the opposing point guard is within 15 feet of the basket).

Jody

February 15th, 2010
1:04 pm

Waiting for the offseason to see what happens. If things hold true and the Hawks play the Cavs or Magic in the second round, I don’t see the Hawks advancing. Which means, in the offseason, I have a feeling that Sund will have to do more than throw money at JJ to keep him in the ATL. The question will become ‘what will the Hawks do to become a contender?’ I think Sund’s hands are tied right now, but in the offseason, things could change.

wayne

February 15th, 2010
1:09 pm

even the braves of old-the good teams of the 80’s made a deal when needed. if you don’t have enough to win you have got to make a move. the hawks can beat any team on a given night. they just don’t have enough to win night after night. d. wade would put them over the top.

O'Brien

February 15th, 2010
1:09 pm

JJ has a point though. I dont think the Hawks have peaked. They have been inconsistent at times, and against the Magic and Cleveland, its not that we were severely outmatched. Most of our issues can be improved upon. We need to be tough, mentally prepared, and focused every single game. And Woody has to learn to make adjustments.

AJ,

Mark Bradley made the point that Joe is taking more shots per game, and averaging less assists per game this season, which is interesting, because we have a much better team this year, with more options

Its almost like there are certain possessions where JJ is determined to take the shot, no matter how difficult, and no matter who’s guarding him.

Daniel,

Deaperation rarely breeds championships thats true. But it might. The Celtics were desperate for a championship, and they went out and got KG and Ray Allen. They’re paying for it now (high salary, and old players), but they did win their championship.

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
1:18 pm

AJ

It’s a small move in terms of making headlines. If we got a Jamison the media wouldn’t be anointing us has the favorite to win it all. However Hawks fans would be really geeked by a move of that nature.

Daniel

I would deal one of our core guys for the right player. I have said all alone at some point the Hawks have to make the decision of who the best PF on this team: Al or Josh and once that is determined we use the other as trade bait.

Also Daniel it may seem desparate on the Cavs part, but teams are not in position to make a run at a title everyday. You have to take chance when the opportunity presents itself.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
1:19 pm

O’Brien- you are right about the Celtics, but they were a team that was going nowhere fast when they were able to bring in KG and Allen (plus being a “favored” NBA team). The Cavs are already winning they just don’t seem to know how to handle it both in the front office and on the court. The silly dances will come back to haunt them just like their “picture” taking.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
1:22 pm

Gee- would you trade Horford for Jaimson?
Yes, but why be desperate when you are already winning? And really the Cavs problem is front court scoring??? I mean if they were trying to get Nash I would understand.

Hawk n the Ham

February 15th, 2010
1:31 pm

I like to see Joe speaking as a leader, don’t see that in print a lot.

Good job, well done Mr. MC.

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
1:34 pm

Nahhh…Jamison is to old right now. However 6 years ago maybe. To be honest with you I like Al as our starting 4 better than Josh. I would be more inclined to trade Josh than Al.

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
1:36 pm

Daniel & Astro,

I know the Hawks don’t have a lot of wiggle room to make moves, but what deals could we make us a title contender this seasons.

vava74

February 15th, 2010
1:37 pm

Jamison would not be the answer for us AT ALL… good grief.

He is a jump shooting PF who avoids contact at all cost. Not a bad player but he is not what we need.

I understand how he could be useful for the Cavs, but not to us at the expense of anything but deep bench players.

He is 34 years old!!!

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
1:38 pm

Gee- “I would be more inclined to trade Josh than Al” – you just summed up the next 2-3 years of this blogs debate once Joe and Woodson are extended. For the record, I understand your point but I can’t see trading either one of them right now.

vava74

February 15th, 2010
1:38 pm

I would love to get Nocioni.

That would stir us…

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
1:44 pm

GeeMack, none! Seriously, when you enter a season spending $10M less than the teams ahead of you, there just aren’t a lot of in-season moves that can help make up the talent difference. We would essentially need for 1-2 of our players to be having an All-NBA type season. Just enjoy the ride and remember that we aren’t that far removed from discussing ping-pong balls and rather a college freshman is more likely to be our savior than a college sophomore.

dc3

February 15th, 2010
1:49 pm

we need to get a scorer trade marvin and a draft pick to the 76ers for andre iguodala

kwooden1

February 15th, 2010
1:50 pm

Fun time is over and it’s time to get down to business. What the HAWKS need is real production from Zaza, Smith and Evans. Those guys haven’t been showing up on the defensive end consistently enough. Clearly Crawford can score, so those guys need to be on the offensive and defensive boards and protecting the lane. When those guys play well, Atlanta is an elite team. To beat Cleveland and Orlando though the HAWKS need Horford and Smoove to really play big around the basket. The HAWKS have to double team in the post, commit to recovering on defensive and all 5 guys have to rebound.

GO HAWKS!!!

aDrummer

February 15th, 2010
2:05 pm

I read on other blogs that bloggers are saying that we need to fight for that second seed. But lets say (if) we are we re the 2nd seed i still think orlando will be the 3rd and boston 4th rite? or do the division winners get the top three? sorry if this has been answered already.
aDrummer

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
2:06 pm

OB, I saw Bradley’s blog and I don’t really care that Joe’s assist are down this year. The team is averaging more assists than last year, top 5 in offensive efficiency and top 5 in scoring int he conference. Joe could do better in specific situations but he ain’t the problem.

Chime

February 15th, 2010
2:10 pm

O.K….trade Josh straight up for Rondo…win/win for both teams. Bibby is burping dust, and face it you don’t want Al/Josh playing the three or five.Send Marvin/ZaZa to Philly for Dalembert.Play ball!

Truth

February 15th, 2010
2:32 pm

JJ looking to get the league max. He is the Kovy of the Hawks. Bwhaaaaaaaaaaa…..LOL.

O'Brien

February 15th, 2010
2:36 pm

Hawks just dont have the pieces to make a deal. Marvin is BYC, we’re not trading JJ, Josh, Horford or Crawford, and nobody wants Bibby, Joe Smith, or Mo Evans (unless we’re trading picks or taking back a large contract, which is not something the Spirit can afford). And we dont have any useless expiring contracts to get rid of either.

If we are going to trade Josh, it has to be for a (still) young starter who we will have under control for at least 2 years. Preferrably a good young center, or a major upgrade at PG. And I just dont see anyone out there who is willing to make that deal.

The best chance is for the Hawks players and coaches to step their game up. Marvin, ZaZa, Bibby, even Joe Smith all have room to step up for the second half of the season. And Woody needs to do a better job of making adjustments.

Based on everything, our best chance at improvement is from within.

delo

February 15th, 2010
2:49 pm

coach woodson try this lineup randolph morris center, al hortford power forward, josh smith small forward, jj shooting guard and jeff teague point. second unit joe smith or zaza center and power forward, marvin williams small forward, moe evans and jamal and mike bibby as guards. marvin williams and bibby will be more productive with the second unit.

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
2:52 pm

I know that he has a championship ring and an ASG appearance, but I am not impressed with Rajon Rondo. I think that if he were playing with average NBA players and not future HOFers, he’d look a lot like Chris Duhon.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
2:57 pm

delo- Did you really just suggest that Randolph Morris!?!?! be the starting center and Teague be the starting pg??? OMG- oh heavens, I think I might just die from laughing, thanks for the comedy.

AJ- I agree with you on Rondo (overrated) Chime- I wouldn’t trade Josh for Rondo, ever. I would have to think long and hard about trading Josh for Deron Williams. I think you undervalue how good Josh is and can continue to be.

Frosgrim

February 15th, 2010
2:58 pm

Delo, that makes no sense. Josh isn’t a SF, he has no range and his handles are not good enough for the SF.
Second, Morris is a big body with no skills. Starting him would get us killed on the glass and in transition defense.
Lastly, you have six guys in your second unit. I bet we could win a lot that way. Along with that, Zaza can’t play PF, I have no idea why anyone, and this is persistant among casual Hawks fans, thinks Z can ply the 4.

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
3:03 pm

Daniel

I with you not trading either, but I do see a situation where the Hawks will have to choose. Maybe not this year or next, but that time come. Great point though.

Astro Joe

I feel you. Good points.

vava74

Nocioni. Really? Not sure I see that one.

O’Brien

Can the Hawks make enough improvements to make a run at a title this season? Woody and JJ maybe gone next year.

Melvin

February 15th, 2010
3:09 pm

I read the Clips have Thronton on the trading block. They are looking for expiring contracts and draft picks. Would they take Mo and 1st rounder????

MsDee

February 15th, 2010
3:26 pm

Even though I would love to see a much needed trade b4 the deadline, I just dont see it happening so what O’Brien said makes sense. The upgrade has to come from within the team. I believe we have the team to beat ANYBODY!! Yes, I said it!! We could beat the Cavs and the Magic if we had a coach who would be creative and knew how to use the players he has on his team already. If we had Avery Johnson or someone else in that nature they would get the job done..NO QUESTION ASKED!!

niremetal

February 15th, 2010
3:27 pm

Melvin,

Mo is not expiring.

bigdave

February 15th, 2010
3:29 pm

Melvin…

id push the button on that trade in a heart beat…

Perry Ga would be a huge acquisition…

Melvin

February 15th, 2010
3:32 pm

nire,

i know zMo has a player option but maybe the 1st round pick would entice Clips to pull the trigger….

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
3:36 pm

Melvin, Mo has a player’s option next season at $2.5M. And there is probably 0% chance that he can get a $2.5M annual contract again in his career… so dude will surely opt-in. The only expiring contrracts we have are at the very end of the bench… Joe Smith, RandMO, Collins and Mario (excluding Joe).

ali

February 15th, 2010
3:37 pm

we should trade marvin and jj for iguodala ,Dalembert, and Thaddeus Young so we can have pig and small,,

mrtomdan1

February 15th, 2010
3:48 pm

MC-Great Article….

JJ is right-playing scrappy is the way- teams are “comfortable” when they drive inside on us. I bet if they begin to feel a little “pain” from the Hawks when driving inside, they would have second thoughts……

Barry

February 15th, 2010
3:50 pm

The Hawks are not going to be able to trade anyone due to the contracts. But even as they currently stand, they can definitely make a run at every team in the east. But they can’t do it playing one-on-one. When they move the ball, they have enough scorers, but not if they have to create their own shot. And they have the roster to play more big men. Joe Smith should play much more. They were much better earlier in the year when they actually had an entire second team.

GeeMack

February 15th, 2010
3:56 pm

AJ Daniel

Not sure I would call Rando overated. Remember they said the same things about Tony Parker. Look how he turned out. Yes he is playing with 3 future HOF’ers, but so did Magic and Bird. NO I AM NOT COMMITTING BLASEPHMEY, by comparing him to Bird and Magic. My point is KG ,Ray, & PP had never been past the conference finals. He was a major clog on that team and he’s gotten better.

Give the man his props.

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
4:05 pm

Gee- You know Tony Parker passes the “eyeball” test and Rondo doesn’t to me. I give no Celtics any props man…. They can all fall in the ocean as far as I am concerned. HA!!!

Daniel

February 15th, 2010
4:06 pm

ali- so we can be as bad as the 76ers?

O'Brien

February 15th, 2010
4:19 pm

Melvin,

Aren’t the Clips trying to get someone to take Sebastian Telfair as well? Even Camby might be available for the right price. I like Thornton as a good option to have behind Marvin, but I dont know if Mo Evans and a 1st round pick in the mid 20s will be enough.

Rick Sund did a great job trading for Crawford, but his signings have not panned out the way we would have liked. Sund gave Mo 2 years guaranteed, and a player option for the 3rd. That 3rd year is costing us right now.

He gave Bibby 3 years guaranteed, and I can’t imagine seasons 2 and 3 being any better than this. Marvin got 5 years at $7.5 mil per, and here we are hoping he steps it up.

ZaZa got his 4 year deal, and he’s been inconsistent all year. We waited anxiously for Joe Smith to sign, and his jumper is missing. It’s not all Sund’s fault, but his signings dont look good right now. Hopefully, things will look up as the season progresses.

As for Rondo, I like his game. He defends, rebounds, and sets his guys up. I would like him on this team if Woody was not the coach. That being said, his contract is overpriced in my opinion.

He got all that money because his value was inflated playing along side 3 HOF and winning a championship. Now if he ever develops a consistent offensive game (must improve his jumper), he might be worth it.

UGA

February 15th, 2010
4:24 pm

The Hawks need another scorer off the bench. What if Jamal or Joe gets hurt, like the Heat game. We’re in trouble. We’re not trading any of our core players, which is fine with me. However, there are some players with expiring contracts that we could probably get through the waiver wire and a small trade. For example: Mike Miller, Jarvis Hayes, Damien Wilkins and Rasual Butler. We should be somewhat interested here. I like Mo, but he has problems scoring unless he is on.

Melvin

February 15th, 2010
4:35 pm

O’Brien,

I agree with your post. The Hawks are stuck in a tough spot cap wise. They committed a decent amount of money to keep their core guys together and don’t have enough assets to be players on the trade market. If they don’t improve this season along with showing potential to be in contention for a title next season then I think they will have to make some changes this offseason. If that mean trade some guys that they consider part of the core then so be it, as long as it makes the team better.

Astro Joe

February 15th, 2010
4:39 pm

Sorry, when I watch Rondo, I see a guy who often dribbles the air out of the ball, especially if his teammates are well-defended (because of his own shooting issues). He gets bailed out when he passes the ball with 2 seconds left on the shot clock by Allen’s quick release or Pierce’s ability to draw fouls. His defense is aided by the presence of Perkins and KG who erase his attempts to make steals out of the passing lane. I appreciate that he takes full advantage of the tools available to him (i.e. his teammates) but I don’t think that his Celtics success is readily transferrable to another team.