Woody: Short bench strategy “backfired on me” vs. Suns

PhoenixWoody, subdued and contemplative at this morning’s light practice, acknowledged that his strategy of playing his starters heavy minutes was a big factor in the Hawks’ loss to the Suns last night.

“I did something last night I haven’t done all year in terms of playing six guys,” he said. “I really thought we could beat those guys like that but it backfired on me because their second unit beat us.”

The Suns’ reserves took it to the Hawks in the fourth quarter. The Hawks’ reserves other than sixth man Jamal Crawford watched the entire second half from the bench.

Despite going with the starters plus Jamal for those 24 minutes, the Hawks managed just 30 points, missed 20 of 33 shots and were beaten 27-17 on the boards. Jason Richardson was the only Suns starter to play more than four minutes in the fourth quarter.

“Their second unit is probably their best defensive unit and they climbed up in us,” Woody said.

Woody stuck with his six-man rotation even though Hawks vet Joe Smith sparked the team in the first half. He had seven points and four rebounds in six minutes and was active rotating out to Phoenix’s shooters.

“Joe Smith surely should have played more in the second half based on how he played early on,” Woody said.

Making matter worse for the Hawks was a poor shooting night. Joe Smith, Smoove and J.J. combined to shoot 19 for 37; the rest of the Hawks were 11 for 39.

Add those numbers to the Hawks’ 50-36 deficit on the boards, 15 turnovers and Phoenix’s 52 points in the paint and it explains how the Hawks lost despite holding the Suns more than 20 points below their league-leading scoring average.

“We couldn’t make shots,” Woody said. “We got good shots, shots we normally make. That put some pressure on our defense to get stops, and we did get some. But our offense worked against us. We have not seen too many nights like that.”

I asked Woody if the offensive problems were related to the specific matchup with the Suns or if there are adjustments he can make going forward. He kept coming back to his six-man rotation.

“I had to see something for myself,” Woody said. “I condensed things last night almost like it was a playoff game, when your backs are against the wall and you have to have one. I blew out six guys trying to do it. I can tell you it won’t happen again.”


151 comments Add your comment

Sekou is fat

February 20th, 2010
2:28 pm

“Joe Smith surely should have played more in the second half based on how he played early on,” Woody said.



February 20th, 2010
2:30 pm

Ugh, Woody is an idiot.


February 20th, 2010
2:35 pm

Wdsn is obtuse!


February 20th, 2010
2:45 pm

What’s the benefit of a six man rotation in the playoffs. Playoff teams have bench depth, thats why they are playoff teams. He’s amazing.


February 20th, 2010
2:48 pm

Do you think that Woody went with the starters because they were so hot?

Joe Smith played excellent in the first half and did not play again.

Bibby was terrible and yet Teague did not play.

Bad coaching.


February 20th, 2010
2:54 pm

Does anyone HONESTLY believe Woody wont run his players into the ground again?


This is 100% the reason why Woody should NOT be extended. We will NEVER win ANYTHING with our players exhausted when the playoffs start.

Do you think it was just coincidence when all of our players got hurt in the playoffs? It was because the long rotations that the players play in the regular season finally wore them out.


February 20th, 2010
2:57 pm

According to ESPN, PHX gives up 107ppg and their second team is their best defensive unit ?! Really? This is a really frustrating loss to a team that can’t play defense. Woody was the one that said come back focused on the second half. Way to lead by example. No in game adjustment whatsoever. Wow.

Hawk Str8Talk

February 20th, 2010
3:11 pm

I’ve been saying this on my blog for 2 years now. Woodson rolls with Plan A 95% of the time. Now, lack of use of the bench is NOT new, Woody. Maybe playing only 6 guys…guys who weren’t even playing well. I mean it makes sense a tad if your 6 guys were playing well and you were scared to LOSE, but when you’re being beaten that way to not change is crazy. So, we finally get Woodson to decide to put his stamp on a game and try something NEW and that’s what he came up with – play 6 guys when they aren’t playing well. For real, Woodson. that’s what you came up with. See my blog for more…Me, the Hawks, Drinks, Cards, Coaching, and Bench Loathing…http://www.hawkstr8talk.com/2010/02/game-recap-hawks-suns.html


February 20th, 2010
3:20 pm

Woody is showing that he’s going to win or lose his way.

I wonder if the rest of the coaching staff thought this was a good idea.

It was a back to the future moment. He used to distribute minutes this way when Chills was the 6th man.

I hope he learnes from the mistake. More importantly, if you catch him again, I’d be curious…if the 6 had pulled out a close win by playing them into the ground, would that be better for the long term prospects of this team?

When the bench plays a decent first half, no minutes for you in the 2nd. What kind of message does that give to them?



February 20th, 2010
3:21 pm

Woodson rolls with Plan A 95% of the time.

And the other 5% is Plan B. Unfortunately, Plan B is to try harder at Plan A.


February 20th, 2010
3:38 pm

woody being woody.

i can tell you, no, i guarantee you, he will do it again. problem with woody is he costs games on the floor rather than wins them. is he a good coach? yes, emphatically off the floor but not during games in his management of personnel during them. it is what makes a good assistant coach. it is why sometimes he gets soft minutes from his bench as he does. before you cry, “they should be ready all the time”, human behavior and bodies dont behave that way anymore than the “belief” his starters dont take minutes off for rest during their play time. i wonder if sund is keeping a running count on how many times his coach influences games positive or negatively as the season goes on.

MC that might be something to keep count of as well … woody’s personnel moves that truly influence flows of games.


February 20th, 2010
3:50 pm

MC –

maybe you could ask Woody why we are not more prepared for the hard double team team of jamal off the screen and roll.

The cavs did the exact same thing 2 months ago and we still seemed to have no strategy when in fact they were daring someone else to exploit them.

Craw uses the pick and gets double teamed out at the 3 point line . He passes to the big who set the screen and hes right at the top of the key and from that point on even though we have a 4 on 3 advantage we have no idea what to do .

We should be getting easy wideopen threes or the big should be able to make a quick move right into the lane and score .

Woody in essence proved a point about just how ineffective both Marv and Bibby have been this year. He played them both quality starter minutes and they couldnt give the team anything meaningful. He did it against a poor defensive team after a nice little rest as well.

I expect to see him adjust their minutes over the next few weeks and give someone else an opportunity.


February 20th, 2010
3:55 pm

Gen. Manager Sund looks like agenius by waiting to have contract talks with Woodson after the season.
This team will not advance deeper into the play-offs under his coaching as evidence by the last three games.

Astro Joe

February 20th, 2010
4:40 pm

Recognizing the problem is the first step toward resolving it.


February 20th, 2010
4:42 pm

@ MC,

Could you ask the players (especially JJ), why do they think we come out so many games and not have the necessary focus needed? Especially this late in the season where every game counts as we try to win the division?

Assuming Woody gets a new contract from the Hawks this offseason, I wish he would hire Hubie Brown or Mike Fratello as an offensive consultant (even if its just during training camp). Because Woody has no idea when it comes to offense.

If the players are hitting shots, its all good. But when they’re missing, we dont have a play to go to for an easy bucket (unless its ISOs). And Woody does not know how to make adjustments. Its like he has it in his mind that if the players try harder, everything will work.

No bench players played much in the second half, and Woody said “I decided to go that route,” he said. “I learned a little something tonight because that won’t happen again.”

Seriously Woody? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out. It doesnt matter who you are, you will get tired. And when you’re tired, even someone less skilled can outplay you. It does not matter the sport or the profession. 6 years as a Head Coach, and he stil hasn’t figured that out?

And where is Samuel? I think Woody can use some COY props…


February 20th, 2010
4:56 pm

What you have to like is Woody owning up to his mistakes (in the media, no less!). OK, maybe YOU don’t have to like it…..but to my mind, that’s what you want from a (still relatively) young head coach–the ability to learn. And if you don’t have a lot of ego invested in how smart you are (as evidenced by refusing to defend yourself in the media), you’re gonna see your mistakes a lot quicker and work to correct them. Furthermore, it gives the players the freedom not to doubt themselves so much. I hate that we lost the game, but I’m hoping it pays off for us in the long haul.


February 20th, 2010
5:06 pm

he’s said this before.

Embarrased Hawks Fan In Phoenix

February 20th, 2010
5:17 pm

Woody is a moron, but MARVIN WILLIAMS IS OUR ACHILLES HEEL. He NEVER STEPS UP. I live in Phoenix and was at the game, and when Marvin threw that inbounds pass to Steve Nash, the entire US airways arena burst into laughter. I mean where is your head at man? CUT MARVIN WILLIAM

Happens to the best of 'em

February 20th, 2010
5:29 pm


February 20th, 2010
5:41 pm

I feel like I am in the movie Groundhog’s Day as I cosign 3:21 (niremetal) & 3:38 (doc)comments.

I am sure we have done this multiple times in multiple years.

Maybe we can get Joe to average 40+ mins/game for the rest of the regular season as we reestablish bad habits.



February 20th, 2010
5:42 pm

What’s wrong with Bibby?! He’s been awful!


February 20th, 2010
5:50 pm

Woody keep an excuse in his back pocket. I guess he will expand his rotation to 7 in the 2nd half by playing ZaZa. If you want to impress us, trying playing at least a 9-man rotation in the 2nd half.


February 20th, 2010
5:58 pm

Year after year its the same thing. Woody has been saying he will use his bench more for 3 years. Woody is Woody.

Delbert D.

February 20th, 2010
6:01 pm

Jeff Teague, where are you?


February 20th, 2010
6:03 pm

Woody’s our very own Jubilation T. Cornpone. Opposing teams will build monuments to him after he retires.


February 20th, 2010
6:13 pm

The Hawks would be a better team today if they had chosen Flip over Bibby. It’s just like Atlanta fans to say today how bad Bibby is, but when he was a free agent everybody was saying please sign Bibby back. You got your wish, live with it!!!


February 20th, 2010
6:22 pm

Woody has peaked as a coach. Sund has to let him go at the end of the season; but the question is: are there better options available?


February 20th, 2010
6:26 pm

THAT dumbA** start using his bench and developing young players. let them play! he kills every young players career. teague would be a star on another team. man I can’t wait until we get a coach here who uses his bench like mike did in the 80’s. DOMINIQUE PLEASE COACH THE HAWKS….We would be way better off that that jackA***


February 20th, 2010
6:38 pm



February 20th, 2010
6:39 pm

How many times has Woody used the excuse “I need to play the bench more”. He’s probably said it every year for the last 3 years.

This offseason, all the starters and Woody talked about how good it was to have veterans on the bench. But whats the point if the coach wont play them?

If you’re a bench player on the Hawks, and you see Woody leave the starters out there, who are struggling, but yet he doesnt give anybody (besides Crawford) a chance to contribute, doesn’t that tell you that the coach has no confidence in you?

But yet, when he puts you in for 5 minutes, he expects it to be 5 minutes of mistake free basketball and 5 minutes of perfect execution, although you dont know when he’ll give you 5 minutes again, no matter how good you play?

What does Woody do if Crawford leaves when his contract is up, and Mo Evans is not resigned? He will be complaining about how he doesn’t have anyone on his bench who he can trust.

That being said, Sund has to share some blame too. He signed Bibby for 3 years (at least 1 year too long), and he gave Mo Evans a player option for a 3rd year (1 year too long). And if Marvin does not turn it around by next season, Sund will be responsible for giving Marvin a 5 year deal when noone else had offered Marvin anything. And at the trade deadline, Sund did not make a move.

Hawks need to step it up, because I cant imagine Sund is pleased with what he is seeing from Woody and the players he (Sund) signed.

Ken Strickland

February 20th, 2010
7:05 pm

If Woodson gets a contract extension:

(1) how many players do you think will want to return? Other than JCrawford, do you really think anyone on our bench would put on another Hawks uniform under him if they had a choice?
(2) How many veteran players will be willing to sign with the Hawks after seeing how Woodson has treated veterans Joe Smith, MEvans, ZPachulia, RMorris and JCollins?
(3) How many young PG’s would want to be traded to the Hawks knowing how they’ll be mistreated by Woodson because of his love affair with MBibby and his disdane for young PG’s?

When the team announced it would only maintain a 13 man roster, fans questioned why the team made the decision. Well, with a HC that’s too stupid, stubborn and/or insecure to play more than 7 players, why waste the money.


February 20th, 2010
7:06 pm

Saw this on ajc.com,

“But those veterans are playing career-low minutes for the Hawks, so it’s not clear if they will play a big role for the Hawks in the postseason. Woodson said they might.

“When the playoffs come, they can be a big, significant part of it,” Woodson said. “I haven’t told them that, but I hope they can sense it. In the playoffs, your rotation thins and you tend to play the guys that have done it. They become more valuable in the playoffs.”

What is Woody talking about? In the playoffs your rotation thins? His rotation is thin now.


February 20th, 2010
7:07 pm

Every year we hear the same crap from Woodson. Its as if he has this stuff written down just in case he gets asked a question. 6 years as the head coach of this team and he still cant make adjustments, never has a reliable plan B, still under utilizes the bench, still no offensive system, still no team identity, and still cant figure out how to stay with the hot hand or take the cold guys out and try something different, and he still has an answer for our problems after the game but nothing during the game. Our talent has improved but coaching wise I still see the same crap.


February 20th, 2010
7:53 pm

Woody had to see for himself. That’s okay, except that everyone else could plainly see, by the end of the 3rd quarter, that his 6-man rotation wasn’t getting it done. Why did it take Woody so much longer to grasp this concept?


February 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

Watching the OKC/Knicks game. TMac scored 5 pts in the opening 4mins of the game. He doesnt look bad for a guy who has missed the last 1 1/2 seasons…

Astro Joe

February 20th, 2010
8:16 pm

Funny, Woody admits his mistakes more readily than guys on here who use pseudonyms and have zero accountability for their opinions. Y’all wanted a more diversified offense with more touches for bigs… you got it. You asked for an offense where Josh wouldn’t be “forced” to shoot 3s at the end of the shot clock, you got it. You wanted a fast break oriented offense… I think we rank amongst the top 5 teams in fast break points. Is the offense perfect? Of course not, but it does rank among the top 5-6 in offensive efficiency and near the top in points per game in the Eastern Conference. Y’all are acting like we’re still a “Joe and the Pips” offensive team… didn’t we just win a road game with Joe, Jamal and Bibby scoring less then 35 combined?

OB, are you suggesting the team didn’t have energy in Phoenix?

Strickland, I challenge you to answer this question (as opposed to changing the question and answering a different one), if you were the GM, how many of the vets on this bench would YOU be interested in bringing back? RandMo? Colins? Joe Smith? Mario? Mo Evans (he actually can opt-out if he chooses)? Please, tell me how many of these wonderful players you would anxiously bring back next season.

Astro Joe

February 20th, 2010
8:18 pm

Melvin, I hope that you are taping the T-Mac Comet. He may not come back around for another 18 months.

Michael Cunningham

February 20th, 2010
8:19 pm

@tidog “What’s the benefit of a six man rotation in the playoffs. Playoff teams have bench depth, thats why they are playoff teams. He’s amazing.” fair point. usually this means going from nine to maybe 7, not from 8 to 6.

@ Manny “When the bench plays a decent first half, no minutes for you in the 2nd. What kind of message does that give to them?” another fair point.

@ doc: “MC that might be something to keep count of as well … woody’s personnel moves that truly influence flows of games.” that’s a very subjective thing. don’t think there is an objective way to do that. but if you want to come up with some criteria and keep track, even for a game, holla.

@ Jed: “What you have to like is Woody owning up to his mistakes (in the media, no less!).” something to be said for that but, then again, what else could he say? it was so strange.

@ O’Brien: “Saw this on ajc.com . . .”

that’s from my Sunday story: http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-hawks/hawks-have-talent-but-317706.html

i plan to blog more on this tomorrow, but here is how it went down: Woody says before the game last night he plans to use J. Smith and Collins more in the playoffs. i’m skeptical but he plays both guys in first half and i think, “OK, he’s really going to do it, especially with J. Smith playing so well. this is the start of something.” then he plays no one but JC off the bench in the second half and i’m totally perplexed. then he says he learned his lesson last night and again today. it’s confusing.

Michael Cunningham

February 20th, 2010
8:35 pm

@ Astro Joe: “Is the offense perfect? Of course not, but it does rank among the top 5-6 in offensive efficiency and near the top in points per game in the Eastern Conference.” any criticism of the offense has to be placed in this context. the burden of proof is on the critic. the numbers are good despite not getting much from Bibby and Marvin most nights.

Hawk n the Ham

February 20th, 2010
8:36 pm

Woody, Woody, Woody. How are we going to believe you can figure out the Magic, if you can’t even figure it out to play your bench against the Suns bench??


February 20th, 2010
8:44 pm


TMac has 19pts (7-12) and 3assist in 17mins in the 1st half….

Astro Joe

February 20th, 2010
9:01 pm

Melvin, no doubt that he is a talented player. He’s a HOF talent who plays about 50 of every 80 games. And at $22M/year, it ain’t worth it. Not to mention his history of failure in thepost-season. Maybe, he will be willing to take on a Grant Hill type role for his next contract and team. Maybe that’s what D’Antoni is hoping to convince him to do.

Astro Joe

February 20th, 2010
9:05 pm

MC, I’d venture to say that the offense os good without getting much from Bibby and Marvin becvcause there aren’t too many teams who get a consistent 14+ from 4 guys every night. We spend so much time criticizing those who don’t bring it that we someetimes fail to realize that most teams don’t have 4 guys like Joe, Al, Josh and Jamal who are fairly consistent on both ends of the floor and can each deliver upwards of 20+ on a given night.


February 20th, 2010
9:06 pm


I dont know what it is about these Hawks. I’m sure Woody talks to them before the game, and during halftime, about staying focused. But sometimes after a loss, the players will say they were’nt focused enough. That should not be happening.

Its one thing to just be missing shots, or the other team was playing great defense, or maybe we were tired, but it should not be lack of focus.


TMac has commented that he is not concerned about his salary for next year, because he has made lots of money already. He said he just wants to be healthy and show what he can do, and hopefully the Knicks will bring him back to play with whichever star player they get next season, and he is willing to take a pay cut.

Although at his salary and performance and injury, what else is he going to say? He knows he will have to take a fraction of $23 mil next season.


February 20th, 2010
9:07 pm

I promise you, everytime I come in here after a loss, we’re all whining about the same things. There are flaws in our execution, but also the coaching.

Lack of minutes for the bench, lack of offensive sets, iso-jj/jamal, marvin/bibby don’t show up…

It’s always the same story when we lose. I’ll say this in terms of the bench, there REALLY isn’t as much talent on that bench as there needs to be for the Hawks to be a serious contender. I know many praised the Hawks for having depth earlier in the season, but, I wouldn’t hold that thought to be true today.


February 20th, 2010
9:09 pm

And some of you guys have already pointed out how a team’s payroll factors into the quality of the bench. Investing in the bench is in the best interest of this team.

LY Munz

February 20th, 2010
9:11 pm

Come on MC,

No mention of Marvin’s fat duck butt ending the game throwing the ball right at Nash. What a disgracefu POS he is. Pathetic player!

ant banks

February 20th, 2010
9:30 pm

please do not resign jj. let someone else pay him 17mil/per yr to avg 19pts a game and not show up in big games.


you are rigth. marvin is a pos


February 20th, 2010
9:38 pm

Watching Toronto-Washington. Great game. Two things stick out to me:

1) The Wizards are playing MUCH better now than they did before the team was blown up. Flip has always been good at molding second units, so I guess a team full of second-unit players suits him.
2) The Raptors home crowd is larger and louder against Washington than ours was when I went to the Jazz game.


February 20th, 2010
9:40 pm

Mike Woodson makes me SICK!