Have fun with this, Hawks fans. Please?

Smoove is having fun. So should you. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Smoove is having fun. So is that guy back there in the sweater. You should, too. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

I admit it: I’ve been in micro-mode too much lately. All this talk about isos, switching D and Woody’s pleas and I’ve neglected the big picture story sitting right there in the standings. So let’s forget examining the Hawks’ warts with a microscope for a minute and acknowledge that it’s March and they are in a good, old-fashioned race for the division title.

The Hawks are two games back of Orlando in the Southeast with 23 games to play. Boston is still hanging around at No. 3 in the East. Toronto has lost four straight and is no longer a concern to rise up. Cleveland is out of reach even with Shaq’s thumb surgery. The Hawks have a real chance to earn homecourt in the playoffs for two rounds. You might get an argument if you say they have a shot at the East finals but at least you wouldn’t be immediately shouted down with ridicule.

This is all supposed to be fun and exciting for you, right? I mean, just look at this bracket and tell me it’s not cool. And I wasn’t even around for the dark years. When D Wade said at All-Star weekend that “my first year in the league, (the Hawks) wasn’t really respected” and now they are, it didn’t resonate as much with me as I’m sure it does with you. Now the Hawks are a good, entertaining team that wins often at home. I’d expect there to be more joy and optimism even among my blog people, who aren’t the casual fans glancing at the standings and saying “Hey, the Hawks are ballin!” but instead wring their hands over all the things they see wrong with their squad. Love ya for that, and I understand this is a place for you to dog your no-good family among family while bitterly defending them against outsiders (that’s not just my family, is it?). But your team is in the East mix so please try to have some fun.

Anyway, back to those standings. It is of course folly to look at an NBA schedule and figure which games are “easy” and which are “hard” because nothing is for certain, injuries and back-to-backs always play a factor and at some point teams are going to start sitting guys. But I’m gonna do it anyway because I’m gonna have fun with or without you.

The Hawks have 12 road games left, the Magic has nine and the Celtics have 10. The Celtics have been the better road team by far while the Hawks and Magic have kind of hovered around .500. A very subjective look at the remaining road schedule among the three with “easy” games (vs. bottom dwellers) and “hard” games (vs. elite teams or pretty good teams desperately trying to stay in playoff race or improve their position):

Hawks

Easy: two at Wizards, at Jersey, at Philly at Detroit.

Hard: at Toronto , two at Milwaukee , at Cleveland and at Charlotte.

Magic

Easy: at Jersey, at Washington, at Philly, at Indiana.

Hard: at Hawks, at Dallas, at San Antonio, at Cleveland.

Celtics

Easy: at Philly.

Hard: at Milwaukee, at Cleveland, at Houston, at Dallas, at Utah.

The Hawks have 11 homes games to go, the Magic 12 and the Celtics 14. The Hawks and Magic have been good-to-dominant at home while the Celtics are just 16-11.

Hawks

Easy: Philly, Golden State (yeah, I know), Detroit twice, Indiana.

Hard: Charlotte, San Antonio, Orlando, Lakers, Raptors, Cavs.

Magic

Easy: Clippers, T-Wolves, Wizards, Knicks, Philly, Memphis (?).

Hard: Lakers, Bulls, Charlotte, Spurs, Nuggets,.

Celtics

Easy: Wizards (twice), Memphis (?), Pacers, Pistons, Knicks, Kings.

Hard: Charlotte, Nuggets, Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Cavs, Bucks.

So my (purely subjective) conclusions about all of that are:

  • The Celtics are the best road team among the three and the worst home team and they have a tough schedule remaining both at home and on the road.
  • The Hawks and Magic are pretty comparable road teams but the Magic has a slightly tougher road schedule remaining.
  • The Hawks and Magic are both good at home but the Magic has an easier home schedule remaining.

I take this schedule “analysis” into consideration, look at the current standings, consider how the teams are playing, factor in injuries, etc. and pull out of my . . . um, sophisticated handicapping system the following: The Celtics are locked in at No. 4 and the Hawks will finish No. 3 in the East behind the Magic in a tight race.

If you are among those who believe the Hawks would be better off facing the Cavs rather than the Magic in the second round (like the AJC’s Mark Bradley), then hope the Celtics finish strong and the Hawks slip to No. 4 since they wouldn’t have homecourt in the second round as the No. 3, anyway. Of course it would be better for the Hawks to finish No. 2 and at least have homecourt against third-seeded Orlando in the second round. And it would me much, much better for the Hawks to finish No. 2 as Orlando slips all the way to No. 4 and the Hawks get Boston in the second round with homecourt but that’s the longest shot.

If you are among those who think none of this matters because the Hawks are just going to flame out in the first round, anyway, because Woody is the coach and J.J. is the star and ASG is cheap . . . well you are just not having enough fun.

Big Z wasn’t happy the Cavs traded him and presumably that’s one reason he’s flirted with other teams and made Cleveland wait out his decision. Now the Cavs are doing what they can to assuage any hurt feelings. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Sources said (Danny) Ferry met with Ilgauskas, who has been working out for the past week in New York, where he maintains an off-season home. It is believed Ferry made Ilgauskas an offer to re-sign with the team at that time (Monday).

Then on Tuesday, sources said, several of Ilgauskas’ former and perhaps soon-to-be reunited teammates came to see him after the team flew into town for Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Nets.

The story goes on to say Big Z might commit to the Cavs today (he can’t sign until March 22). It also says the Hawks are among the teams who have “backed off” Big Z since it looks like he’s headed back to the Cavs. The Hawks still are hopeful but they aren’t optimistic.

– Buried in one of those stories from New York where they reguarly express their frustration with their unrequited love for LeBron is this tidbit:

“Team sources indicated (Mike) D’Antoni would be very pleased to add overshadowed free agent Joe Johnson as a fallback. D’Antoni thinks Johnson is a great piece to build around. But Johnson, the potential re-signing of David Lee and another mid-level free agent, does not put the Knicks in position to compete for a championship.”

Ken Sugiura is back on the beat for the next few days. I still plan to do a blog or two.

– Talk amongst yourselves, Hawks fans.

MC

213 comments Add your comment

Fire Woody.

March 3rd, 2010
4:11 pm

Let me use this as an opportunity to point out there is nothing lamer than people who gleefully post “first”.

Astro Joe

March 3rd, 2010
4:12 pm

Your schedule analysis sounds completely reasonable. Your suggestion that Hawks fans enjoy their place in the standings? Absurd!

Michael Cunningham

March 3rd, 2010
4:14 pm

@FireWoody: there is in fact something lamer than a gleeful firstie: the failed firstie.

@AJ: i’m supposed to be the hardened cynic in this. fans, especially those rooting for good teams, are supposed to experience this thing i vaguely remember being described as “joy.”

Astro Joe

March 3rd, 2010
4:19 pm

From the previous blog… Rip, Reggie and Ray are more like a Barry Sanders type RB… they need to operate in space. Joe is closer to a Emmitt Smith type… he just wants a small gap to get a step or two and then he will run through the defender. I’d like to see a few more screens for Joe but I also want him to maintain the option to abuse folk down low like Mitch Richmond used to do. If you’re built like Kevin Martin then screens are required. Thankfully, Joe isn’t built like Kevin Martin.

Astro Joe

March 3rd, 2010
4:21 pm

@MC, silly journalist. Joy? That is truly laughable. :lol:

Fire Mike Con & Ham

March 3rd, 2010
4:23 pm

Turn in your Bubba Crew Klavern Card.!

A hater masquerading as a journalist, how odious.

Melanie

March 3rd, 2010
4:26 pm

LOL Michael Cunningham, you’re so silly…failed firstie…*snicker*
Great blog post, it’s so easy to be cynical of the hawks when looking at the small picture.

Gilley

March 3rd, 2010
4:28 pm

I agree we unappreciative and nitpick at things when we are #3 in the EAST but then again imagine our record if we didn’t have fourth quarter lapses and lose to these mediocre teams? We would have that #2 spot but hey we still have a chance. LETS GO HAWKS!!!

O'Brien

March 3rd, 2010
4:32 pm

MC,

I also think the Hawks will finish as the #3 seed, and play Orlando in the second round. And although I can’t explain it, I have a hunch the Hawks will play Orlando tough in the second round.

2 years ago, everybody thought we would get swept by Boston, and instead, we took them to 7 games. I dont know if we will take Orlando to 7 games, but I think the games will be much closer than the blowouts we’ve been getting from them.

Before the trade deadline, I thought the Hawks would have a better chance against LeBron and the Cavs if we played them. But now that they’ve added another potential 20 and 10 guy in Jamison, while only losing Hickson, I think the Hawks would be in for a struggle with the Cavs.

If Mike D’Antoni can get JJ and another max level guy (James, Bosh, or Amare), then the Knicks would be very competitive.

Here*Not*There

March 3rd, 2010
4:38 pm

Even though I do agree with you article about not enjoying it enough. We are only critical because everyone knows that we have the talent to be 2nd in the East chasing the Cavs. Just in the past week alone we have blown two leads that would put us tied for 2nd in the East. Go Hawks!

Najeh Davenpoop

March 3rd, 2010
4:42 pm

Co-sign OB’s feelings on a potential Hawks-Magic matchup. As critical as I am of Woody, I have enough faith that he and the players will step their game up and make that series competitive.

BTW, Cavs didn’t give up Hickson in the Jamison deal.

RLP

March 3rd, 2010
4:46 pm

O’Brien:

Have I missed something – The Cavs lost Hickson? They traded Big Z but losing Hickson? It’s news to me.

JeJe

March 3rd, 2010
4:48 pm

Hawks blogs have gone to hell. Calling those games easy. Have you looked at who we have lost to this year? Obviously, you have not paid attention at all to this team, because we’ve lost to some horrendous teams short-handed.

Second, we are not beating Orlando or Cleveland in a series. No.

Grandad

March 3rd, 2010
4:50 pm

Sybil – I didn’t even know what a klavern was? Had to look it up.
I thought you were talking about cliff and misspelled Claven.
Anyway…since you know all about such stuff, well, how odious?

Najeh Davenpoop

March 3rd, 2010
4:52 pm

Apparently NBA players think Zaza is one of the dirtiest players in the league.

Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing this year’s version of Zaza becoming a little dirtier.

bigdave

March 3rd, 2010
4:56 pm

lol @ this guest analyst on Jim Rome mentioning the Nets as a possible destination for Joe…

everyone credible and not so credible foreshadowing Joe out of Atlanta… and to any ole’ team…

Brett

March 3rd, 2010
4:59 pm

the Hawks and us fans are learning the hump from being good to great is tough to get over. thus our fits of frustration.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 3rd, 2010
4:59 pm

MC: those of us who are critical are trying to see the big picture. We all love the fact that the Hawks are winning, especially people like me who got suckered in to varying degrees by Lon Kruger’s playoff guarantee, who paid to see multiple games during the 13-69 season in 2004, and who tried to get the other 500 people in the arena to join in with “Drobnjak Sucks” chants (OK maybe I was the only one doing that). Ultimately, though, the goal in pro sports is to win titles. The Hawks are not title contenders right now, but they are inching closer, and we want to see continued progress. Once you have established yourself as a playoff team, the way you show progress is by advancing farther in the playoffs than you did the year before, and making that kind of incremental progress is all about examining the warts with a microscope and fixing them.

None of this means we don’t enjoy watching the Hawks produce highlight after highlight and win after win. But the blog would get pretty boring if we were all just high-fiving each other about the Hawks’ record, don’t you think?

E

March 3rd, 2010
5:00 pm

The next 9 games are key to the Hawks making a move on Orlando. The next 9 are against teams with .500 or sub .500 records, with the toughest game at Toronto. Go 8-1 in the next 9 games and it will make for an interesting finish to the season.

Michael Cunningham

March 3rd, 2010
5:14 pm

@ O’Brien: go with the hunch. it’s not like you hear any teams going around talking like they want to see the Hawks.

@Najeh: that’s cool. i’m glad to hear it’s fun for you and i am sure you have described some of your fellow fans. but i suspect others don’t share the same perspective. why, you may be able to identify these people simply by searching this very thread.

“But the blog would get pretty boring if we were all just high-fiving each other about the Hawks’ record, don’t you think?” yes, if that’s all you did. i understand. trust me i’m the same way with my Cardinals . . . who somehow are on the NCAA bubble and have a weak recruiting class in ‘10 after a weak class in ‘09. this happens despite a coach paid the top 5 in the nation. at the most profitable program in the nation for years. and with a new 22,000 seat downtown arena opening next season that will be packed for every game the way the Hall was for 25 years. it’s unacceptable

mississippi

March 3rd, 2010
5:32 pm

The last couple of games Woody has played Marvin in the 4th and had Bibby on the bench so Jamal could play. This is different and I like it. For one, it seems that when Marvin is allowed to play a full game his stats and production has increased across the board. I know his production is not as much as people want, but we’ve heard that before. It seems important that he knows that the team may need him at the end of the game. I also like it because Bibby gets some rest and I don’t think it has anything to do with Bibby’s production. I would also like to see Woody leave the starters in to close the game. I think it would be good for them to not be able to rely on Jamal to close out the game for them. It’s almost as if all of them back off and let Jamal carry them the final eight minutes. Keep mixing it up and have all of them ready to step up-is what I’m saying.

justin

March 3rd, 2010
5:40 pm

ok ok ok …. i just wanted to vent really quick …. i HATE that i think this but the Hawks could be the best team in the east if there personnel was handled better. 1. The hawks point guard situation isn’t good … if u think mike bibby still can handle the team your wrong. Best option right now but teages is going to be a monster ( better that Rondo ) and they should hand him the team next year and honestly with super hustle great team player like mario west on the bench let him have the second guard of the bench after crawford ( if u think he cant run point with guys like joe and crawford on the court your crazy) …. sorry bibby no more defense liability for u your gone. 2. Joe cant finish at the cup which makes him a second tier star. He’s 6′7 and cant dunk in traffic ….. um thats horrible. He is a 2 foot jumper but learn how to jump off of 2 feet off the dribble $%^&!!!!!!
3. Run more offense through josh and al iso joe isn’t good when he drives and misses all the time . He would be great if he just shot mid range shoots but he wants to be like wade and other super stars …. but he cant jump!!!!!! I got more but im hungry and sleepy so that’s all ooo …… GO HAWKS!!!!!

Blast

March 3rd, 2010
5:49 pm

As I said on Bradley’s blog, Hawks focus should be about winning as many games as possible, which will translate into as high a seed as possible. No point in worrying about second round matchups right now, Just finish as strong as possible.

I for one am not one of those nitpicking fans. This is the best season I’ve seen Hawks play in more than a decade, and I’m just enjoying the ride to the max. Don’t care right now if Woody is resigned, if JJ reups or jumps ship, whether Marvin sucks, or Bibby is not a starter, old, fat, lost his shot, etc….I will not nitpick or fuss over the future or stuff I have no control over.

Hawks fans, just enjoy the ride!!!! Season gonna end soon!!!!!

Go Hawks!!!!

harry

March 3rd, 2010
5:54 pm

Hey FIRE WOODY you are a scumbag a moron and anything else i conjour up u p brain

Richham

March 3rd, 2010
5:55 pm

The whole deal surrounding Big Z was pure theatre. It’s legal so I’m not going to rip him going back, but I firmly believe the entire trade, including the buyout and return was laid out from the beginning. Big Z just trying to save face by crying about it for the media so they don’t rub the commish nose in it.

vava74

March 3rd, 2010
6:13 pm

http://m.espn.go.com/nba/story?storyId=4961078

Interesting piece on the importance of having plays designed to take advantage even of free wheeling talent.

It contains a pretty dumb remark by Nate (when he says that he will run the same play 99.9% of the time) and finishes with a pretty idiotic remark by the reporter but an interesting piece nonetheless.

vava74

March 3rd, 2010
6:15 pm

Sorry for the poor grammar!

vava74

March 3rd, 2010
6:19 pm

MC, are you able to retrieve my previous post on the reasons why we are so critical non-fun?

The blog monster ate it for dinner.

jmarale

March 3rd, 2010
6:26 pm

I complain because these moments r rare.we may never get in this position again.we should make it happen while we can.and the hawks dont seem to adjust well when pressed in the late game.they repeat the same mistakes over and over as if they dont c what the problem is.{ Iso’s ,No ball movement or cutters}No moves at trade time knowing we need a big 4 dwight and shaq.just seems like they r happy with where they are at to me. a pretty good team seems to b enough 4 this crew.what a waste.

Traceman

March 3rd, 2010
6:46 pm

@ Mississippi,

Good observation. 2-0 so far with Marvin closing instead of Bibby. The defense has FAR better and the offense has been just as good. Nothing against Bibby, I think he is still important for this team both on and off the court, but I like that Woody is focusing on defense in the 4th.

bigdave

March 3rd, 2010
6:46 pm

lol @ John Daly plugging his show… book… and everything else on ESPN.. funny guy, but a train wreck…

terrell

March 3rd, 2010
6:53 pm

Cunningham, NO GAMES ARE EASY FOR THE HAWKS!

terrell

March 3rd, 2010
6:56 pm

Obrien, they didn’t lose Hickson.

BirdDawg

March 3rd, 2010
6:56 pm

I see where you are coming from Michael, and in truth, most of us are probably very excited. But it is always going to be a cautious optimism because of all of the shortcomings of this team. It’s like taking the “hot chick” to the prom knowing there’s a chance she could leave with her ex-boyfriend at the end of the night. You get excited, but you know you probably won’t get the payoff when all is said and done.

terrell

March 3rd, 2010
6:59 pm

Idk if Zaza is one of the dirtiest players in the league, but he’s definitely one of the worst.

terrell

March 3rd, 2010
7:02 pm

Is this is so-called easy game tonight? Should be, but the Hawks will probably make it interesting.

BONE

March 3rd, 2010
7:03 pm

Unfortunately the HAwks have no EASY games. Almost every game they play is tough.

bigstack19

March 3rd, 2010
7:07 pm

Not First! The reason Atlanta can’t get behind the Hawks is because we all know the end result. They won’t make it past the 2nd round. The NBA will see to that when they play Cleveland and LeBron spends half the time at the free throw line. Or if they play Orlando and Dwight Howard gets away with mugging our guys.

Sautee

March 3rd, 2010
7:09 pm

Astro Joe,

In the last blog you (confusingly) said this: “If one of the ultimate arguments in support of Horford is “the coaches selected him to the ASG”, then how is that reconciled with Joe being selected by those same coaches 4 consecutive times?”

Joe, I’m baffled. Why does this NEED reconciliation? Do you somehow think that I DON’T think JJ is an All-Star?

WTF?

bigdave

March 3rd, 2010
7:10 pm

lets get it…

Melvin

March 3rd, 2010
7:12 pm

Marvin stay your big butt on the court…

BONE

March 3rd, 2010
7:13 pm

terrible offense

niremetal

March 3rd, 2010
7:13 pm

My goodness that was an ugly opening 90 seconds…

BONE

March 3rd, 2010
7:14 pm

that stand up until the team scores stuff is dumb

Melvin

March 3rd, 2010
7:16 pm

Well dang. Philly gonna burn a timeout and only down 2pts in the 1st qtr… WT???

bigdave

March 3rd, 2010
7:19 pm

my goodness… was that a play?

and a wide open shot…

justin

March 3rd, 2010
7:20 pm

lol marvin does have a huge butt lol …… no homo

Melvin

March 3rd, 2010
7:21 pm

Josh looks a step slow to start this game… Wonder if he’s fatigue…

BONE

March 3rd, 2010
7:22 pm

Josh is ballin. let joe walk this summer

justin

March 3rd, 2010
7:23 pm

yea what eva josh is clearly the best player on the court …. run more plays through him not just to score but at the top of the key to just make plays ….