So today we should find out if what happened at Philly on Friday was just a slip-up or a sign that the Hawks’ attitude and focus are indeed slipping. The Pacers probably don’t have the same athletic talent as the Sixers but they are playing better lately. They’ve got a hard-nosed attitude and a coach with a disdain for tanking. They are coming to play.
Will the Hawks match their intensity or will they figure their talent and homecourt will carry them? Lately I can tell Woody is weary of being the voice asking those kind of questions and looking for the answers.
“I am getting tired,” he said. “After a while, you have got to start figuring things out yourselves, man. We’ve got enough games under our belt. If we win 50-plus games we’ve made a step in the right direction but there is another level.”
Woody is ultimately responsible for the performance of the team. His plans and strategies are fair game for criticism. But he can only do so much when it comes to motivating and preparing his players. The rest is up to them.
It’s a topic I should have touched on more back when I blogged about how what you see on the court Woody isn’t always what Woody wants. Some might take that to mean Woody isn’t getting through to the players but, come on, these guys are pros. They make the big money. You’ve been watching too many cliched sports movies if you think it’s up to Woody to give a rousing speech that inspires his guys to do their jobs.
The NBA is a players’ league. When the Hawks sleepwalked their way through that loss at Philly and then admitted it, that’s on them. To hear Al say it was “unacceptable” is good. It’s cool when J.J. calls out the team for lacking focus. The Hawks are saying the right things and now they’ve got to put action behind those words no matter their opponent.
“That’s where we’ve got to learn,” Woody said. “The other night is a prime example of a team playing for nothing and we thought we were going to show up and win. You’ve got to go out and earn your win.”