Archive for March, 2010

Atlanta Hawks: The Blueprint–Remixed With Joe Johnson (sore Achilles’) out

J.J. to miss first game of season. (Curtis Compton/

J.J. to miss first game of season.

It looks like the Hawks’ good fortune with injuries finally has ended.

Joe Johnson (sore Achilles’) is not on the Hawks’ team flight. He’s been ruled out for New Jersey tomorrow and probably is out for Thursday Wednesday at Toronto, too. Mike Bibby (back) made the flight but is questionable for New Jersey.

J.J. will miss his first game of the season and just his fourth since 2007-08. He wasn’t available for comment because he was getting treatment (and napping, as is his custom).

“I’ve always said when somebody goes down it gives somebody else a chance to step up and play,” Woody said before J.J. was officially ruled out. “That’s why I tell guys they’ve always got to be ready.”

Woody wasn’t ready to say how he’ll adjust the lineup, in part because he wasn’t sure if he’ll be without both J.J. and Bibby. If it’s just J.J., then Jamal Crawford could get his first start of the season at shooting guard. But Woody didn’t rule out bringing Crawford …

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Hawks squawks: Hawks 112, Pistons 99

- Ken Sugiura sitting in for MC.

- I’m curious how you grade the game. To me, the most impressive thing was the second quarter. After jumping out early, I figured the Hawks would let Detroit back in the game, but they turned it up a notch, which, as you know better than I do, has not always been the case. One play that stands out is Jamal Crawford D’ing up Ben Gordon out beyond the 3-point line, poking the ball away and cruising in for a dunk.

- Jamal: “It’s contagious. I think that’s a part of my game, going towards the playoffs, I want to be a better all-around player than I was at the start of the season. I will be. I vow to be.”

- Real strong defensive showing in the first half. It seemed like every Detroit shot was contested. Lots of deflections.

- However, the Hawks got a little lax in the second half defensively. Of course, as was repeated a few times in the locker room, all teams go on runs. But not all runs have to lead to a team scoring 58 points in the second half, …

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Atlanta Hawks: For wear and tear talk ’bout practice, not games

Woody ran his players into the ground when he looked like this.

Woody ran his players into the ground when he looked like this.

From time to time I’ve heard concerns that Woody is running his main guys into the ground and I know that’s been his rep. So let’s look at the minutes per game for J.J., Smoove and Al before I point out how those numbers might not even be the most important consideration in the matter.

J.J.’s minutes are down slightly, from 39.5 last season to 38.1 this year–the fewest he’s averaged since he was a bench player for Phoenix in 2002-03. Smoove is playing 35.1 minutes per game, same as last season and down from his workload in his third and fourth seasons. Horford’s minutes are up to 35.2 from 33.2.

(Marvin and Bibby aren’t really in the discussion anymore. Marvin is getting the least burn since he was a rookie. Bibby’s minutes are at a career low, less than Jamal’s.)

OK, those are the overall minutes for the Big 3, but what about the monthly splits? Is Woody riding his Big Three more as the playoffs approach?

For …

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Atlanta Hawks Squawks: Hawks 105, Wizards 99

– After the game the Hawks were pumping up the Wizards as tougher than they seem because they had been competitive in losses lately. “We’ll take it,” Horford said. “They’ve been struggling but I’ve seen them play close games against good teams. We weren’t taking anything for granted.”

– I understand the Hawks taking a victory any way they can get it against whichever opponent, especially after what happened at Miami and New York. And I know all heck would have broke loose with a loss so give the Hawks credit for surviving.

– But come on, man. It’s getting a little late for that “all teams are tough, sometimes you have nights like this” stuff. The Hawks got outworked for most of the game by a team headed for the lottery. They let a bad offensive team have an easy time scoring for long stretches and let a so-so rebounding team dominate them on the boards.

– How does that happen considering what’s at stake? “It is disappointing,” Woody said. “We can’t …

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Hawks at Wizards . . . AKA Will (Should) Joe Johnson Go?

Will Joe take his ball and leave? Do you want him to go? (Zach Wolfe, Dimemag)

Will Joe take his ball and leave? Do you want him to go? (Zach Wolfe, Dimemag)

New York media have their eye on J.J. Meanwhile THHB (now over at Peachtree Hoops) says you can have J.J. with his old, expensive, ball-demanding self.

First, the New York stuff. J.J. went through the media wringer there like all big-name (he is, right?) free-agents-to-be. Speculation was that Johnson’s history with Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni and agent Arn Tellem’s relationship with Donnie Walsh could lead to J.J. signing with the Knicks.

Johnson didn’t say he won’t leave the Hawks and there’s no reason, financial or otherwise, for him to do so. He told reporters he’d have no problem playing in New York and was open to seeing what other teams have to offer. But he didn’t give many hints about his intentions.

“Everybody (in New York) makes so much of it because (of) D’Antoni,” Johnson said. “Me and him got a good relationship. That is always going to be kind of scrutinized and …

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So what to make of these Hawks?

What to make of these Hawks, who lately have faltered while losing games within their grasps and not always in the same fashion?

“Sometimes defensively,” Marvin said. “Sometimes offensively.”

They are well within striking distance of 50 victories at 40 with 19 games to go. Yet the Hawks are 23-19 since Dec. 26. And in the last two weeks, with the Southeast Division title out there as a carrot, they’ve blown leads in two ugly losses (at Golden State and vs. Dallas) and suffered from mental lapses late in two others they had chances to win (at Miami and at New York).

Overall, the Hawks’ offensive numbers are very good, maybe even elite. But lately when it’s time to win tight games, their situational offense often sufferers from poor ball movement, bad shot selection, untimely turnovers and a general lack of focus.

The Hawks are supposed to be a defensive-minded team under Woody. For about the last month, though, they regularly haven’t defended with intensity for more than a few …

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Josh Smith to assist slain player’s family

Rajaan Bennett (

Rajaan Bennett (

A break from basketball for real life: Josh Smith will assist the family of slain McEachern High School football player Rajaan Bennett. Smith pledged to cover six months of living expenses for Bennett’s family.

Smith, who grew up in Powder Springs and attended McEachern, said in a statement released by the team that he met Bennett while working out at the school last summer and “was very impressed with him as a person, student and athlete.”

“I can’t imagine what his family is going through, but hopefully this will give them one less thing to worry about as they try to cope with this terrible tragedy,” Smith said.

Bennett was shot and killed last month by his mother’s ex-boyfriend. He had signed a letter of intent to play at Vanderbilt in the fall. He is survived by his mother Narjaketha Bennett, sister Narcharlette and brother Desyvon.

The Hawks plan to recognize Bennett prior to their game against the Pistons on …

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Hawks Squawks: Knicks 99, Hawks 98

Smoove gets stuffed. (AP Photo)

Smoove gets stuffed. (AP Photo)

– Dramatic ending but it didn’t have to be that way. The Hawks lost by a point on a night when they really only played defense for parts of two quarters. Now they are 1-3 against the Knicks, a game behind Boston for No. 3 in the East and 3.5 games behind the Magic in the Southeast.

Josh made a nice strip of Toney Douglas on New York’s final possession and Jamal corralled it. “I didn’t call a timeout because I thought we had numbers,” Woody said.

– Jamal did a good job pushing it into the lane and made a nice pass to Smoove. Wilson Chandler got up and blocked it at the rim. Al’s follow was too late. “Jamal made a great play,” Woody told reporters. “Smoove normally finishes that. He would normally would put that away. But Chandler made a great play.”

– It’s not always easy to explain with numbers (though in this case New York’s 50.6 percent shooting does it pretty well) but the Hawks just look like a much different team when they are getting …

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Atlanta Hawks at Knicks, AKA Trapped In A Zone

Super commenters Najeh Davenpoop and O’Brien voiced their concerns about the Hawks vs. zone looks after the Heat used one to stymie the Hawks late in the game Saturday. The Mavericks did the same thing to come back and win on Feb. 26, and you’ve got to think the Knicks will show some zone tonight. Why wouldn’t they? The Hawks tend to seize up and waste possessions when they see it.

There’s even less player movement than normal, there are pointless passes around the perimeter and there are rushed shots. Woody has said most opponents back off the zone once the Hawks shoot them out of it. But what about those games like the two recent losses where they don’t shoot them out of it? Then it’s another “We missed good shots” lament after a defeat.

Clearly the Hawks have to figure out something else. So what exactly is the plan vs. a zone? “Good ball movement, attack the defense and penetrate and dish,” J.J. said after the loss to the Mavs. Sounds good. Now maybe the Hawks should …

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Hawks Squawks: Heat 100, Hawks 94

Wade soared past the Hawks for 38 points. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Wade soared past the Hawks for 38 points. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami–A D-Wade surge in the third, a couple bad possessions, a Michael Beasley eruption . . . just like that, the Hawks lost a game they once controlled. They can’t let road games slip away like this if they really want to win the Southeast.

Josh and Jamal both tried to throw passes into the teeth of the Heat’s zone. “We had too many turnovers,” Woody said. “Blind passes when nothing was there. They capitalized on it.”

– The Hawks had seven of their 13 turnovers in the fourth quarter and made just 6 of 20 shots in the period. Once again they appeared baffled against a zone defense. “I can’t fault the effort,” Woody said. “The effort was great. We got the tempo the way we wanted it. But then their zone slowed us down.”

– Wade went off with 14 points in the third quarter, energizing his teammates and the fans. The Hawks controlled him in the fourth but then Beasley took over with 14 points on …

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