So how much conversation has there been among the Hawks regarding the rumors swirling around Woody’s future with the team?
“That’s the first I’ve heard about it when you told me,” Al said today at shootaround.
In addition to illustrating the often-insular world players occupy, the lack of buzz on the team about Woody’s status demonstrates that the familiar postures haven’t changed.
Rick Sund still is not going to do address Woody’s deal until after the season and there’s no guarantee an offer (even a “low-ball” one as described in the Yahoo! report) is forthcoming. ASG’s Michael Gearon Jr has suggested the Hawks’ postseason will have a bearing on that decision and others. Woody isn’t happy the Hawks haven’t started contract talks and has said so (though he also says he wants to return). The Hawks believe the lack of an extension hasn’t hurt Woody’s ability to coach the team.
The news to come out of the Yahoo! report is that there could be another job out there for Woody if he doesn’t return and the team’s willingness to sell their first-round draft pick for $3 million to raise money to re-sign J.J.. (That everything seems to be Joe-driven is causing great consternation for hawksdawgs at Peachtree Hoops.)
Meanwhile, the Hawks have a playoff series to finish. Asked about the Hawks’ confidence in coming back to Philips Arena, where they’ve won 14 in a row, Al said it “feels good to be back home” but then couldn’t help also talking about the Hawks’ troubles on the road.
“If we had the same swag that we have at home like we have on the road, we’d be a tough team,” he said. “But first we have to handle this game tonight. We are happy to come back here.”
– For all the consternation about the Hawks’ inability to win road playoff games (and I know most of that is because of what it would mean for the next round) this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline summed up Milwaukee’s issues: Bucks must win at least once in Atlanta to advance.
Forget for a minute that four games into the series, the Bucks are talking about what it will take to advance instead of how they can avoid elimination. The Hawks desperately need to win. The way they did that in Games 1 and 2 was by slowing Brandon Jennings and hammering the Bucks with Smoove and Al. Look for Milwaukee to use a similar approach against those two tonight:
The Bucks worked hard to frustrate Hawks center Al Horford and forward Josh Smith in Milwaukee, after those players were dominant in the first two games. Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute defended Smith in Games 3 and 4 after primarily guarding Hawks guard Joe Johnson in Atlanta, and veteran center Kurt Thomas drew the assignment defending Horford.
And the Bucks have relied on help defense, with Jennings and other guards digging down on the ball when the Hawks’ big men begin to make their move in the paint. That did free up Atlanta’s perimeter players in Game 4, and the Hawks hit 10 of 19 three-pointers, led by Mike Bibby, who sank 5 of 7 attempts.
Smith still had 20 points and nine rebounds in 40 minutes in Game 4, but he wasn’t getting easy dunks off lob passes the way he did earlier in the series.
“He had a good game, and he scores in a variety of ways,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of the 6-foot-9 Smith, who was booed loudly by the Bradley Center crowd. “We’ve just got to keep him in front of us, try to make him take contested jump shots, try to keep him off the boards.
“We need to keep him from running out in transition, keep him from getting lobs after timeouts. We did that in both home games. Those are areas where at least we can have a little say-so in what he’s doing.”
– Woody has said he uses the switching defense to “hide” weak defenders. Brett LaGree, writing at Hoopinion, agrees but says switching also can make things harder for those weak defenders and the good ones:
It is hard to play good team defense without good defensive players.
Mike Bibby is a poor defender. Jamal Crawford is a terrible defender. Joe Johnson has amply demonstrated he cannot keep Brandon Jennings in front of him. Nor can Johnson fight through a Kurt Thomas screen. It’s no surprise that Mike Woodson has tried to address* these limitations. His singular method of address, to switch every screen, has pushed Josh Smith too often to the perimeter, exposing his primary defensive weakness (lateral movement) while simultaneously negating** his overwhelming strength (help defense).
*We’ll ignore, for the purposes of this discussion, how self-inflicted some of these limitations are.
**This is essentially what Orlando’s stretch 4 does to Smith when the Hawks play, and, typically, lose to the Magic.