Atlanta Hawks: The defense tests

L.D. is pushing them on D, too. (AP Photo)

L.D. is pushing them on D, too. (AP Photo)

You might have noticed a lot of the talk from Hawks camp has been about offense. Two reasons for that, both having to do with circumstance.

For one, my access to practices has been limited. When I’ve been let in to watch the sessions the Hawks usually have been working on offense. So it follows that most of my dispatches have been about offense.

More than that, L.D. has spent the majority of practice time installing his complicated offensive system. But don’t t fret: L.D. knows tough defense is what makes true contenders. When the Hawks huddled up at the end of practice Thursday, he delivered this message to the team:

“Defense is what is going to carry us through the season. I’m not concerned about what we do offensively. The focus of the preseason is going to be defense. We are going to look at numbers like [defensive] field-goal percentage and the whole defensive realm. That is what is going to take us to another level. We have the athleticism, size, speed, and quickness to be a top-echelon defensive team.”

While teaching the offense has been a priority, L.D. said the Hawks have had defensive periods of at least one hour at the start of every practice. That work includes individual drills and also work on situations.

“That’s important because the tendency for a lot of players when they are drilling, they will do the drill but as soon as put them in game-like situations they have a tendency to forget or they are not as sharp,” he said in an interview. “Because now you are changing ends and it is forcing them to think about other things as well, and the tendency is to not be as sharp. We are stopping them and pointing the things out and watching a lot of tape to show them the mistakes.”

That’s the kind of work that should improve Atlanta’s defensive awareness, especially in transition. If L.D. can get the Hawks to truly buy into a culture of maximum defensive effort and toughness while also making them less predictable on offense, the Hawks might have a chance to be a better team even with essentially the same personnel.

Hey, it’s October. Nothing has gone wrong yet. This is the time for optimism, right?

L.D. said he would track defensive statistics throughout the season and give the players constant reports. The “hustle board” will include deflections and charging fouls drawn–the Hawks were last in the league in the latter category last season.

“My challenge to them is going to be defensively every night,” L.D. said. “We already have some numbers in mind where we want to be compared to last year. That is going to me a primary focus every night we step on the floor. [The 'hustle' numbers] gives us a gauge whether we are being active and making defensive plays. Because I think that is going to be the staple of who we are going to be.”

No GM love

You have to look pretty deep into the NBA.com’s annual survey of general managers to find the Hawks represented. The team didn’t get any votes to win the Southeast Division (not that it should) and none of its players earned superlatives (those are some tough lists to crack).

Smoove was on the “also receiving votes” list for players who best defend the passing lanes. JC2 was among those ARV for rookie most likely to be a “sleeper” success.

J.J. received at least one vote for “most underrated player acquisition” but, confusingly, he’s the only guy on the list who didn’t change teams. And GMs were not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel so, no, that wasn’t Rick Sund’s vote.

Al vs. Noah

Al’s friend and former Gators teammate Joakim Noah agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension with Chicago that also includes bonuses.

Noah’s deal gives some sense of what Al might expect for an extension with the Hawks. Statistically Noah and Horford are comparable players, though Al is younger by more than a year and has proven more durable. The Bulls are more flush with cash than the Hawks but so goes the price of keeping young talent.

Horford said he talked to Noah before his extension was official and was happy to see him get his deal. Does Al think he will be next in line?

“We’ll see,” he said.

Nov. 1 is the deadline.

Two debuts

L.D. has been around the league for a long time as a player and assistant coach but this will be a new experience for him at Philips tonight. It’s just an exhibition, but it’s his first time in the head coach’s chair.

Does he have any feelings on that?

“I just want to see everything that we have put in,” he said. “I am anxious to see how we can do it against an opponent. I know I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. But somebody asked me this question last night about having butterflies. I just told them, ‘I think I am too old to have butterflies.’

“I am more anxious and excited than anything. If I came in with a group of new guys for the first time, maybe there would be more anxiety. But we have been together for a while.”

This is my seventh season covering the league, but I am curious to see what the Hawks are about, too.

It’s all new for JC2, who is hyped to play his first NBA game, exhibition or not.

“I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there and play with the team on the real floor and just have a good time,” he said.

Crawford said a couple friends wold be there tonight to watch but that his family will wait for the Hawks to play in his native Detroit Monday.

Out of sight, sound

No TV or Radio for the game tonight, but you can follow my updates on Twitter.

MC

215 comments Add your comment

Marcus

October 7th, 2010
10:59 am

Wow. so we won’t get to see any footage of the new-look Hawks, not even NBATV?
sigh
Such is the life of a Hawks (Falcons, Braves, sometimes Thrasher) fan. I am still waiting word on when ESPN – ATL.com will make its debut ;) :(

Marcus

October 7th, 2010
11:00 am

First. Mo Evans, gimme dat jersey.

SteveW

October 7th, 2010
11:00 am

Great post MC – keep up the good work. Can’t wait to see the D either.

Marcus

October 7th, 2010
11:02 am

forgot the ATL Dream …. Hope the Braves make to the WS, Falcons make it the SB, and Hawks make it the NBA Finals to get us a trophy and put pressure on thew webmasters at “the worldwide network” ….. LOL

SteveW

October 7th, 2010
11:02 am

I certainly agree we have the talent to be a top echelon defensive team.

truthspitter

October 7th, 2010
11:10 am

dstdeelite

October 7th, 2010
11:30 am

Finally some talk about defense. Yay!! In late game situations, they were totally burned on the defensive end. Good D has a lot to do with effort. The only person that I know on this team who will step in and take a charge is Smoove. Even though he doesn’t get a lot of the calls, the effort is there.

dap01

October 7th, 2010
11:33 am

It is nice to have a head coach that has something to contribute. He has a clue. Woodson spoke of repeated generalities that really meant nothing.

We have an offense and a defensive plan. Wow, how refreshing.

HoosierHawk

October 7th, 2010
11:38 am

really…. no coverage of teh game? im assuming there will be gamecast though?

Samuel

October 7th, 2010
11:43 am

“Defense is what is going to carry us through the season. I’m not concerned about what we do offensively.

While teaching the offense has been a priority, L.D. said the Hawks have had defensive periods of at least one hour at the start of every practice.

Not too convincing to me. “At least one hour”. So some days it was less than an hour and the remainder spent on offense. That sounded like an obligatory statement to me. He sounds like the perfect “Anti-Woody” for you guys.

SteveW, I hate to bust your bubble but 5:30 is definitely not “world class” in the mile. That time would not even crack the top 10 in the “Girls” High school Class 5A State Championships. JJ maybe World class in Basketball but not running.

HoosierHawk

October 7th, 2010
11:49 am

Not that it is pertinent to real basketball, more so just to analysts not giving the Hawks any love this year, Marvin is rated a 66 in NBA 2K11 game, and Teague is a 63. Wow. They rate mo evans> marvin!

Rev in Tampa

October 7th, 2010
11:50 am

Coach Drew said, “We have the athleticism, size, speed, and quickness to be a top-echelon defensive team.” – Sounds just like Ken Strickland.

“J.J. received at least one vote for “most underrated player acquisition” but, confusingly, he’s the only guy on the list who didn’t change teams. ” – I have contended the whole off-season that JJ signing was the most important ‘aquisition’ they could have made. Its not as sexy as bringing in a new marquee player, but more important for the Hawks continued success

Good article, MC! D-Fence!!!

Rev in Tampa

October 7th, 2010
12:09 pm

Samuel, I am surprised by your post. The distrust, the distortions, the leaping assumptions…

LD said that defense is his priority, plain & simple. Why don’t you believe him?

“At least one hour” means that they spend an hour or more every day on defense. Where did you get that they spent less than an hour on some days?

You said that Drew is making an “obligatory statement” about defense. I would say spending “at least an hour” at the beginning at practice is prioritizing defense. As a coach you want to do your most important teaching at the beginning of practice while their minds are not distracted by their fatigue. Also, Samuel, are you asserting that all that stuff Drew said about tracking defensive and hustle statistics was made up for the newspaper?

Astro Joe

October 7th, 2010
12:11 pm

between the high number of back-to-back games, the motion offense and the likely foul trouble that comes with aggressively trying to draw offensive fouls, the bench will have plenty of opportunity to earn their paychecks this coming season. I guess asking them to get in position to draw offensive fouls first requires getting back quickly on defense in the transition game… so that is good. But I am not a big fan of having our guys standing their looking to draw offensive fouls. I’d much rather the get back and try to stop dribble penetration before giving up their bodies to a possible foul (or injury). But again, without getting caught up in specifics, getting back and in position to defend is the primary focus (I’m guessing).

Samuel

October 7th, 2010
12:28 pm

Basically, the entire preseason has been about the new and improved offense. I don’t think I made that up. Check the headlines. The only mention of defense is what we won’t do. (Switch) and an occasional mention of “holding players accountable”. Right?

Rev in Tampa

October 7th, 2010
12:31 pm

Samuel,

The Hawks just started actual practices a couple of weeks ago. Before practices started there was nothing to do but talk. And the press has not been privy to the beginning of practice when they practice defense… as MC just explained.

STEEL(Formerly VenomSpitter)

October 7th, 2010
12:44 pm

LD>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>WOODY in everyway except talking in cirlces

Hmmm

October 7th, 2010
12:54 pm

@MC, Ask Drew if he has Lester Conner working with Bibby on his lateral quickness.

SMH, did you read that Bibby article? If you can’t play D then you shouldn’t start. Even Steve Nash can guard a stop sign….unlike Bibby. Let’s also not forget that dude can barely dribble anymore. Nobody’s RUSHING Teague to do anything, YOU JUST SUCK BIBBSTER. I’m just stating facts here man. Westbrook, Collison, Holiday, Rose, Rondo, Brooks, Billups etc. Etc. will all eat Bibby for breakfast this season LIKE THEY’VE BEEN DOING….FREAKING Jordan Farmar Gave Bibby the business last season. Jordan Farmar?

I WONDER which one of the guards Didn’t finish the mile in LD’s required time Hmmm? I can take an educated guess though. First name Cheeseburger last name Bibby.

I.MUS WRITE

October 7th, 2010
1:01 pm

Why is the open practice on sunday during the falcons game -talk about poor planning. I usually go but I’ll pass this year.

Predictions-Bibby will start game 1 at pg
Marvin will still be clumbsy and timid
Etan and zaza will be thrown blows by December
JJ will be complaining soon about a better offense that doesnt allow him to shine as much

Good Luck guys -its gonna be a long season

Hmmm

October 7th, 2010
1:04 pm

I bet all Bibby did this off-season was shoot wide-open jumpers in an empty gym just like last off-season. No cardio, No defensive drills, no ball handling drills, Just jump-shots and cheeseburgers. PROVE ME WRONG!

Even Derrick Fisher works on his total skillset in the off-season STILL. The footage is on NBA.com man. I’m tired of this. I hope LD knows what he’s doing., because there are some VERY fast, VERY strong, and VERY young guards (John Wall AKA Mini Lebron) out there getting premium PT while Teague watches Bibby waddle down the court with the ball like he’s marvin. He can’t even dribble in a straight line anymore man! Somebody get a clue!

I’m done.

vava74

October 7th, 2010
1:04 pm

Rev,

How can you be surprised at Samuel’s post? He was chanting Woody for COY all the time around here.

For him Woody with his “low turnovers, ISO offense” and our gimmick “switching D” was the best coach around… all “orchestrated” in notoriously loose and low demand practices.

The Truth

October 7th, 2010
1:07 pm

From the previous blog:

Ken this comment about Dwight:

“TRUTH-None of us knows what he’s worked on this off season”

LOL after I showed you a video clip with him being trained by Hakeem Olajuwon, you say that? What is it that you did not see or don’t want to believe from the video; is it that you don’t believe that was really Howard or Hakeem making the video production perhaps? Or maybe you don’t believe that Howard actually took those shoots? Man, like any faithful fan, I hope the best for the Hawks this upcoming season but I will not be blinded by false beliefs whether they are positive or not, false or unsubstantiated assertions or related claims; the video speaks for itself. You know this reminds me of a Richard Pryor standup joke he did some years ago that went something like thing:

An unfaithful husband was caught by his wife nude in their bed cheating with another woman. The man jumps up, puts his clothes on and said to his wife: Are you going to believe your lying eyes or what I’m about to tell you. You didn’t see anything. The faithful wife was so blindly in love with her husband she actually agreed with him; HONEY, I BELIEVE YOU, I DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING. So, the woman being so entangled in her emotions for her man, she yielded to even what her naked eyes told her.

I hope you got my drift with this. After the game tonight maybe the conversation can shift from fantasy basketball to what we shall see with our own naked eyes. Some fans however may still be so entangled in their past feelings and emotions that the reality of what is on display may be insignificant to them.

Hmmm

October 7th, 2010
1:07 pm

“I’m just trying to get better every day. I’m working hard. Trying to do everything I didn’t do last year and get better, Teague told HOOPSWORLD during media day. “I’m working on jump shot, defense and getting stronger so I can come back and shock some people that didn’t get an opportunity to see me last year. Hopefully I can prove some people wrong and do some things they didn’t get to see last year,” said Teague.

Read more NBA news and insight: http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=17536#ixzz11h4eGRiO

Hmmm

October 7th, 2010
1:13 pm

@ STEEL Cosign 12:44 pm post

cp

October 7th, 2010
1:14 pm

I see Woodrows number one fan is missing him. MC specifically stated why he hasn’t wrote much about the defense yet Woodrow’s number 1 guy still found a way to over look it. You just have to love that…. Hopefully the guys buy into what LD wants done defensively because as stated the Hawks have the athletes to get it done.. Sucks that it wont be any footage of the game.

O'Brien

October 7th, 2010
1:17 pm

Samuel,

I understand the skepticism. But woody had 6 years. This is LD’s first as HC. At least wait until we are 20 games in (a quarter of the season) before u overly criticize his methods.

AJ,

I understand your point, but Charges are a good thing. One guy might get beat at times, but one way his teamates can pick him up is to draw a charge on his guy. Maybe we can get some called on LeBrat.

I do share ur concern about injury and foul trouble though.

vava74

October 7th, 2010
1:22 pm

The Truth,

Howard is notorious for not using his summer to improve his skills but to do movies and non basketball related stuff.

He worked out a less than a week with Hakeem. Yes, it should make a difference and he should improve as a consequence of that workout but it will not be significant if he does not put a continuous effort.

STEEL(Formerly VenomSpitter)

October 7th, 2010
1:26 pm

Everybody the game is gonna be coming on channelsurfing.net at 7:00

Hmmm

October 7th, 2010
1:30 pm

YESS!!! ‘preciate that STEEL.

Gray Mule

October 7th, 2010
1:31 pm

So, people assume that the old coach and the new coach are exactly alike. These are the same people who would look at a female and say,
“All women are alike.” Or, if it’s a woman, she would say, “All men are alike..”
Why are we to assume that nothing will change? And, this is before any one has even watched them play their first pre-season game.
If the Hawks are not immediately successful, although it’s pre-season,
listen for the critics as they come out of the woodwork, blasting everything.
Gray Mule

Section 303

October 7th, 2010
1:47 pm

I am looking forward to the game tonight.

I wanted to see Pope Sy. Is he out for tonight’s game? My list of who I most want to see tonight:

1. Sy
2. Jordan Crawford
3. Thomas and Powell

josh

October 7th, 2010
1:50 pm

i was at that season preview with ld and sund – he mentioned that hes too old to have butterflies, but instead has gnats, lol. but yeah, im super interested to see how everything plays out. it’s one thing to have a plan, but how effective it is can only be tested by opposition. we shall see tonight!

and yeah, thanks MC, always a good read.

truthspitter

October 7th, 2010
2:00 pm

JJ is the leader and ran the best mile on first day 5:30. Teague came in 2nd at 6 minutes. Zaza came in third. What a shame Marvin can’t be 1st in anything other than highest picked on team

The Truth

October 7th, 2010
2:05 pm

shoots = shots (dam keyboard, time for an upgrade)

i_am_soulstar

October 7th, 2010
2:15 pm

Alright! Steel, you’re a lifesaver.

Astro Joe

October 7th, 2010
2:26 pm

Section 303, I don’t think Sy has been healthy since he arrived from France. You will likely find him in the Speedy Claxton chair tonight (and the next night, and the next night…)

Section 303

October 7th, 2010
2:47 pm

Astro Joe, I hope that is not true. Though, even if Sy is hurt forever, he still is no Speedy. Speedy robbed the organization blind. And, I still say he knew he was hurt when he signed the deal. Should have run that guy out of town on a rail.

slim

October 7th, 2010
2:49 pm

what does that headline mean?

The Truth

October 7th, 2010
2:50 pm

One thing about Sy vs. Speedy Claxton, the rip-off (if it is one), won’t be as great. Purely speculation on my part, but the NBA demands on a player like Sy with his limited background during training could cause a much slower progress. Would it be a surprise if it took him the whole season to just properly condition his body?

Astro Joe

October 7th, 2010
2:51 pm

OB, if Drew is tracking their success at drawing offensive fouls, then he is also measuring their effort to get back and defend in transition. I absolutely applaud that aspect of the tactic. Taking charges and flopping? No, thanks.

Astro Joe

October 7th, 2010
3:04 pm

I wasn’t equating Speedy to Sy. I was just pointing out the chair where the “too injured to practice or play” sit. And we all remember where Mr. Claxton sat for 3 LOOONNNGGG years. Assuming that Mo recovers well from his summer surgery, Sy should get a lot of time in the NBDL this season.

BBgenie

October 7th, 2010
3:20 pm

Let’s see what kind of Toughness the Hawks will bring to the court. Will Collins get a good look? Will we see Al play some(4)? How will the Fans react to Joe Johnson??????? Can Smooth become the team leader we need on the floor? See you there!!!!

Guido

October 7th, 2010
3:34 pm

NBATV on October 21 – 22 is suppose to broadcast Hawks real live training camp and other behind the scenes stuff.

northcyde

October 7th, 2010
3:44 pm

Key matchup I’ll be looking at:

Jeff Teague vs Acie Law

It will be interesting to see these 2 go up against each other. If not for the Jamal trade, this could’ve very well have been our depth cart at PG last year.

Samuel

October 7th, 2010
4:18 pm

Barcelona looks good against the Lakers right now. Lakers are playing as hard as they can with their starters and Barcelona hanging tough. I’m impressed.

Samuel

October 7th, 2010
4:18 pm

Rubio sucks!!

northcyde

October 7th, 2010
4:54 pm

BB . . if even one fan boo JJ in a friggin preseason game, they should never come back to Philips ever again. I remember a NFL preseason game in Nashville, in which Titan fans were booing Vince Young a little for a horrible performance.

LOL . . what kind of psychos boo the home team in a preseason game?

Astro Joe

October 7th, 2010
4:56 pm

Samuel, did you get my email?

Grandad

October 7th, 2010
4:59 pm

Samuel

HS girls are not lugging 240 lbs around the track
on a 6-8 frame either.
For a man his size…..that’s haulin’ ass!

Ken Strickland

October 7th, 2010
5:07 pm

TRUTH-If you’ll recall, JSmoove also spent an off season or 2 working with Hakeem. But once the season started, we saw him all but abandon most of what he’d learned. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to instinctively incorporate something they’ve only worked on one off season with a tutor.

I’m not worried about DHoward. The Magic are little more than a jump shooting team, specifically a 3pt shooting team. Take that away, and they can be had. There’s no way DHoward, with his limited OFF skills, can carry a team offensively for an extended period of time without help.

If you put constant DEF pressure on their PG’s, which Bibby couldn’t do, and keep them out of the lane, you’ll limit a lot of the lob dunks Dwight usually gets against us. Again, you’ve got to get rid of this old mentality that says we have to stop the other team by trying to match up to them and what they’re doing. Under LDrew, we’ll now force teams to contend with us and what we’re doing.

It certainly appears we have a lot of cry babies, whiners and negative minded individuals liberally sprinkled among our fans. Some of them are so seriously short sighted and negative minded, if another team, like the Bulls, is faced with the same issues as the Hawks, such as a new HC, new OFF/DEF, players buying into the HC and his systems, these extremely narrow minded fans can only see the Hawks being affected by these issues. WHERE’S THE LOGIC?

It’s like those who say we’re UNDERSIZED with 6′10 AHorford at C, yet some of these same complainers made pleas for us to sign 6′10″ AStaudemire or 6′10″ AJefferson so we could move 6′10″ AHorford to PF.
AGAIN, WHERE’S THE LOGIC?

The so called UNDERSIZED Hawks, with a so called UNDERSIZED All Star C, managed to finish ahead of all of the bigger, or so called NORMAL SIZED teams. I’ll take having a so called UNDERSIZED team with 53 wins and the #3 seed, over having a bigger center and/or team that can’t measure up to those accomplishments.

MC-Since the gm won’t be broadcast, why not give us a detailed run down of the gm tomorrow. You know what most of us want to know, and that’s the progress of 1-JTeague, 2-MWilliams, JoCrawford, JPowell, MBibby, JCollins and EThomas. We also want to know how well the players executed the motion OFF, and man DEF.

s, or oversized Eastern Conference teams.