Atlanta Hawks: Offense will be fine . . . defense will define

Despite some of the uncertainty surrounding the Hawks on the eve of the regular season, I think they they will end up being very good again offensively.

The Hawks must be about D. (Curtis Compton/ ccompton@ajc.com)

The Hawks must be about D. (Curtis Compton/ ccompton@ajc.com)

There’s the talent, of course. J.J., Jamal, Al, and Josh will score. I think all are willing to share the ball, including J.J. When the motion breaks down or when the Hawks play more traditional sets (which they still will do a large percentage of the time), J.J. and Jamal can score with the best of them.

The preseason turnovers were a function of playing too fast in transition and trying to figure out all the “reads” that are part of L.D.’s motion offense. Once they get a feel for the latter, I think the Hawks will be tough to guard late in games. You could see it at times when the regulars were playing together. The open shots were there. It looked really good.

With more motion sets Bibby won’t just be standing on the weakside watching and he’s so good at slipping into space and making shots. I think Zaza and Mo are going to benefit from the motion, too. So will Marvin, who must have said “I know where my shots are coming from each night” 30 times during the preseason.

But then there’s the defense. I’m not sure the Hawks can meet L.D.’s goal of being a legit top 10 defensive team. He’s saying a lot of good things about defense, including not switching on screens.

“It puts ownership on us guards to really guard our men and get over picks and fight through them,” J.J. said. “That’s pretty much it.”

“Chasing around little point guards and stuff kind of took us out of what we wanted to do defensively,” Al said. “I think it’s good he’s got everyone staying with their man.”

The Hawks are fine on the backline. The problem will come in those games when Bibby, Jamal, or J.J. (is there any way to avoid regularly matching him on point guards?) can’t contain the perimeter that way. Then what for the Hawks? The answer can’t just be as simple as more Teague, can it?

Woody talked a lot about defense but never got this group to play it a high level consistently. L.D. said he’s ready to back up his talk about defense becoming Atlanta’s “staple” by awarding playing time based on defensive effort.

“We have a plan in place as far as expectations where we want to be as a team defensively and where we want to be defensively individually,” L.D. said. “As I told the guys at the beginning, they are going to be held accountable. We go into every game with a defensive game plan and schemes and I expect them to put forth all the energy into it. If we have to make adjustments, we’ll make adjustments. But no matter the coverages, guys have to put in the effort.”

That last part figures to be repeated throughout the season by L.D. He’s put in a defensive system that theoretically won’t create terrible mismatches for the guards or the bigs. But it won’t work if the Hawks fall back into the lax habits the switches sometimes encouraged.

“I think we are at our best when we play with energy defensively, when we are flying around and doing something,” L.D. said. “I think one of our attributes is we are athletic and we have to utilize that to the best of our capabilities. It’s easy to gauge when we are in our spots, making the right rotations. We have a blueprint of our defense and where people should be. It’s very easy to see when guys are not putting the forth the effort.”

It will also be easy to see what L.D. handles it when they don’t. The Hawks won’t be a serious contender until they can defend like Boston, Orlando and Miami, nor can they count on staying ahead of Milwaukee and Charlotte unless they get tougher on D.

The Hawks are going to score. The next step is getting stops when things get hard.

MC

157 comments Add your comment

Melvin

October 26th, 2010
9:59 pm

From NBA FanHouse. You may have to overlook the key errors…

“Duffy confirmed two of his other clients from the 2007 draft, No. 4 pick Mike Conley Jr. of Memphis and No. 14 selection Al Thornton of Washington also will not sign extensions by Monday.”

http://nba.fanhouse.com/2010/10/26/greg-oden-to-be-restricted-free-agent-next-summer/

Melvin

October 26th, 2010
10:00 pm

Again I will forego my right to say First…lol

TigerWoods

October 26th, 2010
10:03 pm

Hawks have pieces but they are not complete. Need a big man. No need to get rid of Al, just get a backup big man. And then let that darn speedster play. Put Bibby’s fat albino arse on the pine. Time to see what we are made up and let the horses run like the wind

N.D.T.K.A.

October 26th, 2010
10:13 pm

Watching Boston and Miami play tonight I see what many on this blog are talking about. Boston even with guys getting up in age are committed to playing high level defense. The Celtic players take ownership of defending their man on defense and executing the offensive sets of Doc Rivers on offense. Boston also has an all-star caliber point guard. I say this to express the Hawks really need to take their “jobs” seriously.
I think if we could have brought in Shaq, based on what I saw of him tonight, this would have really helped the Hawks. But again, who knows if it is just the structure and veteran leadership that has Diesel playing at a high level. I see three things that may plague the Hawks all season.
1. A commitment to defensive ownership.

2. A bench with no identity and not enough firepower outside of Jamal Crawford to be counted on to hold leads in games.

3. Can Mike Bibby make a commitment to play defense and will Jamal Crawford defend at a consistent and high level?

Just my observation.

Melvin

October 26th, 2010
10:13 pm

Good stuff MC. I agree the Hawks will have to become a better defensive team but will it be realistic for them to do that by simply changing the scheme and not the personnel? We will see…

Tony from Stone Mountain

October 26th, 2010
10:14 pm

If Hawks play good defense, they will win many games!

i_am_soulstar

October 26th, 2010
10:15 pm

Defense wins championships

STEEL(Formerly VenomSpitter)

October 26th, 2010
10:19 pm

Offese Sells Tickets

BUT DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

STEEL(Formerly VenomSpitter)

October 26th, 2010
10:20 pm

Offense Sells Tickets

BUT DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

STEEL(Formerly VenomSpitter)

October 26th, 2010
10:21 pm

Rondo had 17 ast

~~MAC-ToWN~~ (Area Code 478 Westside Macon)

October 26th, 2010
10:26 pm

Nick Van Exel for starting PG!!!

I Heart Atlanta

October 26th, 2010
10:30 pm

MC
I won Tix on twitter and couldnt reply back because yall didnt follow me, but i will be there to pick them up Thursday, and THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!1

Najeh Davenpoop

October 26th, 2010
10:41 pm

From the previous blog:

“Charles Barkley and company know hoops. I actually like their coverage, much more than the ESPN bums. But, truthfully, guys like Chuck were bashing the Hawks for their one on one isolation offense – but then question the firing of the coach who instituted it…

Why?

Things like that just have me feeling that they really don’t know as much as a guy like Sekou (for instance) knows. He’s covered the Hawks in depth, and therefore, knows this team inside/out.”

My theory (which I mentioned a couple of blogs ago) is that players and ex-players don’t like putting too much blame on the coaches when they lose, because it implies that coaches should get a larger share of the credit when they win. As insightful as Chuck and Kenny are, they are still ex-players and they are still shackled to an extent by that mentality. They see it as the players’ responsibility to share the ball, get it inside, etc. and underrate the impact of a sound system on that happening. Ultimately, they see that a 53-win team fired its coach and assume it’s a bad move.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 26th, 2010
10:44 pm

“There’s the talent, of course. J.J., Jamal, Al, Josh and Jamal will score. ”

Heh… Jamal will score twice?

Samuel

October 26th, 2010
10:49 pm

LD keeps saying that players will be “held accountable” on defense but does that mean? Will he sit Bibby and put Teague in and have 10 turnovers. How about Al getting “owned” buy bigs around the league in the post. Does he sit Josh for bricklaying from the outside and whining at the officials. What?

Michael Cunningham

October 26th, 2010
11:04 pm

@ I Heart Atlanta: “MC I won Tix on twitter and couldnt reply back because yall didnt follow me, but i will be there to pick them up Thursday, and THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!1″

sorry about that. i messaged you again.

Wabe

October 26th, 2010
11:07 pm

From the last blog:

Double Dip

October 26th, 2010
10:30 pm
Wabe Ill take that one. thats easy. The hawks were expose in the playoffs for being weak under the basket. They did absolutely nothing to strengthen their weakness while the teams around them got better.

The same old assistant new coach – LOL- is an experiment that was a fallout of a dumb sund move who relieve Woodson with out a legit plan or direction. Drew is no up grade but a second foot in the quick sand of mediocrity. Instead of beefing up in the paint with legitimate forces the hawks decide it was more important to address an offense than equaled the lakers with a gimmick offense and ignored a defense that rank not from from the bottom. This type of idiocy is not going to hold the 3rd seed spot nor will it win 53 games

Instead of focusing on adjusting the defense for having a center who can hold the rack we are basically picking drawers out of our butts trying to figure out what the hell happened and WTF is a Princeton offense and who really G A F.

mean while Chicago , Miami , Milwaukee and Boston got better and address there weaknesses and increased their strengths

Go figure.

Double Dip, I understand what you’re saying. I’ve understood the logic behind people shifting teams like the Bucks and Bulls up. But, in terms of talent, I’d argue that the Hawks are still as talented as the Bulls/Bucks, if not more. Truthfully, I don’t think the additions of Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver really make the Bulls a better team than the Hawks.

Hawks management was yet again very passive in the offseason, and it shows that they have little to no intention of getting this team beyond where they’ve been. They may assume that all problems fall on coaching -thus the coaching change – but, there are still personnel weaknesses (size) that they’ve failed to address.

With that said, I still can’t understand how people are assuming the Bucks and Bulls leapfrog the Hawks. Talent wise, the Hawks starting 5 is still equally/more talented than both of those teams.

We’ll see where things go.

Wabe

October 26th, 2010
11:10 pm

Hawks > > Bulls/Bucks

That’s all I’m saying…

Not tryin’ to overcomplicate the issue. I’m not trying to sound like a homer Hawks fan. I like to think realistically. And realistically, I don’t see the Hawks being a legit threat in the East with Boston/Orlando/Miami in the mix. But, I do think the Hawks are right around where they were last season…

#4th seed behind the C’s, Heat, Magic but in front of the Bulls and Bucks.

Clark Kent

October 26th, 2010
11:18 pm

No one cares, basketball is a snooze-fest.

Grandad

October 26th, 2010
11:21 pm

LD said:
“players will be “held accountable” on defense” *[Defense]
Samuel said:
“but does that mean”
“Will he put Teague in and have 10 turnovers” *[Offense]
“Does he sit Josh for bricklaying from the outside *[Offense]
and whining at the officials” *[behavior]

Connect the dots here Samuel.
One does not seem to have any bearing on the other.

tidog

October 26th, 2010
11:30 pm

Grizzlies should present a good matchup for the hawks. Randolph and Gasol won’t have the height and size advantage that a certain team in Florida presents against the Hawks front court. Lace em up and get it on the nba is back.

tidog

October 26th, 2010
11:43 pm

Hawks never won a title when 7 foot Tree Rollins was the center. Whats your point?

Grandad

October 26th, 2010
11:58 pm

Thought Police, catching claustrophobia in Mom’s basement?

Atlanta Fawks

October 27th, 2010
1:26 am

Yawn……… Hawks will be same old team they have been past 4 years. Oh and the Heat will self destruct before all star break. Too many egos in Miami and sharing the rock is a but different than sharing dirty Miami skeezers. Next!

Clyde

October 27th, 2010
1:56 am

Anthony

October 27th, 2010
2:35 am

They might aswell give up before it even starts. They will end this season just like they did the last 2 seasons. This teams got NOTHING to look forward to.

KevinM

October 27th, 2010
3:29 am

Hawks should beat Memphis, and any other team that isn’t in Sund’s elite formula. Problem is, its hard to see the Hawks matching up to Boston, who according to experts here, is too old and can’t play defense.
Boston will always look at Atlanta in the rear view….and did I mention DHoward likes our team as it is constructed?
But play the games, and see if Joe can step up his game above 13ppg in the playoffs.

and finally, Thought Police part II
October 26th, 2010
11:48 pm

The Hawks problems are as big on the interior as the perimeter. They don’t have a top notch defensive interior. Where’s the length to get a crucial rebound? Can your 1/2 court defense stop every team when needed?

There’s more questions than answers as we watch the same group not be held accountable for the last 2 years of playoff basketball. Especially if you can’t beat last year’s Miami team.

The Ayatollah

October 27th, 2010
4:19 am

Oh I don’t know why there is any problem on the defensive interior side of things. After all, the Hawks have the #1 defensive power forward in the world. If you have that, then why do you need anything more than whatever stiff you can plug in at center? Thank goodness the Hawks have an all star instead of a stiff or it would be nothing but trouble. Maybe without a coach that calls for the power forward and the center to guard freaking point guards half the night, we can see how the power forward and center actually do guarding their own guys instead of playing defense on the perimeter because the guards can’t do it. Pretty bad when it takes the former coach’s assistant to figure that one out

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
4:54 am

It’s a Wrap!

Ramon, here’s Part I of the sequel (my response to what Najeh! Said and I agreed), were my exact words from the previous day:

Najeh said:

““Say’s were leader fo Dampier, Wouldn’t be mad if we signed him, but as a starter……really??”

September 17th, 2010
7:13 pm

Rotoworld is a fantasy site. Don’t take their basketball analysis at face value. They probably just see Dampier as a more valuable fantasy commodity than Marvin and assume that he would push Marvin to the bench. I think if the Hawks are actually interested in Dampier, they are going to sign him to supplant Zaza as the first big man off the bench.”

My response was my thoughts exactly. And what you copied on the last blog!
Now, I see why Sautee holds your little feet to the fire.
You have some major issues with telling the truth, quoting others and basic level reading comprehension.

You need a translator to explain the meaning of words to you.
What would you do if I used one of my other four languages besides English?
You need a Thesaurus or a Dictionary or a Speak ‘N’ Say – something!

Now, run-a-long, Ramon.

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
5:31 am

Play Ball!

As I’ve and others have said a zillion times:

Play some defense as though your life depended on it!
If not, watch others do it from the bench.

Do we have the personnel to do it?
We shall see, starting tonight

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
5:34 am

What was all that ISH being posted up there?
What does any of that garble really mean?

Looks like somebody is off their 17 Meds again.

The Ayatollah

October 27th, 2010
5:55 am

Thought Police II must stand for somebody who only has two thoughts on their brain at all times. First thought is this sorry creature hates the hawks beat writer. Second thought is same person hates the hawks starting center. What a sad way to spend an existence, doomed to write the same thing over and over again, incapable of an original thought that does not bleed hate. Why open a can of haterade when a poor creature such as this bathes in a barrel of it daily. Somebody’s mama sure isn’t proud.

Department of troll control

October 27th, 2010
5:57 am

dont feed the trolls or they keep coming back

Marcus

October 27th, 2010
7:07 am

I think we will be OK, also.
I do believe we will take a hit in the reg. season W column and perhaps a lower seed in the playoffs, but be more formidable in the playoffs. I can see us growing over the season to where we become much more proficient by playoff time. I predict 45 wins, 1st round victors and tough out in 2nd round, depending on the matchup.

O'Brien

October 27th, 2010
7:21 am

Samuel,

I have some of the same questions too (Josh and his untimely shots, turnovers by our guards etc). But whereas its straight forward to say accountability on defense, I think the questions you asked will just be a case by case basis. Time will tell.

Watching the Celtics, it was easy to forget that their defensive mastermind (Thibodeau) was not there anymore. Guys were still playing defense.

I think this reinforces that a big part of defense is the mindset. I dont think the Hawks are mentally tough enough, and they can’t blame it all on Woody.

Although they beat us in the preseason, we need to win this game tonight. We have struggled on the road under Woody, and Memphis fans will be hyped because hope springs eternal the first game of the year.

Go Hawks.

jason

October 27th, 2010
8:04 am

MC the do u know who will start at point guard?

KevinM

October 27th, 2010
8:31 am

jason, here ya go, straight from MC’s tips:

5. Can Teague take over the point?

Mike Bibby will start the opener, which means Jeff Teague didn’t unseat him as the starter. Drew wants Teague to play a major role because the guard can shore up Atlanta’s shaky perimeter defense and push the pace on offense. However, he’ll have to be more aggressive to win the job from Bibby

Show me state

October 27th, 2010
8:31 am

MC…I’m there 2nite…Go Hawks!!!!

Astro Joe

October 27th, 2010
9:01 am

If guarding your man was enough to be a top 10 defense, then why do teams pay for a defensive coordinator? Oh, that’s right, because it’s impossible to be a top 10 defense by simply playing man-to-man defense… these guys are much too good… they made it to the NBA because they can score. I just hope that while we keep hearing about effort, that there is actually a scheme in place that goes beyond “guard your man or else”.

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
9:24 am

I think, based on The Hawks Training Camp fed from NBA TV, the HC talked some about defensive schemes. Coach talked about when the opponent throws the ball into the high post, he wanted the guards to show a double team to force a pass and get back to his perimeter man to recover.

It sounded like a psuedo double team to disrupt the post man who had the ball.
Being disruptive on defense and causing havoc. Stuff like that.
I am sure there will be some switches and zones ran as well.

But, ultimately being responsible for your own man. Listen, it all boils down to being active and intense on defense. There has to be more effort than just standing there and watching. If were talking about Dwight, I say let him get his but, shut down those 3 point shooters. Jameer Nelson ran us over like a hot knife in butter. We need to get that killer mentality on defense – for real!

I sure hope so.

O'Brien

October 27th, 2010
10:03 am

AJ,

Even with a scheme, the right players must be in place to execute. I’m not sure if we have the right players.

That being said, LD has talked about defensive adjustments (and he even mentioned some switching), so I think there will be a scheme.

I think his emphasis on man to man is to get them out of the mindset of switching everything all the time.

Astro Joe

October 27th, 2010
10:09 am

OB, agreed. I recognize that what a coach says to the media isn’t neccesarily what he says to his players. Memphis has plenty of offensive talent, so we will get a chance to see the impact of their effort against a handful of potential 20-point scorers (Gay, Randolph, Mayo & Gasol). We’ll also get to see the motion offense against a team that historically hasn’t been able to stop the other team from scoring. I’m predicting a little more scoring than the 88-80 Celtics-Heat contest last night. How is that for climbing out ona limb? :)

Astro Joe

October 27th, 2010
10:15 am

Dr. Mary, right on. I just hope that the simplistic defensive message being delivered via the media is different than a more complex scheme being installed with the players.

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
10:40 am

Trade Secrets!

I agree, you never want to circulate your play-book – right?
I guess that’s why even the beat writer doesn’t have unlimited access all phases of the team practice sessions. I’m also, thinking in the pre-season games too, you don’t really want to show all your sets and schemes either.

I was saying to another blogger that pre-season is more for the coaches to evaluate his roster, mainly the rookies and invites – right? So, the sloppy play and losses didn’t really bother me. I know Orlando demolished their opponents, but they are on a different level and aren’t looking at new players.

Let’s Get it On!

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
10:43 am

That last post was in reply to Astro Joe and others. -smiles-

i_am_soulstar

October 27th, 2010
10:51 am

I’m a huge fan of what Al Horford does, but I’d trade him for Brook Lopez in a heartbeat.

Al Horford and Jamal Crawford and maybe a 1st round pick
-for-
Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, and Terrence Williams

PG Devin Harris
SG Joe Johnson
SF Marvin Williams
PF Josh Smith
C Brook Lopez

New Jersey would go for it, and it would make the Hawks a championship contender.

http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=2e4vs2k

Rev in Tampa

October 27th, 2010
10:52 am

@ O’Brien – “Watching the Celtics, it was easy to forget that their defensive mastermind (Thibodeau) was not there anymore. Guys were still playing defense.”

Good point. It is part of the culture of the Celtics ORGANIZATION that they play team basketball. They play team defense because that is what defines every player who puts on the green and white.

That being said, I despise the Celtics as much as I despise the Yankees & Phillies. However, I was filled with inexpressible joy as I watched the Celtics manhandle the Heat!

LD has an uphill battle as he challenges the mindset of the Hawks. You are right when you say that the Hawks are weakminded on defense. The other side of the coin is that they are stubbornly hanging on to their bad habits. LD has no other choice than to break their wills in the tough practices. If half the team goes down with injuries from practice then so be it.

i_am_soulstar

October 27th, 2010
10:57 am

Not even saying that Brook Lopez plays the game better than Al. But Lopez definitely plays the center position better.

drmaryb (*_*)

October 27th, 2010
11:04 am

Rev

But, why would the Nets trade their Future All-Star Center for a smaller PF who plays Center out of position? I don’t understand the rationale from the Nets perspective?

KevinM

October 27th, 2010
11:05 am

2 things came to mind this am…..shouldn’t the reigning EC champs have beaten the new look Heat?
I am sure Doc isn’t too thrilled with what took place in the 2nd half last night….and Big Baby was there for the taking 2 years ago Sund…where were you? on vacation? He would take Marvin’s slot easily.

Also, I remember being discontent when the Hawks chose Chills over Jameer Nelson and also took Smoove over Jameer, the reigning college POY.
Where oh where could the Hawks be today with a solid PG? I guess a 2nd rounder and TPE and an overload at PF is what we deserve. Did anyone else pine for Jameer at that time when we needed a PG soooooooooooooooooooooo soooooooooooooooooo bad?