Archive for October, 2010

Atlanta Hawks: Rookie Jordan Crawford can score but . . .

JC2 scored at Xavier and he's scoring in the NBA presason. (John Biever/SI)

JC2 scored at Xavier and he’s scoring in the NBA presason. (John Biever/SI)

The preseason has shown that Hawks rookie Jordan Crawford is, as advertised, a scorer.

After three games, he’s fourth in the league with 21 points per game and the leading scorer among rookies. Yeah, he’s playing crazy minutes–break it down per 48 minutes and he drops down to 64th in preseason scoring– but he’s shooting 48 percent.

That’s nothing but good news for the Hawks, who need to develop young players for a time when their “core” philosophy runs its course. But it’s not so valuable now because of the way Atlanta’s roster is built. As it stands, Crawford actually would be more valuable to the Hawks if he were a stopper rather than a scorer (and better still if he were three inches taller and played small forward).

The Hawks don’t lack for guards who can score. J.J. is an All-Star scorer. Jamal is a Sixth Man Award scorer. Bibby isn’t a dynamic scorer but spot him up at the 3-point line and he …

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Atlanta Hawks: Lots of talk about ‘D’ but few results

Since camp opened on Sept. 28 L.D. has laid out some specific defensive goals he wants from the Hawks.:

Get back in transition and then stop the ball and protect the basket.

Defend the pick-and-roll by showing hard with the help.

Block out.

Play with energy.

More than two weeks later, what he’s gotten is players showing “no energy as far as stopping the ball and protecting the basket” in transition, “kind of swiping at the ball from the help position” on pick-and-rolls and not boxing out.

Is L.D. disappointed his preaching hasn’t yet led to results?

“No,” he said. “It has to become habit. Doing it the old way, we could possibly finish somewhere in the middle of the pack defensively. But I am looking beyond that. I think we should be one of the top 10 teams in the league defensively if we make the total commitment of taking care of our responsibilities. That is something I am teaching every day and I am not going to let up.”

So L.D. broke down all those issues during a …

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Atlanta Hawks: Wizards 107, Hawks 92

JaVale Mc Gee (16 points, 11 boards in 24 minutes) took advantage of Atlanta's weak D. (AP Photo)

JaVale Mc Gee (16 points, 11 boards in 24 minutes) took advantage of Atlanta’s weak D. (AP Photo)

Washington– You can go down the list of excuses for Atlanta’s atrocious defense: short roster, tired bodies, back-to-back, preseason.

Al was offered all those outs but he wouldn’t take them: “There’s no excuse. I think we have a long way to go as far as defense if we are going to be an elite team.”

– The Hawks lacked energy and Smoove was the only consistent deterrent at the rim against Washington’s bigs. Al said the Hawks also lack something else: “It’s going to take time for us to trust each other. We’ve been playing together for a few years but when things break down, the next guy isn’t there.”

– The Hawks were slow to get out on shooters. They didn’t fight hard through picks. They gave up too many free runs at the rim. “The defense was not very good at all,” L.D. said. “There energy wasn’t there, the intensity wasn’t there.”

– L.D. didn’t like the 16 turnovers, either. The …

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Atlanta Hawks: Hawks at Wizards

Washington–When the Hawks are at home L.D. is fine with them running the floor and feeding off the energy of the Highlight Factory. But he’s got a different philosophy on the road.

That’s why one of the offensive keys on the team’s board before the game tonight against the Wizards said: “Play slow.”

“On the road, you want to run at the opportune times,” L.D. said. “But you can’t play at a pace that you play at home, especially when you are short-handed, too. With the home team they want to get their fans involved. They want you to quick shoot so they can get it and run it back at you.

“You have got to pick and choose your spots to keep the fans out of it and control the tempo, force that team to play your pace. The faster you play it opens more opportunities for turnovers. We want to be athletic and get up and down the floor but we don’t want to play at a speed that leads to turnovers, especially on the road.”

The Hawks are averaging 23.5 turnovers through two exhibition …

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Atlanta Hawks: Pistons 94, Hawks 85

Jordan Crawford had a good night. (KIRTHMON F. DOZIER/Detroit Free Press)

Jordan Crawford had a good night. (KIRTHMON F. DOZIER/Detroit Free Press)

Auburn Hills, Mich.– Another tough one to judge as a whole because of all the missing players and L.D. giving liberal minutes to non-rotation guys.

– Turnovers were a problem again for the Hawks except this time they were more the function of getting in a hurry in transition rather than a lack of cohesion in the halfcourt. The Pistons scored 10 points off Atlanta’s nine turnovers in the first quarter.

– Here was one first-quarter sequence for J.J.: turnover, turnover, missed a rushed jumper on the break, turnover, turnover.

– But then the Hawks settled down in the second quarter and you could see some real offensive chemistry developing. They came back from 15 down to get within 55-52 at the half. Atlanta recorded nine assists on 11 field goals, turned it over just twice and was quicker and crisper than the Pistons.

– “We slowed down,” Josh said. “We have got to take our time. Everybody is not here, so …

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Atlanta Hawks: Hawks at Pistons

Auburn Hills, Mich.–It’s not like rookie gunner Jordan Crawford needs extra incentive to get his shots up. But considering he’s back home in the Detroit area with about 40 family and friends in attendance at The Palace tonight, L.D. figures he knows what’s coming.

“I am going to let him get one out of his system,” Drew said. “As soon as he touches it, he is probably going to let it go. I don’t know where he is going to be on the floor, but I am sure he is going to let one go. He’s got one mulligan.”

Does Crawford plan to take advantage?

“He didn’t tell me that,” Crawford said, “because he knows I will do it.”

Crawford had planned to return to Detroit’s Communication and Media Arts High School but that didn’t happen. Instead, he spent some time with family Sunday and at breakfast this morning.

While at IU, Crawford played at Ann Arbor and East Lansing but this is his first game at The Palace. He said he’s come here for a handful of Pistons games.

Crawford said he always gets …

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Atlanta Hawks: Intense practices have injuries adding up

The open practice at Philips Arena today was a relatively light affair for the Hawks. The way things are going, L.D. might have to start sprinkling in more sessions like that to keep his team in one piece.

Six guys were left behind when the Hawks flew out today for games at Detroit and D.C.: Teague (ankle), Marvin (ill), Twin (leg), Pape Sy (back), Mo (knee) and Jamal (back).

Al, Etan and Josh Powell also have missed time with injuries since camp opened.

“It’s a different preseason for us this year,” Teague said. “It is a lot more intense in practice. Injuries happen in the game. Last year it was a little more laid back and we didn’t have a lot of serious injuries at this time. It is really intense, guys are going really hard and things happen.”

For some of the injuries, it’s hard to know how much of it is just vet players taking it easy so they can be healthy for the long season. And with Mo and Pape, the issues were there before the Hawks started practice.

Still, L.D. said …

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Atlanta Hawks: L.D. says ‘commitment’ to transition D still lacking

Talking to his players in the huddle at the end of practice, L.D. summed up the Hawks’ performance against the Grizzlies for his players: “We didn’t play play great. We didn’t play good. We were about average.”

The turnovers weren’t surprising because it was the first exhibition game and the Hawks were focused on running the new motion offense. They forced some passes because they haven’t mastered the reads and timing required to take advantage when defenders overplay the passing lanes.

Less acceptable to L.D. were all those baskets the Grizzlies scored in transition as they came back from 23 points down in the third quarter.

“My challenge to them is going to be on the defensive end and making sure we don’t give up easy transition baskets,” he said. “How we do that is make the commitment to getting back and getting our defense set. We didn’t do that in the third quarter.”

Don’t want to overstate things here. It was the first exhibition game for a team trying to develop a new …

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Atlanta Hawks: Grizzlies 115, Hawks 111 (OT)

The Grizz had a tough time handling Teague. (AP Photo)

The Grizz had a tough time handling Teague. (AP Photo)

– This game was tough to evaluate as a whole. L.D. had makeshift lineups out there for much of the night. Marvin was the only starter on the floor to finish regulation and no starters were in for the end of overtime.

– There were 70 personal fouls and 88 free throws. The game lasted 3 hours, 12 minutes. I doubt there were more than 4,000 fans in attendance.

– But the Hawks had their regulars in for much of the first half and looked pretty good overall. After lacking in flow early, the motion offense started to look like what I saw in practice. The Hawks had 15 assists on 19 first-half field goals.

– The halfcourt defense was solid. Lots of help and recover, very few automatic switches. The Grizzlies managed just 33 points in the first half.

– Then the wheels came off for the Hawks in the third quarter, when Memphis had a 17-0 run and scored 42 points. But even that outburst was less about lax halfcourt defense for the …

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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 …

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