Don’t think so? I give you the Miami Heat.
From Adrian Wojnaworski at Yahoo! Sports:
For now, though, Riley doesn’t need a new coach. He needs to support Spoelstra after allowing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to publicly embarrass and undermine their coach. The losing has created the Riles-to-the-bench hysteria, but James and Bosh had to come out and pop Spoelstra for practicing them too hard and playing them too many minutes.
The Heat lost again on Wednesday night, 104-95 to the Orlando Magic, and that’s three straight now. The greatest free-agent class in NBA history is 8-7. James and Dwyane Wade(notes) still can’t flourish together on the floor, and the Heat, possibly without Udonis Haslem(notes) for the rest of the season, are powerless to protect the basket.
“I like the fact that we are where we are,” Bosh said, trying to convince himself. “We could be 15-0 right now thinking we have the world in the palm of our hands. We would be fooling ourselves.”
It could be that the Hawks are doing the same in thinking they have the group to get it done but clearly they aren’t the only ones searching for something in the East. Just look at the standings.
The Celtics are pretty much rolling if you accept Doc Rivers’ (plausible) explanation that hiccups like losing at Cleveland and Toronto are largely a matter of boredom. Orlando seems to have righted itself after a week or so of angst. It could be the Bulls are fine, too; Bulls.com writer Sam Smith pulled a nugget from NBA TV: Chicago is the only team among the East’s top four whose opponents have a combined winning record. That’s without Boozer.
The Bucks have struggled since blowing out the Hawks. If the Pacers had anything close to the depth of Atlanta’s offensive talent they’d be better than the Hawks. As it is, the Hawks went to Indiana and scored easily despite the Pacers’ aggressive, physical D. That actually might be Atlanta’s best W of the season.
ESPN.com’s John Hollinger takes a stab at ID’ing Atlanta’s issues (Insider). He says Atlanta has played the seventh-easiest schedule and “objectively and subjectively, the Hawks don’t appear anywhere near the team they were a year ago”
He lists his reasons why:
1. J.J.–”Historically, Johnson has played extremely well in December. If he can’t turn it up a notch in the next couple of weeks, it’s time to start worrying. Johnson is taking about as many shots as always — he’s just not making them. At 41.1 percent for the year and a miserable 25.8 percent on 3s, his offensive woes are one reason the Hawks have taken a step backward.”
2. The “frontcourt puzzle”–[Horford] is playing just 31.7 minutes per game, and I wish I had a good reason why. . . . Meanwhile, new coach Larry Drew has also taken a shine to veteran retread Josh Powell. Powell has a lot of positives as an end-of-the-bench guy . . . but he also can’t rebound or finish, though, which is why he’s had single-digit PERs in five of his six NBA seasons, so giving him minutes at the expense of Zaza Pachulia is absurd.”
3. The decline of Jamal: Crawford hasn’t played nearly as well this season, shooting 42.3 percent overall and 30.1 percent on 3s, and he seems weirdly uninvolved in the offense at times. Defensively, he’s been more of a liability than ever. . . . We knew Crawford probably wouldn’t do as well this year, but continued improvement by Josh Smith and Horford should, at the very least, have offset that. Because of the other factors on this list, it hasn’t.”
4. Decline of the D: “Basically, they’ve stopped guarding people. The Hawks weren’t a particularly good defensive team a year ago, especially in transition, but this year they’ve taken another step backward. That’s the opposite of what you’d expect from a crew that’s added another year of experience and cohesion.”
5. The new coach: “Not to put too fine a point on this, but pretty much everything about this year’s Hawks is the same except one. Drew decided to change a few things, most notably that they stop switching so much on D and they stop running so many isolations on offense. It appears both maneuvers have left his troops worse off.”
My short takes:
1. I’m waiting to see on J.J. I don’t know how much of it is the hand. Blaming it on the new offense doesn’t seem logical because, other than the past couple games when he’s forced some one-on-one play, I’ve seen J.J. miss a lot of simple, open shots.
2. The two-foul rule for Al is puzzling. Powell takes a lot of shots and doesn’t rebound consistently. Zaza has had his struggles, too, but against Lopez he showed he can be the kind of physical presence around the rim that Powell was supposed to be.
3. There is a tension between Jamal’s strengths as an attacking player and L.D.’s move to make the Hawks more balanced. Drew let Jamal loose at New Jersey and he had his best offensive game in a minute but also turned the ball over too much.
4. As a group, the Hawks still don’t defend and rebound with conviction. They stop doing it when things get hard. L.D. says he still believes he can get this group to take on that mentality. There’s lots of skepticism about that and I understand it.
5. From a tactical standpoint, the switches were often effective in masking Atlanta’s weaknesses. From a chemistry standpoint, they were damaging because there was less accountability for the guards and frustration for Al and Josh. It’s a bit much to say the Hawks are worst off on offense. They are still among the most efficient teams in the league, and Drew has said the changes are designed to make the Hawks less predictable in the playoffs.
(Drew says the increase in isos lately are because he called for them, so there’s no effort by the players to scrap the motion).
There’s still time for the Hawks to figure things out. If you think they never will, I feel you. I’m going to watch and see what happens and then write about it.
Happy Thanksgiving, blog people. Thanks for caring enough to read my stuff. Try to remember: It’s just basketball.