In the immediate aftermath of another home beatdown, L.D. sounded the alarm about the Hawks and said changes to his starting lineup may be in order.
But after sleeping on it, watching the game video and holding a team meeting this morning. . . well, L.D. basically turned up the volume on the alarm. He said he’s still looking at changing the starting lineup and added that a trade might be necessary before the Feb. 24 deadline to shake up the status-quo.
It seems that team meeting didn’t go as Drew had hoped. He said he asked every player and coach why the Hawks seem to play with more urgency on the road. There were a variety of answers, Drew said, but he concluded the Hawks too often fall into a “comfort zone . . . a safe zone” at Philips.
So Drew has that in mind as he looks at possibly changing up his starters.
“Just to give us a jolt,” he said. “Just to get us out of a comfort zone. We are 50-plus games into the season and I think at this stage we need something to give us a jolt, to wake us up. We have, in my opinion, fallen into a bit of a comfort zone with everything. It may be time to do something just to rattle the cage a little bit. ”
L.D. said he hasn’t made up on his mind about changing the lineup and didn’t get into any specifics about what they might be. He said it’s possible he could experiment with different lineups in practice over the next couple days.
Drew didn’t sound like a coach who was simply ticked at his team for a bad loss. Rather, he sounded like a coach who has come to realize that sending out the same players in the same roles is good enough to be on pace for 52 Ws but isn’t going to lead to a much better ending for the Hawks than last spring.
“I am not one to react on emotions but I have had this feeling for a little while,” L.D. said. “I have been in situations where it has been like this, where a team has had to do something just to shake the cage a little bit. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. Will I do it? I have a couple days to practice and make a decision.”
L.D. already has shown a willingness to be flexible with his lineup, sending out six different groups of starters when all of the candidates have been healthy. But if the right mix of players just isn’t on this roster, then it’s out of Drew’s hands and in the wheelhouse of Hawks GM Rick Sund, who has said he’s always looking to improve the team but isn’t interested in “lateral moves.”
The Hawks are a good team so a blockbuster deal isn’t necessarily in order. But Drew acknowledged there have been internal discussions about how to shore up the team’s weaknesses through the trade market.
“With the trade deadline coming up, there is always discussion about possible trades, personnel changing,” he said. “There is always that dialogue going on about looking to improve the team. ‘Would this be a good fit? Would that be a good fit?’ There is always that possibility. Certainly at this stage we have to continue to explore those possibilities.
“I don’t think at this stage . . . at least I don’t feel comfortable, totally comfortable with where we are after 52 games. We have had some bad losses here at home. That may be a sign, I don’t know. I never want to throw out the possibility of making our team better.”
Atlanta’s weaknesses have been pretty obvious for most of the season. The Hawks struggle with defending dribble penetration, defending in transition, rebounding, and scoring consistently in the post or at the rim when they aren’t making their favored jump shots. The Sixers, hardly contenders, exposed them all last night by competently executing a sound game plan, and certainly the East contenders are capable of doing the same no matter how much energy and effort the current Hawks regulars might generate.
It’s getting late in the season for the Hawks to still be trying to shore up their issues. So it’s understandable that Drew might be feeling that the only way to change things is by drastically altering the way he uses his players or through acquiring different players.
“At the end of the day, regardless of what happens [with trades], we still are going to have to go out there and improve our club,” he said. “After last night’s loss, I do believe we do have to look at our situation very seriously and possibly look at a lineup change, possibly doing something that will jolt this team. Because I don’t want this team to get into a comfort zone. The minute we get into a comfort zone, what happened last night, that is the end result.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat