Auburn Hills, Mich.–The cabby showed up this morning and couldn’t start his car because of a battery issue. He didn’t listen when I told him it’s not a good idea to pop-start an automatic transmission. Hated to leave him like that but I had a flight to catch.
So that’s how my 15-night Hawks road trip/All-Star weekend trek started. I will spare you an attempt at some lame metaphor about how the cabby’s car is like the Hawks, who are looking to get out of their “rut” on this trip.
Me? I’m just trying to perfect the art of hitting the 50-pound limit on my luggage.
Anyway, before the Hawks headed up to Michigan, they talked about the collapse against the Bobcats, which followed the beatdown to the Sixers. Mo usually sounds the alarm about those kind of things but he’s taking the long view:
“I don’t think we need to panic. We had a bad game against Philadelphia when Al was out. They had a great night. [NOTE: Sorry, but this is the part where I've got to point this out again.] [The Sixers] went home and beat the Spurs. [Saturday] night we were up 20 and again our defense and offense failed us at times. A guy who has 30, he’s already feeling great, we let him get comfortable and he hit a tough shot to win the game. I don’t think that’s anything to panic about. We could have easily won that game, and had we won that I don’t think anyone would have been raising their hands and saying that everything is cured. Again, it is a long season. These last 30 games will be telling.”
L.D. also addressed the L to the Bobcats but, really, he could have been talking about any of a number of his team’s losses. Not sure exactly how many times I’ve heard some variation of the following this season:
“We had individual defensive breakdowns. Individually, we stopped defending. We didn’t do a good job on the ball. Our transition defense, we had some bad possessions with that. And then offensively we had some bad possessions with our shot selection. The combination of those three things, when you watch the tape you can clearly see the reasons that we lost the game. it was so black and white it was unbelievable.”
And my follow-up question was, I’m sure, the same one I’ve asked several times this season: Since those things have been issues pretty much all season, what can L.D. at this point to solve them?
“You have got to stay on them. I have got to keep pointing it out. I have got to keep challenging each individual player. We can’t get into a situation where we are going out and trying to outscore people. Everybody in this league can score. You have got to have some kind of defensive presence. If you don’t, you can go up 20 but teams can get back in it just like that. It’s something I’ve been harping on from Day 1, and I will keep harping on it. And I have got to keep challenging guys individually. We have got some guys that are not taking the defensive challenge and I am going to challenge those guys. I know some of these guys can score, I know that. But they have go to get it done at the other end.”
And so that naturally (and repetitively, I’m sure) led to questions about his lineup. L.D. said he doesn’t want to make a change before the All-Star break, so that (probably) means the Hawks use the “regular” lineup tonight against the Pistons and Wednesday at New York (Drew says Al is good to go).
(UPDATE: L.D. is using the “big” lineup tonight, so we get to see what it looks like against a team that doesn’t pound the ball to the post. “With both Wallace and Monroe I just felt it might be best for us to go big against those guys. They are a physical team and they really do a good job rebounding, so we have got to make sure we have enough beef in there to combat that.”)
Drew did say that he still likes the big lineup though he’s still hesitant to use it all the time:
“You are big at four and three. That gives us an advantage. It may open up a can of worms at the other end. Josh Smith is not really used to chasing threes off of screens, that kind of thing. He has the athleticism to do it. I like the pros of it more than I [dislike] the cons. It has been good to us so far. Thinking about doing it all the time it just puts [Twin] out there against anybody that would play. For example, if I decide to do it against New York, it will be a matchup problem with Gallinari and Amar’e. I’m not going to be pigeonholed into doing same way every time. Not right now. It may be something that we have to tweak.”
And so begins the journey, blog people. Just like the cabby needed jumper cables to get going, the Hawks . . . aw, hell, forget it.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat