Los Angeles–The following question was put to Al over All-Star weekend: How can the Hawks be a better defensive team when they so obviously struggle to contain the perimeter and opponents relentlessly attack that weakness?
“Our guards have got to do a better job of that,” Al said. “Obviously we [bigs] have to be there on the help side, but we need to have that presence to try and keep the ball out of the paint as much as we can.”
The answer to that has been “not much at all” with the current group and as long as that’s the case it’s going to be too difficult for the Hawks to get consistent stops in the playoffs. L.D. has tricked things up with zones and switches but that’s just smoke and mirrors that teams like Boston, Orlando, Chicago and Miami will exploit.
This fundamental issue explains why they are so desperate to add a point guard like Devin Harris. The advanced stats say Harris has declined defensively–perhaps because of a poor attitude in New Jersey, as reported by the Bergen Record’s Al Iannazzone.
Perhaps a change of scenery would rejuvenate Harris, who has been a good defender in the past. Even if it didn’t, Harris would be an upgrade defensively over what the Hawks have now. He’s also an excellent playmaker who would push the pace in the open floor and allow Josh and Al to run and fill the lanes instead of handling the ball.
Jamal needs a jolt
Jamal is slumping. Perhaps more troublesome than the shots not going in are the long stretches when he’s stopped shooting—six shots against Toronto, two against Detroit–because if he’s not trying to score where is the bench going to find points?
Jamal is in some kind of funk. It happens occasionally and said he’s not sure why.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Once or twice a year I do that for whatever reason.”
L.D. had a talk with Jamal after practice Monday, like he has the other times when it seems like Jamal isn’t into it.
“I’ve got to get him going,” Drew said. “All great scorers go through periods where they go through a little slump. It’s nothing unusual. He just has to work his way out of it and I have to help him out of it. We will try to get him on the right course tonight.”
Drew said he will use the “big” lineup against the Lakers but hasn’t made up his mind about a permanent change to the normal lineup:
“I spent these four days looking at some of the possibilities as far as changes within the lineup. Nothing concrete yet. I will keep tinkering with it as we move forward, see how we do [tonight] and at Phoenix on the back-to-back. It won’t be anything [different], I think, on this road trip. I will just decide whether to go with big lineup or traditional lineup [each game] and see what happens.”
The Lakers have lost three straight, including an ugly L to the Cavs, to drop to 8.5 games behind San Antonio in the West. These developments qualify as a crisis in these parts, though Kobe was upbeat yesterday after Lakers practice:
“It’s a marathon. You see the finish line, you tend to pick up the speed a little bit.”
Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times offers a four-point plan to fix the Lakers.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat