Sorry for the late post, blog people. Don’t ever believe ‘em when they tell you the pupil dilation wears off in an hour . . . .
The Hawks aren’t going anywhere if J.J. doesn’t get in a groove. OK, they may not go anywhere even if he does, but they’ve got no chance if his form doesn’t improve as he finishes up his least productive year since his first one in Atlanta and his least efficient year since his days in Phoenix.
The problem is opponents aren’t making it easy for J.J. to find his form. He still draws swarming double teams most nights and it’s seemed to knock him off kilter. There are times when J.J. looks as if he’s not sure what to do, and I think that’s a big reason why he’s sounded so despondent lately.
Clearly the Hawks need Joe (and Jamal for that matter) to find a way to score. Passing off every time he gets doubled isn’t the answer, since it takes Atlanta’s most talented scorer out of the offense and plays into the strategy of the defense.
What’s J.J.’s thinking when he gets doubled?
“Early, I just try to make the right basketball play and get guys in position to where they can make baskets,” J.J. said. “But if it’s not going right I do tend to force it every now and then because I just feel I have to do something other than just sit there and accept the double team and pass the ball.”
Is that because as the Hawks’ top scorer (and top dog) for so many years he feels a responsibility to lift them out of their current funk?
“Yeah,” he said, “but there is only so much I can do. So I just try to give em what I’ve got.”
I asked L.D. if the only way J.J. will find more rook to work is if the Hawks make opponents pay for the doubles by making the right plays when J.J. passes out. He said that’s only part of the equation and he stumbled upon another factor when he couldn’t sleep the other night.
Drew turned on the television at 3 a.m. and came across a replay of the Thunder-Heat game from a couple weeks back:
“I am sitting there watching Kevin Durant and they are double-teaming him all over the place. But he goes quick. He gets his shot quick. He comes off the screens looking to shoot it quick. And he’s accepting double teams and making plays out of double teams. Sometimes it calls for showing a willingness to make the right plays out of double teams. If they see you are a reluctant passer the heat will be turned up even more. Not saying that’s what’s happening with us but those are the things you have to do with double teams. If you are a scorer, knowing that you are going to be double-teamed you have got to go into your shot and your offense a little quicker. If not, you have to make a play out of a double team. The other thing that affects double teams is where you are on the floor. It’s a lot easier to double team when you are on one side of the floor than when you are in the middle of the floor. We’ve gone to where doing more things out of middle of the floor.”
Sounds good in theory, but “quick” has never been J.J.’s style. He’s been at his best deliberately setting up his opponent and using his size to get off his shot (which obviously doesn’t work against double teams). I’m not even sure J.J. can play a more dynamic style like Durant, D-Wade, et al.
The good news is Joe says his health is not an issue, so at least you can scratch that off the list of potential problems.
“You are always going to have your nick-nacks from the first month until the season is over with,” he said. “That’s common.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat