Ken S. reports that L.D. isn’t happy about Josh’s shot selection in Game 2. More from Drew on his meeting with Josh:
“I thought he was trying to do too much. He admitted it, that that was the case. He didn’t feel good about how he was playing. I was going to take him out early in the third quarter. Something told me to leave him in there, kind of let him see if he could play through it, and he did exactly that. I thought for about a five-minute stretch, he got us back in the ballgame on his energy and his effort and just hustling. I think he came up with four blocked shots in that stretch, got out on a break and got a dunk, got a three-point play in that stretch. . . . He is a very unique player. He can impact the game on both ends of the floor. I know since I’ve been here, we haven’t had a player like him that can do that. He has to be flying around and blocking shots and running the floor and making passes. That’s when he’s at his best for us. We can’t have him just sitting out there and launching 3s, because that plays into the opposition’s hands. He realized that.”
Three factors in Smoove’s defense:
2. All season L.D. never came out and said explicitly that he wants Josh to stop taking long 2s. In fact he repeatedly said Josh had worked on his shot last summer and “has a nice stroke.” Drew only added the stipulations that Josh’s Js should be within the flow of the offense and not early in the shot clock or when Josh is matched against a defender he should take in the post.
3. For the Hawks, sometimes “flow of the offense” means lots of dribbling by the guards who, under duress, pass to a wide-open Smoove standing on the perimeter.
Some caveats to those defenses of Smoove:
1. The real problem this season wasn’t that Josh couldn’t make Js. Instead, it was that he a) took more of them at the expense of shots near the basket and b) kept taking the Js whether they were falling or not. The a) development was a double-whammy because Josh has been so effective near the basket in his career and also because it added to Atlanta’s team dynamic of the offense moving away from the basket. As for b), consider that Josh attempted 3.5 long 2s per game in January and made 29 percent; took 6 per game in February and made 50 percent; and then attempted 5.2 per game in March and made 27 percent.
Josh is still missing long 2s during the playoffs though he’s taking slightly fewer of them. In eight playoff games Josh is shooting 4 for 27 (15 percent) on long 2s but is taking about one less attempt per game than during the regular season. Meanwhile Josh has attempted 6.9 shots per game from 9 feet or closer and has made 3.9 in the playoffs as compared to 6.5 attempts and 3.8 makes during the regular season.
2. Josh had Turkoglu, a poor defender, checking him in the first round. Now it’s Boozer, who is playing on a bum toe. In both cases there hasn’t been a sustained effort by Smoove to take advantage of those matchups. The “flow of the offense” stipulation is more difficult to judge because . . .
3. Someone asked L.D. during the Orlando series if he ran plays for Smoove in the post. He smiled and said: “Yeah, but somehow he always ends up floating back out there.” So when Josh gets the ball on the perimeter late in the clock, is that because the “flow of the offense” dictated it or is it because he’s not where he’s supposed to be?
It’s easy to say L.D. should just bench Josh when he keeps taking bad shots. But, as L.D. noted from Game 2, the Hawks need the many positives that Josh can uniquely provide them.
Also, as the coach, L.D. has to worry about managing his people. Smoove is one of Drew’s best employees so it’s to his advantage to keep him happy and productive while at the same time trying to limit the damage his negative impulses can have on the overall performance of the company.
And so L.D. had the manager-employee meeting with Josh on Thursday. We’ll see if it pays immediate dividends tonight in Game 3.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat