The Hawks need to get better. The Bulls needed to do the same last summer and Al said the Hawks might learn something from the way they went about it.
“That’s the perfect example,” he said. “They got that kid Asik. They got Korver, a shooter. They addressed their needs and got better. That’s a blueprint that I think if I’m the team I would look at.”
So let’s look at what the Bulls did last summer and see if the Hawks can copy the same formula:
Clearly, because of salary commitments already on the books, the Chicago Way can’t be the Hawks’ Way.
I know there are lots of questions about what the Hawks can and should do. Honestly, they are difficult to answer without knowing what the new CBA rules will look like. The players quickly rejected the league’s latest offer, which reportedly proposed a hard salary cap and salary rollbacks.
What will be the amount of the salary cap? What about the luxury tax? Will there be an amnesty provision to allow teams to shed salary? Will there still be cap exceptions and, if not, what about those teams whose payrolls are above the new salary cap?
“As players we are just trying to do the right thing for current players and the players that are going to come behind us and for what the players before us worked so hard for,” Hinrich said. “We’ll see. Right now it probably looks like July 1 we are going to be locked out. For now, it’s up in the air.”
Under the current rules it’s hard to see how the Hawks could even fill out the roster with the minimum 13 players without paying the tax. Right now their options are limited to trades and using exceptions to acquire players whose salaries that don’t put them over the tax level. Assuming the tax threshold is about the same as it was the past three seasons, about $70 million, the Hawks would have roughly $3 million of wiggle room to sign six players.
Again, that’s based on the current rules and some assumptions. With the way things are going with the labor situation, who knows what the new system will look like when the league starts playing basketball again. But clearly the Hawks, like all teams, are counting on new rules more favorable to owners.
L.D. didn’t want to get into exactly what he thinks the Hawks need because he hadn’t talked to Rick Sund or the owners yet. (Sund, by the way, says he’s not talking until after the team’s scouting combine, which ends a week from Wednesday). But I noted the team’s lack of scoring at the rim and also their low free-throw rate and asked if that’s something that can only change with different personnel.
“Possibly,” L.D. said. “A lot of that is simply making the wrong decision out of ball movement on when to attack or settling for jump shots. You guys heard me say time and time again how we just settled for jump shots. We did not do a good job collectively in attacking the glass and going to the basket. That’s personnel-driven.
“Once we do spread the floor and the ball is moved we have to be mindful of just attacking. You can’t be afraid; you can’t be intimidated. You have to go in there with authority. Players that want to get to the free-throw line, they seek bodies. For them it’s not always about finishing the shot, they seek bodies to draw the and-1. That is something we will have to evaluate.”
J.J. seemed to hit on a similar theme when asked about the team’s needs.
“For us it’s guys like blue-collar guys, guys who do a lot of dirty work and do a lot of things that don’t show up in stat book,” J.J. said. “Those are the kind of guys that can help us out. We will see what happens. We’ve gotten better each year. Our postseason [this year] was probably the best it’s been.”
L.D. never could get his team to completely shed its isolation tendencies. When they got open shots and made them, then the ball and players moved and the Hawks were difficult to defend. That’s what happened in Games 1 and 4 against the Bulls.
When the defensive pressure intensified, or when the wrong guys took the wrong shots, then the Hawks started isolating and were easier to defend. That’s what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 5, which ended up being a lost opportunity for the Hawks to win the series.
Does L.D. still think this group of players us capable of running his offense?
“I’m still hopeful we can do that,” he said. “I think Chicago, their defensive pressure was much more intense than Orlando. Sometimes when you are playing under pressure you get sped up and you start getting away from the game plan. I think a lot of what Chicago did had a lot to do with that. That being said, we did not get to our spots like we did against Orlando. That tells me that it was jut the pressure of their defense.
“It was the same coverage [as Orlando] but once we played out of that double team [the Bulls] weren’t as organized as Orlando. I’m not going to abandon something that has been good to us. We just have to do a better job playing out of pressure, double teams. You still have to make plays and in making plays have to move the basketball. I thought we did a great job against Orlando. The Chicago series we weren’t as good.”
Joe said the offense “was kind of up and down” this season.
“We was all trying to feel each other out as far as him implementing his system and us trying to learn it,” he said. “At the same time there are times we looked great. That’s something we can build on and look forward to next year.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat