Hawks’ talent means nothing without heart, intelligence

xxx

When Carlos Delfino is celebrating, you know things aren't going well for Joe Johnson and the Hawks. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

When a decidedly more talented team suddenly loses consecutive games to an opponent that has less size, less skill and it was assumed less hope for postseason survival, there really are only two possibilities:

– The better team is not playing as hard as it should.

– The better team is not playing as smart as it should.

Everything else is window dressing.

For most of their first two playoff games against Milwaukee, the Hawks had us wondering how high their ceiling was. For the next two games, they reminded us where the floor is. It’s one thing to lose game three. It’s another to trail, 31-13, 10 minutes into the game. It’s one thing not to sweep the undermanned and Munchkin-like Bucks in the first round. It’s another to keep suffering brain cramps, go weak at the knees every time they walk into an opponent’s arena and lose twice.

Despite 53 wins, the Hawks have not been universally embraced in Atlanta. This is why. If they want to be viewed as something special, this would be a good time to present a counter-argument to what so many are saying about them. They drift in and out of consciousness. They get outworked. They get outplayed. They get outcoached.

Brandon Jennings may be a rookie, but he can keep count. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Brandon Jennings may be a rookie, but he can keep count. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Know what athletes hate hearing more than anything else? That they have no heart. Imagine how that accusation stings when it comes from another former athlete.

Chris Webber nailed it. He was in studio on TNT’s NBA wrap-up show Monday night. The panel was discussing the significance of the Hawks’ consecutive losses in Milwaukee. When somebody pointed out that their regular season record had improved every year, Webber chimed in.

“The size of your heart doesn’t show up on paper,” he said.

When the remark was relayed to Joe Johnson Tuesday, he didn’t dispute it. Fact is, he amplified on it.

“It’s true — it doesn’t show up on paper,” he said. “We haven’t played with that [heart]. We complain and whine too much and it gets you nowhere, instead of just going out and fighting through it. Whatever they do to us, do it back to them. Instead, we just complain to the refs. It’s not like they’re going to change the call. So you might as well just get back on D and keep playing.”

This isn’t the regular season. Fifty-three wins is so yesterday. The Hawks have evolved to the point that their season should be defined by playoffs, not a big win over the Celtics in January.

Look around the Eastern Conference. Orlando swept Charlotte. Cleveland and Boston won their respective series in five games.

The Hawks? They’re looking at this implausible string of words: must-win against the Bucks.

Lose game five at Philips Arena and they go back to Milwaukee facing possibly elimination Friday. Outside of Atlanta, they have been playoff road kill the last three years: 1-10. They can win. They should win. But what about the last two games gives you confidence?

Johnson again: “We don’t play with the same energy and the passion as we do at home. It kills us, man. I thought we had passed this step of immaturity on the road, but we haven’t.”

At 2-0, they thought they were the new Hawks. At 2-2, they realize they’re frighteningly  close to the old Hawks.

“I’m surprised,” Johnson said. “I just think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves. We took care of business the first two games and we all thought we were going to go up there and do the same.”

Johnson said after game four, “It seems like we just don’t have the toughness.”

Josh Smith said Tuesday that if he were a fan watching the Hawks, he would think, “That we’re a team that’s still growing and we still have a lot to learn.”

They were supposed to be past this.


Earlier posts

Report: Mike Woodson could leave Hawks for Sixers

Countdown: L.T.’s boozy draft, Ben’s brain, NHL ‘extraction’

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

128 comments Add your comment

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 27th, 2010
4:04 pm

first.

There, I said it.

Hawk n the Ham

April 27th, 2010
4:05 pm

Problem #1. Woody and his switching defense, and no adjustments.

Problem #2. No real vocal leader on this team to motivate the players.

Bat Masterson

April 27th, 2010
4:07 pm

Delbert D.

April 27th, 2010
4:08 pm

It’s just embarrassing.

Tech75

April 27th, 2010
4:18 pm

None of these players should be considered youngsters anymore. They’ve all been in the league several years.

No more excuses, no more of this “we’re young and still learning” crap.

They’re just lazy.

PMC

April 27th, 2010
4:19 pm

They just need to regroup realize they have home court for a reason and start playing harder for the WHOLE GAME. No need to beat themselves up. Just go win this series like they know they can. They just have to put it toegther the whole night. Whatever it takes to make Marvin play agressively do that.

Josh

April 27th, 2010
4:32 pm

I read the title and it summed up what my problem has been with this team the whole season. I would say good article, but I don’t need to read it.

Loc

April 27th, 2010
4:35 pm

Can any of you at the AJC ask Marvin how he feels about being considered such a bust by everybody in the country? Does it not drive him to at least be a serviceable NBA player? He is such a pathetic disgrace. No passion, no athleticism, no drive, nothing. Just a complete and utter bust. The Ghost of Billy Knight will haunt us even longer now that Sund has locked him up through 2014.

Dozer

April 27th, 2010
4:36 pm

Josh Smith is a tease. He runs his mouth on a non-issue (excitement in Milwaukee???) like a he’s a superstar, then goes out a plays small to back it up. He doesn’t take over games, he doesn’t dominate, especially on the road.
This team is a tease – they give you just enough to get excited, and then hit us with the cold reality that they don’t have what it takes to gain the kind of credibility and support they think they deserve.
They will probably beat the Bucks, but what’s the difference?? Is there anyone out there who really thinks they can beat Orlando 4 out of 7? Cleveland?? get real…..

WOODY'S EYBROW'S

April 27th, 2010
4:40 pm

we are done stick a fork in us

Rock Preston

April 27th, 2010
4:41 pm

Woody’s got to go!!! Go!!

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
4:41 pm

One guy who fired this team up was Flip Murray. He’s gone. Two more games like last night and we’re gone. It’s such a bad sign when the face of the franchise is saying pubicly “It seems like we just don’t have the toughness.” If you go back to last year’s playoffs, Joe made similar comments. I love this group of guys but they still have a long way to go.

Lloyd

April 27th, 2010
4:42 pm

Sadly this is a most accurate summation of the Hawks and their misgivings. Hopefully they’ll get it together, however, with the inconsistencies they’ve shown, they’ll get swept by Orlando without the Magic even realizing they were in a playoff series.

TMC

April 27th, 2010
4:43 pm

An embarrassment is an understatement. Anyone who follows the Hawks can see how they play down to lesser opponents, coward to the Elite teams and have zero passion on the road. No floor general to inspire the team and poor coaching leads to us being tied in a series with the Bucks. NO MORE EXCUSES!!

PlusSizeModel

April 27th, 2010
4:44 pm

It also means nothing without a coach who doesn’t appear to be a mouth breathing moron.

As an aside: Mike Woodson and Chris Dimino…separated at birth?

WOODY'S EYBROW'S

April 27th, 2010
4:44 pm

cav’s and who in the finals doesn’t matter Lebron gets his title and shaq passes Kobe in titles won don’t you think . I was hoping we would take orlando to 7 games but now i hope we take the bucks to 7 , you can understand 1 loss to an inferior team but two with at least three guaranteed come on !!!!!!!!

Ethan Benoff

April 27th, 2010
4:47 pm

I have always said it on this blog and I will say it again…Josh Smith has to go… yeah he can fill up a stat sheet but he can’t fill up a hand with championship rings. Tell me Joe Johnson was not calling him out… I dare you..JK. Were an emotionally inmature squad packed full of talent, but where is our K.G.? We don’t have one player that can pull the team aside and do a player only huddle on the court and talk some sense into our players. One on one pull up contested jump shooting ain’t going to get it done…it never has! Bye, bye Woody! Now I know why the team has not offered you a new contract… you can’t win on the road and you have clue how to maximize the talent of your ball club!

Clay

April 27th, 2010
4:47 pm

What’s embarrassing, Delbert, is hearing Woody in the huddle when he gets “miked.” He is just terrible in tight games. Scott Skiles is leaving Woody in the dust.

If the coaches could trade teams for one game, the Hawks would win by 20.

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
4:49 pm

Loc,

Let’s face it, everybody looks good at home. Calling Marvin a bust is easy to say based on where he was drafted. If we snagged him in the 2nd or 3rd round we’d call him a nice piece. A complete and utter bust? Come on! Marvin is a good fit for this team. He’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Loc

April 27th, 2010
4:53 pm

Marvin doesn’t even look good at home. If you know anything about basketball, you can watch him and realize he is no better than a 9th or 10th man on a good team. He cannot put the ball on the floor, can’t rebound efffectively, can’t defend anybody with quickness, can’t hit a shot unless he is completely set, etc. etc. etc. He cannot pass, he turns the ball over as soon as you ask him to dribble, he is clueless as to where to go with the ball when it is in his hands.

To make matters worse, he celebrates as if he is a beast any time he gets a wide open dunk. He is pathetic and will never be a piece to any NBA puzzle.

hawkfan

April 27th, 2010
5:02 pm

Joe Johnson:

““It’s true — it doesn’t show up on paper,” he said. “We haven’t played with that [heart]. We complain and whine too much and it gets you nowhere, instead of just going out and fighting through it. Whatever they do to us, do it back to them. Instead, we just complain to the refs. It’s not like they’re going to change the call. So you might as well just get back on D and keep playing.”

Translation:

“This team is soft and does not have what it takes to go all the way. I am not resigning with the Hawks as I am better off playing somewhere else after this season is over.”

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
5:21 pm

Loc, let’s agree to disagree but if Marvin wasn’t playing here he’d be in a rotation somewhere getting 20min plus a game. What did the man do to you? Jeez…

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

April 27th, 2010
5:26 pm

These Hawks showed many times during the season that they have no heart. Champions lay it on the line EVERY game, leaving nothing on the court. Hawks beat-up on a good team, then think it’s OK to NOT show-up for a bad one. This is not how championship-caliber teams behave.

This particular team will never win a championship, even if were together 100-years. It would NEVER happen. EVER.

jsch0602

April 27th, 2010
5:26 pm

Or, the better team is not really the better team.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 27th, 2010
5:32 pm

This is like watching the pre-Moses Sixers or the Fratello Hawks. Darn.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 27th, 2010
5:32 pm

Yes, I’m old. Shut up.

Jeff Schultz

April 27th, 2010
5:44 pm

Loc — Marvin was asked the “Chris Paul” question a million times in his first two seasons. No sense in keeping asking him since it’s not his fault he was drafted over CP.

Ethan Benoff

April 27th, 2010
5:45 pm

I can’t believe you guys are even wasting your time writing on Marvin Williams. He’s not even relevant to the conversation about our losing patterns. Woody’s got 2 go!

Jeff Schultz

April 27th, 2010
5:45 pm

Jeff D — I liked Flip a lot. At one time during Miami series last year I remember Dwyane Wade seeing he was their best player in series.

Ethan Benoff

April 27th, 2010
5:46 pm

Who deserves more playing time… Marvin Williams or Jason Collins??

FIRST

April 27th, 2010
5:52 pm

SHUT UP WITH THE “FIRST CRAP” ITS ANNOYING AS HELL. WHO CARES YOU POSTED FIRST?

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
5:56 pm

Flip was all business, gave 100% all the time.
Ethan Benoff, are you serious? Jason is an insurance policy. Break glass in case of total disaster only.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 27th, 2010
5:56 pm

Heart has been replaced by process, intelligence replaced by going to the next level.

Whatver happened to, at any level, anything but the ultimate prize making you first loser?

What is this, saturday morning soccer mom stuff?

WOODY IS AWFUL

April 27th, 2010
6:11 pm

It’s clear that Woody has got to go at this point! He makes ZERO in-game adjustments and just keeps doing the same crap over and over. How many times are you going to use this switching defense where Jennings ends up going against one of our bigs like Horford or Zaza and then just drives to the lane for a layup or dish to an open man? I mean i must have seen this over and over in last night’s game. Woody is the worst coach in the Playoffs right now easily. He gets credit for improving the win total each year but it’s actually attributed to the talent on the team getting older and better each year not his coaching. We need a real coach in here to design an offensive gameplan and an actual defense. The Iso Joe’s and switching defense is awful and will never work. Get a clue you bald moron..

bowman

April 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

Hard for me to get excited about this subject. It’s not as if the playoff results are revealing something new about this team. Hopefully I won’t have to write this again in a few weeks: Tone at the top prepares the Hawks to play with heart, to start each game with intensity and to reach their individual and collective potential. Mike Woodson fails to establish a consistent, and certainly not a championship, tone at the top. Nothing changes until this position within the organization changes.

I remain undecided whether the Hawks will be better with or without Joe Johnson. That said, I think Johnson goes (looking for the chance of getting a champion ring) if Woodson stays. Johnson knows what Woodson brings in the leadership role, and it isn’t enough to honestly think a championship is possible.

bowman

“Art will always be Art.” – Goethe

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
6:44 pm

Quick poll:
1. Are you a Hawk fan win or lose?
OR
2. Are you a fan that will only support a successful Hawks product?

The Sarge

April 27th, 2010
6:49 pm

As they always said in the Marines, “Ability without effort ain’t gonna win any wars” . . . just saying.

Dawgs2010

April 27th, 2010
6:49 pm

Marvin Williams is the biggest draft bust since Adam Keefe.

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
6:50 pm

Bad

April 27th, 2010
7:01 pm

If Mr. Soft himself, Chris Webber is saying it, you know it has to be bad.

moorman

April 27th, 2010
7:18 pm

the hawks were FINISHED waaaaaaay back when a GROUP of investors bought the team. FIRST MISTAKE. i knew it then. it may SOUND irrevelant to whats going on, but its THE ISSUE. the group of investors couldnt buy the team without each other, thus, the hawks have NEVER had a single voice making the critical decisions: who to hire as coach. team philosophy, general manager, who to draft, who to trade for. all that is run thru ownership, general manager notwithstanding. that was the start of the hawks problems. its reflected on the court. no team philosophy or direction. the hawks when because THEY COULDNT HELP but win with all their appearances in the lottery. the FIRST step in turning this mess around was rick sund signing jamal crawford. thats the ONLY move ive seen the hawks make under the spirit ownership that looked like a top team elite management move. until the hawks get NEW OWNERSHIP who isnt afraid to open up the purse (braves) and get let sund (keep him) get his players and coach, things will remain the same.

TheAntiMe

April 27th, 2010
7:27 pm

Okay, are or Atlanta Hawks once again making things much more interesting than they really should be? Of course they are. They are, after all, still the Hawks. However, this may not be such a bad thing in the long run.

I, for one, believe that it is just possible that once the Hawks get into the next round with Orlando, that they just may be able to take something from the way the undermanned Bucks scrapped against them in this series.

Maybe, the Hawks can embrace their roles as the under-classed underdogs against the Magic and use that to their advantage the way those deer heads have been able to do to them so far. As we all know, against the Magic they will need any advantage they can get, psychological, or otherwise.

After all, there are at least 4 NFL teams every year that motivate themselves by going on and on about how nobody respected them so they have something to prove. Get this series over and become Rocky of the 2010 NBA playoffs from that point forward.

TheAntiMe

April 27th, 2010
7:40 pm

Jason is an insurance policy. Break glass in case of total disaster only.

lol – Thanks, Jeff D., you just reminded me of a very funny joke by Chris Rock of which I can only say the puch line:

In case of emergency, break glass. :D

TheAntiMe

April 27th, 2010
7:43 pm

I can say the punch line, I just can’t spell the freaking word. Oh well, it still made me laugh.

Not Don Waddell

April 27th, 2010
7:56 pm

Could Joe be pointing those comments any more directly as Josh “Mush-mouth” Smith? I wish Joe would just come out and say Josh’s name directly. Smith’s childishness is what is holding this team back.

sansho1

April 27th, 2010
8:08 pm

“Bad” is right on the money. Not that Webber is wrong, but the “soft” accusation is a laugh coming from him.

That said, softness isn’t the only reason the Hawks are struggling — it’s not even the most important reason. We can’t defend the point. We switch because Bibby is a cadaver and Crawford is a matador. We also lack a ballhandler in the halfcourt offense. Yeah, Joe and Jamal can shake themselves free off the dribble, but that’s not the same as breaking down the defense via penetration.

Marvin isn’t much, but he’s largely irrelevant. We lack a point guard in a point guard league. That’s the problem.

shane

April 27th, 2010
8:10 pm

Joe Smith should have kept his mouth shut.

shane

April 27th, 2010
8:11 pm

I meant Josh

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
8:15 pm

Dawgs2010, Adam Keefe is really lowering the bar. He averaged 5ppg and 4rpg. You don’t think Marvin will finish his career with higher numbers? Please!

Jeff D.

April 27th, 2010
8:21 pm

TheAntiMe, Thanks. Hey, as Zaza said “Nothing easy.”