Fixing the Hawks: fire Woodson, trade Joe, keep Josh

In my six-point plan for the Hawks, Josh Smith stays but Joe Johnson goes. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

In my six-point plan to fix the Hawks, Josh Smith stays but Joe Johnson goes. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It’s the offseason. I’m cracking open a six-pack for the Hawks – not for celebration but for reconstruction.

The Hawks don’t need to strip everything down after getting swept out of the second round for the second year in a row, but they clearly can’t thrive as currently built.

Here goes:

1.) Make a coaching change. Hawks general manager Rick Sund has doubts about Mike Woodson. Otherwise he would not have given him only a two-year contract two years ago, or he would have extended him before (or during) this season. The Hawks have improved in many areas under Woodson, most notably the win total. But the team’s half-court offense has been an issue throughout Woodson’s tenure. Creativity is not his strong-suit. It also became clear in this postseason that players have stopped listening to him. Being stretched to seven games by Milwaukee (which lost its best player, Andrew Bogut, three weeks before the playoffs) was a warning sign. Getting smacked by Orlando by embarrassing margins reaffirmed either poor preparation by Woodson or that players were tuning him out. A head coach needs to get a team to play a certain way, with a toughness and resolve that we saw from the Bucks. Woodson hasn’t done that. Conclusion: This is as high as the Hawks will go with him. If he gets fired, don’t be surprised if he is replaced by assistant Larry Drew. There will be a push for a high-profile replacement, like Jeff Van Gundy, Avery Johnson or, in a dream world, Doc Rivers. But if the Hawks can’t lure one of them, and if ownership is resistant to spending big money, hiring Drew can be easily rationalized. He is liked and respected by players. He would bring more creativity to the offense. He is in-tune with the team’s problems, its strengths and weaknesses. The risk is that Drew never has been a head coach before. But regardless of who would get the job, a new voice is needed.

All of the Hawks' problems are not Mike Woodson's fault, but a new voice is needed to get team to the next level. (AP photo)

All of the Hawks' problems are not Mike Woodson's fault, but a new voice is needed to get team to the next level. (AP photo)

2.) Sign-and-trade Joe Johnson. I thought it was at least 50-50 Johnson would re-sign with the Hawks until his comments after Game 3. He has proven himself to be in that second tier of stars, which is fine. But his lack of leadership and three years of mostly dreadful playoff performances have damaged his reputation. Even worse, Johnson seems to have checked out mentally. He still has value on the open market. There are enough teams out there who are looking for a scorer and have money to spend. A sign-and-trade could net a nice player in return: whether a shooting guard, point guard or starting caliber center. Among the backup options at shooting guard, one name that already has popped up as a possible replacement is Milwaukee’s John Salmons. He obviously isn’t the scorer Johnson in, but he averaged nearly 20 per game in Milwaukee after a trade from Chicago this year.

3.) Don’t trade Josh Smith. Yes, this postseason was a microcosm of what’s wrong with Smith. He took over Game 2 against the Bucks, just as he took over so many games during the season. But he was awful in too many games and justifiably was criticized nationally for loafing it on defense. During a time out in Game 4 Monday night, Smith was paying more attention to the “Kiss Cam” on the Philips Arena scoreboard than Woodson during a time-out, and a fan yelled, “Pay attention, Josh!” But remember two things: 1) For most of this season, the commentary about Smith was positive – how much he had matured and how he deserved to be in the All-Star Game; 2) He has had only one head coach since leaving high school: Woodson. There’s a great danger in trading Smith if another coach in another city helps him become the player he can be. Even after six seasons, it’s too early to give up on him. His potential is too great.

4.) Acquire a center (or Chris Bosh): A strong defensive center would give the Hawks the physical presence they desperately need in the post and allow them to move Al Horford to power forward and Smith to small forward. Marvin Williams can take a seat on the bench, or on a plane out of town. Bosh, who will be a free agent and also could be part of a sign-and-trade, is a tantalizing alternative. First, he would love to come back to Atlanta (where he played at Georgia Tech). He is not a true center but he is 6-10 and would bring some offense to help compensate for Johnson’s loss. A front line of Bosh, Horford and Smith certainly would rank among the league’s best.

5.) Bench Mike Bibby: There’s no nice way to put this: He got his new contract and then took a significant step back this season. His scoring average dropped from 14.9 to 9.1, his shooting percentage  from 43.5 to 41.6, his assists from 5.0 to 3.9. Woodson correctly chopped down his minutes (34.7 to 27.4). Bibby is too much of a liability defensively. With two years left on his contract, he’ll be difficult to trade. But at worse he’s a shooter to bring off the bench. Who to start? If Sund can’t acquire a veteran point guard and leader, take a look at Jeff Teague. He was mostly buried on Woodson’s bench, averaging 10 minutes a game, but we know he can bring speed to the lineup. Leadership? Those answers will come. But he can’t possibly be worse.

6.) Get tougher: This sort of goes back to coaching and a team’s identity. “Talent” doesn’t pertain only to a team’s skill level. Talent can be intelligence and physical and mental toughness. Talent can be heart. Too often, the Hawks have lacked that. Horford called out his teammates for it and he was dead on. Those intangibles can help a team overcome injuries and adversity. Milwaukee was a difficult team to play against. Charlotte was a more difficult team than the Hawks for Orlando to play against — not because of “skill” talent but because of the other kind of talent. There needs to be an in-house mandate by the Hawks of playing to a standard. If that exists now, they’re clearly ignoring it.

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

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390 comments Add your comment

SDM

May 11th, 2010
9:39 am

Could it be? First?

Keith Thomas

May 11th, 2010
9:41 am

What…Keep Woody. Let Joe go…Trade Josh to Minn. for Al Jefferson and let the good time roll…SDM if you are first say something.
First to say something worthy.

SDM

May 11th, 2010
9:41 am

Ok, on to the serious stuff.

First of all, can Josh play the 3? Do you really want him on the perimeter taking jump shots or, even worse, 3-pointers?

That sounds like a really bad idea to me.

Jimmy

May 11th, 2010
9:42 am

Could we resign JJ and add on a Marvin Williams to get a Paul from NO or DWade from Mia?? I would hope we’d be able to fleece some team for that deal.

DP

May 11th, 2010
9:42 am

Jeff, I mostly agree except that Josh Smith can’t play the 3 on either end. He is effective around the basket but not out in space on either offense or defense. Horford and Smith are both 4’s, but there are no more of a handful of legitimate 5’s in the NBA. If the Hawks could somehow get one they’d need to move Smith in the trade or subsequently trade him for a legitimate 3 or a point guard.

mike G

May 11th, 2010
9:45 am

do idiots actually go around to different articles just to say “first”? Man u need to get a life!

Ok, you were dead on with these fixes. Problem is…we have non-basketball minds running the organization. I would add Josh to the trade mix, because there are better players out there, and honestly, when looking at the strides the other draft picks around him have made..I think he’s reached his ceiling.

Section 303

May 11th, 2010
9:46 am

I agree with just about all of this.

Except, I would look into trading Josh Smith. I am just fed up with him. How is he going to respond to a new coach? I think you will see major problems if a new coach comes in and benches him for shooting his stupid jump shots or not getting back on D because he had to argue with a ref. Josh Smith is Josh Smith. This series proved that. There is a market for him. I think the Hawks should take a look.

I hope they can find a way to trade Joe Johnson to the worst team in the league.

Agree that Woodson needs to go. But, I put this debacle on the players. They are the ones who should be most accountable. Complete lack of effort. No pro athlete should ever have that problem.

Juan

May 11th, 2010
9:47 am

Definitely get rid of Joe. He forgot who pays his salary: the fans. He deserved to be booed off the court in hopefully his last game as a Hawk.

Wesley

May 11th, 2010
9:48 am

Everything but #4 is spot on. We definitely do not want Josh Smith to be moved to small forward, where his poor shooting habits will be maximized and his ferocity in the paint will be minimized. Rather than focusing on bringing in a new center, a position where we’ve already got a starting all-star, we should start exploring our trade options for a new small forward. Perhaps by packaging the rights to J-Chill and maybe a draft pick or two along with Marvin, we could bring in someone with a pulse. Marvin needs a change of scenery to get out of Chris Paul’s shadow in ATL anyways.

Section 303

May 11th, 2010
9:50 am

Jimmy, let’s just stop the D-Wade stuff. He isn’t coming here. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Don’t waste your energy posting about it.

3DawgKnight

May 11th, 2010
9:50 am

Do you have specifific info that ‘Bosh’ would love to come back?
-or-
speculation?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 11th, 2010
9:53 am

sounds about right- start handing out the pink slips today

allan in texas

May 11th, 2010
9:53 am

Jeff, the rumors are out there that Tony Parker may be available as well as Darren Collison. Would either of those guys be a good fit here. I would like CP3 as well as the next guy but I think that a lot would have to be given up to get him.

Hockey Fans in Atlanta

May 11th, 2010
9:57 am

Guffaw, chuckle, chortle, guffaw!

Hawks…you suck!

Don’t let the door hit you on your entitled backside Mr. Johnson!

Adios!

dtc

May 11th, 2010
9:58 am

Woodson does not need to be fired, his contract is up, just do not rehire him. He should be respected enough to not fire him, for what he HAS done. He definitely has talent to coach, but not at the playoff level. Kind of like Bobby Cox in that format. Neither one of them knows how to raise their coaching level, to the next level, to win the big games.
Trade Joe Johnson? Definitely, either for a center, or for draft picks, so we can move up in the draft to get a center. Joe Johnson is no more useful to the Hawks than tradebait. Mike Bibby, say bye, he is not an elite player at his position, good, yes, great, no.
Josh Smith, Al Horford and Crawford stays. Build the team around them. If one of them goes, fire the one who made the decision to trade him.
Fact. No team makes it past the second round without an outstanding center, and with a forward who stops going forward in the playoffs. We have no natural center, Joe Johnson stops at the gate entrance when it comes to the playoffs. Just imagine how good Al Horford will be when he can play his natural position fulltime, without having Joe Johnson around. Al Horford is a phenominal player. Some people have “it” to play at a high level during regular competition. The great ones have the ability to raise their level even high, that is Horford and Crawford, time will tell on Josh Smith, when he matures into his talent.
Remodel this team – do not tear it down and rebuild it. BUT, who is the coach to take this team to the next level. I have no idea. Suggestion Do not renew coach Woodson’s contract. Put out a statement “all who are interested in this job, please send me your resume. It is time to take the next step. We just do not know that man’s name today.” Ask the great coaches who are active, but not going anywhere “who would hire if you were me?”
Just now re-read your comments on Chris Bosh. If you are just replacing Joe Johnson, you are not upgrading. GET A REAL CENTER.

Marcus

May 11th, 2010
10:00 am

can’t argue with any of those points, Schultzie.

I admittedly don’t know a lot about the NBA trade rules, etc. but can we package the rights to Childress, the 2nd round pick (our natural one or the one acquired from HOU in the David Andersen trade) and our natural 2010 draft spot to move up in the draft with a lottery team to snag an instant starter at a position of need?

I know it sounds very NFL-like (it is), but if we could do that, SHOULD we do that?

I guess it all depends on who becomes the new coach and his philosophy regarding our existing line-up, including retaining/re-offering JJ.

Hockey Fans in Atlanta

May 11th, 2010
10:01 am

Oh yeah, don’t get your hopes up about Jeff Teague…watched him for two years playing for my alma mater. He’s a whiny, spoiled brat who can’t play defense. Darren Collison, hell he might make Chris Paul expendable due to his salary point, is definitely a better option.

Too bad y’all won’t be able to afford Chris Bosh since you paid Mike Bibby 4 times what he’s actually worth! The ASG would be much better off spending $6 M for Sergei Gonchar or $5 M for Anton Volchenkov. If the Habs can play lockdown D with the stiffs they have on the blueline, then the playoff revenue future for the Thrashers should be bright.

Just Being Real

May 11th, 2010
10:02 am

GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!! into the offseason and work on ya game.

Rock Preston

May 11th, 2010
10:03 am

Sign Rudy Gay to offer sheet. Trade Joe to Spurs for Parker.

Dr. Warren

May 11th, 2010
10:03 am

Why make the assistant the head coach? Bring in a proven winner, if possible. If a company is sick and the morale is low, the idea is to bring in a new CEO with a fresh voice, not promote from within. Also, like the Falcons, they should get rid of any bad attitude or lazy players. Make it a policy that they must behave like winners all the time, not just some of the time. That means Josh and Joe and Marvin should all go. Josh could bring a great player in return. And Josh Childress, who played the best of any Hawk in the Boston series, is a smart, strong character Stanford guy who plays hard. Do what it takes to bring him back.

sam

May 11th, 2010
10:03 am

I agree with all of this, except the recommendation for the new coach. It needs to be someone with head coaching experience and a successful track record. The fans are not going to be happy about giving the job to an untried assistant from a failed regime.

JJ

May 11th, 2010
10:04 am

Elite PGs in the league:

Chris Paul
Deron Williams
Jameer Nelson
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
Steve Nash

What do they all have in common? They didn’t sit on the bench “learning to play the game” for a year or two. So what does that say about our man Jeff Teague? Either Woody really is an idiot that wouldn’t play a legit talent or, more likely, Teague isn’t the answer.

Navigator

May 11th, 2010
10:07 am

Jeff: You got it right, all right, and Joe Johnson is the prim a dona type that holds his own value higher than anyone else does. A center is an absolute necessity if the Hawks will ever have a chance to beat Orlando.

German accent

May 11th, 2010
10:07 am

Very good, Jeff. Wake me up when Sund has that to-do list accomplished.

Dozer

May 11th, 2010
10:09 am

Josh Smith is a loser – can anyone ever imagine any of the greats loafing like he did in the middle of a PLAYOFF series??
Time for a new coach – the players have stopped listening, and there needs to be some sort of a half-court offense other than clear-outs.
Find a way to replace Joe Johnson – he can NEVER redeem himself here after playing so small…..

Marcus

May 11th, 2010
10:09 am

Agree with building around Josh and Horford. To me, it seems like we stagnated on offense because Horford and Josh haven’t been allowed to expand their roles and maturity due to the teams continued deference to JJ even after we have grown and gotten more talented.
That deference, albeit necessary when JJ came over from PHX due to the youth and talent deficit, now serves as a crutch for the entire team.
It took me all season to see it, even with the few games I caught on national TV (by virtue of not being in the ATL viewing area). Even though JJ came through in many games this year and years past, the the long-term prospects of the still mid-20-something core of the team (Al, Josh, Marvin, Teague), JJ’s departure may be the best solution.

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:10 am

In case Rick Sund is reading this

Here are some options I saw online @http://www.onlinebasketballbetting.net/what-the-atlanta-hawks-can-do-if-joe-johnson-wants-out/

No.1: Hawks get Devin Harris and Courtney Lee, Nets get Joe Johnson.
No.2: Hawks get the draft rights to Ricky Rubio and a future first round pick, Timberwolves get Joe Johnson.
No.3: Hawks get Monta Ellis and CJ Watson, Warriors get Joe Johnson.
No.4: Hawks get Michael Beasley, Miami’s 2010 first round pick and a couple of future first rounders, Heat get Joe Johnson.

All of these are great ideas as Far as I am concerned

PMC

May 11th, 2010
10:10 am

If they really want to sell tickets and fill the arena they need to at least make some offers to Wade, Bosh…. various other superstars etc.

The building isn’t filled due to the lack of a true superstar that would garner some national interest.

Unfortunately there were too many strike outs at the top of the draft under Billy.

Taco Bell

May 11th, 2010
10:11 am

Can someone explain to me “sign and trade?”

I thought Joe could walk after the season?

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:11 am

BTW: Agree 295% Jeff.

Mike Jay

May 11th, 2010
10:11 am

dtc,

I believe the Celtics just one it all without a ‘outstanding’ center. It can be done and is not our most glaring need. If we let joe go we have got to get a good, tall, physical PG who can defend. We can not start Crawford without a good defensive PG it would be a ugly and we would need to score 120 pts a game to win.

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:12 am

@taco bell
Joe can walk. But in order to get max money, he would have to sign with the Hawks and be traded to another team. (salary cap stuff)

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:13 am

The Devin Harris trade option would solve both the Joe Johnson and defensive PG problem

Jeff Schultz

May 11th, 2010
10:13 am

SDM — I understand the downside to Josh at the 3 but playing the 3 doesn’t mean he needs to fire up jumpers.

PMC

May 11th, 2010
10:13 am

Rajon Rondo took quite a while to round into an elite point guard so we can hope for Jeff Teague… though sitting on the bench and not playing at all I’m not sure has worked much for him because he’s going to have to take another year to learn on the court but Woody is the coach….and that’s his philosophy.

Marcus

May 11th, 2010
10:14 am

the only problem wioth the new coach scenario is that the ASG seems not to have the $$$, desire or inclination to get a respected, high-profile (and high $$ ) coach that will get the remaining core (JJ or no JJ) to get past this level of being 2nd round playoff roadkill.

Having said that, what *available* coaches qualify for that role, even if they would consider it?

Michael Scharff

May 11th, 2010
10:14 am

The Magic have a Superstar center who basically sets the tone for the rest of the Team. There are not very many big men available, unfortunately. It’s a lot like the Dawgs – we had three big men this past year, but none of them were above average talent. In modern basketball in either D1 or the pros, you have got to have strength and power in your inside game. Travis Leslie is an extraordinary talent, but once the best teams in the SEC figured out that his game is to try to go the rim, they were able to blunt much of his attack (the dunk over Kentucky notwithstanding). His size hurts him when he trys to “muscle it” inside. Not only that, but the Hawks have no reliable outside shooters that you can count on for 20 points a game (and no,I don’t think Joe fits the bill – he has shown time and again in the playoffs that he does not have what it takes to be a true leader).

Ethan Benoff

May 11th, 2010
10:14 am

Atlanta, once again welcome to sports infamy!! The single worst NBA Playoff series of all-time… I’m not kidding…look it up! Woody is definitely gone, and J-Johnson is defintiely gone! Where do we go from here? I don’t think it’s going to be as “rosey” as some of you think around here for the next 3 years. We are going to be bad for several years as we totally restructre our team (which by the way is the right and only decision). We are not an attractive market for basketball players, so don’t think we are going to acquire Bosh, Wade or anybody in Tier 1. We will only be able to build through the draft or do a sign in trade, both of which are options that exclude the players having a choice. Bye Bye Hawks, as you once again slip into sports oblivion!!

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:14 am

@Rock Preston I agree with you. With Rudy Gay, plus trading for Devin Harris and Courtney Lee, we are actually an improved team.

Jeff Schultz

May 11th, 2010
10:16 am

Allan in Texas — Interesting about Parker. Spurs getting swept out could lead them to make changes. But team’s GM is denying he would deal Parker.

pmuckle

May 11th, 2010
10:16 am

hawks do not have a leader on the team! Need team leder(s) not a team with egos!!

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:17 am

I think the Nets will make the deal, hopefully leaving enough money to offer Rudy Gay. Check this quote:

“If the Nets can get the number 1 draft pick (and John Wall), this is a mutually beneficial deal. The Nets get Johnson at 2 and automatically form one of the most lethal backcourts in the league – add Brook Lopez to the front court and you have a playoff team right there. Plus, they can even sign another big name – imagine a Nets lineup of Wall/Johnson/Williams/Amar’e/Lopez with Chris Douglas-Roberts, Yi Jianlan and a couple of veterans off the bench. That’s a contender in the East.”

Jeff Schultz

May 11th, 2010
10:19 am

Marcus — yes, Childress’ NBA rights could be traded, and yes draft picks can be traded. Not sure who this team would be zeroing in on in the draft though. Too many other things have to be settled on first before the draft priorities are set.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 11th, 2010
10:19 am

Of all the dumb ideas that get floated about the Hawks, plYing Josh Smith at small forward is consistently the dumbest. Small forwards have to spend a significant amount of time on the perimeter. What part of Josh’s perimeter game do you like? His shooting? His dribbling? His lateral quickness?

Josh should be in a system that puts him within 10 feet of the hoop at all times. That can be accomplished with him at power forward.

Mr. Phil

May 11th, 2010
10:19 am

If the NETS really think Joe will help them form a “lethal” backcourt. I say let them have at him and we will be better off. If the NETS get the number one pick, no way they keep Devin Harris. I think we need to get on this deal ASAP.

DirtybyrdATL4life

May 11th, 2010
10:19 am

I hope the issue TRULY isnt money, b/c if it isnt, lets spend some & get some talent to surround our young players with. With our current roster we will always be a 2nd rd and done team. I 1,000,000% agree with you Jeff, its what Ive been sayin to my friends, coworkers, random ppl etc.

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Jeff Schultz

May 11th, 2010
10:21 am

Hockey Fans — kudos for working Sergei Gonchar into a Hawks blog. You get bonus points for that. … On Jeff Teague: I want to see him play. On Chris Paul: I keep hearing this about how he might be traded. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Jeff Schultz

May 11th, 2010
10:22 am

German accent — I’m guessing Sund will have everything wrapped up in the next 10 days.

S Hawk Fan

May 11th, 2010
10:22 am

Jeff…. I am so glad that you are saying that Woody needs to go! I was beginning to think that none of the AJC writers were going to say this! My question to you Jeff is what do you think of Larry Drew? He is not another Woody is he? And what coach would you go after if you were the one selecting the next coach to lead the Hawks?