Hawks ready to open (Hello? Anybody?) (UPDATED: Great debut)

The key for the Hawks is how quickly players buy into Larry Drew's changes.

The key for the Hawks is how quickly players buy into Larry Drew's changes.

(UPDATED at 10:35 p.m. Tremendous effort by the Hawks tonight in Memphis. They buried Memphis 119-104. It was exactly the kind of performance fans and coach Larry Drew had hoped to get in the opener: Great ball distribution and balance on offense and solid effort on defense. The Hawks’ efforts even had Memphis fans booing the home team. The Hawks’ unlikely player of the game: Zaza Pachulia, with 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.)

The Hawks are the only pro sports franchise in Atlanta that’s made the playoffs in the last three years.

Conventional wisdom: Fans are pumped for tonight’s opener.

Reality:  Notsomuch.

I sent out a question on Twitter and Facebook earlier today asking what you thought of this year’s team going into tonight’s season opener in Memphis. (By the way, if you’re not following @JeffSchultzAJC or haven’t friend me on Facebook, there’s pretty good chance that you’re the only one on your block not to do so, possibly a social outcast. But it’s not too late. Save yourself!)

Anyway, I expected a 50-50 split from readers on whether they were excited, angered or bored. (Actually that would be a 50-50-50 split.) But most of you are not excited about this Hawks team.

Before I get to some of the comments, here’s what I think: I like Larry Drew, the new coach. Is he proven? No. But he’s also not Mike Woodson, even though he worked for Woodson. He has a fresh approach to the offense and he is respected by players in the locker room.

Whether Drew is successful remains to be seen. The key is how quickly he can get Joe Johnson to share the ball and others to not have the automatic mindset of feeding Johnson in what needs to be a more-balanced, less-predictable offense.

As for the rest of what the team did this offseason, I’m with most of you on not being impressed. General manager Rick Sund drafted Jordan Crawford, which could turn out to be a terrific decision, but he did not add a legitimate center to either start or for significant minute off the bench. That’s why I pushed for the signing of Shaquille O’Neal. As a result, Al Horford will still play out of position and the Hawks likely will be overmatched when they play the three powers in the Eastern Conference: Boston, Orlando and Miami.

But we’ll find out this decision worked. As they say, that’s why they play the games.

OK, that’s why I think. Here’s what some of you think. Sorry but I couldn’t use all of the comments.

Via Facebook:

– From Andrew Hirsch: “It’s funny how this worked out, but it seems as if the Joe Johnson signing has actually deflated the excitement of the fan base.”

– From Benjamin Sheffield: “Confident that we’re starting another solid season; doubtful that we’ll be a 3 or 4 seed this year, but I’ll take a playoff berth out of this team, regardless.”

– From Chris Dyer: “I believe the hiring of Drew and the lack of a signing a true center deflated the fan base this year … not the signing of Joe Johnson. He was a must.”

From Twitter:

@dsgbncali: “I’m not confident at all about the Hawks this year. Just seems like the ASG wants this team out of ATL.”

@sleslie1974: “Confident that Marvin Williams will fall down at least three times.”

@Lowcountrydawg: “They’re a great team to watch, but they won’t win the east. They’re a summer romance. Fun for a few weeks but no future.”

@DavidHuey: “I refuse to support the Hawks after re-signing Johnson after his ‘we could care less if they show up’ comments last year!”

@Reggies_World: “I expect the Hawks play like a team that is ticked off with the way the season ended.”

@UGABugKiller: “In your Hawks blog, can you tell us you don’t care what we think & then sign the worst contract in NBA history (for fans)?”

@redclaybulldogs: “Same Administration, Same Results & Expectations. Rick Sund should stay but the team’s ownership must GO!”

@Thomas_P_Kelly: “I’m pretty confident in the Hawks. I think Horford emerges this year as THE MAIN EVENT this year.”

@DMitchUGA: “I see a mirror image of last season–and that’s not a good thing. East teams improve, they’re in neutral.”

@jhclay:“How this for comment? I have not thought about the Hawks until you asked the question…meaning they are irrelevant in NBA.”

@Brandonlieblich: Hawks will compete this season, but w/out a legit big man teams like the Celtics will score at will. 2nd round and done.”

If you want to use this as a forum for comments during the game, that would be great. I’ll check in periodically. We’ll call it a “semi-live” blog.

So what are your thoughts on the season?

Previous posts from Georgia-Florida week

Urban Meyer slammed again for Chris Rainey decision

This is the week Georgia’s defense needs to step up

Dogs’ key to beating Gators: QB, defense or something else?

Early Georgia-Florida primer (and why Meyer is catching heat)

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

178 comments Add your comment

lewis

October 27th, 2010
4:35 pm

yup, no one in Atlanta really cares about basketball, it shows particularly in this blog post, Jeff.
I mean, when a beat writer says we’re going to have a problem with Miami because of size, you know he’s talking out of his behind. You’re no better than ESPN, stick with baseball or whatever sport it is you claim to write with authority about.

Miami and size..jeeze…all you sportswriters are the same, overrating and over-hyping the hell out of nothing. Who is it that’s going to give us trouble Jeff? Old-fart Zydrunas Ilgauskas? super raw joel anthony? 6′8 Udonis Haslem? Bosh? Josh eats his lunch.

Sorry for the hate, im more upset at Atlanta sports fans but I gotta direct it somewhere.

Smalltimes

October 27th, 2010
4:37 pm

Smoove is the key to our season. It’s time this whiner stops complaining and lives up to his potential. He needs to QUIT shooting jumpers and keep his ass down in the paint. If Marvin could show us anything that would also be a big plus. He has been a colossal BUST as the 2nd overall pick. We know JJ and Horford will produce for us. It’s up to Smoove and Marvin to step it up!

Smalltimes

October 27th, 2010
4:38 pm

But yes Lewis you are correct. Miami has LESS size than we do that is relevant. They have no centers worth a damn.

LEGEND

October 27th, 2010
4:38 pm

Ya boy is back and i’m ready for another great Hawks season; i’ll say it like I did before Drew will finish as a top 10 coach of the year candidate; and marvin will have his best season as a Hawk; anyone that thinks otherwise is a hater!

Peach Basket

October 27th, 2010
4:50 pm

Atlanta has a NBA team????

What did we do wrong????

How do we get rid of it????

GStateBen

October 27th, 2010
4:54 pm

Hmm, No one in Atlanta cares about basketball? Is that why the NBA continues to have tremendous ratings in this city. Such a pitiful argument. If you don’t care about basketball that’s not the same thing as Atlanta. I can’t say anyone that I know speaks for 5 million people.

The Hawks will be fine. They will open with a win tonight and the legit center argument comes up a ton. How did Shaq do last night? He can’t run back on defense and he can’t defend anymore. Oh yeah, the Celtics had to give him a 2 year guarenteed contract! Smart move by Sund. The Heat have holes and it showed last night. They don’t have a center either but all the talking heads having them winning 70+ games.

Our offense should actually be better and if the Hawks can stay in the Top 12 defensively then a 4 seed is where we will likely land again.

Go Hawks!

redweather

October 27th, 2010
4:54 pm

I anticipate the Hawks will get off to a slow start–at or under .500 after twenty games. Then maybe they will start to play, maybe not. They’re good enough to get into the playoffs, but teams don’t have to be all that good to do that. They’re not good enough, and won’t be good enough, to have a legitimate chance of going anywhere in the playoffs.

The Joe Johnson deal was dictated by the economics of the NBA, which are totally out of whack. As for Josh, if he ever grows up there’s no telling what he might be able to do.

Fresh

October 27th, 2010
4:54 pm

The Hawks will be just fine Jeff, and then even you will come running along trying to catch back-up with the bandwagon.

Fresh

October 27th, 2010
4:57 pm

GStateBen,

“Peach Basket” is obviously one of those hillbilly, missing-tooth idiots. He wouldn’t know a basketball from a baseball.

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

October 27th, 2010
4:59 pm

I am cautiously pessimistic about The Hawks prospects to advance past the 2nd round in the playoffs. Unless we add a quality big and or small forward at mid season, i see us winning 50 games and getting ousted in the Eastern-conference semis. Its either Sund or the ASG who is stinking it up with personnel acquisitions. My guess is that Sund is not being given the funds to pull in top-notch talent and get us over the proverbial hump (luxury tax.)Shaq should have been here at all costs, even if is injury-prone – it would have been a better calculate risk than signing Etan Thomas…I will try to be even-keel about this season and won’t get to up or down when we win or lose because the refs will ultimately determine who plays in the finals and if you breath wrong – TECHNICAL FOUL!

Marcus

October 27th, 2010
5:00 pm

Jeff,
I am hyped. I think we will have growing pains to adjust to the offensive changes and expectations on D. I dont think we will match last years win total, but I think we will be tougher out in the playoffs, not as easily defended and the maturity will finally break through in key moments.

With the Dream making the WNBA Finals, the Braves making the playoffs, and the Falcons looking good, and the Hawks making noise next spring ……. our own city webpage/portal on ESPN is merely months away! :D

Falcon Jim

October 27th, 2010
5:02 pm

Sorry, wrong blog. …………………..Go Hawks.

moorman

October 27th, 2010
5:05 pm

i saw the NEW problem the hawks gonna have when i watched them play miami in the preseason: they have NO SHOOTERS outside of johnson, crawford and bibby. i LOVE the new system drew has put into place on offense. they GET open shots. the problem is, the movement is soo good, the ball winds up in the non shooters hands waay too often. horford, smith and williams are NOT who you want taking jump shots on a consistent basis. they HAVE to move williams for a scoring forward, NO way around this.

newkid

October 27th, 2010
5:06 pm

Like the coach; really like most of the players; the GM and owners are chumps.

bruce mac

October 27th, 2010
5:06 pm

Doesn’t everone make the playoffs in the NBA? Who cares if they make the playoffs, they are going to beat anybody good and they aren’t going to win a game in the second round as usual.

mountain_jim

October 27th, 2010
5:10 pm

I will watch (until free NBA League Pass preview runs out.)

But I don’t see where Sund improved this team enough to where I should really care. Celtics got Shack and O’Neal, Hawks got? And sold a 2nd round pick for cash?

Way to go Sund and your owning bosses.

GoldJacket

October 27th, 2010
5:11 pm

Is that you Terrence Moore? Have you taken over Jeff’s column?

5150 P.O.A.D

October 27th, 2010
5:12 pm

Do they(AJC) actually make you cover this God Forsaken sport? I think Bradley being a Kentucky fan wouldn’t mind covering the NBA, but You ;having French heraitage, I would think Soccer or Hockey would be more fun.
If a player bounces a basketball in Phillips Arena does it make a difference in the non-pot smoking world?

Astro Joe

October 27th, 2010
5:14 pm

The Summer of Sameness will bear fruit that looks remarkably like the last few years. A fun team to watch in the regular season that doesn’t have the players 1-10 to compete with the true contenders. But I can’t wait for the the season’s first jump ball in less than 180 minutes.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by twupsies and Chuck Prince, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Hawks ready to open! Party time! (Hello? Anybody?) http://bit.ly/aNWg6W [...]

RealSquawk

October 27th, 2010
5:24 pm

Jeff Welcome back!

Don’t worry about all the hate thrown your way, they just missed ya!

Excited about the Hawks???

Yeah I guess so. I am excited to see how they do and if this offense is any better, but that is because I am a Hawks fan.

I am not excited to see them in the playoffs, which means the common NBA fan (most of Atlanta) isn’t excited to see them at all.

And worth it or not I would rather be in the lottery then have Joe Johnson on this team unless he issued some sort of apology for his comments last summer. And I don’t think we would be in the lottery anyway so there you go.

justdhoo

October 27th, 2010
5:26 pm

People are not excited about the Hawks bc the NBA is not an exciting league unless you’ve got a star player and a shot to win it all. The Hawks have neither. No one cares about the NBA at the beginning of the season, because the season is 14 months long (or so it seems). Making the playoffs in the NBA is not an accomplishment, 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs. They play 82 games and eliminate less than half the teams. Then the 3 month playoff starts, but I digress. If the Hawks want excitement they have to be contenders, and they’re not.

Jody

October 27th, 2010
5:26 pm

I don’t buy the argument that people in Atlanta don’t care about basketball. I think the majority of people in Atlanta refuse to support a team and organization that obviously not trying to compete for a title. People aren’t stupid. They won’t waste their hard earned money on an organization that’s not legitamately trying. When the Hawks get serious about being a title contender, then people in Atlanta will support them. Until then…

Paddy

October 27th, 2010
5:30 pm

GaStateBen…Is not Atl near the bottom of the league in attendance? It seems the only interest in this team are the folks that don’t buy tickets!

Seeer

October 27th, 2010
5:30 pm

Can we just cut to the chase and let the Celtics and Lakers play and be done with it!

Karleen

October 27th, 2010
5:34 pm

basketball is a hard sell in the south. no one paid attention to miami until they won a championship and then every one forgot about them until lebron came marching in. orlando has been an excellent contender in the nba. barely any real recognition! the hawks did big things and came a long way, but folks got to beg people to come to the games. if these teams were in the north, say NY. there would be undeniable passion for these teams. the south is all about brutal, dirty, big, sweaty sports. “yall” only like barbaric entertainment!

5150 P.O.A.D

October 27th, 2010
5:42 pm

Tell the New Birth Christians that Eddie Long is having a Revival at Phillaps Arena. The Hawks will have an Arena full of people with CASH ready to just give away to Big AA Men wearing shirts with no sleeves. Problem solved.

PD

October 27th, 2010
5:46 pm

Getting Shaq was ultimately his decision to make. He chose to not play for the Hawks. you have to respect his decision and you cannot blame the Hawks for trying. However, they could have went after another center in Dalembert. Which I think still can be had for the right price. Marvin’s contract and the $3 Million trade exception from the Chilly trade get’s them really close.

extremus

October 27th, 2010
5:49 pm

I began to follow the Hawks (and hence the NBA) a little again last season after many years, but I was quickly reminded of why I had originally lost interest. Unlike baseball, where the better team “loses 40 percent of the time” or football, where “any given Sunday” there might be an upset, you pretty much can assume that as sure as the Sun rises, there are going to be maybe three or four teams with a remotely realistic shot of winning the title, making the drawn-out NBA Playoffs an exercise in wasted time and effort to make lesser teams and their fans think they might actually have “a chance”. Now even the commissioner admits that contraction will be on the table at the next labor talks because so many teams are operating at a loss. Hmm, wonder why? Even so, the way the Hawks were drubbed by Orlando in the second round seemed to indicate a team that (maybe deliberately?) didn’t put forth its best effort. And I hate that more than the losing.

And don’t get me started about the hedonistic, self-serving displays by free agents (who shall remain unnamed because we’re all sick of hearing them) and their staged soap operas during the entire offseason. One thing’s for VERY sure; they ARE NOT role models for anybody. A culture has formed around this league that is toxic, and I for one don’t want to be around it anymore. Consider this my last post where the Atlanta Hawks and the NBA are concerned. I’m done with them all.

Maybe THESE is the REAL reasons a lot of other folks have also lost interest, Mr. Schultz.

John Koncak couldn't jump

October 27th, 2010
5:49 pm

I’m a Hawks fan…but the way the NBA is I feel I’m hoping we finish in 3rd or 4th place and go out in the 2nd round….but at the same time we swept Boston last year…..the Hawks…I can’t figure them out…?? I do know this..we need a dynamic PG and a bruiser in the paint….we have some guys that can score points

GT Alum

October 27th, 2010
5:51 pm

Jody –

I have to refute your theory. Were the Braves trying to win a title with that roster? Not really, they were just trying to get to the playoffs. But they still get a good amount of support, not as much as some people think they should’ve, but far better support than the Hawks get.

Double Zero Eight

October 27th, 2010
5:51 pm

The jury is out. I don’t think we will really know a lot until after 10 games. I believe Larry Drew
knows what he is doing. However, it won’t matter if he can’t get the players to adhere to his game
plan. We should have gotten “Shaq” when he was available. He is still a factor, and would have
put more fans in the stands.

Dan

October 27th, 2010
5:59 pm

The only team in the East the Hawks don’t match up well with is Orlando.

Boston lucked out staying out of Atlanta’s side of the playoff draw last year (beside the fact the Celts were 0-4 v. Hawks last year, three of the losses came when Boston was 26-8 or better) and getting a Lebron elbow injury in Game 3 of their series against the Cavs (Cavs were up 2-1 before Lebron’s injury, 0-3 after that) was a big break no one mentions. After watching the Heat’s ineptitude inside (Chris Bosh is overrated as a low post player and you cannot win without a low post presence – a problem the Hawks have had), I don’t even think the Hawks will have that much trouble with the Heat, because the Heat do not offer the length or the physical presence Cleveland has had inside the past several years to complement Lebron.

As far as Shaq goes, thank God he didn’t sign with the Hawks. Maybe Doc gets something out of him that Mike Brown and Mike D’Antonio couldn’t, but fact is that the last two teams to take Shaq (Phoenix, Cleveland) watched as their run-the-floor offenses got bogged down after Shaq arrived, and both teams did worse with Shaq than they did without him.

Hawks should’ve gone after Eric Dampier or Brendan Heyward and I fear Larry Drew is going to be the punch line to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (meet the new boss/same as the old boss), but I’ll be in Phillips on Sat night, either busting John Wall’s chops about taking a pay cut to play for the Wizards or asking Gilbert and Javarris about their showdown at the OK Corral.

VDeuce

October 27th, 2010
6:10 pm

If the Hawks wanted me to be excited & stay a fan they wouldve traded Josh & Marvin to Denver for Carmelo. I will not even bother to pay attention to them until the playoffs. Then I will be interested to see when they lay down & quit…1st round or 2nd round again? LET’S GO HEAT!!!!!!!!

GT Alum

October 27th, 2010
6:13 pm

There’s a number of reasons people aren’t really excited about the upcoming season:

1) The last time we saw the Hawks play, they struggled to get past a Bucks team missing a key player, then got absolutely destroyed by the Magic.
2) Their star player is a marketing nightmare – very talented player, but not a take-over-the-game superstar, but he was signed to a superstar contract. He also shows very little personality to the public, and when he does speak, it’s to say he doesn’t care if fans show up or not.
3) The roster consists of 2 quality SGs, 2 quality PFs, a decent back-up C, a solid veteran PG who showed signs of decline last year and a bunch of ?s.
4) Only new additions to the lineup were bargain basement signings.
5) One of our key players last year is requesting to be traded if he doesn’t get a contract extension.
6) Unpopular old coach replaced with unproven coach off his own staff.

Basically, the way the Hawks’ season ended left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouth, and they really haven’t done much to erase that taste, much less get them excited about a new season.

Peach Basket

October 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

P.O.A.D………

I absolutely hate you and your childish banter you clog these blogs with on a daily basis, especially when they are about a college football team other than yours in which you envy so badly……

However, I am on board with you and your Eddie Long decoy to get fans to pay attention. It’s the ONLY clevar thing you have ever said.

Now stick to these NBA blogs, and save yourself the display of immaturity you exhibit on the college football topics.

skydawg

October 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

As long as the ASG owns this team and the Thrashers, NO ONE will give a damn. They all want the fans to be suckers and blind loyalists and want us to spend our hard earned money while they continue to hoard theirs. They continue to be at the bottom of each respective league in spending yet they expect us to have high aspirations and expectations? They day the ASG sells these 2 teams will be the day they have even a remote chance at REAL success. Like the old saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’ and right now it’s not a lot.

skydawg

October 27th, 2010
6:25 pm

Thank goodness for Arthur Blank. The only owner in this town that understands what it takes to win and succeed.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 27th, 2010
6:29 pm

Mrs. NAISMITH——————- Peach Basket
I love you.
If the NBA is so good, then why don’t they move the PEACH BASKET to 11 feet 6 inches and move the game back to below the rim and make the game the non-contact sport it was intended to be?

5150 P.O.A.D

October 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

The NBA is losing money faster than OBAMA can spend tax payers money on Bailout projects.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

Plenty of Atlanta sports fans care about basketball, and even the NBA. Not many of them care about the Hawks. I see TONS of bandwagon Heat, Lakers, and Celtics fans all over the city, none of whom could care less about the local team. And the blame for that lies with the franchise itself, which consistently fails to understand the local fan base.

Atlanta sports fans get criticized for being bad fans, but the reality is that while they may be fickle, they are certainly not stupid. We all know that you can’t win titles in the NBA without superstars, and not only have the Hawks not had a superstar since 1992, they have passed up multiple opportunities to acquire one. Atlanta fans like a) teams that have legit chances of winning a title, and b) teams that have superstars. The Braves in the 1990s and the Falcons with Vick had no problem ranking at or near the top of the attendance rankings. The day the Hawks do the same, the optimism surrounding them will also skyrocket.

John Koncak couldn't jump

October 27th, 2010
6:33 pm

@ shydawg…funny how $$$ does that…

Najeh Davenpoop

October 27th, 2010
6:37 pm

I do have some optimism that this year’s version of the Hawks will be more fun to watch than it was under Woodson, for those of you who are willing to give them a chance.

Section 303

October 27th, 2010
6:40 pm

How exactly are they going to be overmatched by Boston and Miami? 4 and 0 against Boston last year. And, they actually matchup well with Miami. Who does the Heat have that will overpower Horford at center? The answer is no one.

They still sh#t their pants when they play Orlando, though. Here’s hoping they avoid that team in the playoffs.

Mike

October 27th, 2010
6:40 pm

Hawks are the most slept-on team in the East! I like that no one has high expectations for us.. We can’t beat Orlando but I think we will get lucky and will not have to face them in playoffs this yr.. Hawks to ECF vs Boston.

Diego

October 27th, 2010
6:40 pm

Love the NBA and the Hawks–although I too am put off by Joe Johnson never appologizing. Drew publicly has said that JJ regrets what he said in last year’s playoffs, but JJ himself should suck it up and publicly appologize. It is piss poor that he has failed to do so.

There are lots of hicks in GA who won’t set foot in Phillips for a Hawks game because of the complexion of the players and crowds. That is a shame. But let them just go ahead and watch baseball at the Ted, which (win or lose) absent the beer and the outdoors aspect, is as exciting as watching paint dry.

Freshmaker

October 27th, 2010
6:53 pm

I think one thing to keep in mind is that we could be a better team with a worse record/seeding than last year. Realistically, the Hawks can do no better than a 5 seed because we are unlikely to have a better record than Orlando or Miami in our division (and the division winners are guaranteed a top-4 seed, regardless of record). My hope is that Drew’s offense makes better use of our quickness and athleticism, and that we are better prepared for the playoffs.

Mookie

October 27th, 2010
6:54 pm

Nobody cares about basketball in Atlanta? Give me a break. I love my hawks and the NBA loves the ATL. Anyone pay attention to where the NBA on TNT resides?

To all the Joe Johnson haters, quit your bitching. There was no one else in the nba this offseason that produces like Joe that we could realistically sign. Yea he got a huge contract but he’s going to produce…21.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.6 rpg all day long.

Festus

October 27th, 2010
7:04 pm

Jeff: who is going to start at tailback for the Dawgs this Saturday? Oh wait… this is about the Hawks… um… that Danny Manning Trade was just the worst….. and um… I’m going away now.

Gary O

October 27th, 2010
7:05 pm

Jeff,

The hawks manhandled the Celtics 4-0 in the regular season last year, so there is no guarantee that the Celtics will manhandle the Hawks this year.

I would have liked the Shaq signing too, and it seemed like a win-win. Drew spoke highly of him, he would excite some of the fan base, he would do a better job on Howard than Horford does, he brings us credibility in the league, and the ASG would make more money on his marketability.

Maybe they were concerned about Chemistry (but we saw how Chemistry went out the window when we got blown out by Orlando).

ASG also do a poor job with marketing their players.