Hawks’ Sund puts onus on players: ‘Challenge is up to them’

Mike Bibby isnt always this overmatched, but it seems like it. (MCT News Service)

Mike Bibby isn't always this overmatched. It just seems like it.

Let’s dispense of the whines first, because it’s impossible to debate the Hawks’ future without the obvious elephant in the locker room, or in this case the entire herd:

♦ They have a slow and inefficient starting point guard (Mike Bibby) who averages 9.6 points and 3.7 assists, which would be fine if this was a 40-and-over league or a YMCA in Springfield, Mass., in 1891.

♦ They have an occasionally dominating forward (Josh Smith) who sometimes forgets that there’s a whole world of possibilities inside the paint.

♦ They have another forward (Marvin Williams) who was the draft’s second pick but has proven to be little more than a $7 million-a-year rotational player (if that).

♦ They have a roster resilient enough to record the third-best road record in the Eastern Conference (17-12) but schizoid enough to lose home games by 23, 41 and 34 points.

Now let’s discuss reality.

Whether or not general manager Rick Sund makes a move to improve the team’s fortunes – and it’s significant that he’ll be traveling with the club on a five-game trip that opens the post-All Star stretch – the Hawks will win or lose with this bunch. The chances of Sund spinning any earth-shattering deal are directly proportional to Carmelo Anthony suddenly declaring, “I hate New York! I want to be a Hawk!”

This is your team.

Joe Johnson stayed. Smith stayed. Bibby stayed. Williams stayed. The only change of significance the Hawks made after being swept in the second round of the playoffs two straight years was to fire coach Mike Woodson. The message delivered: This is the core — let’s see where it takes us.

Time’s about up. If the Hawks don’t do something this season that makes us stop slapping our forehead, blow the sucker up.

Sund never has been one for public analysis during the season. He certainly doesn’t discuss trade possibilities.

But he did say this Sunday: “The next two months and our performance in the playoffs will indicate as to exactly what this team is. The challenge is up to them.”

And this: “We’ve put ourselves in position to do something, so let’s see where it goes. We have to do it collectively and with chemistry and coaching and all that.”

I think he just said: “Bob Pettit is not walking through that door.”

We can debate whether retaining this core for another season was right or wrong. But it’s significant that Sund is declaring it’s show-me time. The Hawks obviously aren’t as good as Boston or Miami. But they’ve shown at times they can be better than a second-round punchline. They won at Miami a few weeks ago without Al Horford (which is more significant than the Heat missing Chris Bosh). They’ve beaten every East team currently in a playoff position except Boston (0-2) and Chicago (whom they haven’t played). The Hawks are a combined 10-4 against Miami (1-1), Orlando (2-1), New York (2-1), Philadelphia (2-1) and Indiana (3-0).

Sund again: “I think our players feel like they can play with anybody. It’s the first time in the last two years I’ve sensed that.”

Yes, this team is flawed. The most fixable problem is point guard. Cleveland’s Ramon Sessions, the object of trade rumors, isn’t an All-Star or a great scorer. But he’s younger, faster and would be a significant upgrade to Bibby, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford (who is better as a scorer coming off the bench). Sessions is playing fewer minutes than Bibby but he’s averaging more points (12.3) and assists (5.3) and is better defensively.

Bibby’s three-year, $18 million extension in 2009 is looking like an albatross. He was far more effective in his contract year (15 points, 5 assists) than now (he ranks 40th overall and 25th among point guards at 3.7 assists per game). As a team, the Hawks have the second-fewest steals (5.9) and are forcing the second-fewest turnovers (12.7) per game. That stems at least in part from a lack of defense up top.

The trade deadline is Thursday. If Sund makes a change, it won’t be the equivalent of major reconstruction. More like a new couch and a couple of throw pillows.

This is your team — maybe for the last time.

By Jeff Schultz


♦ Hawks’ Rick Sund puts onus on players: ‘Challenge is up to them’

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121 comments Add your comment

Tony Adams

February 20th, 2011
5:05 pm

I refuse to be first.

5150 UOAD

February 20th, 2011
5:09 pm

You going to cover the tech Duke game tonight? I guess you are in ATL it sounds like.


February 20th, 2011
5:10 pm

im not sure sessions is what the team needs right now.


February 20th, 2011
5:18 pm

Blow it all up and build around Horford and JJ. We started the whole rebuilding process after the 1999 season because we were an average team and were essentially irrelevant in the NBA landscape. Sound familiar?

San Antonio has shown that stellar drafting and top flight coaching can keep your team competitive even with payroll limitations.

Let’s take that approach and invest in our scouting and coaching staffs.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 20th, 2011
5:34 pm

Convenient approach by a GM who has emphatically proven over 31 years that he is incapable of building a serious contender.

rollo lawson

February 20th, 2011
5:38 pm

This team wouldbe so much improved with Sessions, Will Bynum, Hinrich, Bayless (Toronto), Toney Douglas, or any other second tier pg right now. We have a very stupid front office. I was watching all-star weekend festivities fridy night. We haven’t had a player in the rookie/sophomore challenge since Horford. We could have taken Dejuan Blair 2 years ago, but passed. God knows we needed/still need size down low. Who did we pick? Probably some stiff out of Europe.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 20th, 2011
5:38 pm

Here’s your new couch and throw pillows.


Good luck getting Sund to do anything half this creative.

Other than the Jamal Crawford trade — which was admittedly a very good one — all he has done is overpay to keep players Billy Knight acquired. And so far, he has accomplished absolutely nothing with the draft picks he has made — although this only falls in line with his horrible draft history throughout his career.

rollo lawson

February 20th, 2011
5:40 pm

Why did we re-sign Zaza, Marvin, and Bibby 2 years ago? Dumb moves!!


February 20th, 2011
5:40 pm

Ramon Sessions would be a welcome addition and maybe give the Hawks the jolt they need. But I doubt Sund makes any move at all. He is like the polar opposite of Frank Wren. Which is not always a good thing. Make something happen Sund, we know this team won’t get past the 2nd rd as is…or is that good enough for you?

South ga boy in the atl

February 20th, 2011
5:40 pm

Blow it up, thanks to Billy “I never saw a forward I wouldn’t draft” Knight. 2 of the 3 best players on the team play the same position (Al and Josh). Add Marvin to the mix and we have 3 lottery picks to play 2 positions. If just one of those picks had gone to a PG, this team could compete. Add Chills and Sheldon and u have 5 lottery picks for TWO starting positions. What a dumb@$$ Knight was. I say again, just one PG out of 5 lottery picks and this is a totally different conversation

Najeh Davenpoop

February 20th, 2011
5:43 pm

“He is like the polar opposite of Frank Wren. ”

I have thought the same thing too. I’m not the biggest Frank Wren fan, but at least he’s willing to shake things up to try to make something happen. Ankiel and Farnsworth may not have panned out as expected, but at least he took responsibility for a roster that he didn’t feel was good enough and tried to improve it. Sund is the ultimate blame shifter. Always sitting on his hands, always parroting the ownership’s “we like our core” line, and always playing second fiddle to the league’s real contenders. In short, a perfect fit for this ownership group.


February 20th, 2011
5:45 pm


Now you see em, now they burnt off!

February 20th, 2011
5:46 pm

Maybe Larry Drew should shave off his eyebrows…


February 20th, 2011
5:49 pm

Good for him.I hope Sund will blow this team up. IMO Horford is the only one who you can count on for 100% effort every game. I would start by getting rid of Coach Drew who is obviously over matched. I would keep Horford and Josh (who still needs a good coach to make him a complete and consistent player)..the rest of them I can do without. Johnson is nowhere near a max contract type player.Trade him for picks if nothing else. Bibby is over the hill. Marvin is a wasted talent. Zaza seems to have slipped. Overall.. DAMN! I thought this team would be much better than it has turned out to be. I hope I am wrong but I predict an early first round exit . As Barkley sings..I may be wrong..but I doubt it.


February 20th, 2011
5:53 pm

long as zaza is gone im good


February 20th, 2011
5:53 pm

There has to be an unwritten law somewhere that all Atlanta teams must under acheive. This is with the exception of the 1998 Falcons, no one saw a super bowl team there. So while it is unlikely, maybe this group catches fire at the end of the season and wins two rounds in the playoffs.

steve brown

February 20th, 2011
6:12 pm

Does Sund actually watch the hawks play or is he just delusional?


February 20th, 2011
6:24 pm

Y do people only critisize the hawks give everyother team a pass?? I don’t care how much of a golden boy Matt Ryan is he still hasn’t won a playoff game and that is the truth you can’t sugar coat it point blank. The hawks haven’t made it past the 2nd round but they have won the playoff game. Falcons have not ;-)


February 20th, 2011
6:27 pm

steve brown @ 6:12 – I think it may be yes on both counts.

If a trade can be made that nabs a starting PG and puts Bibby in a bench role, Sund should do it no question. It’s the best thing he can do to maximize available resources without disrupting the core of the team.

As constructed currently, this team will most likely not be in the playoff dance very long.

All I'm Saying Is...

February 20th, 2011
6:28 pm

First of all, believe it or not but this team could make it to the Eastern Conference finals. They have a big enough body to play Dwight Howard straight-up. And have proven they can beat Miami. We’ll have to wait and see how they match-up with Chicago but someone else could knock them off and then it could be the Hawks vs. Celtics.

Second, Sund is using the “up to the players” line as a cop-out. Sund could have signed (Shaq) or traded for (Tyson Chandler) a real Center and instead has decided Jason Collins is the answer. With either of those guys, this team could contend for the NBA Finals.

Third, seems to me that the G.M. for the Spurs always seems to find new players out of nowhere who come in and contribute to their team and they’ve done it again with that kid who had to leave LaSalle due to false rape charges (he was acquitted of all charges down the road but after the school gave up on him). Why is it that our G.M. can’t do the same?

One thing that is true is that our playoff performance may be used to justify blowing up the major pieces by trading Josh Smith and some other throw-ins. If it comes to that, we can only pray that Sund surprises us all by getting some major talent in return.



February 20th, 2011
6:45 pm


barney strickland

February 20th, 2011
6:48 pm

Don’t you fools know a holding pattern when you see one? This ownership group is hemorrhaging cash…losing lotsa money every day. I BET THEY SELL THE HAWKS BEFORE THE THRASHERS. bank on it… you idiots. Jeff, just remember who told you this on your blog first? Got that? B-A-R-N-E-Y S-T-R-I-C-K-L-A-N-D……


February 20th, 2011
6:53 pm



February 20th, 2011
6:56 pm

Although Sessions is an upgrade over Bibby, I think we should look around a little more and not fall in love with him just because he might be had easily.


February 20th, 2011
7:00 pm

Seriously? Wow. So, what he’s saying is we can kill our hopes of being a factor in this year’s playoffs. Go figure. He’s still trying to figure our “what this team is”? Wow. I’ll tell you what this team is, good enough to make it past the 1st round of the playoffs & bad enough to be embarrassed in the 2nd round…yet again. How many more seasons/off-season’s will go by with him waiting to see what we’ve got? The fans know what we’ve got. Shoot, the whole league knows what we’ve got. The verdict is in, Sund’s refusal to open the envelope & read it doesn’t change reality. Maybe he thinks we’re stupid.


February 20th, 2011
7:04 pm

Another thing the Hawks can’t fix is that they’ve tuned out their coach already. Case in point – the first six games the Hawks shot 171 free throws – the last six 109. I don’t recall Drew talking about turning the Hawks into a bunch of lazy jump-shooters.


February 20th, 2011
7:08 pm

I second “Give Teague a chance.” When he gets in, he makes things happen with defense and speed. Needs more minutes at times that matter.


February 20th, 2011
7:10 pm

Driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive by Hawks Blog!!!

Jeff Schultz

February 20th, 2011
7:10 pm

Rollo Lawson — Indeed, those three decisions aren’t look good today.

Jeff Schultz

February 20th, 2011
7:13 pm

JSS – actually, I pulled over before I blogged. Drive-by’s more like 3 to 4 grafs.


February 20th, 2011
7:15 pm


Gravy Train

February 20th, 2011
7:33 pm

I wish a local real basketball owner would step forward for the Hawks. Being connected to an anemic NHL franchise is bad, as bad as over paying for a punk with no basketball I.Q. Yeah you, J Smoove. Trade Bibby, Marvin, Zaza, and Josh Whiff for a real center and a real point guard. Utah will be looking to move D. Will and Portland will be needing to move some bigs. I think we will have to get new owners and a new GM first.


February 20th, 2011
7:43 pm

The only thing that will make this team better is a coaching change. It was not a smart move to hire Mike Woodson’s assistent coach in the 1st place. This team has become more disfunctional since LD took over. A smart gm could recognize this without allowing himself to be scrutinize by the media and the fans.

Sund need to hire Bill Laimbeer after this season and he doesn’t need to make any unnecessary changes until he hire a better coach. This team isn’t going very far in the playoffs even if they sign Carmelo Anthony. Change has to be made in the coaching department in order for this team to move in a positive direction.

If Sund make a trade before he decide to make a coaching change, he and the ASG need to start packing their bags.

GT Alum

February 20th, 2011
7:44 pm


There’s a little bit of a difference. For one, JJ’s in his 6th year in a Hawks’ uni; Ryan just completed his 3rd year as a Falcon. The Falcons are about where the Hawks were 3 seasons ago. If they can’t make some noise in the playoffs next season, they’ll start to feel the pressure too.

Another difference is the Falcons are still tweaking their team to improve it. The Hawks have just been re-upping the same guys hoping for better results.

Oh, and under what rock have you been living that you think Ryan’s gotten a pass? He’s been criticized since the Falcons drafted him just because he’s not Mike Vick.

Also, it’s a little bit easier to win a playoff game in the NBA, considering each round of the playoffs is best of 7 instead of a single elimination.


February 20th, 2011
8:00 pm

Keep Josh and Al, everyone else can go. Those two are the best two players and have reasonable contracts. JJ will be a cancer that can never live up to his contact.I would look into trading any of the other players we have.

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Smiling Jack

February 20th, 2011
8:46 pm

Very good GT Alum…Sportsgirl is trying to compare apples to oranges..basketball to football just doesn’t match up in any way. As for the Hawks, why doesn’t some one organize these AJC Bloggers to come up with a community owned basketball team. We have gneral managers, managers and probably some players on this blog who can do far better than the present Hawks organization.


February 20th, 2011
8:57 pm

Schultzie – I gotta agree with you. Bibby needs to be coming off the bench. His 3 and spot up jump shots are a great asset to have late in a game, but he can’t be depended upon to keep someone in front of him and keep the pace of the game high. I love Josh, but I fear that he will NEVER mature. I know he’s doing much better as far as 3 point percentage, but he needs to be AGGRESSIVE and ATTACK the basket – not settle for jumpers. I fear his head just isn’t in the game and whines too much. Marvin, oh Marvin. Where’s the passion, man? Attack, rebound, hustle!

Insert Teague into line-up and Bibby to come off the bench for needed firepower and late game situations. Move JC1 while he has value. I seriously hope that we don’t plan on re-signing him next year. Why not move him and get something of value? Sorry to say it, gotta move Smoove too. Getting a center would be preferred.


February 20th, 2011
9:00 pm

at the end of the day the falcons still haven’t won a playoff game period. I still say the Falcons get a pass it is what it is


February 20th, 2011
9:08 pm

them hawks goin “hey hey!”


February 20th, 2011
9:10 pm

and sportsgirl, you be stupid girl! hawks and falcons, they like cousins, both flappin their wings and stuff, goin “swoosh swoosh” you know what im sayin?


February 20th, 2011
9:19 pm

jeff, dont you still chuckle at the we have arrived comment from one of the asg chieftains three years back. imposters all at the top.


February 20th, 2011
9:26 pm

sportsgirl shouldnt you be changing a diaper or washing the dishes


February 20th, 2011
9:37 pm

@Rozeman no your I told your mom to after she finished scrubbing the floor ;-)

Ted Striker

February 20th, 2011
9:43 pm

Excellent column.


February 20th, 2011
9:56 pm

The players can not help that they are the most poorly constructed team in the NBA. Sund is a horrible GM. We have 2 very good SG’s, 2 very good pf’s, an average SF and the NBA worst at PG.

Yet we have a GM that says, we like our core. He is full of crap.


February 20th, 2011
9:57 pm

The Hawks need to call Denver up and make a offer to get Carmelo.

Atlanta gets: Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith & Chauncey Billups
Denver gets: Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford & Jeff Teaque


February 20th, 2011
9:58 pm

sportsgirl i think you need to go to bed so you can make the bus to school in the morning. You need to make that english class so you can learn to write a proper sentence while under pressure———————————————————————————————————–

Najeh Davenpoop

February 20th, 2011
11:34 pm

“it’s a little bit easier to win a playoff game in the NBA, considering each round of the playoffs is best of 7 instead of a single elimination.”

The equivalent of winning a playoff game in the NFL is winning a playoff series in the NBA, since it gets you to the next round. The Hawks have done that each of the last two seasons.