Drew acknowledges Hawks’ mindset not right for playoffs

The Hawks haven't had many easy games, even when playing teams like Detroit. (AP photo)

The Hawks haven't had many easy games, even when playing teams like Detroit. (AP photo)

Let’s not spend too much time on the obvious right now, because the core of this team isn’t going to change before the summer. These are your Hawks: some mismatched parts and personalities and a head coach who says all of the right things but unfortunately too often comes off as the second-grade teacher who constantly screams at the kids, “I said, ‘Line up!’”

This time of season is about more than mismatched parts and personalities. It’s about all of those things the Hawks too often have lacked in difficult moments: heart, desire, resolve.

It’s why they almost got knocked out of the playoffs last year by an undermanned Milwaukee team.

It’s why 17 of their 30 losses this season have come by double digits.

It’s why in these past several weeks – a stretch of the season when good teams are sharpening minds and elbows for the playoffs – the Hawks are 7-1 against teams currently with losing records but only 3-12 against clubs with winning marks.

We saw the good and the bad again Sunday at Philips Arena. The Hawks led the remains of the Detroit Pistons by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, putzed around as the lead shrank to two, and eventually won 104-96, partly because it’s just not in the Pistons’ DNA to win a lot of road games (they’re now 7-28).

Ready for the playoffs?

Don’t think so.

“If there’s anything that needs to be fixed, it’s our mental state,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said before the game. “It’s 70 games into the season and I know mental fatigue has settled in. We have to push through that.

“This is not the first stretch of games where we’ve let games get away from us. Teams that play that grind-it-out, blue-collar style have been a thorn in our side. Oklahoma City grinds it out. Miami, they’ve had their struggles, but they play physical basketball. They set screens. They bang. They play a little dirty, not dirty in a bad way, but it’s a way that you play as you prepare yourself for the playoffs. Good teams that have come through here are playing at that level.”

The message being: The Hawks are not.

There was some good Sunday. When the Pistons came back, the Hawks didn’t fold. Guys fought through screens. Josh Smith even dove for a ball.

But those moments can’t be video rarities.

Barring a meteoric rise or a complete collapse, the Hawks (40-30) will finish as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and face Orlando in the first round. The Magic certainly are beatable. The Hawks have done it the last two times the teams have met.

But this isn’t about just how certain teams match up and whether the Hawks have an answer for Dwight Howard. It’s about consistency and toughness.

Drew was asked before the game how a team can avoid being known as soft. Some coaches would take just the question personally because it suggests the obvious.

Drew didn’t. What does that tell you?

“You make it known that it’s going to be a physical game,” he said. “You stand toe-to-toe and you slug it out. You get to the loose balls. You get bodies on people. You set hard screens. You may get called for some illegal screens  — so what? But you set the tone for the kind of team you want to be. If you don’t, you can be labeled as a soft team. You can’t be a team where when the other team smacks you, your body language shows defeat.”

He sees what we all see.

Marvin Williams was encouraged by how the team responded Sunday but acknowledged: “Sometimes we’re not as tough as we can be.”

Al Horford said, “Sometimes we just need to play with a little more fire, a little more passion.”

There are only 12 games left before the playoffs. That shouldn’t be a problem right now.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

93 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
6:04 pm

Since Bibby was traded, the Hawks are 3-2 when Teague gets 20+ minutes (both losses to Denver) and 3-6 when he doesn’t.

The margin of victory in those 3 Teague wins is 16.7 points. The margin of victory in the three non-Teague wins is 6 points.

JeJe

March 20th, 2011
6:13 pm

FIRE WOODY
FIRE LD
FIRE J SMOOVE

Larry

March 20th, 2011
6:16 pm

The Hawks are and will always be a joke in the hands of this ownership and coaching staff. Get rid of Josh Smith, Joe Smith and anybody else that might have value and start again. We are going down the road to nowhere…count on it.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
6:17 pm

Also, a good second grade teacher doesn’t have to scream to get their kids to line up.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
6:19 pm

While the Hawks are getting rid of Joe Smith, maybe they should also try getting rid of Esteban Batista, Obinna Ekezie, and Theo Ratliff. Those guys are really holding the team back.

JeJe

March 20th, 2011
6:20 pm

Get rid of Hanno Mottola, Dan Dickau, and Matt Maloney.

Scrubs

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
6:27 pm

The Hawks and the NBA suck. It’s the same thing every year. One can pick out 3 to 4 teams before the start of each season that will have a chance at winning the NBA Finals. How is that exciting? How does a fan of an NBA city get excited for a team that has no chance at making the Finals. Is just making the playoffs enough? Please…. the Hawks are no closer to the Finals than they were with Shareef and Jason Terry. Just because they win several more games a year is irrelevant. Any intelligent observer can see which teams have a shot and and see which teams are pretenders. How do “fans” of cities such as Atlanta get up for this. It’s the same thing every year.

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
6:30 pm

The NBA is a joke. Not enough talent to go around. Lebron had it right when he said he supported contraction.

GSUEagle

March 20th, 2011
6:32 pm

ASG – Please let new ownership buy the Hawks, Thrashers, and Philips soon. You’ve had your shot and failed. You are the Smith’s and we need a Blank!!

UGA

March 20th, 2011
6:43 pm

Trade Josh Smith for some basketballs, they don’t even have to be pumped up.

mike

March 20th, 2011
6:46 pm

Larry Drew has done nothing to improve the overall level of play of the team. He was handed a playoff team and they seem to be stuck in the mud. Cant go forward cant go backwards. And where is our seff anointed top tier GM Sund. Things going well and you cant keep off the talk radio stations. Things get the least bit challenging and he disappears. Similar to his days in Seattle which I unfortunately was there to witness. Mediocrity never changes.

mykhalc

March 20th, 2011
6:49 pm

the only reason there’s is mental fatigue from these cats is ’cause they KNOW they are NOT goin’ anywhere in the playoffs…if they happen to squeak in. you think go Kobe, Wade, Pierce, Garnett, Gasol, Durant, Rose, etc etc etc are screamin’ mental??? this ‘team’ and its’ players are a joke…and it starts with the low BB IQ’ed LD!!! take that back it starts with broke-a$$ ASG!!!

mykhalc

March 20th, 2011
6:49 pm

stickin’ by my 6-12 prediction for last 18…

mykhalc

March 20th, 2011
6:51 pm

extraneous ‘go’ in there for some reason. my mind is workin’ like LD’s…broke!!!

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
6:57 pm

I’ll take Al Horford all day long though.

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 20th, 2011
7:20 pm

I can’t believe that Al has not assimulated into the Hawks scheme.

Oh yea I forgot , he’s a winner.

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
7:24 pm

I though that Josh Smith would be better at this point in his career. I had high hopes for the hometown kid.

ignition

March 20th, 2011
7:24 pm

Im so angry and disappointed with the Hawks …
Not only is this guy just as bad if not worse than Woody, he’s a bold face liar, where is all this ball movement in crunch time where is all the defensive accountability has TALKS about ..
It hasn’t shown on court..
Not to mention the worst trade I’ve read all year in any sport when they traded for this scrub Hinrich..
Dear Hawks I Hate You !!!!!!!!

tremaine

March 20th, 2011
7:29 pm

tony

March 20th, 2011
7:54 pm

LD
” Oklahoma City grinds it out. Miami, they’ve had their struggles, but they play physical basketball. They set screens. They bang. They play a little dirty, not dirty in a bad way, but it’s a way that you play as you prepare yourself for the playoffs. Good teams that have come through here are playing at that level.”

Another reason why the hawks need Bill Laimbeer.

Dale in Newnan

March 20th, 2011
7:54 pm

Mykhalc, you are the eternal optimist. This team is good enough to hang around, and bad enough to disappoint. There is no substance only flash; fundamentals are forgotten at this first crises. Team has no heart, no fire, and toughness is tragically absent. If someone punched a Hawk starter, other than Al Horford who is a stud, in the face they would rapidly hand over their wallet and assume the fetal position. How long for Al Horford demands a trade from these accomplished underachievers; after all the Dude is used to winning.

tremaine

March 20th, 2011
7:58 pm

Dale in Newnan I disagree, Al has looked just as soft as everybody else. Zaza has been the only one banging with other bigs lately.

Time

March 20th, 2011
7:58 pm

If Al Horford was this great winner that everyone on these blogs believes him to be, would he not be able to lead by example and help raise the level of his teammates. Which is what great leaders and winners do.

Maybe he is, because all he does anymore is shoot ill advised perimeter jump shots while the rests of the team stands around. Same as anyone else does.

Time

March 20th, 2011
8:02 pm

And again on Horford. Everyone says he’s a “winner”. Ok, so he’s got a couple college rings. He also got them with one of the more talented overall teams to ever win in college. Those teams were loaded. My 2 year old neice could have won a ring on those teams. Wouldn’t have made her anymore a “winner” on the NBA level than it does Horford.

Dale in Newnan

March 20th, 2011
8:03 pm

Timbo, JS is a microcosm of the modern NBA. He gets his money and then proceeds to coast on his natural ability. Just a singular example of a legion of players more worried about his stats and potential highlights on Sportscenter than making his team better. If he had Al’s desire along with his talent with a rededicated focus on making the team better, then maybe he would justify that contract. he should be a dominant force in the paint who can occasionally take it outside to change things up. The Kid should be dominating not standing 20 feet on the perimeter watching the game go by. The minimal accepted standard for him should be 18pts, 10 rebs, 4blks and 2 ast (he is really an excellent passer) a game. Would someone please tell me why Kevin Love is such a superior player to JS?

bird

March 20th, 2011
8:05 pm

Should have given Mark Jackson a chance.

Dale in Newnan

March 20th, 2011
8:07 pm

Tremaine I respect your opinion, and I totally agree with you about the toughness the team sorely lacks. Why doesn’t Z get more time. Given he is a bit of a stiff, but he will bang and miss it up. No finesse team ever wins championships; even the Magic Lakers had tough guys on the team willing to come in and mix it up. The Hawks couldn’t win a fight against most metro JV teams. So soft, so disappointing.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
8:09 pm

“JS is a microcosm of the modern NBA. He gets his money and then proceeds to coast on his natural ability. Just a singular example of a legion of players more worried about his stats and potential highlights on Sportscenter than making his team better. ”

Spoken like someone who watches neither Josh Smith nor the NBA in general. You can say Smoove doesn’t play to his strengths, but to imply that he hasn’t worked on his game after getting his new contract is completely false. Smoove and Al are the only two Hawks who have actually worked and developed new skills after signing their new deals. If you want to point a finger at someone who hasn’t, you can start with Joe and Marvin.

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
8:11 pm

Dale~Funny…I was thinking of Kevin Love when I was writing about Josh…As far as Al goes, he plays above his talent level IMO while playing out of position.That’s why people like him Time whereas Josh plays below his talent level and doesn’t even try to lead.

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
8:20 pm

Najeh don’t agree about Josh, but won’t argue at all about joe and Marvin. Joe=Max Contract? Pleaseeee.. I don’t blame him for signing though. That’s more of an indictment on the ownership/management than Joe. As far as Josh though, i don’t know. He’s been in the league what 7 years now? He’s in his mid 20’s now. I expected more….Look, the Hawks hitched their wagon to Joe and Josh with their contracts, and they will not get it done. They are not first tier players….As far as Marvin goes, eeeeeshhhh… give me Chris Paul Billy Knight!

south

March 20th, 2011
8:20 pm

Alabama’s Mark Barron arrestedEmail Print Comments255 Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. — University of Alabama safety Mark Barron has been arrested on charges of hindering prosecution, a misdemeanor charge.

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The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday on its website that Barron was booked on the charge. His bond was listed at $500.

No additional details were available, and it could not immediately be determined if Barron had an attorney.

The arrest comes as the football team is set to begin spring practice Monday.

Barron led the team with 75 tackles last season. He has been rehabilitating from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in November.

Dale in Newnan

March 20th, 2011
8:24 pm

Timbo, you are completely right about his complete lack of leadership, or his apparent willingness to do so. Najeh you have to be kidding, right? Playing to his strength? Hoisting 3pt bricks with alarming regularity? Homerism is effecting your logic. How can you say JS has lived up to his potential. Kid should be a force of nature. Kid should be elevating the players around him. I like JS, I want JS to excel, but for what he gets, and his talent level, there should be a hell of a lot more results. 8.8 rebounds for a 6-9, 240lb stud with a fountain of talent is not acceptable. This should be HIS team, but for some reason it is not?
Now about you comments about Marvin and JJ, I have to agree with you. They are probably the crucible in which this slow developing train wreck is mixed in.

Dale in Newnan

March 20th, 2011
8:26 pm

What a finish in the Texas- Arizona game. If only the NBA were this exciting.

big o

March 20th, 2011
8:28 pm

I will say it again… I dont think LD is a bad coach but in pro sports you have to deal with relationship dynamics. It’s hard for LD to go from being the good cop to MW and now think he can lead or inspire this team. I hope mannagement wont blow up the team and start over. We need a new coach with a new voice and system. I like the blooger who mentioned Bill Lambier also I would check to see if Jerry Sloan is available or anybody but the same ISH… Lastly…. BRING DEWIGHT HOWARD HOME. !!!! Trade #1 pick for next 3 years and Marvin but do it if you want a championship

mykhalc

March 20th, 2011
8:29 pm

@Dale in Newnan…eternal optimist??? well then again 6-12 might be too optimistic!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
8:30 pm

“As far as Josh though, i don’t know. He’s been in the league what 7 years now? He’s in his mid 20’s now. I expected more”

I think this is where my opinion diverges from most people. I don’t think he’s as talented as most of you seem to think. I get the feeling a lot of people think he should have developed into some kind of mini-LeBron by now, just because he has long arms and can jump out of the gym. It doesn’t quite work that way. The NBA’s superstars had ball skills way above and beyond what Smoove had when they came into the league, regardless of whether they came straight from high school or they went to college.

There are certainly things he could be doing better — his post moves and jump shot have both gone from nonexistent when he first came into the league to about league-average now, but still have a lot of room for improvement, and his shot selection obviously needs to improve — but I guess I just never thought his ceiling was as high as some of y’all do.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 20th, 2011
8:31 pm

“Playing to his strength? Hoisting 3pt bricks with alarming regularity? Homerism is effecting your logic. ”

Try reading my post again.

south

March 20th, 2011
9:02 pm

Janoris Jenkins pleads to drug chargeEmail Print Comments117 Associated Press

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins has accepted a plea deal on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

The State Attorney’s Office agreed to withhold adjudication and ordered Jenkins to pay $316 in various court costs and fines Friday.

Jenkins, considered one of the top cornerbacks in the Southeastern Conference, was arrested in a Gainesville nightclub in January. Gainesville Police officers said they spotted Jenkins in a public bathroom rolling a marijuana cigarette. Jenkins was charged with possession of marijuana less than 20 grams. He was released after signing a notice to appear in court.

It was the football program’s first arrest under new coach Will Muschamp, who said he would handle the matter internally.

Stuart

March 20th, 2011
9:34 pm

Nice to see Jordan Crawford has had 21, 25, and 27 in his last three games… Wish we had such a scoring threat on our team… It’s amazing what players can do when they actually get a chance to play.

atlgent

March 20th, 2011
9:44 pm

ummm..I have to agree with Najeh Davenpoop and his opinions of Josh Smith. He did not come into the league with the heroic status of Lebron. If you go back to draft night, he was believed to be picked TOO high at 18. He was projected to be a 2nd round pick with ONLY leaping ability, no offensive skill set and NO jumper. Basically, he was thought of to only be a bench player with hustle and defensive ability as a shot blocker. I guess some of you don’t remember how the pick of Josh was bashed and critiqued by the commentators.

So based upon that assessment , Josh has come a looooong way. I honestly think his offensive game has peeked and he needs to develop a thrill for defense. It is YOU guys that have concluded that Josh SHOULD be a great player. I love him as a player- he is EXCITING,not great. You get what you get wuith Josh and I honestly have never thought that his play LOST any Hawks game but I know that his play has won many….

Just my opinion

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
9:45 pm

I agree with your assessment about Josh’s talent Najeh. I just can’t help but thinking that if he wanted to be a great player in the post he could be, it’s just much easier for Josh to launch 3’s not realizing or maybe caring that after 7 years that is exactly what the opposition wants him to do. It takes effort and desire to play in the post and he hasn’t shown me that he has it. At least that’s what my eyes are telling me.

atlgent

March 20th, 2011
9:45 pm

I meant peaked…sorry

atlgent

March 20th, 2011
9:48 pm

@ Timbo…

I think that if plays were designed distinctly for Josh to remain in the post, he would. I honestly don’t think he drifts behind the 3 point line of his own doing! The play is the play….blame the coach!
And from looking at the games, Josh knows where he should be on virtually every play, he actually directs others where to go ahem, Marvin Williams…

Whopper Dawg

March 20th, 2011
10:11 pm

I have to admire the folks that keep trying to find the golden lining in the dark cloud.

Here is a forecast for ya, out in in round 1. Now let’s sign someone else we can’t do without to a max contract.

I would love to sit in on a Hawks management meeting and see what kind of logic prevails in that organization.

Timbo

March 20th, 2011
10:21 pm

atlgent… i’m not buying it. the offense is not designed for J. Smith to be shooting jumpshots and threes…and if it is, that doesn’t explain the previous 6 years. Dude can take it to the hole and just doesn’t do it.

JeJe

March 20th, 2011
10:23 pm

THE JOKER

March 20th, 2011
11:07 pm

Wish we had a real coach.

MICK

March 20th, 2011
11:13 pm

TEAGUE DID NOT PLAY?

Harpie

March 20th, 2011
11:37 pm

A professional team with an amateur coach – what a joke. Larry Drew turns my stomach…

will shoot

March 20th, 2011
11:40 pm

they beat detriot, Whatever!