This would be good time for Hawks to knock somebody down

If the Hawks are going to upset Orlando, they'll need to make things difficult on Dwight Howard like this. (Jason Getz/AJC)

If the Hawks are going to upset Orlando in the playoffs, they'll need to make things difficult on Dwight Howard. (Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com)

They nearly lost a playoff series to Milwaukee, which was missing starting center Andrew Bogut. They certainly lost their dignity in a second-round sweep by Orlando, which won four straight by an NBA playoff-record 101 points (give or take a major organ).

That’s not about strategy. That’s not about intelligence. That’s not about speed or size or length.

On the eve of the NBA playoffs, the Hawks need to locate all of the intangibles they too often lack: desire, heart, toughness.

People doubt them because too often they play small. Or soft. They fold quickly, quietly, comfortably — as if knowing it doesn’t matter because they’re on direct deposit.

If they want to change that perception, this would be a good time to knock somebody down.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks go against the eminently beatable Magic. The series opens Saturday in Orlando. Forget socks. Pack an extra elbow.

They have beaten Orlando three out of four this season. Regular seasons bear little resemblance to playoffs. But it’s significant that the Hawks, who had gone 2-10 against Orlando in the previous two seasons (regular season and playoffs) were 3-1 this season. This Magic team is not the Eastern Conference power of recent seasons. But a big reason the Hawks have had some success is they’ve beaten up Dwight Howard, utilizing the Bruise Brothers defense of Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia.

The Hawks’ flaws are no secret. They have a reluctant star (Joe Johnson), an athletic wonder who can be either their greatest asset or biggest liability (Josh Smith) and an all-around great player who is out of position (Al Horford).

But what really has prevented them from winning more playoff games is the lack of a consistent effort, toughness and resiliency.

Players say they expect a physical series. But when it unfolds that way, will the response echo the line from the pledge in Animal House: “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Quoth Pachulia: “We need to have that blue-collar mentality. We’re more dangerous when we play that way.”

He spent a little extra time in the weight room after practice Thursday.

Not a coincidence.

When asked if he expected bodies to be hitting the floor, he said: “Sure. That’s the history of the playoffs. You’ll watch all of the highlights on TV, and there’s always some blood.”

Collins has more playoff experience (78 games) than anybody on the Hawks’ roster. It seems strange to cast a guy averaging two points and two rebounds as a key to the series, but that’s the case.

If the Hawks can successfully rotate Collins, Pachulia and Horford against Howard, that’s 18 fouls to work with. Less double-teaming inside theoretically means better defense on the perimeter.

“You’re obviously not trying to go out there and hurt anybody, but you definitely want to set a tone,” Collins said. “Keep body contact on him.”

Collins has been the designated hit man before in his career, against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

“I don’t think Shaq likes me too much,” he said.

We’ve seen this bunch turn to mush too often. They’ve been blown out and checked out, usually on the same night. The signs haven’t been good in the past two weeks after playoff seeding was set.

“Some guys expected to have games off,” coach Larry Drew said. “Some guys took games off.”

It’s one thing to lose to another team. It’s another to open the door, let them wipe their feet on your back and make them a sandwich. That’s what happened against Orlando in last year’s playoffs.

“That was such a brutal series,” Drew said. “Seeing the body language in our team — even being down 2-0 and coming home, you should never show signs of defeat like that. After Game 1, I saw players in a state I’ve never seen before. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.”

Drew admits the Hawks were outworked and not mentally prepared for that seven-game series against Milwaukee. “That took something out of us,” he said.

The Milwaukee series exposed the team’s flaws. The Orlando series, he said, “exploited us.”

We’ve seen enough “exploitation” in Atlanta. Also enough surrendering. This is the time to hit back.

By Jeff Schultz

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

94 comments Add your comment

mica

April 14th, 2011
4:57 pm

I couldn’t agree more, Jeff!

Lady C

April 14th, 2011
5:00 pm

Snowman

April 14th, 2011
5:04 pm

Seriously Jeff, Just stop!!!…I can’t stop laughing at you Hawk fans on this blog who wanted coach Woodson out especially you Jeff Schultz (and I live in Washington D.C. and was a Hawk fan)!!!…it’s a JOKE!!! You run Mike Woodson out of town and THIS IS THE BEST YOU CAN DO???…P-a-l-e-a-s-e!!!…You all should be ashamed of your self and should apology to coach Woodson! The fact that he got 53 wins out of these knuckleheads and also got them to the 2nd round of the playoffs, is amazin (except for Al…he is an absolute warrior!!!).

Drew how did the (by the way, I just took the knife out of Woods back, that you left) wonderful “new” offense of yours work this season??? what new offense???…Jeff, how are you and your boy Rick Sund going to explain this dibacle now that you don’t have Wood around???…I mean the Wizards started Mo Evans and Jordan Crawford and beat the Hawks by 33 pts!!!!!!…John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Phil Jackson, and Red Auerbach could not have gotten more than 53 wins out of this group as Woodson did last season and to the second round of the playoffs. The team improved every year for 5 consecutive seasons (a NBA record!!!) and this team under Woodson’s “teaching and coaching” would have been better as well (period!!!).

Finally, I remember everyone clamoring and trying to get coach Woodson to play Saleem and Acie Law…I had not heard their names since they both left Atlanta. To tell you the truth, Childress’ BEST days was when Woody was coaching him up and remember Ronald “Flip” Murray? He had his BEST year under Woodson as well!!! I have not heard Solo’s or Sheldon Williams name either since he left Atlanta. He got more from less than any coach in the league!!! You horrible fans (and I know that is NOT everybody…so forgive me for including you good ones) should write Woody an apology and then demand the Hawks replace the GM and the AJC should replace you Jeff!!!

I heard your pathetic self, tweeted about seeing coach at the NCAA tournament a couple of weeks ago.Why are you still blasting him (get a life!!!)? You could not have been more wrong about coach Woodson, Drew, and Rick Sund. I have know idea why the Hawks ownership has put up with this mess and why they needed to make a coaching change and NOT a GM change. The Hawks needed more quality players and better drafting, not a coaching change. However I can’t stop laughing Jeff and good luck in the playoffs (out first round)…

Come on Jeff, the cat got your tongue?…

tom

April 14th, 2011
5:09 pm

whatever happens, keep playing hard and never stop attacking. Go HAWKS!

Word

April 14th, 2011
5:10 pm

Spot on Shultzie….Spot on.

Go Hawks….(much like the Hawks, my heart isn’t into it)

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
5:21 pm

“Bruise Brothers”… not bad at all.

I am a Dwight Howard fan (I’m a fan of pretty much anyone from Atlanta) and I still hold out hope the Hawks can acquire him in the summer of 2012 when he opts out of his contract, but I would love to see Zaza and Collins get under his skin this series. He is after all the NBA leader in technicals.

squawk squawk!!!!

April 14th, 2011
5:22 pm

This would be a good time for the Hawks to move back to St. Louis.

Whopper Dawg

April 14th, 2011
5:31 pm

Jeff,

I commend you for your perseverance.

Whopper

fred smith

April 14th, 2011
5:34 pm

Snowman, what are you smoking? Woodie was a terrible coach with absolutely no offensive game plan. The problem is they replaced him with a bigger loser, resigned Joe, take the money and run, Johnson, and kept the terrible GM.

Blow up the whole thing and start over!

JeJe

April 14th, 2011
5:54 pm

Kenny

April 14th, 2011
5:59 pm

They won’t win a game.

EW

April 14th, 2011
5:59 pm

We might as well try to play the “bad boy” role and go down with a fight. I would take that over laying down like we are used to seeing.

JSS

April 14th, 2011
6:07 pm

@ Fred…
You must be sharing the stash because nobody is ever going to live to through another demolition and rebuild after having to witness the Stotts and Woody 13-69 debacle! Get an adequate GM, either eject Drew or blow up his staff and get him a veteran voice that he will listen to and then follow-up on the sage advice… If like a blown up franchise so much, the Wizards, Nets, and T-Wolves have plenty of room on their bandwagons…

heartofdarkness

April 14th, 2011
6:14 pm

Jeff, are you proposing a scrimmage against the team’s haberdashers?

Basketball Jones

April 14th, 2011
6:16 pm

I actually think they might sneak up on O. No one expects any thing good to happen for them, so they can play the “No Respect” theme to the hilt.

DBH

April 14th, 2011
6:18 pm

Hawks will get swept again, because they have yet to graduate from the mindset of “we’re happy to be in the playoffs” to “we belong in the playoffs”. I only hope this year’s quick exit won’t be by an average beat down of almost 30 points a game.

Scott

April 14th, 2011
6:18 pm

what if you wrote actual paragraphs?

you could do this instead of relying on one-sentence paragraphs to create some faux dramatic effect.

what do you think of that, Jeff?

Herschel Talker

April 14th, 2011
6:25 pm

Schultzie:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! ROTFLMAO!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I GET IT, IT’S A JOKE!

HT

Paddy

April 14th, 2011
6:40 pm

The Hawks have spit the bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The players have not bought into the LD scheme and it was never more evident than the last mon. of the season. ASG, sell your teams! We deserve better than this as ATL fans.

Stinger2

April 14th, 2011
6:49 pm

Jeff: Are you in the doghouse with your boss? Since this is your second article today about the Hawks, it appears that you are being relegated to the pits with respect to what you are being assigned to write about.

Stinger2

April 14th, 2011
7:02 pm

Jeff: Another comment: The Hawks won 9 fewer games this year under Drew than the 53 last season under Woody. They
lost the last 6 regular season under the pretense that
Drew did not want to risk injuries and to rest the regulars. So he is the coach and is responsible to make the decisions, but what kind of momentum does 6 straight losses give any team entering the playoffs? Could he not have tried to win a couple of games just to keep the idea in the player`s minds that winning a game down the stretch is a good thing to do?

wxwax

April 14th, 2011
7:11 pm

Eminently, not imminently.

money matters

April 14th, 2011
7:41 pm

make a statement? the only statement they will make is that they suck again and their coach doesn’t have a clue. Hopefully this worthless bunch of overpaid “players” packs it up and this franchise leaves town with the thrashers.

honest_abe

April 14th, 2011
7:45 pm

their “main” star is slow in every way. he thinks slow. he acts and reacts slow. he dribbles slow. and it’s quite obvious his skills are deteriorating rapidly.

their “2nd” star is passive. he’s probably their best player but he neither demands or asks for the ball in tough situations. his post game is limited and he passes up too many open shots.

their “3rd” star is a knucklead. either he gets too emotional or he doesn’t have any. he’ll follow up an amazing play with one that makes you wonder if he even cares. in the playoffs when each and every possession counts, you can’t have a player who is that careless and expect to win.

lets go hawks!

snowman you sound like an idiot. shut up.

DHD

April 14th, 2011
7:48 pm

They don’t care. Ownership doesn’t care. I’m not going to either.

Snowman

April 14th, 2011
7:50 pm

@Fred Smith…Woody could not coach???…what??? seriously???…He swept the Celtics last year in the regular season, they won 53 games compared to the 44 this season with a better team, and they NEVER and I mean NEVER lost tot he Wizards and here they lose by 33 pts on Saturday!!!

In the history of the NBA no one has done better than 5 consecutive better records. If Woody was a bad coach, how did they win 9 more games last season (with less!!!)? Hopefully he’ll be back in the NBA soon and I hope the Rick Sund/Larry drew experiment works out for you Hawk faithful!!!…can’t coach, please!!!….By the way, Woody has a championship ring!!!

dawg4u

April 14th, 2011
7:53 pm

The Hawks have one stud player in Al Horford and we never know what to expect of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. The guy that should get the key to the city of Atlanta is Steve Holman the Hawk’s play by play guy who has been calling Hawk games since the mid eighties. He is a very capable announcer and you would think he was calling the ‘72 Lakers team or some of the great Celtic or Bulls teams when Jordan was in his heyday. Great announcer but another early playoff exit!

G-Balla Homey

April 14th, 2011
7:54 pm

Nice way to enter the playoffs with a 6 game L streak. Dey need sumone to wake dem up. What da coch for ?

Hawks traded away Bill Russell in 1956

April 14th, 2011
7:57 pm

1) Trade Joe Johnson for expiring. Desperate teams who can take JJ: DAL, NYK
2) move Marvin back to the 2.
3) move Smith back to the 3. make Smith lose the power forward weight.
4) move Al back to the 4.
5) Sign a budget center

2012-2013

Let Crawford & Hinrich walk.
6) Sign Dwight Howard to sizable deal
7) Sign Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andre Miller, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, etc.
Retain Teague as a backup to learn the position. Sign A.Thornton and S. Robinson NOW! undervalued versatile assets that can negate all these star guards and wings with defense, size, and running.
8) PG: Chris Paul
running wings: Marvin Williams F Josh Smith
running bigs: Al Horford & Dwight Howard
9) backups PG Jeff Teague SG Al Thornton SF Stanley Robinson PF Diogu, C Pachulia

Snowman

April 14th, 2011
8:01 pm

http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=310409027

This is the box score from the Wizard vs. Hawks game last Saturday evening. Remember Mo Evans and Jordan Crawford both started for the Wizards!!!! (smile)…They lost by 33!!!!…33!!!!!…Rick Sund is a joke and Jeff, you are as well, for promoting his agenda all last season and dogging Woody, you should be ashamed…ashamed!!!!…very ashamed…33!!!…smile…you are a good writer, huh?…really???…really Jeff!!!…now, repeat after me…Woody, I was wrong!!!…lol….ok, Ill stop…I promise…

ag

April 14th, 2011
8:24 pm

glad to see Mike Woodson or one of his family members are on the blogs. I wanted you fired also, but i did not want LD. It was time for you to leave, but we just chose the wrong coach.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:34 pm

Snowman — Welcome back. Missed you so. Didn’t you say you were never coming back? I guess you missed me too. Cheers.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:35 pm

Mica — Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:35 pm

Word – Thanks. Hang in, you just never know.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:35 pm

Najeh — Actually heard a couple of guys uttering it in the locker room today.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:39 pm

JSS — I would suggest that if there’s a major playoff collapse, the ramifications will be far more significant than firing the head coach. A lot of balls up in the air right now: ownership, GM, coach, roster.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:41 pm

heartofdarkness — sorry, you lost me.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:42 pm

Scott — Are you the literary critic now? Should I write Hawks stories in Hemingway style, because, you know, that would really connect with readership.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:43 pm

Stinger2 — Come on, that’s not nice. This team’s in playoffs, I’m not going to write Braves every day and it’s not football season. But I’m always look for story ideas if you’d like to pass some along.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:44 pm

Stinger2 — That’s a really good question about playing starters less the past few games. Can’t answer that. I agree that six straight losses doesn’t look good, though it’s not like LD was trying to lose six straight.

Jeff Schultz

April 14th, 2011
8:47 pm

Prof. Wxwax — Yes thanks. That was caught and fixed.

Herschel Talker

April 14th, 2011
9:08 pm

Schultzie:

Nice streak of responses. Well done.

FIRE MARK RICHT
FIRE BOBBY COX

HT

russ

April 14th, 2011
9:55 pm

snowman you’re dead on point, I’m a native Atlantan and I’m sorry to admit I don’t think any of these clowns realize how hard it is to win 53 games in the NBA,especially with the group woody had. Even when the Hawks had the great Dominique Wilkins,Tree Rollins,Doc Rivers ,Kevin Willis,Moses Malone,Reggie Theus ,Spud Webb etc . and were challenging Boston for supremacy in the east their best record was only 4 games better than Woody’s bunch. Woody actually worked a miracle with this team when you consider the circumstances,a1st time head coach with a completely overhauled NBA team with two 1st round draft picks that so-called expert NBA analyst said were the worst of that years draft,no point guard to speak of for the first two years,and the teams prized star free agent acquisition was not even good enough to start on his former team,not to mention a power foward as the teams center. but Woody made them a 50+ game winner and how do we thank him ? by running him out of town. IN 48 years of living in Atlanta, I’ve come to realize that fans here are not truly happy until they have perennial losers across the board.

PMC

April 14th, 2011
10:39 pm

Snowman, you realize it doesn’t matter what anyone here thinks right?

Larry Drew has the job because he was the cheapest option not because Woodson didn’t do a good job.

The collection of misfits known as the Hawks don’t care enough about winning to matter.

They give up at the slightest resistance. None of these guys have the internal fire to win in the playoffs. They quit vs the magic last year. They’ll probably quit this year.

russ

April 14th, 2011
10:42 pm

Rick Sund is the guy who should have been run out of town!!! why was he ever hired in the first place ? check out his past record. The move when he brought in Jamal crawford was a stroke of genius but everything else he did was bone-headed!!!! I gave him credit for bringing in Jordan Crawford for insurance in case they didn’t reach a deal with Joe Johnson and I’ll be Damned if he didn’t give him away along with next years 1st rounder for a thirty year old washed -up KIrk Heinrich !!! After he gave joe $120,000,000 !!! GO FIGURE !!! Then he Re-signed Marvin Williams to 5 more miserable years and $38,000,000 and everybody thinks Woody is the problem!!!

PMC

April 14th, 2011
10:44 pm

The problem with the Hawks forever has been horrid front office decisions and really poor jobs picking players. Rinse Lather Repeat.

It’s the destiny of the Hawks to have GM’s that are incompetent. It really doesn’t matter who coaches them.

In a guard driven league…. this team decided to go with a team full of forwards and then desperately picking up guards….then overpaying the hell out of Joe Johnson.

It’s futile caring about this team. It’s futile caring about any Atlanta team.

PMC

April 14th, 2011
10:46 pm

It’s not like they fired Woody guys, they let him play out his contract then they went cheaper.

Ole Smoky

April 14th, 2011
11:01 pm

One of these two coaches will be losing a job…. Me thinks it’ll be Drew !

Tell the truth

April 14th, 2011
11:09 pm

The Hawks remind me of the old Falcons teams that could not shoot straight for the Smith family ownership. They had no idea what they were doing and would not pay the money to buy enough talent to regularly compete. Like wise the Braves prior to the early 90’s.

Snowman

April 14th, 2011
11:53 pm

Russ, thanks and you too were also “very, very on point” in your observations!!!! (smile)…I wish I could reach my hand through these little wholes in the screen to give you a high five (lol)…you get it!!! So do you PMC and DHD, I mention that because for so long I did not think the people of this blog or in Atlanta were getting it and this goes back to last year as well. Poor Fred and Honest Abe I get that they are Morons however why does Jeff not get it? What is his angle or agenda?

Look, the Hawks were 53-29 last season and 34-7 at home!!! Do you know how good of players you have to have normally (and we all agree Atlanta has ONLY 1 or 2 good players)and how hard it is to be 53-29??? Jeff knows this as well, more than most if not all of us, because it’s his frickin job for heaven sakes to do the due diligence and fact checking, etc.!!! Then why does he NOT give Woody the credit he deserves? This is ALL I want to know? To get 53 wins from this team, while they went scandal free and carried themselves extremely professional within the community and so forth and getting fans in Atlanta to care and come out to the games!!! (who can ever foget the playoff series the Hawks had against Boston 3 years ago)…come on, are you kidding me (smile)!!!!

In closing, to say Woody can’t coach or is a bad coach and so forth and to prove how hard it is to have a 53-29 record, here are the teams who had similar records this year, Miami 58-24, Orlando 52-30, The Lakers 57-25, OKC 55-27, Boston 56-26, and Dallas 57-25. Thus with resources (money), the players and the commitment from the very top of the organization, coupled with player acquisitions and so forth, the Hawks with JUST the opposite situation as the teams mentioned, were 53-29 and 34-7 at home while this season they were 44-38 and 24-17 at home…CAN’T COACH!!!…Please!!!..Woody should have been a coach of the year candidate…

Jeff, it’s good to be back for a day, I just thought you would have more to say since you had a lot to say in running Woody out and asking us to give Larry Drew and this “new” offense a chance!!! Good luck Woody I hope things work out, hey, the Washington Wizards could use a new coach and 2/5ths of their starting team last Saturday you are familiar with and they beat the Hawks by 33!!! (smile)…

Stop letting Jeff Schultz feed us a bunch of hooey because he knows better and ONLY he can tell you what he really is up to!!!…Thanks Russ (smile)!!!…have a great Spring!!!