Playoff win shows Hawks haven’t quit on Larry Drew

Larry Drew led the Hawks to their first road playoff win over a higher seed in 14 years.

With Saturday's victory over Orlando, Larry Drew led the Hawks to their first road playoff win over a higher seed in 14 years. (AP photo)

ORLANDO – This can get lost in the euphoria of Joe Johnson coming up big in a playoff game, Kirk Hinrich looking almost young again on defense and Jason Collins getting head-butted from a frustrated Dwight Howard.

But it’s worth noting: The Hawks followed Larry Drew.

They followed his game plan. They followed his season-long cries for a consistent effort and passion, his pleas for mental and physical toughness. They won their playoff series opener against Orlando on Saturday night, and in doing so put to rest any suggestions that players had tuned out or quit on their first-year coach. Wins like this simply don’t happen if guys aren’t paying attention.

It doesn’t explain the absurdity of some Hawks performances during the season, including five home losses by 21 or more points. But it gives credence to the theory that the problems have been less about Drew’s ability as a head coach than it is about his players’ occasional reluctance to accept his ideas.

“He has had a plan throughout,” Jamal Crawford said of Drew on Sunday. “Maybe at times some people, or even us, didn’t understand it. But there’s a method to his madness.”

Al Horford, the most universally respected player in the Hawks’ locker room, said, “Nobody has ever quit on Larry. It was more about frustration. I felt like some guys got discouraged because their own games weren’t going the way they wanted it to. That happens during a season.”

It is only one game in this series. But consider the significance: The Hawks were 2-12 in road playoff games in the last three years. Fact is, they hadn’t won a road playoff game against a higher playoff seed in 14 years (at Chicago in the second round in 1996-97).

Drew understood why there were doubters when the Hawks hired him. He was the assistant to the guy who got fired (Mike Woodson). The perception was he got the job because he came cheap. Rumors had circulated lately that he could be in trouble. His contract: only two years and a team option at a relatively modest salary of just over $1 million.

Hard to know if the rumors had any foundation because what in the Hawks’ organization isn’t up in the air? Ownership? Check. Management? Check. Roster? Check.

Pinning the team’s radical mood swings solely on the first-year head coach seemed a tad unfair, especially given he was trying to force a new offense on a group of players that, let’s just say, doesn’t always come off as having that “all for one and one for all” mentality.

Drew said Sunday that he expected “some ups and downs. I was going to have to deal with it and try to find the balance.” The new coach appears to have adopted the philosophy of Mr. Miyagi.

“What this team did last year in the regular season [winning 53 games] was phenomenal,” Drew said. “Could we duplicate it? I didn’t know. To be perfectly honest, my biggest concern was implementing a new system. Would they buy into it? You go through certain situations, different personalities. A clash here, a clash there. Doubt sometimes seeps in. Finger-pointing seeps in. The last thing I was going to allow this team to do was fragment.”

That didn’t happen. Horford said that if players had quit on Drew this season, “It would be the same as quitting on your own teammates. That didn’t happen this year.”

Did it happen last year under Woodson?

“In all honesty, I think it did,” he said.

He pointed to the team’s play in the postseason, particularly in the four-game sweep by Orlando, which also dominated the Hawks during the regular season.

“Part of it could have been Woodson and that some guys had been with him for a long time, but part of it also was we were playing Orlando.

“This year has been a strange season, but the feeling in the locker room seems OK. It’s just a matter of getting acclimated to what he’s trying to do.”

Drew says often, “I believe in this team.” On some days, that puts him in exclusive company.

But at least now, he has a significant playoff win on his resume to back up the words.

By Jeff Schultz

Last few Hawks blogs

Hawks surprise us again — this time by stunning Magic

Like magic, Jameer Nelson suddenly not talking about Hawks

This would be good time for Hawks to knock somebody down

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

78 comments Add your comment

Spartacus

April 17th, 2011
3:58 pm

first time firster!

Spartacus

April 17th, 2011
4:02 pm

I haven’t read anyone else point this out on the other blogs, but I was really impressed with Drew’s comments to the players on the bench last night. When you get in the playoffs, you’ve already proven that you have the talent to be there, now it’s about passion, focus and intensity. Those are the things that Drew zeroed in on in the huddle during one of the breaks (they showed a replay of it during the miked up portion of the broadcast). That is the essence of a coach leading his team and teaching them how to win. It’s about focus and intensity, the plays will be there if they stay with it mentally, and they did a good job of that last night, especially holding the Magic off at the end. Great win Hawks, I was thoroughly impressed, and by the way, the motion offense worked really well last night. I think that might be the best executed game I’ve ever seen the Hawks play!

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
4:07 pm

Ah . . . so you are Spartacus.
(Terrific comments.)

kbp

April 17th, 2011
4:22 pm

Jeff, I thought surely the post season was about sipping another 4 game embalming smoothie for the Hawks and Drew. Glad I am wrong. Go Hawks!

Booo!

April 17th, 2011
4:24 pm

Love what i’m seeing out of the Hawks. Joe and Jamal Showed up and so did Al and Josh. We just gotta stay consistant.

————————————–

“In all honesty, I think it did,” he said.

“This year has been a strange season, but the feeling in the locker room seems OK. It’s just a matter of getting acclimated to what he’s trying to do.”

————————

LD Doesn’t have all the answers, but thank goodness he knows what he’s doing against the magic.

Go Hawks!

Free The Teague!

J.J.M.

April 17th, 2011
4:26 pm

quick question would we be better if twin started every game?

Booo!

April 17th, 2011
4:35 pm

BINGO!!

“If you ask me — and I acknowledge that no one actually did — Howard especially hates losing to the Hawks because they don’t have his full respect. Howard doesn’t enjoy losing to teams such as Boston and Los Angeles, but at least those teams are filled with NBA champions and future Hall of Famers. When it comes down to it, he can live with losing to winners. But the Hawks? Their best player is Joe freakin’ Johnson, their second-best player was the second-best player on Howard’s AAU team (Smith) and their third-best player is a jump-shooting, soft-spoken big man who Howard routinely pulverizes (Horford). That’s not a collection of players Howard is OK losing to.”

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_magic/2011/04/dwight-howard-hates-losing-especially-to-the-hawks-video.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sports%2Fmagic%2Fbasketblog+%28Magic+BasketBlog%29

More Bullitenboard Material for the Hawks!

Jason Collins should start permanetly!

UGABugKiller

April 17th, 2011
5:13 pm

Boo, if you think Horfy is the Hawks third best player, you aren’t paying attention.

Horfy is the Hawks BEST player, with a combination of skill and leadership.

Joe Johnson is a mope. Josh Smith is as selfish a basketball player as I’ve ever seen. If I owned the Hawks, I’d fine his a$$ for every jump shot he takes.

In fact, the worst thing Larry Drew has done this year was give those two leadership vacuums co-captain status with Horford, the only true leader this team has.

As far as Howard “dominating” Horford, Howard dominates A LOT of players, least of all a guy who’d be a premier power forward stuck playing center, a position he’s about 3-inches too short and 20 lbs too light for.

gcs

April 17th, 2011
5:19 pm

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Team A is universally scorned. Everyone and their brother predicts Team B to beat Team A. Team A gets all fired up and wins the first game of the series on the road. All of a sudden, doubters start saying nice things about Team A. Team B wins the series.

.

Sutton's Fro

April 17th, 2011
5:21 pm

When the Hawks led through most of the 1st quarter, then let the Magic go on a run to close out the period with the lead, I thought — “Here we go!! Woody’s Hawks are back!!” Same mental lapses that not only were to blame for the brutal sweep the Magic put on the Hawks last season, but also dragged out the first round series with the Bucks beyond what it should have.

But lo and behold, the Hawks picked themselves up through the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and played hard enough in the 4th to keep the Magic at bay and take the win. I will believe in LD’s version of the Hawks until/unless the “Woody’s” take the floor again. Hopefully, that will last til (at least) the Conference Finals, but I’m not holding my breath….

Sutton's Fro

April 17th, 2011
5:26 pm

By the way, having recently moved to the Tampa Bay area, I can tell you that the local media and sports talk are focusing on two things:

1) All of the personal fouls the Hawks threw at Dwight Howard (ESPN’s highlight package last night helped with that…)

2) The fact that Howard and Nelson were the only Magic players who scored in double figures. But of course, they’re blaming Stan Van and the other Magic players, instead of giving the Hawks’ D any credit.

No one down here thinks this series will go past 5 games…

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 17th, 2011
5:30 pm

Al’s honesty is why he probably sleeps well at night as well as the reason he is universally admired.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 17th, 2011
5:33 pm

Strange as it sounds, the Chef says Hawks sweep if refs continue to allow in the in the post season what has happened to this point.

Booo!

April 17th, 2011
5:38 pm

UGABugKiller,

No No No, you misunderstand. Jeff thought that D12 had an alterior motive behiend his “I can’t stand loosing to Atlanta” quotes. I was just confirming that by posting a quote from one of the Orlando Sentinel beat writers.

Boss is a Beast, no doubt.

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
5:55 pm

KPB — I think somebody once said, “That’s why they play the games.”

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
5:57 pm

JJM — “quick question would we be better if twin started every game?” … A worthy question, especially since Marvin Williams has been playing well off the bench.

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
5:58 pm

Boooo! — I’m sure it will get around (if it hasn’t already).

Najeh Davenpoop

April 17th, 2011
6:04 pm

“But it gives credence to the theory that the problems have been less about Drew’s ability as a head coach than it is about his players’ occasional reluctance to accept his ideas.”

Yes, but part of being a good head coach is getting players to fall in line with what you are trying to do.

Woody was a bad coach when it came to strategy, but he consistently got his players to accept his ideas. LD is a much better coach in my opinion when it comes to strategy, but he has not shown that he is capable of getting his players to fall in line. Hopefully this is a turning point in LD’s future as a head coach.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 17th, 2011
6:07 pm

Interesting comments from Al though. I think this is the first time anyone on the team has openly admitted to quitting on Woody last year.

LakeDawg

April 17th, 2011
6:08 pm

Totally shocked by last night. I admit, I never saw it coming. Hawks played with passion and played together for the full 48 minutes. The only digression from that was about 5-6 plays where J. Smith got a defensive rebound, took the ball up the court himself, refusing to pass to a guard, and then threw up some ridiculous shot with someone in his face and plenty of time on the shot clock. Luckily, he only did that a few times. J. Smith is the key to this series. IF he plays team ball and gets on a roll, the Hawks can win this series. He can also single-handidly undo the Hawks if he gets selfish, because he’s not involved enough and gets frustrated. It’s always been obvious he’s more interested in getting all-star numbers rhan winning.

honest_abe

April 17th, 2011
6:21 pm

the jump shots will cool off so the hawks need to defend better and find a way to score inside.. or else..

Doc

April 17th, 2011
6:31 pm

I’ll never say (fingers are crossed) another bad thing about Hawks or Joe Johnson. They manned up last night and did themselves proud.

And Marvin Williams (Holy Cow!) did a slam dunk with a defender in his way when the game was still in question. Did I say, Holy Cow?

Beast from the East

April 17th, 2011
6:32 pm

I picked Hawks to lose in 5. I felt they had quit at the end of the regular season. I was very impressed with them last night and hope they continue to play with the same intensity.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
6:57 pm

Again, the Clueless (BugKiller) speaks on an issue that he had no clue of what another blogger was intending to make… Horford is not the most talented of the players on the Hawks roster. He settles for jumpers in the face of lesser defensive foes too much to be considered that. However, he is the most consistent day in and day out talent on the current roster. He works hard for the most part, he generally brings a passion and professionalism to his role in that same manner. There’s no doubt in that… Still, he scares no one in the post, absolutely no one. But for a time that lacks in its DNA a desire (passion) to be motivated to greatness. Horford is essential from the standpoint of giving what can no better be described to as “heart.” For all of his clear shortcomings, the only other person who had that was Mike Bibby.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
6:58 pm

“Time” = “team”

moorman

April 17th, 2011
7:00 pm

need convincing that the hawks were just COASTING in the regular season and just waiting on the playoffs: JOSH SMITH. you cant tell me that he all a sudden decided to listen to larry drew. during the regular season, hawks players were SELFISH, but they had the talent, the ability and the coaching to do this all along, they was just waiting. Smith STAYED on the perimeter, now all a sudden, he is beasting in the paint. you CANT turn on things in the playoffs that you didnt already have……..

JSS

April 17th, 2011
7:12 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
“It would be the same as quitting on your own teammates.”

Said it last last year, it is not about the coach. It has always been about these players being accountable to each other. They finally admitted to the world what everyone else could see. They greater part of any enterprise is a willingness to be led, then comes how you execute that leadership.

I have lauded their performance last night. I watch in interest to see how they approach the rest of the journey. This is the point in time. It separates teams like the 1989 Pistons (who were then considered underachievers) from teams like 1979 San Antonio Spurs or the 1988 Hawks who could never exercise their inner demons of self-doubt or never fulfilled goals.

heartofdarkness

April 17th, 2011
7:24 pm

The game also showed a head butt is not a foul. When Wilt Chamberlain was the primary offensive option for the Philadelphia Warriors, they did not win the Championship. When he concentrated on defense and rebounding, the 76ers won. Dwight Howard is not efficient enough as a scorer with people in front of him to carry the offensive load single handedly. If the Hawks bigs can stay healthy, not a guaranteed proposition given the relative indifference of the refs to what is happening on the court, Orlando is going to have to give the big guy a lot of help.

Spartacus

April 17th, 2011
7:30 pm

Three other reasons for the win last night—Hinrich’s defense on Jameer, Johnson not settling for three pointers and taking it to the paint, and Josh Smith playing within smart basketball by playing to his strengths on the inside. Hinrich’s defense set the tone for the whole game and allowed everyone else to stay on their man. This would not have happened with Bibby on the roster.

ATLHAWKS487

April 17th, 2011
7:35 pm

@JSS:

Horford is by far the best player on the Hawks roster. Yeah, he doesn’t score 30 or 40 a night, but he is usually good for 16 and 10. That is pretty valuable in my books. He is the heart, like you said, and without a heart, your team can’t function.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
8:05 pm

@ATLHAWKS487…
That is why I point out his (Horford) attributes. But “best player” does not equal the “most talented.” George Gervin was the most talented player on the Spurs (proud Eastern Michigan star); but the best player on that team was Larry Kenon. Adrian Dantley was not the “most talented” player in Detroit. But he carried them equally as much as Isiah in terms of getting them there… Dumars rose to the occasion and subsequently is remembered for that…

As much we hate it here, this team rises and falls on the equation of three parts plus a wild card variable. An engaged Johnson + a focused Smith + output from Crawford times (x: Horford, Hinrich, or the rare Casper sighting, I mean Williams) = Hawks success. I like Al’s charisma and persona in comparison to the void less ones. But this team can win (not saying it is not hard or not undesirable when it happens) when Al goes for 4 and not a have a free throw attempt, and be -15. It happened a lot, but let one of those other 4 players do that, what did we get?

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
8:06 pm

Najeh — Agree with your comments but Horford said what many suspected: Players were tuning out Woody in the playoffs. As for LD, I’m not saying he’s good or bad coach, but just think he deserved a bit of slack considering change in offensive sloppy (and not having best personalities to deal with).

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
8:07 pm

Najeh — And yes. One of many reasons to love Al: his honesty. By the way, if one of a few other guys in that room (whom I won’t name) had said the same thing, I wouldn’t have given it much thought. Old saying: Consider the source.

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
8:09 pm

JSS — Dead on comments on Horford. The success that he has had is remarkable, considering he’s playing out of position (usually).

Dawgfan0711

April 17th, 2011
8:12 pm

Jeff, I think it shows that these guys play when they want to. When motivated they can play with anyone. You never know what team is going to show up.

Reid Adair

April 17th, 2011
8:22 pm

I’m still OK with Larry Drew. The win over Orlando did nothing to change my less-than-stellar opinion of ownership and management.

Mike Bibby

April 17th, 2011
8:30 pm

Looks like you guys will play us heat in the 2nd round, if Joe plays his best he is unstoppable. Kirk sucks.

TheAntiMe

April 17th, 2011
8:34 pm

Totally shocked by last night. I admit, I never saw it coming. Hawks played with passion and played together for the full 48 minutes. The only digression from that was about 5-6 plays where J. Smith got a defensive rebound, took the ball up the court himself, refusing to pass to a guard, and then threw up some ridiculous shot with someone in his face and plenty of time on the shot clock. Luckily, he only did that a few times. J. Smith is the key to this series. IF he plays team ball and gets on a roll, the Hawks can win this series. He can also single-handidly undo the Hawks if he gets selfish, because he’s not involved enough and gets frustrated. It’s always been obvious he’s more interested in getting all-star numbers rhan winning.
————- ——————–
Actually, I disagree that Josh Smith is not a team player. He’s always encouraging his teammates and is one of the first to congratulate another Hawk who makes a good play. I believe that Smoove’s biggest problem is that – like many other good players in every sport – he, at times, tries to do too much. Plus, as has been documented by media sources such as “ESPN – The Magazine”, his outside shooting for most of the season is substantially higher than it ever has been, which has, IMO, led him to put up some ill-advised outside shots. I too, believe that most of Josh’s shots should come from inside the paint but nobody groans when Joe Johnson bricked shot-after-outside shot this season.

Make no mistake about it, as great as Al Horford is – and I hope that Al remains a Hawk for the duration – Josh Smith is the heart and soul of this Hawks team. If you were to read the perceptions of the Atlanta Hawks from media sources outside of Atlanta you would see that this is how Josh is perceived around the league. That doesn’t necessarily make him the best player on the Hawks but he is far from the selfish player that people sometimes want to paint him as.

TheAntiMe

April 17th, 2011
8:37 pm

Hey, where’s my comment? I didn’t say anything mean.

TheAntiMe

April 17th, 2011
8:51 pm

OK, retry with a bit more brevity:

Actually, I disagree that Josh Smith is not a team player. He’s always encouraging his teammates and is one of the first to congratulate another Hawk who makes a good play. I believe that Smoove’s biggest problem is that – like many other good players in every sport – he, at times, tries to do too much. Plus, as has been documented by media sources such as “ESPN – The Magazine”, his outside shooting for most of the season is substantially higher than it ever has been, which has, IMO, led him to put up some ill-advised outside shots. I too, believe that most of Josh’s shots should come from inside the paint but nobody groans when Joe Johnson bricked shot-after-outside shot this season.

Make no mistake about it, as great as Al Horford is – and I hope that Al remains a Hawk for the duration – Josh Smith is the heart and soul of this Hawks team. If you were to read the perceptions of the Atlanta Hawks from media sources outside of Atlanta you would see that this is how Josh is perceived around the league. That doesn’t necessarily make him the best player on the Hawks but he is far from the selfish player that people sometimes want to paint him as.

Mike Bibby

April 17th, 2011
8:55 pm

Where was Hinrichs Defense Jameer had 26 somethin points.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
9:00 pm

I saw Marvin Barnes, Isiah Rider, and Lloyd “World B.” Free play professional basketball. There is no way in heck that Josh Smith is the “most selfish player!”

ATLHAWKS487

April 17th, 2011
9:24 pm

@JSS

I never said anything about Horford being the most talented. I completely agree with your “most talented” doesn’t mean “best player”. I’d say Josh or Joe is the most talented… but thats another debate. But Horford is by far the most consistent day in and day out. Whenever he is on the court he is giving 110%. Also, he is not playing in his true position. He is a PF and is forced to play C because of lineup issues on the team. He is forced to play a position that he is undersized to play properly. Even with these circumstances, he ranks 6th in the league in scoring and rebounding for C. Think of how much better he could be if he played a position that he suited to play. If the Hawks decide to trade for a legit C this summer and slide Horford to the PF, I believe they would have a legit chance to make the Eastern Conference Finals.

skeptical

April 17th, 2011
9:32 pm

Hmmm….7 games generate more revenue than 4, the NBA is in poor financial health, the Hornets beat the Lakers and the Hawks beat the Magic. Methinks the fix is in.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
9:42 pm

There are no trade for legit centers really left now… You are only going to get real quasi talented players now for a year or two. Andrew Bynum and Nene don’t fall off trees that often.

I like Hoford, but I understand what he will be in this league. He won’t be Karl Malone, neither will Josh. But they make a good combination if used correctly. A legit center will help both so they could mismatch them more on the floor and take pressure off of Zaza who destined to be role playing specialist in the 2nd unit…

“The best player” is more directed at the person who opened this can of worms.

Let's Play Football

April 17th, 2011
9:53 pm

Is it true, the Magic fans are crying about the fouls on Howard? Most of Howard’s game is to lower his shoulder and drive the defender under the rim. In real basketball this is an offensive foul. In the NBA, it is a three point play.

ATLHAWKS487

April 17th, 2011
9:54 pm

Of course there aren’t any easy or cheap trades out there. If there were, anyone could be a part of this league. Be creative, take chances, shake things up a little bit. The management just can’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money. You have to spend money to make money. We might have to make a package around Josh Smith and maybe someone else, but we need another legit big down low who can bang with the best.

JSS

April 17th, 2011
10:11 pm

Being creative got us in this mess: see Isiah Rider and Sharif Abdul-Rahim. The Hawks need to be player personnel competent for the next 3 years. That is when Joe starts taking those big pay bumps. This years first rd pick is gone and most likely Crawford is gone too. We’ll need another scorer and the the exception acquired for Childress expires shortly… They have hard choices.

You trade Smith and you open a can of worms because you’ll need a shotblocker as much as a banger!

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
10:17 pm

JSS — “Rest of journey,” starting Tuesday, will be interesting.

Jeff Schultz

April 17th, 2011
10:18 pm

The Anti-Me — just got back from dinner. I’ll check filter for comments.