Welcome back to the tin-foil hat brigade. Hawks players don’t just show up for games — they wait for signals from their home planet (where unicorns and perfect Billy Knight-drafted point guards frolic in the fields).
Shouldn’t they be past this by now?
“I thought we were,” Jamal Crawford said. “But I thought we were past it before Game 5 [in Orlando], also.”
He speculated it was part of the “growth process.” It would be a wonderful theory, except for that there are 3,000-year-old giant sequoia trees in California with shorter growth processes than the Hawks.
At some point, you come to the realization that certain teams don’t grow, they just forever mutate into a new, unexpected and possibly really ugly life form.
The Hawks resume their playoff series against Chicago on Sunday night. They could win by 10 or lose by 30. There’s something wrong with that. Just when you allowed yourself to think that the first-round series win over Orlando — despite a 25-point loss in Game 5 — was a sign of some long-awaited maturity, they came out Friday night against the Bulls looking like catatonic wildebeests.
A coach should not have to feel the need to call timeout only 49 seconds into any game, let alone a playoff game … at home.
Crawford again: “That’s never good.” (On this theory, we agree.)
Whenever this playoff run ends for the Hawks, and it could be soon, change is needed.
Joe Johnson is asked to lead. He comes up big in Game 1 against Chicago with 34 points. Then he fades to 16 in Game 2 and 10 in Game 3. Afterward, he complains about the offensive game plan. Says he is “buried in the corner” on pick-and-rolls. Says this: “Honestly, I’ve just got to force the issue. … Coach wants me to give up the ball at times, but I can’t give it up every time.”
On Saturday, when the media was allowed into the locker room, Johnson already was long gone. It officially extended his streak of disappearances.
There are things about this team that can’t be fixed without trades. We’re past the point of film study and psychotherapy. Josh Smith is asked, implored, begged, to stick to his strengths and not fire up jump shots. He cooperates for all of a quarter.
Question: Does Smith even realize he is 0-for-17 from beyond 15 feet in this series, and 5-for-33 in the playoffs? Conversely, he is shooting 60 percent from nine feet and closer (38-of-63). The lesson there should be easy to locate.
Most seem to believe the Hawks lost Game 3 99-82 because Derrick Rose scored 44 points. Suddenly, everybody forgot the Hawks beat Orlando in a playoff game when Dwight Howard scored 46.
The Hawks are asked to do a few simple things: defend, rebound and give some semblance of an effort. They went 0-for-3 in the last game. Chicago aced all three. There’s the game.
Coach Larry Drew was asked Saturday if he ever has been a part of such schizophrenic team as a player or coach. He smiled.
“I will admit — I do have an interesting group,” he said.
Everybody laughed. It was as if Sybil had just been described as having an interesting personality.
“What happened [Friday] night, it did catch me off guard,” Drew continued. “I really thought we would start that game too energized. I was expecting a lot of early turnovers. I thought we would be too hyped and have too much energy. I thought I would have to find a way to tone my guys down.”
There are only so many times a coach should have to threaten to use a cattle prod. Concepts such as competitive instincts, professional pride and even the motivation generally associated with earning a seven- or eight-digit salary should take over.
But too often with the Hawks, that’s not the case. Something is missing in their DNA. And they are way past their growth spurt.
By Jeff Schultz