Hawks can’t take on world when they look like Munchkins

Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and the Hawks are looking smaller by the game. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and the Hawks are looking smaller by the game. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

It would be unfair to assume that the Hawks are crumbling after three consecutive home debacles, just as it would’ve been presumptuous to believe that a team without Al Horford (and his backup) could maintain a 16-6 pace for the rest of the NBA season.

But at the very least, this basketball team has slipped into that uncomfortable zone between concern and panic. I call it: trouble.

They look fatigued. They look disinterested or lost or, worst of all, hopeless. They certainly look short. A team loses the 6-foot-10 Horford and the 7-0 Jason Collins, and suddenly you half-expect 6-8 “center” Ivan Johnson and two members of the Lollipop Guild to run on to the court wearing colored shorts and striped leggings and start singing to Dorothy.

Yes. It’s only three games. If the Hawks can rebound and defeat Indiana on Wednesday night in their half-empty home of Philips Arena, they will be 17-9 and still own one of the better records in the Eastern Conference.

But this is the NBA. Size matters, guys.

“We certainly need another big body here,” coach Larry Drew said.

Also, maybe therapy. It’s natural that after a stretch that has seen the Hawks trail by 20-plus points in three consecutive home losses, Drew wonders where his players’ heads are at.

“As much as you don’t want it to affect your team players, it’s got to be in the back of their minds — it’s got to be,” he said. “Hopefully they can move forward and get through this.”

It’s easy to scream, “Make a trade!” But the Hawks are handicapped in that area in so many ways. They’re not in a situation where they can take on salary. They’re also not in a position to move significant pieces off this team without blowing up the roster because their biggest trade asset (Horford) is injured.

Finally, look around: Teams aren’t really making trades right now in this compact and late-getting-started NBA season.

Kenyon Martin, a street free agent, would’ve been a nice piece. But he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers for an amount (reportedly $2.5 million) the Hawks couldn’t come close to. (It also helped the Clippers that Martin wanted to play with his friend, Chauncey Billups.)

So general manager Rick Sund has been looking at a list of players who either weren’t good enough to make an NBA roster or are toiling in the “D” league.

Got news for you: At this point, I think the 7-foot juggler on the unicycle, just to the left of dancing elephants, looks good. The lack of size in the middle is forcing almost every other Hawk to play out of position at some point and get worn down, mentally and physically.

The Hawks are a fragile team even when they’re at full strength. Now they’re fragile and teetering on the edge of the top shelf.

Memphis led by 10 at halftime and outscored them 26-12 in the third. Philadelphia walked over the Hawks’ defense with a 37-point third quarter. Phoenix never trailed after late in first quarter and shot 52 percent to the Hawks’ 39.

“I hope we’re not in a situation where some of these guys have hit a wall already because there’s just too much basketball that has to be played,” Drew said.

It’s nobody’s fault that Horford and Collins got hurt. But fixing it? That’s on Sund.

Yes, he’s in a difficult situation, but he gets paid for difficult situations. Doing nothing is beyond dangerous, unless the mindset of the organization is, “Well, let’s just try to make the playoffs as a No. 8 seed.”

Sund says he’s not opposed to making a trade. But he acknowledges, “Having a full roster and a full season would make that easier.”

When the Hawks were rolling during the road trip, Sund said a player approached him and asked the general manager if he had any concerns about the team.

Sund’s response: “I wanted to see how we would respond when there’s a bump in the road, like a losing streak.”

This qualifies as a bump. We’re about to find out something. Prepare to cover your eyes.

By Jeff Schultz

121 comments Add your comment

Atlanta Spirit Sucks

February 7th, 2012
4:20 pm

Don Waddell would say this team is moving in the right direction.

Let's Be Honest

February 7th, 2012
4:21 pm

What a joke of a franchise. “Let’s see..” “if” “maybe”

Do these clowns think Rose, Lebron, Wade, and Dwight are all going to get injured for the season paving the way for them?

It’s over, kids. Time to blow up this soft, mentally-weak group of bums.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 7th, 2012
4:22 pm

“It’s easy to scream, “Make a trade!” But the Hawks are handicapped in that area in so many ways. They’re not in a situation where they can take on salary. They’re also not in a position to move significant pieces off this team without blowing up the roster because their biggest trade asset (Horford) is injured.”

They have an $8 million expiring contract in Kirk Hinrich, who isn’t even playing particularly well. Trade Kirk for a big man.

GET A DAMN BIG MAN SUND

Lon Stotts

February 7th, 2012
4:26 pm

Nice to hear LD acknowledge that another big body is needed. Maybe that will impel Sund to actually do something, like, I don’t know, sign Fesenko to a measly 10-day? Dude is 7′1″ 280 lbs, I don’t care if his feet are on backwards, that’s gotta count for something.

You want an indication on the pulse of this team? Ivan Johnson has been the most consistent player in the last two games. We need ten more Ivans, the guy is an NBA (and pro sports) anomaly with his “just play” attitude.

And guess what Schultzie: “let’s just make the playoffs” is the mindset of this organization.

Steve Belkin's ghost

February 7th, 2012
4:29 pm

A hahahahahahahaha, Bwahaaaahahahaa! Hoohehahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

honest_abe

February 7th, 2012
4:32 pm

najeh is that guy going around the blogs trying to convince the ajc readers that the hawks are in a better place than the falcons.

first of all, who care? i thought most atlantans were fans of teams based out of atlanta. i didn’t know it was a contest between the two clubs.

secondly, really? a team with one of the worst owners in sports history compared to possibly the best atlanta sports owner ever?

thirdly, mike vick ain’t coming back so wipe away those crocodile tears and move on.

hawks suck and until they get rid of josh smith they’ll be irrelevant.

Sloan

February 7th, 2012
4:35 pm

Gary O

February 7th, 2012
4:40 pm

Sund says he’s not opposed to making a trade. But he acknowledges, “Having a full roster and a full season would make that easier.”.

Sometimes I wonder how does Sund keep his job as a GM this long. Where is the creativity? I guess he is the kind of puppet the ASG is looking for.

Jody

February 7th, 2012
4:43 pm

@Jeff,

Why do you say Horford is the biggest trading chip? With Josh only having one more year on his deal and sure to ask for a truck load to re-sign, wouldn’t he be on the trading block? Or did Sund tell you something off the record?

Let's Be Honest

February 7th, 2012
4:44 pm

Who handed out all of these dumb contract extensions?????

Steve

February 7th, 2012
4:46 pm

Nobody cares about the Hawks. It’s not like they would have gotton past the second round this year anyway. Time to blow-up the team and start all over, again. 11,800 tickets sold for last night? Wow. I would dare to say only 8,000 or so showed up. Memphis, Toronto, and even Charlotte are averaging more per fans per game. Spring training will be here soon!

Let's Be Honest

February 7th, 2012
4:47 pm

Josh is not a leader. He’s never lead any team to anything worth mentioning. Horford at least has some college titles on his resume, plus the respect of his peers.

Clowns on here think Josh would breakout thi sseason because he lost a little weight? LMAO

Leaders are born, not made. Giving them more money won’t make them step up, look at Joe. Got his money and still the same sidekick deflecting responsibility.

Idiots!

Bravesfan79

February 7th, 2012
4:49 pm

Im a hardcore GT, Braves, Falcons, Hawks fan; and im sure there are thousands more just like me that dont roam the blogs daily.
The Hawks will be in good position as long as they get a top 6 spot in the playoffs. Having Horford back for the playoffs would be huge, and anything is possible then. And anyone who says “blow it up” is a moron… go root for the knicks or nets you idiot.

Let's Be Honest

February 7th, 2012
4:50 pm

Trading for somebody’s backup big ain’t saving this sinking ship!

Wake up, Atlanta!

Steve

February 7th, 2012
4:54 pm

“Bravesfan79″ are you kidding? Do you really see this team doing anything special this year or next year? Time to start over like they did several years ago. This team, even with Horford, would not get past Miami or Chicago. Probably not even Philly or Boston.

Fisch Bisch

February 7th, 2012
4:54 pm

LakeDawg

February 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

What’s disconcerting is that we’ve all seen this before. For some unknown reason, the Hawks have decided to quit on the season, just as they were finally taking the next step. I guess it got a little too tough. This bunch will never win anything, except for JJ winning the lotto, er salary competition and Smoove winning the griping contest for not making the allstar team.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 7th, 2012
4:58 pm

honest abe, did the Falcons win a playoff game last night while I was sleeping?

No?

Then they are not better than the Hawks.

LakeDawg

February 7th, 2012
4:59 pm

BLOW IT UP!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

February 7th, 2012
4:59 pm

“first of all, who care?”

Evidently you do since you brought it up on this commenting thread out of the blue for no apparent reason.

honest_abe

February 7th, 2012
5:04 pm

nope, just saw you on a couple of blogs trying to convince people that the hawks are better than the falcons. what an inane argument.

seriously dude your mike vick infatuation won’t go away. pretty silly if you ask me. just callin it like i see it.

joey gt1

February 7th, 2012
5:08 pm

being a longtime hawks fan is hard… they are so frustrating to watch…one game they look like championship contenders and they other they look like a lottery bound team..al horford being out has been harder for the hawks then expected bc while the hawks were winning it was against smaller teams..look the last thre games we have faced 3 bigger teams as in pf and the c postion and we got dominated.. sund we need to get a competant big in here pronto.. if not this losing streak with the hawks will get worse

joey gt1

February 7th, 2012
5:12 pm

honestabe,

r u kidding , im a falcon and hawk fan, and in the past 5 years the hawks have aleast advance in the playoff.. with their terrible owners, the falcons have a great owner who keeps bringing in talent and the falcon cant get out of the first round.. falcon under achieving.. hawks over achieving.. even due to bad ownership

Najeh Davenpoop

February 7th, 2012
5:13 pm

“nope, just saw you on a couple of blogs trying to convince people that the hawks are better than the falcons. what an inane argument.

seriously dude your mike vick infatuation won’t go away. pretty silly if you ask me. just callin it like i see it.”

I haven’t mentioned Vick once throughout that entire discussion. You may not have noticed, but Vick doesn’t play for the Hawks. Nice try though.

Bravesfan79

February 7th, 2012
5:16 pm

Steve: Blowing it up and starting over is so overrated. How well has it worked for the Wizards, or the Warriors? Ill take having a top 4 eastern confrence team any day over having 15 win seasons!!
Why blow it up, when a major trade (like landing Howard) would make us a title contender!

Gary O

February 7th, 2012
5:18 pm

Josh is not their best trade chip, because after this year, he only has 1 year left. Therefore, a team trading for him could lose him to free agency after 1 year.

Horford, on the other hand, has 4 years, $48 mil left after this year. So the team will control him for at least 4 more years, at a salary that’s not too overpriced like some of the other centers out there.

Bravesfan79

February 7th, 2012
5:20 pm

And you cant say the Hawks havent been a top 4 east team the past 3 years. You sound like chicken little “the sky is falling”….. just think, just a few months ago, if you were a Giants fan you would of been saying the same thing about them probably.

Sad Sack

February 7th, 2012
5:20 pm

Maybe they should have just skipped this season.

Count von Count

February 7th, 2012
5:22 pm

A Tuesday Countdown would have been a better use of your time.

Steve

February 7th, 2012
5:29 pm

Hate to ruin your day but Howard is not coming to Atlanta.

Who Cares

February 7th, 2012
5:36 pm

Football is over. That can only mean one thing. Baseball is just around the corner. Basketball season is that dead time in between.

keith

February 7th, 2012
5:49 pm

I wouldn’t want Dwight Howard here anyway. He doesnt like our owners or his hometown and we would have to give up the entire team for him. We would be Orlando in Atlanta but worse.

HawksRealist

February 7th, 2012
5:53 pm

It doesn’t even make sense for the Hawks to make some of the moves Jeff talked about because they’re in the luxury tax.

kbb

February 7th, 2012
5:53 pm

The Spirit Group is on food stamps. We dont have one good center on the roster. Horford is a PF, Zsa Zsa is 3rd stringer level of talent. Collins shouldn’t even be in the NBA.

Lon Stotts

February 7th, 2012
5:55 pm

The problem with being a Hawks fan is that going to the games and actively supporting the team is a Catch-22. You want to go out and show your love for the players (at least when they’re playing hard), but by paying money to do so, you’re supporting the same entity that has put the organization in such a crappy place.

Tyler Perry, highest paid man in entertainment, your movies are officially a joke! Redeem yourself and crush the Knicks and Spike Lee every year by owning and building a juggernaut in your hometown Hawks! The fans will show up and love you for it!

doc

February 7th, 2012
5:57 pm

yeah rick, lets wait until they prove you and the basg wrong and everyone else in town that remotely follows this team knew all along we need a crowd of talls and we had none. call it bad luck when twin went down? i call it fortuitous as it now forces your hand to get a real tall guy in here that might be able to do more than set the occasional pick and take up space on the defensive end. god forbid getting a tall guy in here that can expand his wing span and move to maybe block a shot or maybe grab a rebound or how about this maybe do a pick and roll with a guard, make a shot from inside 10 feet or get an easy bucket on a put back. maybe 2 of those 5 would work instead of all those criteria.

the hawks are never going to get the easy baskets the way they are set up. realistically if dwight were here it would be his perfect mates only he isnt. time is past rick to get er dun. the problem is his motto as expressed on 680 to chuck and chernoff if every team loses a few in a row. the problem with that insight is he also follows with the idea you cant panic in the same sentence.

people are quickly losing interest those that havent walked away due to the strike. the other third wont be back either if they dont find an answer. yi was picked up by the mavs after the season started for example. the talls were out there, not now without a trade that could have been made for a second round draft pick or a draft pick not sold on draft day.

CSD

February 7th, 2012
6:00 pm

“Finally, look around: Teams aren’t really making trades right now in this compact and late-getting-started NBA season.”

Fail

Big Crimson 75

February 7th, 2012
6:01 pm

What has happened to Josh Smith ????

CSD

February 7th, 2012
6:08 pm

Seriously can you stop with this there were and are no bigs available this year crap. 3 teams this season specifically went out and got bigs in trades to fill a need on their team. Charlotte got Byron Mullens, New Jersey got Mehmet Okur and Memphis got Marreese Speights. Those teams made deals and got bigs. They stop with this there is nothing we can do let’s hope for the best poor, no options Hawks stuff. Grow a pair and make a move, or at least keep your backup center you drafted and pay a few bucks in luxury tax.

LakeDawg

February 7th, 2012
6:16 pm

Blow it up! I’m tired of looking at the faces of JJ, Smoove, and Williams. I don’t care if its an improvement or not.

Luke Cage

February 7th, 2012
6:17 pm

Luke Cage

February 7th, 2012
6:19 pm

In this day and age in order to win you gotta pay the money to get the best players, being chicken Sh!t about going over the luxury tax is not what fans want to hear.

keith

February 7th, 2012
6:22 pm

I dont care if people say Atlanta Hawks fans go crazy over a slump, its because we dont do anything about it. We got the same players, that have rolled over time and time again through the years, play well in spurts, then go away again. Joe Johnson is too nice and not a superstar, but we payed him like he is the best superstar in the league. Josh Smith will never get it, and sometimes I think he wants to be traded because he probably could play consistent all the time. Hiring Larry Drew was an absoulute low blow to Hawks fans, because it showed that we 1. cannot get quality coaches or do not want to pay for quality, and 2. cannot get free agents to come here. Its like when we overpaid for Alan Henderson, we will have to wait until Johnson’s contract runs out or trade him, we are not going anywhere with him.

JSS

February 7th, 2012
6:23 pm

Somebody on Food Stamps would have made a conference finals by now; they know how to .stretch a dollar effectively. No, the Falcons and Braves are like the middle class family who likes for their neighbors to think that they have assets that everyone wants… But when actually look under the hood, that car has a drive shaft that is on its last legs!

keith

February 7th, 2012
6:24 pm

I would rather my Atlanta Hawks team be irrelavant, and start over and try again like the middle of the road Mookie, Smitty, and Mutombo days. I want a high draft pick!

Luke Cage

February 7th, 2012
6:27 pm

@Keith

had a #2 pick and they screwed it up, going to take multiple draft picks and an eye for talent.

keith

February 7th, 2012
6:29 pm

@ Luke Cage, I agree we had the #2 pick and picked up Marvin Williams, oh the great Billy Knight. Even my friends that watched the draft with me were like, why didnt you guys take Chris Paul or Deron Williams, I thought you guys needed a point guard….

Jerry Sanduskey

February 7th, 2012
6:30 pm

Time for the Hawks to hit the showers!

Luke Cage

February 7th, 2012
6:35 pm

Bottom line these guys are going back to playing selfish again, there’s very little ball movement and for some reason the players won’t let Jeff run the team. So Jeff if you gotta get in these guys faces and get on them that your running this team then stand up and do so, screw whose toes your stepping on!!

keith

February 7th, 2012
6:39 pm

Jeff Teague has got to take the reins, they even said they will go as far as he takes them, because he is the only way for improvement from within. These guys need a reality check, and a psychiatrist.