LIVE: Hawks hope to redeem themselves, extend season

Can Hawks force a Game 6 after being humiliated in Boston? (AP photo)

Can the Hawks force a Game 6 after being humiliated in Boston? (AP photo)

(This is an early column that will serve as the live blog for tonight’s Hawks’ playoff game against Boston. It will updated afterward. Hawks coach Larry Drew said after this morning’s shoot around that center Al Horford and forward Marvin Williams will start, joining Joe Johnson, Jeff Teague and Josh Smith. Kirk Hinrich will come off the bench. The move allows Johnson to go back to the shooting guard position and get away from defending Paul Pierce, possibly reserving more energy for the offensive end. Whether it works is another matter. By the way, checked with a pal, Todd Fuhrman of the Caesars Palace sports book in Las Vegas. He said that while he hasn’t posted odds on this, he would make the Hawks an 11-1 underdog to win the next three games of the series. I would’ve thought it would be even higher but the fact two out of three games would be at Philips Arena might be a factor.)


Timing is everything, as the partners of the Atlanta Spirit have learned the hard way.

The Hawks’ owners this week sent an email to season ticket holders with a link to a survey, “Help us improve your experience.” Canvassing fans for their opinions on Monday — the day after the team’s humiliating Game 4 playoff loss at Boston Sunday night – probably wasn’t the best strategy, even if the defeat came on the road and the survey focused on the cost of hot dogs and the music played at Philips Arena.

In the end, fans primarily are going to be focused on the product, not the window dressing. They will watch a winner in a damp warehouse with a leaky roof if necessary.

Which brings us back to the Hawks. They faced playoff elimination going into Tuesday night’s Game 5 against the Celtics at Philips Arena. They could point to injuries. They could concede that Boston simply is a better postseason team (as illustrated by the past four years). But folks are getting a little fed up with this same core of players coming up short in the playoffs, and that’s why, “Blow it up,” has been the most prevalent command from the masses.

The complaints might have seemed premature before Game 5. The season hadn’t officially ended yet. But what is an Atlanta fan if not somebody with a feeling of impending doom?

Coach Larry Drew said he’ll sit down with management after the season, commenting, “They’ll be making the decisions on direction, as far as what we’re going to do. Some of these guys have been together for a while. We’ll be talking about the possibilities, but we do that every year.”

As does every team. But this is what sets the Hawks apart from other NBA franchises, and most in professional sports. No part of the organization here may be safe.

Consider:

Ownership: The Spirit put the team up for sale and seemingly had a deal with Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo. But the purchase fell through in November and the season opened the following month with the same ownership in place. Spirit partners say they are no longer interested in selling. We’ve learned in the past what they say and what they do often don’t intersect.

General manager: Rick Sund’s contract is up. He has an offer to return but hasn’t decided if he wants to come back. He lives in Seattle. He’ll be 61 in June. He’s financially secure. He might prefer taking the less stressful role of consultant elsewhere rather than take on the potential significant headaches of a team makeover.

Coach: The two-year, guaranteed portion of Drew’s contract is up. He has a team option for next season but hasn’t been told yet if the team is picking that up. Bringing him back seems logical, but a new general manager (or owner) would complicate that.

Roster: Where to start? Josh Smith has asked to be traded. Nine players have expiring contracts (Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Jason Collins, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jerry Stackhouse, Jannero Pargo, Willie Green, Erick Dampier, Ivan Johnson). Joe Johnson almost certainly will be back because he has four years and $89.295 million left on his contract. And no, the Hawks aren’t going to amnesty him because nobody is going to cut a check for $89.295 million just to get him off the books.

The Hawks realize the city hasn’t embraced them. They ranked 23rd in league attendance during the season, and that’s with inflated crowd counts (their claimed average: 15,199).

Still, this team had been a resilient bunch this season until the 101-79 loss in Boston.

“We haven’t had a game like Game 4 in quite some time,” Johnson said Tuesday morning. “It was mind-boggling, honestly. I can’t get why we came out and played so poorly when we were so close in Game 3. I’m still puzzled on that.”

Drew responded in the aftermath of the loss the way he has most of this season: with a positive message.

“Like I’ve told our players, I think we’ve had a great season despite that one game, and that game is no reflection on the rest of our season,” he said. “It happened. We watched film. We talked about it and learned from it. Now it’s time to move on.”

The question was: For how long?

Check back later and I’ll let you know of any late lineup changes. Then we’ll live blog from tip-off at 8 p.m.

By Jeff Schultz

164 comments Add your comment

Land O' Lakes Hawk

May 8th, 2012
4:03 pm

The Hawks can win if Josh decides not to pout when things don’t go his way and Joe makes quick decisions out of the double team.

Eb

May 8th, 2012
4:14 pm

TV guys better keep those cameras pointed low to avoid showing all those empty seats at the Disappointment Factory tonight.

AJW

May 8th, 2012
4:14 pm

Don’t agree with putting Marvin in the starting lineup.

Celtics were just on fire last game. I can’t see anyone stopping them in that game. Ridiculous. Lets just hope the game 1 Celtics show up.

gcs

May 8th, 2012
4:21 pm

@Schultz
Have you let Larry Drew know about the raise you gave him yet?

Buckeye

May 8th, 2012
4:28 pm

Give me the days of Doc Rivers, Spud Web and Dominique. It reminds me, of say, the dogs in 1981.

Frank

May 8th, 2012
4:31 pm

Sending a survey to season ticket holders yesterday tells you the Spirit have no business sense. Wait until the season ends when people can properly reflect.

Jeff- would Hawks eat JJ’s entire contract under an amnesty deal? NBA site indicates the team is on the hook for the difference in original contract and the players new contract out of free agency. That could cut that amount in half.

Jamaaliver

May 8th, 2012
4:39 pm

While I am rooting for the hawks as always, a loss tonight may be the Tipping Point we need to see actual change from management.

No more delusions of grandeur or releveance from Mike Gearon, Jr.

It’s very fitting that tonight we should see the starting lineup (Horford, Smoove, marvin, JJ, Teague) for hopefully the last time.

We need change and, hopefully, Marvin and Josh will be moved this offseason. I predict a win tonight and another embarrasing loss at Boston on Thursday.

Steve

May 8th, 2012
4:45 pm

Jeff what did you do to get punished? Same ole thing with the Hawks as far as never getting past the second round. Amazing that it has never happened.

Hail Munson

May 8th, 2012
4:48 pm

Here’s how the next 3 games will play out:
Game 5 – Hawks win big tonight because the Celtics don’t care if they win tonight.

Game 6 – The Hawks fly to Boston, and somehow pull out a win in a chippy game with an extremely hostile crowd to get our hopes up for game 7.

Game 7 – After the 1st quarter, the Hawks will be up by 9 and up 15 at the half. The Celtics will widdle the lead down to 6 going into the 4th with the Hawks starting a 12-4 run to be up 14 with about 8 mintues to go. The Highlight Factory will be rocking, the Celtics will be yelling at each other, and every Atlanta fan will let their guard down and think, “We’ve got this. No way do the AARP Celtics come back now.” From that point on the Hawks are out scored 24-8 to lose by 2 on a missed Joe Johnson shot at the buzzer. The camera scans to a young fan wearing a Hawks jersey with an utterly shocked and depressed look on his face, while the announcers talk about how cursed Atlanta is as a sports city.

Jamaaliver

May 8th, 2012
4:52 pm

Frank, I can’t see the Hawks paying $100 million+ to make their best player and top scorer go away. He’s still producing at this point and there’s no one in the FA market coming here to take his spot. (The top players haven’t seemed to regard ATL as a viable landing spot to seriously compete for a championship.)

He’s still a good player, and a trade in the latter years of that deal is still very possible.

Rick

May 8th, 2012
4:55 pm

How about do something that no Atlanta teams has done in ATL HISTORY! WIN WHEN YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO AND SHAKE UP ESPN AND TNT! First I hope Joe went to see the wizard for a heart! Second Josh please rebound and give the ball to your point guard and fill the lane you will have a MONSTER GAME! You are unstoppable whem you do that and by far the BEST player on the floodr. Heck I can even live with the jump shot! THIRD, what took you so long to take Joe from guarding Paul? Come on Drew dont go Mike Woodson on me now! And speaking of waiting ao long fto make a good move how about you pull Marvin 3 minutes into the game and split his minutes with Tracy and Ivan? Fourth and this is for the whole team…..HEART AND PASSION…..Dallas only had one sypwerstar and a role players, come on team how about us? JUST ONCE I WANT A ATL TEAM TP WIN WHEN EVERY SAYS WE SHOULD NOT! Signing off from your #1back fan.

Rick

May 8th, 2012
4:57 pm

Typos are my fault writing from a droid.

Lee Gobson

May 8th, 2012
4:59 pm

Trade JJ, zsa zsa, and Marvin to Orlando
For Dwight Howard. Then send Josh and Teague
To NJ for deron Williams. Build team around
Williams, Howard, and horford.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 8th, 2012
5:00 pm

I think they probably win tonight and lose Game 6, but I will stick by my original prediction of Hawks in 7 just for the hell of it.

Shamrock

May 8th, 2012
5:09 pm

The Fat Lady sings tonight.

Frank

May 8th, 2012
5:24 pm

Jaamaliver: From what I read on amnesty, subtract Joe’s next contract from the $100M amnestied by the Hawks. If Joe gets $10-14M per year over 3-5 years in his next deal, Hawks would end up paying between $40-60M to make him go away.

Matt from MN

May 8th, 2012
5:27 pm

HAHAHA…oh, Jeff, you slay me with your sardonic wit. “Redeem their season”??? Not bloody likely for this bunch of losers.

heat check

May 8th, 2012
5:28 pm

Trading Josh this offseason would be a horribly dumb move. So, that’s my prediction for DASG’s offseason plan. Something horribly dumb. My offseason plan would then be finding a new NBA team to follow.

Jamaaliver,
Amnestying JJ wouldn’t cost ATL 100M, they’d pay whatever the new team doesn’t remaining on his contract. And JJ might be the best SCORER on the team, but he’s not the best PLAYER on the team.

Eb

May 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

Hoping this is Hawk’s final game under ASG ownership.

Will

May 8th, 2012
5:56 pm

Joe, says that he needs more touches, how about we address the real dam problem, which is ” DEFENSE”

Mr. Mooney

May 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

Win or lose, Hawks must show passion tonight. No excuse for professionals to ever turn in a performance like Sunday’s. Team going to look very different next year.

heartofdarkness

May 8th, 2012
6:05 pm

Under the new CBA, which team is scheduled to take tonight off?

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
6:23 pm

GCS — “@Schultz. Have you let Larry Drew know about the raise you gave him yet?” <<< Adjust the meds.

Darren

May 8th, 2012
6:29 pm

Trade Al Sorry Ass

Darren

May 8th, 2012
6:31 pm

Starting sorry Al means no defense in the middle and working the hell out of Josh who has to defend Al’s position and his own.

Al is a lazy sorry defender and a bone of contention on the team. Fire Al and Fire Drew.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
6:32 pm

Frank –”Jeff- would Hawks eat JJ’s entire contract under an amnesty deal? NBA site indicates the team is on the hook for the difference in original contract and the players new contract out of free agency. That could cut that amount in half.”

<< Short answer: Hypothetically if the Hawks put Joe on waivers, teams can make one of two type claims: Full claim or partial claim. If it’s a full claim, they claim the balance of the contract (that won’t happen). If it’s a partial claim, they have to bid at least $8 million (or just under), is the vet’s minimum for JJ’s level times four (four years remaining). The Hawks still have to play the balance. Just if $8 million is the winning bid, the Hawks would still be responsible for $81 million of the $89 million left on his deal.

Logically, there wouldn’t be a bid in which a team would assume half the contract.

John

May 8th, 2012
6:34 pm

These playoffs have been painful to watch.

R. Royce

May 8th, 2012
6:36 pm

“We haven’t had a game like Game 4 in quite some time,” Johnson said Tuesday morning. “It was mind-boggling, honestly. I can’t get why we came out and played so poorly when we were so close in Game 3. I’m still puzzled on that.” -Joe Johnson

Yea right. You know what Joe? Why don’t you take your sorry “puzzled” azz off into the proverbial sunset and ponder away-while laughing all the way to the bank-Joe, you really don’t care, so why are you pretending to care after a loss like this? Here’s where you care: let someone say anything about the paychecks you’re cashing and then we’ll see how you care. So don’t give us that bologna about how you and your team from Larry on down, minds are boggled. You and your team didn’t give the effort worthy of paying fans or tv fans-which you should have given. You basically gave up. As for Larry Drew: he is always one to make excuses for any sorry thing you all do.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
6:41 pm

Heartofdarkness — “Under the new CBA, which team is scheduled to take tonight off?”
<<< That was funny.

lldawg

May 8th, 2012
6:48 pm

does anyone think there will be a game six? oh my bad i mean game 1 Boston vs Philly…that’s right make sure Joe get enough shots tonight

Harry Hawk

May 8th, 2012
6:59 pm

Speaking of the new CBA, which team will the Hawks play like tonight?

Will it be the Rockford Lightning or the Quad City Thunder?

Stay tuned.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 8th, 2012
7:12 pm

It’s not the number of shots or points JJ got the other night, it’s the D he didn’t bring.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 8th, 2012
7:15 pm

Billy Knight blamed the Hawks latest loss on the lack of forwards.

Coach Dan Henning said it was a lack of tight ends.

IceColdATLien

May 8th, 2012
7:29 pm

ILdawg:
Historically the team down 1-3 wins game 5 about 34% of the time… even better at home. Doesn’t seem like great odds, but it’s still better than Josh’s 3-pt shot…

Blahblahblah

May 8th, 2012
7:47 pm

I think some team would bid $40 million for Joe’s last 4 years. But I don’t think the ASG would eat $50 million, even if it would open up a ton of cap space to rebuild.

Coach

May 8th, 2012
7:47 pm

Jeff, back on the Vilma blog…. WOW, think its time to shut her down. It didn’t work.

LakeDawg

May 8th, 2012
7:59 pm

Smoooooooove!!!!!!!

Frank

May 8th, 2012
8:01 pm

Jeff: Does a team bid only on one year of service when hypothetically claiming Joe off waivers after an amnesty release? If it’s multiple years, the offset number could make the amnesty worthwhile ($10M x 4 years= $40M). My guess is there’s a team willing to pay him $10-12M/yr. Hawks simply made a bad deal at $20M/yr.

Wink

May 8th, 2012
8:02 pm

We have come full circle!

Definition of Insanity: When you keep doing the same thing over & over and expecting a different result…

Drew starting the Core plus Teague…which is the same lineup he put in this time last year for a Must Win game…flash back…31 point beating!

Why not let TMac start over Duck?

hammer hawk

May 8th, 2012
8:04 pm

how many expected for tonights game …7 or 8k ? With 4k of it being celtics fans. Is rathburn on crack saying its sold out lmao

JSS

May 8th, 2012
8:07 pm

Wouldn’t Henning blame it on lack of H-Backs?

Again, Drew is forgetting McGrady… He was money in games 1 and 3… But Larry Drew has refused to ride his natural mismatches since Smith left game 2…

hammer hawk

May 8th, 2012
8:08 pm

lmao!”!” they keep showing me and my brother from game 1 going into the arena before the game. damn is the crowd that bad

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:09 pm

Frank — You bid for player and contract that comes with him. Either way, JJ gets paid.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:10 pm

JSS — I’d like more minutes for McGrady, assuming he can. Also thought Ivan Johnson should’ve seen time last game.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:10 pm

Al Horford got biggest cheer during starting lineups.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:13 pm

Bad shot(s) by Josh.

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:16 pm

Celtics on 9-0 run. Timeout Hawks.

hammer hawk

May 8th, 2012
8:16 pm

lmao…150% my a**!

That Dude

May 8th, 2012
8:16 pm

here we go again…

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2012
8:18 pm

Hawks so far: 1 for 5 with 3 turnovers.