Hawks plagued with too many issues, from owners to Joe

Whether it's Larry Drew or somebody else as coach, Hawks have problems that can't easily be fixed.

Whether it's Larry Drew or another coach, Hawks have problems that can't easily be fixed.

In many ways, the Hawks are no different than other organizations. They end the season with a loss and for several weeks plot their makeover.

Maybe they need a new coach. Maybe they need a new general manager. Maybe a star player who can be the rose one minute and the thorns the next needs to be traded. Or maybe a dysfunctional ownership group comes to the realization, “This isn’t working. Let’s go back to selling cellphone towers and newsletters. We’re outta here.”

But in at least one way, the Hawks so often are different from other organizations: No matter what decisions we logically think they can make this summer, it’s difficult not to come away with the belief that they’re still going to be in trouble when next season opens.

Most franchises give you hope. The Hawks give you hangovers.

The Braves missed the playoffs and did little this past winter to improve themselves, but one could reasonably believe they wouldn’t be subjected to a similar string of injuries and improbable slumps again. The Falcons were one-and-drummed in the playoffs again, but they have since filled two needs with a Pro Bowl cornerback and two offensive linemen in the draft. They are sufficient teases.

The Hawks just finished a season that was part impressive: 40-26, mostly without Al Horford. Also part depressingly reaffirming: They won their playoff opener against Boston, only to inexcusably lay an egg at home in Game 2 when Rajon Rondo was suspended, look catatonic in Game 4 and ultimately had too many brain lapses against a veteran team, losing the series.

The spin from franchise officials will be: “Next year, we’ll be healthy. Next year will be different.” Really?

The Atlanta Spirit tried to sell the team, had a deal fall through, then tried to convince everybody they were suddenly reborn and committed. Even if we bought that as truth (work with me here), the owners couldn’t make it through the playoffs without another goof. Michael Gearon Jr. called out Kevin Garnett and referees before a potential elimination game in Boston, and then blamed the Journal-Constitution for reporting the comments. Garnett’s response included 28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and this verbal knockout: “I want to say thank you to the [Hawks] owner for giving me some extra gas. My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”

Success and failure in every business always starts at the top, so an ownership change could only help. But the Hawks aren’t an enticing product. Think of them as a house with several cracks in the foundation. Most potential buyers say, “No thanks. I’ll bid on the place down the street.”

General manager Rick Sund doesn’t love it here. If we needed reminding of that, his contract is up but he doesn’t know if he wants to come back. If Sund (also among the lowest paid) leaves, it’s difficult imagining that an established GM would want this job because of the ownership’s reputation and the inherited roster issues.

Coach Larry Drew, one of the lowest-paid coaches in the NBA, is waiting to see if the team brings him back. The guess here is that the option in his contract will be picked up, but he won’t get an extension. It’s the cheapest, safest route for ownership.

The core of this roster never has won more than one round of playoffs and, regardless of who the owner, general manager and coach are next season, there are two major issues: Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

Johnson reaffirmed in the playoffs that $20 million a year doesn’t buy heart or courage. His playoff shooting percentage: 37 percent, a career-low as a starter. He had games of 11, 9 and 15. He complained about not getting enough touches and double-teams. Rondo, Garnett and Paul Pierce stepped up at key moments for Boston. Stars do that. Johnson disappears.

Smith was the team’s best player this season. He helped bring the Hawks back late in Game 6. But when the Hawks trailed by a point with 10 seconds left and a play set up for Johnson broke down, Smith forced a 20-foot jumper and we slapped our foreheads again.

Where is the hope?

Drew was asked about his future Friday. But he looked like a man who cared more about his next two aspirin.

“It’s not something right now I’m going to worry about,” he said. “It’s been a long season. I just want to take a step back.”

If he returns, the view may not get better. This isn’t a simple makeover.

By Jeff Schultz

224 comments Add your comment

Drex

May 11th, 2012
4:09 pm

The hawks are consistent at one thing… making misery for their fans!

Drex

May 11th, 2012
4:09 pm

UGABugKiller

May 11th, 2012
4:09 pm

The wrong team died!

mike

May 11th, 2012
4:11 pm

This squad with a healthy Al and Zaza will be a team to reckon with next year.

Also, need to get rid of dead weight (Collins, Dampier, Stackhouse, Vlad). I liked what I saw out of Ivan Johnson, Pargo, and Willie Green.

Re sign Josh, try to move Marvin and replace Kirk with a cheaper backup and we are all good.

Kelly

May 11th, 2012
4:13 pm

Jimmy The Geek

May 11th, 2012
4:14 pm

But if you ask some of these clowns, they’ll tell you the Hawks are the best franchise in town weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

No.

Harry Hawk

May 11th, 2012
4:16 pm

I don’t expect anything more from these Hawks. As constituted, this group is spent.

B

May 11th, 2012
4:22 pm

the problem is JOkE johnson. the guy is not clutch at all in big games. He’s paid twice as much as he’s worth. Where was he the past two game? Missing shots and getting them blocked. Smith is a joke too. Nice shot at the end. Don’t drive and get fouled. Throw up a shot that he makes 1/4 of the time. As for the braves, they will choke again in sept or the playoffs if they sneak in. And the falcons will lose in the playoffs too. That’s if they can even get in. They still aren’t better than the saints.

Jtb

May 11th, 2012
4:22 pm

Jeff,
Can you think of a similar situation where a successful team (5 straight playoff appearances) where both the fans and the players dislike each other? I’m getting the player angle froms Joes comments about it’ll be loud at Phillips but who knows which team will be cheered and Al raving about the Celtics home court advantage.

scott

May 11th, 2012
4:24 pm

Please, blow it up and start over. It’s the same old crap as last year; Josh continues to whine and hoists up stupid shots, JJ continues to prove he is the worst max-salary player in NBA history (you can prove it with his stats, no doubt) and the ownership continues to do one stupid thing after another–way to go, Gearson!! I would rather have NO basketball than watch this version of NBA basketball. It’s embarassing.

Just The Facts

May 11th, 2012
4:28 pm

The reality is Atlanta sports teams are built for REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS NOT POST SEASON SUCCESS. That is why we supposedly stink as fans. Maybe it’s the bill of goods we get sold on a regular basis. One of our franchises or all should be re-named as The Atlanta Tease. Think about it…we never finish strong. The ONE Championship we have was one by a 1-0 score which we can thank the Braves for.

Horsetoothedjackass

May 11th, 2012
4:34 pm

Two words: Joe Johnson. No one player has screwed up sports in a town like him. He caused the ownership rift that was a distracting soap opera for far too many years. You can blame the Thrashers being sold and relocated to Winnipeg on him as well since that also traces back to the trade that landed him here in the first place. Maybe if the Hawks didn’t re-sign him, they would have the money to fix the broken stuff inside of Philips Arena……

BubbaDaBaller

May 11th, 2012
4:37 pm

It isn’t over until we say its over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Nooooooooo! When the going gets tough…the tough get going…Whose with me?????

Sage of Bluesland

May 11th, 2012
4:37 pm

Indeed, it ALL starts at the top. With this inept and uncaring ownership, I’m amazed there are any fans at Phillips. If they actually believe this organization truly cares about winning titles, then they are poor, misguided, and delusional sheep. Nothing more.

Stop subsidizing this utter incompetence and gain some self-respect back, for once.

Not another dollar into their undeserving pockets. Wake up, Atlanta. The only–and I mean only–way this group will listen is if you cut their funds.

(and if they decide to move, then all the better; get this wretched product out of town)

Deja Vu

May 11th, 2012
4:38 pm

The coaching situation can be summed up in one sequence from Game 5. With 10 seconds left we let our most inept passer take the ball inbounds against pressure. There was NO second guessing here. As soon as I saw it I looked at the guy next to me (I was at Phillips) and said…this is a HORRIBLE idea. He agreed. And as day follows night…turnover. Josh Smith is a turnover waiting to happen whenever he has the ball with time to think. Because he DOESN’T think. Truth hurts. This man needs to be dealt and he needs to be dealt NOW. And the coach who puts him in that situation? He needs to go.

[...] contracts. Nine players are free agents, leaving only the …Sources: Blazers eye Hawks GMESPNHawks plagued with too many issues, from owners to JoeAtlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Honestly

May 11th, 2012
4:38 pm

The reward for supporting the Hawks is death by a thousand cuts. Everybody is good-the GM, coach, and players, but no one is very good. Games are lost on lousy basketball plays, in clutch situations, where a very good coach or player would simply take over and will the team to victory. Look at last night’s finsih as Exhibit A. It’s unimaginable that a playoff caliber team can be so lousy at such a critical time – over and over again while the Celtics try to lose the game. If the team members wonder why fans don’t clamor over them like they think players in other cities enjoy, the fact is they aren’t competing well for entertainment dollars. Plus, those hypothetical fans in those hypothetical cities might just demand more from them, other than regular season wins over those terrible Eastern Conference cellar dwellers.

Jesse

May 11th, 2012
4:44 pm

Have to trade Josh. It’ll be awful when he’s 29 and an All Star all the time, but if they can get a player and a high draft pick they need to do it. There needs to be more heart on this team, and more basketball intelligence.

PMC

May 11th, 2012
4:48 pm

nice article jeff. Essentially the teams in this city have rendered the regular season completely meningless.

The Hawks give you 10 minutes of excitement and 40 years of misery.

There is really no amount that they could cut tickets and make it worth the trip to Phillips to see them rehash this thing yet again another time.

At this point…. selling them to Winnepeg might be the best option.

PMC

May 11th, 2012
4:50 pm

This is the result of absolutely horrific ownership and management from years ago.

This is Billy Knights Opus. His baby.

Mike Clark

May 11th, 2012
4:51 pm

Steve Belken is smarter than the Atlanta Spirit! The Hawks are too cheap and when they spend; boy do they screw it up. Use the available amnesty move and go rid of Joe Johnson. Let him be some one else’s headache. He is way overpaid. Cut loose Marvin Williams and try to rebuild around Al Hordord and Josh Smith. Maybe see if you can fleece the Magic with a trade for Dwight Howard, that includes Joe Johnson.

PMC

May 11th, 2012
4:52 pm

The Falcons season begins in January. The jury is out until then.

gunga din

May 11th, 2012
4:55 pm

just another bunch of whiny, overpaid, tattooed thugs. could have done just as good with half the salary payout.

P

May 11th, 2012
4:57 pm

Joe Johnson and those owners needs to go, and yes Josh does put up alot of bad shots! but who doesnt? without him u lose 20 games off your record and u dont make the playoffs we lose Joe Johnson and we may add 5 games to our win total its as simple as that, just take the hit dump Joe Johnson and his contract and sign a cheaper guards that gives u better results bc he’s not worth it

Honestly

May 11th, 2012
5:03 pm

It’s hard to place blame and get mad at anyone, since everyone contributes in their own ways. It takes cash to run a team, which the owners don’t appear to have. It takes fans apparently willing to spend their money in amounts in excess of that being presently spent. It takes intestinal fortitude to decline to offer a huge contract to a good role player but not a franchise player because that contract is going to dictate how the franchise fares over the next several years. All in all, the outlook isn’t pretty. So much potential wasted, that’s the heartbreaker.

Lamar

May 11th, 2012
5:05 pm

Enter your comments here

Lamar

May 11th, 2012
5:06 pm

The Smith family got out and so should the Atlanta Sprit owners.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 11th, 2012
5:07 pm

Ownership should have made the tough call and not have resigned JJ. We all new it then and it has been reaffirmed since. It was a publicity move that was to “show” the fanbase they care about winning. Well it has backfired in a way that will hamstring the franchise for a decade. Nice job.

jgsbirds

May 11th, 2012
5:10 pm

i really liked this years team a lot. i did expect them to beat the celtics this series. they are the better team. they just aren’t the smarter team. when push came to shove the celtics were allowed to play that ‘tenacious’ defense without having too many fouls called while the hawks continued to play pretty good defense and when they tried to ‘playoff’ up the defense–the officials gave the celtics the close calls.

i never dreamed the hawks would get any calls in this series any way–but for kevin garnett picking up his first foul midway through the first qtr is a joke! he’s a great defender no doubt–but there’s no freaking way he’s that physical and only has one foul during the entire game. he fouled teague twice on drives to the basket not to mention the stuff he was allowed to get away with on dampier, josh and horford.

no doubt the foul at the end of the game on horford was flagrant…especially after they had already called one on teague vs rondo that was debatable. and i haven’t even mentioned the in bounds play that the foul occurred before the ball was thrown in. espn didn’t even mention that either but after rondo was ejected espn actually took the time to go back and show a previous questionable out of bounds play that the hawks were awarded possession. god forbid the hawks actually get a call at home–it boils down to the powers that be really don’t want atlanta in it.

this team was good enough to get into the ecf..unfortunately it won’t be this year–hopefully the breaks will go our way in the future…no matter what though–i’ll still be rooting for them win or lose and all of the “so -called” celtic fans will probably be rooting for someone else by that time.

go hawks!

TrueHawkFan

May 11th, 2012
5:11 pm

Enough.

The truth is that Josh Smith is our best option. He causes turnovers and whines a lot, but he makes good things happen. Joe Johnson is a top tier second option; however, due to his contract, he cannot be traded. Marvin is a top 3 pick that comes off the bench. Al Horford is undersized for what the Hawks are trying to do. Larry Drew did not know to argue that the Hawks should have gotten two shots when the Celts fouled while we were inbounding (an experienced coach would have picked that up quickly and pressed the issue).

To make an impact for the future, the following players should be traded to win NOW. M. Williams, Stackhouse, Dampier, Hingrich, and ZaZa should go. Get younger developing players. Build around J. Smith, Horford, McGrady, and J. Johnson (only because he is untradeable).

Don’t give up on the Hawks yet. They were only 1 game and 10 seconds from going to the Eastern Conference Finals (we would have swept the 76ers).

THF (TrueHawksFan).

Bravesfan79

May 11th, 2012
5:12 pm

Ive supported Josh the whole season, but that shot last night was just pathetic! I dont want to “blow up” the team, i say we trade Josh Smith for a player like Chandler. Someone whos intense on defense, and has enough basketball IQ not to throw up stupid shots with the season on the line!

shawn

May 11th, 2012
5:15 pm

I remember that Pete Babcock, the Hawks Gm back in 90’s traded the whole team and he said: ” we need to take it to next level and get through second round of playoff and that is why we are going with young players to rebuild”…. My friends, it was 13 years ago and Hawks are still rebuilding..This ownership is a joke..Please leave ATL and bring someone like Arther Blank who knows how to win….

Trojan

May 11th, 2012
5:17 pm

JJ is literally paid more than twice what he is owed.

beone

May 11th, 2012
5:17 pm

There is no hope unless there are changes. Change will at least create hope.

KBP

May 11th, 2012
5:18 pm

Joe is not the caliber of player that Kobe is, that D Wade is, but name another 2 guard that is clearly better. Rip Hamilton? Danilo Gallinari? Ray Allen? His contract is the ASG’s fault. He should not have to apologize for not being an all-time great regardless of what his contract is. ASG chose to pay him as if he is Batman but he is more Robin. Let’s stop blaming him for ASG’s decision. Jeff, to question a man’s heart is a serious charge. Would you question his heart if he was a 12 million per year player?

If Marvin had been drafted late in the first round, no one would be killing him the way he gets killed now. His draft position set an expectation that his skill does not match. Not his fault, again see ASG. This was a good year for a team that is flawed considerably. With Chris Kaman and a coach that can use a real center, this is a much better team. Teague, Joe, Josh, Al, Kaman. Then Marvin, Zsa Zsa, Ivan and fill in the rest. Amnesty Joe? Ok, then trade Josh and Marvin and start over with Al and Teague. I’d rather try to get Kaman compete from there.

Bravesfan79

May 11th, 2012
5:19 pm

If we dont trade Josh, then what we need is a coach like Pat Riley who will GET IN HIS AZZ when he takes stupid shots! Ive liked Drew most of the season as coach, but the last few games were pathetic coaching. Why have your lowest basketball IQ player making the inbounds pass with the game on the line in game 5? Why have your worst free throw shooter (smith) in the game when you know your gonna get fouled (game 5)?
As i learned from working the streets of atlanta and neworleans for almost 10 years, any grown man who goes by “smoove, smooth, dbone, tbone, wishbone… etc.. ” is usually on the edge of mental retardation when it comes to IQ points, and is likely to make poor choices.

Trojan

May 11th, 2012
5:21 pm

By signing JJ to the max only guaranteed that the Hawks at best would be average and at worse, a declining team that is stapped by salary cap, whose star player is a person who boggs down every offensive possession. ISO Joe does not work.

Ben

May 11th, 2012
5:21 pm

We need to stop blaming Joe for his max contract, any of us would have taken the money, even if you knew you wasn’t worth it. No Joe is not a superstar, but I think to much blame is put on him. Head Coach is your problem, no heart from the head coach. Larry Drew is not a get-in-your face coach, like Doc Rivers. These Hawks team needs a real coach that really knows how to coach player and not just a team. Second, the owners could and have never care. We have when into three straight seasons needing a center, haven’t gotten one yet. Well there are a couple our there in FA this year. I give you two Roy Hibbet and Chris Kaman. Get us a head coach Hubie Brown and a center. Season Ticket holder 25 years

Honestly

May 11th, 2012
5:22 pm

Low-C, publicity is exactly what they were looking for. Patronizing the fan base is the reality. The Braves finally blossomed when two people, Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, started honestly approaching the business of building a professional sports franchise. Unfortunately, we’re backsliding with the present GM and feel-gooders, but I digress. Sometimes the unpopular move is the right move, and it pays dividends on and off the court or field. We are fed too much BS about the current players and team, when it is rather obvious that those espousing the BS are either lying or incompetent. The Hawks do not have the franchise player around whom the team is built. And, they make up for it by refusing to play team basketball, which would only enhance their individual performances. The product looks like a rudderless ship.

Neki

May 11th, 2012
5:42 pm

First of all, to the people who is saying that Hawks needs to be sold or moved to another city, that wont happen because if that does, Atlanta would be looked down even more then before.

Jeff, you are actually right about that you wrote and its gets worst because there is teams in the East that can still bring in ppl and have cap space (imagine Pacers with Dragic as PG), you still have Bulls and Heat, Knicks is going to get Lin back and they are going to be better as well. Then you got the C’s ,Magic, 76ers and even a team like the Bucks can sneak in next year.

ASG needs to leave this organization and sell to somebody that care about this team and about winning. Without that, we will always be like this.

Jay Dubu

May 11th, 2012
5:54 pm

Joe Johnson is not the reason the Hawks “Are who we thought they were!”, it’s the Ownership and the GM (Front Office). They have made repeatedly bad decisions for the 6+ years in everything from who to draft to who to hire as coach.

How many of us would tell our employer, “No, don’t pay me the maximum amount of money that you can because I’m not worth it”, so don’t blame Joe Johnson for the mistakes of the Suits. It’s the job of the Suits to make decisions that will drive the organization in the right direction. Not only did they draft Marvin Williams 2 rounds too early (that’s right, 2 rounds…that means he should have been a college free agent), but they went and signed him to a nice big contract after the initial one expired.

It’s like buying a million dollar race house and asking me, a non jockey, to ride it in the Kentucky Derby. The Hawks house needs to be cleaned starting at the top.

mountain_jim

May 11th, 2012
6:01 pm

Well I said before the last game that MC using Dled’s recording to write that article was going to fire up Garnett, and it did big-time.

So in my opinion the AJC does share the blame in spreading that news-worthy ‘motivation material’ from idiot Gearon’s mouth.

A beat-writer who actually liked the team and wanted to keep working for another week or so could have sat on that news until after the elimination game. imho.

I stated in the blog reporting those comments that it was going to make winning the game more difficult, and Garnett proved that accurate.

Ref’s still cheated the Hawks in those last 30 seconds – repeatedly.

trade smith

May 11th, 2012
6:01 pm

I have been a josh smith supporter the whole time and i still like him but we cant take the next step with him. He is not going to change. I dont even know if this is possible or not but Greg Monroe would be nice. Dont want Gasol because he is aging. Demarcus cousins would be nice too but i know it isnt possible because of salary. Gotta mention Howard just because he wants to leave orlando. Bottom line is as much as i hate to say it, smith needs to go.

R. Stroz

May 11th, 2012
6:01 pm

Nothing will get better until the ASG is gone….forever…every lousy one of them….Levenson…Gearon Jr…..Seydel. The fans of Atlanta understand this loud and clear.

doc

May 11th, 2012
6:02 pm

jeff ypi ate kidding right? gearon blamed the press for his awkward comments at a very open social functin? it isnt like you set up hidden mics in their office or homes.

i feel sorry for anyone having to deal with these guys fans and me included as a season ticket holder. it is time to reassess the future is right.

KBP

May 11th, 2012
6:05 pm

Ben, Is Hibbert an unrestricted FA? With him we could challenge the Heat and Bulls and anyone else in the East. It’s going to take a team with a low post game to beat Miami 4 out of 7 games. Hibbert or Caman would give us that chance.

Eb

May 11th, 2012
6:07 pm

Nothing will change until ASG sells team. Until then, expect more idiotic decisions and sideways results.

You all are idiots

May 11th, 2012
6:14 pm

So everyone on this blog is telling me that you would rather blow up the team, and have a chance to make a championship run in maybe 5 years, rather than stick with our building blocks for 2-3 more years and make the playoffs? The only team I can remember who successfully “rebuilt” their franchise from the ground up was the Sonics, who are now the Thunder. They drafted great, got real lucky, and have a good chance at making the championship this year. They operated perfectly as a rebuilding franchise, but got real lucky and I don’t see the luck going Atlanta’s way. As a fan, I would rather hope every year in our guys and making a push to the conference finals than sell the farm and start over. I have been there are Steve Smith was gone, and Isiah Rider arrived. A terrible team is no fun to cheer for, no matter what the future holds.

Thought Jeff?

Manny

May 11th, 2012
6:19 pm

I don’t know what game many of you saw, but if you think that Josh Smith is the problem with this team, you need your head examined. I love the whole lines like “Josh is a great defender and rebounder. Oh, and he can get in the lane and drive, but he’s immature.” What?! I mean, if you got someone that is a good rebounder and defender, plus an offensive threat; then that’s a good player. You don’t trade that guy , just because he tried a bad shot in the playoffs, silly!

Here’s what works on the Hawks team: Jeff Teague works. All Horford works. Josh Smith works. And your bench players in Willie Green, Zaza and Pargo works.

Everyone else can kick rocks. Joe Johnson melted completely down this series. He has absolutely no heart. He has the ability to knock your lights out, but he didn’t want to compete in a battle of wills. It’s like he’ll rather lose than look bad.

Now about Marvin. Marvin showed a lot this series. I think he’s pretty good. He’s trade bait. If we can somehow package him like “Take Joe Johnson’s big contract and get a Forward for Free.” Joe Johnson needs to go. We need a real superstar. I mean, we honestly have no business getting beat by the tired, old Celtics.

Felix

May 11th, 2012
6:30 pm

It’s hopeless when you have bad ownership, a so so coach, and so many clueless players.
Has Marvin Williams been traded yet?