Hawks’ Drew says he’s prepared to work without parachute

Larry Drew has a new cast of players, including Anthony Morrow  (left) and Lou Williams.

Larry Drew has a new cast of players, including Anthony Morrow (left) and Lou Williams. (AP photo)

This has been a Hawks’ preseason written in pencil. Five starting lineups in five exhibition games.

While that partly can be attributed to a player injury or the whims of head coach Larry Drew experimenting with new pieces, it’s also a fair gauge of where this team is at right now. Nobody is mourning the departures of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, both of whom forever earned places on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore of failures. But now Drew is trying to find a starting lineup with an entertaining but undersized roster and in less than ideal circumstances.

He is, as he put it, “trying to bring cohesiveness as fast as I can.” Of course. Because while nobody can be certain how long this rebuilding project by general manager Danny Ferry will take, things are less fuzzy concerning Drew. He is in the final year of his contract.

Nothing like the pressure of working without a net while trying to impress the new boss.

The Hawks exercised the option on Drew’s contract before they hired Ferry (who was just fine with that). There has been no extension and there likely won’t be until after the season, if then. The two didn’t really know each other before Ferry was hired and, let’s face it, this isn’t like a personnel guy looking at tape of a player and saying, “Let’s get him.” The coach-GM relationship is just that — a relationship. So Ferry doesn’t feel comfortable yet giving his head coach any job security.

Drew has been pretty successful in his two seasons. Ferry acknowledges as much. But Drew now has a lesser cast of players than before, with no stated win total he must hit or round of playoffs he must reach to extend his employment. It would be understandable if he felt a little bit uneasy, but he’s doing his best to downplay the situation.

“The situation is what it is, the contract is what it is, the timing is what it is,” he said. “I have a contract I have to honor and I’m going to do that. I’m going to come out every day and give it my all. I know it’s not the best situation to be in, but I look at it as a challenge. It’s an opportunity.”

Ferry managed to get rid of Joe Johnson’s contract. He gets the benefit of the doubt for the next decade.

But there’s some risk here. When a coach is in the final year of his contract, it has the potential of undercutting his authority in the locker room, particularly a locker room where there’s so many new players. The I’m-in-charge-message can get a little lost.

“I won’t allow that,” Ferry said Thursday. “I’ll be supportive of Larry throughout the year. … Our relationship has been positive. It’s been productive as far as getting to know each other and getting ready for the year.”

Drew took over for the fired Mike Woodson. The Hawks took a step back in regular season wins – we can partly blame Woodson not taking the albatross, Mike Bibby, with him — but upset Orlando in the first round of the playoffs and took Chicago to six games. Last season, despite missing Al Horford for much of the season, Drew’s winning percentage in the lockout season rose from .537 to .606 (40-26) but the Hawks lost to Boston in the first round. (Reasonable excuses: Horford wasn’t in playing shape when he returned; Josh Smith missed a game with a knee injury; Joe Johnson was his usual postseason worthless self.)

It’s no secret the Hawks had a somewhat dysfunctional locker room, and Drew should get credit for enduring despite that. He obviously would have liked a little more breathing room, but he dealt with this situation as a player. “I tried to not look at it as a negative,” he said. “You don’t let it consume you. Some people might not able to handle it but I’m here to prove otherwise.”

Josh Smith and Al Horford are back. The rest of the lineup will be heavy on speed and shooters: Devin Harris, Lou Williams. Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, John Jenkins.

“We have guys who can make shots and get up and down the floor,” Drew said. “But we’re not going to play street ball. We’re going to be well organized. We’re going to be relentless on the attack and on defense.”

He has a plan — but not much time to make it work.

By Jeff Schultz

EARLIER: Weekend Predictions: Bulldogs, Jackets rise from the dead


59 comments Add your comment

Jason

October 18th, 2012
9:51 pm

Jason

October 18th, 2012
9:51 pm

gtlawyer81

October 18th, 2012
10:06 pm

Sorry Jason, no one cares. About the Hawks either apparently.

SAS

October 18th, 2012
10:07 pm

Second……

SAS

October 18th, 2012
10:08 pm

how did they play?

sportschick

October 18th, 2012
10:11 pm

First Let’s go hawks!!!! Second Mr. Schultz have you ever called Matt Ryan or anybody else on the Falcons worthless when they couldn’t even get more than 2pts in a playoff game last year. Falcons in my opinon eventhough we are giving them a parade before the championship. Great season so far falcons but you still have something to prove in the POST SEASON. Another thing Danny Ferry will not get a pass from me until he makes this roster complete. I commend him about getting rid of Joe’s contract but HE STILL HAS TO BUILD ME A TEAM. Remember he had LEBRON JAMES IN CLE

Najeh Davenpoop

October 18th, 2012
10:12 pm

Pretty sure the laundry list of Hawks’ draft busts like Adam Keefe and Shelden Williams would object to a six-time All Star usurping their well earned spot on the Mount Rushmore of Hawks failures. Joe didn’t come close to living up to his contract, but it is not his fault that he was miscast in a role too big for his talent.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 18th, 2012
10:13 pm

“Mr. Schultz have you ever called Matt Ryan or anybody else on the Falcons worthless when they couldn’t even get more than 2pts in a playoff game last year.”

Haha. Co-sign. If Joe was worthless in the postseason, the English language doesn’t have an adjective bad enough to describe Matt Ryan.

Big Crimson 75

October 18th, 2012
10:31 pm

Matt Ryan is so far superior in his craft to Joe Johnson. No contest.

Let’s remember when both arrived in Atlanta:
The 2007 Atlanta Falcons were one of the worse seasons a Franchise could have in any sport.
The beloved face of the Franchise decided it was more important to water-board animals than read a playbook. The Coach was whistling for pigs with 3 games left. Me-Angelo’s antics each & every week. The Falcons had farther to go than any Team in Pro Football.
In comes Matt Ryan. 11 & 5, followed by 9 & 7(lost both games he was out hurt, won 2 games playing hurt, Vick would never have played), then came 13 & 3, 10 & 6, and now 6 & 0.
Matt Ryan saved the Atlanta Falcons.

Joe came here. A good player. Belkin was right the whole time. He wasn’t worth the 1st contract plus Diaw plus 2 first rounders. The Hawks floundered with him for the first 2 years. Finally, We make the playoffs, winning what 34 Games? Gave Boston a great series, losing in 7.
Then came the Contract, more talent around him & nothing butt the expected 2nd round exit — year after year.
I liked Joe, good player, contract wasn’t his fault — however, He didn’t/couldn’t save A Franchise the way Matt Ryan did.
Sorry, Matty Ice isn’t the right you-know-what, butt He’s a better athlete than Joe Johnson ever was or will be.

Steve

October 18th, 2012
10:50 pm

9 comments in an hour? Tells you how much the Hawks matter. Go Braves and Falcons!

kinda lazy

October 19th, 2012
1:16 am

j

October 19th, 2012
2:02 am

Rebuilding year. If we punt the season we have a great shot at the top pick…

Jamaaliver

October 19th, 2012
2:31 am

Jeff. You called Joe both worthless AND a failure. Seems harsh for 6-time All-Star who led us in scoring every year. Who took us from a laughingstock to a perennial playoff team. By that regard, josh smith, Steve Smith, Mutombo, Dominique are all failures, too. Right?

Mark

October 19th, 2012
7:26 am

Jeff Schultz, your writing is worthless.

steve

October 19th, 2012
7:26 am

MannyT

October 19th, 2012
8:27 am

Maybe this article fits the Mount Rushmore of lazy perspectives on the Hawks best player during his tenure in Atlanta. Not calling Johnson great, but Schultz could do much better.

Sam

October 19th, 2012
8:37 am

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but…

I’m gonna stick up for Joe. Marvin, I can see on the Mount Rushmore of Atlanta failures, but Joe, that was a little harsh. Jamaaliver hit all the right points. We were never the best team in the league, but we definitely were never one of the worst.

Ted Striker

October 19th, 2012
9:03 am

Johnson had a tendency to disappear at crunch time while other players stepped it up. His baseline body of work is 33 playoff games over a 10 year career.

What that has to do with Matt Ryan…I can’t see. Ryan has a 3 game body of work against two opponents who became SuperBowl champs and one team that lost the world championship by 4 points. Not his best games yet he completed nearly 64% of his passes, averaging 36 throws in those 3 games, many when the D was pinning their ears back. Plus he wasn’t playing defensive snaps or special teams, nor was he catching the ball or charged with running it consistently to help the passing game.

KBP

October 19th, 2012
9:19 am

Jeff, I really could not get past your Mt. Rushmore of failures comment about Joe Johnson. You surely have to be kidding. He is certainly not a failure in Hawks history as an argument can be made that he is the most complete Hawks player of ALL TIME. So what he is not Kobe, LeBron, Michael, Larry, Isaiah, Magic nor any other all time great, but who is? He certainly is BETTER than Lou Hudson, Walt Bellamy, Mookie Blaylock, Steve Smith, Pete Maravich, and much more versatile than Nique. He is not the kind of player who will lead a team to a championship but the ASG chose to pay him as if he was. Put the ASG on the Mt. Rushmore of failures.

Marvin’s draft position set an expectation that clearly he does not have the ability to live up to, but is that his fault? I remember most all GM’s rating him just behind Bogut in the ‘05 draft and they all may have been wrong. Who knows, maybe a different coaching staff would have gotten more out of him especially in his early years. He is still in the NBA and probably going to start for Utah and in my opinion is still in the top half of small forward’s in the league. He’s hardly a failure apart from draft position and the expectation that comes with it. Maybe our expectations should be put on the Mt. Rushmore of failures.

Time

October 19th, 2012
9:21 am

Only Schultz could write a article that has Atlanta defending Joe…Great work Schultzie!!!!

just me

October 19th, 2012
9:29 am

Larry Drew is probably the worst coach in the NBA. When he is done here he will become an “end of the bench” coach for some other team. This Hawks team will finish under .500. But, does anyone in Atlanta care?

Joey

October 19th, 2012
9:38 am

Good luck to Larry Drew and the Hawks this season. Probably gonna be a tough year, but the light at the end of the tunnel is the cap space Ferry now has to make some big moves next summer.

Hummon

October 19th, 2012
9:43 am

Enter your comments here

Hummon

October 19th, 2012
9:46 am

D’oh! Was going to say “hear hear” to those questioning placing Joe on Mount Rushmore of failures. Marvin, yes, Shelden, yes, but to put Joe there is to have a very short memory about where the Hawks were before he arrived. Evidently we have reached the point of championship starvation in this town where if you’re not hoisting a trophy, you stink.

Sneaker Pimp

October 19th, 2012
10:05 am

Good comparison between Joe and Ryan, actually. I’ll say this about both:

(1) Joe’s team had some playoff success, unlike Ryan.
(2) Ryan has never crapped on his home fans like Joe did.

I don’t believe either of them should be “defended” right now, honestly.

Rollo Lawson

October 19th, 2012
10:11 am

Hate to pile on, but that Joe Johnson comment is ridiculous. That contract was crazy, but Joe for awhile was the 2nd best SG in the east behind D. Wade for a few years. People confuse Joe’s contract with his output on the court when assesssing his ability and achievments as a player. Same illogical thinking was applied when people around here mentioned MV7. Let’s see if this same rationale/ thinking will apply once Matty Ice gets his $100 million contract.

P.S. Go get Rudy Gay, James Harden, or Tyreke Evans.

Sneaker Pimp

October 19th, 2012
10:11 am

“I commend him about getting rid of Joe’s contract but HE STILL HAS TO BUILD ME A TEAM. Remember he had LEBRON JAMES IN CLE”

Ferry had a younger, much more immature Lebron, that part matters because young NBA stars don’t win titles. The Cavs missed the playoffs with Lebron the season before Ferry arrived, and over his five years, they won 60+ games twice and reached the Finals. Safe to say he built a good team without mortgaging their future on overrated Amare. Lebron simply made a good business decision to move to South Beach, and most of us would. Biggest problem the Cavs had was that they were located in Cleveland.

Steve's an Idiot

October 19th, 2012
10:24 am

If “no one cares” then why are you reading/commenting on this article? You obviously care! Moron.

Ryder

October 19th, 2012
10:36 am

You can’t put the blame completely on Joe Johnson, blame Billy Knight for having some inate idea to build around 4 small forwards instead of providing someone with leadership (Chris Paul/Deron Williams). Ferry has done a great job of eliminating some of the problems that plagued this team, but rebuilding is also about what you do with the huge cap room. This will be one of the most interesting seasons in Atlanta history, only because we are about to find out if Josh Smith is really the transcendent player he thinks he is.

DeepDiver

October 19th, 2012
11:00 am

Let me echo the masses and state that the Mt Rushmore comment is completely unfair to Joe. He was the only reason to watch the Haws for several years.

A six time All Star who carried a load for which he was miscast — that of a Franchise Player. That the Hawks gave him that contract was a failing of management, not the player.

Best Hawk since ‘Nique, no contest.

jeffrey d

October 19th, 2012
11:05 am

Falcons in my opinon eventhough we are giving them a parade before the championship

Nobody get excited about the Falcons, guys. It’s not allowed.

Freedom from insanity

October 19th, 2012
12:11 pm

Amazing to see all the comments praising Joe Johnson. Where we’re all these “fans” when Joe Johnson would disappear during important games? He had a huge contract, which would normally relate to huge performances and results. I would put him in the classification of “failure to live up to his salary” as well as the Mount Rushmore of Failure………which if used for the Hawks would take up more space than is available on the mountain! Let’s see what the team does without the huge contracts of Johnson and Williams!

Brown

October 19th, 2012
12:20 pm

What should be on the Mt. Rushmore of failures is the contract that the Hawks signed Joe to, not Joe himself. I’m glad he and his contract are gone, but he was definitely a very good player.

John Koncak’s contract should be the top of the Hawks’ failure mountain though.

New Orleans 'Inhales'

October 19th, 2012
12:39 pm

Don’t understand what Schultz here. He says Joe and Marvin were failures, but then admits Drew doesn’t have as talented a roster of players this season as he has the past two years. You would think Joe and Marvin were a good part of the fair amount of success Drew’s had.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 19th, 2012
1:26 pm

“Ryan has never crapped on his home fans like Joe did.”

When did Joe crap on his home fans? He did everything that could have been asked of him. Wasn’t his fault the DASG thought he was the same caliber player as LeBron and Kobe.

I didn’t bring up the comparison, but I’d imagine they are getting compared because Ryan is treated like a god by the sports personalities and fans in this city, whereas Joe is treated like dirt, and yet Joe is the one who hasn’t completely embarrassed himself in the playoffs. Joe has advanced beyond the first round three times. Ryan hasn’t even come close. It’s not so much about the players as the way they are covered.

Geronimo

October 19th, 2012
2:15 pm

Mount Rushmore of failures? Worthless? A tad harsh, but as my parent’s taught me, I’ll “consider the source”.

ChipperisGod

October 19th, 2012
2:25 pm

I’m interested in the new look Hawks. I don’t really know what to expect where as I knew what to expect for the most part the last couple of years. I still say if we had Horford at 100% for the whole season, who knows what would have happened. We were what, 12-2 or something to start the year last year? Ripped Miami at their place and beat some other high quality team on the road as well.

It’s good that Joe is gone, I like Joe, he played well, but we all expected him to be our Kobe or Lebron and he quite simply isn’t that player. He isn’t a franchise player and isn’t worth the money we payed him for what he gave us. It was wrong for management to treat him the way he did (the contract and giving up those players for his caliber of play).

But I’m looking forward to seeing J Smoove becoming a true leader out there if he can do it. I remember we beat OKC last year when Joe and Al were out and I marveled at how the O seemed to flow better with Josh being the go to guy. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. My expectations aren’t through the roof, but I expect us to make the playoffs again this year. And with these speed/3 Point guys who knows, it could create a unique blend with power guys like Al and Josh.

Still, I wish for all the good Danny Ferry has done lately, that he’d go get a legitimate big man. As much as I love Zaza, we need a TRUE STARTING CENTER. Al would fair far better in the PF position.

I still wouldn’t call Joe worthless however and I think Matty Ice is ready to take that next step this year. Of course, I thought that this year. After the Braves loss, and all of our postseason history as a city, I’m learning more and more to be cautiously optimistic.

Whatever

October 19th, 2012
2:47 pm

“Ferry managed to get rid of Joe Johnson’s contract. He gets the benefit of the doubt for the next decade.”

No doubt.

jlewis

October 19th, 2012
3:06 pm

Yeah, kick a guy when he is out of town. Schultz, you write as if the Hawks were a winning team and Joe killed a legacy, the helped make the Hawks relevant again. To say he was a failure in the playoffs, the guy was double and trippled teamed, they never put a point guard on the roster or a big man or adequate bench. The guy was a model citizen when he was hear, never did anything to embarrass to City, no arrest or thuggish behavior. He made the comment about the fans in frustration of a hard series, one mistake in 7 years. As Najeh said, you praise Matt Ryan who has been terrible in the playoffs, its interesting to see the caucasian media always has praise for caucasian athletes, but athletes of color never get a break, its always “their” fault. With writers like you, thats why newspapers are leaking money and referring to blogs. You are quick to call someone a loser when they cant fight back.

jlewis

October 19th, 2012
3:26 pm

Also, if Joe is a loser, what is the Coach? After Ferry fails, which he will, he didnt win a Championship with Lebron, make sure you call him the same, if you’re still around.

Alex

October 19th, 2012
3:51 pm

Joe Johnson is not a failure and not worthless. He was frustrating to watch at times, but, like so many others have already pointed out, he brought the Hawks back to the playoffs and back to relevance. I really think they should consider retiring his number. Can’t get mad at the guy for signing a contract put in front of him.

Mark

October 19th, 2012
4:03 pm

defend yourself Schultz.

jlewis

October 19th, 2012
4:21 pm

He cant defend himself Mark, thats what cowards do, they put it out there and run. He’s a worthless PUNK, he labeled someone else, now i’m labeling him.

devn

October 19th, 2012
4:24 pm

Jeff, You shouldn’t be writing about Hawks – You have nothing positive to say or contribute ever. Joe was undoubtedly the best player in the recent Hawks history and his contributions in making Hawks a regular playoff team shouldn’t be disparaged.

Big Crimson 75

October 19th, 2012
4:40 pm

I didn’t bring up the comparison, but I’d imagine they are getting compared because Ryan is treated like a god by the sports personalities and fans in this city, whereas Joe is treated like dirt, and yet Joe is the one who hasn’t completely embarrassed himself in the playoffs. Joe has advanced beyond the first round three times. Ryan hasn’t even come close. It’s not so much about the players as the way they are covered.
————
Lie.

Najeh Davenpoop
October 18th, 2012
10:13 pm

“Mr. Schultz have you ever called Matt Ryan or anybody else on the Falcons worthless when they couldn’t even get more than 2pts in a playoff game last year.”

Haha. Co-sign. If Joe was worthless in the postseason, the English language doesn’t have an adjective bad enough to describe Matt Ryan.
—–

I stand by my comments.
Matt Ryan is the better athlete. No contest, really.
Ryan plays the toughest position in Professional Sports, currently at an MVP level.
Joe at an MVP level — never.
Btw, the Arizona loss was in OT. Maybe that isn’t close enough.
The GB loss was on the Defense. 48 points in your own Stadium. Also, I think the Burner chipped in with 39 yards that night.
The NY loss was a train wreck. Last years Falcons had no business making the playoffs, they did & they got worked over.
I seem to recall a 4 – Love beat down in those great Joe Johnson led playoff runs a few years back. But hey, they did take out a mighty Bucks Team in 7 Games prior to the embarrassment against Orlando.
Oh, there was another 4-Love beat down the prior year?? But we did topple D-Wade’s Heat in another classic 7 game 1st round series. After all, D-Wade had Michael Beasley to pick up the slack.

No one has to like Matt Ryan.
This ain’t no popularity contest.
To insinuate the guys a loser because the Falcons have yet to win a playoff game is foolish.
Isn’t this coming from the same guy who said Cam was gonna run the NFC South this year?
I’m pretty sure it is.
Btw, nice ground ball he tossed with the game on the line against Seattle(hard to catch em with your feet), following the fumble in the Dome which cost his team that win, followed by that scintillating performance against said Giants on the Thursday night before.
You’re quite the prognosticator.

Jeff Schultz

October 19th, 2012
4:51 pm

For those who disagree with the Joe Johnson rip, I understand that argument. Here’s my view: It’s all relative. For that amount of money, he should be more than an All-Star. He should be a leader. He shouldn’t disappear in the playoffs. That all goes into the equation of whether he is a plus or a minus in my book. If he made less money, I wouldn’t weigh those things as heavily. It’s doesn’t mean he’s a “bad” player.

Jeff Schultz

October 19th, 2012
4:56 pm

Sportschick — Have I ever called Matt Ryan “worthless”? No. But I’ve certainly criticized him for his three playoff performances. Go back and read the columns. The difference between the two — and this is strictly my opinion — is I believe Ryan’s arc is headed up and Johnson is hit a ceiling. Ryan is in is fifth season. Johnson is going into his 12th.

Regardless: Why bring up Matt Ryan for a comment about Joe Johnson?

Jeff Schultz

October 19th, 2012
4:57 pm

Ted Striker — “Johnson had a tendency to disappear at crunch time while other players stepped it up. His baseline body of work is 33 playoff games over a 10 year career. …. What that has to do with Matt Ryan…I can’t see. Ryan has a 3 game body of work against two opponents who became SuperBowl champs and one team that lost the world championship by 4 points. Not his best games yet he completed nearly 64% of his passes, averaging 36 throws in those 3 games, many when the D was pinning their ears back. Plus he wasn’t playing defensive snaps or special teams, nor was he catching the ball or charged with running it consistently to help the passing game.”

<<< What he said.

Jeff Schultz

October 19th, 2012
4:58 pm

Just me: “Larry Drew is probably the worst coach in the NBA.”

<<< And this is another example of how everybody has an opinion.

Jeff Schultz

October 19th, 2012
5:00 pm

Devn — “Jeff, You shouldn’t be writing about Hawks – You have nothing positive to say or contribute ever. Joe was undoubtedly the best player in the recent Hawks history and his contributions in making Hawks a regular playoff team shouldn’t be disparaged.”

<<