Stop the presses! Old curmudgeon likes the Atlanta Hawks!

Today marks the 25th anniversary of my start date at the ol’ AJC, and to commemorate the august occasion — august to me, though you folks could well view it differently — I’m about to write a sentence heretofore untyped by these aging fingers:

I like these Hawks.

Yes, I know they lost to the Knicks last night and looked bad doing it. Yes, I’m aware they’ve dropped five of eight since the All-Star break. I don’t care. I know what I like. I like these Hawks.

Over 25 years I’ve been harder on the local NBA team than any other sporting entity — harder than on the Falcons, harder even than on the Cremins Yellow Jackets. And I’m not apologizing: If I’ve tried to do one thing over the quarter-century it was to write what I thought, and usually I thought there was something amiss with the Hawks. I nitpicked the Dominique Wilkins teams because they lacked a shooter; I was dubious about the Lenny Wilkens teams because Mookie Blaylock shot too much. But these Hawks have grown on me in a way none of their predecessors did.

These Hawks I really, really like.

I’m not picking them to win the NBA title. I’m not picking them to reach the Finals. (I do think they’ll win their first-round series.) I concede this isn’t even the best Hawks team of the past 25 years: The 1986-87 and 1993-94 teams were better. But this is my favorite to watch.

For 24-plus years I saw pro basketball being played in this city and wondered why it wasn’t being played better. Today I think the Hawks have come close to maximizing resources. They’ve gotten great value this season — fourth place in the East with a team that finished eight games below .500 a year ago and didn’t add a single starter.

Are there quibbles? Absolutely. (This wouldn’t be a Bradley column otherwise.) I wish Josh Smith would settle for one jump shot a month. I wish Mike Bibby didn’t play swinging-gate D. I wish Marvin Williams could be assertive every game. I wish they’d run more plays for Al Horford. I wish Mike Woodson would use Acie Law. I wish Josh Childress were here.

But my likes outnumber my dislikes. I love the way these guys pass. (Joe Johnson is terrific at finding Bibby out of double-teams, and nobody reverses the ball like Horford.) I admire their tenacity in big games. (I do wish they were more tenacious against lesser opponents, and so does Woodson.) I’ve even come to appreciate Woodson, who has finally succeeded in getting his men to defend, last night notwithstanding.

Me, I figure they’ll win 48 or 49 games and be the No. 4 seed in the East, which would represent significant improvement over last season’s 37 and No. 8. And I’m confident they’ll give a good account of themselves in postseason.

Granted, if the past 25 years have taught us anything, it’s that I’m capable of being spectacularly wrong. But this time I don’t think I will be. I believe in these Hawks. Really and truly I do.

62 comments Add your comment

JB

March 5th, 2009
7:37 am

I agree with you, Mark. Especially if we can get out of Acie what we got last night. If he can be consistent off the bench, Marvin be consistently aggresive every game and Josh be more consistent in taking the ball inside and not settling for jump shots the Hawks will be a VERY difficult team to beat, even while being undersized.

doc

March 5th, 2009
8:19 am

ditto mark, you sound just like one of sekou’s or hacks blogging group. love em, but frustrated by their lack of true leadership on the court and off. lack of urgency and woody just cant pull them out of funks like last night, so he is part of the overall problem. he gets out witted too often coming out of the locker room at half. wont adjust because that requires using a full bench with role players. he cant see beyond the first eight on his roster card for the evening. isnt there an assissatnt that he trusts when they say somehting like bibby is having a hard time on the switches and ends up guarding harrington can we try bibby there? bibby isnt playing point guard anyway, that is jj. as for jj? jj passes well to bibby but cant see an open horford as he drives into three defenders in the lane. not his best territory to shine still; unlike say a roy.

got some tough games down the stretch but close to home. that should work in our favor if they stay together. one thing about these guys is they are resilient, so far. we will see how your prediction turns out but can we talk about your prediction for the bravos last year and say this might be a kiss of death from an old curmudgeon? too many teams in the east recreating themselves on the fly during this season with personnel and coaching changes to not make it into the playoffs. if teams gel behind them and they fall back out of the four seed the prediction wont hold up for winning a first round playoff series nor will they get beyond 46 wins. they have won this year because of the attrition behind them within their division not due to team organic growth after their lack luster offering last night at the garden.

doc

March 5th, 2009
8:21 am

meant to say “try acie there” instead of bibby

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
8:25 am

You can talk about my Braves prediction, Doc. I’d rather not.

doc

March 5th, 2009
8:28 am

heh heh, ok, maybe it was a true outlier and you have returned to previous form. in the case of the hawks i hope so.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
8:32 am

Actually, previous form wasn’t all that hot. But after 25 years I’m confident I’m about to get on my first real roll.

This Gets Old

March 5th, 2009
8:47 am

Multiple losses to the Knicks and Nets. Losing to Bos and Cle on the home floor with below average foul shooting. Late in games in the playoffs when you need a big shot why shouldn’t the opponent foul a Hawk with the ball. Yeah, they’re better than last year, much better than two years ago. But c’mon how can you be positive about this squad?

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
8:48 am

Just my famously sunny disposition, I suppose.

spotts

March 5th, 2009
9:15 am

Mark, you got my hopes up. When I read that headline I thought an old rich man was interested in buying the Hawks.

I love these Hawks too. But it’s reserved. The players are great and still have a ton of potential. But it’s the foundation – the management and coaching – that leaves me very worried about the future.

smartguy

March 5th, 2009
9:16 am

We need a new coach real, real bad.

tbhawksfan

March 5th, 2009
9:16 am

Why not talk about why the Hawks can’t sign one of the recently cut players. We can’t cut a Gardner so that we might sign a Gooden or Smith or Head for the playoff run. Most other contenders were able to make these signings. We’ll see the dividends.

It’s a realatively cheap way to upgrade the team. Unfortunately we’re suffering from ownership paralysis.

It’s a shame. No matter the out-come of the season (short of a championship), the lack of such a small, yet helpful move is a real shame.

$$cashmoney

March 5th, 2009
9:31 am

tbhawksfan, i agree with you totally. until we get a real owner that can make competitive decisions this team will continue to under achieve.

choke 66

March 5th, 2009
9:44 am

I will bet anyone a steak dinner that these guys will not end up in the 4th spot in the east. I am totally frustrated with the inconsistancy, lack of leadership, and coaching. Mark these words. These strech of home games coming up will not matter.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
9:44 am

I’m sorry to have disappointed you, Spotts.

rms

March 5th, 2009
9:47 am

I love these hawks but I hate them too. I really think they are better than the record indicates. Part of the blame is on the players, i.e. missed free throws, costing us games, and part of the blame falls on the coach (in whom I dont like) BTW

PMC

March 5th, 2009
9:48 am

For all the money spent on this team especially in the front court and the talk of the coach being defensive minded.

Um. The game last night, Pathetic. The Hawks put up virtually no defensive effort and former Hawk Al Horford owned them around the rim with offensive rebounds.

It’s time for these young kids to start rebounding like men. What Al did to them last night is EMBARASSING!

You gave up 109 to the Knicks… that’s PATHETIC!

PMC

March 5th, 2009
9:49 am

I meant Al Harrington obviously

81Dog

March 5th, 2009
9:59 am

Mark, I’ve been watching the Hawks since Zelmo Beaty and Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell led them into town a million years ago. Even when they’ve been good, there was always a glaring weakness that always ended up doing them in. I think this is what Greek playwrights called “the tragic flaw.”

The Fratello/Nique teams didnt have a reliable outside scorer. The Lenny Wilkens teams had no heart for the playoffs. And, they had Pete Babcock, who was always “setting up the roster for next year.” Even with a franchise with the storied draft/trade history of the Hawks (for example, Paul Silas for Jerry freaking Chambers? Who. You see my point. No offense, Jerry, but sheesh), the Danny Manning fiasco stands out. Thanks, Pete.

this Hawks team isn’t great, but they’re interesting. They seem to play hard. They seem to actually care. You weren’t here for the Hubie Brown teams that finally made the playoffs in the late 70s, but it has that kind of feel. You dont expect them to win it all, but when it’s clicking, they have a chance to beat most anyone. After years of dismal efforts, dismal results, and the endless drama of the Atlanta Spirit, it’s kind of refreshing to see a team with, dare I say it, potential to keep improving?

Now, watch them draft another Keith Edmonson, or a Joe Johnson for Stephon Marbury trade in the off season.

Coopdawg

March 5th, 2009
10:05 am

I think these Hawks are as talented individually as any Hawks team since the ‘Nique years.
Problem is, at least on offense, they don’t play as a team. The problem is coaching. Watching the game last night, I saw the Knicks always pass 3 or 4 times looking for the best shot. Then i’d watch the Hawks come down the floor with none or one passes. I love Joe J., but most of the time he usually gets the ball and takes it one on one. If he is double teamed (a la last night or in every Celtics game) then there is no flow to the offense.
So frustrating to see the talent wasted with a no clue offensive coach.

David

March 5th, 2009
10:08 am

A team that is hard to like and easier to dislike. The inconsistancy has to stop if they really want to be a 4 seed.

TskOoOo

March 5th, 2009
10:12 am

How can people still think we’ll win close to 50 games? We have 21 friggin games left and play some rough teams. Get real, people

spotts

March 5th, 2009
10:14 am

I’m over it, Mark. If I had known what a curmudgeon was the confusion probably could’ve been avoided.

Dr. Warren

March 5th, 2009
10:22 am

Their record is below mediocre since their 22-10 start. That is a big concern. Try explaining to shareholders that your company is really likable, despite the fact it’s been losing money for the past two quarters. Bottom line: the Hawks are the team who they are now, not earlier in the season. Sure, they have a good chance to get out of the 1st round, but they almost did last year, too. Beyond that, no way.

Harold

March 5th, 2009
10:24 am

The Hawks are an outstanding team but they can easily have 10 or 12 more wins at this juncture if Woodson was not at the helm. I have nothing but disdain for the man – because he’s nowhere close to a coach. I watch last night’s game and became so infuriated when he went away from getting their points in the paint. They’d gotten 46 points under the basket in the first half and they had two of New York’s best players in foul trouble to boot. Nevertheless, in the second half, he insisted on getting Joe more touches – what an idiot. Joe is a legitimate NBA All Star and his points will come, stick with what’s working.

At Sunday night’s Cleveland game at Phillips, a game they should’ve won, the Hawks were leading by 13 points late in the quarter when Woodson calls a time out to set up a play. At this point, the Hawks are keeping Cleveland in check until Woodson decides to take out his best offensive rebounder on the team, Pachulia, and replaced him with Josh, who never wants to play defense, and leaves Flip on the floor – who was 2 for 1000 with 80 turnovers – what a freakin’ moron. The Hawks will make the playoffs in spite of Woodson but they should have gotten rid of him last year, the Hawks can be so, so much better.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
10:28 am

A curmudgeon is pretty much what I am — old and cranky.

Hawks73

March 5th, 2009
10:53 am

Mark, I agree with you on one point. I love the Hawks too (now here comes the but)but, their lack of sustained effort is what kills me. They do not have the desire night in and night out to perform to highest level of their capabilities (hence the loses to teams that are inferior to them). They could easily drop the number 6 spot as well as maintain the 3 spot. The one “must have” is a desire to compete and play 110% every night out. With that said, I believe their inconsistency will be their undoing and they drop to the 5 seed and drop in the first round. I love them but not enough to buy into them…yet!

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
11:03 am

Kind of weird, isn’t it? The old Hawks-basher is more optimistic than Hawks fans are.

rms

March 5th, 2009
11:12 am

I wouldnt be suprised if they lost in the first-round. They are good enough to make the playoffs only because we are in the East but if this team want to go to the next level (deep in the playoffs and maybe contend for a title), some roster changes has to be made, i.e. trade some of these forwards for a true center, and a better coach that can actually give this team an identity and get the most of these players like defining what their specific roles are.

ValdostaMike

March 5th, 2009
11:13 am

I too like these Hawks, and have for a few years now. But, alas, they we not be the same team next year. Our “ownership” will follow the blueprint laid out by the clippers. I predict wins will fall by 30% next year, but the team will be profitable for the first time since the “Spirit” bought them.

I cannot stand Ted Turner’s politics, but I loved how he ran his/our sports franchises.

On another note, can we get one of those collars put on Josh Smith that shocks him if he gets more than 15 feet away from the basket? Just a thought.

john V

March 5th, 2009
11:14 am

I sense Woody is getting a bit frustrated with Josh’s lack of focus, as am I. He’s sitting on the bench more and deservedy so. 3 of the first 7 turnovers last night,,guess who. One handed passes, inability to dish off on his drives without turning ball over, no jump shot, lousy free throw shooter.lazy defense… oh but he CAN dunk with the best. I’ve watched the last 3 games focusing on Josh and he rarely goes to the offensive board, always releases early hoping for that infamous fast break dunk.
OH but he does have a lot of POTENTIAL, if he would just wake up and play fundamental basketball.

Dan

March 5th, 2009
11:15 am

Wow!! Now you’re the cheerleader?! Amazing! I feel like I should find Billy Knight’s e-mail address and send him a copy of this article. He would think it was a fake.

Really, Mark, I have been a season ticket holder and fan of the Hawks for quite a long time now. You have been there to cut this team down at every turn. You don’t do that to the other teams in this town. I am expecting, for instance, another Wren apologist article any day now….

Great you like this team….Just, if things turn out well this postseason, don’t try and act like you were with them all the way. You haven’t. And, really, I think you should have to pay your way into these upcoming playoff games. After all the sh#t you have given this team/organization, you don’t deserve to have any benefits from them.

SC Ace

March 5th, 2009
11:22 am

Congrats on 25 years, Mark. I’ve enjoyed reading you. Hope you at least get a watch or an expensive steak or something.

Ken Strickland

March 5th, 2009
11:22 am

81DOG-you really do go way back, Keith Edmonson!! What about the infamous BUTCH LEE?

MARK BRADLEY-like you, we all like this team, which is why we’ve all been so hard on HC Mike Woodson. He’s a NBA HC operating with a college HC’s mentality and approach. He’s a much more civilized version of his college HC, and mentor, Bobby Knight. At this point in the season, and with everyone relatively healthy, this team should be more consistent and productive, but they’re not. We went into the Allstar break on a winning note, and we’ve been as inconsistent since the Allstar break as we’ve been at anytime this season.

What is Woodson’s aversion to developing and playing young talented players, who’s talents and potential contributions are sorely needed? Where did he get this distorted idea that an error, a turnover, or a mistake in judgement, is permissable or doesn’t hurt the team, if it’s committed by a veteran player, but not by a player he deems as being younger and/or less experienced?

WPinAZ

March 5th, 2009
11:30 am

With 21 games left, the Hawks will struggle to win 42 games. That’s right! They only need 8 wins out of 21 games. And they will struggle to get 42, mark my words. I love the Hawks, but their inconsistancy is as aggrivating as Georgia Tech and their total inneptness. Offensively, they are clueless (same as Tech?). Everything is iso 1 on 1, rotate for a 3 to an inconsistant 3 point shooter? Meanwhile, the opponent gets layups or WIDE OPEN 10-12 footers? Very frustrating.

WH

March 5th, 2009
11:33 am

Enter your comments here

GOOD FOR YOU MARK. I’ve been a Hawks fan since the Lou Hudson & Walt Bellamy days. The Hawks best years were during the Dominique years. This team is disappointing to watch, they don’t play with any urgency or intensity and there’s no leadership. You have a legitmate NBA Star in Joe Johnson who doesn’t provide any leadership on the floor, he shows no emotions and I never see him communicating to his teammates. I am an avid Joe Johnson’s fan, but if this team want to go further in the playoffs he got to step-up his leadership. Great players have that fire to inspire others, Joe doesn’t seem to have that. I noticed Woody’s frustration with his team, because they’re not committed to playing hard for 48 minutes and he has lost his ability to motivate. They walk onto the court with no enthusiasm to play the game. It is not the fans responsibility to get them fired-up to play they’re professional (they get paid the BIG BUCKS in a bad economy when there are people struggling to survive!!!). I read or heard the NBA borrowed money to help twenty struggling NBA teams. My point to the Hawks, when you have a great job and you are doing what you love – give it your all – don’t take this moment in your life for granted you may not get it back. GO HAWKS!!!

St. Bernard

March 5th, 2009
12:10 pm

I just hope we don’t look back two or three years from now and say I wonder what would have happened if we would have had a real coach!

CDawg42

March 5th, 2009
12:38 pm

ValdostaMike, the shock collar suggestion for Smoove has got to be one of the most hilarious things I have heard in a while. LMDAO!

CDawg42

March 5th, 2009
12:43 pm

I like Woody the guy. He’s an NBA junkie, and seems like a hell of a guy to have around your basketball team. It’s just that I despise Woody the coach. Tired of giving him the benefit of the doubt. Folks, I think we have a top 5 or 6 team in the league…if we had a really good coach to maximize what they each bring to the table.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
12:59 pm

Thanks, SC Ace. And the best gift would be if I can keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Ted Striker

March 5th, 2009
1:28 pm

Mark: A fairly interesting site by statistical mastermind Roland Beech. http://www.82games.com

rainman

March 5th, 2009
1:29 pm

Mark, I basically agree with your analysis for ‘this year’ (although I doubt 49 wins). But in order to become a true contender, there are several storm clouds on the horizon that need to be cleared up. What is your opinion on some of these issues?

1. As mentioned — OWNERSHIP No matter how the legal struggle turns out, it seems that we are doomed to have ownership that is sub-par in many ways — including money. Do you see any best case scenario in the short term or the mid-term?

Point guard and center are arguably the two most ‘key’ positions on the team, and unfortunatly the two biggest question marks for the Hawks.

2. Point guard — Bibby has made the Hawks better overall, but he is making 15 mil. and his contract expires at the end of the season. Even if we could afford his price, how long could you see him being the #1PG?
What is your opinion of Law, and his lack of playing time. Do you think he could be the starting PG on a championship team?

3. Center — Horford is a good player who the Hawks need to keep no matter what. At some point, they should decide if he’s going to be the starting center for the next 10 years, or if he is going to be the power forward for the next 10 years (although he would probably rotate between these two positions to some extent). In any case, I think we all agree that the Hawks need another ‘big’. How do we get one that is good and not on his last leg? What do you think — I for one, would have been happy with Chandler – sore toe or not.

4. I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t ask your opinion on Woodson.

3. Mark, do you think there will be any problem resigning MWilliams? We knew it might take a while for him to blossom, and it would be a shame to lose him now.

[...] Andrew Bryant posted a noteworthy aricle today onHere’s a small snippetI am totally frustrated with the inconsistancy, lack of leadership, and coaching. Mark these words. These strech of home games coming up will not matter. Report this comment. Mark Bradley. March 5th, 2009 … [...]

Joe

March 5th, 2009
2:37 pm

BUT!!! Do you like the coach????

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
2:43 pm

I like the coach more than I once did. He still wouldn’t be my first choice — too downbeat — but I’ve never thought Woodson was a bad X-and-O guy.

BA

March 5th, 2009
3:19 pm

Nice Hawks blog, stuff about Williams and Smith:

http://crashingtheglass.com

cdw

March 5th, 2009
3:39 pm

Can’t agree with you more about the Josh Smith jump shot. He shouldn’t be allowed to take shots. The dude can’t even hit 50% of his FT. Just stick to the glass and close shots.

rainman

March 5th, 2009
3:41 pm

You probably like him more than you once did because the team is winning more games than it once did. You’re like the rest of us — you win, we like you — you lose, you suck

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
3:45 pm

Bradley’s Rule, now 25 years in the making: Winning beats losing.

Jim

March 5th, 2009
8:08 pm

I don’t see how Josh Smith does not drive Coach Woodson crazy. I have watched practically every game since he started playing for the Hawks. I have not seen him block out on time. He has never thrown a two handed pass, when I see him on the break he is a turnover waiting to happen with his one handed bounce pass. It’s time to sit him until he learns the fundamentals he missed by not going to college. He could be a superstar with his raw athletic ability but he will never progress until he understands the basics of basketball 101.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2009
8:11 pm

I believe Josh Smith and his coach have had their dust-ups. In fact, their dust-ups are a matter of record. But, for all his occasional oncourt excesses, I’d take Josh Smith on my team.