The new Hawks resort to an old method to win Game 1

Good times! Rookie Jeff Teague exults after his first pro hoop. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Good times! Rookie Jeff Teague exults after his first pro hoop. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

There was something old (Joe Smith, who’s 34), something new (Jeff Teague, who’s a rookie), something borrowed (Jamal Crawford, acquired from Golden State) and something blue (the Hawks’ pregame warmup shorts). There was a brand new bench, which did its part, and better balance among the starters. And at the end there was …

Joe Johnson.

He deferred to Josh Smith and Al Horford for a half, and then the Hawks’ best player reminded us that, even though this team has more good players than at any time in two decades, he’s still the Hawks’ best player. And if that’s the new method — let others get involved early and let JJ save it for later — it just might work.

The Hawks weren’t smashing in their opener. They yielded 65 points to tepid Indiana in a half — is Willie Martinez coaching basketball? — and trailed in the fourth quarter. They held — wrong word, I know — Danny Granger to 31 points. But they won pulling away, and en route they dropped powerful hints that this might well be the best Hawks team in … oh, two decades.

Something old: Johnson scoring 17 second-half points. Something new: Horford taking 17 shots. Something borrowed (from John Stockton): Josh Smith making eight assists and five steals and scoring 18 points on only 10 shots. Something blue (presumably): Jason Collins, a veteran big man who signed as a free agent but who went unused.

Before the game, Mike Woodson had been asked about the strange new feeling of having 11 real players at his disposal. Said the coach: “You can’t find 30 minutes a night for 11 or 12 guys.” Also this: “I will not sacrifice games just to satisfy someone.”

Which is why we saw the Hawks’ bench work long minutes in the second and third quarters but only a total of five in the fourth. “I kind of jumped my bench for losing the lead,” Woodson said. Then: “We’re all trying to get used to each other, especially them to me.”

Something new: Johnson having a tepid half and the Hawks still being in position to seize the game. Something old: Johnson seizing the game. He had 10 points and four assists in the fourth quarter, and two of those assists resulted in Mike Bibby treys. Which meant JJ had a hand in 20 of the Hawks’ 25 final points.

“I kind of wanted to get into the flow [earlier],” Johnson said. “But I was feeding off [Josh Smith and Horford]. They carried us in the first half.”

Seventeen shots for Horford? Was this by design? “We were just playing basketball,” he said. And then, sounding like Urban Meyer: “We were taking what the defense gives us.”

Something else new: Ten different Hawks working at least 10 minutes, none exceeding 40. “We are [deep],” said Rick Sund, the general manager who fleshed out this roster. “But it’s going to take some time for Woody to equate the combos.”

Ultimately the Hawks wore down the Pacers. Indiana scored 65 points in the first half, only 15 in the fourth quarter. This wasn’t so much pretty basketball — though there were instances of that, the most notable being a Bibby-to-Johnson-to-Josh fast break — as it was inexorable basketball. And only the best teams can be described as inexorable.

Before the game, Woodson said of his players: “If they continue to grow, we’ve got a chance to be in the hunt the next three or four years.” And they do.

The new Hawks didn’t trip the light fantastic in Game 1, but neither did they trip over themselves. For the first time in two decades, the pieces are in place. These guys could go places.

66 comments Add your comment

Go GT

October 28th, 2009
10:40 pm

Great start. Go Hawks

Ted Striker

October 28th, 2009
10:40 pm

Didn’t see the game but sounds like the Hawks were solid. That said, there is a lot of talent at the top end of the conference and it’s probably harder than ever to be last man standing.

Still, I appreciate good play and I’m not one who has to have the final prize to enjoy a product.

Calico

October 28th, 2009
10:49 pm

Good job Al & Josh.

Finchdawg

October 28th, 2009
10:49 pm

Was this a wedding (old, new, borrowed, blue) or a basketball game, Mark? Kind of a strange metaphor, don’t you think? I share your optimism, however, despite the weak defensive effort.

Ted Striker

October 28th, 2009
10:50 pm

p.s. How long till the topic of bias among NBA officials comes up — which is more likely than collegiate football bias? And my memory is slipping. What was the name of that ref who always seemed to have it in for the Hawks back in their heyday with Wilkins & Willis? Was it Jake O’Donnell?

theArsonist

October 28th, 2009
10:52 pm

Defense was suspect but anytime you have Josh and Al on track for double doubles by half you know somethings clicking. Bibby still can;t play D and I see Teague becoming the closer once he gets more experience under his belt.

HawkFan

October 28th, 2009
10:56 pm

Same old Coach, all starters were over 30 minutes with Joe and Josh 39 and 35 respectively. Not sure why we replace Solo (more athletic and potential) for Collins (old and slow). Good win overall but not much D for a defensive coach.

David

October 28th, 2009
10:58 pm

Josh Smith is young. Joe Johnson is young (relatively). Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Jeff Teagure are all young. Outside of Joe, they’ll all be on this team for a while. They have the makings of being a very, very good team, both now and in the not-so-distant future.

Primo

October 28th, 2009
11:00 pm

Good game by Josh Smith but I can’t understand why he’s always on the outside… Shouldn’t he often be in the inside since he’s the team’s PF? The good thing though is that he usually drives to the hoop and not settle for a jumper

phil

October 28th, 2009
11:03 pm

inexorable – unrelenting, relentless, unable to stop

Excellent SAT work, descriptive of the Hawks? Don’t think so. giving up 65 at the half to the Pacers seems more like exorable basketball.

Thanks for blogging on opening night, looks like you gave it more effort than the fan base.

heartofdarkness

October 28th, 2009
11:08 pm

Phillies lead in the ninth, 5-1.

phil

October 28th, 2009
11:13 pm

Inexorable – unrelenting, unyeilding, unstoppable

Nice SAT word Mark! But the Hawks playing inexorable basketball, don’t think so. Giving up 65 by halftime to the Pacers seems more like exorable basketball!

Thanks for blogging on opening night, looks like you gave more effort than the fan base.

phil

October 28th, 2009
11:13 pm

Enter your comments here

heartofdarkness

October 28th, 2009
11:18 pm

Amend that, 6-0, bottom of the ninth.

Trainwreck

October 28th, 2009
11:26 pm

what tha heck does inexorable mean? lol

Rufus1

October 28th, 2009
11:26 pm

Cleveland 0-2…Hmmmmmm

Eric

October 28th, 2009
11:27 pm

Dumb column. Too much poetry and didn’t even report the final score. Great reporting.

GT Falcon

October 28th, 2009
11:36 pm

Josh looked great. Horford even better. I like these hawks.

The Real "Eric"

October 28th, 2009
11:36 pm

Crawford 3 pts, hope Woody can fit him in somehow!!!

ksiujgth

October 28th, 2009
11:39 pm

I AM GLAD THE HAWKS WON, BUT THERE WAS NO WHERE NEAR 17k+ IN ATTENDANCE

Ghost Rider

October 28th, 2009
11:41 pm

They need to give Joe Johnson whatever he wants to keep him here. The guy can play when he isn’t worn out at the end of games or late in the season. This guy must stay. I know he turned down 60 mil but you better find a way to keep him here.

Rufus1

October 28th, 2009
11:42 pm

Al Horford has a JUMP SHOT…

David Smith

October 28th, 2009
11:50 pm

I saw plenty of promise for the upcoming season with this game. Al Horford was a beast in the post, Josh Smith played an all-around game, and Joe was well Joe closing out the Pacers in the fourth quarter. We have to be committed to playing more aggressively defensively (Especially going on an early West coast swing) and, Woodson needs to cut down on the minutes for the starters (our bench could be the best we have had since Spud, Battle, Levingston, Carr, and Wittman). Keep it up Fellas. LETS GO HAWKS!!!

Mystikal

October 29th, 2009
12:01 am

I really see there are tiers in the league now. That top tier has been fonded over the past couple weeks (Lakers, spurs, Celtics, Magic, and not sure if Cavs deserve to be there yet). The hawks are in the next tier and not sure as of yet how close they are to the top. They let a sub-par Indiana squad stay in the game longer than they should have. It is opening night though and they played well overall. They have many new pieces and are still feeling each other out. I’m sure they’ll continue to get better and hopefully Woody will spread the wealth with the minutes.

Mystikal

October 29th, 2009
12:11 am

IF Horford can average 18 and 10 thru 15 games, I think that’d be great

IF Josh can average 4/5 assisst along with his 17 and 8, be even better

IF Woody could keep starters under 35 min/gm, I’d be estatic!!!

Ryder

October 29th, 2009
12:13 am

I understand that this is the first game of the year and it will take until around Christmas (my usual standard) for this team to come together and get into a rhythm. That said, this is the perfect opportunity to use the bench more often in the beginning of the year. No excuses for Woodson not to utilize guys like Zaza, Joe Smith, Crawford and Teague more often. They will come in handy when Atlanta goes on those killer West Coast trips.

That said, I liked the fact that Atlanta came back strong when it mattered. Let’s keep that same kind of poise for Friday against the Wizards!

Bill

October 29th, 2009
12:45 am

I can’t take the Hawks. How does anybody watch pro basketball???

TXDawg

October 29th, 2009
1:20 am

No mention at all about the 24 points and 16 boards??

Go get’em Little Tito!!

[...] * Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley’s column. Here. [...]

Maxx

October 29th, 2009
2:53 am

We played well enough to win against Indiana, but we didn’t look good in the first half. Our defensive intensity finally picked up in the 2nd half and we got the ball rolling, but I still think we need to step on the gas and run an inferior team out of the gym when we get a lead, not let thme back in the game…On another note, Smoove looked very good and Horford looked GREAT…and Danny Granger is a MONSTER

falcon 71

October 29th, 2009
5:54 am

Striker that moron ref back in the day was Jack Madden from Alpharetta. He didnt have it in for the Hawks he was just working beyond his capabilities. in over his head

TROTTINGHOME

October 29th, 2009
6:16 am

Another lawyer..ish article. Uses a slick tounge to suck you in. Then leaves you with nothing to really use.

The box score facts are mostly…ESCHEWED.

Beware of snakes in the brain.

TROTTINGHOME

October 29th, 2009
6:19 am

I’m going to NBA.COM

tony

October 29th, 2009
6:37 am

They suppose to beat teams like the Pacers, Knicks, Grizzlies, Bobcats and the Clippers, but can they maintain that same intensitive against teams like the Celtics, Magics, Cavaliers, Spurs, Lakers, and the Mavericks?

Joe Johnson usually disappear against those teams. Josh Smith usually shoot bricks against those teams. Al Horford usually get in foul trouble against those teams.

eastbound and down

October 29th, 2009
6:50 am

Something old – Bradley praising an atlanta team before they really prove themselves
something new- Mark’s photo (although it has been up for a few months)
something borrowed-my stealing the basis for mark’s article
something blue- the outlook for the hawks…as in skies…ok i may be overly optimistic, too.

Bill

October 29th, 2009
6:58 am

Good Start for Hawks !!!!
They need to find a big defensive presence in Center, the Pacers were driving and getting lay up after lay up. Horford is a Power Forward and Josh could play the 3 if they found a defensive center.
I am curious how many points did the Pacers get in the paint last night ??
They can’t beat the Celtics, Cav’s or Magic in a Seven game series unless they get a big center.

Manny

October 29th, 2009
7:11 am

Well, I am a Mike Woodson fan. But he’s struggling with having depth on the bench. He simply doesn’t trust it yet.

Once he starts to trust the bench and realize that they have to gel just like everyone else, then the Hawks’ll be fine. But if he goes back to playing 7 players only, then we will get beat by the Pacers next time. He really needs to check his anger when he’s dealing with these guys. He needs to teach more.

MiltonDawg

October 29th, 2009
7:25 am

Is just me, or did Phillips Arena only sell half of it’s seats for the home opener? Thought the “fans” were pumped up for this year’s Hawks.

BRAD

October 29th, 2009
7:39 am

whats the deal with the fans supporting this team? every game so far is sold out, but atlanta has a very good team and a half-filled arena. i live 4 hours from atlanta, but if I lived in near the city I would go to many games. Whats the deal?

jacket3

October 29th, 2009
7:41 am

MB – good story. Lets just hope once again the Hawks can also beat the better teams.

j

October 29th, 2009
8:05 am

Defense was terrible, but otherwise we looked really good … the lower levels were packed at least … it was a wednesday night against the Pacers, so you can’t be too upset about attendance

Vick=Dog killing thug

October 29th, 2009
8:21 am

the Willie comment is kind of funny… sad, maybe in poor taste.. but funny

Eman

October 29th, 2009
8:25 am

Atlanta has the most fair – weather fans I have every seen. Nobody, supports the Falcons or Hawks and these are the the two teams with the brightest future. I know the economy is bad but lets support da hawks people . The hawks have a a great young team and in time they will gel. Everyone keeps saying that they need a big center but Al is one of the best centers in da league. People he is getting better each year!! I do believe that he will avg. 16 and 10 this year and make the all star team.

If the hawks play together they can over come the big three in da east.
Man, I love both da Hawks and Falcons and I am supporting them till both of their seasons are over!!!

Hay Maker

October 29th, 2009
8:35 am

This is the same old Hawks who wont win anything Josh Smith is just a guy that can jump out of the gym other than that he is very avrage. Marvin Williams is the same type of player but has no idea of how to play the game Joe Smith is as about as excitting as my big toe can score when no one is watching him and when there is no pressure on him but shine the light on him and he becomes a roach Mike Bibby child please need I say more the coach I think can coach I just think he has the wrong players . Remember this is the same team that traded away Niqe

You Distort/We Deride

October 29th, 2009
8:47 am

Had to go to the Sports page to find this story. AJC hates the Hawks. Won’t even put a link on page one on opening night. Disgraceful.

You Distort/We Deride

October 29th, 2009
8:52 am

What a shame I had to hunt for this story. The AJC didn’t even provide a link on the home page to the Hawks…on opening night, no less. How pathetic.

BigTimeTECHFan

October 29th, 2009
9:06 am

Looked like the same skill as last year, but may take awhile to jell.
Crawford better get more minutes, Take Marvin out and replace with Crawford then move Johnson to 3 spot. That line up could explode with Bibby, Crawford, Johnson, Smith, Hortford. Marvin should be in rotation but less minutes.

ATL STEVE

October 29th, 2009
9:15 am

A couple of observations…the fans will come out once they see how good this team is going to be. For the last time people…this is a transcient city with people who have other interests, but they are very trendy and a winner will make it the place to be. Woody will figure out a rotation with his bench; very encouraging watching them in the middle of the game. JJs minutes will go down this year as they will have games where they blow teams out. Teague is the future and it’s a bright one! Sit back and watch this team grow as the year goes along!

Joseph

October 29th, 2009
9:18 am

Did anyone else notice how bad the officiating was? Although the Hawks benefited from a few bad calls, in the main, I felt like the Hawks won despite the refs. The refs was my only concern from last night.

Tom

October 29th, 2009
9:26 am

I only caught a few minutes of this game, but what I saw looked very uninspired. Will this team ever have any semblance of offensive flow under Woodson? I don’t think so… and their defensive was pretty pitiful against a mediocre team. Yes it was a win, but it was at home against a mediocre team.

And I agree with that earlier comment about Solo. Why did they get rid of him in favor of an older vet that they coach deosn’t even play ???