The new/old Hawks stay unbeaten and Joe thanks the fans

Here's Joe Johnson, famous dunker. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Joe Johnson, famous dunker. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Speaking before his team’s home opener, the NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year said: “We’ve got a whole new scheme, a whole new everything.”

Jamal Crawford was right, but also wrong. The Hawks have a new head coach, even though Larry Drew has been on staff the past six seasons. They have a new offense, even though it wound up looking like the old offense in the fourth quarter Saturday night. They have the same core personnel, even if it is being differently deployed.

As much as we might want to call these the Same Old Hawks, they’re not quite. (Not that being the Same Old Hawks was all that terrible. They did win 53 games and claim the No. 3 seed in the NBA East last season.) But they’re not the Brand New Hawks, either.

I know. It’s kind of confusing. The Hawks won Friday in Philadelphia with Joe Johnson taking fewer shots than Al Horford or Josh Smith and working the fourth-fewest minutes among starters. They won here Saturday with Johnson playing 43 minutes and 28 seconds — a regulation game is 48 minutes — and taking eight of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter shots and scoring five of its nine fourth-quarter baskets.

Said Drew: “Joe — obviously he’s our guy.”

Which sounded odd, given that Drew’s case for being promoted to head coach was essentially, “I’m not like Mike.” (Meaning Mike Woodson, who requested two weeks ago in a high-decibel phone conversation that his name no longer be invoked in this correspondent’s discussion of the Hawks. That request has been inspected and rejected.)

Woodson’s Way was to give the ball to Johnson — Iso-Joe, as it became known — and get out of his way. The Drew Method involves more ball movement and less reliance on one man. And yet, come the season’s third game, here was Joe Johnson doing pretty much the Joe Johnson thing.

Drew’s explanation: “[The Washington Wizards] ran a lot of zone. We went to some of our zone offense.”

Whatever the cause, this was the effect: Drew is 3-0 as a head coach and the Hawks, who needed a good start to win back some of the good will lost by the egregious playoff exit against Orlando, emerged from the season’s first week unblemished. Even if this game seemed a throwback … whatever works, right?

Said Smith, who scored 10 points and took eight rebounds despite misplacing his signature headband during the second half: “We got the job done tonight. We definitely had to grind it out.”

About the headband: Where’d it go? “It got missing. I was looking for another one. My face got too sweaty. I feel naked without it.”

About the game’s biggest basket, a set play called by Drew inside the final two minutes that ended with Smith feeding Horford for a one-handed lob dunk: “It was the perfect play. [Mike] Bibby is the best screener on the team — ask anybody — and he got Horford’s man.”

If it wasn’t always pretty — it was, to be fair, the Hawks’ third game in four nights — it yielded the needed result. The Hawks won 99-95 and have as yet been afforded no reason to doubt themselves. And that’s good. And so, in its way, was this:

After scoring 25 points and making the shots that counted, Johnson offered his thanks to those in attendance. (The game was announced as a sellout. In truth, it was rather less.) You’ll recall that the same Johnson said after Game 3 against Orlando that he cared not a whit what the fans thought. But here were his words Saturday: “It’s great to see everyone come out and show us support.”

So that part really was new. Maybe these aren’t the Same Old Hawks after all.

74 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

October 30th, 2010
10:54 pm

Good line for Joe Johnson at the time … but I still feel he was speaking from his heart in the playoffs last year when he basically said he didn’t care what the fans thought.

A long way to go, but a nice start for the Hawks.

Bill

October 30th, 2010
10:54 pm

Bill

October 30th, 2010
10:56 pm

Damn! Oh well, great article Mark. I really like what I’m seeing out of the Hawks so far this year. They have a real shot at the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East.

Jeremy Knipe

October 30th, 2010
10:57 pm

Four more games until Orlando massacres the Hawks again. New or Old.

Blue

October 30th, 2010
11:01 pm

Great job Hawks. Now, some one please get a tailor for Coach Drew. All of this man’s suits look too big for him.

Biff Pocoroba

October 30th, 2010
11:13 pm

What is Mike Woodson upset about? He should be happy that he doesn’t have to work for the Hawks ownership group anymore and he gets to watch his kids play volleyball. He should have read your columns when he was coaching and then he would have never lost a game.

Willy

October 30th, 2010
11:13 pm

Bradley, why are you covering the Hawks? Aren’t there another 12 articles or so to be written about how the Bulldogs suck. I mean, that really is the only story worth telling this year, right?

Brent

October 30th, 2010
11:14 pm

Maybe this team just needed a tweak. Keep the faith, go Hawks. If you don’t believe, STFU

James Adams

October 30th, 2010
11:14 pm

Ummm….until Jordan Crawford gets some playing time, I’m under the assumption that Mike Woodson is still our coach.

Brent

October 30th, 2010
11:15 pm

Oh, and thank you Mark.

[...] The new/old Hawks stay unbeaten and Joe thanks the fansAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Speaking before his team's home opener, the NBA's reigning sixth man of the year said: “We've got a whole new scheme, a whole new everything. …NBA: Atlanta 99, Washington 95UPI.comNBA Game Summary – Washington at AtlantaCANOENBA 2010: Washington Wizards VS Atlanta Hawks Tonight at 7:00 PMParantarBleacher Report -Sports Chat Place -SBR Forumall 354 news articles » [...]

Brent

October 30th, 2010
11:18 pm

@Willy
Mark supports the Dawgs, they just aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

John

October 30th, 2010
11:21 pm

Mark,

A few weeks ago I recollect you writing a piece that spoke to the Hawks struggling this season, perhaps not even reaching the playoffs. Is this true? Do you still feel that way?

Was this meant to be a positive article? If so, are you flip-flopping? You’d never flip-flop. Perhaps you should wait to shoot down the home team before they play a regular season game, or two. You’ve been in the business long enough to know that, right? Same old, Mark.

UGABugKiller

October 30th, 2010
11:21 pm

The Hawks are what the Hawks are.

Somewhere between the 8th and 4th best team in the East. Which makes them between the 16th and 10th best team in a league of 30 teams.

They are an organization of terrible owners. Some good players playing out of position. A coach hired on the cheap. They possess a player signed to the absolute worst contract in NBA history (not necessarily in money, but in YEARS… should’ve been 4 with a club option for 5 or 5 with a buyout).

How can you ask us to get excited about this team, Mark? The heart of this team (Al Horford) should be a 4, and he’d be a GREAT 4, but they can’t make him a 4 because Smoove ain’t coming off the bench and he ain’t playing the 3.

Here’s what I don’t get. In the rush to sign Johnson to the worst contract in NBA history, did this team not even call Denver?

Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson for Carmelo (who sign/trade signs a max extension for the full amount of years) and Nene.

I mean, it’s a trade that makes WAY too much sense, so I guess that’s why these moron owners never even tried to see if it could work.

Carmelo at the 3. Jamaal Crawford holds down the 2. Horford plays 4/5, Nene plays 5/bench, and Smoove plays bench/4. Smoove can get 30-40 a game. Horford can get 30-40 a game. Nene can get 20-30 a game.

It would have made this team competitive with Boston, Miami, and Chicago. Instead of being also-rans, which is what they are with Johnson making the max.

Thinking what could of been with this team is the most frustrating thing.

Willy

October 30th, 2010
11:24 pm

@Brent. I know, and I’m kind of sick of seeing nothing but Bulldog articles in the AJC when we have a very good pro team right here in the city.

jo

October 30th, 2010
11:26 pm

These Hawks seem to be good. Too bad they don not have the big man to slow down Orlando but it looks like they do not always have to work iso-joe which could lead to more wins….

Biff Pocoroba

October 30th, 2010
11:27 pm

Mark has been writing positive articles about UGA the past two weeks and said that they would beat Florida and we saw how that turned out. Hopefully he won’t start praising the Hawks now or they will miss the playoffs.

Brent

October 30th, 2010
11:29 pm

Agreed, Willy

tidog

October 30th, 2010
11:31 pm

The iso one on one stuff has been rearing its ugly head late in the last two games. It’s proven its not going to work against the quality teams. It almost cost 2 wins against bottom feeders. I’m confident Coach Drew will find a better way to close these games out.

jlewis

October 30th, 2010
11:50 pm

Dude, for those that want Carmelo, he is not better than Joe Johnson. It can be argued that Joe has done more with less than Carmelo. Bradley, do you cover the Hawks, I hope not, the team won 53 games, you have a 4 time all star, all NBA player, and you want ball movement and beauty, its about wins. On radio and tv people like you move the needle, and sell papers. I will never read anything your write again, the negativity is sickening.

LakeDawg

October 30th, 2010
11:53 pm

I don’t see why Joe catches so much heat for his playoff statement. It was made in the heat of the playoffs and really, if you were a player would you give a sh^t about what the fans thought? Its all about your teammates at that point and if the team does what they intend the fans will be happy.

ignition

October 30th, 2010
11:53 pm

Mark,

Please do every basketball fan a favor and don’t post anything positive about the Hawks. I want them to continue to win and your energy will only produce the opposite results.. So stay away from the Hawks direct your praise to the terrible Mark Richt and all things UGA related..

Thank You

KevinM

October 31st, 2010
12:00 am

jlewis, hard to agree that Joe has done more with less…..his team has been to the WC finals….he has made every individual all-star team, Olympic accolade, and just being a better scorer than Joe.
FWIW, I would like to see these 2 together. That type of offensive firepower would be fun to watch.

Trey

October 31st, 2010
12:07 am

Mark, have all the blogs become one page? I noticed DOB’s blog became one page.

Thundersticks

October 31st, 2010
12:09 am

I would like to hear more about this phone conversation with Woody. Transcript, please.

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Cyber-Smoke

October 31st, 2010
12:16 am

Mark, do you have a prediction on the Hawks record/performance this year? I’d like to know now so I can bet the exact opposite. How do you manage to be so wrong, so consistently? Good calls on the Braves not blowing their division lead to Philly and the UGA win that didn’t happen today. I could name some of the rest, but we’d be here all night.

Eric

October 31st, 2010
12:21 am

Putting together a dream team doesn’t guarantee you a championship, just ask the Yankees and the Phillies. The Hawks just need to figure out how to compete with the Magic and go at least 500 on the road. But most importantly Hawks fans must have some faith and optimism about this team.

DHunt

October 31st, 2010
12:25 am

Most teams lean on their best player(s) at the end of the game. This coach at least has some imagination trying to do it, and he’s got the rest of the team moving around instead of just standing and watching JJ. There’s a lot more new than old about these Hawks. Old-Last year, a good slashing point guard was all it took to bring the Hawks down. New-They showed tonight they are still vulnerable but they also won in spite of that. Old-Bibby can’t guard any NBA point guard, New-but since we stopped all that switching, the team defense is arguably better.

The biggest New thing about the Hawks is the new head coach. How dare Mike Woodson request that his name be kept out of this conversation. We’ve got it on tape, the man did not look like he knew what he was doing. The players didn’t think so, you could tell they had tuned him out long time ago. LD looks like he understands the game, understands his players, understands strategy, chemistry, riding the hot hand, how to get JJ to look for the open man, how to pull Josh to the side and get him back on track (he’s still a very young man people). All the things we needed a head coach to do with this talent the last couple of years.

And everytime LD shows that he outclasses Woody in these areas, I’m going to mention it. Next time he calls tell him he might want to tune out of your blog for the rest of this season, cause you aren’t the only one who will be using his name in vain. He’ll be old news only after we see how these Hawks handle the playoffs.

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Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:16 am

LoL. The Hawks havent beaten anybody worth a crap. Wait til they play Orlando, Boston, LA, Miami and the rest of the league before proclaiming anything.

The Hawks cannot match up to the Elite teams in the NBA. This 3-0 record is just an illusion. Enjoy it while it lasts because it wont last long. Until the Hawks get a True Center they have no chance.

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:18 am

The Hawks have played 3 of the crappiest teams in the NBA, and *barely* beat 2 of them. The Hawks are JOKE. Their Ownership is a Carnival Act of Clowns, the Head Coach is a dime-store assistant, and the Highest Paid Player in the NBA on this roster is only mediocre.

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:18 am

Joe Johnson “thanked the Fans” LOL. That’s funny too.

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:20 am

Come on Bradley – tell us how the Hawks might make it to the NBA Finals like last season. You even suggested the Braves would go to the World Series. Stop writing Homeristic articles, you suck at it.

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:21 am

A typical 5 game losing streak will put an end to all this crap Hawks hype. Like it does every season. THe Hawks arent going anywhere other than 3rd Place in their own division.

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
1:46 am

>>So that part really was new. Maybe these aren’t the Same Old Hawks after all.<<

You are freaking moron Bradley. You need to quit smoking the crystal-homer.

MIKE WOODSON

October 31st, 2010
1:47 am

MARK BRADLEY! I TOLD YOU DAMNIT LEAVE ME OUT OF THIS HAWKS DISCUSSION!! YOU PULL THIS CRAP ON ME ONE MORE TIME, AND I GONNA COME TO YO HOUSE IN COBB COUNTY AND SMASH YOUR HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN AND BREAK YO LITTLE TV!!!!! IS ANYBODY READING THIS COMMENTS HIRING??

Big Ray

October 31st, 2010
1:59 am

The difference….

Mike Woodson : Okay, let’s start with ISO Joe. Then, if that doesn’t work, we’ll alternate ISO Joe with ISO Jamal, ISO Smith when he gets the urge to break things up, and then back to ISO Joe. If that fails, we’ll try harder at ISO Joe, with some ISO Jamal mixed in. In the meantime, everyone else get the hell out of the way. Ready? Let’s go!

Larry Drew : Let’s start with a balanced offense that never allows the defense to key in on or double and triple team anybody. Let’s ride the hot hand. If Al is looking bad, but Zaza is looking great, let Zaza play. Bring Al back in to give Zaza a breather (like against Memphis). If things get tough and the other team runs a lot of zone, we’ll employ our zone offense. In the tightest situations, Joe is our best man, so we’ll run plays through him, but also run plays to get him open, or in one-on-one situations. In the meantime, enough of that standing around. You could be free for a lob or a back door pass. Okay? Let’s do this!

Big Ray

October 31st, 2010
2:04 am

DHunt ,

You’re on point. I’ll co-sign that post…

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
2:05 am

I Tweeter @jedifalcon1

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lex luther

October 31st, 2010
4:36 am

Rick Sund said it “The Hawks are going to win just enough games to position themselves in the playoffs” meaning they are going to try to avoid having to play Orlando if possible. As a GM is this the right approach? Should you be concern about how your team make the playoffs or who they will meet in the playoffs? Man I question his leadership. If I was the GM, I would make the necessary addition to play who ever in the playoffs. The comment that SUND made says alot about who and what he is really all about.

lex luther

October 31st, 2010
4:40 am

@Mark..
The AJC downsize the daily paper but went up on the price to purchase it. Less doesn’t always mean more but in this case I agree with JLewis.
I was glad AJC got rid of that parasite TM. Now I think it’s time for you to keep it moving.
LESS IS MORE!!!!

Jedi Falcon

October 31st, 2010
5:15 am

I dont see how any TRUE FAN of the Hawks can EVER FORGIVE JOE JOHNSON. That guy is HOT CRAP. And he is the Highest Paid Player in the NBA????

The Hawks suck. I cant wait to read this blog when Orlando whips the Hawks by 25 points and Joe Johnson walks off the court with his tail between his legs.

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Najeh Davenpoop

October 31st, 2010
6:23 am

Did Woody really yell at you and tell you not to write about him? I find that a little hard to believe. I don’t think Woody is a great coach, but he always seemed like a pretty stand up guy who was willing to take and respond to criticism.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 31st, 2010
6:25 am

“I still feel he was speaking from his heart in the playoffs last year when he basically said he didn’t care what the fans thought.”

95% of professional athletes feel the same way as him, no matter how much they try to pretend otherwise. They care to the extent that we pay to see them, but not too far beyond that. Most are just smart enough not to say this out loud.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 31st, 2010
6:31 am

“Dude, for those that want Carmelo, he is not better than Joe Johnson. It can be argued that Joe has done more with less than Carmelo. ”

Maybe, but Melo has gotten farther in the playoffs than Joe has.

As much as I like the core of this team and the new coaching philosophy, the chances of this team as currently constructed advancing much farther than they have are not great. I wouldn’t mind a trade that shipped one of our All-Star caliber PFs along with either Marvin, or more realistically Jamal’s expiring deal, to the Nuggets for Melo and Nene. Maybe Melo isn’t significantly better than Joe as an all around player, but pairing the two with either Smoove or Al (my preference is Smoove) as a 3rd option would make for a lethal trio that would at least come close to rivalling Miami, Boston, and the Lakers.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 31st, 2010
6:32 am

^^All that of course would be contingent on Melo signing an extension… no point in making a Mark Teixeira type of trade.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 31st, 2010
6:41 am

“I dont see how any TRUE FAN of the Hawks can EVER FORGIVE JOE JOHNSON. That guy is HOT CRAP. And he is the Highest Paid Player in the NBA????”

Joe didn’t put a gun to the DASG and Rick Sund’s head and force them to pay him a max contract. The forces of the NBA’s market dictated that Joe would likely get a max deal from someone like the Nets or Knicks, so the Hawks re-upped him rather than lose him for nothing.

What should we hate him for? For being billed by the franchise as something he’s not capable of being? For making an offhand remark (with which most professional athletes would privately agree) after being booed? For not being LeBron or Kobe?

Like him or not — and there are some aspects of his game I don’t like — the guy is still one of the most consistent second-tier stars in the game, is a lock for the All Star team every year, and is that Hawks’ best player at least since Mutombo, if not Wilkins. Maybe that’s not enough to make everyone like him, but it is moremthan enough to where his own fans shouldn’t hate him. Wishing he was a first tier star is just as futile as wishing Matt Ryan would develop into Peyton Manning (which too many of you delude yourselves into doing). Joe is what Joe is.