Fourteen games in, the Hawks have already stopped trying

Pretty much sums this one up, I'd say. (AP photo)

Pretty much sums this one up, wouldn't you say? (AP photo)

Let’s see. Who else have they got on that bench? Bob Bender? He’s been a Hawks’ assistant since 2004 — hey, that pitch worked for Larry Drew — and Bender played under Bobby Knight. Why not give him a shot? Or maybe Lester Conner. At least he played D in his playing days. Or maybe Wally Blase, who’s technically the trainer, but at this point who really cares?

It took the Hawks six years to stop listening to Mike Woodson. It has taken one month for them to tune out his successor. To say the effort the Hawks gave against the Boston Celtics on Monday night was amateurish is to discredit the concept of amateurism and to distort the meaning of “effort.”

Said Larry Drew, the head coach: “Very embarrassing. Very, very embarrassing. Very embarrassing. If I had to sum it up in one word: Embarrassing.”

Drew’s team trailed by 26 points after one quarter. The Celtics, who played Sunday in a different country and who started four men who’d been in the NBA for at least a dozen years, scored 39 points in 12 minutes and made 18 of 25 shots. If you’ve ever wondered how a basketball game would look if one team was prohibited from guarding the other, here it was.

“Embarrassing,” said Josh Smith, invoking the word of the night. Then: “It was like they hit us with one knockout punch and we had the glass jaw in the fight.”

The Hawks are 8-6 after starting 6-0. They’ve lost five home games. (Since you asked, their first home loss of last season came on Thanksgiving night.) Of those eight victories, none have come against a team that holds a winning record. Once the Hawks started playing somebody capable of beating them, they pretty much stopped playing. On Monday they stopped trying.

The team that won 53 games and took the No. 3 seed in the NBA East last season managed 10 first-half rebounds and zero steals. That’s one rebound every two minutes and 24 seconds and no steals over 24 minutes. As any coach will tell you, rebounds and steals reflect effort. Or, in this case, the absence thereof.

Written in blue letters on a whiteboard adjacent to the Hawks’ practice court were these words: “Hustle will dominate.” It did. The older team ran the younger one off the younger team’s court. In spring 2008 the Hawks took Boston to seven games in Round 1 of the playoffs, and in 2009-2010 they swept the Celtics 4-0 in the regular season. On this night the older team scored its 77th point with 5:04 left in the third quarter; if Boston hadn’t scored again, it still would have won.

Oh, yes. Almost forgot. The Celtics were missing two starters, including the Hawk-killer Rajon Rondo.

Said Drew: “What I see with our team right now, I don’t feel good about.”

Then: “I’ve got to find out what’s going on with our players.”

Here’s what: The Hawks succeeded in getting the nice-guy assistant promoted to head coach, but there’s a reason players always lobby for the nice-guy assistant. Because they figure they won’t have to work as hard. And they aren’t. This marked the third time in a season not four full weeks old that the Hawks have lost at home to an opponent coming in off a game the previous day.

Woodson might have been a bit of a curmudgeon, but he tended to get guys’ attention. Drew was considered — at least by some in ownership — the kinder, gentler alternative with a better grasp of tactics, but it doesn’t matter what X’s and O’s you sketch if nobody pays attention.

Said Al Horford: “I feel like all the pieces are there. We’ve got good game plans. We’ve just got to play harder.”

And that’s frightening. The most professional player among Hawks already sees a team not trying hard enough. After 14 games under a new coach. Even if you believe the promotion of Drew was a wrong-headed move (and it was), he deserves better than this.

When Monday’s game began, a seat at center court was occupied by an increasingly infrequent patron. Ted Turner left at halftime. The team he used to own didn’t bother showing up.

148 comments Add your comment

Freshmaker

November 22nd, 2010
10:32 pm

Wow, this season is unraveling in a fat hurry. Just a pathetic performance. They’d better get this turned around quick.

SEC Watch

November 22nd, 2010
10:33 pm

Embarassing!

juice sourcer

November 22nd, 2010
10:34 pm

This is a complete joke. I went to one game..against the Bucks…a few weeks ago and they completely quit…it was unbelievable..this team..lead by Joe Johnson and his 120M simply does not care…there is no passion…this team should play in front of 100 people a night…max…it’s pathetic…bust them Mark…

pat

November 22nd, 2010
10:34 pm

SWAT Native

November 22nd, 2010
10:39 pm

I tweeted to MC as I was leaving the arena: I don’t like the trajectory of this team, and I’ve been a Hawks fan since Hubie Brown was coaching them. They haven’t beaten a good team yet, and I don’t see any reason for optimism. I think the core has gotten too comfortable. It’s time for a shakeup.

Harry the Hat

November 22nd, 2010
10:40 pm

When you give lazy, illiterate thugs millions of dollars, you get wealthy lazy, illiterate thugs.

juice sourcer

November 22nd, 2010
10:41 pm

Pathetic…just pathetic..call them out Mark…or maybe everyone should just not care like the Hawks guttless millionaires…they sure don’t care…why should anyone else…I went to the Bucks game…corporate deal and it was a joke….they quit…will never go back.

juice sourcer

November 22nd, 2010
10:42 pm

harry the hat nailed it…end of story

Sandoval

November 22nd, 2010
10:43 pm

“They’d better get this turned around quick.”

It won’t happen with this bunch of jerkoffs.

El Bravo

November 22nd, 2010
10:45 pm

Something has to change. More playing time for younger guys. New starter at the point (maybe even shooting guard). A message needs to be sent….

The Sham

November 22nd, 2010
10:46 pm

The Hatchet man is back at it… But in this case, I can’t take exception to his comments. I didn’t get to see the much of the game, but it sounds like I caught it all… not much!

I’d like to not blame the GM in this case, but didn’t Sund overpay for JJ, and Marvin? $1 million per point per night for these guys! Unbelievable! Is it too late to package the 2 bumbs and send them to Denver for Melo?

P. Bull Terrier

November 22nd, 2010
10:47 pm

I’m glad I haven’t bothered to get interested in the Hawks again since JJ said he didn’t care if I showed up. It saves a lot of time and disappointment.

With the NBA salary cap rules the way they are, it will be a long time before anyone is able to fix what’s wrong with the Hawks.

TruthSeeker

November 22nd, 2010
10:50 pm

I personally never thought Woody was that bad. He averaged 50 wins over the last two years without a superstar on his roster. That’s not easy to do.

That said, I was okay with letting him go because the performance against the playoffs against Orlando was an abomination. But clearly Drew was an uninspiring hire. This team needed a butt-kicker along the lines of Jeff Van Gundy, not someone like Drew who they can walk all over. I’m sure Drew is a nice man, but this team looks dramatically worse than they did a year ago.

Jim

November 22nd, 2010
10:53 pm

Max contract for JJ? What a joke. This team sucks.

Astro Joe

November 22nd, 2010
10:53 pm

This players did not achieve enough to select their own head coach. But ultimately, Gearon and the ASG made the hire, not the players (nor seemingly Sund). If the sacred core wasn’t going to change, an outsider was required to change the culture.

The Sham

November 22nd, 2010
10:54 pm

I didn’t get to see the much of the game, but it sounds like I caught it all… not much!

I’d like to not blame the GM in this case, but didn’t Sund overpay for JJ, and Marvin? $1 million per point per night for these guys! Unbelievable! Is it too late to package the 2 bumbs and send them to Denver for Melo?

IlliniDawg

November 22nd, 2010
10:54 pm

Just got my copy of ESPN mag and they did a retrospective of “Hoosiers”.

I think that team from Hickory could take the Hawks. And even if they couldn’t, Jimmy Chitwood would be more fun to watch than Iso-Joe.

yearofthedawg

November 22nd, 2010
11:00 pm

Congrats to Paul Hewitt and Mark Richt. Looks like Bradley’s attention will soon be diverted from trying to get you fired by starting to try and get Drew fired.

What a journalist….

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

juice sourcer

November 22nd, 2010
11:01 pm

“As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.” This is a quote from the head coach after the game….coach…we all know the answer…they are a bunch of high paid millionaires who dont give a crap…that’s the answer…you don’t have to pay me any consulting money for this free advice.

cp8

November 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm

When I walked out of the Milwaukee game, I thought that game was an isolated experience. A week and half later it has become the norm. I guess I we’ll see a lot more free facebook tickets….

Gary O

November 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm

If I was LD, I would start tomorrow’s game with all bench players:

teague, Jordan,Mo,Powell, and Etan.

I would let them play the first 5 minutes to send a message to the starters that their lack of energy, lack of focus etc., will not be tolerated.

DAWG A

November 22nd, 2010
11:07 pm

I was and still am glad the Hawks got rid of Woody! But this guy is not the answer! Another boneheaded move by the cluless ownership group! The legacy of Rankin Smith has poured over to the Hawks! Proves just because you have money…….. doesn’t make you smart!

SWAT Native

November 22nd, 2010
11:16 pm

I miss Woody…

eric

November 22nd, 2010
11:19 pm

Harry the Hat you are a racist little girl who would never say that to any of the player faces. Curious, what makes them thugs? Oh i know they’re black!!

t

November 22nd, 2010
11:22 pm

Seriously, who cares. What time do the Dawgs kick off Saturday night?

D-day

November 22nd, 2010
11:23 pm

The sour taste from last year’s playoff debacle hasn’t gone away. Thought things were better in the first couple of weeks this season, but that was apparently just a head fake. My guess is Red Auerbach would have struggled with this lackadasical bunch.

Paul Hewitt, Mark Richt, and Bobby Cox's Agent

November 22nd, 2010
11:25 pm

Thanks Mark, I just might sign Larry Drew also.

Jimmy

November 22nd, 2010
11:26 pm

I’ve seen three Hawks games…2 losses and 1 win.
The players looked uninspired.
They looked lazy.
This team is definitely not playing up to potential.
With Larry Drew as coach…they won’t without player changes..
A trade of a player or two is needed.

Ron

November 22nd, 2010
11:31 pm

Eric, your point? Everything he said is true. All they are about are themselves.

Next Year....

November 22nd, 2010
11:38 pm

Sell this freaking team to somebody (Arthur Blank) that gives a damn!!!!!! JJ, Marvin, Teague, and possibly Crawford for Carmelo!!!! We all need to protest!!!! Put a big azz billboard in the middle of Downtown protesting that this trade be done immediately!!!!!!!

Next Year....

November 22nd, 2010
11:38 pm

or I guess I should change my name to ‘This Year’ or ‘NOW’!!!!!

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2010
11:39 pm

Somewhere Billy Knight and Mike Woodson are laughing their ass off! Spirit Group is a joke. Maybe now some of ya’ll folks that don’t want to see a brother succeed in the front offie will admit it. Who am I kidding, you’ll find a reason to blame Knight for Sund giving Joe that contract!

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2010
11:40 pm

gcs

November 22nd, 2010
11:42 pm

You wanna save the Hawks? Fire this bum of a head coach and find somebody who is going to kick tail!
Pat Riley comes to mind.

.

buckhead benny

November 22nd, 2010
11:42 pm

Its obvious that Jamal Crawford is not playing hard and playing careless. He wont admit it but he has laid down and I believe it has got the team off guard. He was the spark plug that kept the team lit now he is the one putting out the flame. He should be traded asap along with Marvin Williams- Marvin isnt worth that type of money and has never lived up to hype.

I would put Jordan Crawford at point guard and start him. Bibby should come off the bench and use Teague as a reserve. Crawford could help open the floor and add a new dynamic.

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2010
11:43 pm

Somewhere Billy Knight and Mike Woodson are laughing their butts off! Spirit Group is a joke! Maybe now some of you folks that don’t want to see a brother succeed in the front office will admit it! Who am I kidding,… you’ll find a way to blame Knight for Sund signing Joe for the max!

king

November 22nd, 2010
11:43 pm

This game reminds me of the fight saturday night when middleweight fight Paul Williams got knocked out cold in the 2nd round. The only difference is that the Hawks got knockout cold in the 1st quarter by a lft hook by nate robinson and never got up after that. That is how soft they are. IT starts with ownerhip and management. That is why that fans in Atlanta will never support this garbage team.

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2010
11:44 pm

Rick Sund is no Billy Knight!

Bernie Matt

November 22nd, 2010
11:45 pm

I’m no longer reading the AJC

buckhead benny

November 22nd, 2010
11:45 pm

Only thing that makes me feel better is watching the Miami Heat get their ass handed to them. This could be the most entertaining hype gone bad. Lebron could go down as the biggest bum ever for leaving Cleveland if Miami continues at this pace.

Ben pines

November 22nd, 2010
11:45 pm

We will all be lucky when they go on strike.

SQUAWKER

November 22nd, 2010
11:48 pm

I like how you get to just make up facts to support your assertions, Mark. Woodson “tended to get guys attention”? Have you even been following the Hawks for the last few years? How many times did we see guys zoned out during time outs with Woodson? There is absolutely no merit to your statement.

Then there’s the “The Hawks succeeded in getting the nice-guy assistant promoted to head coach, but there’s a reason players always lobby for the nice-guy assistant. Because they figure they won’t have to work as hard. And they aren’t. ” Sounds well and good. I mean the “they figure they wouldn’t have to work as hard” part would logically follow….if the first statement held any truth. First off, Drew is a disciplinarian in addition to being an Xs and Os guy. Second, he got the job because the owners could hire him cheaply, not because players lobbied for him.

I agree with you that there are problems with this team. Good thing you aren’t the one in charge of fixing them because if you were, I’m sure the team would keep phoning in games like you did this column. Where’s the accountability? What a joke.

Sekou, where art thou??!!?!??!

AG

November 22nd, 2010
11:50 pm

I am a die hard Hawks fan, but to lose like this shows no heart. The heart starts with the coach. If a player or players are not giving effort, sit them on the bench. Curse them out at halftime and make the rest of us wonder why Joe is sitting on the bench. Just like Washington did McNabb, send a message!

PMC

November 22nd, 2010
11:54 pm

Why is this surprising? They didn’t care last year in the playoffs either. This team is mentally soft. They don’t play hard. They paid Joe to be one of the best players in the league and he is not that. Josh Smith only plays well when he decides to.

Virtually nothing changed off a team that got absolutely smoked in the playoffs, doing virtually the same thing + window dressing and expecting better is lunacy.

The Hawks weren’t good enough last year, so they paid them more money to continue to be….wait for it…. not good enough.

AG

November 22nd, 2010
11:54 pm

The team does need a shake up. If you don’t make a trade. start Evans instead of Marvin.m I really doubt starting twin will help anything, but hell start the rookie at the 2 and move Joe to the three. We have to do something!

misterwax

November 22nd, 2010
11:57 pm

this is how Democrats react when most of their customers vote Republican in the elections….. expect more of the same until 2016, at least!

PMC

November 22nd, 2010
11:58 pm

The Hawks simply don’t care if they are a good team or not so why should anyone else?

Pro sports should start tying all pay to performance like the rest of the world.

Get hurt and miss work? Go call Aflac.

WHUTAJOKE

November 23rd, 2010
12:03 am

Mark, Your column is about as bad as the Hawks recent play. Not quite, but almost. Do you have any facts that indicate that the players wanted Drew as the HC? If they said that after he was hired, guess what, it holds No Credibility. The current crop has no pride. They don’t care. They’ve got their $.
Sund needs to trade not one or two but several players and bring in a Scott Skiles type hard ass as HC. If they regress for awhile, so what. They’re not going anywhere as currently constituted. Blow it up and start fresh. Better yet, sell the team and move it to another city!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Daniel Stern, Josh Kinsey, Mikael, Picasso Kat and others. Picasso Kat said: 1st 6 gms against nobodies so masked problems RT@MarkBradleyAJC: Fourteen games in, #Hawks have stopped even trying. http://bit.ly/dNBOnU [...]