Live from Philips: The Hawks try to beat one of the NBA’s elite

A reminder of those halcyon days when the Hawks could handle a good team. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

From those halcyon days when the Hawks could handle a good team. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

If ever we needed a reminder that it’s not how you start but how you finish, the Hawks and the Celtics provided it. The Hawks finished third in the NBA East and were 4-0 against the Celtics, who wound up with the East’s No. 4 seed, in the 2009-2010 regular season.

Emphasis on “regular season.”

The Hawks got swept in Round 2 of the playoffs by an aggregate 101 points and were so mortified they dumped their coach and promoted his longtime assistant, which presumably made sense to somebody. The Celtics beat Cleveland in Round 2 and Orlando in Round 3 and reached the NBA finals. And now the Hawks, who were seen seven months ago as a rising power, seem in retreat, while Boston is doing as royalty always does — biding its time until the playoffs.

Seven months ago you’d much rather have been the Hawks than the Celtics, who were regarded as too old and too cranky. Now it’s hard to know what to make of the Hawks, who in the course of 13 games under new coach Larry Drew have managed to muddy the waters even more.

The Celtics arrived at Philips Arena to play the Hawks on Monday, and before the game a Boston writer asked Drew a question containing the E-word. And Drew flat-out admitted that his Hawks don’t deserve to be considered among the NBA’s elite.

“It’s a very difficult challenge,” Drew said. “In order to get to the next step, there has to be more of a sense of urgency with every team we play, not just in certain games.”

Then: “Good teams don’t take possessions off.”

Then: “We’re hoping to get to that level.”

Then: “I don’t know if you can teach it [elitism]. I think you just harp on it.”

Then: “If we were at that [elite] level, there were certainly a couple of ballgames we’d have won. We’d have toughed it out.”

Then: “You can see when the better teams reach a certain point in a game, they tighten it up. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

We pause to ask: Wasn’t the whole point of replacing Mike Woodson with his assistant of six seasons the feeling among ownership that the Hawks were only the right coach away from elite status? (Drew himself conceded Monday: “I think we have the personnel to get to that level.”) If so, why have these Hawks started worse under the kinder, gentler and presumably more innovative Drew than they did a year ago under Woodson?

The Hawks entered Monday’s game 8-5, having lost five of seven after a 6-0 start achieved against an array of opponents listed in Who’s Not Who. Of the Hawks’ eight victories, none had been over a team that holds a winning record. Worse, four of the Hawks’ five losses had come at home.

A year ago the Hawks were 11-2 after 13 games, and those 13 included road stops against the Lakers and the Celtics. Last season’s Hawks lost their first home game on Thanksgiving, their fourth on New Year’s Day. This time a year ago the Hawks appeared much closer to elite than they do today, which makes no sense when you consider that these Hawks are essentially those Hawks plus Jordan Crawford, Josh Powell and Etan Thomas. And Larry Drew.

In sum, the Hawks entered Monday’s game in dire need of a victory over somebody who can actually play. The schedule won’t always be so soft. Of the Hawks’ first six road games, only two had come against a team that made the playoffs last season, and one of those two was against Cleveland, which lost a free agent of some consequence over the summer. And Drew isn’t exactly working under a vote of the utmost confidence: He’s the NBA’s lowest-paid head coach and he’s working on a two-year contract.

Said Drew, speaking of his team’s uphill climb: “We’ll keep working at it. We’ll keep trying to get there.”

Good idea. Better hurry, though.

And with that, the floor is again open for questions, comments and reader submissions as to why Mike Woodson wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll be here all game, and I can already impart one snippet of information: Rajon Rondo, who destroys Mike Bibby, isn’t going to play. That’s the good news. The bad news: Rondo’s backup is Nate Robinson, who does likewise to Bibby. Pick thy point-guard poison.

301 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

November 22nd, 2010
6:38 pm

Mark,

Rick Sund said he considers the team elite because they won their first round matchup, and they had a winning record against the final 4 teams in the East and the west.

Hewitt fan

November 22nd, 2010
6:39 pm

woodson was the worst coach in history

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
6:40 pm

Guess Rick Sund and Larry Drew need to talk, O’Brien.

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

Jamaaliver

November 22nd, 2010
6:56 pm

Mark, of the known candidiates or big name coaching options, who would you have like to have seen as the Atlanta Hawks coach this year?

I’m a longtime Jerry Sloan fan and was hoping for Former Hawks player and current Utah assistant coach Ty Corbin to get more than a token look.

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

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
6:57 pm

I liked Dwane Casey. He’s the lead assistant on the Dallas Mavericks and had coached the T-Wolves.

F. Sinkwich

November 22nd, 2010
6:57 pm

WOW. A Hawks blog!!! Awesome!

Nothing more exciting than an NBA discussion in November, I say.

Well, December more maybe. No, wait, it’s exciting in January !!

February?

Nope, JULY !!!!!!!

Oh, that’s right, it never is.

Who made you do this, Mark? Have you no pride?

Jamaaliver

November 22nd, 2010
6:58 pm

@Hewitt Fan
Woodson was actually a solid regular season coach. But he showed he was unable/unwilling to make necessary adjustments during long playoff series.

Jamaaliver

November 22nd, 2010
6:59 pm

@F. Sinkwich

lmao. Nice!!! Well, we gotta do something to pass the time til Sunday…

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Welcome to Philips ArenaBoston Globe (blog)Rajon Rondo is not likely to play, although he is trying to give it a go now on his strained left hamstring. "I don't know (about playing). …Boston Celtics vs Atlanta Hawks Free NBA Pic – Nov 22nd 2010OnlineSportsHandicapping.comLive from Philips: The Hawks try to beat one of the NBA's eliteAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)'The Association: Boston Celtics' to Debut Dec. 3 on ESPNNESN.comMaddux Sports (blog) -ESPN (blog) -bettor.com (blog)all 42 news articles » [...]

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:01 pm

Unless I’m going blind, Ted Turner is sitting at center court.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:07 pm

Folks, if you’ve ever had a hankering to see the Hawks play the Celtics in person … come on down. Plenty of good seats available.

F. Sinkwich

November 22nd, 2010
7:11 pm

“… come on down. Plenty of good seats available.”

SHOCKED !!!!!!

FIRE MIKE WOODSON

November 22nd, 2010
7:11 pm

FIRE MIKE WOODSON

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:12 pm

Free Tickets on Mark’s tab tonight.

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:12 pm

Enter your comments here

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:12 pm

Free tickets on Mark’s tab tonight

Rev in Tampa

November 22nd, 2010
7:13 pm

Mark,

No offense intended, but I am wondering if you are blogging in place of Michael Cunningham or will he have his typical gametime blog?

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:14 pm

MB is paying for 100 free tickets for the first 100 fans right MB?

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:14 pm

The jury is still out on Drew. The verdict has been in on Woody a long time ago — he is a good motivator who is clueless when it comes to X’s and O’s and as a result will never get a team very far in the playoffs.

The fan in me hopes the Hawks break their losing streak against good teams, but my brain tells me that the Hawks are going to get murdered tonight.

5150 P.O.A.D.

November 22nd, 2010
7:14 pm

Sorry MARK I just can’t seem to find 1 penny of Interest in the NBA. Call back when the Hawks are in the Second round or when the NCAA league tournies start.
Hope you have a good night and enjoy.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:14 pm

The jury is still out on Drew. The verdict has been in on Woody a long time ago — he is a good motivator who is clueless when it comes to schemes, and as a result will never get a team very far in the playoffs.

The fan in me hopes the Hawks break their losing streak against good teams, but my brain tells me that the Hawks are going to get murdered tonight.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:15 pm

The jury is still out on Drew. The verdict has been in on Woody a long time ago — he is a good motivator who is clueless when it comes to schemes, and as a result will never get a team very far in the playoffs.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:15 pm

As for tonight’s game, the fan in me hopes the Hawks break their losing streak against good teams, but my brain tells me the Hawks are going to get killed.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:16 pm

As for tonight’s game, the fan in me hopes the Hawks break their losing streak against good teams, but my brain tells me the Hawks are going to get destroyed.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:16 pm

Celtics 8, Hawks 2.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:16 pm

Basically, Woody is like Dan Reeves. We just have to hope Drew is more like Mike Smith and less like Jim Mora.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:17 pm

Celtics 11-3

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:17 pm

As for tonight’s game, I hope I’m wrong, but I think the Hawks get blown out.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:18 pm

Celtics 13, Hawks 3.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:18 pm

Let me note: The Celtics are missing two regulars — Rondo and Kendrick Perkins

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:18 pm

5150 P.O.A.D. How about when Tech stop losing to Kennesaw State

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:19 pm

I only meant for that post to go through once, but the idiotic blog monster kept swallowing my post.

Ree Roe

November 22nd, 2010
7:19 pm

It should be “First home loss was on Thanksgiving, not road”. Another dismal start by the Hawks…

-REEtweet #Roe!!!

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:19 pm

Michael Cunningham is here, if that’s the question.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:19 pm

I should also note: The Celtics played a road game yesterday

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:20 pm

Mark

Have you started writing the game column yet??

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:21 pm

It’s 15-3.

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:21 pm

The Hawks’ rebounding all year has just been atrocious, and against a team that starts KG and Shaq that is not a good sign.

J.J.M.

November 22nd, 2010
7:22 pm

you cant win without a real center

heartofdarkness

November 22nd, 2010
7:22 pm

One Hawk problem, Bibby ran a pick and pop with Josh, Boston’s entire team followed Bibby, Josh was alone at 18 feet or so, and Boston ignored him. So did Bibby.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:23 pm

Good sign: Someone other than Bibby has scored.

F. Sinkwich

November 22nd, 2010
7:23 pm

Let’s see….

DWTS is on tonight.

MNF anyone?

No, I think I’ll just fire up the family truckster and head down to the Arena, drive an hour, pay $10 for a parking spot, belly up to the ticket counter, drop a 100 bucks for two tix, pay $6.50 for each beer, have my ears bleed listening to over-amplified rap or whatever they call it, watch crap, then drive home on a Monday night.

Right.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:23 pm

Not so good sign: Shaquille O’Neal, who weighs more than my car, has six points and five rebounds.

heartofdarkness

November 22nd, 2010
7:24 pm

I think I hear Brunhilde singing in the upper deck.

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2010
7:25 pm

Hawks have five points in six minutes and three seconds

Blackberry Pie

November 22nd, 2010
7:25 pm

Trade Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Bibby for Carmelo and a center

Najeh Davenpoop

November 22nd, 2010
7:26 pm

“Not so good sign: Shaquille O’Neal, who weighs more than my car, has six points and five rebounds.”

A major problem with the Hawks is that they only have one guy who weighs more than your car, and that guy (Jason Collins) is mostly made of hamburger grease.

todd grantham

November 22nd, 2010
7:28 pm

Mark, did i read the score correctly??