The Hawks keep standing pat, while the Magic dare to change

Dwight Howard smiles and wonders, "Who are these guys?" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Dwight Howard smiles and wonders, "Who are these guys?" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Don’t look now, but the Hawks have nosed ahead of their nemesis. They lead Orlando 2-1 on the season and by half a game in the standings. Only trouble is, the Magic just told the world they care nothing about the regular season or the standings or anything except the playoffs.

On display Monday at Philips Arena were philosophies of polar opposition: With the exception of their head coach, the Hawks are pretty much the same team they’ve been; with the exceptions of Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, the Magic aren’t the team they were last week.

The Magic made two stunning trades Saturday, dumping four of their top eight players, importing four new ones and perhaps destroying the precise inside-out blend that carried them to the 2009 NBA finals and to 59 victories last season. But credit the Magic for this: They’re going to win a title or fall to pieces — no half-stepping thoughts of “continuity” for them.

That the Hawks beat Orlando decisively if not easily — the score was tied in the third quarter, whereupon Mike Bibby went wild — had less to do with the home team’s excellence than it did with the visitors’ discombobulation. As Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said beforehand: “The Hawks have been together six years; we haven’t been together six hours.”

Also this: “We haven’t even been on a court … We picked up as much as we could in the hotel.”

Said Hawks coach Larry Drew: “When I heard about the [Orlando trades], I was just surprised. I guess that tells you about their situation, and how they felt it was time to change.”

Let the record show that Orlando stood fourth in the NBA East at the time of its reconfiguration, but the Magic didn’t believe the team it had was or would ever be stout enough to challenge Miami or Boston. (Never mind that they’d won 15 of their first 19 games this season.) The Magic were willing to risk of getting a lot worse for the chance of getting a lot better.

Contrast that with the Hawks, who have proved themselves capable of winning a Round 1 series but not so much as a game in Round 2. Yet they’re trying it again with the same guys and are on pace to win four fewer games than last season. Their idea of change was to promote Mike Woodson’s chief assistant to head coach, and they wouldn’t appear to be gaining on the best teams in the East.

So now the question: Do the Hawks need to make a personnel move themselves? Drew: “We’re always looking to improve our team, but there has been no discussion about reacting to what Orlando has done. If something is presented, I’m sure there will be some discussion. But I don’t see any need to panic.”

There’s never a need to panic. There is, however, a necessity to know what you have and what you lack. As  constituted, the Hawks aren’t apt to be much different in April than they are today. The Magic could be much worse — or much better.

Orlando is going to lose a bunch more games in the here and now — it has dropped seven of eight, with the next three are against Dallas, San Antonio and Boston — but that’s not the concern. The Magic are pointing toward the postseason by wadding up one game plan and sketching a different one.

They sacrificed their staple standstill shooting to collect more off-the-dribble creators in Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas. That would be a major redo had it come over the summer; imagine trying it on the fly. As Van Gundy said: “We might as well get the process going.”

For all the Hawks’ happy talk afterward, let’s not read too much into one game. They beat an opponent that’s essentially starting over. (Van Gundy: “We’re not talking about the first game together; we’re talking about the first day together.”) But it’s an opponent that isn’t willing to settle for being pretty good. Unlike, say, the Hawks.

By Mark Bradley

65 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:38 pm

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:39 pm

don’t care a thing about the NBA, but do love college basketball. especially when Georgia beats Tech.

bob

December 20th, 2010
10:40 pm

It was a pleasure watching Dwight get banged on, surrounded by a bunch of little guards and a big, slow forward who plays 5 inches shorter than he is.

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:40 pm

Mark, I challenge you to a prediction: will Georgia make the NCAA tournament in 2011?

Mark Bradley is a hater

December 20th, 2010
10:45 pm

y dont u just go away i get so tired of the miami heat, boston celtics, huggers a win is a win and who knows if this really make the magic that much better. The problem this city has is it two enamored with a big name. The Detroit Piston won a champonship as a team lets just let the season play out to many people on the Ajc bash the hawks but make excuses for every other team. GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:47 pm

it seems, i see, that the blog needs some grammer lessons.

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:49 pm

Mark Fox: great coach. Paul Hewitt: well….just sayin…

todd grantham

December 20th, 2010
10:50 pm

latest Vick rumor is that Michael is in a fury with Kroger for recalling dogfood.

atlienforlife

December 20th, 2010
10:53 pm

all the trading orlando did sounds good, but the magic are going nowhere in the playoffs and are a worse team then they were last year. There whole game plan was inside out, howard or all the spot up 3’s which they lost in the trade. Arenas and a overrated hedo is getting you nowhere. We don’t need a trade just to have a trade. If something is legit to drastically improve us then fine, and I don’t believe trading josh is it.

A.T.

December 20th, 2010
10:55 pm

And magically the Hawks bashers disappear!

atlienforlife

December 20th, 2010
10:57 pm

As good as boston is playing, I don’t fear them in the playoffs, Atl matches up very well with them. The only team to fear is the Heat, and that’s because we have a habit of lebron gazing.

atlienforlife

December 20th, 2010
10:58 pm

I’m sorry I meant LEBUM! Mr. Overrated!!!

Mark Bradley is a hater

December 20th, 2010
10:58 pm

If u frustraated dwight he will mentally check out

woodie

December 20th, 2010
11:09 pm

Must I keep saying Gators 18 of 21 ? Dawgs please pick on someone your own size.

Teedub

December 20th, 2010
11:35 pm

Don’t forget the win in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. That being said, it looks like Drew has at least figured out this piece. That in itself is more than I can say for Woody.

An Adult

December 20th, 2010
11:38 pm

Ah Hummmmmmm… the article is not about the Dogs, Tech, Gators etc. If you want to blog about that, go to blogs that have that as the subject, otherwise stay off blogs that are not on your topic. Geez, get a life anyway. I’m only here to read Mark’s comments on the Hawks, but couldn’t help notice the first person claiming first, then saying they don’t care about the NBA and going into the old rag about Georgia vs Tech. I have a life, find one.

Mark Bradley

December 20th, 2010
11:42 pm

Kudos to Coach Grantham. Belated kudos, but kudos still.

And I do think UGA will make the NCAA.

KevinM

December 20th, 2010
11:56 pm

The Hawks are still the Hawks and their standard inconsistencies will continue to show up the rest of the year.

They played good tonight against a team who currently has zero identity. The Magic will need some time as well to see if any of the new acquisitions will decide to play defense.

So now the Hawks can consider themselves worthy of a 3 or 4 seed depending on the growth of Chicago. I still wouldn’t want to meet Orlando in the playoffs. This will be a better team come April.

Long way to go, but the Hawks have yet to face a tough stretch in their schedule.

JASon

December 21st, 2010
12:30 am

“They lead Orlando 2-1 on the season”

They also led the Celtics 4-0 last season. Where did that get you. None of these games matter, all that matters is how your team stacks up in the postseason. And that is why no one cares about the hawks.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 21st, 2010
3:15 am

The Magic have a superstar who makes them a title contender with the right pieces around him. The old pieces weren’t working, so they got new ones to see whether the new configuration would work.

The Hawks are not in the same position as the Magic. With no superstar, the Hawks are not serious title contenders regardless of what complementary pieces they acquire. Swapping out 3rd and 4th best players for other teams’ 3rd and 4th best players won’t put the Hawks any closer to a title. Either find a way to add a superstar to the current mix, blow it up and rebuild from scratch, or stand pat with the current core and see what they can do under the new coach. Those are the only real options this team has.

In particular, on the previous blog, you said by process of elimination that the Hawks would have to trade Smoove. Fine, but what superstar are the Hawks going to get in exchange for him that will allow the Hawks to reach elite status? Unless Denver will send Carmelo Anthony here for Smoove and Melo will sign an extension, you’re not going to assemble a core including a superstar by dealing Smoove.

Hawk`s Friend

December 21st, 2010
5:40 am

I agree with An Adult. Why are comments and responses that have nothing to do with the subject of the article allowed? It is pitiful that these people choose to
vent or act like kids with their actions.

As for Hawks vs. Magic strategy of how to build a winner:
I have only an opinion like everyone else who has no real clue of what is best. The Hawks may make a move later
but not as drastic as the Magic did. Long way to go before playoffs.

RA

December 21st, 2010
6:20 am

Okay, lets take a quick look at some of the risks Orlando took. Turkolu, maybe he can regain the form that he had two years ago, maybe not, but he hasn’t shown me anything over the last couple of years that make me think that he can get Orlando over the hump. Gilbert Arenas, okay let’s forget that he faked an injury in the preseason, and then had a real one. He is simply not the player that he was before the knee injuries. Now, maybe he can reagain some of that explosiveness, maybe he can’t, but at this point in his career, I’d hardly see him worth a Reshard Lewis alone. Richardson can score, but whether he’s able to bring the defense every night that’s going to win a championship, I have my doubts. Bradley, was right about one thing, they could get a whole lot worse, but with the resources on hand, I don’t see them getting much better. Btw, Atlanta beat Orlando last time they played, before the trade. What was the excuse then? Oh yea, some of them were…sick. I wonder what they’ll say next time.

As for OUR team, I like it. Maybe we don’t have a “superstar” but if Al Horford isn’t there, he’s knocking at the door, and Jason Collins has really worked on his body, and his game. He’s allowed Drew the flexibility with Horford that Woodson never had. Josh Powell has been awesome off the bench this year. Teague looks like he’s finally figuring it out. I like Marvin Williams off the bench at least some of the time. Etan Thomas has proven that when asked he can come in and defend. Even JC2 has shown that he can score, defense maybe not so much. I’m sorry, I don’t think that the Hawks should make a trade just to make a trade. They CAN’T risk having to go through another five year plan. That would kill basketball in Atlanta. I know that, and Bradley, you should know that too.

MightyQuinn

December 21st, 2010
6:26 am

The Hawks were at the crossroads with the JJ signing, they took the obvious road and signed JJ to a contract that will eventually kill this team, rather than looking at the competition and saying, “We can’t beat these guys with our current guys.” and deciding to blow the thing up and try again. Which, while painful in the short run, probably would have been better in the long run. In the “pay me now, or pay me later” world, the Hawks went with the latter. The Magic have gone with the former.

RA

December 21st, 2010
6:56 am

I submit to you all that this Hawks team has upgraded. Joe was out over two weeks. In that span the Hawks had a winning record. Last night, Jamal Crawford was out and Joe scored under 20. I don’t care what Orlando’s going through, in years past, Atlanta doesn’t win that game. In case no one’s noticed, and it doesn’t look like anyone has, Al Horford is developing into the second coming of Karl Malone. I’m sorry, but anyone that doesn’t see improvement in this team has their eyes wide shut.

O'Brien

December 21st, 2010
7:36 am

Mark,

After what Orlando did to the Hawks last year, any victory against them is good. It gives Hawks confidence that if they play Orlando in the playoffs, they can beat them.

That being said, as constructed, this Hawks team (imo) is looking at a second round loss again. But at this stage of the game, I dont know if there is a move to be made to make them conference finals contenders.

The Hawks should have made moves over the off-season.

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

jay

December 21st, 2010
8:01 am

Isn’t this the same article from last night? it’s Christmas week Mark, you should just take a vacay instead retreading the same topics. The Magic made a huge mistake and they’ll figure that out later. The Hawks on the other hand are fine.

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

kreedham

December 21st, 2010
8:17 am

This team needs a shakeup, not to make them better, but to wake them up. They’ve been together for awhile and become complacent. Trade 2 guys to a lousy team for their best guy. Then everybody will hopefully step up and play. Don’t want to get traded to the Clippers or Wizards, et al.

Mr. Red

December 21st, 2010
8:20 am

Atlanta has a basketball team? who knew?

Billyboy

December 21st, 2010
8:41 am

Hawks, Magic, all NBA players are boring and over paid. The NBA should only charge for he last 2 minutes of the game. The rest of the game is a bunch of kids playing up and down the street.

Remarkable

December 21st, 2010
8:43 am

atlienforlife: Trading Josh Smith is exactly what we need to do. We could either get a starting point guard or a true center and allow Al to play power forward. Either one would make us a better team.

Joey

December 21st, 2010
8:44 am

Mark, don’t you think the inaction of the Hawks, except for small changes here and there is because of JJ’s franchise-crippling contract?

I loved the starting lineup tonight, by the way, with Josh at SF, Al at PF, and Collins at center. Collins really played well vs Howard.

Dan

December 21st, 2010
9:06 am

Why does everyone want to trade Josh? He plays defense steals block shots scores etc? The thing is I have been saying all along he should play small forward and Horford Power Forward and I always read comments about he cant play the 3 but have you watched the games he has done great at the 3? Because of Johnson contract there isnt to much I think they can do on trades but next year sometimes you have to gamble and I would go after Greg Oden he is young and I would do what it takes to get him here and have Oden at C, Horford at PF, Josh at SF, Marvin at SG and Johnson at the PG

PMC

December 21st, 2010
9:06 am

What are they supposed to do exactly mark? They need a young peaking point guard who can play defense and score. They need Dwight Howard to get them where they want to go.

You can’t simply buy Dwight Howards at the NBA mini mart and no one is giving away young talented point guards either.

Change for the sake of change is nonsense. They have Dwight Howard. The Hawks don’t.

PMC

December 21st, 2010
9:08 am

The only guys that would be available in trade would be another prohibitive ridiculous contract or someone elses problems.

PMC

December 21st, 2010
9:15 am

The only thing they can do that would really make a difference is to build a time machine, and prevent Billy from taking Marvin Williams and the Slumlord….. Replace those lottery picks with actual superstars.

They are mediocre, Billy doomed them to that.

juice sourcer

December 21st, 2010
9:31 am

Nailed it Mark. One is playing for a championship…the other too get in the payoffs and win the 1st round. Go for Orlando. Atlanta..one and done…again….not a fan.

Jim

December 21st, 2010
9:37 am

If Hawks are looking to change, they should look to New Orleans– i think they are in trouble and have both Paul and Okafor–either one or both could make a difference.

Dave

December 21st, 2010
9:39 am

Dan – you want Greg Oden? All he’d do is up our medical bills. He’d never even get on the court.

Prof

December 21st, 2010
9:40 am

Hey Dan, you said do “what it takes” to get Oden – but then you list him along with our best players.

Um – I know you’re not to good at this – but you’d have to give up some of our good players to get him.

DUH.

RomeDawg

December 21st, 2010
9:42 am

This is a Hawks team going nowhere. One win over a recently assembled Magic team doesn’t mean crap. For every win like that, we get a loss to the Nets like Sunday. Inconsistent, just like the ownership. We are a better than average team that will finish 5th or 6th in the East and be out in the first round.

Dominique

December 21st, 2010
10:24 am

Has you guys noticed my subject-verb agreements is getting better….oops

Elvis the Peacock

December 21st, 2010
10:24 am

It’s obvious, the Hawks must immediately panic and blow up their roster. The Magic did it, so it must be done. Now.

ParkerManwich69

December 21st, 2010
10:43 am

Anyone else read that Dwight is going to pull a LeBron on the Magic? Let me be the first to say come home Dwight.

[...] 10. The Hawks keep standing pat, while the Magic dare to change, Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

cdog

December 21st, 2010
11:36 am

difference between the hawks and celtics, majic, knicks, and heat, the hawks have rick sund who is satisfied with only being .500,and tight with money which results in never getting better or winning an NBA title while these teams are thinking NBA title.sad, but true.the hawks are stuck with a losing mentality in sund.

Mike

December 21st, 2010
11:53 am

For the record, the Hawks are barely a team that can get to the second round anymore. Remember, they barely beat a Milwaukee team minus Andrew Bogut in the first round last year.

The Hawks need to do something for sure. Everyone else is doing something to improve their team. Miami, of course, got a new Big Three. Boston went out and got Shaq and Jermaine Oneal to shore up the inside. Chicago picked up Boozer and Korver from Utah. New York picked up Stoudamire. Now we get to Orlando shaking up their roster which should be better in the long run.

The result is the Hawks have been passed up, and the East is no longer a gimme first round. If the playoffs started today, the Hawks match up with Orlando in the FIRST round. Anyone really want to put money on the Hawks for that series? Come April it could be Orlando, Chicago, or New York.

Jinx Master

December 21st, 2010
11:57 am

@ Bradley this trade may have ramifications on your Hawks down the road! Magic will be fine off talent alone, they haven’t even had a real practice yet so wait & see. The real problem will be Stan Van Dummy who has proved he can’t coach up to the talent he is given. Dwight is fed up with going thru the motions. This may work out for the Hawks or may not.

The real question is, if this backfires in the Magic’s face & Dwight opt’s out will Sund & Liberty Media do what every person within a 100 miles of ATL would do, sign the homegrown son? If this scenario takes place & Sund can’t get it done he’ll need an escort just to make it to Hartsfield when he leaves town & Liberty won’t put enough people in the stands to pay GA Power

June

December 21st, 2010
12:07 pm

Dwight Howard is headed for L.A.to play with Kobe Bryant and soon to be Carmelo Anthony ….after Ron Artest ,Andrew Bynum for Melo, ??? Deal goes through…..As for the Hawks The Tayshon Prince ,Will Bynum for Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague deal should be done by the end of the week….We might even see Josh Smith and Mo Evans for Hasheem Thabeet,O J Mayo and Sam young….