If the Hawks don’t make a playoff run, will Josh be jettisoned?

No. 55 is Jordan Crawford. Check his numbers since leaving. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

No. 55 is Jordan Crawford. Check his numbers since he got traded. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Thrashers fired their coach, changed their general manager, imported a goodly roster chunk from the Stanley Cup champions … and will miss the playoffs yet again. They finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season; with four games remaining, they’re 11th now. And should we be upset?

Nah. They’re the Thrashers.

As for the Thrashers’ corporate brethren:  That’s different. The Hawks have made the playoffs three seasons running and have won a series the past two years. They didn’t opt for change over the offseason. They chose continuity, albeit with a twist. They fired their coach but promoted his assistant. (Message: “We’ve changed, but not really.”)

The Hawks won 53 games last season and finished third in the East. The best they can do this time is 49 victories, and they’re all but certain to be the No. 5 seed. In no way can this be seen as progress — the only reason to fire a coach while keeping his players is because you believe they’re capable of more — but there’s still a chance to get it right. The NBA playoffs, at least the Eastern half thereof, are where goofy happens: Only once since 2002 has the East’s No. 1 seed reached the finals.

A nice playoff run — one that carries into the Eastern finals, where the Atlanta Hawks have never ever been — would allow them to wag their fingers at all us doubters and say, “See? We knew what we were doing.” And there’s no reason they can’t, even without the homecourt edge, beat Orlando in Round 1. (The Magic isn’t half the team it was, which can happen when you trade away half your team in December.)

For discussion purposes, let’s say the Hawks upset Orlando and lose routinely to Chicago in the conference semis. Even the easily satisfied Atlanta Spirit would have trouble framing that as progress. How could you give Larry Drew rave reviews if his team falls at the same hurdle as Mike Woodson’s? And if dissimilar-in-demeanor coaches wind up with the same result, is it even the coach at all?

Since taking ownership in 2004, the easily addled  Spirit has been consistent in its willingness to be patient with “the growing young core” of its basketball team. But here it is 2011, and three of the Core Four — Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson — have been in place for nearly six years, and Al Horford arrived in 2007. Over time, the Hawks have gone from wretched (13-69 in 2004-2005) to rather good (53-29 last season). But now the graph, at least the regular-season part of it, shows its first dip since the inglorious days of Terry Stotts and Chris Crawford.

The loose definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If the Hawks fall in Round 2 again, the only logical tack would be to try something else, and this doesn’t mean promoting a different assistant. Given that their No. 1 pick was sent to Washington for Kirk Hinrich, we can expect no help from the draft. Even worse, last year’s No. 1 pick — Jordan Crawford, also shipped to D.C. – has scored 20-plus points the past four games. Heck, he even had a triple double. (And the Hawks’ record with Hinrich? It’s 10-9.)

There’s a chance Jamal Crawford, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent, could be packaged in a sign-and-trade, but the greater issue is the Core Four. If this season yields nothing better (or even as good as) the past two, why stay the course? Which brings us to names:

Johnson can’t be traded because nobody wants to pay his massive salary through 2016. Horford can’t be traded because this franchise would collapse without him. Williams can’t be traded for anyone of significance because every NBA team already has a Marvin Williams. By process of elimination, that leaves …

Josh Smith.

It would be tough saying goodbye to someone this talented, tougher still watching him become an All-Star — which he surely would — wearing a different uniform. But if this spring becomes another fizzle, what choice would the Spirit have?

(Well, it could sell the team and leave such decisions to someone else. That could happen, too. Never a dull moment, huh?)

By Mark Bradley

154 comments Add your comment

@DanWeiner

April 4th, 2011
10:45 am

Seeing as how Joe’s and Marvin’s contracts are untradeable, it’s either Josh or Al so Josh is a safe bet.

Sorry, But Nobody Cares

April 4th, 2011
10:45 am

Atlanta has an NBA team?

What did we do wrong?

How do we get rid of it?

First?????????

J.J.M.

April 4th, 2011
10:48 am

isnt it called the highlight factory because of josh smith?

DHD

April 4th, 2011
10:49 am

TommyJack

April 4th, 2011
10:56 am

No offense, Mark. But are people really interested in this?

JROLL1

April 4th, 2011
10:58 am

TRADING JORDAN CRAWFORD WAS A BIG TIME MISTAKE! AND JUST LIKE WOODY, LARRY NEVER GAVE THE KID A CHANCE TO PLAY!!! SAME OL’ HAWKS. FIRST ROUND AND DONE!!!!

Not Don Waddell

April 4th, 2011
10:59 am

Can we still get anything for Josh? I was a huge advocate of trading him over 2 years ago, when he was still viewed by the rest of the league as an up-and-comer. Now, 2 + years later, he is rightly viewed as a cancer, coach-killer and a selfish, whiny child who plays hard sometimes.

What a mess the Spirit has made of things. The Joe Johnson contract is a franchise killer. Poor Al Horford should have bailed when he had the chance.

mike

April 4th, 2011
11:00 am

Trade Josh for a center.. perhaps NeNe from Denver? Lack of discipline and erratic play is killing this team.

mike

April 4th, 2011
11:02 am

Also, Jordan Crawford doesn’t play any defense, which is fine for the Wizards, but if he played regularly for us in the playoffs he would be toast. In the long run, we should have kept him though as a cheap replacement for Jamal.

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
11:02 am

I’ve always been the guy who said, “Trade Josh? Never!” But time marches on.

ATL (Ramblin Wreck)

April 4th, 2011
11:06 am

Sorry, But Nobody Cares……………….. If you really don’t care, why are you commenting on this blog goat balls licker. We need Joe to re-do his contract and take a pay cut. Enough said.

Tlaw

April 4th, 2011
11:08 am

I have been saying(and so has Chuck Barkeley) a long time ago that the Hawk have to choose between Smoove and Horfy.Both play the PF position and hinder each other when they are on the court together, anyone with a basketball IQ(which leadership nor coaching have on this team) can see that. Horfy is the better all-around player, is cheaper and provides more leadership so I think he should be kept rather than Smoove. I think we could still package Smoove to a older team looking to get younger next season like the Sours in return for Tony Parker. I say this becuase their frnot line is old as dirt and they already ahve Parker’s replacement in George Hill.

steve brown

April 4th, 2011
11:09 am

How about Josh for Jordan Crawford! Sund would be famous forever more. This team is desperately boring to watch (the JJ never ending isolations, the Smith 3 pointers that clang in the night, Horford’s hilarious attempts to dribble drive, Teague’s length of the court drive for a failed 3 pointer at the buzzer, etc.). As a Marx Brothers or Three Stooges film this might entertain, as basketball goes it is tedious.

Local fans know we have no chance and the players, coaches and owners know the same. The local fans are about to be vilified in the press, as usual, for not attending these mock playoff games in mass numbers. Please stop this mind numbing charade by bringing in someone to run this team that has a successful track record in some business at sometime in his or her life.

Mike

April 4th, 2011
11:10 am

Who cares!!!!

J.Hoffa

April 4th, 2011
11:12 am

The Highlight Factory must be using union labor.

BobDawg

April 4th, 2011
11:14 am

I still can’t believe Billy Knight passed on both Deron Johnson and Chris Paul for Marvin Williams…That trade has haunted us and will forever… He even worked them out. What an idiot… We would have a Championship by now with either of those guys….

Elliot Garcia

April 4th, 2011
11:15 am

It is time to move Smoove for a real center. If the Hawks had a halfway decent center and big Al at PF, they would be unstoppable….

Tlaw

April 4th, 2011
11:16 am

Mark if you had to choose between Horfy and Smoove, who would you choose and why?

Rickster

April 4th, 2011
11:16 am

The heck with hoops…. it’s MASTERS WEEK!!! :-)

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
11:17 am

Horfy. Because he’s so solid. (And he’s also very good.)

Dawg A

April 4th, 2011
11:21 am

Change has to be made! And it needs to start with the ASG! Mark please tell me that they are closer to having a new owner! They can then get this mess cleaned up.

buckhead benny

April 4th, 2011
11:21 am

I believe it lies with the coaching- Larry Drew just doesnt seem to have a handle of who to play- Jeff Teague looks really good sometimes- then, he sits him on the bench for games at a time- Also, now he is starting Marvin Williams again? What did Marvin bitch and complain enough to get back in the starting lineup- They played 3 reserves last night on the road- That is bs- and they should lose- they have a deep enough rotation for 5 to have been in there- especially when you get outscored 32-18 some reserves should have been inserted- It just goes to show you a young coach like this can’t really have his balls to make decisions and needs to make “friends” with the players so ownership won’t get mad at him. They need someone that is proven that these guys will listen to- Then, josh smith will be great.

phil

April 4th, 2011
11:22 am

I don’t pay a ton of attention to these lazy guys, but it doesn’t surprise me a bit that a guy we traded for Hinriech just had a triple double….that’s funny and pathetic and sad at the same time….not to mention, unsurprising…

Yes, Josh should be traded….or released or dumped or something….the guy may be talented but talent is useless when it whines and mopes around and doesn’t try most of the time….

B-man

April 4th, 2011
11:22 am

defense, defense, defense….enough with this crap… yes defense is important to some degree but the nba is not the nfl. you must OUTSCORE the other team in the nba. Championship team do play sound defense but they ALWAYS SCORE. that is most important. This is the reason we have so many blowout losses…we have guys with limited offensive ability and when they get tired of defending our leads fade away and we can’t score. b-ball is a game of ATTACKING. examples? Bulls, Lakers, Phoenix Suns from a few years ago, Trailblazers & Rockets of the 90’s. Some were great defensively but they all SCORED. Trading Crawford was just dumb. So he gets burned a couple of times on D’ in a game but scores 20? I’ll take that trade.

#thebalkan

April 4th, 2011
11:22 am

Shipping out Smith would definitely provide less excitement at games…but it will also provide less anxiety when he shoots the 3. It would definitely be tough but someone’s gotta go…I’d prefer JJ. I’m sure someone will post up possible trade scenarios.

Also, John Kincade of 680 is the only person talking about #thebalkan buying out the 3, which includes the Hawks. This seems to be the only exciting talk of something new coming into the Hawks future.

phil

April 4th, 2011
11:23 am

ownership never did a good thing for this team….never past the 2nd round since 1970 or so….it’s ridiculous how consistently bad we stay….so i don’t blame the ownership entirely…maybe not using Skip to do play by play after the early 80’s did us in….makes as much sense as anything else.

it starts at the top

April 4th, 2011
11:24 am

Look, the problem is ownership. Until we get real owners for both teams, nothing is going to change for either team.

phil

April 4th, 2011
11:25 am

Who cares about excitement…i want to win the games…which means at least some defense, in spite of the need to attack, attack offensively….drafting a kobe bryant might help too….

GT

April 4th, 2011
11:26 am

Jordan Crawford said volumes. Never got on the court here. There is a click group playing for the Hawks They ruin that chemistry trading Mike Bibby. Said he couldn’t play defense. None of the guards can play defense, maybe it has something to do with coaching. Either go with the click and get a rap artist for point guard or tear up the neighborhood and bring some people in who like to play basketball not just socialize.

What is up with the ref hitting Nique. I wonder if you have that weak a character and the root of this was money how easy it must be to get to these refs in a game. This joker could make 12,000 every game he refed from one side or the other. If he has this much lack of control of himself what kept him honest when his job could have been bought.

#thebalkan

April 4th, 2011
11:26 am

@ATL(Ramblin Wreck) Unfortunately in the NBA, players can’t restructure their contracts downward. Correct me if I am wrong. The only thing going downward is our team.

Marvin Willliams fan

April 4th, 2011
11:28 am

BobDawg

Paul and Williams have never won anything!…the Hawks need a CENTER, and a decent coach!

PMC

April 4th, 2011
11:32 am

Yes, but why did they trade for Kirk Hinrich? That’s the brilliant answer at PG?

REALLY????????

Orlando may have less overall talent than Atlanta, but they have Jameer Nelson at PG and the best center in the league.

Atlanta, has no one close at PG and no one close at Center. A bunch of Fowards, and a woefully overpaid Joe Johnson who has NEVER done anything of consequence in the NBA playoffs, where actual superstars make their money.

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

April 4th, 2011
11:33 am

NBA SUCKS! It’s baseball season and it’s Masters Week! Who cares about the DoDo Hawks.

I would trade Josh for an Ultimate Sub from Publix. Get rid of everyone, except Horford, and rebuild. This “team” won’t do squat.

RHJ

April 4th, 2011
11:39 am

First we should have never sign JJ to max contract, 3rd best team last year , 5th best team this year , something is wrong maybe we need a quality GM who can trade for our future!!!

steve brown

April 4th, 2011
11:39 am

GT- good call on the Hawks-bad call on Nique. From what I can see Nique did all the hitting and as our “superstar” is being protected. By the way he may be the worst color commentator I’ve ever had to listen to.

Marcus

April 4th, 2011
11:40 am

MB,
Josh and Al may be our only realistic bargaining chips, esp. since we shipped off our young asset (JCII) and retained the always desirable expiring contract of JC the First.

heartofdarkness

April 4th, 2011
11:41 am

If you break up the Hawks, you will deprive the ESPN announcers of the opportunity to test market their banquet circuit material on air during yet another nationally televised blowout.

Jay

April 4th, 2011
11:42 am

It’s not all on Josh & I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but does anywho w/ authority tells Josh don’t settle for long jumpshots, i.e, coach or leaders on the team? I believed once he starts off aggresive & attacking the basket, dunking, he shoots the ball average. But if his couple of attempts are jumpers, then he’s below average. The owners owe this city more with this team & they can solve it by BRINGING HOME DWIGHT HOWARD. I don’t know how they can do it but dang gone it, find a way!! The Heat pays 3 players 100 million, I know we can pay 2!

GT

April 4th, 2011
11:42 am

The real problem with rebuilding is with what? The whole NBA is like this, occasionally in the right swamp the chemistry works, but who knows where and when. Easy money, parity, failure….

riggo

April 4th, 2011
11:45 am

How do u trade 2 1st round picks for Hinrich it wasn’t Woodson as u can see now ,your past 2 GMS DON’T HAVE A CLUE.

Zing

April 4th, 2011
11:46 am

I think the ATL Spirit should at least *try* to trade JJ first. Maybe to the Knicks–they have a track record of relative insanity, maybe they’ll jump in there. Interesting to note, by the way, that JJ appears untradeable; if he’s untradeable, then, by definition, that was a terrible contract the Spirit gave him. (Which is what I thought at the time–the only player you give that kind of money to is Lebron James. Or maybe Dwight Howard. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY else.)

If the Spirit trade Josh Smith, they’ll be trading their best or second best player and a very reasonable contract for someone who almost certainly will not be as good and likely won’t be as reasonably priced. Why would you do that? Just to effect change? I don’t think change for the sake of change is what this team needs. It needs some thoughtful re-working.

GT

April 4th, 2011
11:47 am

steve brown you are right on with Nique. There is an immaturity about the whole league. Serious money with no accountability. The fans are the suckers here.

Stuart

April 4th, 2011
11:48 am

Yeah, it may come down to trading Josh. Trade Josh and Jamal for a major point guard — by major, meaning one who is excellent at distributing first, but can be a primary scorer if needs be, plays defense, and is aggressive in pushing the ball and actually attacking the basket — like Paul, assuming he signs an extension as part of the agreement. Then go after a center in free agency. Yes, this may mean going over the salary cap and actually spending money (take note owners). And, if the Hawks really want to contend, they can go spend some money on a veteran coach as well.

Zing

April 4th, 2011
11:49 am

And by the way– I was thrilled when Sund chose Jordan Crawford in the draft–and dismayed when they let him go.

I thought the Hawks should have signed-and-traded JJ last summer, given Jamal the start at the 2, and given Jordan significant minutes behind him (depending on whom the Hawks got back in the sign-and-trade–but maybe we would have gotten a high draft pick and would be looking at adding a bigtime talent in the draft this year… sigh).

The contract given to Joe + trading away Jordan C = No confidence that Sund knows what he’s doing.

Glenn

April 4th, 2011
11:53 am

Notice when we beat the Celtics on Friday Josh Smith was on the bench for the 2nd half . That was very telling . He’s a good defender but is an offensive liability . He makes to many boneheaded plays . Not surprised by Jordan Crawford & his new found success . The Hawks don’t really seem to be very good at developing talent . I bet if we traded Marvin Williams he would become the next Karl Malone . That’s why Rajon Rondo & Glen Davis are playing at such a high level & they both could have been had by any team . The Celtics can develop lesser talent over time .

Mark Bradley

April 4th, 2011
11:55 am

It was odd to see the Hawks win without Josh on the floor, Glenn.

Marcus

April 4th, 2011
11:56 am

to add to my earlier post ….. Al or Smoove will have to move, because we put ourselves in this predicament by 1) having traded away assets over the last 2 seasons (young players/draft picks) with little long-term vision, 2) failing to draft better talent or develop young players, esp. 2nd rounders, 3) holding a HARD line on spending to avoid the luxury tax, and 4) failing to ID and aggressively pursue the 1-2 talented (missing?) pieces to supplement the core to go take us to another level.

I don’t see much wiggle room except to trade one of the core just to then the question whether that move becomes a ZERO SUM proposition (talent lost = talent gained; no improvement) or do we lose out (just by the luck of being an ATL franchise) on Smoove or Boss’ eventual realization of their potential in another city’s team?

gsu01

April 4th, 2011
11:57 am

They need a real head coach first. Drew might be worse than Woody and that tells you everyhing you need to know.

Marcus

April 4th, 2011
12:00 pm

…….. Pape Sy is seeing our dysfunction up-close and personal ………. I wonder how close he is to jumping on the 1st Concord jet back to France?!?! LOL

papar bag hawk

April 4th, 2011
12:01 pm

The team as constructed is second round at best, especially with Woodson-2 coaching. Change has to be made; however, I’m not sure if I trust Sund to make the trade decision. I still blame Woodson-2 as the reason why Washington has Jordan Crawford, due to the fact that this clown never gave him a chance to show what he can do. Still, this trade will make us a laughingstock (again). In essence: Crawford, Evans, 1st round pick for Hinrich (armstrong gets not pt). Watch the 1st round pick turn into a solid contributor. The life of a Hawks fan.