First, thanks to Peachtree Hoops for inviting me over to write something on the most comprehensive Hawks blog around.
We've been toiling over at our own site for 3 years and so it's good to be amongst Hawks blog brethren. So, without further ado, it's time to drop what will be a weekly foray into 5 Truths about the Hawks on their journey through the 2010-2011 season.
Only favor I ask is that you read the disclaimer before proceeding to read the 5 Truths because it informs everything that will be said below, which in a nutshell is - you may not agree with what I have to say, but I only comment in the positive on things that are focused on winning championships and I comment in the negative on things that aren't.
I'll also give you a heads up - nothing that happened this week was positive from a championship winning perspective, so all 5 are probably gonna be negative.
That said, I love the Hawks and will always love the Hawks. Just may not like 'em right now in that 'how did you give away Jordan Crawford AND a first round pick to get Kirk Hinrich' kinda way. To hear our previous 2 truths columns and a bonus 'I hate this trade' truth, head over here and get caught up....
Disclaimer: As always, all criticisms come after blaming the Atlanta Spirit Group first, management second, and then coaches and players. Those criticisms come through the prism of winning championships (or the things that result in championship team building).
Truth 1. The Hawks Are Only Winning if Charlie Sheen Is Keeping Score.
Sorry to use the most overused example of insanity at the moment, but listening to the Hawks coaches and players these days is akin to listening to Charlie Sheen's version of winning.
In Charlie Sheen's world, getting fired from your highest paid perch for a good (not great) show, losing custody of your kids, and not being aware of your own addictions to drugs and sex equates to Tiger Blood, Adonis DNA and uh..Bi-WINNING!!!
In Hawks land, being elite (words uttered by our very own GM Rick Sund) equates to paying the highest salary for a good (not great) player, winning more games than the last 5 years, having a good road record, having 2 All Stars, and being young enough to sell the impression that we can still get better even if said youth has been simmering for 4-5 years in the crock pot.
You can use all the platitudes and pontifications regarding what ails the Hawks, but it's really simple. The team has had no leadership for over 4-5 years to the point that the guys don't even know where to start. They don't know how to fix their issues.
The elite teams ALL have slumps, issues, lulls. Most are able to easily identify the problem before they fix it and then go about the process of addressing said problems (the Spurs, Lakers, Celtics, and for the sake of not knowing ...Bulls and Heat are teams I'm referring to here).
The Hawks have sung the same song for 3 years without one solution. So, when the media says Joe - what's the problem and he says 'I wish I knew'. Donald Trump should pop out and say 'you're fired'. Same for Al, same for Joe, same for Jamal. These guys know what the problem is, but are too cowardly to say publicly what I've known for 3 years. It's why Coach Drew, no matter what his strategic strengths could ever have been, should never have been hired. The Hawks problems are as much mental as they are physical makeup. Lack of toughness, lack of basketball IQ, and lack of leadership means you can only be a first or second round casualty. It doesn't help if your GM never brings in talent (hey,
I wonder if that Landry Fields fellow would have been worth selecting with that second draft pick or if a Leon Powe would have been worth signing instead of say...oh, Josh Powell) or if your coach can't stand up to the players or if the players simply ...oh nevermind.
Truth 2. Kirk Hinrich, welcome to Planet Jump Shot (cuz that's where the shots are).
I hate actually being right about this, but I've been saying for 3 years (there goes that 3 years again) that we are a jump shooting team and that's it. We can wax poetic about wanting to get our best players (who happen to be our center and power forward) the ball on the inside, but have you ever wondered why they are always on the perimeter taking shots? Because that's where the shots are.
Seems like there was this sense that Larry Drew was going to change the offense and to his credit, the names of the plays and the way we got the jump shots (even with more spacing) did change, but the end result...just more jump shots.
I've watched Kirk Hinrich and you can even see his frustration with the fact that all the players head outside to get the shots that are harder to take and make. Why? Because that's where the shots for the Hawks are. We shoot jumpers. When we make them, we're a top 8 team. When we miss them, we're a top 16 team. Kirk, you're not getting guys to go inside to get the ball because they know where the shots are on this team. OUTSIDE 18ft. Period, point blank. Doing anything else is only going to get your blood pressure high or a spot behind Jeff Teague. Pick your poison.
Truth 3. The Atlanta Hawks wish they had Miami Heat problems.
I said it when they were 9-8 and I'll say it again. The Heat will be fine. They may not win a title this season, but their management will do everything possible to fix whatever ails the Heat come this postseason (be it coaching, players, health, wives, jersey color,...). The Hawks, on the other hand, will blame something on their demise - they won't call out their lack of playmakers, their lack of defensive talent, their lack of leadership, their average coaching, their complete and utter inability to manage their finances/draft picks to mine talent, or something simple like an injury. And as a result, they won't be fine because they won't fix the problem.
The problem is - if Marvin Williams is your starting small forward or Horford is your starting center or Josh Smith (no matter how successful) is shooting outside 15 feet more than twice a game or Joe Johnson is the highest paid player in the league, then you are (sorry Charlie Sheen) tri-losing...wait, quad-losing. I guess that should be quint-losing if I use the bench and the lack of depth as just another example.
Bottom line, year 1 is not the time to declare the Heat's problems to be dire. They did the heavy lifting - next year, they can be judged. The Hawks in year 6 - we can go ahead and say it...the war has been lost.
Truth 4. The Hawks can't win with Josh Smith and can't win without him.
This is probably going to be my most painful truth ever. And I've buried it down here, so that maybe I can possibly come back and say it was all a lie when Josh ascends to great heights as an All-NBA power forward on the way to an Atlanta Hawks ECF run in 2011-2012, but this is me talking about truths, so I just have to get it out. My favorite Hawk (and the guy I'm on record as saying is our most talented player), Josh Smith, has been ruined. He's never been coached - not in high school, not in AAU, not by Mike Woodson, and now, not by Larry Drew.
So, it stands to reason that he'll never be given the tutelage by someone he respects to simply cut out all the garbage in his game because he doesn't think it's garbage.
I'm sure that those of you who say - hey, it's worth the turnovers on the break and the missed jump shots to get a push from your PF in transition and some 3s from your 4 spot and with all that yeoman defensive work, who cares?
Well, if you want a championship squad, I care.
I think of all of the post moves he could have if he wasn't chucking up 500 jumpers a day so he can hit 33% in his best years. Think of all the alley oops he could catch if he found the point guard and ran like the wind every single fast break. Think of all the leadership he could be doling out if he spent his time talking to his teammates instead of woofing to the refs and his coaches.
Bottom line, Josh Smith at age 25 is ruined. He's never gonna be who he could be and he certainly won't be who we need him to be in order to win a championship. And the thing that hurts most is that - on a nightly basis, without him - we just can't win as presently constituted. On this team, his worth is inflated to the point that it makes him seem more necessary than he is. This painful chapter will probably continue until we get the gonads to trade him for...Jordan Crawford and a 2nd rounder. Sigh....
Truth 5. Consistency Starts With the Coach
Coach Drew, you wanna know why your bench is inconsistent - because YOU are inconsistent. I don't know a NBA championship coach who is inconsistent. They believe what they believe wins titles and either the players get on board or they don't. Which brings us to the Hawks lack of player development along the bench.
There's not a player on the team outside of the starting 5 and Jamal Crawford who know what to expect from you, Coach Drew. It doesn't take a guy having to play in the NBA to understand that your confidence is built from stability and the Hawks bench is anything but stable.
When your 7th best player (Jeff Teague) can go anywhere from a DNP to 15 minutes on the court on any given day, you got trust issues. When your best backup post player (Zaza) goes from a consistent 15 MPG to DNPs inexplicably, you got trust issues. You want these players to go through a brick wall for you, then you need to stick with them through thick and thin. I'd actually be in your corner if herky jerky nature extended to the ENTIRE team, but no matter how many 3s with 20 seconds on the shot clock Josh Smith takes - he's playing his 35+ minutes. And if that's the case, then give your bench the same courtesy and see if some consistency comes with it.
Bonus Truth: The Home Crowd Complaints.
As an quasi-Atlanta native, this must continue to be repeated. Listen, Atlanta is overrun with folks from all over the country, largely places like LA, Boston, and NYC who don't get to see their teams but once or twice a year. These people come from places where the teams are institutions and have had some level of success that has entrenched the fan-dom so deep that it seeps from their veins.
That's not ATL. We're still a very young sports town. There's no Atlanta Hawks fans that are at granddad age. There's no evil eye and shaming of the family name for not growing up an Atlanta sports fan. And there's little success to look at and say - that's when I caught the fever. And then that does happen (i.e. Nique, Deion) - we mysteriously let them get outta town for ...(what did we get again for Deion?)
Why do I tell you this? Because people continue to move to our town and wonder why there aren't diehard Hawks fans buying all the seats and shouting down the people from these cities that are so awesome that they left them to enjoy our wasteland called Atlanta...the city with all this terrible weather and exorbitantly priced housing.
Trust me, the reason we suck as a sports city is because our OWNERS just have little to no idea of how to run sports organizations. Only Arthur Blank has been savvy enough to tap into what means most to Atlantans and he's been paid off handsomely in return. The Braves, Thrashers, and Hawks have not been that fortunate and until that luck turns around - you'll have folks from every team in the league coming in and shouting about how great their team is.
And why should we care when we give away first round picks for Kirk Hinrich? So, pipe down Mr. and Mrs. Why Does It Feel Like Madison Square Garden In Here - when (wait, if) we get a real owner that will subside real quick...see that Boston/Hawks playoff series a few years ago for confirmation, ya hear!
And that's the triple truth, Ruth...