One last Honesty Corner before our Postseason Preview Truths, so let's get to it.
Disclaimer: As always, all criticisms come after blaming the Atlanta Spirit Group first, management second, and then coaches and players last. Those criticisms come through the prism of winning championships (or the things that result in championship team building).
Truth 1. Wizards' Loss Foreshadows Certain Playoff Futility.
Let's start with this. The losses to the Pacers
and Wizards happened without Josh Smith or Jason Collins
. That matters....for about 5 points. After that, what happened the last two games is ludicrous. I've spent an inordinate amount of time speaking with full throated clarity that this team is weak-minded, rudderless, and lack leaders. Does someone want to offer an argument that disputes that? Where's the leader who either says "Coach Drew, we don't want to play and rather than embarrass you and the organization - we implore you to rest us and play the reserves or says we will do our damnedest to blow these guys out, SO we can rest." That can't be understated any more than when you lose with the ease that you lose vs. the Pacers (a team also looking for momentum going into the playoffs) and then, come back and have no pride vs. a team that has former teammates on it ready to show you why you made a mistake by trading them.
How that happens...how no one gets tossed (Coach Drew), how no one absolutely obliterates their teammates (Joe, Al, Josh), and how you let the 3rd WORST team beat you by 30 points is beyond unfathomable. I used to be under the impression that we could only possibly defeat the Sixers, Knicks
, and Pacers in a playoff series and the Knicks and Sixers were iffy, but now - no 7 game series is safe. For those who got excited by the prospect of the Magic
as the opponent, this sets up as a sweep if I've ever seen one.
Truth 2. Game 80 I Don't Knows.
Anytime your captains say that they don't know what to do to make things better in game 80 - you are failing. Whenever your coach is unable to pinpoint ways to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal - it's pretty much a wrap. All these 'I don't know' give me a 'I do know' and that's I do know that we're not winning a playoff game, much less a playoff series.
Also, here's a quick note - if anyone is under the impression that this team much like what happened last year with Mike Woodson
hasn't checked out - how then do you explain that the coach was very clear that he wanted to use these last 4 games to gain momentum and they instead laid down, presumably to rest and avoid injury. I'm just waiting for the first player to say it's time for Coach Drew to go because I've yet to hear ONE Hawk make a declaration all season about their support of Coach Drew. If the Hawks had courage and wanted to win, one of them would say so.
Truth 3. Rest Trumps Momentum.
Not that it should have happened the way it did, but the players are right - the coach is wrong. At this stage in the season, we've played enough to know what the Hawks will do. 4 meaningless games are not going to generate enough momentum to offset the health needed to even make this Magic series competitive and guess who agreed - the players!!! The same ones who didn't put forth any effort toward the first 2 games. Listen to these quotes
and these quotes
and tell me they aren't essentially saying - I have to say something about momentum because that's what coach said, but really - sit my ass until Game 1 of the NBA playoffs.
And I felt this way (and posted about it) before finding out that Marvin hurt his ankle. How hard was this decision Larry Drew
? Didn't you realize that if they haven't bought in by game 78, then they weren't bought in and so, going for rest was really your last gasp at salvaging a mediocre first campaign. Seriously, how hard was this decision? Forget these last 2 games as well and protect Jason, Josh, Joe, Al, and Marvin above any desire to win 2 meaningless
Truth 4. Optimism lies in unlikely places.
I've been accused of being the most pessimistic fan in the Hawks blogosphere. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but I would say that it's interesting that 3 years after I started blogging that the interest in blogging about the Hawks is at an all-time low. I'm not sure how you stay positive when your organization is like that guy who buys a new car, then tricks it out with garish logos, rims, stereo systems, etc and wonder why the car doesn't produce at the same value and why it can't be resold for anything close to what was paid for it while our counterparts are buying prime real estate and a few foreclosures that can be flipped for twice their value. I don't even know of a commenter who has positive things to say about this team these days, so that's a preamble to say - it's not just me.
With that as the backdrop, I will say this - and I hope this is something that Larry Drew can hang his hat on - the best players of the past month are....Zaza Pachulia
and Jeff Teague
. Yes, it surprises me too. Of course, you'd wish those names were Joe Johnson
, Al Horford
, our basketball Tupac (Josh Smith
) or even Kirk Hinrich
, but we have to give credit where its due.
Jeff Teague has every reason to put a big middle finger in the air to 2010-2011 and the coaching staff of the Atlanta Hawks
. The hook has been unkind and unfair to Mr. Teague and yet, he still is coming into games saying - I'm going to show you how good I can be despite the fact that you've had me playing my whole career with ball hogs, without an offensive game plan that requires a point guard to initiate play, watching a shooting guard who wasn't been shooting well and doesn't defend worth a damn taking his backup point guard minutes, or some of the worst reserves in the NBA. Despite that, I still try to shine. Then, we find ourselves watching a game Zaza Pachulia. He too has shined in the face of a coach who publicly humiliated him during a blowout for taking a bad shot on a team that has been taking terrible shots for 3 years without any repercussions and also in the ignominy of having to watch our 3rd string center occasionally start over me despite the lack of productivity from the 3rd string center for the last 2 years. Despite these things, these guys are playing well and deserve rotation minutes. Zaza probably will get them. Teague not so much, and yet optimism reigns. And it better since there's no other place where growth can come from this roster as it's presently constituted. Take a bow, fellas, take a bow.
Note: I still stand by the fact that if Larry Drew continues to be head coach. Jeff Teague and probably Zaza Pachulia are no longer Hawks in 2011-2012 and this makes sense because we don't keep appreciable assets in this organization.
Truth 5. Fans fearful of change are killing this franchise.
Before you take this too far, READ THE DISCLAIMER ABOVE first. So, of course, the fans are LAST on the list of problems for this organization, but with that said - if I have to read another fan who brings up Mike Woodson, Billy Knight, or how bad the old days were as a reason to accept or delight in how far we've come...I'm gonna break something. Listen, this is about titles. The jerseys, the sports bar trips, the blogs, the overpriced seats, the adulation...AT SOME POINT HAS TO TURN INTO A TITLE. If you are happy with first round playoff exits and content with mediocre output on an annual basis, then keep your mouth shut and just enjoy it. Don't get in the way of us who realize that you have to have leaders, develop talent, have judicious use of limited resources, and demand excellence from the GM, the coach, and the players. It's tiresome to have to debate what we all know to be true. This team is doomed to be a 6th - 8th seed for the next 3 years with NO hope of winning a series. That's what you're watching..at their best. You're watching the Sixers, Knicks, Pacers, Wizards, and Nets
all prepare themselves to leapfrog the Hawks with only two teams (the Celtics
(age) or Magic (losing Howard), though you know they will spend or do whatever possible to stay contenders) who could conceivably drop to our level or below it.
So, you can debate how the change happens, but you can't debate that change MUST occur and must occur now. There's no in between. No more if we get rid of Larry Drew - we could end up with oh, Terry Stotts
. No more if we get rid of Joe Johnson - we could end up with Michael Redd. Those things are true statements, but guess what's also true....you could get next year's Thibodeau (Lawrence Frank
, anyone?), you could move Joe Johnson and get draft picks and some cap space and some prospect who can lead this team. Bottom line, being the 13th or 14th best team in the NBA is nothing to be excited about. The difference between 13th and 25th is not really all that large. Those teams get up for the Lakers
too. They make it competitive vs. the Bulls
too, but just lose about 10-20 more games they shouldn't lose. Ya know like when they play the Hornets
at home or when they lose to Wizards on the road after already being embarrassed.
Like I said, enough with the fear of change - let's ALL support the fact that major change is necessary. No one on this roster is untouchable (yes, I'm talking to you, Al, Josh, or Joe). Doesn't mean I wouldn't miss some guys, but at this point - no player is so stellar that they can't kick rocks for the right price.
Bonus Truth. When Mike Bibby is making layups and going to the free throw line, you have no hope.
Yes, the game was a disaster UNLESS you were a reserve and unfortunately, the reserves (save Zaza and Jamal) will not be making appearances during the playoffs and even if they do - there won't be any trust in them to contribute to the task of winning the game. There's little evidence that if the game was meaningful that Coach Drew wouldn't have pulled the reserves at some point (and for the record, Josh Powell could have been replaced by another reserve). So, if you strip back to the guys who needed to gather some momentum, well - short of Josh Smith shooting jump shots successfully (and even that's fool's gold) - there was nothing to be excited about from our starters. I could recount the ways, but I think my headline says it all.
The quickness deprived Mike Bibby took Kirk 'brought here for his defense' Hinrich to the hole 2 of 3 possessions, found the free throw line on a drive, and simply outplayed Kirk Hinrich in a way that almost no other point guard is outplayed vs. Mike Bibby. And this on the heels of the ex-Hawks in Washington outplaying our new acquisition just spells the unholy trifecta. We have the worst players, draft picks, and salary implications from our trade. How is this not an unmitigated disaster again. Don't let the reserves play mask what was most important. If we actually believed that those reserves are going to provide real support during the playoffs, then that game has value. Coach Drew's trust in his bench leads me to believe that none is the answer. And I have yet to discuss how listless we looked defensively when the starters were on the floor. No hope, I tell you...
And with that note, that's this week's 5 Truths....agree or disagree if you must, but if it's the Honesty Corner, then it can't be lies. See you in the comments...