ATLANTA, GA - MAY 12: Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks walks onto the court during introductions before facing the Chicago Bulls in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Going to focus on Game 4 & 5 and the Atlanta Hawk fans, so let's get 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. The media is lazy.
The Atlanta Hawks fan base has been hit hard for far too long. Listen, the fans in Atlanta are not the most rabid fan base in the country. That's not news, but I want to dispel the myth that the Hawks fans are not good fans. Media, if you're going to lob a grenade at us, do your job and lob the right one. If I hear one more 'it's 50/50' when it's really just about 1000 tops all in the same proximity, I'm gonna scream. Here are the reasons other teams' fans are in Philips Arena (in order):
- Everyone has moved to Atlanta!!!! I don't know why this point never gets offered up when we wonder why there are other team's fans in the building. No one is TRAVELING to Atlanta for these games. They all live here and have money just like me. In the last 15 years, 3 more million people live in the 28 county metro area (note: there were only 5 counties that made up the metro area when I moved here when I was 5). So, it's a fair statement to say uh...a SIGNIFICANT (read: hundreds of thousands) number of those people might come from cold as hell Boston, Chicago, New York and from expensive as hell Los Angeles. Those are the only cities that bring fans to our arena. Is it that hard to figure out that when tickets go on sale that those individuals could go and purchase the 1-3 games when those guys are in town? Unlike us the true Hawks fans who have 41 games to choose from...economy's tough and yes, it's a transplant town. And before you bring up other arenas - let's just keep it all the way 100%. No other NBA city is like Atlanta. Only DC, NYC, Miami, and LA can claim that people are moving to those cities in the numbers that they could actually buy a BLOCK of seats and cheer for their home team, but only in DC and Miami (pre-LeBron) could you actually buy those seats. NYC and LA seats are sold out all season no matter what. Why? Because win or lose, there are 20M people who live there. Supply and demand says - those games will always sell out. So, this phenomena is only possible in two cities - DC and Atlanta. And it's not going to happen in DC because the Wizards suck. If I move to any city with a NBA team, put my Hawks tickets in pen and I'm gonna cheer my butt off and if 1000 folks like me live there, we'd sound like we were running the building too.
Truth 2. Larry Drew has excelled at the assistant coach functions, not the head coach functions this postseason.
It grates on me each time I hear that Larry Drew deserves credit
(probably my Teague treatment bias) this offseason, so let me illustrate why Larry Drew has been an assistant coach for so long (and should remain an assistant coach once his head coaching tenure ends). First, he's made great use of making game to game adjustments to the starting lineup and defensive adjustments to focus on the matchups. You can tell that it has given Chicago something to account for throughout this series.
Similarly, when faced with making those in-game adjustments and substitution patterns, Drew has been too reliant on hoping the players he likes most
(veterans) will reward his faith instead of going with what his eyes are showing him. So, if Zaza has 11 points in the first half, see if Zaza can get 11 more in the 2nd half. If Jeff Teague is slowing down Derrick Rose, then don't ask Jamal Crawford to try to mimic that effort. It's ok to use Damian Wilkins in a situation where you have seen no sign of Marvin Williams providing anything in this series. That's what we expect from a head coach. We expect a head coach to not rely on what he's always relied on come the 4th quarter and to take the ball out of the max contract guy and the 6th man's hands if they have shown that they aren't able to make shots. I know that's risky, but no risk/no reward.
Not only that, he's made very little use of the media to a) motivate his team (the energy and effort excuses are really getting old) and b) to express the point that we deserve calls from the officials too. Game 4 was ridiculous. You want the team to stop bitching the refs, then that means YOU have to bitch for them. You can't allow them to make terrible calls without at least once in a while losing your ever-loving mind. The refs are human and you can bet that if they know that you won't be ripping them a new one - you just might take a few extra bad calls or never get a make up one. You played in the league, Drew - you know how this works. Now, time to make your money, Drew, or show us why you should have stayed an assistant coach in the first place.
Note: Is it only ironic to me that the guys who have gotten the biggest shafts from Larry Drew have played their best this playoff season and the guys who have been trusted the most by him have been the most inconsistent?
Truth 3. Changing of the Guards (the Jeff Teague edition).
I'm sure this will seem self-serving
(but when has that ever stopped me before), but it's probably the appropriate time to highlight my thoughts about Jeff Teague's impact on this season back in November. It's been well documented how much I believed that every person who believed that Jeff Teague shouldn't have been starting (yes, starting) LAST SEASON after the All Star break was short sighted and that any belief that he needed to 'win' the starting job this season was insane if they wanted to see the team (and Teague) take a step forward. CoCo and I were pretty close to alone in believing this. Again, I will simply say with much more confidence...welcome to the party everyone. I don't say this with an 'I told you so' because I'd believe it if he failed miserably this season (because it would allow us to determine what to do with the point guard position this offseason), but I do take some pride in seeing Woodson and Drew exposed significantly on this issue on the brightest stage possible. Teague has proven this so thoroughly that even Acie Law is asking for retribution.
As for his on court performance, I'm at the point where I don't feel good about any possession where Jeff isn't a part of it. If he's not there to play defense, I'm nervous. I'd rather Jeff break down his man one-on-one than Joe or Jamal. He's shown no inclination to take numerous bad shots, turn over the ball, or to not play hard. What more do we want from our point guard? He's had 5 straight solid, if not spectacular performances. Who on the Hawks has done that? No one else. Sure, we had some better performances, but overall - offense and defense..only Josh's Game 4 compares. As soon as we start to value defense as a skill to covet as an organization, we'll start to see that Jeff has the upside to be more valuable than Joe Johnson to this organization
(which says more about Joe Johnson than Teague but I digress).
There are questions still being asked such as - what to do with Hinrich
(trade or new 6th man), Jamal (sign and trade!), and whether Jeff should be starting when everyone is healthy to which I say - this is no longer a question, people. For a capped out team with no draft picks, you must start Teague not only on merit, but because he costs you next to nothing and you need to better utilize the cap room taken by Crawford and Hinrich (and Williams, Thomas, Powell, Collins, and J. Johnson). So, let's not be fooled. The Teague era is here - let's just hope that we have a coach who is able to value and push Teague vs. retard his growth. [Note: I'm on record that what's happened to Teague is worth Drew losing his job all by itself.]
Truth 4. The officials are affecting this series.
Those who follow my blog - they know I don't do the official blame game. I think it's useless and discounts the human error factor. That said, I must say - every delusional Bulls fan who thinks that the Bulls aren't getting the benefit of some extra help from the officials isn't watching the games. The only thing I'll give them is that the mistakes they are making that the Hawks are benefiting from have just been a little more bizarre and egregious (an inadvertent whistle? Really?), but in general - I'm watching both teams in the paint getting contact, but only one player is getting a call each and every time.
I'll just say what I always do and that's that - great players are already great. They don't need any extra help to make them greater. That said, let's hope that the officials don't help on either side and may the best team win Game 6
(and Game 7).
Truth 5. Where is our All Star production?.
I have high expectations of our best players and all I can say is - this is the time when you prove that you're an All Star or All-NBA. So, this last truth is pointed at you, Joe Johnson and Al Horford. The best players for the Hawks this series are Jeff Teague and Josh Smith. Think we might be able to win this series if our All Star/max player and recently minted All-NBA center were actually performing as such. Yep, I do too. We already have seen the complete disintegration of Marvin Williams (and an unwilling replacement of him for Damien Wilkins) and the inevitable shooting slump by Jamal Crawford, but while we can overcome them with energy and effort - we can't overcome the lack of elite production from our most talented
(expensive) talent. Simply put, the All stars have to step up and prove their elitism (and earn their paychecks).
Let's go Hawks!!! Game 6 starts now...
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...