Things My Grandmother Could Teach About Basketball

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 06: Jeff Teague #0 of the Atlanta Hawks drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Phillips Arena on May 6, 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)
On this Mother's Day, I will be celebrating by taking my mother and my grandmother to the Hawks game.  Now, this sounds self serving, but for a family that has significant Indiana roots where basketball is king - trust me, I'm going to win the "who got the best gift for Mother's Day" crown for years with this one esp. since no one even remembers when my grandmother has attended a NBA game (she being the biggest NBA fan I know).  So, we're going to ignore the fact that she's a Bulls fan and just go with family over fandom.  I give this preamble because there are some things when talking to my grandmother that even SHE sees that bother her about the Hawks and I figured I'd share them before we head out to Game 4.  Here's the list:

1. Fast Break

I've always shared my distaste of the power forward and center leading the break.  I'm not sure where this became the phenomena, but it must stop.  Since rec league, Grandma and I agree that you should give the ball to the point guard and fill the lane with very few exceptions.  Not only that, (Note: Grandma didn't share this one, but it needs to be said) 90% of your fast breaks should end with a shot taken AT THE RIM.  I'm going to blow a gasket if I continue to see 3 on 1, 3 on 2 breaks continue to end with jump shots.  I know we're a jump shooting team, but that is ASININE!!!!!  Do they not do a 3 man weave drill in Hawks camp?

2. Be Aggressive

It's not just a high school cheer.  Maybe the reason we like jump shots is because of something else Grandma notices and that's that we don't like contact.  Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague are the only players I've seen in the Bulls series that have gone into the paint looking for contact.  I don't know if it's because we're afraid to foul and get pulled per Larry Drew's rules or it's because we're soft and simply don't want to BE fouled, but that fact has us looking very much like punks.  In the NBA, to the aggressors go the spoils.  (See Memphis Grizzlies for video evidence)

3. Your Power Forward Shouldn't Shoot Jump Shots

I know it's piling on, but I'm just speaking on what Grandma said...and even she can see that Josh is great inside the paint and he's not outside the paint (reserving Stevie Wonder joke). Again, if your power forward was so good at shooting 3s and long 2 pt shots, you should have some offense designed to take advantage of it.  It should be curious to the team and the player that you are always open for said shots.  There is another element that doesn't get spoken on regarding this and that's that his teammates should a) not pass it to him unless the shot clock is a factor or b) DIRECT HIS ASS TO THE LOW POST. I mean is it a NBA rule that you can't waive a guy off a spot and point to where you want him.  I recall my days in the rec league as a point guard and whenever players didn't have the IQ to perform tasks that they were good at - I told them what tasks to perform.  i.e. when Craig and 'nem were at the 3 pt line and we knew Craig and 'nem couldn't hit that shot, I gave a simple direction while dribbling to move to where they can make shots so I could give them the ball.  No movement, no ball.  Sometimes, it was a simple wave of the hand, sometimes it was yelled, sometimes it was whispered during timeouts...but it was clear that when possessions were golden and precious - we're not wasting it on Craig and 'nem's 3 point dreams.

4. If You Can't Take The Heat, Get Out the Kitchen

This one isn't something Grandma said, but she sure would co-sign this because my mom taught me this.  Be available to take the heat if you're available to take the glory.  Not much has been made of this, but it says something to me regarding the leadership vacuum in Hawks-ville when our co-captains are never available for post game press conferences.  I watched Dwight Howard take the heat for his teammates' failings throughout the first round of the playoffs.  Joe Johnson (twice) and Al (once) showed up only after wins.  Josh has never showed up.  Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague are NOT our captains. They should not be speaking for the team when we lose, yet Jamal is almost always the player who speaks for us when we lose.  Not only that, Joe Johnson wasn't even available to be INTERVIEWED after Game 3.  This has very little to do with basketball ability, but it does have something to do with accountability.  Athletes are always very vocal about their worth and why they should receive what they should, but those contracts do come with some obligations and I'm sorry, but our captains (and specifically Joe Johnson) should always be available to answer for the performance of his team - win or lose.  Every big money player does it and I'm not sure why it's even allowable that he shouldn't.  It speaks to the lack of leadership that has permeated this team and why we have such uneven performances.

5. Why Don't They Cut To The Basket?  

Cutting to the basket is what you do when a player is doubled and your shot is not an outside shot.  So, the perimeter guys can spot up for threes and the big men can CUT TO THE BASKET.  But you can't have everyone sit at a spot up position waiting for the doubled player to just pass it.  That's not how basketball works if you're trying to make it easy.  I can't recount how many times I said - uh, someone cut to the basket. Simple concept...

6. Body Language

You can see it in our body language when we are having a tough time playing the game, but it also extends to the bench.  When our players go to the bench, there's very little engagement with the game.  Only Josh seems to jump up and stay engaged with the game and the players when he's on the bench.  It is a stark contrast watching the OKC/MEM and LAL/DAL series and seeing the stars of those teams cheering and giving direction to their teammates while they are on the bench.  Something about that strikes a chord that those are teams in the truest sense and the Hawks are just guys who play together.  

Let's hope that some of these things change between now and Game 4 or else my blogging career will be alive and well for yet another year.  Let's Go Hawks!!!!

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