Nikki keeps me honest. Right, Nikki?
Looks like the Atlanta Hawks have hit adversity in the name of a Hawks injury, but So, it's time to read the disclaimer and then - let's go...
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. Al Horford's injury has ZERO impact on the Hawks playoff outcome.
And by no impact I mean - as long as everyone else stays relatively healthy (T-Mc & Marvin) - that the Hawks are still one of the top 8 teams in the conference. For those who panicked when Al went down, let me help everyone out. The Hawks are not a lottery level basketball team. The Hawks are not a contender for the NBA title. So, what happened when Al Horford was injured? Ummmmmm, nothing. Sure, we may not have a weapon that we are accustomed to having, but last year - we were one of the remaining 8 teams without point guard consistency, no All Star level production from the center or shooting guard, and Marvin Williams playing behind ...uh, some Wilkins fellow. So, what is it that I'm saying? That have a lot of talent. What we don't have is an efficient, cohesive use of all of those talents
(not to mention experience, leadership and an identity for those talents). So, before this is confused as Al Horford hate, it's not. I'll definitely stump for Al's defense and his ability to use his few touches to score points, but despite popular belief - he's no more a leader than Joe Johnson is. So, we're not going to miss anything other than production and depth and at the level that he's performed this season - we can approximate it elsewhere. I'll reserve my Al Horford is a souped up Chuck Hayes theory for another day. So, I simply say that there are only 4 teams with 2 All Star level talents to go along with some NBA level talent on the bench (though the jury is still out on Jannero Pargo). Maybe it would help if I remind everyone of who is left in the Eastern Conference. Here's who needs us to lose 2 more starters to have a chance at our spot - the Pistons, Wizards, Bobcats, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Nets. So, that leaves 9 teams. Which means only Milwaukee, Boston, and New York have a chance at beating out the Hawks for that 8th spot. Does anyone think that's going to happen? If you do, I have some land to sell. So, I repeat - Al Horford is definitely a piece we want back for the playoffs, rusty or not. But any thought that we need to lower playoff expectations (and shame on Larry "No Excuses" Drew for saying anything other than next man up) is ludicrous.
Listen, I have made it VERY clear that I have no confidence in Larry Drew or Rick Sund. I'm not sure if that'll change any time soon
(particularly after sitting behind the bench vs. the Raptors last week - he definitely handles Zaza and Teague MUCH differently than anyone else on the team), but the decision to add Ivan Johnson to the rotation could be a season saver. The only way you can make up for bad drafting decisions is to pick up diamonds in the rough. Signing a player like Wes Matthews can do wonders for your team. In this case, you can easily forgive the mistake of Pape Sy and Keith Benson if you keep an Ivan Johnson and he actually helps you win a game or two. The Hawks have needed another enforcer and it looks like they found one in Ivan. He'll never cost you more than the minimum and he's still going to contribute. This would normally be a squandered signing, but Drew is actually playing him through his inexperience and mistakes. I will keep my eye on this upon Al's possible return and other players' return to health.
Truth 3. Jason Collins should never start (not even vs. Dwight Howard).
I hate that I have to say this, but since Drew seemingly likes Jason Collins - I must. Jason Collins is done. He's not worth a roster spot unless you think you have to go through Dwight Howard to win a title. But since you don't - you would rather just have a player that can do something more than play one on one defense vs. Dwight Howard. If you are afforded the luxury to have him, fine - but I don't care what your thoughts are about Zaza Pachulia (and I happen to think he's a fairly good backup center, emphasis on backup) - he's light years better than Jason Collins. Shoots better, rebounds better, passes better and is tougher and more intimidating. Jason Collins is none of those things and if he comes into the game as anything other a backup - it sends a signal that he just has a problem with Zaza. And if you heard the names he called Drew vs. the Raptors - there is a problem brewing and if I'm him - I don't blame him. Drew has never shown Zaza the respect he deserves. Let's hope that the Horford injury will force Drew to give Zaza the grudging respect he's having to give Jeff Teague. And if he needs a big body on the 2nd string - his name is
undersized Ivan Johnson.
Truth 4. Larry Drew needs a technical.
I've been to probably 25-30 games a year since Philips Arena opened. The Toronto game was probably the worst officiated game that I've ever witnessed up close. There were a number of fouls that were not called on Jeff Teague, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams. The Raptors were given every ticky-tack call and even ones that weren't even fouls. At one point, Jeff Teague was given a technical foul for defending himself against a player who pushed him and was yakking with him. In the huddle, guess who's getting cussed out - Jeff Teague. Not only that - Josh Smith, who certainly has gotten technicals and never misses a chance to give an official an earful - was not talked to on ANY timeouts for any reason. Why is this being outlined? Because Larry Drew needs to learn how to stick up for his guys. On several occasions, I watched Drew passively suggest that maybe we could possibly get a call
(if the officials felt so inclined). Dammit, to get respect, sometimes - you gotta demand it. Sometimes, you just have to send officials a signal that your team will not be disrespected, esp. not at home on MLK Day. You have to say - we want equal rights because Bro. Martin said it should be so. And guess what - your team would respect you because of it. Not only that, it would benefit the team for that to happen. I certainly can't imagine that the Hawks are getting the benefit of any doubt from officials and that must change today.
Truth 5. 2012 Off-season Planning can't wait for 2012 Playoff Results.
The Hawks need more talent to win a title (
and a coach, GM, and owners) and to get more talent - they need to determine who to trade between Horford and Josh Smith, whether it's possible to get $20M/yr production from Joe Johnson (they can't), whether Marvin can be showcased enough to make him trade-able, and how to get cap room and/or draft picks. Here's what we know - that this is the deepest draft in the last 5-10 years, there are some great players who will be available in the off-season, and the Hawks are stuck in cap/draft limbo. Too capped to get a great player and too good to get a real difference maker. I know everyone wants to wait to see how far this team can go. Turn away if you aren't ready (SPOILER ALERT) - we won't (Al or not) win a title this year. So, we need to prepare for the off-season now. What does that mean - Kirk Hinrich is expendable and come trade deadline...everyone needs to be on the table. Don't get fooled into thinking anything else, my fellow Hawks fans or else we'll be at 2012-2013 with the same ceiling we've had for the past 3 years and with no way to change it.
Next week, we'll discuss - what's wrong with the fans? why Al Horford fans confuse important with best? why Josh overtake Joe and Al as our leader in 2012? Until then, 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...