It's been a long time - 2 months to be exact, but life happens, but we press forward in a time where the Hawks have had a wing clipped or two. And when that happens, you need answers and so, I provide you the TRUTHS!!! 5 of 'em and a suggestion for our lineup change...
- Everyone should be on the block - Let's just get to it. No one on this team is untouchable. No vet, impending free agent, or rookie should be feeling safe right now. Not Josh, not Al, not Teague... of course, there's a practical matter of having Lou or Ivan or Jeff or our rookies on very cap friendly contracts, so the deal needs to be right, but at this juncture there are flaws in all of our players that say - for the right price, we should do what we can to make this team closer to the whole that can compete for championships. I'm not sure there's anyone on the roster at this point that I see as a foundational piece. NOT ONE PERSON. Since I'll address Josh next - I'll go to Al. I've said it before and I say this with respect and love for him as what he represents for our organization, but I'll repeat - he's a rich man's Chuck Hayes. Meaning he does all the little things and (for the rich man part) does some big things too, but it's nothing that elevates this team when elevation is completely necessary. For that, he's a great #3 on a championship team. Not sure we can afford to wait to get a #1 or #2 to utilize him in that role though.
- Josh Smith cannot be your captain - Remember, my blog and stance is always about winning titles. If you want to win a title, I don't care how much you love Josh (and I've been one of his biggest supporters from day one), then you can't support Josh Smith as a title winning captain. Your captain should be an extension of the coach on the court and in the locker room. Well, on the court, his shot selection and inability to control himself with the officials sends a message that you don't want a team to emulate. In the locker room, we've seen on numerous occasions where the coach's view of what should be happening is contrary to Josh's view. This is as it was with Woodson and is the same with Drew. No doubt about Josh's many talents, but they aren't any closer to converging than they have been over the past 3 years. You can't have a captain whose talents diverge as starkly in terms of when to take shots, effort, free throw shooting, and outright leadership. I love Josh and I certainly would love to continue to have him represent the Hawks, but he can't be your captain. Period.
- The Real Larry Drew has arrived - Like many of you, I must admit that I was beginning to slowly get to the point where I believed that maybe Larry Drew was learning on the job enough to do things like not sit people with 2 fouls unnecessarily, like riding the hot hand, like calling TOs and making personnel changes as it was dictated. I saw the integration of John Jenkins, an understanding that Ivan Johnson must play nightly, and so on and so forth. Then, the last month happened. And everything I've always believed reared its head. Sporadic rotation decisions, random DNPs (Ivan with DNPs next to his name still defy understanding), player indifference, tardy TO decisions, an inability to work the officials (
which leads the players to try to do it for him) and the most important one - a lack of response by the team when the Coach calls you out. To be clear, there is no need to panic about this losing streak. These things happen to all teams (see Heat, Miami right now), but when your coach calls you SOFT and you proceed to lose 2 of 3 MORE games by double digit amounts and where you continually find yourself down by almost 10-20 nightly during that stretch - there is something wrong. You can't let your boss tell you that you are soft and you then go and prove him RIGHT. That's just a sign of - hey, we have tuned you out or are ready to force the firing of said coach. And that's where this is - you can't fire the players, so we are 1-2 more weeks away from the Danny Ferry decision point. He's already shown that the trigger has no heart. I love that Coach Drew has decided to make changes - it's warranted, but it might be too little too late. That's why the Coach of the Month and early COY praise was as much fool's gold as a Josh Smith 1st Quarter 3pt jumper. It may sound good at the time, but it'll end up biting you in the ass in the end.
- Déjà Vu Anyone or Not - For the past 4 years - the Hawks have done this thing called having a fast start. By midseason, they level off as other teams begin to find their footing and improve and then, it's a race to the playoffs. Well, we're in the midst of the same pattern. My guess at it is that we pretty much play the season as a year-long quest to collect as many Ws as possible without regard to building a team that is peaking by season's end. The latter method means you will win games, but that losing games early at the expense of growing a team, finding the best roles, and gaining trust in your best team come May and June is ok. It's why San Antonio will sit starters. It's why you see rookies playing in roles that teams need them to fill by season's end for contenders and mid-range teams alike. The Hawks have always settled on a team and then just played out the string. This season is different rotation wise, but the veterans have kept the Hawks afloat and the result has been the same. The difference is that it's possible that the very sporadic nature of our lineups could be the very thing that's shaking the chemistry and confidence of this team. Don't have a hard answer on this, but it's one that bears watching. Teams should peak by playoff time. For the most part, the Hawks never do.
- HawkStr8Talk Don't Lie - Almost all of the points made in the last two Truths (that's a hint that says - read this and this) still hold up to scrutiny fairly well, but I think it's important two months later to point out 2 points that I made about this team that had the most derision. First up - Off Court Chemistry is not the same as On Court Chemistry. The first month or so almost had me fooled, but as Robby and I debated - I don't need to be at practice to determine whether the product on the court will be affected by trade talk, future free agency, and lack of trust. People discount human nature too often in determining why things go south. The recipe for disaster is up in bright lights for this team. Too many people need contracts to expect awesome chemistry. Why you ask? People gotta sacrifice. It's easy not to have that show up early, but when your future gets closer to being at at stake - at the whims and wishes of a lame duck coach, mind you - it's not hard to see it fracture rather easily and quickly. That's our last 2-3 weeks and it's led to the roller coaster the Hawks are on right now. It'll pick up as the schedule dictates because as we should all know - the Hawks beat bad teams. Which leads us to this question - if we don't get back to our 3rd seed like ways - do you want to be the 6th seed as I predicted or a lottery team? (Hint: I like Mega Millions!)
Final Note: Larry Drew, you want to shake up the lineup. I'll just remind people of what one sage young writer said at the start of the season - START JOHN JENKINS. If you're not starting Lou, then your next best shooting guard is John Jenkins. If you're going to lose, lose with the future. The benefit to the team (growth with the starters) and Coach Drew (ability to blame this fallout on playing youth) is obvious.
And that's the quintuple truth, Ruth.
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