There are really two options. To give credit to Mike Woodson or to apologize for giving too much blame in previous years. Ok there is a third and that is the no way, no how, no Woody philosophy. No matter how far you want to go in either direction, the scales are far from tipped. Ten games have not confirmed Woodson, his players, the team, or even we the fans have changed. It is a very good start, but starts necessitate not being finishes, and one can only go so far with proclamations early in an 82 game race.
Still, ten games are done, and the Hawks do look better. Endurance and focus aside, up to this point, one has facts to compare no matter the future. It may be incomplete comparisons, but trends have begun to show themselves. So as we look at Mike Woodson through ten games how has he changed as a coach? How has he not? How has either one of those affected the Hawks for good?
Some real changes
Mike Woodson has routinely played his entire second unit together. I cannot remember one time outside of a 20 point lead or deficit where that has happened before this year. I like it. Watching Joe Johnson play 7 minutes a game struggling to stay afloat with the second unit just seemed like a bad use of resources. Now that the full second unit can stay afloat on its own, it works quite nicely.
The low post touches are increasing. I am seeing that most clearly in the way 1) Horford cuts to the basket 2) people are looking for him. Al Horford is seeing the most increase in shots (and that is only one a game), but Josh Smith is playing more in the paint so it feels even more pronounced.
End of quarter plays. Sure you are going to see a lot of Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson clear out, dribble fest, and jumper shot, but at the end of the first quarter against Boston, Woody realized he had a guy who could demand a double team off the dribble in Crawford and got Joe Johnson a wide open three point shot. I swear, it really happened.
Some real standards
Two fouls. You get two fouls in the first half, you are going to sit. All you need to see is Josh Smith's 32 minutes despite full games of good attitude to realize Woody remains deathly afraid of a foul out. However, this odd phobia is less annoying when a team is winning.
Rookie point guards are going to be used situational. Like Acie Law, Jeff Teague appears like he is going to used with match ups more in mind than development. The bad news is that means a few DNPs. The good news is Mike Woodson is finding Jeff Teague more useful.
Joe Johnson playing big minutes to win. If the Hawks go down, Mike Woodson believes Joe Johnson is required for a comeback. Whether he is right or not is tough to say, but win or lose, Joe Johnson playing 44 minutes against the Knicks is tough to swallow.
Jamal Crawford. The guy is doing things we have never had before in Atlanta. He can break guys down, get to the foul line, pass well, and get (if not always hit) wide open jumpers. As Hoopinion has mentioned well and I have tried to talk about badly, Woody's job is to manage these great skills against Crawford's very real weaknesses. How can you hide his defense? How can you manage his minutes in a way to control his shot selection? So far Woodson has done a great job, but so has Crawford. Where to stop lauding Jamal with praise and start tipping your hat to Woody is a tough line to find.
Josh Smith. In the first ten games, the guy is a different player. Josh Smith at full effort not only erases his own faults but does a pretty good job of hiding Woody's as well. If Woody could not persuade Josh to play within himself for the first five years, it is tough to believe our coach broke through now. In my mind, Josh Smith jumpers were always a Josh Smith issue. The one place I put blame on Woody came with how he allowed Josh to be in position to shoot them...ever. Josh remains out there, he just takes them less.
Joe isolation. They still happen. They are still good. They still sometimes act as a crutch more than an advantage, but long stretches of the Joe show are not as long as they have been in the past.
See what you want.
Here is what is clear. Coaches get blamed for losses. Lets be honest. They are easier to get rid of. Players get credit for winning. Coaches have to overachieve or win championships to sniff that kind of credit.
Still, Woody has made mistakes in the past. He has left the door open for criticism. And while it may not be normal or feel good, I think people like myself should look to affirm Coach Woodson as fast I seek to ridicule him.
At this point though, you are going to see what you want. There is fodder for any argument, but that does not mean it makes the arguing less fun. So what do you think, in this young season, is Mike Woodson learning, is he lucky, or just finally found the crew to allow his same old tactics to work?