As we get closer to the playoffs, it's time to get serious about our postseason prospects and that means the 5th edition of the Honesty Corner is ready for takeoff.
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. This postseason is a referendum on me, not the Hawks.
Listen, I think everyone knows where I stand with regards to the Hawks. Long time fan, fiercely loyal to the logo, but not much of a fan of the current regime. In Philips Arena, I'm all cheers. On the blog, I'm 100% ruthless about saying what I'm watching without an ounce of homer-dom, which leads me to say this. It's eerie how right I was about the Hawks this season. Check out my sseason preview. Here's what I missed on:
- That the Bucks would ever be a factor in the East
- That we'd get the 6th seed, not the 5th (though a tenth of a point for saying that 5th seed was the best we could hope for)
- The regular season record is still up for grabs (a 2-2 finish will seal the 46-36 that was predicted.
Now, recently, I've encountered some consternation from Hawks fans regarding being right about what ails this organization and there's probably something to be said for being as diplomatic as Hoopinion about it, but that's not the HawkStr8Talk way. We will continue to just highlight the issues as clearly as we see them and that means that our reputation for calling our shot is on the line. Since the offseason yielded no appreciable help toward the goal of winning a title, we took on the persona of a team that is regressing. By almost every measure, offense, defense, player development across the board, and coaching - the Hawks are worse than last year, which pushed us to say we'd likely lose in the first round. I still feel strongly that that will be the result (a 4-1 loss rings as a good prediction). If the Hawks can win a round, color me a fool for trying to predict these Hawks.
Truth 2. Larry Drew and Rick Sund's ineptness = Jordan Crawford as a Wizard.
Here's what I said when we traded Mike Bibby. So, you already know that I was NEVER a fan of this trade when a simple Jeff Teague start would suffice, but you give these things a chance (and yes, the playoffs will be the ultimate referendum) and see where they shake out. So far, it's shaking out snake eyes. The Hawks are .500 with Hinrich. The Wizards are 6-15 with Jordan Crawford (though 4 of the last 5 games have been wins 5-8 as the starter). If the trade was ONLY Hinrich for Crawford, this would still be a bad trade for the Hawks, but the fact that a first round draft pick was involved and we took on MORE salary - it just can't be overstated how bad this trade was for this organization. Now, so we don't get accused of ignoring that Jordan Crawford is getting minutes and shots that he wouldn't get for the Hawks - we acknowledge that (though if you look at what is causing Jordan's bad FG% - check his 3 pt shooting. If he stops shooting from 3, he's better than Joe and Jamal in almost every category). That said, it's arguable that Jordan's output over the past 15 games has been at minimum Jamal Crawford-esque and borderline Joe Johnson-esque. 40 vs. the Heat!?! Triple Double vs. the Cavs (which isn't all that impressive until you wonder when the last time Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford had a triple double). Wait - I'm gonna say it - he's playing better than Joe and Jamal, dammit.
The question all offseason was whether Jordan Crawford could be a cheaper version of Jamal Crawford or an emergency version of Joe Johnson and it looks like he could at least be that, but even if it doesn't - it STILL doesn't account for why he's had 41 DNPs in a season where Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague and Mike Bibby all have underperformed during the season on MULTIPLE occasions. I don't need him to be the 6th man, but are you telling me that arguably the 5th best rookie I've seen all year couldn't get off the Atlanta Hawks Thin Mint bench? Couldn't replace Damien Wilkins or Mo Evans or slumping guards at one time or another to the point that we thought he was disposable? Our offense has been so stellar that a shot in the arm was NEVER needed. It's simply maddening on Sund's and Drew's behalf. You can't convince this makes sense in any sphere anyone else lives in.
Truth 3. Joe Johnson isn't clutch.
This probably isn't news to most objective observers, but Joe Johnson's 4th quarter output lately has been pretty 6yr, 60M-ish. 3pt shooting has been below average and so, while you can forgive some parts, we simply need Joe to show up when it's clutch time and lately - it hasn't happened. Its his lack of clutchness that makes it difficult to swallow that he's owed $100M over the next 5 years. The reason you pay anyone that kind of money is either because they fill the building (no check), they sell product (no check), they win championships (no check), or they are pillars in the community (no check). So, right now, it's can you be clutch. We can't expect you to produce like a $123M basketball player because you were never worth $123M, but we can expect you to hit every big shot for your team and unfortunately, not even that's happening. And if I look back at his career - honestly, I remember as many clutch Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, and Al Horford plays as I do Joe Johnson. Something is wrong with that.
Truth 4. Denver is proving why you can let your star go.
It was bandied about by many that the fact that you couldn't replace Joe Johnson with a star of his caliber would send the franchise backward. This was part and parcel for why we bid against ourselves to pay Joe Johnson the most money of 2010's offseason. The fear of going backward. Now, that we're going backward anyway, it should be noted for future fears that the Denver Nuggets looked at the fear of going backward and simply got other pieces, changed their game, and kept moving forward. The team that had the #1 offense prior to the Melo trade now has the #1 defense after it. Not only that, they have picks, financial flexibility, a great coach, teamwork, and are...wait for it - 15 of 19 since the trade and arguably in a position to build toward a title in a way that they never could with Carmelo. This is why you can't panic in the face of tough bold decisions. This is why you don't re-sign Bibby, Marvin, and Joe at prices that are outside of reasonable expectations of their value. It's because the 'core' doesn't have to stay the same if the 'core' has never done anything of note that requires rewarding. Sure, Melo forced Denver's hand, but they got what they desired from it and moved forward. Joe forced our hand by not signing an extension - we should have taken that and decided that new parts at better prices were better than old parts at inflated prices.
Truth 5. Post-Game Press Conferences tell me everything.
This week, I had about 10 post-game press conferences on Sports South recorded that I never had listened to and so, I finally got around to watching them and guess what I learned...effort and urgency are Larry Drew's favorite catch phrases. When we win, we brought the energy. When we lose, we didn't feel the urgency and it's with that kind of astute analysis that I say - if it's about energy and effort, then you sir are firing yourself. It needs to be because Josh doesn't execute the offense or Jamal is not rotating on defense. You know things that they can do, but don't and even then, that's a coaching problem. Particularly, when the team and coach happen to see the game differently. That means...they haven't bought in and you can't change their output when you need to. At Game 78, if the team hasn't bought into your program, either your program sucks or you suck. Plain and simple. It didn't take the Bulls more than 20 games to buy into Thibs' program (or to have some tell it - Rose bought in this offseason and the rest of the team followed). Too bad, no one bothered to tell the team that they might want to lock into the program by game 25, so that Rick Sund could weed out and get rid of those who didn't buy in. Yep, the post game conference reveals all.
Bonus Truth. If a Jason Collins injury causes concern for your team, you are doomed.
I saw how well Jason Collins played Dwight Howard. I also saw a guy who has had about 50 DNPs go down with an ankle injury and all I have to say is - if that's a problem, then I change my 4-1 playoff loss to a sweep. Worry about Josh Smith's knee, not Jason Collins' ankle. I have zero confidence that Jason Collins is the difference in the Hawks' season. If Dwight Howard can't solve Collins in a 7 game series, he doesn't deserve to be paid $25M in 2012 by anyone. That's my word.
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...