It's been over a month (January 30, 2012 to be exact) since my last post. This is for good reason - simply put, I had lost inspiration for this team and writing about it. Why? Because I was tired of always being negative about the team's prospects. So, I decided to take a break. Complaints from T-Mc on his PT, another trade deadline of nothingness, potential All Star snubs, and Josh Smith trade demands couldn't bring me back from the depths of blog hiatus-ness, but nothing can keep me down for long so the weekly updates are back.
We left off last time where we were saying that Marvin Williams was the non-Teague X factor for the Hawks (
which is turning out to be wrong), how the Hawks have raised their ceiling to a likely 2nd round playoff loss (another wrong), why our over .500 record was a concern (right, Alex), and why the need for national attention is unwarranted. Alas, more truths abound, so it's time to read the disclaimer and get to the truth tellin'...
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. Remainder of the Season = Operation Stay Above The 7th Seed.
Yes, that's really what the season has come down to. The Hawks are 30-21. Now, in the preseason review, I made the prediction that we'd end the season 38-28, 5th in the Eastern Conference and primed for a first round exit. All of these predictions are still attainable
(hopefully, exceedable) because of the fact that my prediction that our good run of health would likely end and that we'd be affected. It wasn't hard to make a stab that CHI, MIA, and IND could have better records than us based on their performance in last year's playoffs and their offseason moves. If I was of the belief that Dwight Howard would STAY with the Orlando Magic - then I would have put them up there too, but if I'm falling on the sword, then yes - my predictions about New York (a miss in the positive as I detest the Knicks) and Philly (a miss in the negative in that I didn't think they'd be this good). So, we're in 6th place and fighting to get to 4th, but in danger of falling to 7th. Hence, Operation SATSS.
Listen, our team is in a dogfight -Now, wins and losses are not really that important in the micro. Meaning - it doesn't matter if we lose to the Celtics if we beat the Pistons, Cavs, and Hornets. Everything we need to prove will be proven in the offseason, so no need to panic about any losses. We have 8 games with easy teams and 7 with medium to hard ones, so let's just win the ones we need, rest up and let's get this postseason proving ground started (
with Al Horford we pray).
Truth 2. The Hawks' injuries have been a blessing.
I know many of the Hawk faithful look at what's happened this season with regards to injuries as a reason to lament what could have been, but let's not get lulled into some sense of false championship hope. This team needed these injuries. The injuries allowed Jeff Teague to see his importance, Joe Johnson to understand that he has to PERFORM like more than an All-Star, Josh Smith (and the team) to see what happens when you rely on Josh to be the best player on the team, and for Zaza to prove without a shadow of a doubt that every minute some other center not named Al Horford is playing - it's a severe mis-judgment of coaching acumen.
So, yes - there's more...how else do you find a revelation like Ivan Johnson (who should be re-signed IMMEDIATELY)? How else do you find that players like Willie Green, Jannero Pargo, and the rest of the bench can be valuable in spurts or that Marvin Williams can function as a starter AND a bench player OR that T-Mc is simply a shell of his former self (a former self we hope is being preserved for a playoff run that will resolve to finally once and for all get him to the 2nd round playoff series. Now, let's not leave this to just player development. It also has made this team grow up. Responsibility. Accountability. The lack of EXCUSES. Reaching deep down to defeat teams it has no busines defeating. These injuries have created some fight in them that either indicts their past effort and/or highlights how a professional basketball team should play almost every night. Professional effort is very important. Glad to see the Hawks adhering to professional standards.
And I'm sorry to say that I don't know if THESE Hawks are possible if Horford is available, if Joe plays all season, if Jason Collins was considered a viable option to starting a VASTLY superior player in every single way, and if Hinrich is ready to start the season. So, I hate that it had to happen this way, but blessings don't always come in a neat shiny package. Here's to blessings however they come.
Truth 3. Josh Smith should focus on being All NBA, not an All Star
It's a widely held thought in Atlanta and many basketball circles that Josh Smith has been getting jobbed when it comes to All Star selections in 2010 and 2012. To those who have read my blogs, while we believe there is a good case to be made for Josh, we also believed that no great miscarriage of justice was being levied. It's an exhibition where selections deal in perception, voting by people who don't have time to watch all the games, etc. So, I ask that we all fix Josh's gaze on a selection that matters - All NBA. Yes, an even more select group who are voted upon by people who (despite their own biases) have the time to review an entire body of work and provide an analysis of production and value to a team.
When looking at the power forwards in the league - Josh doesn't rise to the level of Dirk and Kevin Love, but it's definitely arguable that the season being had by Josh can get him to All NBA Third Team. His season could compare favorably if not better than Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Chris Bosh. To rise to this level should solve the next season issue of who will represent the Eastern Conference in some meaningless exhibition game.
Truth 4. Rent-A-Bench will not work come playoff time or in the offseason.
The hidden problem in getting excited about this season - it's the RENT-A-BENCH. I'd certainly feel much more comfortable about the growth of the Hawks during this postseason and going into a more normal 2012-2013 season if we had more than Zaza Pachulia and (for now) Marvin Williams signed into next season playing off our bench. In total, Joe, Al, Jeff, Josh, Marvin, Ivan, and Zaza are the only players signed into next season. Of that crew, 3 of those guys (Josh, Ivan, and Zaza) are coming off the books the following season.
Have you ever seen a team with that little continuity throughout the team win anything of significance. Now, you can make the argument that save Kirk - Willie, Jannero, Tracy, Jerry, Jason, Damp, and V-Rad may not have any utility for this team next season. I won't debate that point
(though Green, Pargo, and Radmonivich at the league minimum is tough for me to argue against), but I will say that not having a team that can grow together will never be successful at the highest levels. So, if this team is serious about winning a title, then it's time to open up the wallets ASG and find bench players you plan to invest in beyond one season at a time. You can't expect that you'll be able to get this kind of bench at the league minimum each and every year.
Truth 5. Rick Sund & Larry Drew continue to be less than inspiring.
I won't even belabor the Drew part of this, though I will say I was excited to see the rare technical assessed to Drew as a result of his reaction to a mugging of Josh Smith. Too bad, it was only about 1 year and a half too late to give the team the sense that he actually has their back.
Let me preface the point I'm about to make with a couple of notes - 1) Rick Sund was never going to do anything to rock the boat unless it came with a contract extension and 2) Rick Sund is strapped with the tax considerations. Now, that said, this trade deadline passed with every need for this team still unfulfilled. I gave Sund one gold star for getting functional players to join the team on the cheap. I will remove that gold star because no one save Zaza Pachulia is signed beyond this season (see Truth 4). So, to not trade Kirk Hinrich (and yes, I realize this would have caused a problem when Jannero Pargo got injured, but as far as I'm concerned - preparing for next year is more important than trying to get to the 2nd round), to trade ANOTHER draft pick (and no, I don't care that it was a 2nd rounder - you can't choose Manu Ginobili if you don't have the pick to draft him with - what about cheap, developing talent are we allergic to), and signing Erick Dampier for the rest of the season only to have him playing BEHIND Jason Collins means that's a waste of our extremely limited resources (If Fesenko plays a meaningful minute for the Pacers - increase my anger five-fold).
BTW, If Jason Collins fell in a forest, would anyone hear it? I mean seriously - did anyone make ONE request for Jason Collins (coaches, players, fans) while he was out? Seriously, the biggest failing of Rick Sund is the fact that Jason Collins
(and Erick Dampier for that matter) are on this roster.
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...