Larry Drew, like Mike Woodson before him, is very good with the media. They listen intently to questions and take them seriously, even if their answers sometimes serve to confuse us as much as clarify strategy (cross reference Horford, Al and foul trouble for insight here).
In short, they are nice guys so much as it serves a Joe like myself, and I appreciate that.
The Hawks have had the same formula in place for quite a while at Philips Arena and it appears to have run into its limit in terms of upward progress towards a title.
Changing the players isn't much of an option considering their current ownership (want to buy a franchise?) and the status quo for now - no sense shaking things up and building for the future. Stepping back slightly to allow for a potentially higher ceiling is a scary proposition for an ownership group needing a known, stable product to peddle and maximize value today versus tomorrow.
Case in point was the seminal moment for this iteration of the roster two offseasons ago when, against our pleading and other longer-visioned Bird Watchers, we begged to build around Josh Smith and Al Horford, take a step back, and not consign the team to its current status by paying Joe Johnson his money. It was too scary for them to back away from the playoff perch they had settled into as a franchise even though the potential ceiling could have been greater by re-tooling in even that minor way.
Also impeding any attempt to improve the roster is the current cap situation. Ownership has maxed out their player credit card, having to sell the extra pick they had in the second round (read: the complete compensation for Josh Childress' sixth spot in the 2004 draft) to cover the costs of having Erick Dampier and Jason Collins together for the remainder of the season.
Just maintaining costs will be difficult moving ahead as Jeff Teague, who has to have made himself a part of the fabled "core" of players that management consistently refers to, moves towards the end of his rookie engagement and will require a raise.
Also, Josh Smith is entering the last year of his contact and the team should be reticent to imagine the loss of the many tasks that the "other" first round pick in 2004 provides on a nightly basis. Ignoring the ability to extend his contract after June 30 passes would be perhaps the final straw on a surprisingly large insulting haystack the team has built in front of Smith. He may still press the issue and force free agency, but the team has to, has to, has to put Smith on top of their priority list and try to get an extension done to show the Atlanta native they really do love and appreciate him after all.
So where does that leave the Hawks in terms of raising a playoff ceiling that the team is already bumping its collective head against?
The biggest bang for the franchise's buck could have come in the form of a new, experience voice on the bench. A new coach could have provided the spark that long time Hawks need to shake them out of bad habits, malaise and the like. With Nate McMillan, Stan Van Gundy and others out there, it might have been a fine time to make such a move.
The Hawks haven't paid top dollar for a coach since Pete Babcock brought in Lenny Wilkens 20 years ago. In fact, they haven't even hired a coach with NBA coaching experience since Lenny was let go at the turn of the century. Such cost-efficiency is probably wise as you are rebuilding but once a team has reached its plateau, as the Hawks have, and you are maxed out on what you can spend on players, again like Atlanta, then the suit on the bench is the last resort.
Picking up Drew's option, a noble nod to the solid work he has done for two seasons, relegates the Hawks to more of the same which, while it shouldn't be a surprise given the ownership condition of the team, sends a strong sense of staleness to the fans and the team.
A new coach could have gotten the attention, on the court, of its biggest players - and pushed them to a place they haven't been before. Larry Drew may have maxed out how much more he can coach Joe Johnson and Josh Smith to higher places.
And it's not like the team, in the face of such seasoned possibilities, made a strong statement of support for Drew - there is no extension, just a mere option pick up from a GM whose status is tenuous by his own making himself.
Fabulously strong moves from the team, eh?
The whole situation smacks of a temporary solution - maintaining as best they can and trying to tread water until something, whatever, resolves itself.
Ownership, management, coaching and the roster...all in a holding pattern until then, though of course everyone that sits courtside in ownership swear that's not the case, whether or not their actions betray their protests.
And Hawks fans, desperate for more, are forced to wait and deal with a palatable, yet completely unfulfilling status quo.
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