Larry Drew was predictably upset with his team's performance Monday night in Chicago. Following the game he delivered a stern message to his team and promised changes to the media afterwards:
"This was a very, very embarrassing," Drew said. "From where we were as a team to where we are right now we have lost all sense of team on both ends of the floor. Why that has happened, I really can't put my finger on it. To have a team that started off so well, that really trusted and believed in each other at both ends of the floor, we have lost that sense of trust for one another. Why that has happened, I really have no idea. I will say, it's time that we do shake things up. As we go back to Atlanta to prepare for Brooklyn (at home Wednesday), there will be some changes. We have to find a group that will compete on both ends at a high level with no excuses, with no finger-pointing as far as blaming officials, blaming each other.
The feel good start to this season is now over and although there is still a lot of basketball left to be played, it feels as though the team is approaching a crossroads. Drew went on to promise changes to team's lineup:
"We need to shake things up and that will be the first line of business when we get back to Atlanta is to make some changes within our lineup."
He stopped short of saying what those changes might be. Drew has juggled his lineup in the past and of late so it remains to be seen what sort of effect that will have on his team. Early on the team bragged of "buying in" to Drew's system but that looks to be hardly the case at this point. Wholesale changes to the lineup might not be the best thing at this point. Simplifying things down and getting this team back to doing the things that made them successful in the first place should be the goal. Benching a veteran or key player could backfire and risk losing the team even more.
Here is video of Drew's post game presser:
Since Drew has promised lineup changes lets take a look at his options:
The shooting guard spot has been a revolving door this season with Drew going with Devin Harris, DeShawn Stevenson, Lou Williams and Kyle Korver at times. Stevenson is hurt as is Anthony Morrow so they are not likely options for Wednesday's game. Harris seems like a good bet to play somewhere but Drew could opt to start rookie John Jenkins who has played as well as anyone of late.
Same thing applies at the small forward position where Korver has been most of the season. Atlanta's lack of ball movement of late is hurting Korver and his production is suffering. The problem is that Drew doesn't have a lot of options at the three unless he wants to put Josh Smith there and go big.
Drew can make any of these moves without causing too many ripples but there is nothing really any different here than what they have been doing the entire season.
A Step further:
Drew could opt to sit Jeff Teague and start Devin Harris at the point. Teague like the rest of the team has struggled of late and this might be an option that Drew takes a look at. Harris is a veteran and should things turn around it could mean trouble for Teague longterm.
Push the panic button:
If he really wants to make a statement then benching either Al Horford or Josh Smith will make the most noise. Horford is likely to accept it well outwardly but don't expect him to be happy with the decision. A move like this would be just temporary but could have some long lasting effects.
The same thing goes for Josh Smith. It would take a lot of guts for any coach in LD's situation to bench Smith in what is a contract season for both parties. Smith's talent affects the Hawks the most when he is playing well as well as when he is struggling. It just seems that benching him would likely do more harm than good particularly for a coach whose future is so uncertain.
I'm not sure at this point that Drew needs to carry the whip to his team. We are already seeing them fracture on the court and browbeating them now may drive a wedge further between the players and the coaching staff. They need to get back to working as a cohesive unit and beating a dead horse isn't likely to solve anything. If things have gone so far South in the locker room then a personnel move needs to be made. If there is a detractor pulling this team down then move him because this is a bridge season anyway.
As is always the case in professional sports, the head coach is the most vulnerable. Ultimately it is Drew's responsibility to have this team ready to play and it is those players responsibilities to put forth a professional effort. Neither side should be in a hurry to push Danny Ferry into a decision of who is at fault.