Back again with more Truths as we move toward the 2nd half of the NBA season, take a break for All Stars, and truck through the trade deadline. Since we last spoke, lots has changed, so it's time for more knowledge from HawkStr8Talk. The Anti-FIF (Chappelle Show, stand up) is here to please, so let's go...
- Lou Williams' Injury Means... - Nothing for the Atlanta Hawks outlook on this season. We knew that these Hawks were going to make the playoffs. We knew these Hawks were not going to make a sustained run in the playoffs. We knew that Lou was as locked into a role (6th man) now and in the future for this team as anyone, SOOOO - yes, it sucks that he's injured and you never know what an injury can do to a career, but as I said when Al went down last year - this really changes our trajectory very little. In fact, I'm almost at a point of saying - blessing in disguise might be a more apt response for this organization if it results in more minutes for John Jenkins. Any investment in his development this season that results in a starting position for Jenkins OR some revelation that a better long term solution at the shooting guard position should be found, then Lou's time with the rehab team will not be in vain. So, for those people looking for a scapegoat for why the Hawks aren't (fill in the blank), look elsewhere. The Hawks are a better team with Lou Williams, but the ceiling for this season (and the floor for that matter) didn't change as a result.
- The Hawks Didn't Deserve An All Star - This probably isn't a popular opinion, but the Hawks have always been fortunate to even be able to call Al Horford an All-Star. He was never one of the best 12 players in our conference (certainly not more so than Josh Smith) and I've been on record that only in 2009 was it really that close that Josh Smith was one of the 12 best players in the conference. Those points lead me to this - the Hawks have gotten proper All Star consideration over the past 6 years. I know we want more respect, but when those players aren't SNIFFING All-NBA consideration (a much truer expression of quality of the year a player has since it's more apt to be devoid of coaching and fan biases) - do we really need to debate whether Hawks are getting robbed of trips to the All Star exhibition? I don't think so and this year, the timing of our worst stretch coupled with the fact that our two best players are having OK years on an OK team means you get OK consideration. So, we didn't deserve an All Star and we all should be OK with that. What we shouldn't be OK with is NOT seeing Kyle Korver in the 3pt contest. Now, that's worthy of some rabble rousing.
- The Hometown Discount Don't Lie - Obviously, Josh Smith has and will be a topic of trade discussion for the next 3 weeks. I will weigh in on this in more detail in a future column, but it's probably important to say what I said in the last Truths - everyone is tradeable. I love Kyle Korver, but if he's worth a future #1 - adios! I love Ivan Johnson, but if he must be packaged for a building block for future Hawks titles, then c'est la vie! I know we all like to pontificate about who is and isn't untradeable, but for all of the love I have for this team - there's still not one player that has established themselves for this team as indispensable to the goal of winning a title. Which brings me to Josh Smith. It took me 4 years, but I'm now firmly in the Josh can be traded camp. Hate to say it, but I'm not one for mincing words. Josh Smith, for all of his talents, is just a Joe Johnson clone if you fete him with a max contract. Which means you can't give him a max contract. Which means if we want to keep him in Atlanta and still harbor championship dreams - he's gotta give a hometown discount. Spare me the ‘someone will give him a max contract' spiel. I know some desperate team will be willing to give him more than hie's worth. We've been down this road before and failed the test. Until I learn that the Atlanta Spirit is willing to pay into the luxury tax to acquire players, it's impossible for the Hawks to pay the max to Josh Smith and field a contender, so let Josh prove that he wants to win here and that means - give up the hometown discount. Period. Not only that - Josh Smith, robbery or not, is barely an All Star, not a good captain, and makes questionable decisions on and off the court. If anyone else in the NBA had those credentials, you'd laugh at the notion that we never need to consider anything over $15M a hometown discount. In fact, we've already BEEN that organization (see Johnson, Joe). Al Horford is a wondrous player for any contender....if you consider him your third best player. Jeff Teague is a wonderfully talented young guard IF he gets a coach to motivate him AND allow him to actually run the team (and even then, he still needs to be your 4th best player or worst). The point I'm making here is we have a bunch of almosts, potentials, and solids - we need a player a step above that and should be willing to pay top freight for it. Josh Smith isn't that. When we're talking about family (and I consider Josh family) - sometimes, you have to speak truth to it. The hard truth is that if you are paying Josh Smith max money - you aren't and won't be a contender. With this CBA and our collection of talent and coaching, some truths are self-evident and painful, but it's time...if we want to win a title. We either get Josh for the hometown discount ($13-$15M) or we should usher him out the door.
- Larry Drew's Everchanging Starting 5 & Rotation Must Stop - I presume that Larry Drew wants to win as many games in the regular season and postseason as possible to bolster his bid to be the coach of the Hawks in 2013-2014. If so, the lineups and rotations have to begin to firm up, so that players can begin to completely buy into their roles. Is John Jenkins capable of logging starter minutes? Is Ivan in or out of the doghouse? Is Kyle going to remain our small forward? Will Anthony Morrow enter the rotation? All Star Weekend seems like the appropriate time to start locking this stuff down. (And yes, I realize we've had injuries that have impacted this, but the herky jerk nature of the rotation far precedes any of those issues.
- We Need To Re-Hire Mark Price - And it's not for 3pt shooting help. I'm not sure why this isn't discussed more, but the Hawks as a team are shooting 70% from the charity stripe, which is 28th in the league. Do I need to express how horrendous this is? Here's how bad it is - I can make 6 out of 10 FT every day of the week and I don't play basketball regularly any longer. I've yet to hear this as a point of emphasis during the Larry ‘We need more energy' Drew post game comments and yet, it's easy to point to the lost points we have EVERY game. It's great that we are 3rd in 3pt %, but one of these things is sustainable during the playoffs (free throw shooting) and one of these things isn't (3pt shooting). So, I'm not sure what is in the water, but our inability to get to the line and then CONVERT at an NBA quality level (the best teams are shooting 10 points better) can be the difference between first and second round of the playoffs.
With that, that's my time and there's the truth, Ruth.
See you in the comments!