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Honesty Corner's Truths: Season & Game 1 Thoughts

Hawk Str8Talk is back from hiatus in time for the most wonderful time of year: NBA PLAYOFFS!!!


Hawks Fans,

Let's start with the obvious. It's been 4 LONG months and for reasons that don't matter at all to you guys - I had to take a hiatus, but it doesn't mean that I haven't watched every game and been cheering for progress from our beloved Atlanta Hawks and it didn't mean I didn't miss you all. So, let me pick up where I last left off by sharing some truths (Spoiler Alert - your boy was wrong about a few things! Haters, listen up!) And with that delicious piece of information, let's start with some season ending items and then, my playoff thoughts...

2012-2013 told us that:

  • Al Horford is the Hawks Best Player (and that sucks) – For those who have read my blogs over the years, I've said that Al Horford was anything from a rich man's Chuck Hayes to an All Star Center by default. While I stand by much of that, the post All Star break Al Horford has finally landed at Studsville. All the calls for increased usage for Horford have yielded a truth I didn't think was possible and that's that - Al Horford can produce consistent 20-10s. 20-10s in this NBA means you're a stud. The lack of consistency from Jeff Teague and the inconsistent use of Josh Smith's best basketball skills have finally catapulted me to the new belief that Al Horford is the best player for the Atlanta Hawks. And why does this suck? Well, because a big man who can't rely on his low post moves and who struggles to get the usage necessary to make 20-10s into 30-15s vs. elite talent means if he's your best player - you will never make an Eastern Conference Finals. I'll stop there because any comment after this will lead to a dilution of the gravity of this truth and the acknowledgement that Al Horford has completely elevated his game this season.
  • My Desired Starting Rotation was wrong (and yet, so right) – In my season preview, I noted that I wanted to see a starting 5 of Horford, Smith, Stevenson, Jenkins, and Teague and I was wrong to ask for that. I'm sure you all are saying - Hawks Str8Talk - you finally admit that John Jenkins should have been coming off the bench and I say - ABSOLUTELY NOT! No, Mr. Stevenson, he of the 'can't play back to back game' Stevensons should have never sniffed the starting lineup for this team. You cater your team to the whims of star players whose health is critical to your playoff chances. Deshawn Stevenson does NOT fall into that category. I'm still at a loss as to why he's not the last of a rotation that includes Korver, Jenkins, Harris, and Tolliver for wing minutes. Listen, he's ok and has moments, but on a rebuilding team - Deshawn Stevenson doesn't deserve ANY minutes. Every minute this season that Deshawn Stevenson has played should have been given to John Jenkins. Period. Plus, it deprived us of the full bliss of Kyle Korver and John Jenkins on the court at the same time further shaming Josh Smith into taking NO outside shots. Which leads me to the next truth...
  • Larry Drew calls as a midseason Coach of Year candidate were laughable - Starting with the rotating starting lineup (and yes, I acknowledge that injuries had a role here) and ending with a season where Ivan Johnson and John Jenkins at several points took back seats to Johan Petro and Anthony Tolliver (take a moment to think about that for a second), this team has not been setup for success come the postseason and into future seasons. The season's record was respectable. The team beat who it was supposed to. For that, I give a certain amount of credit to Larry Drew, but if the goal is to prepare the team for the playoffs - the Hawks are walking into this postseason ill prepared. The issues referenced in the preseason - lack of rebounding, elite defense, questions regarding in-game adjustments, the 2 foul rule (see Playoff Thoughts), and a lack of development in our youngest players - never changed. All you can say about the Hawks is that they run more this season. Otherwise, there is nothing that I can say has been demonstrated to show that he needs to continue to be the coach of this team. Much like Mike Woodson, Larry Drew has served his purpose as a bridge to a new era and better preparation for playoff success.
  • Zaza & Lou wouldn't change anything this postseasonNow, that doesn't mean there might not be some changes in seeding, but the problems that the Hawks face against elite talent aren't solved by either party. Yes, Zaza would provide some toughness and offensive rebounding, but he doesn't change the makeup of the entire team. So, for those who are sitting around saying - what if. Don't! The best thing we could have done was fall to the 6th seed (outside of falling out of the playoffs altogether), so we could avoid an outside chance at the 2nd round sweep by the Miami Heat. We can beat the Pacers without these guys if Josh, Jeff, and Al play at an elite level at the same time. So, if it's going to happen, it will. The only thing that changed was the margin for error and my thought is - well, head down the bullets to find out how possible it is for us to move to round 2, but before that...
  • Danny shouldn't care about these playoffs anyway. – I won't pontificate long on this one, but here's all that our GM should be focused on right now. 1) Is Phil Jackson interested in working for us? 2) If Phil is in, we can use him on an all out offensive for CP3 and DH12? 3) if I can't get any of these 3 guys - how can I move my draft picks from outside the lottery in 2013 and into the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes of 2014? and 4) no matter what happens - Josh Smith isn't worth than about $10M-$12M a year. Much more can be said about this, but honestly, if those pieces fall in place - then all of your other 1 year free agent gems are easy to make happen (hello, Matt Barnes at the wing on the cheap. Hello, servicable 7ft rim protector, at the league minimum, and hello - sold out Highlight Factory!). Danny, your work is before you.

Playoff Thoughts:

  • PredictionI said Pacers in 6. As I said on Twitter, all of our playoff season weaknesses were on display on Sunday. Poor shot selection, poor rebounding, lack of chemistry, lack of in-game adjustments, lack of leadership, no stud to take over the game when other factors fail you, and ...
  • Larry Drew is an average head coach. – I'll keep saying this over and over and over and over (repeat 10x) again to every person who thinks otherwise - Larry is not a coach you can build a title contender with. Average head coaches don't win titles. He's a great tactician of offensive plays off timeouts and after that, I fail to come up with something he does with excellence. His talents are best used as an assistant coach where you focus on the offensive plays and situations and as the sounding board for players when they are frustrated with the head coach. I know everyone is up in arms over his benching of Al Horford for about 15 minutes less than he should have, but I'm not. Why? Because he hasn't spent any part of this season preparing this team for the playoffs. Where was the outcry when he was jerking around Ivan's minutes (and yes, I'm aware that Ivan isn't the easiest guy to coach, but that's what we're paying Larry Drew for - to handle difficult situations)? Where was the outcry when your BEST shooting guard, John Jenkins, takes half the season to get up to 10-15 minutes a game? Where's the outcry when Josh Smith 2 years into your regime still doesn't know what shot selection is his strong suit? These things may not matter vs. the Sacramento Kings, but they will matter when you are playing the Pacers or the Heat or the Bulls. So, you mask the problem all season long with consistent messages that inconsistent effort is the Hawks' problem, but I see more tactical problems than I do effort problems. Yes, the effort is inconsistent, but so is the coaching and when that's the case - there's only one way for that to end. I'll let you smart readers figure that one out

And with that, another Honesty Corner is in the books. See you in the comments...