Monday, December 8, 2008

Mediocrity---An Improvement But Not a Destination

"Middle of the road, man it stanks,/Let's run over Lionel Richie with a tank."

The immortal words of the late, great Steve Dallas ring as true today as it did two decades ago.

And so it is with our beloved Hawks, who played like dogs, not fought like lions in their two games over the weekend.

It is a testament to how far the Hawks have come that they can completely sleep walk through a game at home against the Knicks and still come away with the win. (Sidenote: The HHB has always, always hated watching "Knick Fan" gloriously walking out of the Hawks building with a "w" in their grinning, never-stop-talking-smack mouth". To have it be so close despite having more than they do was gut wrenching---but, alas, the game was won, and the noisy mouths can stop for one trip into Philips. End Note)

But against a decent team like the Mavs on their homecourt, the sloppy defense, careless offense act won't get it done. They need efforts as the ones the authored against New Orleans and Chicago to come away with a Gold Star and a Ring Cookie for their evening's efforts.

Let's give credit where credit is due:

Al Horford----Al, you know the HHB has your back, but I gotta tell ya---It cut us deep when you would bow out of Gator games with the occasional injury, but to see you in the layup line against the Mavs and then grab the poms poms stings even more, because hey, this team needs you man, badly.

Even in games he has played recently we have seen more of the First Year Al, the guy who rushes his interior moves and disappears defensively for too long than the Horfie we saw in Chicago, who brought his big, brass balls to the United Center and declared that the game was his and the Hawks.

More Horfie and less First Year Al, please! Thank you!

Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby----Got no complaints about these two offensively, though it does seem like Joe is forcing things a smidgen. Bibby has been golden offensively, through prone to the occasional off night as shooters can do. Bibby's defense has been--hmm--spotty against some of the aggressive guards recently. So, the bottom line---Mike Bibby is still Mike Bibby---glad to have him.

The problem from these quite untrained eyes when it comes to Joe forcing some things or the off night shooting from the backcourt seems to be a offensive philosophical issue more than a personnel or decision making issue.

Seems to the HHB that Mike Woodson is content to pass the ball around until there is a good outside shot available, rather than work the offense inside-out some of the time. In fact, when the Hawks do move the ball into the post, with Bibby and Johnson working their magic from the outside, the Hawks are tough to beat.

This is where I join the legions of dozens who rail game after game about the Hawks practice. Why don't the Hawks use Horford as a post play more? With Bibby, Johnson, and Marvin around the perimeter, it seems like tossing it in to Al and then letting him work the ball back out when the defense comes gives the Hawks an excellent chance to get those coveted jump shots that we only attempt 60-70 times a game.

Yet, I see Horford play after play, bust his bottom to get down the court and first to the post, only to turn and jog to the weak side and then to the top to give a perimeter shooter a place to temporarily offer possession of the basketball.

Yes, sometimes the Hawks post Johnson, but why use Johnson as a post processor unless we can clone him so that the ball can get tossed out to himself for the more-open 3? (Hmmm---probably shouldn't give Joe any ideas on how to spend his millions.)

Anyway, let's move on.

Marvin Williams----Still love his jumper and his moustache, would like to see him stronger around the basket, especially when finishing inside. As Bill Walton might say---Slam it home, big fella!

Josh Smith---At times, it was good to see him back---at other times, it was not so good to see him back. You get to see it all---the blocked shots, the effect inside, the careless passes and ridiculous jump shots, the marvelous way he can knife inside to get contact and finish.

Bottom line, it's good to have him back---will be better to see him continue to grow on the court and take each possession seriously. Seriously.

The Bench---I will stand by the numbers we looked at before the season and say that, based on a stupidly small games sample, Maurice Evans is no Josh Childress. The HHB is keeping Chillz' locker in tact, hoping he'll be back and that this whole Greece trip was a ploy to conceal an NBA mandating gambling suspension.

Gambling the HHB can forgive, choosing Greece and leaving us Childress-less we can't swallow.

However, there is nothing not to like about the effort that Evans brings, and the occasional left-side, sideline three that he is fearless in taking. It's just that he does not make his presence known like Childress did, and in times of starting lineup failure, it was a critical piece of making the playoffs last year, and is missing this year.

Ronald "Flip" Murray or RFM to the HHB (you conclude what the "F" might stand for) is an interesting little spark plug----completely out of control, able to leap tall building in a single bound, and then smack into the first floor on the next jump. He's good to have, but we wish we didn't depend on him so much for minutes.

Acie Law---Darn you Acie! If you were further along we might not need so many minutes from Murray, leaving perhaps only the best from RFM rather than having to take the bad with the good. He has GOT to improve over the last 3/4 of the season or the Hawks need to find another PG--as the hospital shows say---stat.

Zaza Pachulia---We almost didn't list him and then wouldn't say why for days until we would bring him back and say, "What? We didn't feel like the column material matched up well with Zaza's game!"

He is tenacious on the offensive boards, he throws his body around with total disregard, he seems to have a permanent chip on his shoulder, and he lacks a defensive presence like the HHB lacks writing talent.

Still, he is a solid backup center and we don't know what he is/isn't doing to make a condo in the Woodson doghouse. Maybe nothing, maybe something. Who knows.

The Hawks seem to be settling into what they are, a close to .500 team who has the talent to be better than that, but maybe mentally aren't there. Hopefully that will be addressed soon so that they can (1) qualify for the postseason and (2) do something once they are there.

The Hawks don't have a lot of time to make it happen if you believe that:

1. Winning teams need solid play from the point guard position.

2. Mike Bibby isn't getting any younger and we may/may not bring him back.

So while being .500 ish is OK for now, it shouldn't be a final destination, nor a pinnacle, but the Hawks are facing just that if the dog show doesn't get better.

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