Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blacked Out----But Not Down

The HHB, like the Hawks, have been in a slump.

You see, the HHB is bound by the NBA laws which govern broadcast and distribution of the images, descriptions, and accounts of all Atlanta Hawks basketball games.

So, when a game is blacked out from the Official HHB High Definition Viewing Center, as the games against the Knicks and Nets were to us, any attempt to "cover" the team is thwarted.

Apparently, it's difficult for all the HHB hired hands, spotters, analysts, and facial expression scientists to tell us what to write when there is no broadcast to dissect.

The HHB doesn't believe in excuses, but they may have a point here. It's a development that makes us as excited as the prospects in the 2000 draft all over again.

If this were 1990, the HHB might just give the whole situation the Gas Face.

But, things are apparently looking up--after receiving the latest bit of bad news regarding tonight's non-broadcast of the Revenge of the Hawks, we checked the Crystal Ball for the score and was thrilled to see that the Hawks beat down the evil Nets so good (105-88) that even D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger was so unimpressed by the team he beats that he called getting within (7) points close and called Joe Johnson "John".

Somewhere, Ron Gant is Smiling

Funny thing about the recent scoring slump of The Backcourt---it's that outside shooting is not so surprisingly impacted by streaks---good and bad. As Bret from Hoopinion has mentioned often this season, the Hawks have been sailing along thanks to the wind of a really good year shooting the basketball from the outside. Recently, the shooting has cooled, especially from Mike Bibby.

The HHB is never surprised, but admits the collective head shakes a little when a slump is in full swing, the sky in the Hawks Nation is always falling. Then, when the slump ends, the doom and gloom fades---Then again, maybe it's good to go to a bad place for a while to appreciate the good times.

This whole cycle brought to mind the hand wringing that would always go on with Atlanta's Ron Gant. For some reason, folks singled out Ronnie's ability to go cold at the plate (Bobby Cox included) and talking heads on TV and radio would rail on and on about how he needed to be more consistent. Gant was the equivalent of an outside shooter in basketball. When he was on, he could carry the team and put up big numbers, when he was cold---well, lots of hands would be wrung.

Slumps come and go---you gotta have depth to ride it out when your guys are cold---The Backcourt could use some post presence when these times hit--but the Hawks have seemed reticent to add more inside or even use what they have there.

3----That's the Magic Number

Now you may try to subtract it
But it just wont go away
Three times one?
(what is it? )
(one, two, three!)
And that's the magic number

Joe Johnson this week became the third Hawks since '75 to go three peat on the ATL and represent the Birds at the NBA All-Star Game. As we wrote in our 2009 Wish List Joe joins The HHF and Dan Roundfield with this honor and we think it is well earned.

We will say it again for all Hawks fans to hear---enjoy this special player---he is not everything you want him to be, but he is great, make no bones about it----what he has been to the Hawks is nothing short of a cornerstone---the fact that he is not in the Top 5 players in the game should not subtract from how great he has been for the home team.

Big Fat All-Star Ups to Joe---now get some rest, man.

Speaking of Which

We were delighted (ahem) to see that once again Joe played an insane amount of time in this game. He played 43:11 of the first 46:14 of the game--that's 93.4 percent for those of us who went to Florida---and 90 percent overall.

In baseball terms, if Johnson were a pitcher, he would be throwing about 241 pitches per start.

Now, we don't pretend to know how this affects NBA players in general or even Joe Johnson specifically---that's for the sabermagicians to figure out---but the HHB Bean Counters have told us that over the last few seasons, even when being immensely overworked, Joe has thrived in March, where you would typically expect a wear down to begin.

Again, we simply pose the questions---that's all we're good for---others might have this information and need to share it with the less mentally fortunate, such as we have proven ourselves to be over the years here.

Still---we don't want this to be the year where Joe's wheels come flying off---so we're watching.

The HHB is still staring at the blacked out notice at the HHB headquarters---explanations and suggestions, as well as the usual insightful comments may be received in our Comments Area.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

572 Ways to Describe Excruciating Stomach Pain

Gross. Icky. Awful.

Go ahead---toss in your own adjective to describe something so foul that you make a carrot face and ask someone to "smell this".

Maybe you didn't see the Hawks 95-79 "game" Monday night. We here at the HHB use the " " to indicate that things really didn't reflect the word that is inside of the " ".

A game is usually fun---it's a joy---and since the Hawks were 100 percent joyless--well except for when Josh Smith picked up a technical foul while sitting on the bench---he looked happy at that point---anyway, since the Hawks were without joy and gave the ol' more turnovers than field goals a real run for the money, we're not calling that a game.

The Hawks moved on both ends without purpose, the offense--which seemed inspired early on by going inside and getting Dwyane Wade two quick fouls (note to Coach Woodson---he finished with those same 2 fouls)---wilted under the weight of a ton of missed shots. The particularly deflating ones were the real close ones we call layups and dunks---not good.

In fact, we thought maybe at one point the basket was tilted in a certain angle, because the ball kept spinning out the same way, like a demented basketball water slide---round and out and please clear the path for the next shot---thank you.

Mike Bibby seems to be pleased with our Bibby, Bibby, and more Bibby piece from haughtier times (last Friday) because he has been stinky the last couple of games---with no appreciation for the Hawks inside game (maybe why it worked well early on) and the persistent lack of being able to finish around the basket Monday night, the Heat put constant pressure on The Backcourt, leading to lots of turnovers and missed field goals.

Combined with a defensive effort geared to make sure Wade wasn't going to miss out on highlights after skipping the first quarter (he would finish with 35 points), the Hawks woes led to a final that didn't seem to accurately depict how far away the Hawks were from WinningLand.

It was ugly, nasty, and thoroughly nauseating at times. The HHB tried it at many DVR speeds---X1, X2, X3, and X4---it was unwatchable at all levels.

The Hawks now go to New York (Offensive SlumpBuster Alert!) and then come back to face the team that has had the Hawks numerics this season, the New Jersey Nets.

It is the HHB's hope that the club can figure out where the joy went because soon we'll run out of adjectives to describe the effort---and they will simply be losing.

The HHB skipped the usual post game meal---Lost Appetite Syndrome---For cures and comments please refer to the Comments section.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Josh Smith = ???????

The HHB has to admit---Josh Smith fascinates us. We were one of the first groups to interview him after he was announced to the media (RealGM, thank you!) and to see how is he now vs. a teenage shy guy is amazing. We're so proud.


Josh Smith delivers both the awe-inspiring and the macabre in his game. He is breathtaking in a way that inspires fist pumps, and breathtaking like a stomach punch in a way that inspires fist shaking.

Against the Suns, he was pivotal in raising the roof with his play throughout the first 3 quarters, and he was deflating in his selection of shots down the stretch.

It was fitting that the cable network that shall no longer be named until they televise in HD (TCNTSNLBNUTTIHD) flashed the stat that showed Smoove's FG% in wins and losses, because it was a false indicator against PHO (50%---still lost)---Seriously TCNTSNLBNUTTIHD, leave the stat pushing to guys like Bret @ Hoopinion---totally spurious relationship there (zing!).

Bottom line---when he goes to the cup, he's a great offensive player---when he launches from outside totally against the context of the offense---wait for it----yes, he's simply offensive.

More of this:

Less of this:

If the Hawks Fall in the Arena, and Bloggers are Watching---Do They Make a Sound?

The Hawks Blog Nation were given the usual first class treatment by the team for their annual Blog Night. Kudos to In-House Blogger, Micah Hart, who has made the Internet coverage of the team relevant and informational, to setting the blog world up with access to the GM, arena, and even their favorite, Coach Woodson.

You can and are encouraged (the HHB finger is pointed at all of you) to go by the sidebar and check out the in game blogs, interviews, and accounts of the game---you have my expressed written consent to do so.

Shhhh---Hoopinion is Listening

Yup, yups to ESPN's own Bret @ Hoopinion for taking the shallahnge that the HHB offered here regarding the Josh Smith Blocked Shot Rate After Resting and impossibly making that title longer here: The Possible Influence of Rest on Josh Smith's Block Rate Since Returning From His High Ankle Sprain---oh, he added the due diligence of statistical input as well.

And then, as if the Blog Nation had a bug in the HHB Viewing Center, Hoopinion comes across with an even better look at the phenomenon known as Missing Every Freaking Technical Free Throw. Seriously, somebody get Jason and Grant from Ghost Hunters out to the team to see what's haunting these guys when they are all alone out there.

If You Can't Take the Heat, You're Probably the Magic!

Just a witty rejoinder at the expense of the team that most recently wiped the floor of us. If we can't beat you, Orlando, we'll put a 6th rate joke in bold print! Take that, Mickey Mouse!

Next up is, in fact, the Heat, and given the defensive troubles that our man Bibby had last night, Sherman Douglas is probably lacing them up to see if he can get some run in with the Heat tonight.

The HHB is investigating its namesake for giving the Josh Smith teabag of Steve Nash a 9.5, but a fairly common dunk in traffic a 10.5/10---Any leads, clues, and of course Comments are welcome in the Comments section.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Is How We Do It

For those who didn't watch the Hawks 117-87 obliteration of the Milwaukee Bucks, let's just say there was a party going on at Philips Arena Friday night and nobody told the visitors they were going to get pies thrown at their face---repeatedly. In fact, one might say that the Bucks got into the act and tossed a few in their own faces by the way they fell apart during the second half.

If this were a video game, the difficulty would have been set on easy for the Hawks, even though they had to hold off a hot shooting Charlie Villanueva in the first half (19 point/27 for the game), which is the only thing that kept the Bucks within 10 at the half.

And since it was such a fun game, what's more fun than breaking things down bullet-point style?

  • Mike Bibby was dominant offensively, not so much with his shooting as with his passing. Bibby offered 15 assists to various players, but none more fun to watch than the weak side alley-oop to Josh Smith, who had just given Bibby the ball at the top of the 3-pt arc. Both Bucks players stayed on Bibby and Smith looped towards the cup on the weak side, which seemed to be quarantined--Bibby tossed his hook pass with physician's precision and Smoove generously drove home the perfection.
  • If you haven't read by now---the HHB hearts the game of Mike Bibby and we thank him for making this Hawks machine run sooooo good.
  • We hope the coaches, family, and friends of Josh Smith found every recording method of this game and from this day forth play it in an endless loop wherever Smoove goes. Smith tortured the Bucks, scoring 22 of his 24 in that painted area of the court. Defensively, Smith ended a 2 game blockless streak (inspiring CoCo from the Vent to Comment and the HHB to openly break down the break down in Smith's blocked shot output) by swatting (3) for the night---and he seemed to be looking for the rejection with his defensive body language more in this game. Was it the extra rest between the Tuesday game against the Bulls and Friday night that made the difference in his energy? That's right, we're calling out newly ESPN minted Hoopinion to track the blocked shot rate when Smith has had extra rest since coming back from his early season injury vs. when he has had to play closer together.
  • While someone is recording the game, someone send a copy to RFM, will ya? Murray could not miss against the Bucks, scoring as only RFM can score---with a dizzying array of Murray-esque shots. Three pointer stopping on a dime? Check. Turning against your own body and fading away with plenty of time on the shot clock? Check. Wide open 3's, crazy drives to the hoop, and everything else in between? Check-check-and check! Oh, and let's cap it off with a 4-point play to complete Murray's 11-13, 25 point night, shall we? Murray hit that three with Tyronn Lue taking his legs out from under him and there was no doubt about if it would go in---it was a good night for RFM.
  • Marvin Williams was a rebounding beast---(8) in the first half, (9) overall. It was very good to see him back in action (coming soon: Al Horford) and even better that he got to get such a good game in and then sit back and relax for the majority of the second half.
  • It was such a good night for the Birds that even Solomon Jones looked good. He scored 7 points, finished a 3-pt play, and still kept his prolific fouling going, hacking (5) times in his 15 minutes. Gotta stay true, Solly, gotta stay true---
About the Bucks----
  • The Bucks played old school Hawks basketball---if that school was built earlier this decade. They took bad shots, turned the ball over religiously, and had nothing to say defensively.
  • Good thing they payed Andrew Bogut all that cash this offseason, because obviously his absence was the difference.
  • We go back to this thought---Why didn't anyone think Mo Williams was worth keeping? Utah scrapped him in favor of Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez (rimshot), and then the Bucks thought they were in such good hands that they couldn't/wouldn't overpay to keep him--really? Sure he might have wanted to play elsewhere, but why did he get so close to free agency?
  • It was fun to hear I'm Bob Rathbun and Nique talk about Michael Redd coming back for the second half. They spoke about how he came out early after halftime and seemed determined to change the Bucks fortunes from the first half. He was dripping sweat as the second half began from his reportedly hard and focused workout. He had (1) field goal in the second half. Guess it was harder to score against actual opponents.
  • While we're at it, if we were a Milwaukee fan (we're not) we might want to question the roster makeup of this team. It seems like players fit into 3 categories: guards with no singular talent, big men who can shoot, and big men who cannot shoot. That is all. No shot blockers (no, no, no---have a seat Mr. Gadzuric), no post players (you too, Mr. Bogut), no real point guards (yeah right, Luke). This---is a dead parrot.

So--it was a great night---That Joe Johnson had a fair night---and we say fair because the man brings it even when the shot is o-f-f (5 boards, 6 assists, active defensively)---and the Hawks still won easily tells you how bad the Bucks are and how the Hawks never gave into letting the Bucks back into the game.

The times that the Bucks seemed like they were willing to show some energy and patience offensively, the Hawks pushed back with stellar defense and snuffed out Milwaukee's curiosity. It was a display of good team basketball and not allowing themselves to lower themselves to an inferior team's level of play.


The HHB is going into the Official HHB Laboratory to find a way to permanently burn the game into Josh Smith's brain. Ideas on the process and other witticisms are welcome in the Comments Area.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bibby, Bibby, and More Bibby

Did you hear that sound in the background after the Hawks 105-102 win over the Bulls Tuesday night in the Windy City?

If you didn't, you probably picked it up during many of the Birds games this season.

It's the sound of the Atlanta Spirit coughing, as in, having to cough up more and more money to bring back the #1 reason the Hawks have taken the step forward from a team that didn't know how to win to the team that doesn't seem to know how to lose.

Mike Bibby.

There were the Hawks, sitting in Chicago where they used to not be able to win, and they were getting beat in the paint, getting beat on the boards, and getting outshot from the field.


48-34 advantage for the Bulls in rebounds
20-12 advantage for the Bulls in offensive rebounds
48-43 advantage for the Bulls in shooting percentage
5-18 shooting night for Joe Johnson, including 1 for 8 in the 4th quarter.
5-17 shooting night for the Mo Evans/RFM Comedy Show
4 rebounds in 39 minutes for Zaza Pachulia.
Zero Minutes for Al Horford, Marvin Williams, and Acie Law.
A (-22) in 11 minutes for Thomas Gardner and Mario West.

UPDATE: Thanks to the Elias Sports Bureau, by way of ESPN, we find that:

That was the 85th NBA game this season in which one team out-rebounded the other by a margin of at least 14 rebounds. The record of the teams that have lost the battle of the boards by so large a margin, including Atlanta's victory, is now 9-76, a winning percentage of .106.

Editor's Note: Yow!

If the HHB had been handed those facts prior to the game we might have not fired up the Official HHB High Definition Viewing Center and spent our time waiting for the inevitable.

But here's the funny thing----the inevitable seems to be the Hawks winning these games---And Bibby is a huge reason why.

Tonight Bibby was hot in a way that is fun to see as a Bird Watcher. He was 12-21/5-10/2-2 with 6 assists and 5 big steals.

He hit three YUGE shots in the 4th quarter when Joe simply didn't have his fastball. One was a rainbow jumper over Joakim Noah, another an elbow three, and the last another shot over Noah, this time with 18 seconds left in the game, giving him his 30th and 31st points and putting the Hawks up by 6 and virtually sealing the game.

We have sung the song before, but we believe--nay--we know that Bibby's arrival has made this team go. After the game, he compared the comraderie between the guys on the team to his old team, the Sacramento Kings--another team that won a lot of games.

Bibby has anchored the team's efforts and kept the tempo to the Hawks liking (As Bret at Hoopinion would tell you---slow tempo is the go tempo for the Birds). His four second half steals were the things of veteran beauty---baiting the young Bulls team into a slack pass and then simply picking it off.

To imagine the Hawks without Bibby is to picture the Hawks as they were before they got their Proven Point Guard----a lost, talented team, doomed to lose games they shouldn't--as well as the games they should.

Which is why you can smell the green building up for Bibby---without a backup plan (literally) for the 11th year leader, the Hawks cannot go into next season without the trigger man that has made it all come together.

And He Lies to His Grandma, Too!

We said it the last time, but Andres Nocioni is one dirty player. His raking of Bibby's face when the ball was nowhere to be seen was obvious, but his bulldozer move over Bibby later in the game was even more egregious (especially since it "earned"Bibby a foul and a Technical). He inspired Josh Smith the last game the Hawks played against the guy, and tonight he pushed Bibby---guess the HHB shouldn't complain, but could he go after Mo Evans next time?

The Incredible Stationary Josh Smith

Hey, the guy definately cleaned the boards against the Bulls (14 rebounds), but one can't help but notice that the man who has finished 4th, 2nd, and 2nd in blocks per game is way off the mark this season.

He is almost a block and a half off last year's average and 1.2 BPG off his career rate. His BLK% is way down from his career rate (3.2 this season, 5.7 lifetime). Not to go all stathead on you here, but I checked with the HHB bean counters---and that's a lot fewer beans.

We have to figure that Josh is not right yet physically since this season he missed so many games early due to injury. He has gone to the hoop better and more often this season, but his lack of shot-blocking presence inside is conspicuous.

We'll see as the season progresses if Josh can get his Mojo back. It is the opinion of the HHB that shot blockers don't lose the instinct to block, something Josh has shown a-plenty already---so we have to think that it's physical--the timing, the energy---and considering the grind of the season, if he plays all the games the rest of way he might not rest enough to get it all back until next season.

Get Well Soon

Consider this the Official Pleading for Al and Marvin to get better and get on the court, because there is no way the Hawks can continue to pull off these rabbit-out-of-the-hat wins, especially without completely wearing out The Backcourt, who both played over 44 minutes against the Bulls.

The HHB is saving their change so that they can contribute to the ever growing Sign Mike Bibby Fund---Donations and comments are Welcome, as always, in the Comments Area.

Killer Sauce Defined

Oh, sure---we could dwell on the slopfest that might have been the first 24 minutes of the game, but hey, all we asked the Hawks for was 24 minutes of heck---and that's what we got in the MLK Day special at the arena against the weakened Raptors, 87-84.

We could share the misery of watching as the Birds seemed to be going for an airball record in the game, with everybody from Mike Bibby to Thomas Gardner whiffed from everywhere on the floor.

(Sidenote: Really? Thomas Gardner? Listen, we get that Marvin Williams was out as was Al Horford, but shouldn't we really have seen Mario West out there instead? West has at least seen game action more regularly than Gardner, who was last seen cleaning up against New Jersey---on November 15th. Seriously, it wasn't the time to make sure that Tommy's parents got to see him get into the game---stuff like that might make the team feel like the game isn't as challenging as it surely seemed to be at that point in the game. End Note.)

We could point out (once again) that the team must believe that a rope-a-dope defense is what wins for them---simply letting the other team land punch after punch before coming on strong late in games. Either the Raptors wore out or the Hawks decided to step up defensively in the second half, leaving the 51 point first half behind and limiting the visitors to 33 in the second half. Since Toronto, who we thought was a good 3-pt shooting team, had zero at the half, we can't believe they wore out, unless they weren't used to scoring that much.

We could whine about the fact that the lack of depth really shows if any of the starting five goes down. The Hawks only had 4 players score before Maurice Evans "broke through" with 2:44 left to play in the game. (Dead Horse Alert!: Anyone still going to argue with the HHB that Mo Evans was an improvement--yep, we were told that by some Bird Watchers---or that he was at least an even swap with Grecian Josh Childress? Evans is a great guy and a hustling fool, but is there anyone who believes that Childress isn't missed or wouldn't have been doing more when forced into the starting lineup?)

We could also blather on about missed free throws, turnovers, and the usual Josh Smith shenanigans but we can't complain when the team delivers the "W"--even if it was against the team that was missing Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon.

We can't complain when The Backcourt goes off for 19-36 shooting, complete with Joe Johnson delivering the killer sauce with a dozen seconds left. Oh, missed it did you? Check out the 5:42 mark of the excellent recap video:

You just can't get too fired up when the end result is watching one of the clutch players in Atlanta Hawks history do it again.

See you in Chicago.

The HHB is well aware of the current Hawks immaturity---they can relate pretty well---all advice and comments are welcome in the Comments section.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

24 Minutes Is All We Ask

Usually you'll hear coaches preach about a team giving "48 minutes" of effort, implying that the team needs to push every second they are on the floor, spend every breath making the effort to win the game.

With the Hawks, the HHB is not going to be picky---we just want 24 minutes.

All season the Birds have played with a certain timing that allowed them to skate along for a quarter or two and then spend the fourth clamping down and winning the game.

Recently, the team has skated so long and so early, that they haven't been able to get all the way back. Both in the game against Orlando in Atlanta and against the Suns in Phoenix, the Hawks have made runs and had surprisingly many chances to win the game, only to fall short in the end.

Against the Clippers Wednesday night, the Hawks gave two good quarters of basketball and won the game, 97-80, and thus did not become the team that would give the Clippers a break from their now 12 game losing streak.


One day, we can hope for complete games from this crew, but for now we'll take the solid 2 quarters of good basketball (no, last night's first quarter, especially offensively, does not count) and revel in the fact that the Hawks, our team, can get away with such chicanery--to be so talented and execute so well when they give the effort they can win games and overcome large deficits.

The HHB is being inundated by cold weather and snow as they are on their own road trip up the Eastern Seaboard. Comments and warm clothing can be left in the lobby of the Comments area.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bow Wow, Hawks Fans

They are calling these days in January the "dog days" of the NBA season.

Makes sense, since the Hawks are certainly playing like dogs these days.

Whether it's simply fatigue from winning too much prior to January or the fact that the team is simply unwilling to do the things it did in December when they won 21 games, the Birds are playing like dead fish right now and until someone shows up with the life paddles, the Hawks are currently DOA.

Some examples:

Josh Smith when winning: Takes the ball hard to the basket and finishes while making his presence felt on defense.

Josh Smith when losing: Takes the ball and stands outside to launch a jump shot and is nowhere to be seen defensively.

Any guesses as to what we have been seeing more of lately?

Did you realize?: Smith is shooting a career low from the free throw line (64 percent). Earn your right to shoot those bombs, Josh----still bricking from long range and then taking your free points to an all-time low is not a good way to start.

Al Horford when winning: Well, healthy for one. Al is out for the Phoenix, Clippers, and Oakland game for sure. When they are winning, his energy is obvious and he is contesting shots defensively.

Al Horford when losing: Invisible, watching opponents attack the basket. Rushing his offense and playing small around the basket.

We've been saying it---Zaza Pachulia (the non-sick version) has shown more energy in games lately.

Did you realize?: Al is up in all the good categories and down in the bad ones. They only good stat he is lower in is his rebounds per game, which is down one per game--identical to his offensive rebounds per game.

The play of these two inside guys are critical to opening up the lethal shooting of Bibby and Johnson from the outside. In recent games, the tandem has gone ice cold, which means it's time for the interior guys to increase the good things that they currently do to lift the team higher. Starting on the defensive end would help.

You get the picture---and it's up to Woodson to get these guys in gear and defend from the opening tip. Another 30+ point first quarter is a pretty good indication that the team is not coming out of the locker room to make a defensive statement.

Oh by the way, one final thought on the 109-94 loss at home to PHL----When Royal Ivey and Lou Williams are on the floor for the Sixers, it makes 0.00 sense to leave a hot Andre Iguodala wide open for consecutive threes.

Just some friendly advise during these very dog days.

The HHB is preparing the Official HHB High Definition Viewing Room for some late games as the Hawks migrate towards the Pacific. Comments and late night snack ideas are welcome in the Comments section.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where's The Reset Button?



As the HHB was on the award-winning Bill Shanks Show on Macon's ESPN 105.5 Friday, we talked about how the team had established itself as a definite playoff team and likely to win 50 games and hold onto home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Now, you might ask, after the Hawks humiliating 121-87 loss in Orlando, would we like to have a mulligan on that prediction?


After the Hawks lost to Orlando in Atlanta Wednesday, the team was convicted that they simply had started playing basketball too late in the game to overcome 3 quarters of passive play. The Hawks did indeed clamp down in the fourth quarter and got the game to a potential comeback win, but alas they fell short. They emerged determined to show they had learned their lesson by returning the favor immediately in Orlando.

The Magic, however, were equally frustrated that, in a game they had ruled for 3 quarters, they allowed the Birds to have life late in the game, and in their own lapse almost lost the game. They also vowed to show they had learned their lesson.

It was easy to see early who was up to the task. Orlando came out and picked up where they had left off after those (3) 50+ FG% shooting quarters in Atlanta. They moved without the ball and shot fearlessly, racing out to a laughable 22-4 lead before half the first quarter was up.

Then, unlike the game in Atlanta where the Hawks might have played passively but still kept their heads in the game allowing them the chance to make that late game run, the young team did something it hadn't done all year----lost their collective heads.

It was as if the entire team slipped into the Josh-Smith-shooting-just-for-the-heck-of-it-from-wherever mode.

Any semblance of effort on defense or contesting shots was not shown. Offensive "sets" were reduced to one pass, dribble for a few seconds, and then take whatever shot you have.

Wait, it's worse. They let the officials dictate their mental mood, getting frustrated so much, that they picked up 3 technical fouls in addition to the one by Mike Woodson before the first half even ended.

In short, they lost their poise, their heads, and their will to compete----and the end result was the message that the Magic had every intention of delivering.

So while we are in concert with the obvious opinion that this is the worst game of the season for the Hawks, we are not ready to say that this has any far reaching implications of the team, coach, or end of season record. It was a loss, and the standings will record it as only one loss, not penalize the team with extra losses for it's Friday night transgressions.

However, the HHB has to note these troubling items from the game:

Once again, Al Horford played with passiveness, not passion.

We love the fellow Gator (Championship!), but we have been saying for weeks now that he is not playing with the same energy, fire, and passion that he played with last season. Whether it's a fear of fouls or the night-in, night-out rigor of playing against monsters like Dwight Howard inside is getting to him mentally, he is not asserting his will onto the game, he is accepting the will of others. We will keep saying it: Less Alan Henderson, More Al Horford.

Nobody stepped up on the team to stop the mental bleeding.

Nobody stepped up as a leader to calm things down when the game began to really spiral, to get better shots as a team, to rally the crew defensively. Instead, everybody seemed to try to take things into their own hands offensively and derailed any semblance of an offense.

Woodson might have tried to go back to Mike Bibby sooner. Yes, Bibby was part of some of the problem early on, but when he left the game with 3:30 or so left in the first quarter, it was an 18 point deficit. When he returned eight minutes later, it was 34 points down. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith got their technicals with Bibby on the bench. We're not saying Bibby would definitely have made a difference in the team's demeanor, but it might have calmed things down a little and the game was free falling.

While Dwight Howard is a beast inside, the Hawks were downright fraidy-cat to get near the paint.

Everybody was shooting fadeaways against the entire Magic squad, large and small. Combine that with letting the Magic get to any spot on the floor they wanted on the other end, and the team became like the shots they preferred---fadeaway.

Dwight Howard plays somewhat dirty.

On screens, even though he is as wide as the Mississippi, he lifts his leg up to impede the player working around his pick. Lifts his leg. As if to trip or set up some toll (hey, maybe that's it---It is Orlando, where tolling tourists and residents helps rake in the doughboy) for opponents to pay before they pass. Inside, he holds, pushes---it's really a shame. Maybe we just caught him on two nights were he was doing his best Arvidas Sabonis impressions---but we'd like not to get a third show of those shenanigans. Or maybe he really wants to be Karl Malone.

Silver lining---Coach Woodson finally found a way to get Acie Law 25+ minutes in a game.

So despite all of this "greatness" the Hawks were showing Friday night, we're still willing to say this was an aberration that teams suffer throughout the grind of the season. We also still say that they need to bring the energy and sense of urgency from the first minute of the game and say that both Horford and Smith need to protect the paint and send a message early with that defensive energy.

However, the team can't let this loss get them into a funk, not with a significant bit of games on the road immediately coming. If they do, then this game will serve as a symbol to how the Hawks took a major step back. But, should they string together a few wins, it will be "bad day" that folks have and soon forget. We're crossing all of our fingers that they prove it's the latter.

All of them.

The HHB decided to stick toothpicks in their eyes instead of attending Friday's game in Orlando. It was a good call. Comments and BCS Championship kudos are always welcome in the Comments Area.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GameNight: Hawks Finally Burned

The HHB saw this during the entire recent 7-1 homestand---long before attending the 106-102 loss to the Southeast leading Orlando Magic—we saw that the Hawks were “pacing” themselves in games, keeping things close, and then clamping down in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Even before the game, the HHB caught up with Coach Woodson and asked about this phenomenon, to which he replied, “I wish we could jump out early and keep a team down,” before allowing that---yes, indeed---that was the Hawks current MO.

So it didn’t surprise us when the Magic jumped all over the Hawks by bombing the Birds to the tune of nearly 60 percent first half shooting and putting the Hawks into a 15 point halftime hole.

The break didn’t do the home team any good as they allowed the Magic to stretch the lead to as much as 21 point, before settling on 20 as the fourth quarter began.

Then, just as all games before, the Hawks shut down the pesky visitors and, despite throwing away possessions offensively when making a valiant run, the Hawks got the lead down to a couple of possessions.

Unfortunately the Hawks night was not meant to be, symbolized by the breakaway layup by Mike Bibby to move the game to a single possession deficit---only to miss the uncontested bunny---and the Hawks never moved closer save for the free throw endgame.

Afterwards, the team acknowledged their ineffectiveness (read: comatose) effort in a surprising number of amens from the congregation:

Coach Woodson:

Orlando is one of the best teams in the league and you can’t spot them 21 points and think you are going to come back and win. We made plays in the 4th quarter but you can’t wait 3 quarter to decide you want to play. I thought we were awful the first 3 quarters.

We were very, very flat and it showed in our effort in terms of defensive effort and offensive effort. Towards the latter part of the 3rd and 4th quarter we picked it up.

They were able to move the ball wherever they wanted.

First time I’ve seen it here in our building---when we didn’t pull 2 or 3 good quarters together—we only played one good quarter tonight.

Mike Bibby:

After the 3rd quarter we knew it was a long way—about 18, 19 points (it was 20 actually).

We fought back---I missed my layup---we have to start playing in the 1st quarter instead of the 4th. We played a lot harder in the fourth than we did in the first---

We’ve played a lot of games in our house like that (Waiting until the fourth to close games)---you don’t want to play too many.

Marvin Williams:

We played one quarter—We had no energy---we had some good looks offensively, even with Dwight back there making things tough—but it’s on the other end where we’ve been making our name and we didn’t do that tonight.

Joe Johnson:

The thing that hurt us was that we didn’t start playing until the fourth quarter. We didn’t pick up our intensity until then so we got back in the game, but we just can’t wait until the end.

Besides the obvious lack of effort defensively in the game, another sore spot on the team was their abysmal free throw shooting---Already one of the league’s worst, the Hawks, led by Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson, combined to miss 11 of their 25 attempts (that’s 56 percent!).

“I think what hurt us tonight was the free throws,” said Williams. “We got some good free throw shooters here---including myself---I missed three of them---just one of those nights---“

Added Smith, “Free throws definitely hurt us---if we had made half our free throws (that they missed), we’d have won this game.”

Other Quick Passes:

While the Hawks were making their run in the fourth, the HHB noted that coach Woodson stayed with Solomon Jones and Flip Murray a couple of minutes too long before re-inserting Al Horford, who had 13 rebounds and had his hands full with Howard (23 points, 19 rebounds) and Mike Bibby.

The Magic did a nice job of overplaying the perimeter and funnelling players towards Howard, who was tough inside. He had no blocks (hmmm), but was effective in making baskets hard to finish around the basket.

The overplay at the perimeter caused problems shooting for Johnson and Bibby, who combined for 11-34 shooting.

If you needed more evidence of how flat the Hawks might have been tonight during minutes 1-36, please consider that JJ Redick made his way into the paint to score on at least two occasions--uncontested.

Yes indeed---the point is made---the Hawks have been playing with fire with their “keep it close then close it out” intensity philosophy---and tonight they got burned.

The HHB took it all in tonight and turned in two entries (whew)---See our trek inside the mind of Coach Woodson as it pertained to the playing time of Acie Law--Comments, witty or otherwise, are always welcome in the Comments Area

GameNight: No Signs of Acie’s Pajamas in Woodson’s Doghouse

When we took the assignment of heading to Philips Arena for the game between the Good Guys (that would be the Hawks) and the Pretty Good but not as Good Guys (that would be the Magic), we knew we had to ask Coach Woodson about one player.

Acie Law.

These are the results of our quest.

First of all, Acie was out for family reasons, and Woodson reports that he’s fine and they hope that he is back tomorrow.

So even with knowing that nothing that was said tonight could be quickly addressed after the game since Law would be inactive for the game, we wanted to know why Law hadn’t been playing and if he fit into the long term (and short term for that matter) Hawks plans.

“Right now I’m just looking at what’s happening now,” said Woodson. “He’s a part of the team. He just hasn’t seen a lot of action in our rotation. We’ve elected to go with Flip.”

“It’s no knock against Acie,” Woodson continued. “I still expect him to be ready to play. I thought the other night he stepped right in and did a great job—for a guy who hasn’t played in a while—he did some nice things---and I expect that.”

When asked by the HHB if he would be playing more as the season wore on the Coach replied, “My thing is that I know as the season goes on I’ve got to get back to trying to play 9-10 guys consistently.”

The question has been has Acie done anything wrong to keep him off the floor and if there was anything that Law was doing well. Says Woodson, “His job is to run our basketball team---and that’s what I expect him to do and I expect him to be sharp defensively when guards are bringing the ball up the court. I've got to keep working with him and keep finding minutes for him.”

“(Being a scorer) is what he’s done in college. He was a scorer in college and here he doesn’t have to score a whole lot. If he’s a position to make plays, I do expect him to do that. And he’s doing that---I have no complaints about Acie Law—he’s doing excellent when he gets a chance to play.”

Without Law there, we couldn’t know for sure, because we couldn't ask him as planned, but we asked Woodson if Law understands that the defensive end and running the team effectively are the key notes for him to get on the floor for more time.

“He gets that---he really has no choice (laughter)---and if he’s called upon to play, that’s the way I expect him to play. I’ve just been going with a different rotation and he’ll be back in there ready to play.”

There it is---no bones for Law in the Woodson doghouse---hopefully the only bones thrown will be the minutes for Law on the court.

More Game Notes:

Zaza Pachulia was sick—so sick in fact that he was not even at the arena and is day-to-day.

We can appreciate Zaza not bringing his illness to work and exposing the HHB to even more sicknesses (see our Out Sick post from last month to catch a photo of us incapacitated by the last illness we had), but the Hawks missed his energy and toughness badly in the game.

The Official Spouse of the HHB sent along that we got a Comment from The Vent's CoCo regarding asking about Speedy Claxton, about whom we wrote last season to cancel plans to hold your breath for his return.

As Casey Kasem would say, CoCo---Here is Your Long Distance Dedication:

Claxton’s knee injury recovery timeline is still officially a mystery, but we are known to speculate that it’s awful hard to risk a player playing when insurance money is on the line. We hear that Claxton may want to be out there in heart these days, but his body and circumstances seem to be conspiring to make that a non-reality.

One more quote from Josh Smith tonight and this one goes out to Peachtree Hoops, who has documented that the Hawks are consistently one of the Top 5-10 slowest paced teams in the league, especially when winning.

“We played their style of basketball---half court---we opened up more and started to play our pace and cut the lead down---but you can’t wait to play your basketball what late against a team like Orlando.”

The HHB thanks all the fine people who came around to chat tonight at the arena---and of course the Hawks for having us---Comments and further Salutations are Welcome at the Comments Section.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Goin' Ballin' (Meet You at the Place Where We Met That Time?)

As we mentioned, we will be in the house for Wednesday's game against the Magic and are looking forward to locking into a discussion with one of the players, coach Woodson, and the usual post game quotes and thoughts about whatever will take place on the floor that night.

We know we are going to ask Woodson about Acie Law, we haven't settled on which player we want to try and lock down for a discussion, and we are looking forward to getting some game quotes and bringing them into the HHB.

Last season, we covered a game in late November against the Bucks (a win) and put our game thoughts here (pre-HHB, obviously).

We also got a candid conversation with Josh Childress and asked him about his pending restricted free agency.

It's always a good time in the arena, and the HHB offers its usual appreciation to the Hawks for opening their doors to a group like ours---it's always been a first class franchise to us, even when we haven't been the most flattering towards it--big ups, fellas---and we'll see you at the game!

The HHB is open to suggestions/requests on topics on conversation once inside the sacred walls of Philips Arena (too much?)----Comments are welcome in the oddly named Comments section.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

In the aftermath of the Hawks 103-100 win over the Rockets, the HHB heard the following statement:

"Wow, imagine how we'd be doing if (Ron) Artest and (Tracy) McGrady were in the lineup?"

That's an amalgam of thoughts---we could include a series of "woe is us" statements from the Hawks side, bemoaning that the home team couldn't take more advantage of a team minus two of their stars.

We have to ask: Could the Rockets have done much better with those two guys in the game?

Sounds ridiculous, but hear us out because, just like everyone else, we thought the Rockets might be a little bit more a push over without those two, something like what happened in Toronto where the Rockets displayed little red glare.

Who would McGrady and Artest take minutes from?

Van Wafer? The guy was all over the place, playing 40 minutes and going 7-17 from the field, including 3-7 from three point territory.

Brent Barry? He was 3-5 from long range in his 24 minutes, giving the Rockets the advantage they needed to make up for the Hawks ridiculous shooting.

How about Aaron Brooks or Carl Landry? Landry was ridiculous, going 5-5 with 5 rebounds and getting 18 points in 18 minutes. Brooks was 4-10 with another three for the Rockets.

Really--if you plugged T-Mac and Artest in there, do they put up significantly better numbers than that?

Not to mention (oh wait, we will) that the team played with such passion and energy that it was hard for the Hawks to match. In fact, we were relieved every time Yao Ming came into the game, because it seemed like the Hawks were playing Houston better when he was in there.

Would McGrady and Artest have impacted the Rockets so much better on this night than all those players above?

We think, for this performance, no.

Changing Lanes

We have to applaud the outstanding performance of Josh Smith, who kept pounding the lane en route to his season best 29 points against the Rockets. Smoove was 13-16, which included a couple of throw-the-clipboard-down jumpers. It's nice when it all clicks for Smoove, and there was no shot bigger than the put back jam he stuffed home late in the game off a rare errant Mike Bibby three. Yuge.

After getting beat unnecessarily by a Vince Carter bomb the night before, it was pretty sweet to pay it forward to Houston when Bibby bombed his on the Rockets. The HHB came to their collective feet when Bibby launched and high fives and fist pumps were a-plenty when it swished through. Cathartic.

Joe Johnson had 14 assists. Seriously, is there anything the guy hasn't done to get your All-Star vote yet? What's that---haven't voted? Well get on over to the sidebar and vote! Anything less than the total support of what we have for a fanbase (we are few, but mighty!) is silly. The man is cash in hand. Awesome.

We'll say it again: Even though we know that Al Horford is a stud, he is getting outplayed by Zaza Pachulia right now. Horford continues to play small inside, rushing his shots and not using his total height around the hoop. Horford needs to assert himself inside on both ends of the court, going hard to the rim and protecting it on defense. Less Alan Henderson and more--well, Al Horford.


He did indeed. Hawks fans everywhere had to be thrilled when the former 11th pick overall came on the court and showed us that he still had skills, going 2-4 with 2 assists, 2 steals and zero turnovers in his 15 minutes. He got to the lane and opened things up with aplomb, and even though his two misses were on layups where he flew to the hoop, we had to wonder what the kid is doing off the court that limits his playing time.

We will ask that question and more when the HHB rolls into the arena for the next Hawks home game on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic.

The HHB is packing their bags for the big game on Wednesday but can still be reached in the Comments area for witty rejoinders and conversation.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Standing Atop the Mountain, Peace Be With You

They'll learn.

Sometime this season, They'll learn the following:

  • You can't waste possessions.
  • A 20 point lead, with the exception of 6:40 left in the game, with the ball, is not safe.
  • Never put the ball on the floor around the basket when you are over 6'9.
  • Sometimes you can't take that last shot, especially with double coverage.
  • That it's never time to be desperate, especially when you are only one possession down.
  • When you have a star player down, you can't let them get going with easy looks.
  • When it's down to the last possession, and you are on defense, never let the team's best player take the last shot.

The Hawks are 0-2 in that lesson this season. Someone else has to beat you.

That mistake was one among the many, all of them contributing to the final outcome, but there's a thing about that last one. If you make that mistake, it's the last one of the game.

The Hawks have shown good mettle this season, and the HHB expects that this tough loss will heal, and fans can take note that, even in a game they had no business winning with their second half play, they still lost by a single point on the road.

Will they repeat some or all of these mistakes again this season? Certainly.

But one day, on a road that could lead this team beyond any Hawks team in Atlanta, one day--

---they'll learn.

The HHB is chanting and taking deep breaths inside the Official HHB Internet Room, Comments and other Mistakes the team made are welcome in the Comment Section

Vince Carter---Not Gonna Phone It In Tonight

Our friends (all of them) over at Zaza's Playground dug up this interesting item regarding Vince Carter and his motivation for tonight's game against the Hawks.

While you may assume that natural competitive instincts, millions of dollars, and the relative mediocrity of the Nets this season would be able to motivate a player, apparently Vince needs more.

It certainly seems like Vince is plenty motivated against the Hawks, where no shot is impossible for the former Tar Heel and he seems to score a-plenty.

Sure enough a search through the inner mind and personal diary of Vince Carter revealed a list of the Top 10 reasons Vince gets motivated to do his best for tonight's game.

10. Cut the Check

9. My teammates need me.

8. Coin said "Heads"

7. Read the autobiography of Derrick Coleman in order to make the most of his talent.

6. Playing Atlanta

5. Reservations are at 10pm.

4. A Special "somebody" in the crowd.

3. One of the officials doing the game called him "pretty boy" when in Toronto.

2. Atlanta is the presidential library home of his cousin, Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States.

1. Every 13 games, a statement must be made!

There you go---So in honor of Mr. Carter, we present the theme song for when he takes the court at home tonight. You go get 'em, Vince!

It Was A Very Good Year

When I was thirty-five
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We'd ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was thirty-five

Though Sinatra sang unabashedly about the ladies in his tune, the HHB says that Sinatra and the Hawks had a similar theme----

It was a very good year.

Think about it:

  • The emergence and energy of Al Horford was getting regular playing time.
  • Josh Smith and Josh Childress continued their growth and development.
  • Joe Johnson repeats as an All-Star (only 5th Hawks player since 1975 to do so).
  • The Arrival of Mike Bibby for Shelden Williams.
  • A playoff run for the first time since 1999.
  • Zaza's H2H with Garnett
  • Game 4 and Joe's killer sauce.
  • Dominique calling that there would be a Game 7 before Game 5 was even finished.
  • Game 6.

Then came some drama as the Hawks watched Billy Knight leave the nest he had built and was replaced by Rick Sund, who promptly presided over the messy free agency season.

Josh Childress somewhat exposed the franchise and left the NBA for Greece, and continues to garner amazing attention for the move.

The Hawks signed Maurice Evans and RFM ostensibly to replace Childress.

The long wait and hand wringing for Josh Smith to sign finally occurs when Memphis signs him to an offer sheet. Atlanta waits for about .0001 seconds to match the offer.

Then the season starts:

  • 6-0.
  • The Hawks, with the momentum from the drama and surprisingly competitiveness against the Celtics last playoffs and an undefeated start with wins over Orlando (away) and New Orleans (away) bring the Hawks into a place called Relevancy.
  • Josh Smith gets hurt during the streak.
  • Last second loss to Boston, in Boston, without Josh Smith.
  • New Jersey owns us.
  • Hawks go about .500 without Smith.
  • Smith returns.
  • The dreaded Texas trip.
  • A 7-1 homestand.
  • Winning 9 out of 10 to close out the calendar and win 21 games before Jan 1st for the first time since 1979.

Along with that, as the statisticians in the house can attest, the Hawks have found their identity, though it's not what most had envisioned for this long, athletic team.

The Hawks have found that a slow pace suits them, as they are 26th in the league in Game Pace and are putting up their best Offensive Rating since 1990. You can check it all out (I mean, I don't know what all the numbers mean, but we seem to win when we're good in all of these things) right here. Try it. Fun for the whole family.

Somewhere in the heart of Atlanta, Mike Woodson is smiling.

Yes, he has quirks, as do all bosses, but Woodson seems to be getting what he wants, a cohesive starting 5 that he can go with every night, just like the Pistons team he left to come take on the rebuilding Hawks.

Still in the spirit of resolution and growth that January 1 always brings (Don't believe us? Check the gym registration stats---January is easily the busiest month as folks vow to change.) we wish to list the HHB Wish List for 2009.

  • Continued winning and relevance for the Good Birds.
  • More playing time for Acie Law or a cohesive long term plan around the point guard position--we mean, other than praying that Mike Bibby can continue his excellence as he gets further into his 30's.
  • A more polished inside game for Al Horford and a will to assert himself as more than a complementary piece to the game.
  • For Mike Woodson to play inside-out more, thereby taking advantage of Horford to ease the dependency of the three to the Hawks success.
  • Another All-Star berth for Joe Johnson (a third would make him only the third Hawk since 1975 to be a 3-peater---Nique and Dan Roundfield being the others.)
  • An All-Star berth for Mike Bibby.
  • 50 wins and home court for the Hawks.
  • To get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time.
  • To get another Legitimate Big Man in the offseason.

We'll stop there, but we are excited about what 2009 can bring for the Hawks, but we also celebrate 2008 as the year the Hawks packed their bags and left Lottery Land, but more importantly built something that appears will stand for a longer than a season.

It was, indeed, a very good year.