Saturday, February 28, 2009


Look what showed up at Philips Arena Friday night, eh? As predicted right here at the HHB, the Hawks got back to winning ways by getting back home and beating the Heat 91-83.

It looked early on that it would be a night of missed opportunities, literally, as the Hawks failed to parlay a fine defensive effort by treating the Heat to an array of missed shots---wide open looks for Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson couldn't find the bottom of the cup, so despite somebody waking up Josh Smith on the defensive end and more fine play out of Al Horford (7 rebounds in the first quarter), the Hawks could only manage a (4) point lead by the end of the first quarter.

But this was a return to what works for the Hawks---good energy, lively play, and Al Freaking Horford.

When Horford plays with the aggressiveness he displayed Friday night, he makes a serious positive impact.

Coming into the game, we were treated to how Jermaine O'Neal was a key acquisition inside for the Heat---but throughout the contest, with Horford stuck to him, O'Neal failed to deliver on the pregame introduction.

O'Neal spun, faked, faded away, drove, and was for the most part blunted by Al---to the tune of a 3-10 shooting night and a trip directly to the bench in the fourth quarter. If this were truly a playoff type atmosphere, then the Heat couldn't be happy with their key acquisition playing himself to the pine down the stretch.

To be fair, part of the problem was that the guy behind him on the bench, Michael Beasley, used his speed and long range to beat Horford more consistently---frankly, we thought Mike Woodson left his Pachulia/Horford frontcourt out there too long as Beasley got really going in the fourth--before finally going back to Josh Smith to help play against the quick Beasley.

In the end, Horford posted the first 20-20 (Major Double-Double) since Dikembe Mutombo did the feat against the Raptors in 2001, and aided the Hawks by playing hard every minute on the floor, typifying the Hawks collective effort in the win.

Yes, but How Was the Soup?

RFM has been, dare everybody say it, consistent---and in the good way. He was steady again against the Heat, and helped the Hawks as they had to play the last 20 minutes or so without Mike Bibby--who was feeling something Friday night---but it wasn't basketball. He was in control---though down the stretch we did see a questionable offensive foul and the classic dribble of the knee going toward the hoop---and shot 50 percent. He seems to be in a solid role for the first time in a while, which may have settled him down a bit---It's weird to be comfortable with him in the game, but the HHB has found ourselves depending on him---Might be fatal!

Josh Smith earned some paycheck against Miami, but he gave a couple of bonus features in the game that bears noting----The most memorable was a put back after an errant Al Horford jump shot---the ball rimming off back toward the shooter, Smith launched himself toward the ball and the rim and found himself with possession of the rock with his back to the basket, in mid-air---Smith solved the complex algebraic problem by simply tossing the ball backwards, over his head and into the basket---a basket that, if any basket could, deserved an extra credit point.

The Heat never stopped coming at the Hawks---and the Hawks never took the foot off the petal--the effort, energy, and execution never stopped---well until the last of the game offensively, where we obviously believe what has worked for 43 minutes is no good for the last 5---isolation, bad shots, and turnovers are the key ingredients at that point of the game apparently---but time ran out on the visitors and the Hawks made their freebies so it's game over and onwards and upwards.

Cleve-land is next, and winning on the road will take just as consistent and even an effort---The HHB is refreshed and sees more winning on the horizon---50 wins is the mantra---and it's coming.

The HHB gives a gold star to Al Horford and excuses him from homework for today---Any other rewards for the Gator can be dropped off in the Comments area.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Much like the Hawks have done from time to time this season the HHB has been on a break---no structural damage to the HHB Studios or personnel issues that have caused a power struggle in the HHB board rooms---just time to remove, reflect, and rebound.

Just like the Hawks.

Sure, some might look at a 2-4 West coast swing as a downer, though the Birds were oh so close to making it a very respectable .500 trip---but we look at it as a tough patch that they have worked through, with (2) very important home games against quality competition to test their mettle with (Miami, Cleve-land).

We have moved into the surprisingly optimistic category---after all, we are staring at (9) more wins until 41---a plateau not seen since the 97-98 Hawks---not to curse anything, but the Official HHB Accountant got out the Texas Instruments and discovered that the Hawks have a lot of home games remaining on the schedule and that the home team would need to go 18-7 to hit 50 wins--a major accomplishment for this team, to be sure---but attainable in the HHB's new fresh frame of mind.

Quick Shots:

We haven't been able to mention it since we have been away, but we had to laugh that Joe Johnson wilted under the glare of uncontested free throws in the HORSE competition All-Star weekend---we are sure other sites have mentioned this---but we wanted to share in the giggles anyway.

We still like the core of this team---Marvin, Al, Joe, everybody, everybody---did anyone think that the Hawks had that kind of run in them last night, at the end of that sojourn across the Western US? No Bibby, no Smoove---some serious step-up happened last night to be sure.

We saw RFM turn in an interested ode to Moses Malone (4 assists, 4 fouls, 4 turnovers)---yup---still want to make sure this isn't the long term answer behind Mike at the point.

We are in multiple recordings mode for the home stretch---no Official Satellite issues or .com failures---We are locked and loaded for what we are predicting will be a memorable and fantastic run to the finish line---don't ditch the Hawks just now---the best is coming.

We believe.

The HHB has taken the sheets off the furniture and turned the water and power back on in the Studios---Please forward all mail and old newspapers to the Comments section.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fault Tolerance

We are not happy with the Official Satellite Service of the HHB---As we watched what turned out to be the 99-95 Hawks win @ Detroit, we noticed that we had over an hour and a half of nothing---and then suddenly we were in the fourth quarter. The DVR has become an essential part of television watching certainly, sports watching definitely---but it's also become a single point of failure.

Alas, like reading a mystery novel's last page first to see what ultimately happens before you read the story, we popped in on the Birds as they were already up by (6) with over seven minutes left to play.

We noticed that, just like in the Wizards game prior, there seemed to be more energy on the defensive end, and offensively the ball seemed to move around quite well. We even noted that Joe Johnson, Flip Murray, and Al Horford scored on subsequent trips down the floor. The Hawks were up (7) with a little less than (3) minutes left to play.

All the Birds had to do---was keep doing what they were doing on offense and take care of the glass on defense.

But it's well known what the Hawks are going to do with their offense late in games. Give it to Joe Johnson and get out of the way.

And hey, we here at the HHB are all for Joe Johnson's Killer Sauce, but when the other team is overloading the floor to stop it---and it's working---it's time to try another recipe.

In fact, if the Hawks are not going to let anyone other than Joe go at it at the end of the game, then we suggest if he get triple teamed, instead of barely reaching iron with the shot, he heave it high into the rafters---sure, it's not likely to go in, or even avoid a shot clock violation, but we could run off another 2-4 seconds waiting for it to land---making it at least someone advantageous to us. It was nice though, to see Joe make those two clutch free throws with a few ticks left to seal the deal---Nice way to go into the break.

And we have to say---we enjoy the Mike Woodson Late Game Player Lottery---you know, the one where you might see any Hawk at any time on the floor---depending on the situation of course (wink)---Watch for your favorite player during crunch time! Fun for the whole family!

We're sure it confounds the opposition, but it may have a similar impact on the team---We are sure we saw Mo Evans head spin when trying to check Allen Iverson one on one as Iverson scored easily with 43 seconds left.

But hey, it was a win--the 31st before the all star break, which is the most since the HHB was using WEBTV to make their internet groove happen. 10 games over .500 at the break, (3) guys participating in the (official) AS Game festivities, and winning games in venues like the Palace, where the Hawks have seemed to wilt in the past.

We've had our concerned posts recently, and with good reason we say---but it's all in perspective---this has definitely been a step forward this season for the Birds, and if offered our current position before the season, we would have danced a winner's dance and taken it on the spot, anxious to see every minute of the story unfold.

If the DVR works of course.

The HHB shouts it loud for our buddy J-Roose, who we caught on the feed taking it all in on behalf of the greatest media relations department in sports. Hawks win AND a Sparty win over the Maize and Blue? Good times JR, Good times.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No Matter How Thin You Slice It---It's Still Baloney

A popular take on the Hawks monumental 121-97 failure at home against the Clippers (now 12-39!) will be the following:

Sometimes you just have one of those nights---and will probably be followed by a sheepish shrug of the shoulders or some other "what are you gonna do" expression of defeat.

Sometimes maybe that would be true, but the HHB watched every disgusting frame of this film---once was all we could muster---and the verdict from our perch was not one of some arbitrary galactic inevitability, but something of a much more tangible reasoning for the Hawks collapse.

No defense + No effort = Big Loss

Complicated calculations to be sure--and we know that the mathematical titans over at Hoopinion probably have some similar reasoning to ours for the destruction of the Birds nest---and we doubt it will involve horoscope or 88 sided dice.

Now---we don't intend to go off on a rant here---we're sure that The Vent, Str8Talk or Peachtree Hoops can hold down the fort in this area---besides, we feel we got that out in the open when we scribed this prescient posting.

No, the HHB simply wants to call a fish a fish---and last night the Hawks looked like minnows.

We hope the home team enjoyed watching Al Thornton, Zach Randolph, and even Ricky Davis run all over their court---laughing and carrying on like they were taking all the Hawks lunch away and eating their loot right in the Hawks forlorn faces.

We hope that the effort that they didn't spend playing team defense was well worth the embarrassment of giving up a mind-boggling (38) assists and (57) percent shooting at the hands of a team that---let's just say isn't synonymous with offensive efficiency (last in NBA in FG%).

No, this wasn't a cosmic fluke that "happens" to teams every so often in an 82 games schedule---it's the natural outcome of what happens when you don't play as a team in any way shape or form at any part of the game.

They came out slow early, as is their way, gave the visitors confidence by not showing any defensive resistance---got down early---got down big early----and then let the game go without much of a whimper.

Against the Bobcats, we argued that we would take the win because the value of a win in the NBA is high---against the Clippers, the Hawks acted as if losing one game in the grand scheme of things didn't matter all that much. It shows, and really it continues to spotlight, the long way to go for the team mentally---and how they grow in this area will be directly correlated to how much further they advance through the postseason---and how few of these stinkers you'll see during the season.

The Hawks cannot show up and win, even at home--they must play together in a team offense/team defense configuration or more games like the one Saturday night will be the result--and those who want to use the "it was in the stars" defense of the team will be forced to look at the real symptoms of the team's downfall.

The HHB is busily checking the alignment of the planets to see what's for breakfast---All seers are welcome to prognosticate or comment in the Comments area.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Same Play, Different Scorer

We're not going to pretend to know if playing a 19-30 Charlotte team without Gerald Wallace almost even for the most part is impressive, ordinary, or scary.

We do know this--the Hawks won anyway, by five points, on the road, and without Joe Johnson, who we can safely say is the Hawks best player. In a recent history that has seen this team struggle for a single win, we'll take it.

Throw in the fact that the Hawks did it after spotting the home team an (18) point first half lead and got a gutsy, determined performance from Marvin Williams to do it down the stretch and we can say that the 102-97 outcome removed from us the carrot face that had been present for that entire first half.

Mustache Marv had his finest 5-15 game yet by getting to the free throw line for a staggering (20) throws---and in a bell curve smashing performance for the rest of the team, Williams canned 18 of them---Marv being such a good teammate, he probably apologized for making the rest of the team (12-19, 63 percent) look bad.

Williams attacked, attacked, and attacked some more in the second half against the Bobcats, who had frontcourt players in serious foul trouble. Not to get all mushy here--but we were a little choked up that the Hawks seemed to understand (well, at least Marvin did) that and took advantage, even though the 'Cats had some serious height advantage.

Sure, Bobcat fans will howl that the Hawks got all the calls and that the (2) buzzer beaters from RFM and Mo Evans were pure luck--but the fact is that the Bobcats squandered their 18 point first half bonanza by doing what immature teams do---stop moving the ball on offense, start standing around on defense, and settling for jump shot after jump shot. Toss in the requisite poor decision making with the ball and the ensuing turnovers and (poof) your shiny lead is all gone.

Believe the HHB---it takes one to know one.

We have seen the Hawks do the exact same thing---in fact, all you have to do is watch the first half of this same game to get the vibe. It was the second half, however, that showed the Hawks get hot, get aggressive, and get the win.

Down the stretch it was the Hawks that made the plays--mostly by Williams, who assumed the vacated Mike Woodson Isolation Extravaganza position with Johnson out. Williams didn't make jumpers like Joe, but he did use every inch of his Billy Knight Long and Tall body to get to the rim and ultimately the free throw line on his way to his (29) point night. He staggered a bit after one particularly hard landing late in the game, but after a time out, Marvin was back on the court and at the line.

(Random bad draft pick note) For a minute we had visions of a cold Cal Bowdler (Editor's note: Cynics would ask if there was any other kind) being pulled off the bench by the Celtics late in a game to shoot free throws for an injured Hawk. Bowdler ambled out to the line as if going to get the morning paper on a cold, winter morning---he stretched a bit, and you could almost hear the popping in his knees as he took his throws----and made them both. (End Note)

Both teams traded gaffes late---the Hawks with an offensive foul from Williams on a screen---the Bobcats inexplicably nearly dribbling out the clock before Josh Smith pounded their last attempt into the glass--sealing the game.

Again, we won't get out the abacus to see how this game rates---it's a win, on the road, without Joe Johnson, and at a place where the Hawks were 1-7 in the last (8) tries---So we'll take it obviously---no strings attached. The HHB is, after all, very forgiving.

Junk Mail, Junk Mail, Bills, Junk Mail

It was said by the Bobcat broadcast team but it bears repeating---the Hawks don't finish well around the rim. Besides Josh Smith, who did not do so tonight, the remainder of the Hawks act as if they are 2 years old shooting at their Little Tykes rim for the first time---unsure and unproductive. There were guffaws mixed with groans as Zaza Pachulia attempted to score around the hoop---he looks as if he is solving a Rubik's Cube out there around the basket---at one point he missed a wide open layup so, we swear, he could tap it in---a more comfortable shot for him. In Orlando this is known as a Terry Catledge Maneuver.

The Hawks were 21 for 58 inside the three point line (36 percent) and 10-18 beyond it---not the recipe for consistent offensive production. But hey, Mike Woodson AND Terry Stotts can't be wrong!

We think he is dangerous when trying to create baskets for others, but RFM is the guy we want launching any wild, end of the quarter shot. He reminds us of our good friend we played with on the mean streets of the University of Florida---the guy would routinely throw wild layup attempts and half court shots when we were waiting to get enough guys to run---and then would take those same crazy layups in the game---nobody could call it trash---that was his shot. That guy was our RFM.

It's good to see Al Horford back, but his post game is rusty---We understand that Rick Sund thinks he is a center through and through---but posting him against seven footers clearly makes him rush, miss, and fadeaway---It is also good to have his passing back at the high and low post---He set up quite a few hoops tonight that stretched beyond his (4) assists, including tapping in a hoop for the Bobcats---hey, we're smiling, Al--Welcome back!

The HHB is thawing out after the usual (2) week winter that the HHB HQ endures every year---Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows are welcome anytime in the Comments area.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why Not Forfeit?

Bill Russell had a famous approach to his attitude regarding playing games. He said that the game was on the schedule, you have to play it, you might as well win. That approach says a lot about how his Boston Celtic teams were not just merely great, but all time great.

Let's just say the Atlanta Hawks have not embraced that philosophy.

In fact, one might say that the team has adopted a different approach and to the untrained (read: HHB) eyes, it looks a little like this:

We are going to play the way that each individual feels like playing. We're going to seek to do the bare minimum and try to win. We're going to give effort in spurts and hope that's enough to beat this team. If more energy or execution is required to win the game, then we won't win the game.

This alleged approach has led the Hawks to look the part of a disinterested, disjointed squad---and the results have reflected as such.

Against the Bucks on Saturday night, the Hawks looked as if playing defense was a foreign language to them as Milwaukee and their roster of journeymen and neverwillbes paraded to the hoop like a charity game. Sometimes the lack of interest in defending the easiest of shots was so profound, the HHB thought the Hawks were paid promotional patsies for the home team.

The fact that the game appeared close only highlights the fact that, should the Hawks have showed ANY interest on the defensive end, this game would have been as much a laugher as the game in Atlanta was. That these Bucks shot 52 percent, scored 110 points and had a whopping 52 points in the paint tells a strong story about a team that appeared to try and show up with their talent and win.

It was wasted minutes by all Hawks involved.

We will say this---we try to find the light heartedness in the midst of a long season. The HHB tries not to take things too seriously in the context of one game out of 82.


If the Hawks don't permanently break out of the habit of taking the other team's temperature to see how hard they may have to play to win, they will go nowhere this season.

If the Hawks don't approach defense, especially in the paint, with more attention and dedication, they will go nowhere this season.

The Hawks tried to show up and win---and failed. It's an approach that seems to have become their calling card since a successful December. There could be a number of excuses why: fatigue, malaise, injuries---but there is no excuse for not being ready to give yourself the best chance to win every night. It's an attitude---and the one the Hawks are currently displaying doesn't get the job done in the NBA.

And if they need to find one that does, they should refer to Mr. Russell.

End communique.