Monday, March 30, 2009

Simple Answers

"If the Hawks weren't hitting their threes and the Lakers could make a shot, this would be an even game!"

--Dominique Wilkins, on the telecast of the Hawks-Lakers, Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Sometimes, the answer to the question, why did they win or lose, is pretty simple. For the Hawks 89-79 victory over the Lakers, it was as simple as THHF quoth above.

The Hawks made 10-19 3's---which means they were 23-65 from everywhere else on the floor (35 percent, everybody!). We can thank Mike Bibby and Mo Evans for being so money from Extra Point Territory (8-11), because Joe Johnson and RFM were not (2-7).

Not even the front court players could help the Hawks woeful shooting as Josh Smith and Al Horford continued their sub par shooting ways (4-17).

The HHB has noted often that Horford is rushing his moves and shots inside---this was no better illustrated than when Horford backed down, turned into the lane, had no competition for a dunk or baby hook, and he seemed to let the ball go on the way up. Horford is making himself small inside again---when he learns to use his height, reach, and gets patient on committing and making his moves, he will be a force. Until then, he is making it easy on the defense by altering his own shot.

In Horford's defense, he doesn't get many opportunities to work on his moves during an actual game. That the Lakers ran more post plays for Josh Powell than Horford gets from the Hawks should tell you that Woodson wants Horford to do all the dirty work, period---and get a bone once or twice a game.

As for Smith, well, we're going to pass on making the same comments we've made recently about Smith. He was all over the place (although not as all over the place as "Flubber" West, who somehow managed to score as many points as Horford) and not always in a good way. That his missed dunk was the least troubling of his mistakes should speak volumes, though it's unlikely that Smith even noticed. Smith did seem to make an effort on the defensive boards (8 of those, 11 total), which aided the Birds in the "upset".

Johnson's bad night could be chalked up to guarding Kobe Bryant, who struggled himself from the field (7-19). We don't know the actual impact of focusing more on one end of the floor, energy wise, that the other---we'll leave that kind of analytical scrutiny to smarter corners of the Hawks world (Hoopinion), but even so Johnson launched 18 shots (4 passed through the net), so he wasn't bashful even if he were tired from his efforts on Bryant.

But to speak to the other part of Wilkins' analysis, there were a lot of open shots that the Lakers simply missed.

Even though the Hawks seemed to move with more energy, which isn't always equal to efficiency, the Lakers missed a wide variety of open looks, including Kobe, who was not particularly covered when missing (5) of (6) three-pointers.

Down the stretch, when the Hawk shifted into the run-the-clock-down-under-ten-seconds-then-shoot-an-almost-unwatchable-shot mode, the Lakers still couldn't pull any closer or put any pressure on the Hawks to do something resembling anything on offense.

It's nice that the Hawks finally caught a team on a road trip that played like it, but the (10) point win over one of the better teams didn't exactly assuage concerns about the Hawks playing better basketball.

The HHB has a happy emoticon for this win, really, we do---doubters can leave their objections in the Comments Area.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The HHB on the Bill Shanks Show!

The HHB was on The Bill Shanks Show on Fox Sports 1670 and You can listen to the HHB on The Bill Shanks Show with a single click!

The Bill Shanks Show can be heard M-F from 3-6pm EST right here. Thanks to their show for having us---good times!

The HHB suggests you listen at your own risk---Observations and Rotten Tomatoes are welcome, as always, in the Comments Area.

...And Knowledge is Power!

Now You Know--Swept by the Celtics Edition:

  • That the perimeter, hand-off and dribble offense won't be too effective (just like last year) against teams that actually are interested in defending.
  • The Hawks attempt to out-athletic everybody instead of focusing more on team offense and defense---they beat most of the teams thanks to their abilities, but struggle against the truly good teams.
  • The Hawks simply don't go to the post with any regularity or authority.
  • Al Horford, rushing his shots and committing his move inside too soon offensively, isn't giving them a reason to go inside more often.
  • The intensity with which the team can play simply isn't seen as consistently as you see it on the truly excellent teams.
  • This team, despite it's warts, can make any game close with only a sorry bucket of team play.
  • The top teams do not waste possessions on either end of the floor as much as the Hawks do. The Hawks may be in the top (5) in turnovers, but that stat doesn't measure poor decision making.
  • Joe Johnson is great and can create many shots for himself, but that doesn't mean he is at his best or even close to his most effective when he is doing so.
  • Josh Smith's shot blocking presence inside simply isn't felt in the same way as in previous seasons. He got (3) blocks, but rarely did it feel like the Celtics were intimidated or moved in any way by the threat.
  • When the ball stops for the Hawks, so does the offense.
  • Mo Evans and RFM have indeed been excellent pickups off the bench, but in top games, the bench can only be an accessory, not the primary point of attach or production.
  • The Zaza Pachulia in the starting lineup maneuver, endorsed by the HHB, didn't seem effective or great in any impact.
  • It's not right that Stephon Marbury can have his best game this season by knocking down 4-5 for his (11) points or that the Hawks never can get that key addition to give themselves some depth. It will be a clear indicator that the team/franchise has turned when they can.
  • Statistically, the game looks a lot closer than it felt--in large part to the Hawks playing one quarter with the urgency that should be used in all four.
  • Some teams/staffs can take a second round player like Glen Davis or Eddie House and develop him to the point where he can darn near dominate a game here and there. Other organizations seem to squander talent, misuse and misappropriate their skills, and let another draft pick go unproductive.
  • Doc Rivers took it as an offense when the Hawks would get hot at all. He used his timeouts to defuse the crowd any time the Hawks were making a run.
  • If the idea is to see if the Hawks would play any differently against the Celtics than they did against the Spurs, we have to say we didn't see it. The Hawks always seemed to be at arms length.
Trying to put a finger on exactly who or what beat the Hawks 99-93 against the Celtics doesn't seem like a worthwhile exercise. It's hard to assign specific fault or blame when the analysis comes back with the fact that the Celtics believe in and execute team basketball and the Hawks don't show that they understand what that concept is all about.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pressure Applied

We don't have to look at a box score to know that the Atlanta Hawks took on a Tim Duncan-less San Antonio Spurs team and completely wilted under the heat of a strong team approach to the game to the tune of a 102-92 loss at home.

We notice that, when times are good, you may not really see the true nature of people---it's when pressure is applied or when times and situations go awry that you begin to see of what character someone is made.

When watching the Hawks Wednesday night, against the push of a team that rarely gives any ground, we saw some true core behavior from the squad.

And Now It's Time For----Authentic HHB Insight!

RFM was on early--continuing his hotness from the game before against Minnesota. We're not sure what San Antonio did to cool him off (halftime flowers?), but Murray bricked his second half shots as the pressure got tighter and didn't seem to be able to get inside as much as before.

Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia played solid games, but Evans played (22) minutes while Zaza participated in about (15). Pachulia played well against the Spurs second unit up front (which w/o Duncan looks an awful lot like their first). In fact, his (7) rebounds and tough play made us wistful that he played instead of someone who got more than twice the minutes as he. Evans was perfect shooting, with a couple of threes and an impressive rebound-jam.

But this game wasn't about the bench, considering each of the (4) main starters played about (40) minutes. If this were about trying to evaluate playoff readiness--playing the starters that many minutes against a team without their top talent, well---you would have thought a better results were in the offing. Back to the show---

Josh Smith played a game that can only be tastefully described as sloppy. If this were a game to see how Smith would respond to playoff pressure, he failed. He dropped all inhibitions and played like he seems to want to play---taking chances, out of position on both sides of the floor, wild shooting and ball handling. He fills a box score, but as many times the ball was in his hands and with the number of decisions he was aloud to make on the court, Smith should have been the player of the game. Instead, he posted (12) points, turned the ball over (4) times with his (5) assists, and offered (0) blocked shots on a night where we had identified that he might be key in deterring Tony (42 points) Parker inside.

If Smith were playing baseball, getting excited about his statistics would be equivalent to coming up with the bases loaded four times and getting a couple of RBI while making multiple errors in the field. Smith's "efforts" really cost the Hawks a chance to win against the Spurs.

Al Horford, meanwhile, played hard, but showed that he still rushes his shots under pressure. Horford was a miserable 2-9 from the field, rushing all sorts and manner of shots. He was content to sit in the background a bit in this game. Even with his activity (13) rebounds on the defensive glass, that's something he has to overcome in the heat of the playoffs.

Defensively, due to the inane TLC-Switch defense the Hawks seem contractually obligated to play, Horford and Mike Bibby kept getting switched, leaving Tony Parker being defended by Al. No disrespect to the Gator, but Tony Parker looked like he was taking family pictures by the amount of times he had to smile at that matchup. That the Hawks continued in this manner, offering little adjustment, speaks to how Parker piled up the points and how the coaching held up to the glare of this matchup as well.

Bibby was steady at the point, but he took some quick shots also, and was abused defensively (and physically by Matt Bonner, who left Mike with stitches above his left eye). The Hawks are going to have to gameplan to this defensively somehow, but now almost into April, the team seems to have employed the "cross your fingers" defense to account for Mike's inadequacies on that end and will now hope for the best.

That leaves Joe Johnson. When pressure is applied to Joe, he reacts in a consistent pattern on the floor. He wants to put the team on his back and carry them offensively. Against the Spurs, with Horford cold, the perimeter tight, and Josh Smith too loose, it was a good strategy. Joe had (30) points on 13-23 shooting, continually subjecting himself to a pounding inside and working extremely hard to get in a position to shoot. Yes, sometimes he passed up passing up the ball to a more open teammate, but with the team wilting, Joe was the Hawks only hope. It just wasn't enough to make up for a player(s) not getting it done on the defensive end.

From the Eternally Obvious

To put it bluntly, the Hawks won't win any meaningful (read: playoff games) using this approach to the game. The coaching staff didn't do the team any favors by not adjusting for Parker's dominance and for allowing Josh Smith to play ridiculous minutes when squandering so many possessions on each side of the floor.

Fortunately, it's one game, and the team can use this as a mirror to see how they responded to the storm that passed through the arena Wednesday night. That's the thing about pressure situations, as one passes, there is time to reflect, adjust-change, and get ready for the next one.

On the Hawks schedule, it's the rainy season, offering plenty of chances to shine.

The HHB recognizes the bump in the road to (50) wins---We're stopping the bus so that some can get off, but we won't change the destination on the front---Condolences to our mental health can be left in the Comments Area.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were

You remember, don't you?

The days where the Atlanta Hawks were a team of lottery picks. Where fans would go to games not sure if the team would even be able to compete, much less pull off a win. Where, when the deficit got too big early on, the effort would fold up and be put away---saved for a day where, hopefully, they could use all they had to get that elusive victory or (gasp!) two in a row.

We remember looking at a box score after the game and saying, 12 points? That's not too bad---then checking the box score to see that the team was down 20+ at the half--meaning the other team was on "easy" for the second half.

Good news, Bird Watchers, we are now the "other" team---you know, the team that, when playing with even a modicum of effort, the immense talent gap would destroy that glimmer of hope the other team might have come in with.

We are the team that tosses second half alley-oops, easily out maneuvers for quick buckets, and makes the other team look like they have never played the game.

Sure, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a go of it in the second half---as Rick Mahorn once informed us, this is the NBA, teams will not stop trying to get theirs, so don't sweat it if we don't win by 40 (and hey, we didn't)---but every time the Wolves thought about making it a real game, the Hawks--and specifically RFM on this night (yowza!)--gave enough effort to put the game back into the comfort zone, and cruise to the 109-97 win at home.

Now we don't know what possessed Kevin McHale to treat their second unit like a mop-up pitcher, but Rodney Carney and Bobby Brown approved, we're sure. Even when the Wolves got the lead to 10, we still saw Brian Cardinal instead of Kevin Love---hey, thanks McHale---no, no--we'll get the bill--thanks for coming!

Schadenfreude Ain't Just a River in Egypt

As mentioned, RFM had it going tonight---a classic game to let your 6th man chase his career high (not quite with 30 on 12-18 shooting--31 is the number).

The Backcourt went 18-40 with (40) points of their own---One entry after decrying the use of outside-in basketball here at the HHB, the Hawks blow it out with (70) from their top three guards. Well, Terry Stotts may be smiling somewhere, but it's an outlier performance to be sure.

As much as the IBR/HHF broadcast team rave about how Mario West will always have a job in the NBA, there haven't been many less memorable (16) minutes performances than we saw from West today. Look, we get it, he's human Flubber out there, but (2) points and (2) rebounds in all that time against a team begging for you to pad the stats doesn't seem to equate to a long, healthy stay in the league. Flubber is (1) knee injury away from the end of his career.

Kevin Love is a real good player and his shoulders are at least 15 feet across, but we are incensed that the Wolves already get the ball into Love way more than the Hawks use Al Horford inside. We are on the cusp of a "Play Him or Trade Him" entry that is sure to show our collective blood boiling. Love does a lot of the same things Horford does and we don't see him being treated like Five Minute Fred in the offensive gameplan like Al is. Let's thank Mr. McHale again for keeping him on the bench even when the game got close again.

You would think that, after witnessing first hand what the Timberwolves reserves were doing with their time on the court that the Hawks bench warriors would follow suit. Not so---Had to be disappointing to the first team to have to come back onto the floor in the fourth, but the Hawks are not going to be putting many games away with Solomon Jones and the aforementioned West out there offensively. Jones also seems to look disdainfully at good defense, preferring to just reach out or push in other instances.

Shelden Williams---Horrible, horrible selection. GMs everywhere have to hate Billy Knight for allowing the entire nation to feel that they can make a better lottery pick than an NBA GM with that #5 pick in 2006. He may be the greatest guy in the world, and the HHB knows he's saving his paychecks, but he looks like he can't even compete in the NBA.

Seriously--Rick Sund---Please add (2) more players to the bench who can play with Zaza, RFM, and Mo Evans--a big and a point preferably---thank you!

In all, a trip down memory lane---remembering what it was like to be the lesser team makes us hopeful that we will someday remember what it was like before we stepped on teams like this by 30+ and had all the starters on the bench for the fourth quarter.

Hey, and while we're reminiscing---this win gave the Hawks their first winning season since the 1999 season---Jeff Sheppard and Mark West would be proud.

The HHB is passing the Puffs around the room as we recall stories of laying down to the Wolves w/Kevin Garnett---good times, good times---You can sign our Get Well Corey Brewer card somewhere in the Comments Area.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Players

After the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Utah Jazz, snapping the visitor's long winning streak, Josh Smith told reporters, paraphrasing here, that the Hawks were a team to be reckoned with and that they had announced it to the world.

Not so fast there, young man.

It's no secret the Hawks can win against any team at home. We have constant reminders of (3) home games in particular from last year's playoffs that started that notion, and a season's worth of games this year to reinforce that opinion.

But let it said, and loud enough so Mr. Smith and the rest of the Hawks organization can hear, that you have not established yourselves as a true anything until you can win consistently on the road. Taking it a step further, you can't count yourself as a contender until you can win consistently on the road, no matter who it is.

This season, the Hawks have not played well consistently on the road and they showed Saturday that they weren't ready to tackle an elite team like Cleveland on their home court by getting beat 102-96. The score may seem close, but it only serves as a reminder that this team can be so good if it learned from any lesson it gets served while away from Philips Arena.

Once again the team roamed into enemy waters and immediately laid its egg. The Hawks offense in the first quarter looked as if they were handed a pop quiz on material they never studied. To win on the road, especially against a team like the Cavaliers, you must be poised, patient, and with total commitment.

To these things, the Hawks were Oh for Three.

Petulance and brooding defined the opening effort for the Hawks, and later in the game anger made its play, with Mike Woodson getting tossed and Josh Smith and Mike Bibby venting their frustration towards the officials, spending (4) points for whatever catharsis they received for their words.

The HHB, however, has evaluated the game and has determined that it is Al Horford who should be the most upset.

Horford has demonstrated remarkable aplomb inside offensively. He passes, shoots, drives, finishes, and makes things easier to score for the Hawks by providing a post presence with which to play the offense from the inside to the outside. With the way the team (mis)used Al on the offensive end Saturday afternoon, you have to wonder if Hawks place ANY value in Horford offensively.

Time and time again throughout the game the team played their usual perimeter hand off game, and the Cavs were waiting. We twittered before the game that Joe Johnson would have to get off to a better start to make an upset happen in CLE. Seems like both the Hawks and the Cavs were on the same page there, as Joe tried in vain to inject himself into the offense, often forcing himself into a hoard of swarming Cavs, who had obviously decided to dare the Hawks to do something different.

It took the Hawks over a quarter before they ran their first play into the post to start the offense, and even though going there was successful, they minimized it's use.

To be sure, the high-salaried team of HHB spotters tracked the efforts:

1st Q:

No post plays

2nd Q:

11:00 remaining--Post play, Johnson, scored.

8:22 remaining--Post play, Murray, fouled; post play Murray, second chance basket

6:50 remaining--Post play, Horford, basket and foul

5:06 remaining--Post play, Horford, basket by Bibby (assist Horford)

2:52 remaining--Post play, Horford, Maurice Evans fouled after pass from Horford

2nd Half:

3rd Q:

10:30 remaining--Post play, Horford, Maurice Evans 3 point basket (assist Horford)

9:05 remaining--Post play, Josh Smith, 2nd chance basket (Horford)

6:00 remaining--Post play, Joe Johnson, Smith basket

5:26 remaining--Post play, Smith, layup

3:09 remaining--Post play, Smith, missed layup


11:38 remaining--Post play, Smith, fouled

That's a grand total of (11) offensive possessions where the ball went into the post. (10) of those plays ended successfully and the one miss was an errant layup.

If the Hawks are EVER going to be serious about progressing as a team, then it's not just the players who have to shape up, it's the coaching staff as well, because wasting a resource like Al Horford will not get you past even the first round---and banging your offensive heads against the wall by doing the same ineffective thing every time down the floor is only going to dig your team a deep, dark hole--much like the one the Hawks dug themselves in this game.

That Horford, who is their best option in the post, received (4) whole plays tells the HHB that he is not properly valued by the coaching staff in terms of how he can help the Hawks win games.

They seem to be telling him to go be the energy guy---treating him like a second round pick or a limited bench player. It's a waste of his talents and an indictment of Mike Woodson, Larry Drew, and the entire Hawks staff and team that Horford was used so little and took a mere (6) shots.

The Hawks came in with much bravado, well deserved for their performances at home, but they leave Cleveland exposed at every level---and certainly not ready for Prime Time.


We know things have changed 'round these parts when a 95-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks can bring about a feeling of satisfaction, yet still having a honest feeling that the Hawks won the game on a much less than perfect effort.

This---is called progress.

It is truly a lift in expectation when an (8) point victory over a team that used to cause problems can lend itself to what some could argue is nitpicking.

You call it nitpicking, we call it---constructive criticism.

But it's progress to feel good about winning a 7th game in a row, even if it is all home games, yet still know and expect that things can get better.

We know--Do tell, HHB, how you all think things might have been better.

As you wish:

Joe Johnson, for the second straight game, didn't score his first point until there was about 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half. He still scored (24) and had an unnoticed (6) rebounds and (7) assists. If Joe had been even a little on earlier...things might have been better.

It's been said, many times-many ways, that the Hawks lack a true big man in the middle. The Mavericks had (16) offensive rebounds, (6) of which were by Ryan Hollins, who also helped himself to three or fourt alley-oops in the half court game. Keep the Mavericks off the boards and things might have been better.

Defensively, the Mavericks were unable to check Al Horford. It is great progress to see that Al can't be checked by a growing percentage of players in the L. However, imagine if Mike Woodson actually used Al in the post, running the offense through there. If the Hawks had done this even just a smidgen more---

Down the stretch, two things were obvious. One, the Hawks were going to hand the ball off around the perimeter to get Joe Johnson a shot. Two, the Mavericks were going to commit all (15) players and the coaching staff to stop it. Suspend reality for a bit and think if the Hawks actually did something else down the stretch offensively---in other words, make an adjustment---and not just rely on Joe Johnson to hoist 1 on 3 shots. The Hawks worked the ball into the post exactly (1) time in the last quarter, and the result was Al nearly killing himself dribbling---but Woodson allows the perimeter play to fail time and time again, so one bad play in the post shouldn't rule it out for the next (3) seasons.

Anyway, you get the picture. Again---the Hawks won the game by (8) points over another "tough" Western Conference foe---and the game never seemed in doubt. To defeat a team fairly soundly and still show so much room for improvement is progress.

Last One in is a Rotten Egg

We poured over the (65) seconds that Acie Law played against the Mavericks like the Zapruder film to see what he did to get yanked so quick after checking in. He did let JJ Berea go to the hoop and score, but he played two or three more possessions after that and seemed to get the team into the offense pretty quickly without any more defensive lapses. The only logical conclusion is that Mike Woodson saw him on the floor and said "Acie Law? No, I asked for Dental Floss--There is some pre game popcorn in my teeth."

We dont know what the aforementioned Berea did to coach Rick Carlisle, but leaving him on RFM for so many possessions in a row was cruel and unusual punishment. There is a reason that RFM had a team high (+24)--and that reason stood about 5'10.

For the first quarter of the game, the Hawks seemed like they might have thought they were still playing the Kings. Whisper quiet defense allowed the visitors to get a (29) point quarter out of the Hawks, but that was all.

Carlisle must have had a Damages episode to watch or something because his tantrum and subsequent exit from the game area was over something that was very minor.

We wrote on the Twitter Hitter that Jason Terry's performance was going to be a key to the game and it was. The league leader in 4th quarter 3's and in the top 10 in scoring in that period had one of his worst games as a visitor to the arena and brought to mind some of the colder days that Jet had as a member of the good guys.

Finally, The Official Spouse of the HHB said "Did Dominique just say that a the Mavericks 'shot their wad'?" Yes, he did, baby---yes he did indeed.

The HHB 50 win bandwagon is rolling along---plenty of seats left on it---reservations and meal orders can be placed in the Comments Area.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trapped---In a Winning Streak

Thoughts might have been, in more worrisome times, that the Hawks could get trapped overlooking the visiting Sacramento Kings, leading to a defeat that would potentially deflate all the fun that has been this current homestand/winning streak.

It looked that way Tuesday night, as the Hawks let the Kings get comfortable for quite a while inside Philips Arena. The Kings seemed to have made a ton of shots, in large part because the home team wanted to make sure the lottery bound team from Sacramento felt good about themselves by not playing much in the way of defense for three quarters.

Things looked so good for the Kings that the HHB had to check to make sure the Hawks really did win the game 119-97 when reviewing the smuggled footage again after the fact.

In fact, as much as the Hawks wanted to be good hosts to the Kings, the visitors were more interested in being excellent guests.

The Kings offered little to themselves in terms of scoring or defending inside, getting crushed 64-30 in points in the paint. The Hawks strung together an oceanful of dunks, getting (11) alone in the first half. Al Horford and Josh Smith had their way, each registering a strong double-double. The Hawks made good of their advantage (seems odd to write that) inside and made a point of making the extra pass to get the seemingly inevitable open look from close range.

The game was close through three quarters due in large part to the offensive skills of Kevin Martin. Peachtree Hoops called it in their Pre Game Preview Thread---Kevin Martin is great, but if you can limit others, Martin can't score 80 to beat the Hawks. Martin was a beast through (3) quarters, scoring (31) and getting to the line (17) times. But he was done with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter--no more free throws/no more points. He did not score the (54) points needed to knock off the now six-in-a-row Birds.

With Martin shut down, the Kings scored only (11) points in the fourth quarter and what was once a 10-point lead for the Kings early on, and a (6) point game at the final turn, became a game in which the Hawks regular starters rested comfortably on the bench for the final five minutes-as was hoped-and for the most part, as was expected.

Coffee and Maple Logs are Available in the Lobby

We've been shining the bronze bust of Al Horford out here for quite a few games now, but we must add that we've seen a dramatic improvement on his finishing inside after contact. It's just another brick in the wall in what should be a nightly memo to Mike Woodson that the game should, in some part, go through Horford in the pivot. When you have a big man that can pass (oh by the way, Horford had 6 assists) and has great hands (my hand twin!), you have to leverage that high percentage option. Well you don't have to, but you could be considered foolish or stubborn to not do so.

Speaking of shaky strategies---We thought we saw Mike Woodson trying to substitute for the Kings Jason Thompson when he picked up his 2nd foul in the first quarter---Andres Nocioni as well---but no worries, Woody---No Sacramento Kings fouled out during the making of tonight's game.

Joe Johnson did not score 30 against SAC--after all, he missed his first (9) shots and didn't make his first one until there was 4 1/2 minutes left in the half. He finished strong, though, making 8 for his last 12 and ended with (20) points, breaking his 30 point game run at (4). Understanding that he wasn't hot at all from outside, he decided to take advantage of the scoring pot 'o gold (Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!) inside instead.

Mo Evans had another one of his pesky forechecking-like steal and score. We'll say it again--more of that and keep knocking down that open three---we just wanted to note his effort since we are probably the hardest regarding his actual production for the team---another good job offensively for him.

The HHB is loving the every other day game format---email addresses for the NBA scheduler can be dropped off in the Comments Area.

Now You Know---Literally

Maybe you did, maybe you didn't---but did you know that the NBA's Greatest Media Relations team cranks out a game notes for every Hawks game? It's true---ever wonder where all the broadcast teams get those "when trailing at the half numbers" or "so and so used to get his hair cut here in Atlanta" tidbits? It's usually from these game notes. The one's for tonight's game against the Kings (check Twitter over on the sidebar for the HHB Players to Watch) can be found right here!

Here are some highlights:

  • Hawks trail the all-time series against the Kings franchise 152-144, but have an 80-29 record against the Kings @ home.
  • The Hawks are the first team since the Mavericks ('99-'03) to improve their win record every year for (4) straight years. (HHB note: The Mavs were too aggressive, going from 19 to 40 in a single season--leaving the bar high for themselves to achieve in subsequent seasons 19,40, 53, 57, 60---The Hawks have been much more cautious in their growth 13, 26, 30, 37, and now 39 and counting.)
  • It was this week in Hawks history that Steve Smith hit a franchise record (9) threes in a home loss to the Sonics in 1997. What's interesting to note is that this record was tied later on by the Mighty Henry James---gotta love those Lenny players.

Anyway, we know that these notes don't get pulled together automagically---so we wanted to share with the rest of the Nation as a salute to their hard work.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ho-Humming the Blazers Out of Town

Anyone watching the 98-80 beating of the Portland Trail Blazers (caution--trendy!) at the hands of the home happy Atlanta Hawks were treated to some excellent basketball for (48) minutes (in a row!).

That the Hawks beat the Blazers at home isn't particularly earth shattering---even though POR has a stellar record on the road against East teams---but the way that the Hawks had control of this game from start to finish is, given the season long habit of taking some minutes of the game off.

The Hawks seemed to have the visitors at (a long) arm's length most of the night, and though the Blazers made the Hawks work for it, the home team never gave ground, always making a big shot or tightening the defense just when POR thought they would be able to pull past the Birds.

Joe Johnson was dominant, scoring (35) with his usual (6) assists---and there was nobody who could check him from Portland. Stand down those who don't believe Joe is all-star caliber---(4) 30 point games in a row while shooting over 50 percent and maintaining his level of giving to others---He even outdid Brandon Roy, who was playing the same type of game for Portland at just a cut below. Joe's hotness was the reason this game never felt like it would slip away. That Joe was able to do so much without the aid of making a single three (0-4) also speaks to Portland's inability to guard him---hoping he'd miss was their best play.

(Sidenote: Speaking of Roy, it was definitely more egregious a draft blunder to pass on Roy when Billy Knight inexplicably selected Sheldon Williams instead. Roy is simply a younger (and shorter) version of Johnson. Now we're sure there are those who would insist that Roy would have been stunted by the audacious coaching of Mike Woodson, but we're sure more fans would be in heaven watching a Roy/Johnson backcourt. It's enough to make the HHB punch pillows in the Official HD Viewing Center.)

The Hawks were so smooth and polished Sunday that they even finished strong, forcing a large turnover edge (18 Blazer blunders to 6 for the Hawks) and making the most of their own good play. The game never felt in doubt and the Hawks gradually built the lead out to the point where the bench was comfortable emptied with about (3) minutes to play.

And Furthermore

Al Horford does not get credit for the endless array of screens that he sets for all of his teammates. His line reads 13 and 5, but Horford seemed to have an even more positive impact on the game. He was tireless in his efforts defensively (does anyone notice he doesn't get killed even when he is left facing the likes of Brandon Roy?) as well as the constant picks to get Joe free to create. His stats show (2) assists for the game, but he created a lot more than the assists column is able to display.

It was a little cathartic to see the two season compare of 2007 first overall pick Greg Oden vs. Al. To say Al has pounded his fanny thus far is pretty fair and it's nice for Hawks fans to feel---even if it's just for now---the the Birds actually were the ones that did good at another team's expense.

Mario West has gotten a lot of airtime recently, including the IBR/THHF team Sunday afternoon. To the HHB, we appreciate West's tenacity and he does show good offensive rebounding skills and can jam/block shots with his scary athleticism. We said the Mario did an homage to Chris Crawford against Utah with an amazing tip-jam, but we don't want to confuse the masses that we think he's another CC. Sure, he throws his body around like the Marquette standout, but Chris could also knock down a three (and toss a mean fastball, too). No--to us he brings to mind the game of Darvin Ham, another former Hawk with limited offensive ability and loads of tenacity. Ham was also described as a good teammate, too. West shouldn't be too offended by the comparison, Ham played (8) seasons in the league--about (8) more than most people would have ever given West.

We understand that POR has 41 wins in the "rough" western conference, but it seemed to the HHB that, beyond Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, that the team was talent poor. Steve Blake seems like a backup quality point guard, we're not sure what Nicolas Batum is doing in a starting lineup, and the bench was exclusively comprised of Travis Outlaw. Now, we understand that Rudy Fernandez is supposed to be something, and the rest of the team may have just been flat, so this snapshot we saw of the team could simply be out of focus, but they really made us feel a little better about Mo Evans, Acie Law, RFM, and Zaza Pachulia.

Two Yawns Means the Show Will Close in a Week

Sunday afternoon's game marked a record 15th consecutive game that AJC beat writer Sekou Smith is caught on camera yawning. It's really impressive. Usually seated at home games next to Hawks Media Relations king Arthur Triche, Sekou is usually shown once a game, and is apparently exhausted. Now, we know the media room has coffee---can someone send an extra large caffeine express to Mr. Smith?

The HHB is warming up the 50 win bandwagon for all who dare to join---Insults and other constructive rejoinders are welcome in the Comments Area.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Somewhere TJ Ford is Scoring Again

Hey, if there is one thing we know about this Atlanta Hawks team, who by the way---and we don't know if you've heard---won their 38th game of the season, passing last year's total and their most wins since their last 50 win season in 1997-98, is that they can win some games at home.

In fact, they are too good at it, falling behind in their 101-87 win over the Indiana Pacers by as many as (13) before turning it around in the second half once again.

Now, we've written that the Hawks have been down this road before, pushing their slow starts so that they have to really turn it on to get back in front of the opposition. Earlier in the season, these shenanigans caught up to the team, culminating in the embarrassing 20+ point beatdown by the Clippers, at home no less.

Hawks announcer Dominique Wilkins (namesake alert!) kept sounding the alarm Friday night, constantly, that the Hawks can't keep doing this come playoff time. You fall behind big, you'll lose big, or something to that effect.

But lest we get too gooey on the team that is making us look prophetic a few posts ago (50 wins, y'all!), let's review what happened to the team Friday night:

For every TJ Ford layup, there must be a Marquis Daniels jump shot.

TJ Ford was a stone cold murderer--flying through the lane, taking advantage of the Hawks guards, and making seemingly everything he put up on his way to (29) points.

Conversely, Marquis Daniels was serving up a big plate of bricks, as was Troy Murphy and Jarrett Jack. Murphy, in fact, looked like he was well aware that his 11 game double-double streak was coming to an end--jacking up some late ill advised bombs but coming up---wait for it---(3) points short. Awww--too bad.

Ford did expose the Hawks as all quick guards do, but without Danny Granger, the Pacers didn't have enough people to actually make shots to outlast the home team.

Speaking of Granger, the report earlier in the day was that Granger would return for the Hawks, which would be of no surprise to the ATL, who has for years seen players suddenly better in time to play the Birds. But in what may be a significant turn for the franchise, Granger went naked (didn't dress) for the game against the Hawks. If he turns up for their next game Sunday in Toronto, we'll know the good guys have indeed moved up in the NBA pecking order.

Joe Johnson played a carbon copy game of his effort against Utah, to the tune of 30 points on 12-23 shooting and (6) assists. But the HHB thinks that everyone was so all over Wednesday's ho-humming of Joe's efforts that folks were more aware of Joe doing his thing Friday night. That and the fact that Peachtree Hoops called the Nation out (including themselves) after the collective "Meh" that his game engendered from fans after beating the Jazz.

We think it is now safe to say that Al Horford has officially taken a step forward in his career progression from his stellar rookie campaign. His 17 points/15 rebound affair fairly illustrates his omnipresence over the proceedings Friday night. He also decided that (4) assists and (3) blocks were fit for the evening as well. And he saw that it was good.

Horford has clearly improved the volume of his numbers, even if all agree that the effort is the same. His improvement in recent weeks has been equal parts increased health, increased maturity, and definitely increased opportunity.

Mo Evans hit a couple of big threes in this game, but his play of the night was the steal of an inbounds pass under the Hawks basket and then finishing strong to seal the deal. It was the kind of play folks expected from good guy Evans--but haven't seen enough of. Evans needs to be that thorn in the flesh of the opposition night in/night out and that steal is a proper indicator of the pain that should follow. Well done tonight, #1---

Acie Law looked right presidential out at the point at times. His defense was the only of the point guards that seemed to keep the bleeding down. He didn't shoot straight, but his (3) assists, zero turnover effort lends more hope, as does his near exclusive play at backup PG. The HHB loved the play of Mike Bibby tonight, but was pulling for Acie for defensive purposes.

The Hawks defense did indeed seem to be more energetic in the second half--and that combined with their athleticism causes real problems for other team's offenses. Slow pace (brought to you by Hoopinion--defensive rates, affordable prices!) and that energy limited the high scoring Pacers well below their defensive "average". The Hawks could not turn the Pacers over in the first half, only getting a single possession swapping mistake out of the visitors, but had (5) in the second half and a slew of poor shots from IND.

The Hawks were one Josh Smith missed free throw away from a perfect night from the line! OK---they took fewer free throws for the game than Dwyane Wade does in a half, but hey---10/11 is mathematically better than the usual 70 percent the Hawks offer, says the Official HHB statistician.

Solomon Jones had a great putback bucket, and nice jump shot, (3) rebounds, and no fouls in almost (6) minutes---no word on whether Jones tried to take home the game ball to commemorate the effort.

The HHB will turn the lights down on the Official High Definition Viewing Center to mourn the end of the Florida Gators basketball season Friday night---Cards and well wishes can be dropped off in the Comments Area.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alright! $%#&! Whew!

Nothing's easy is it?

When you are trying to portray a reputation for being a "streak-stopper" as the Hawks were attempting to do against the 12 in a row Utah Jazz Wednesday night, you would think you would be on the top of your game, all night long, to pull off the upset, eh?

Eh, no.

The Hawks spent the first half against the hard to beat (and this is Hawks history talking) Jazz playing energetic defense, and spent a good bit of time keeping the visitors off the glass. Doing so not only stymied the Jazz offensively, it got the Birds into many transition opportunities and a 55-42 halftime lead.

This, despite the weirdest lineup Mike Woodson has had out there in the first half in quite some time. Anytime Mario West logs nearly (16) minutes in a close game, the Strange Police are writing tickets.

Packed with a (13) point lead, and a blueprint of how to keep the Jazz down, the Hawks parlayed their home court advantage, know how to win, and their lead to cruise to victory.

(Laugh track)

What the Hawks spent (24) minutes building in the first half, they untied in a mere 7:17 in the third quarter. That's when Mehmet Okur stepped back and channeled Larry Bird with a high, swishing three--enough pointage to put the Jazz ahead 62-60 for their first lead of the night, and capping a 20-5 run in doing so.

All of the sudden Utah, who had struggled the whole first half to get unchallenged shots, were open every time down the floor. Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap were finding rebounding position and tip-ins around the basket. And all the while the Hawks looked toothless on the offensive end---dribbling endlessly, taking wild shots, and generally looking lost on both ends of the floor.

Alas, the Hawks found their happy place in the fourth quarter--as their energy picked up and they were able to take advantage of some sloppy play by Utah, leading to the same type of transition baskets the Hawks used to grab their halftime lead.

In the end, even missed free throws and poorly executed half court isolation sets couldn't keep the home team down--and streak busters they were, getting the 100-93 win and sending the now one game losing streak Jazz down the road.

The Good Side of the Bed is Up Against the Wall

Al Horford was very good and somewhat bad tonight. Horfie did get a 5-10 night from the field, but needed a hustle jam late to get to .500 for the evening. He rushed shots, struggled in the lane, and even picked up a punk technical foul for taunting after a YUGE Flip Murray jam. Still, he was a large part of keeping Utah off the glass in the first quarter, had (3) blocks (more on that here in a sec) and generally kept things under control inside for the game.

(OK, Sidenote: We know we heard the Utah TV team giving Horford a fourth block late in the game when the Jazz were trying to stay alive. Yet, looking at the OFFICIAL HAWKS BOX SCORE done by the HOME TEAM, Horford is credited with three. This has happened forever in Atlanta---blocks and rebounds are severely short changed. Why do players come to play in Atlanta again?)

Also uneven was the usual Josh Smith night---changing shots with his shot blocking (he also ended with "3"), finishing strong on the break and in transition in general, but also taking unneeded lunges for passing lanes, leaving the Jazz with a numbers advantage. One time Josh did this, he never even bothered to get back into the play, despite having plenty of time to do so. Toss in the usual "I got this" approach to his dribbling in transition and a few outside shots and it was business as usual for J-Smoove. Still, the HHB can't be mad at him--sure, he's a drunk uncle, but he's OUR drunk uncle.

Joe Johnson merely shot the ball 50 percent, scored 30+ points, and was perfect from the line. Tossed in (9) assists also. And Hawks Nation shrugged.

Hawks point guards (Bibby, Law) went 2-10, with (3) assists and (2) turnovers. The Hawks won by (7) against the hottest team in the league. We're not sayin--we're just sayin'.

There were a number of highlight worthy plays, and someone can let the HHB know in the Comments area if any made the Top Plays, but here were a few:

  • Mario West's ode to Chris Crawford---Hurtling through the air, slamming home a rebound jam, caution firmly into the wind.
  • Mike Bibby's perfect 1/2 court alley oop in transition to Josh, who easily turned his body in the air to catch, then finish the jam. Smith always makes these plays look easy and effortless---truth is, he's physically special.
  • Smith's tomahawk jam in transition on Kyle Korver---and the award winning sneering that followed.
  • Flip Murray's 4th quarter jam, unfortunately muted by Horford's "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" towards the shaken visitors.
  • And finally---Zaza Pachulia's surreal steal, "dash" down the court and jam. The speed of this play brought to mind the 60+ yard touchdown run once authored by cement-footed Steve Bono of the Chiefs. Jerry Sloan was turning over in his grave.
And Finally---More Whining from the HHB

Boy, you wouldn't think we all would be so cranky over here after a third straight win (50 wins, ya'll!) at home, and another big win over a highly rated, red hot, Western Conference foe.

Hahevvah---We have to mention that the Hawks tried desperately to give points away---from the free throw line. Horford looked like he was shooting his left handed (3-8), Josh Smith bagged two clutch FTs late to get his number up to (4-7), and Mario West would do better shooting them off his own head (1-4).

Fat, dumb, and stupid is no way to go through college, and sub 70 percent free throw shooting (21-33, 64 percent) as a team is no way to announce anything to the NBA world there, Josh Smith.

Then again, shooting free throws well would make a game like Wednesday night's easy---and nothing about the way Hawks win is easy.

The HHB is going to take some happy pills and enjoy the win against the Jazz--eventually---Prescriptions and snide remarks can be left in the night slot in the Comments area.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Get Well Soon, Marv

Excellent fallout posts over at Hoopinion and Peachtree Hoops on Marvin's potential absence for the season (as speculated by Sekou via comments by Joe Johnson here).

None of them mention the removal of the 'Stache from the Philips Floor and it's power therein---it's an oversight, obviously, and one that's understandable for those who don't believe---but we do, oh yes, we do.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ode to a Point Guard (Wherever You Are)

The Hawks have tried.


Different GM, coaches, and scouts have tackled a painful issue that has now grown legendary around the dozens that dutifully follow the Atlanta Hawks.

The issue has seen a number of failed tries and missed opportunities. So much so that the issue has really become The Problem.

Watching the Hawks put down the Dee-troit Pistons 87-83 to take the Bad Boys in all games since our namesake filled out the Hawks jersey in '93-'94 was nice, but it did once again illustrate that the Hawks still have The Problem.

And that problem is the point guard position.

The fact that Mike Bibby is a handsome upgrade to the futility that is the decade of the aughts shouldn't mean that the Hawks have Hall-of-Fame play coming from that position, just that The Problem has become almost a scar across the face of a franchise that isn't exactly known for it's good looks.

The Problem has really reared it's head since the Hawks decided to rebuild after a lackluster (being kind here) performance in the 1999 Playoffs against the Knicks, where the Hawks alternated between looking old and slow and then doing both.

After that series and before the 1999 draft, the Hawks sent Mookie Blaylock packing to Oakland in order to get the #10 pick in a somewhat PG rich draft.

Since Blaylock, who is #2 in Hawks history in assists, left town, the Hawks have not had sent an All-Star at the position, and Blaylock only did it in 1994.

Before Blaylock, there was Doc Rivers, who is #1 all-time for the Hawks in assists. Between Blaylock and Rivers, they finished in the Top 10 in assists percentage 5 times between 1986 and 1999. Not outstanding, but their decent work at least gave the Hawks a chance to win with these two running their respective playoff teams---Rivers with the Dominique teams of the 80's and Blaylock with the Lenny Wilkens teams of the 90's.

After the Blaylock deal, the Hawks had no point guard help behind him and being in the rich draft of 1999, the Hawks were looking at (5) potential point guards: Steve Francis of Maryland, Baron Davis of UCLA, Andre Miller of Utah, William Avery of Duke, and Jason Terry of Arizona.

Francis was a consensus first pick among points (he went #2 overall famously to Vancouver), and though some favored Miller over Davis, it was Baron who went off the board next at #3. It was believed that the Hawks might have a shot at Miller at #10, but he was snatched by Cleveland at the 8th pick.

Miller represented the last of what was considered to be true point guards. The next two, Avery and Terry, were scorers more than creators. There were those leading up to the draft that the Hawks would take the ACC-bred Avery, but there were other who questioned Avery's makeup after leaving Duke following his freshman season.

Terry was considered to be what was called at the time a combo guard---point guard body, shooting guard ability. Terry had participated on the championship Arizona team and had generally been considered a solid player coming out of the Wildcats program.

So when the 10th pick came up, the Hawks went with Terry and promptly stuck him behind Vernell "Bimbo" Coles for the 1999-2000 season.

Early on, it was clear Terry was not a set the table point guard, but subsequent efforts to try and make him their Allen Iverson failed miserably as the Hawks tried to play other guards like Matt Maloney and made a deal for Brevin Knight to address the playmaking shortcomings of Terry at the point.

It was in the offseason, before the 2001-2002 season that the Hawks made a critical mistake at the point guard position. Believing that Terry was not a point guard and was better suited coming from the shooting guard position and maybe playing some point, the Hawks entered the 2001 draft scouting the point guard position after thinking they addressed the position two drafts earlier.

The 2001 draft had a top point guard coming out of college in Jamaal Tinsley from Iowa State. Some liked Jeryl Sasser of SMU--being a 6'6 point guard got folks thinking of Penny Hardaway.

The Hawks had the #3 pick and while their workout turned out that they like Kwame Brown, it looked as though he would be the top pick to Washington. Their next best player was Shane Battier, but thought #3 might be too high. Pau Gasol was also on the Hawks radar with that pick, but when draft day came near, Hawks GM Pete Babcock decided to pull the trigger on a deal with Memphis GM Billy Knight---a deal that sent the #3 pick, Brevin Knight, and Lorenzen Wright to the Grizz for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and the #27 pick.

Babcock told the HHB at the time that, "We thought we could take a player that might be an All-Star someday or we could go ahead and get that player today." What he also told the HHB was that at #27 he was looking at "two guys that could make a difference at point guard for our team."

Tinsley was expected to go high in the draft--being the top rated point guard can do that for you---but as pick after pick came off the board, Tinsley dropped and it got those watching the draft in Philips Arena excited for the possibility of a top rated player falling into their laps that late in the draft.

Soon, at number 22, a point guard went, but it was Sasser, not Tinsley. Little known international point guard Raul Lopez was selected a couple of picks later and before you know it, the Hawks were there, on the clock, with the opportunity to use the 27th pick as Babcock has indicated to us earlier.

Babcock had issued the caveat that, if his guys weren't there, they wouldn't use the pick and get stuck with a 3 year deal for a player they didn't want. But there was no way that Lopez and Sasser were his guys and so it seemed a fait accompli that the Hawks had their man.

Then---it was announced that the Hawks had dealt the pick to the Pacers.

People looked confused--What had happened? The Hawks had the Grizzlies draft Tinsley for them and quickly sent him to Indiana for a 2003 first rounder (Boris Diaw).

Years later, on the day of his resignation from the Hawks as GM, Babcock exclusively told the HHB that he had indeed still had his man on the board when the 27th pick came calling, but it wasn't Tinsley and it wasn't even hotshot Arizona freshman Gilbert Arenas.

It was a little known French point guard named Parker. Tony Parker.

Babcock said in that interview in 2003 that the second biggest regret (behind bringing JR Rider into Atlanta) was passing on Parker, who had already established himself as an All-Star caliber PG for the San Antonio Spurs, who jumped on Parker with the very next pick.

When asked by us why he passed when his guy was on the board, Babcock admitted that the Hawks didn't have enough scouting on Parker to convince that he would be able to play the position in the NBA.

So the Hawks entered the 2001-2002 season with Terry at the point, this time adding "big" point guard Emanual Davis to play alongside Terry. Davis started 20 of 29 games before suffering a season ending injury. It wasn't working anyway--the Hawks trying to compensate for Terry playing the 2 by having a taller, but less talented point guard only made the Hawks weaker on the whole.

So the Hawks went back to the drawing board in the 2002 draft and traded a pick they had acquired from the Rockets (for Terrence Morris) in the 2001 draft to get back into the first round and select Gonzaga PG Dan Dickau.

The Hawks rolled out the red carpet for Dickau before the season and treated him like a lottery pick and future point guard. Unfortunately for Dickau, coach Lon Kruger never embraced Dickau and the rookie spent the season injured or stapled to the pine, playing only 50 games and getting 85 assists.

So it was point guard again for Terry, who had his best season ever as a point, getting 600 assists and finishing in the top 10 in Assist % for the first (and only) time in his career.

The Hawks drafted Diaw in 2003 and Terry was back at the point, but the team was slipping off the cliff---finshing with only 28 wins.

The Hawks had tried to rebuild after the 1999 playoffs, but despite bringing in "stars" like Abdur-Rahim and Glenn Robinson, and having a lot of first round picks (DerMarr Johnson, Dion Glover, Cal Bowdler, Dickau, Diaw, Terry), the Hawks couldn't get out of first gear--and a large part was clearly due to the inefficiancy at the point.

The Babcock regime knew this, even with a somewhat statistically productive Jason Terry, but it was evidenced by the moves for Brevin Knight, Dickau, the intentions at the 2001 draft, and the failed Emanual Davis experiment.

Without a point guard, the Hawks struggled to put away games late--as Terry was never comfortable bringing the ball down in crunch time when half court is king. Terry would often turn the ball over or wait too long to start the offense. He never could create for others consistently late in games---if he wasn't creating his own shot, nothing was going to happen.

So when Babcock stepped down in '03 and Billy Knight took over--the man who made the sweet Gasol deal for the Grizzlies--there was hope this could be addressed moving forward.

In 2004, the Hawks drafted Josh Childress and Josh Smith, two swingmen. When talking with Knight regarding the Hawks backcourt, specifically Terry, he said, "Don't call Terry a point guard---don't call anyone a point guard or a "1"---those are labels that you put on these players--I only see guards."

Three months later, Jason Terry was dealt to Dallas, leaving the Hawks entering the 2004-2005 season with a combination of newly acquired Tony Delk, Tyronn Lue, Kenny Anderson, and Boris Diaw taking turns at the point under head coach Mike Woodson.

Needless to say the season was a disaster, and the Hawks won a paltry 13 games, but they did garner the #2 pick in the draft--a draft that had (3) bonifide point guards in it---Wake Forest's Chris Paul, North Carolina's Raymond Felton, and Illinois' Deron Williams.

Paul had been sensational on the ACC and sometime national stage, showing from his first games at Wake that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Williams had come on strong in his last year at Illinois, leading them to the finals before losing to Felton's Tar Heels--and while Felton was on the winning team, he wasn't considered to be as true a point guard as the burly Williams.

In '99 the Hawks had to take what was left after Francis, Davis, and Miller had been selected. In 2001, the Hawks had their guys and passed--leaving the rebuilding project DOA and Pete Babcock without a GM job.

Now, in 2005, the Hawks could make amends---even though nationally, Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams were considered bigger upside prospects, the Hawks needed a point guard, didn't they?

Alas, as Hawks fans know all too well---Billy Knight's "I only see guards" comment came to roost as the Hawks passed on Paul, Williams, and Felton to take Marvin. Knight insisted that the Hawks could win with a roster full of swingmen, so long as somebody could bring the ball up the court.

To that end, Billy paid for Joe Johnson and had Mike Woodson try Joe at being the playmaker, evidenced by Royal Ivey's (66) starts that season--and while the Hawks were better, they were still a 26 win team--and void a playmaker at point guard.

Paul, in his rookie season, accumulated more assists than any Hawks point guard since Blaylock's 616 in his All-Star '94-'95 season.

In the offseason, Knight could have continued down his trek of "I only see guards" and selected Washington standout Brandon Roy to put next to Johnson---Instead Knight mysteriously selected another forward, Shelden Williams. Amazingly, Knight had finally broken---he subsequently went after veteran point guard Sam Cassell with a 2 year offer before Cassell went back to the Clippers (!)---Knight then turned to Speedy Claxton, who has never fulfilled his contract and hope that the Hawks had as their point man in large part due to injuries.

On to the 2007 draft---the Hawks finally selected a forward that made sense (Al Horford), but also used the 11th pick on a PG---Acie Law of Texas A&M. Law, like Terry before him had been called out as a combo guard---though they aren't called that anymore---they are called "Not True Point Guards".

The next point guard after Law, Rodney Stuckey, was selected a few picks later by the Pistons.

Fast forward to Saturday night and compare the two guards as they stand today:

Acie Law has struggled to gain the confidence of his head coach and therefore has struggled to see time on the floor, especially after recovering fully from an injury which stole some of his rookie year.

At times, Law has looked like Dickau---trying to find his place on the court and in the league---unlike Dickau, however, Law has the quickness to make things happen on the court---but his small sample size has limited the ability to say for sure if he can cut it as an NBA point guard.

All Rodney Stuckey has done in Detroit is force what was considered to be the Pistons glue guy and leader, Chauncey Billups, out of town so he can play more minutes. When Rip Hamilton is out of the game, it's Stuckey who seems to be a clear #2 scorer--and his speed to the hoop creates opportunities for others.

It's clear at this point who looks as if they have the chops to be a starting point guard in the league.

And yes, while the Hawks made the deal last season to bring in Bibby, his age and inability to defend underline the fact that the Hawks don't have much time left with this productivity from such a key position--and with Law struggling and not getting the floor time needed from his coach---the Hawks could be back to the drawing board very soon to once again find answers to the franchise's biggest on-the-court Problem.

The Hawks have tried or used their resources on many options to try and solve The Problem. They have passed on so many---not just passed but had their hands on and whiffed on--that this issue could have already been resolved.

Alas, it hasn't---and the fix now is painfully and obviously temporary---and the end result is that the Hawks still have The Problem.

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Interview With----Ourselves

Since we can't say anything nice after a pair of lousy road losses---so we decided to give ourselves an in-depth interview about the Hawks and their recent performances, conflict in the locker room, and what the final result is for ATL's Finest:

HHB: What are your opinions of these last two losses by the Hawks?

Well, We'll have to watch the films, see the coaches tape, and make our opinions or cop-outs from there. We guess you have to say we lost, but we'll see when we watch the tapes.

HHB: Why do you think the team's defense has been poor the last two games?

It has? Wow--Not sure what you all are expecting. We held the Bobcats to under 55 percent shooting tonight---that's saying something. You know defense isn't all about stats. It's about effort--and staying away from playing defensive together all of the time---save it for the end, don't peak too soon---that's our philosophy.

HHB: What's the situation with Josh Smith?

Well, you would think the team would have put all of this to bed before they brought the coach back or given Josh a huge contract---but really, where is the drama and entertainment in all of that? This team isn't championship caliber yet, they put some wins on the board, now in the days between establishing ourselves and the playoffs, we need some excitement---ergo, benching Josh Smith for quarters at a time. As Bernie Mullen said: It's not about winning, it's about entertainment--we want entertainment.

HHB: Is there something wrong with Josh and the coach?

There is nothing wrong--what do you mean? Just because Smith has shown uneven interest in doing the fundamentals, what does that prove? Oh, we're sure you are going to point out such "statistics" as his declining shot blocking, rebounding, and free throw percentage---phhhbt---We can make stats show anything----have you been tracking his glaring on a nightly basis? We didn't think so, and he has career highs in that and inappropriate laughter.

HHB: Yes, what about the decline in rebounds and blocks?

Simple. It's Al Horford's fault---that goody-goody is hustling all over the place and stealing all of Josh Smith's rebounds and blocks---really, when that guy is working that hard, why should Smoove?

HHB: Going to take back all that 50 win talk?

We could take it back---and then put it back in---do a Hokey Pokey with it, but what difference does it make? They aren't playing as a team to go further in the playoffs anyway---and it all sets up for a brilliant master plan.

HHB: Master Plan?

Ohhhhhh Yes, we're hoping that the Hawks can get into another inspirational seven game series where the team doesn't advance but can be inspired by their announcement to the league that they definitely belong in the first round of a playoff tournament that involves half the league. Saying to everyone---Hey, we're average, too! That's what got us off to a good start this year, so maybe a heated non-upset of some team could lift our spirits and bring us back together again---that's gold.

HHB: Sounds a little negative---

Is that a question? Because we're not being negative, but just tell us---who looks like the team that's six games over .500 the last two nights, the Hawks or the Knicks/Bobcats.

HHB: Can we answer none of the above?


HHB: What do you all think the Hawks can do to get out of this rut?

Play a lot of games at home (Check)

Begin to use Al Horford more in the offense (Check)

Take away Josh Smith's video game privileges so he can learn the rules and what's expected of him.

Do the same with Mike Woodson.

Don't forget to play Zaza Pachulia to help with rebounding. (Reminder: Big = Big)

Play a lot of games at home (did we say that already--it's that important to our success).

HHB: Final thoughts?

There is a lot of blah going on with this team right now---we'll see them fight through it if they can keep their heads on straight in the meantime---home is the best medicine for growing teams.

The HHB often talks amongst themselves for comfort and to ask for directions when on the road---All advise and maps can be given in the Comments Area.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Listening to other broadcast teams (read: different from IBR and THHF) around the league is to hear the same opinions and takes on each of the Hawks players. Now, we know how it works---they buddy up with people from the visiting or host organ-i-zation or have someone do that for them---and blammo---instant information about the other team---that and the gameday media guide assembled by the under appreciated and overworked media relations team--that's right, fellas---the HHB has your back!

For the Hawks, the following takes are universal:

  • Joe Johnson is underrated AND a 3-time All-Star.
  • Al Horford is great---what a great young player (this will be replaced eventually by what a great veteran player he is).
  • The team has taken a step forward with Proven Veteran Point Guard Mike Bibby.
  • Ronald "Flip" Murray has been a great addition to the team.

There are others, but here is the one that has been most relevant lately:

  • Marvin Williams, while not being in the same class as Chris Paul and Deron Williams, has really begun to blossom.

Now, we're not saying these takes are incorrect---but it is funny to hear broadcast teams in the East and West with almost the exact same take on each player.

In Mustache Marvin's case, it's definitely true and then some. Every Hawk fan's worry about Williams previous to this season would be could he ever find a way to make an impact on a team--well, make that a positive impact.

Williams has done that and more---by using a blend of moves to the hoop, running the floor effectively, and expanding his range on his jump shot (Marvin's Jumper---Now with 30% more Range!). It is routinely stated now that he has hit more 3's this season than in his career combined prior to this season.

What's really special though is that he does it completely within the flow of the game--hardly ever forcing a shot he shouldn't take. His game high 28 points last night in the Hawks 98-89 handling of the home team Wizards was a portrait of his growth, complete with a very impressive Pick-6 (ok, 3) when Marvin stepped in front of a Wizards pass, intercepted, ran the floor, made the right move and got fouled and finished.

All of which makes the arguments that Peachtree Hoops, Hoopinion, and Str8talk have been posting about the Hawks late game decisions to isolate Joe Johnson and eliminate the many options the Hawks now have to deliver the late game daggers.

For the second night in a row, the Hawks have been extremely democratic and efficient, to the point where it seemed Joe Johnson made a conscious choice to get some shots up to get his points into the teens before the bout was finished. Still, Joe proved his wonderful ability to light this offensive fuse, evidenced by his own playmaking ability to the tune of a (shhh) whisper quiet 13 assists.

Yes, the Wizards are not good---a lineup with only Antawn Jamison to call notable and a (14-46) record is evidence to this opinion---but the Hawks fought off a late arrival (7am) and the emotional letdown of a hard fought, high attention game against the Cavs the night before to play the game the right way and win the game they should win, even on the road. After watching this same team lay an absolutely rotten egg at Philips against the Clippers, this should not be tossed aside.

Hot Coffee:

After watching Anderson Varejao, who is as bad a shooter as there is among players who get regular minutes in this league, hit a pair of ridiculous shots to help beat the Birds the night before, seeing Andre Blatche hit some off balance wonders made the HHB think that maybe someone on the Hawks had made the basketball gods take revenge on the team. Blatche started 4-4 in the first quarter, but fortunately the mojo couldn't continue the whole game, going 2-6 for remainder of the game.

We are loving it---because Al Horford has made himself a part of the offense. He still rushes some things and needs to be aware to pass out of the post lest he become Kevin Willis II, but it makes things even more open outside when Al can be a positive factor on the offensive end.

We made Caron Butler a key player for the game last night (Check our Twitter Hitters for our Key Players predictions)---and we don't mind saying we were right! Butler's hammy tightened up and couldn't play, making the Hawks job a lot easier on the defensive end. He is tough on the Hawks with his aggressive play---

The HHB is injured from patting themselves on the back---Ace bandages and other relevant thoughts are welcome in the Comments area.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Respond, Don't React---Awww OK, React!

It's not so easy---to put aside the innate reaction to something as obvious and yet stomach punching as the Hawks 88-87 home loss to the Cleve-land Cavaliers.

The HHB can't say that the room wasn't boiling as it watched the home team blow opportunity after opportunity to score in the critical times of the fourth quarter---and eventually lose the game helpless watching the NBA Superstar (trademark pending) move the visitors ahead shooting for uncontested points.

The Official Diamond Encrusted DVR/Satellite Remote Controlleratrix was spiked---words were exchanged with inanimate objects---all of which was signifying hardly anything---the score remained unchanged.

Still---we rewind back to earlier years, when we were taught that with every situation there is a chance to respond, rather than react. This exercise teaches to take a step back from the emotion of the situation and think about things from a broader perspective---then step back in and respond, rather than the aforementioned anger induced tossing of parts in the HHB Studios.

Sure, we could rail on about the Hawks frittering away chances from the free throw line (71 percent from the line, including more technical free throw misses) or the (3) offensive fouls which stalled Hawks momentum like a holding penalty kills pigskin drives.

Or we could go back to our last salvo, given after the Heat win (or even the Fault Tolerance entry), where we pointed out that the Hawks isolation and execution in final possessions has grown ineffective.

We believe in Joe Johnson, and the last shot taken with a second left on the clock was well suited for his Killer Sauce, but the previous (2) possessions were misspent---one with Joe hoisting a shot over Lebron, when Joe was easily beating James to the cup throughout the game, a point unmentioned by the Worldwide Follower--lest it cast James in a negative light---

Sidenote: We have nothing against James as we believe he is a great player, but the love given to him throughout the telecast was something just short of Tebowish---and we believe that ESPN was using the same camera filter given Cybill Shepard during her Moonlighting run to make her look angelic---just our penny on the matter. (end note)

The other possession ended in RFM, who was very much in control on the night, but just couldn't get even the simplest of shots to fall, apparently wetting himself before barely reaching front iron on the critical shot. The pick and roll with Joe had been leveraged and RFM, who was playing Mike Bibby in the particular production, was left 18 feet from the hoop and wide freaking open. Instead of just pulling the trigger---RFM checked the wind or some other cosmic force before finally shooting, this time with a Cavalier in his face, and missed badly.

It's a shame that the Hawks chose to end the game in this manner offensively, as they had overcome the reality that the Cavs had kept the Hawks at arms length for most of the game until they started to get everyone involved---then started making shots---including a large "3" by Marvin Williams, and gained control of the game.

Still---we shouldn't react to such missed chances at making a statement, overrated as they are---all of this is stated however, to mitigate the howling over what was called at the end of the game when Lebron took the ball to the basket and got what he was looking for---a whistle.

The game never should have been in such peril. Besides, the Hawks can't let James get into that position where the officials could potentially determine the game. You have to make another player beat you---able as James' teammates are/were---that's the fact---but it's an angle/strategy that escapes the common senses of the Hawks, who have let other teams' best player (Pierce and Carter come to mind) determine the game rather than wager against a lesser compensated/accomplished teammate.

Big picture--The Hawks played good defense, adequate offense, especially with Mike Bibby only having half his normal shooting range due to his inactivity and sickness, and stayed active throughout the game---but they have to find a way to finish these things out---and in the HHB's well educated opinion, it should start with a different approach to finishing games out on the offensive end.

And that's an anger/frustration free response----though it's not as fun or a satisfying as a good spiking of some handheld object.

Off on a Tangent

A Jason Terry tip-of-the-cap to Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford who helped control the glass in the second half which got the Hawks back in the game. Zaza did his thing especially well on the offensive glass, getting (6) of his (8) rebounds in his own personal playhouse. Marvin also used his moustachio powers to get (10) boards of his own--but couldn't avoid getting Pauled by ESPN when talking about his growth as a player.

Josh Smith sat down the stretch---just sayin'.

Had to chuckle when we heard ESPN discussing the "great" signings of RFM and Mo Evans---Murray has been key, no doubt---but come on--Mo Evans is mostly repped due to a good guy persona and obvious hustle---but (14) minutes on the floor and a single shot and foul to show for it is practically punching the clock---Yes, we know---another cheap shot at the "replacement" for Josh Childress, but The Fro's absence is felt nightly by the HHB---between his gap in the roster and the fact that every other (it seems) Eastern contender is adding a key vet or two for the playoff run makes it look like the Hawks are trying to win with one half of the checkbook tied behind their back.

Again, just sayin'.

The HHB is sending mental snow brushes to the ATL after seeing the snow around the Arena---canned goods and water can be left for the masses in the Comments area.