Friday, May 8, 2009

There Is No Candy From Strangers

Boo-hoo, Atlanta Hawks.

Playoff time is a time to make your own results, not wait for them to be offered to you and, if you are willing, accept.

Too often in these games in Cleve-land the Hawks have postured and pouted, wanting someone else to bail them out; Officials, coaches, their opposition, and too often somebody else on their own team.

It's a mark of not only a young team, but an immature one as well. There is everyone to look at for the source of this problem, but everyone is more than willing to look at the speck in somebody else's eyes than to attempt to remove the plank from their own.

In Games One and now Two, the Hawks have looked defeated before they have taken the court. They have begun these games knowingly below full strength, and this has seemed to serve as a crutch that would allow a less-than-stellar effort to play team basketball. You can't blame a single person for this issue, because while change begins with each individual, it takes everyone to buy in for the change to take hold.

These are just the mental aspects of the issues. The basketball side of things is weak as well.

After promising a more ball-movement friendly after Game One, the Hawks employed the same offense we have seen for the majority of the season--and by majority, we mean landslide. This is a flawed offensive approach that preaches individualism and lends itself suspect to teams that play good halfcourt defense (see Celtics, Boston). We have said and the Hawks have shown that they will only travel as far through the playoffs as this style will allow, and we are seeing the signs of the end of the road.

The defensive end is just as exposed by good teams and is less defendable--as this is based on trust and effort. Too often opponents execute anything they want. Sure, part of the problem is a point guard that can't be hidden unless benched, but there are other issues as well. Josh Smith freelancing, rebounds not being procured, defense late in rotating, and loose balls going to the other team as their 7'3 center with creaky everythings outhustles the team for possession.

It's the individualism inherent on both ends of the court that feeds this isolationism and causes the inefficiency on this team.

As Game Two took shape, and it wasn't long before that happened, the Hawks wore the expression of someone sitting on a long, international flight, and the person in front of them has bad gas.

There was little excitement, little camaraderie, and thus little emotion from the Hawks, as they took their whipping as if they expected to get it.

As for the coaches, we saw the following adjustments:

1. Protect Josh Smith from fouling out by benching him with foul trouble in the first half, and then watching him be irrelevant and petulant when he returned; the outcome already decided by the Hawks.
2. Put the second team in late in the fourth quarter to narrow the margin to (20).
3. Pick up a technical foul.

It was not surprising that, after Coach Woodson got his technical foul, that Smith went ahead and got one for himself as well. When the coach allows himself to express his focus through frustration about the officiating, on what do you expect the team to focus?

If the coach says one thing about the offense, yet offers no changes, why is it surprising that none of the players change as well?

Nobody expects a team that is short 60 percent of their starting rotation to win, but folks should expect a team to look desperate to win, eager to execute---and some of those folks should be the ones on the court. The Cavaliers dove, ran, and hustled all over the court--and loved every minute of it. The Hawks looked at these tasks as exciting as changing a dirty diaper.

Sure, we expect we'll see a different level of enthusiasm Saturday back home in Atlanta, again, there is a strong track record of this---but what does it say about a team when they only want to execute when the circumstances are perfect, when adversity has no avenue to intervene?

It likely says that this is a group that still isn't ready to do anything other than get by on their individual talents---and this will always leave them short as a team.

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