Friday, November 30, 2007

Hawks, Hornets, Links

Acie Law IV won't play tonight but "If his showing during practice Thursday is any indication, Law's heading in the right direction."

Marvin Williams may or may not play. He's still listed as day-to-day. If he plays, he's sure to be unfavorably compared to Chris Paul by people who rated Williams ahead of Paul prior to the 2005 NBA Draft.

The Hornets are, understandably, taking account of themselves after losing to the Timberwolves in New Orleans on Monday night.

I'll take account of tonight's game thanks to the magic of modern DVR technology due to a prior commitment.'s Marty Burns has taken notice of the Hawks inconsistency, poor roster construction, and concomitant struggles to deal with injuries. Nothing new there for Hawks regulars but for a Hawks blogger who struggles to find something worth linking to in the local paper on a regular basis, it's useful.

Better Late Than Never Dept.: Drew Ditzel covered similar themes in his liveblog of the loss in Chicago.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hawks 96 Bucks 80



Whether you're of the mind that the Hawks bench won or the Bucks bench lost (More turnovers than made field goals in 70 combined minutes?) last night's game, there were some compelling signs of life last night.
  • Mario West, starting in place of the injured Marvin Williams, played as well as could be expected.
  • Josh Smith the defender (not just shot blocker), rebounder, and passer played 40 good minutes.
  • Josh Smith, the back-to-the-basket player of our dreams, appeared for two possessions and contributed two of Smith's four made field goals and none of his ten missed field goals.
  • Zaza Pachulia looked a bit healthier (as did Tyronn Lue) than in his last couple of appearances, but he' still not moving as well as he has in the past. I think we all recognize that he'll be hurt more than many by losing a step.
  • Shelden Williams, Shelden Williams, made a positive offensive contribution, though it must be said that using two possessions on Shelden Williams posting up during the second quarter did little more than raise the degree of difficulty for Atlanta's second unit.
Of course there are still causes for concern as well.
  • Playing Anthony Johnson and Mario West at the same time really makes things difficult for Joe Johnson.
  • Mo Williams' line (9-9 FGA, 1-1 3PTA, 4-4 FTA, 9 assists) reminds that I need to finish that post about how easily opposing point guards are scoring against the Hawks.
  • Anytime Josh Smith took a jump shot.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bulls 90 Hawks 78



Mike Woodson:
"Our offense tonight was just atrocious. I don't know what we were doing."
I guess it's good to know that Anthony Johnson's Mark Jackson impression wasn't part of the game plan.

On the other hand, the Hawks' inability to get the ball to Joe Johnson consistently is indicative of a larger problem. If Scott Skiles is going to forgo size and strength in favor of effort, it's incumbent upon the other team to take advantage. The other team's coach is creating a mismatch in your favor. This is a good thing.

Granted, Kirk Hinirch and Chris Duhon are both above average defensive guards. When matched up with other point guards, that is. Giving the ball to your bigger, stronger, more talented player that they're taking turns guarding will be more to your advantage the more often you do it. Too often, though, the effort that Hinrich and Duhon put into denying Johnson the ball was sufficient to discourage the Hawks from taking the path of least resistance.

Amplifying the frustration, Johnson didn't struggle on the occasions he received the ball (21 points on 18 shots, 5 assists against a single turnover) despite being Atlanta's only offensive threat until Salim Stoudamire entered the game with the Hawks down 21 and 10:17 left to play.

The team's problems run deep and one can't be sure whether it's down primarily to lack of talent (as a collective), a lack of understanding how best to take advantage of their talent, or a lack of good coaching. The bench leads one to choose the first of those, the offensive execution and defensive rebounding failure last night (save Al Horford) suggest the second, and the following quote from Mike Woodson suggests the third:
"I was pretty pleased with our defense.”
Assuming that statement's been reported accurately and didn't conclude with " the first quarter," one has to wonder what game Woodson watched. The Bulls scored 21 points in the second quarter despite missing a number of open jump shots and generally chucking the ball around due more to their ongoing implosion than the influence of the Hawks defense.

The Bulls then scored 56 points in second half. More damningly, the Hawks allowed 54 points in the first 20:24 of the second half, at which point the Bulls were so far ahead that Skiles called off the dogs.

This is not so different from holding the Timberwolves to 24 points in one half (Good) but allowing them 63 in the other half (Awful). Being "pretty pleased" with this level of performance against the worst (Chicago) and 10th-worst (Minnesota) offenses in the NBA is accepting mediocrity as the standard.

I like Sekou Smith and think he does a good job at a largely thankless task, but, as the lone media presence consistently around the team, his optimism further insulates an organization unwilling and/or unable to deal with their deficiencies. In the game story, Woodson's comment about the defense goes unchallenged. In his notes column, Smith writes something which further demonstrates either that he's got more rah-rah in him than I have in me or documents the existence of a fundamentally flawed team culture:
"Not only has Law missed games against Minnesota and Chicago on this trip, he's also missed valuable practice and bonding time with his teammates.”

(emphasis mine)
My guess is that brotherhood and camaraderie follow good shot selection, defensive rebounding, and defense rather than vice versa. Either way, I seriously doubt that they are of equal value to a basketball team. This may be a minority opinion.

NOTE: Gameflow links have been added to the recaps of the Miami and Minnesota games.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Review

The two tables below show, first, the team's offensive efficiency and, second, the team's defensive efficiency, when each player is on the floor. I've included the percentage of the team's minutes each player has been on the floor. Offensive and defensive efficiency are represented in terms of (team) points scored per 100 possessions.

(all numbers from

Name%MinOff Eff
J Johnson86.8%106.5
M Williams72.4%105.1
S Williams22%99.2
A Johnson20.2%91.7

They've already begun to slow, but once Al Horford thoroughly reduces his turnover rate to an average level, he's going to be an extremely valuable offensive player. One could say a more modest version of the same for Acie Law IV once he returns from his ankle sprain.

Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, Horford, Law, and Josh Smith form a pretty good offensive core going forward. The Hawks' offensive efficiency ranks 19th in the league at (The discrepancies in the offensive ratings published at and lead me to believe that they are calculating possessions differently, which shouldn't effect a team's ranking.)

Lest you think (as I did) that Anthony Johnson and Shelden Williams are conspiring to drive down each other's offensive rating, of the 20 most frequently deployed 5-man units (per none include both Shelden Williams and Anthony Johnson.

Anthony Johnson is such a bad offensive player at this point in his career that he's rendered his defensive prowess (at least his defensive prowess relative to the other point guards on this roster) largely irrelevant.

Name%MinDef Eff
A Johnson20.2%100.9
M Williams72.4%104.9
S Williams22%108.2
J Johnson86.8%109

Zaza Pachulia and Shelden Williams are really hurting this team. They're below the team averages, both offensively and defensively, for a team that is itself slightly below league average offensively and 23rd in the league defensively.

Looking to the future, many more of the point guard minutes should be concentrated on Acie Law, freeing one or two roster spots to add either frontcourt depth or a good wing defender to limit Joe Johnson's exposure/workload.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Completing My Set of 82 Game Recaps



AP recap

Sekou Smith's recap

I didn't see it. You didn't see it. Doesn't mean it didn't happen.

I'm referring, of course, to the three-point shot the above boxscore alleges Josh Smith to have made.

I cursed the halftime score when I saw it on the bottom line and didn't believe the final score the first time it appeared on the same. 24 second-half points allowed cures all ills.

My holiday has concluded. Regular blogging schedule resumes today.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Injury Report

Sekou Smith comes through this morning:
"Lue provided the boost the Hawks needed at point guard against Miami, playing some crucial minutes with a sore groin and a sore knee still bothering him.

The Hawks' depth at the position remains paper thin, with rookie Acie Law IV (ankle) and veteran Speedy Claxton (knee) nursing injuries that haven't allowed them to play. Law, however, is expected to return either tonight against the Timberwolves or more realistically against in Chicago on Tuesday or Milwaukee on Wednesday at Philips Arena."

The Hawks can afford to give Law a couple more days off as the Timberwolves are the rare team in the league that can look at the Anthony Johnson/Tyronn Lue point guard tandem with envy. Hell, with Antoine Walker around, the Timberwolves can look with envy at Josh Smith's shot selection.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Holi-delay

Hawks 82 Heat 79



Thin and putrid offensively, the Miami Heat are trying and failing to revive the late '90s defensive style of fouling as constantly as possible and daring the officials to call a majority of those fouls. Thus it was an ugly game that produced a good win.

The Hawks played legitimately good basketball for the first 5:17 of the fourth quarter, turning a ten-point deficit into a two-point lead. Outside of that it was a struggle, but a productive one.

Josh Smith continues to insist on shooting jump shots. His 17-footer from the top of the key with 15 seconds left that appeared to hit the backboard first was the most cringe inducing. His subsequent block of Dwyane Wade's layup attempt with 3 seconds left amply demonstrated the value of the gifts he consistently undermines.

Or, as Joe Johnson said:
"Honestly, I don't think everybody on this team knows their role. think it hurts us as a team because you have guys out there, no matter how good their intentions, trying to do things they have no business doing. But when we play our roles and execute, we're fine."
Mike Woodson continued to make the argument that he's among the worst coaches in the league. Anthony Johnson again saw minutes (27:00) suggesting that Woodson perceives his value to be equivalent to Josh Childress (28:01), Al Horford (26:36), and Marvin Williams (29:25).

Mario West played the last 6:08 of the first half, some of that as an out-and-out point guard, despite Miami using Wade and Ricky Davis as the primary ball-handlers for most of that stretch. Woodson was presented an opportunity where a lineup consisting of his five best players (J. Johnson/Childress/M Williams/Smith/Horford) would not be at a defensive disadvantage, one where the absence of Acie Law IV would not hurt the team, and he saw it as an opportunity to get the 12th man some minutes. To West's credit he did not foul out in six minutes.

None of this should be a surprise as Woodson thinks that either Miami or New Jersey is one of the best teams in the East:
"Our first [11] games really included the three best teams in the Western Conference and three of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, so we knew it was going to be a grind."
There's some sort of TV embargo on Saturday night's game in Minnesota so it will go unseen except for those in the Target Center. With no hope of watching the game, I'll settle for an injury report published somewhere prior to tomorrow night's tip-off.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spurs 95 Hawks 83



Half-way through the second quarter I was thinking about what I needed to pack. Two-thirds of the way through the third quarter I had a suitcase out. When Anthony Johnson missed his breakaway dunk attempt, I fully put family ahead of basketball for the rest of the night.

I kept the game on while I packed. I'm no fatalist but I can't say I maintained even a modest amount of optimism once I (finally) heard a pre-game injury report. The Hawks at full-strength aren't going to beat the Spurs at full-strength that often. (Ignoring the fact that they only play twice a year.) An injury-riddled Hawks team isn't going to beat a full-strength Spurs team hardly ever.

Still, does Anthony Johnson need to play seven more minutes than Josh Childress? 12 more than Al Horford?

Tony Parker scored 31 points on 20 shots and 4 free throws. You can't tell me Anthony Johnson was in there for his defense. Yes, ideally, the Hawks would have a true point guard on the floor as much as possible but when you're only dressing five good players for a game, get those guys on the court as much as possible. Maybe you cause the other team some matchup problems.

Things will be quiet here the next couple of days. I'll be back by Saturday at the latest (and so might the much-missed Acie Law IV).

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Acie Law IV Health Report

There should be one somewhere, right? That's a fairly big story in the Hawks' universe but there's no mention of Law in Sekou Smith's AJC article today.

I was never a good chemistry student and perhaps I'm lacking in team spirit, but the status of Law's ankle seems far more relevant to future success than Larry Drew's current aphorism: "Tough times don't last forever, but tough people do." He put it up on video screens in the locker room and everything. If that gives you the chills, you're a softer touch than I.
Hawks assistant Larry Drew, the architect of Monday's video mantra, realized the Hawks needed a subtle reminder of their toughness and resilient nature after close back-to-back losses to Seattle and Milwaukee.
I guess. I thought the Hawks lost those games because the roster lacks quality guards to begin with and the team's second-through-fourth best guards were each injured. If this team's healthy, they'll contend for a playoff spot. If this team's not healthy, we'll all become very familiar with the limitations of Shelden Williams, Anthony Johnson, Solomon Jones, and Mario West as basketball players.

But no one ever got fired for talking or writing about fundamentals in lieu of a team's real problems.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Welcome Back, Mr. Smith (or, Please, Please Stop Shooting Jump Shots)

Bucks 105 Hawks 96



Even in the midst of one of the outstanding offensive performances of his career, one in which he got to the rim and the free throw line at will, Josh Smith couldn't resist the three-point line's siren song. His three-point miss in the middle of a possession in the final minute that produced three missed jump shots in total and left the Bucks' five-point lead undiminished demonstrated such a lack of self-knowledge that the entire enterprise seemed futile.

With Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford each showing the after-effects of playing long minutes late into Friday night (52:19, 44:04, and 53:01 respectively), Smith carried the Hawks, scoring 23 second-half points and providing most of what little defensive resistance Milwaukee encountered. Smith played a great game despite his continuing insistence on shooting unnecessary, almost invariably unsuccessful jump shots.

He's 3-18 (16.7%) from beyond the three-point line this year. A career 26.1% shooter from beyond the arc, he is attempting more than 2 three-pointers a game just as he did throughout last year despite making just 25% of his attempts. When attacking the basket, Josh Smith utilizes all of his skills to score, draw fouls, and find open teammates for easy scoring chances of their own. When shooting jump shots he uses none of his skills and only creates opportunities for his teammates in the form of potential offensive rebounds.

No matter how frustrating I find his inexplicable moments, Josh Smith did not lose the game. Injuries, poor defense, and worse roster construction lost the game. Of those, the first is presumably fixable. The second won't possibly be fixed until Mike Woodson can consistently put five healthy players on the court. The third, I fear, we're stuck with for the duration of the season and will see many more good efforts by the few talented, healthy Hawks players available on any given night result in nothing more than frustrating defeats.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sonics 126 Hawks 123, 2OT



That was a bad loss. Furthermore, it was a dispiriting loss; the first indication that this roster may not possess sufficient depth to finish the 82-game season at or near .500.

Struggling, to some degree, in the absence of Josh Smith and Acie Law IV, isn't reason to condemn the result. The failure to convert chances to win the game in regulation likely compounded the damage of the loss by forcing Salim Stoudmaire and Tyronn Lue to play more minutes than their health warranted. With Anthony Johnson making himself unavailable (which is not to excuse the fundamental wastefulness of acquiring and using a roster spot on him in the first place), Mario West was exposed as little more than a nice story.

The Hawks were -15 in the 3:16 that West played. Obviously, that's not the sole responsibility of West but there's very little West can be expected to contribute in terms of tangible value. The Hawks can't spend five roster spots on two unavailable backup point guards, an injured backup point guard, an undersized (and injured) two guard, and a walk-on.

As far as I know, Hassan Adams is still available.

Who knows who will be available to play tonight and for how many minutes their bodies can reasonably be expected to hold up. I'm pretty confident that, if he fired up League Pass to do some advance scouting, Michael Redd recognizes a good opportunity for the third 50-point game of his career awaits.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hawks Links for the Day (November 15th)

One thing I left out of the game recap: Mike Woodson did a good job of getting SAlim Stoudamire minutes when matched up against someone (Jeff McInnis) who can't exploit Stoudamire's defensive limitations. Gotta give Woodson credit when it's due.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer broke out his hoary Hawks jokes for last spin this morning:
"For once, having about 12 small forwards did right by the Atlanta Hawks. In the first half, it was Josh Smith. In the second half, it was Josh Childress. And Marvin Williams sprinkled his 19 points from start to finish. The Charlotte Bobcats never did figure out the variations on the theme that beat them, 117-109 Wednesday. The Hawks' roster is unconventional, to say the least. They keep drafting the same 6-foot-7 runner-jumper. The names change, but the skill set varies little."
Hey, back-to-backs are tough on the beat writers, too. Assuming that the fine readers of The Charlotte Observer don’t know or care to differentiate between the skill sets of Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, and Marvin Williams is likely a percentage play by Bonnell.

Compliments are far less back-handed in the realm of new media. John Hollinger praises Josh Childress in's Daily Dime:
"Josh Childress won't win the Sixth Man award this year -- not with Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa all lighting it up for contending teams out west. But in Wednesday's 117-109 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, he again showed why he's one of the league's most underrated players -- and perhaps one of its most coveted ones when he becomes a restricted free agent next summer."'s Ian Thomsen does the same for Marvin Williams:
"There are plenty of explosive athletes who can occasionally outleap the defense, but few of Williams' age grasp how to score within their team's offense."
You regular Hoopinion readers have heard similar things about Childress and Marvin Williams before. For more things you've heard from me before plus valuable insight from other Hawks watchers, the latest bloggers roundtable is up on the Hawks' official site.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 117 Bobcats 109



I found last night's game quite satisfying. My thoughts...
  • The first and fourth quarters served as excellent reminders as to why I shouldn't make predictions. (Me, yesterday: "I wouldn't expect much in the way of scoring tonight.")
  • There was a spectacular Josh Smith/Gerald Wallace mid-air collision that both escaped unscathed.
  • Before leaving the game with a quad injury, Smith was playing his best game of the season. This will only inflame the nickname debate.
  • Zaza Pachulia made a triumphant return to the starting lineup (for a quarter at least).
  • Salim Stoudamire and Walter Herrmann shared the court (briefly) in the fourth quarter.
  • We learned that Jeff McInnis is struggling to come to terms with his receding hairline.
  • Tyronn Lue still hasn't made a jump shot since he cut his hair.
  • The Hawks sealed the victory comfortably as Sam Vincent chose a relatively close game in which to demonstrate the fundamental flaws of consistent full-court pressure at the NBA level.
  • That thought must have emanated from the same portion of Vincent's brain that believes McInnis should play more minutes alongside Raymond Felton than Matt Carroll does (or even Jared Dudley with Jason Richardson or Gerald Wallace moving into the backcourt).
  • Ryan Hollins doesn't score often but gets his money's worth celebration-wise after every bucket. (Hollins' antics will cease to be amusing if Acie Law IV's ankle is seriously damaged. About which we may not know anything until game time Friday.)
  • Mario West entered the game in the first quarter. Unexpected, but not damaging.
  • Al Horford really enjoys rebounding. Once he stops traveling so often, he'll be a 15 and 10 guy.
If healthy, the Hawks should be expected to win again Friday night against Seattle, winners of one in a row. If not healthy, the Hawks should still win but expectations should be tempered. Back with links and/or a preview of that game later today (margin of error: +/- 1 day).

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sometimes Shot Blocking and Rebounding Don't Co-Exist

I've seen something like this written countless times since the buildup to the 2007 NBA Draft began...

In Part 2 of his NBA Preview series, Bill Simmons writes:
"Even if the Nets extract two quality years from Williams before he self-destructs (shades of Richard Dumas and the Suns), that's an unexpected boost from a monster shot-blocker/rebounder who gives them something they haven't had since Kenyon Martin left. To land someone that talented with the 19th pick is just crazy."
This is not to pick on Simmons. His false epiphany with regard to Sean Williams has just brought this general complaint of mine to the surface.

Everything you have read about Sean Williams as a shot blocker is absolutely true. He will block a ridiculous number of shots. He will do this by attempting to block every shot the other team attempts inside of fifteen feet. Because of this he is rarely in position to rebound. He shows little interest in rebounding. Once he fails in blocking he shot, he typically watches the rest of the play unfold before re-entering the flow. There's a reason Boston College has been 93rd, 84th, and 52nd in the nation in defensive efficiency the last three years.

Here are his rebounding numbers at Boston College:


For comparison, the 06-07 rebounding rates for his fellow first round picks:

B Wright8.815.8
J Wright11.020.0

Among first round picks, Jeff Green, Daequan Cook, and Morris Almond all also posted a higher DR% than Williams.

Williams was clearly a worse rebounder than every other frontcourt player taken in the first round except for the freshmen.

Through 34 NBA minutes, the New Jersey Nets are allowing 3.8 more points per 100 possessions with Williams on the court despite the spike in block rate (18%) with Williams on the court as opposed to off the court (6%). (Source: On the positive side of the ledger, Williams' rebouding rates (9.1 OR%, 17.2 DR%) are better than I expected.

34 minutes is a ridiculously small sample on which to judge a player. Simmons ("From what I've seen so far, Williams is clearly the most talented rookie other than Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Greg Oden (in absentia).") may be cool with that but even a cursory examination of the rest of the evidence of Williams' career strongly suggest that Sean Williams will continue to serve as an example that shot-blocking ability and rebounding ability do not automatically co-exist.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Charlotte Game Preview and Links


Charlotte provides a good opportunity for the Hawks to bounce back from the disappointing loss Sunday. (Here's hoping the crowd contributes to the home court advantage and that Sunday's sparse, lifeless attendance remains an aberration.) The Bobcats beat Miami 91-76 in Charlotte last night to move to 4-3 on the season.

I wouldn't expect much in the way of scoring tonight. The Hawks enter the game playing at the 6th slowest pace and are 21st most efficient offense in the NBA. Charlotte has played at the 2nd slowest pace and are just the 26th most efficient offense. The Bobcats have scored 83 or fewer points in three of their seven games. In the second game of their only previous back-to-back of the young season, they scored 63 points in Philadelphia.

Fans of Shelden Williams (by which I mean fans of defensive rebounding and bumping into things) will be disappointed to learn that Zaza Pachulia ("I don't feel any soreness anymore. I feel 100 percent.") is expected back tonight.


Back-to-back losses dropped the Hawks into the second division of everyone's power rankings this week. They're 17th at DIME Magazine, 18th at (Marty Burns), 19th at (Marc Stein), and 21st at (John Schuhmann).

LINKS's Drew Packham ranks Al Horford 2nd and Acie Law IV 5th among NBA rookies 10 days into the season.

Tom Ziller writes about Chris McCosky reporting what the voices in his head are saying at the FanHouse. Matt from Atlanta Hawks Blog makes an appearance in the comments there.

As do I, attempting to create a grass-roots movement to give Josh Smith what Hoopinion commenter Pooh has already dubbed "a crap nickname." Early returns on my attempt at a little blog-based judo on McCosky's baseless insult are not promising but I make no promises regarding what I shout the next time Josh Smith attacks the basket and finishes explosively.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Do/Don't Nickname Him The Torpedo

Chris McCosky in The Detroit News yesterday:
"The Atlanta Hawks appear to be a team on the rise, but I fear there is one issue -- one player, actually -- who could torpedo their ascent. Josh Smith . He may be one of their most talented young athletes, but he's also showing signs of being the most immature, as well. During the Hawks game against the Pistons, he was yelling at teammate Tyronn Lue because he wasn't passing him the ball enough. He yelled at coach Mike Woodson to get Lue out of the game and had to be restrained by coaches and teammates. When he did get the ball, he often broke plays to get off his own shot. Then, after playing terribly most of the game, he was given a gift of three free throws (on a debatable call against Rasheed Wallace ). After he made the free throws, which only tied the game, he gave the Pistons' bench the stink-eye, as if he did something heroic. The Pistons won the game on the ensuing possession. Smith, an unrestricted free agent in July, is playing for a contract and not necessarily to help the Hawks win games. That is a dangerous element on a young team."
Josh Smith in the AJC today:
"It's a lie."
Tyronn Lue from the same Sekou Smith story:
"We never got into it. So he had to be restrained by other players and coaches ... man, are you serious? None of that happened."
Me, recapping the opening night game:
"[Smith] spent the second half being exploited by Dallas's pick-and-roll and clearly not playing within the team's defensive concept. He flat-out ignored Acie Law IV and Marvin Williams in two separate incidents and put forth minimal effort throughout."
Josh Smith is unquestionably immature. His immaturity sticks out because of his talent and potential. I have not seen evidence that Smith's immaturity is threatening to "torpedo their ascent." I have seen evidence that Mike Woodson is not going to allow Smith to behave immaturely without consequence. That was in the fourth quarter in Boston.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wizards 101 Hawks 90



This is the first of what I hope to be very few game recaps wherein I fail to provide an eyewitness account. It's more difficult finding a replacement humidifier filter than one might think and if you've gotten a late start to the day because you celebrated your football team's first 10-0 start in over a hundred years a bit too much the night before, one's responsibilities around the house can pre-empt plans to take in a matinee basketball game.

So there's that.

Studying the gameflow, it appears as if the Wizards took control of the game in the last five-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter and put the game away in the first six minutes of the third quarter.

The Hawks aren't going to win a lot of games where Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Acie Law IV, and Tyronn Lue combine to score a total of 0 points (0-8 shooting) in 32:05 combined minutes in a second quarter.

Thoughts from those who witnessed the events...

Mike Woodson quoted in Charles Odum's AP game recap:
"I just think Washington was the most aggressive team. They drove the ball and got to the free-throw line when they had to. ... I thought we were very lethargic early in the game. We still really weren't in the game, based on how we defended and rebounded the ball."
From Stan Awtrey's story in the AJC, Woodson again:
"You've got a team that was hungry for a win and they came in here and played like they wanted to win and we didn't. I thought we were just too lethargic. It seemed like we were a step behind everything."
and Josh Smith:
"We got outplayed. They match up well with us, but we had no energy and when the energy was there we couldn't limit them to one shot."
Ivan Carter of The Washington Post concurs:
"From the opening tip-off, the Wizards were the more energetic team. They moved the ball with a crispness that was missing in Friday's blowout home loss to the Denver Nuggets, chased down loose balls and thwarted a late comeback attempt by the Hawks with sound defense and rebounding."
The schedule eases up for the next five weeks: 12 of the next 19 games are at home with three of the road games @Milwaukee, @Minnesota, and @Philadelphia. 2-4 feels disappointing in the wake of the first four games, but, taken as a whole, the Hawks look, after six games, like the team most expected. They can win 38 to 42 games and challenge for a play-off spot. If Zaza Pachulia returns healthy and the rookies adjust quickly to playing at NBA speed, maybe they can achieve a bit more than that.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Celtics 106 Hawks 83



I propose awarding a nice plaque to the first team to beat the Celtics in Boston. Hold a pre-game ceremony for the accomplishment and everything. Since that (CAUTION: overreaction ahead) may not happen, perhaps a Certificate of Achievement (signed by David Stern) should be awarded to the first team to make a game in Boston competitive for four quarters.

It became obvious in the first half last night that Kevin Garnett could score as many points as he wished. Al Horford didn't play bad defense against Garnett, he maintained good defensive position in most cases, but Garnett was able to shoot over Horford whenever he wished to do so. The Celtics look like they're going to win 25 to 30 more games than last year. If Garnett continues to play like Tim Duncan's big brother, he'll get the MVP trophy.

I only saw two positives on a night where the Hawks were completely outclassed:
  1. Marvin Williams continued to score efficiently.
  2. Mike Woodson yanked Josh Smith quickly in the fourth quarter once it became apparent that Smith was going to contribute to the comeback effort by launching jump shots in the general direction of the backboard. Smith is too talented to be allowed to pout through tough nights or be allowed to act out in any other way.
The currently hapless Wizards provide an excellent opportunity for the Hawks to bounce back on Sunday. Any reasonable fan would have taken a 3-3 start to the season 10 days ago. What might have been this opening week shouldn't change that. Rather, it should raise expectations for the easier stretches of the schedule.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Small Sample Size Notes

The prose style takes a holiday today but will return tomorrow morning to recap the Hawks' toughest test of the young season.

Bullet points inspired by limited information it is then...
  • has added Blocks Against (BA) to their box scores but doesn't include them in players' season totals. I've garnered the impression that Josh Childress has had a lot of shots blocked through 4 games. 9 of his 16 misses have come as the result of his shot being blocked. That seems like a lot to me, but I've nothing to compare it with. I'm not going to calculate every player's BA by hand. Yet.
  • If you've struggled to find the Hotzones feature on this year, that may be because it's been re-named Hot Spots (presented by EA Sports NBA LIVE 08, all rights reserved, TM, R, etc., etc.). Though it seems like Josh Smith hasn't made a perimeter jumper yet this year, that's an exaggeration. He's made 4 perimeter jumpers in 20 attempts. He's 2-9 (22.2%) beyond the three-point arc and 2-11 (18.2%) on long (outside 15 feet) two-point attempts. He's also 3-13 (23.1%) on shots attempted inside of 15 feet that aren't layups, dunks, or tip-ins. That seemed poor to me, but last year Smith shot just 13-59 (22%), and in 2005-6 he shot 22-84 (26.2%) on similar shots.
  • The Hawks offense scores 105.3 points per 100 possessions with Marvin Williams on the court. The Hawks offense scores 90.2 points per 100 possessions with Marvin Williams off the court. That's almost as big an impact as Joe Johnson (104.5 on, 86.9 off) has on the offense. (Courtesy:

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hawks 105 Suns 96



Now that was a good coaching performance. Mike Woodson kept his best players on the floor, didn't overuse Tyronn Lue or Shelden Williams, and recognized a situation where Salim Stoudamire's offensive ability wouldn't be negated by his defensive limitations.

Certainly Amare Stoudemire's absence made things easier for Woodson and the Hawks. Had he played, foul trouble for the Hawks frontcourt and a diminshed rebounding advantage (The Hawks got 36.2% of possible offensive rebounds and 79.6% of possible defensive rebounds.) would have likely followed. But Stoudemire didn't play and the Hawks, players and head coach both, took advantage.

Player by player...

Josh Smith posted a second consecutive 5x4 though he was both an assist and a steal short of a 5x5 tonight. He can still find opportunities to make help defense seem like a bad idea. He can also strip Steve Nash ("We ran into a team that's more athletic than we are.") on two separate occasions.

Joe Johnson had the best 3-17 shooting night you'll ever see. I only noted a couple of forced shots and both of those came as a result of Johnson getting the ball as the shot clock wound down at the end of a stagnant offensive possession. He took good shots and just missed them. Credit also to Raja Bell's defense.

Marvin Williams was the recipient of many of Johnson's 10 assists. Williams' spacing and shooting are of great benefit to the offense. As of this writing, isn't updated through last night's game. I'll look at Williams's year-to-date impact on the offense tomorrow. A cursory look at last night's game, though, shows the Hawks scoring 1.06 points per possession with Williams on the court and 1.08 point per possession with him off the court.

The reason for that: Josh Childress. Williams missed 12 Hawks possessions on which Atlanta scored 13 points. More specifically, Josh Childress scored 13 points on the 12 Hawks possessions Marvin Williams missed. Eight of Childress's 13 points on those possessions were a direct result of his own offensive rebounds. Marvin Williams makes it easier to score on the first try. Josh Childress creates second chances.

Acie Law IV and Al Horford continue to acclimate themselves to the NBA. Neither one looks comfortable yet but both give the impression that they know what they're trying to do. I think they'll figure it out. Horford is already a better-than-average rebounder. Once he begins to make aggressive, instinctive post moves, turnovers will turn into points.

Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams, and Mario West saw limited minutes but easily outperformed the back end of Phoenix's rotation (Sean Marks, Brian Skinner, and Marcus Banks).

Last but not least, your correspondent sat straight up on the occasion of Salim Stoudamire's 2007-08 debut. It took four minutes and ten seconds for his first shot to go up but that shot went in (natch) and kicked off a ten points (plus two assists) in thirteen minutes (over three stints) barrage. Woodson matched Stoudamire up with Leandro Barabosa for 16 minutes and 23 seconds of Stoudamire's 17 minutes, 36 seconds of playing time. Stoudamire was +7 over that stretch.

The Hawks go to Boston Friday night. Zaza Pachulia hopes to make his debut in that game. If healthy, he'll be useful. The Hawks can't match Boston's frontline talent so they'll have to make up ground with their second unit. Plus, no one wants to see Shelden Williams battling Brian Scalabrine for any significant stretch of time.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nets 87 Hawks 82



The Hawks were competitive losers on the road for the second game in a row suffering again from the players' immaturity and the head coach's inability to keep his best players on the floor and matched up against players they can guard.

Despite those problems the Hawks were within 3 in the final minute and played good half-court defense for 19 seconds on the game's climactic possession. Josh Childress and Josh Smith forced Richard Jefferson to give the ball up to Antoine Wright, stationed behind the three-point stripe on the left wing, with 5 seconds left on the shot clock. Wright (a 29.7% career three-point shooter) faked a three-point attempt, Josh Smith (so talented he can post a 5x4 and still leave you ruing his untapped potential) flew past Wright and into the Hawks's bench, Wright drove to the basket, Acie Law IV lamely swiped at Wright's dribble but stayed with Kidd on the baseline, Childress stayed with Jefferson at the top of the key, Vince Carter screened Joe Johnson, Jason Collins held Al Horford, and Wright made an uncontested layup to put New Jersey up 5 with 15.8 seconds left.

The Hawks were fighting back after a disastrous third quarter stretch where the Nets outscored them 22-6. Not coincidentally, the Nets run began once Lawrence Frank replaced an obviously physically limited Nenad Krstic with Antoine Wright. New Jersey's Kidd/Carter/Jefferson/Wright/Collins lineup really exposed Marvin Williams's difficulty guarding players who can put the ball on the floor (Why he spent the two-plus quarters guarding Jefferson when two of Collins, Krstic, and Nachbar were on the floor is something only Mike Woodson knows.) and Al Horford's inability to anticipate where his help defense needs to come from.

This is never going to be a good defensive team so it's imperative that Woodson limit each player's exposure. Josh Smith is going to leave his man and run toward the ball anyway. Why not put him on someone who will have the ball in his hands a fair amount of the time? It would challenge him and maintain some semblance of a team defensive concept.

That there weren't that many Nets that Marvin Williams could successfully guard makes it all the more frustrating that Woodson, for the second time in three games, effectively let a player be disqualified from the game after picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter. Williams had another effective night offensively, both scoring efficiently and improving the team's spacing in the half-court. Woodson had to anticipate that the Nets would go small again down the stretch and thus limit Williams's effectiveness. So why not leave him on the floor while Nachbar and Jamaal Magliore are out there and try and get a couple more buckets before he either fouls out or Frank puts his most effective five back on the floor?

Equally frustrating is Woodson's continued distrust of Acie Law IV. Law left a tie game in the third quarter. Tyronn Lue played the next 16:44, going 0-6 from the floor with 3 assists and 2 turnovers while Hawks fell behind by as many as 14 points. Lue looked fine matched up against Darrell Armstrong (-4 in 13:43, though that includes a +2 stretch at the end of the third quarter when he was lucky enough to be on the court at the same time that Woodson broke out the Lue/Law/Mario West combination). Again, Lue is a fine backup point guard but he is overmatched against good NBA point guards. There is no reason to play him against Chauncey Billups or Jason Kidd for extended periods of the fourth quarter. Yes, Acie Law is going to make mistakes. He's also the only guy on the roster with the chance of becoming an average or better point guard.

Why do I have the feeling that Zaza Pachulia's return to the active roster will affect Al Horford more than Shelden Williams?

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Nets Preview, Links, and Links to Links


I'm not going to write a lot of game previews here. Over the last couple of years at The Phog Blog that there's only so many ways to write, "If they take care of the ball, force some turnovers, make their shots, force misses, control the offensive and/or defensive glass, etc., etc., they'll win." If I have something of particular (assumed) interest, I'll share it.

Of particular interest tonight should be the difference in athleticism between the Hawks and the Nets. Nenad Krstic is still recovering from his ACL tear, Vince Carter's sore thumb is affecting both his jump shot and ball-handling, and Jason Kidd has a thigh bruise. In perfect health the Nets frontline would be at an athletic disadvantage against the Hawks. It's the impact of Kidd's thigh bruise that I'll be watching most closely tonight. If he's visibly hobbled, there's a chance the Hawks' point guards could appear to be adequate defensively.

Regular Hawks watchers are well away that an advantage in athleticism does not necessarily result in any tangible basketball advantages, but it does increase the likelihood that the Hawks start the year (a better than expected) 2-1. Of course, simply having Josh Smith play well past the first quarter would go a long way to securing that second win tonight.


I've added links to the Hawks' pages at,, and in the Hawks Links section at the right. I wouldn't choose to draw conclusions from the numbers after just two games, but I'll be sure to do so as the season progresses. Especially if any of the numbers should reinforce any opinions or prejudices I already hold.


The first week power rankings are out at (Marty Burns), (Marc Stein), (John Schuhmann), and (DIME Magazine).


Micah Hart's Daily Links on the Hawks BasketBlog make some (but not all) of this post redundant and are essential reading.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pistons 92 Hawks 91



Marvin Williams:
"I rode him to the basket, and he tried to jump into me. He went to the ground and they made the call, but I don't know how anyone could have seen a foul in there."
Joe Johnson:
"You can't call that. I know it's a tough situation, but you've got let somebody win it or lose it without any interference."
No complaints about officiating here. It takes a selective memory to complain about the foul called on Marvin Williams with 1.9 seconds left which led to Chauncey Billups' game-winning free throw without acknowledging that the game was tied at 91 only because Josh Smith got bailed out by a whistle on the other end during the Hawks' previous possession.

Chauncey Billups:
"It looked like he got him a little bit. 'Sheed shouldn't have been contesting anyway. He should let Josh shoot that shot anyway. Instincts."
To my eye, Rasheed Wallace did not foul Josh Smith. On that play Smith, as he had most of the night, found himself overmatched against either Wallace (who is just a bigger, better basketball player) or Jason Maxiell (who seems to understand his strengths and weaknesses and who definitely plays hard more consistently) and made a bad, hopeless decision. The danger for the long term is that Smith's getting rewarded for his flailing beg for a foul call with 7.7 seconds left is defined as "making a tough play" or some such within the team, overshadowing how miserably Smith has played over the last seven quarters (5-26 FGA, 9 turnovers).

The rookies were not as effective last night as on their debut. Al Horford had a difficult night offensively. It will take some time for him to adjust to the length and quickness of better NBA post defenders. Acie Law IV had an excellent first half (9 points on 4-5 shooting) but turned the ball over three times in a nine minute stretch in the second half.

Tyronn Lue got the start at the point. This wasn't due to Mike Woodson coming to his senses; Anthony Johnson was in Atlanta for the birth of his first son. (Congratulations all around on the birth.)

Lue isn't nearly as effective offensively playing with and against first-string players. His primary skill is making jump shots. The Hawks don't need him to shoot as much when Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams (who were both excellent last night) are on the floor. Lue isn't a great passer and thus largely becomes a spectator offensively. Lue has decent chance of looking good playing against Flip Murray. Chauncey Billups he just can't handle.

Defensively, the Pistons spent the fourth quarter exploiting Lue in the post. First Chauncey Billups, then Jarvis Hayes. So, despite my opposition to playing Anthony Johnson, the night he's unavailable, he's missed. Or the Hawks could have just gone big and put in Josh Childress for the last six minutes. Mike Woodson's not the most creative coach, is he?

Still, a one-point loss in Detroit isn't hugely dispiriting. Horford and Law are going to get more comfortable and Zaza Pachulia could be back as early as Wednesday to bolster the team's post depth.

See also: Matt Watson's post game thoughts at Detroit Bad Boys

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hawks 101 Mavericks 94



I suspect neither team will be satisfied with their performance last night. Dirk Nowitzki missed a handful of open three-pointers, preventing the short-handed Mavericks (without Josh Howard and, for the last 27:35 of the game, Devin Harris) from ever taking control of the game.

It's a good win for an Atlanta team that figures to be an underdog in each of their next four games (@Detroit, @New Jersey, Phoenix, @Boston). It's especially good considering that:
  1. Josh Childress played a horrible game.
  2. Royal Ivey's departure did not prevent Mike Woodson from starting the worst available point guard.
  3. Josh Smith attempted four three-pointers (making none) and played abysmal defense in the second half.
  4. Mike Woodson either forgot that Al Horford is now playing in the NBA and it thus takes six personal fouls to disqualify him or does not yet recognize that Horford is a significantly better basketball player than Shelden Williams.

1. I called Childress the "epitome of efficiency" earlier this week and then he opens the campaign by shooting 1-6 from the floor with two turnovers in just 18:47. He did grab six offensive boards and showed that a Childress/Smith/Horford frontcourt can be quite effective on the glass.

2. Anthony Johnson played just 7:55, going 0-1 from the field with a turnover and three personal fouls but wasn't nearly as effective as his line would indicate. His missed shot came after an obvious, ineffective, and uncalled traveling violation, and, of the three Hawks point guards who utterly failed to slow Harris, Jason Terry, and Jose Juan Berea (They combined to go 17-27 from the floor and 10-14 from the line. 45 points in 56:09.) only Johnson failed to make back some of the lost ground on the offensive end. Tyronn Lue and Acie Law IV combined for 22 points (from 14 FGA and 4 FTA), 7 assists, and 2 turnovers in just over 40 minutes. Just let them split all the minutes at point guard.

3. The first ill-advised Josh Smith three-point attempt occurred four minutes and twelve seconds into the season. It stood out in an otherwise outstanding first quarter from Smith: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers. Over the last three quarters, he scored 9 more points (needing 9 FGA and 7 FTA to do so), grabbed five more rebounds, added no assists, no blocks, 1 steal, and turned the ball over four more times. He also spent the second half being exploited by Dallas's pick-and-roll and clearly not playing within the team's defensive concept. He flat-out ignored Acie Law IV and Marvin Williams in two separate incidents and put forth minimal effort throughout.

4. Horford was great last night. He may be the team's best player before the year's over. He's certainly the best big man already. For whatever reason, though, he spent the last eight-and-a-half minutes of the game on the bench. I don't have a problem with Woodson taking Horford out with 8:35 left in the game once he picked up his fifth foul unless he never puts him back in the game. Shelden Williams is a functional backup. Horford is a game-changer.

This roster may be good enough to expose Woodson's limitations as a coach. Sunday night's game at Detroit will be a tougher test than the home opener against a short-handed Dallas team. The players will have to play better than they did last night to get to 2-0. It probably won't matter how much better they play, though, if the best players aren't put the court.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hoopinion's 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks Preview

For those with short attention spans or a disinterest in my speculative prose, I'm predicting 38-44 and 10th in the East. The best case scenarios below would get them to 42 or 44 wins. The worst case scenarios would result in 30 or 32 wins.

Even in a worst (excluding a rash of season-ending injuries) case scenario I think this team will win more games than last year.

Point guard

BEST CASE SCENARIO(S): Acie Law IV starts and is soon able to finish games. Tyronn Lue, playing with the second unit, makes enough shots either to push the Hawks toward a playoff berth or be an attractive trading chit in early '08. Speedy Claxton gets healthy. More realistically, Speedy Claxton only plays when healthy enough to be productive. There's a GM another GM dumb enough to give up a second-round pick for the opportunity to pay Anthony Johnson to be a third-string point guard.

WORST CASE SCENARIO(S): Acie Law IV takes a full year to adjust to the NBA. Tyronn Lue is bothered by his knee and plays poorly. Or, Tyronn Lue plays well, the Hawks hold on to him, the Hawks don't make the playoffs, and he leaves in the summer as a free agent. Speedy Claxton tries to play through his injuries. Anthony Johnson plays 20 minutes a night. Other teams realize that none of these guys are especially good defenders.

Two guard

BEST CASE SCENARIO(S): Between Acie Law IV's solid point guard play and improved frontcourt scoring from Marvin Williams and Al Horford, Joe Johnson becomes a far more efficient offensive player. In fact, the Hawks' offense becomes multi-faceted enough that Johnson can backup the point guard position for short stretches in an emergency, thus freeing Salim Stoudamire to get some playing time as they cross-match defensively. Mario West develops into the new Ira Newble (of Ira Newble's useful years fame). Or, the Hawks sign Hassan Adams to replace Mario West on the roster.

WORST CASE SCENARIO(S): Joe Johnson's usage continues to slightly outpace his ability. Mike Woodson plays Ira Newble clone (of Ira Newble in Cleveland fame) Mario West as much as he played Royal Ivey. The Hawks play two of their point guards at the same time for extended periods of time. The Hawks sign Hassan Adams to replace Mario West on the roster. Three weeks later he and Stoudamire get into a fight at practice.

Things break down a bit here as the frontcourt positions are so fluid...

Small Forward

BEST CASE SCENARIO(S): Marvin Williams and Josh Childress split all the minutes at the position, each adding some minutes at power forward and two guard, respectively.

WORST CASE SCENARIO(S): Josh Smith shooting three-pointers. Joe Johnson playing alongside a miniature backcourt.

Power Forward

BEST CASE SCENARIO(S): Josh Smith develops post moves, forgoes (for the most part) jump shots. Shelden Williams continues to rebound while remembering how to block shots.

WORST CASE SCENARIO(S): Marvin Williams trying to defend the post. Solomon Jones trying to defend the post.


BEST CASE SCENARIO(S): Zaza Pachulia is healthy enough that between he and Al Horford, a minutes crunch emerges. A minutes crunch is eased as Pachulia and Horford show themselves quite adept at playing together. Shelden Williams and Solomon Jones develop choreographed in-game bench celebrations.

WORST CASE SCENARIO(S): Pachulia isn't healthy and Mike Woodson goes small a lot in the frontcourt or has Lorenzen Wright playing the minutes that should be Shelden Williams's as everyone moves up a slot in the rotation. Lorenzen Wright declines Shelden Williams and Solomon Jones's invitation to participate in choreographed in-game bench celebrations.

My preferred rotation

2G Johnson
SF M Williams
PF Smith
C Horford
6 Childress for M Williams unless Johnson's in early foul trouble
7 Pachulia for Smith or Horford
8 Lue for Law IV
(at which point, M Williams back in for one of Johnson/Smith/Horford)
9 S Williams for remaining Smith/Horford
10 Stoudamire/West for Johnson depending on matchup
11 Solomon Jones for dunks/blocks/sublimity in the dog minutes of an NBA schedule
12 Stoudamire/West for shot attempts/hustle or Claxton for rehab experimentation

In street clothes...Lorenzen Wright, Anthony Johnson, and Speedy Claxton (in his case, sad, but likely)

Ballhype: hype it up!

No Contract Extensions for Smith, Childress

As expected the deadline to sign Josh Childress and Josh Smith to contract extensions expired without a deal for either player.

Also as expected, the most perceptive comments about this development come not from Billy Knight (unquoted) or Mike Woodson...
"Both those guys, along with Marvin [Williams] and all the guys we've brought in here, have done everything in their power to help us reach our ultimate goal."
(The ultimate goal being what, 30 wins? Having the NBA's best pre-season record?)

...but rather from Josh Childress, on-court epitome of efficiency and good decision-making, who perhaps should be making basketball decisions for the entire franchise:
"It is stunning from the standpoint that I thought there would be more stability but we feel like this is the year we've finally put it all together. The bottom line is this, in the past three years we've had basically three guys [Tyronn Lue was acquired in a trade Dec. 23, 2004] in this thing the entire way. And that's just crazy, when you consider that other teams have a nucleus of sometimes seven or eight guys. That's where we feel like we are now."
What would motivate either Smith or Childress or to sign an extension next summer? The benefit of signing to play for a mis-managed franchise for a maximum of six rather than five years? Either Smith or Childress would be an attractive addition to most, if not all, NBA teams and most, if not all, NBA teams would be more attractive than the Hawks organization which, in the short time Smith and Childress have been around, has failed with consecutive high draft picks to build a productive young nucleus and failed to secure (may have failed to attempt to secure) long-term contracts for two productive players plenty young enough to be a part of the next good Hawks team.

Anyone with an interest in the Hawks who also watched the Cavaliers look throughly inept and discombobulated last night has to be concerned. Not that the Cavs aren't capable of looking bad even when at full-strength, but last night was an example of how bad a more talented team can look when it knows it is not whole. That's just with role players missing. No team should be in the business of alienating their second- and third-best players.

A better organization could be given the benefit of the doubt (the Bulls, for example) with regard to not extending key players especially one as immature as Josh Smith. Next summer's a long time from now. Everything may work out anyway. With the Hawks, though, wouldn't everything working out in the end be a surprise?

Ballhype: hype it up!