Monday, December 31, 2007

Mavericks 97 Hawks 84



On the bright side, the Hawks played the Mavericks even after falling behind 12-0 to start the game. Also, Acie Law IV played a sort of effective offensive game.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Brian Windhorst (subbing for Henry Abbott) at TrueHoop gives Marvin Williams some much deserved credit for Atlanta's 15-12 record:
Yet maybe being overshadowed is what looks to be a breakout season for the oft-cursed No. 2 pick in 2005, Marvin Williams. The Hawks' front office isn't out of the woods yet for passing on the likes of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, but Marvin Williams is quietly showing his massive promise at the tidy age of 21. After his 14-point, five-rebound and five-assist night, Williams is averaging 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and, the biggie, shooting an astounding 50 percent from the field in his third season. He's also second on the Hawks in steals at 1.2 per game.
Here's to effective spacing. He'd be even more efficient offensively if he got more opportunities to fill the lane on the break. I like to think he has some untapped potential as a rebounder but also like to think that I'm not especially greedy.

Ballhype: hype it up!


In the holiday rush all these wins start to run together.

Late last Friday night, I watched the Hawks defeat the Wizards 97-92.



Neither my notes nor my memories survived the week.

Last night, in between working late and eating dinner I watched but utterly failed to focus on the Hawks defeating the Pacers 107-95.



The surprising amount of correspondence that arrived between December 22-25 and required response kept me in the office long past the 7pm (announced) tip but did provide me a rare opportunity to listen to Steve Holman and Dennis Scott on the ride home wherein I learned that 1) Holman is already worried about Scott missing the early start (12pm CST) in Dallas Saturday because Scott "knows people" in Dallas and 2) Holman and Scott are very interested in breaking their duck vis-a-vis a free meal at St. Elmo Steakhouse in Indianapolis on or about January 4th, 2008.

Regular blogging to resume as early as today or as late as tomorrow.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hawks 117 Heat 111 (OT)



Nothing gets the holiday blood flowing like receiving the gift of watching 179 free throw attempts over the course of two games in three days. Savoring the two victories, which allow one the privilege to complain about aesthetics, is a nice, new feeling.

The parade to the foul line frustrated this viewer but did not overshadow the fortuitous events for Hawks fans: Anthony Johnson played another excellent game (Chris Quinn, I sorry to say, may not get his card from the Backup Point Guards' Union), Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 turnover) appears to be rounding into health, and Shelden Williams had 8 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes despite never catching the ball cleanly on his first attempt all night.

This being the Hawks (not to mention this being Hoopinion) there are still things about which to fret: the Anthony Johnson/Joe Johnson/Mario West/Josh Smith/Lorenzen Wright lineup the Hawks featured for a spell in the first quarter, the wisdom of playing an obviously still-injured Acie Law IV at all, starting Al Horford with an apparent brief to foul Shaq on sight rather than using up an expendable big man's fouls first and saving Horford for a more advantageous matchup, and the revelation that Bob Rathbun thinks that all tall black men wearing white headbands look alike.

Somewhere in between is the puzzling case of Joe Johnson who seems incapable of making an open jump shot his teammates create for him, but can finish off the bounce against any number of defenders whether falling away or going to the rim. Seven missed three-pointers and none of them appear in my notes as a bad shot.

Note of genuine humility: It's probably for the best that the Hawks clearly do not read Hoopinion. On their first possession last night Joe Johnson posted up, got double-teamed, passed out of it to Anthony Johnson, AJ passed to a wide-open Josh Smith (who Miami did not bother to close out on), who missed a 22-footer.

Get healthy, Zo. If last marks the end of your playing career, it's been a hell of a run.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hawks Need Another Shooter

Everybody could use another shooter (You want to argue strenuously that Phoenix doesn't and I'll probably concede in deference to my energy-draining cold.) but, as Sekou Smith quotes the ever popular unnamed scout, another shooter would push the Hawks from playoff hopeful to playoff habitue.

Sayeth the unnamed scout:
“They’ve got to have another shooter, or two man. Everybody could use more help in the post but it’s just not happening. There aren’t enough quality big men to go around. Plus, with Josh Smith and Al Horford, they’ve got two of the better young tweeners in the league. Neither of those guys is the ideal size, but they play off of each other perfectly. But what they can get, and what they desperately need, is another quality shooter. Other than Joe Johnson, they don’t have a guy that you’re worried about spotting up and knocking down shots in transition or in the half court game. Marvin Williams is on the path, but he’s still a guy you can take away by getting underneath him with a smaller, active guy. They don’t have another guy that scares you from distance. They just don’t. And if they did, that would open up the floor for the rest of those guys to operate a little easier. Sometimes a subtle thing like that can open up a team’s offense in ways they never imagined.”
As of today, the Hawks are 25th in the NBA in eFG%. They sit ahead of just the Nets, Sonics, Knicks, Clippers, and Bulls (combined winning percentage: .342). The three teams directly ahead of the Hawks are the Timberwolves, Bobcats, and 76ers.

Josh Smith is shooting 41.5% from the field (weighed down by his 23.1% shooting from beyond the arc and 26.8% shooting on two-point attempts outside 15 feet--more touches in the post, please), Zaza Pachulia and Shelden Williams are each shooting 41.7% from the field, Acie Law IV is shooting 39.6% from the field (that should pick up should he ever get completely healthy but likely not as a result of making more jumpers so much as finishing better at the rim), Hoopinion favorite (and admitted defenwsive liability) Salim Stoudamire is shooting 39.8% from the field.

That's effectively half the roster that hasn't been able to make the shots they're taking so far this year. It's not like Joe Johnson (46.3%), Anthony Johnson (47.4%), or Tyronn Lue (46.9%) are bettering the league average themselves. Despite this, the Hawks are 12-12 because they've been a top ten offense in terms of offensive rebounding and free throw rate. (That and they've been an outstanding defensive team for the last month. Allowing Damien Wilkins to score 41 points in Philips Arena seems to have delivered something of a wake up call.) If they could figure out a way to become even an almost-average shooting team, they'd be battling the Raptors for the fourth seed rather than participating in the scrum for the last couple playoff spots.

As I wrote earlier today, I think that the Hawks have another shooter on the roster and his name is Joe Johnson. More touches for Al Horford and Josh Smith (good passers both) in the post means more open jump shots for Johnson and Marvin Williams. Continuing to give most of the touches in the post to Johnson means more open jump shots for Smith and Anthony Johnson. I know which I would prefer were I Mike Woodson.

Also, were I Billy Knight (shudder) I'd be hard-pressed to turn any of the dreck on the back end of this roster into another shooter. I think someone on this list would be worth bringing in for the new year. Billy Thomas can shoot and guard people (At least I assume he can still manage the latter; ain't none of us getting younger.) but though I'm sentimental (Moneyrock!) I'm also open-minded enough to consider fairly any alternatives.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 116 Jazz 111



Yes, it's taken 24 hours to get over the shock of watching Anthony Johnson outplay Deron Williams. Or, technical difficulties. Which is more plausible? I ask you.

I have a couple of requests with regard to the Hawks' offense from here on out:
  • Throw it to Al Horford in the post or throw it Josh Smith in the (low- or high-) post. Let the shooters (Joe Johnson or Marvin Williams, ideally) get open looks from the resulting double-team.
  • Run the pick-and-roll with Joe Johnson, especially if his defender is going under the screen consistently.
  • Stop posting up Joe Johnson so that the opposing team can leave Anthony Johnson and Josh Smith free to take long jump shots as the shot clock expires.
Thank you.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Weekend in Review

Pistons 91 Hawks 81



Detroit makes Atlanta look awful offensively. The Hawks don't run a lot of interesting (or effective) sets on a good night, but the Pistons stifle whatever ball and player movement the Hawks attempt and, should anyone successfully attack the basket, 'Sheed, McDyess, and Jason Maxiell render the Hawks incapable of finishing.

I checked out at halftime. Watching the tape Saturday morning, it appeared the Pistons did the same before regaining control mid-way through the third quarter and cruising to their third victory of the season against Atlanta. Something to keep in mind when predicting Atlanta's win total: only one more chance to be schooled by Detroit.

Hawks 93 Bobcats 84



The Hawks are approximately as much better (head-to-head, anyway) than the Bobcats as the Pistons are better than the Hawks.

Josh Childress, Acie Law IV, Salim Stoudamire, and Tyronn Lue all missed the game through various injuries, reducing Atlanta to a 7-man rotation including Mario West and the dubiously healthy Zaza Pachulia. Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith played heavy minutes and did the heavy lifting quite successfully.

Sam Vincent didn't hurt matters, either. That's from the Hawks' perspective. I don't get Vincent's infatuation with Jeff McInnis. The man's not a good backup point guard but that doesn't stop Vincent from using McInnis not just as such, but as his primary reserve at both backcourt spots. Neither Matt Carroll nor Jared Dudley are the key to leading this Charlotte team to the playoffs but they're both better basketball players than McInnis and neither one pushes Raymond Felton out of position when they're playing.

Vincent used the two point guard backcourt (or, more accurately, the one good point guard not playing point guard so Jeff McInnis can, backcourt) for 14 minutes and 9 seconds during which Atlanta outscored Charlotte by 22 points.

I think I'll have to refrain from calling Mike Woodson the worst coach in the NBA for a while longer.

The Hawks still sit seventh in the East. Utah comes to town tonight (probably without Mehmet Okur) and there's no new injury news. Really, what's the point of reporting this:
It would be much more manageable for the Hawks if they weren't dealing with all these injuries. Josh Childress (groin), Acie Law IV (knee), Tyronn Lue (calf), Salim Stoudamire (ankle) and Speedy Claxton (knee) were all on the bench in suits against the Bobcats.
on Monday morning except to fill inches? If they're not giving you any new information, write about that so someone like me doesn't wonder if you're bothering to ask in the first place.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Josh Childress Out Tonight

Per Micah Hart, who appears to be firmly on the side of not disrupting any Friday night plans you or your loved ones might have in order to watch tonight's game in Detroit:
I'm not going to lie - the Hawks have their work cut out for themselves tonight in Detroit. Facing a Pistons team that manhandled them at Philips a couple weeks ago and beat them (controversially, I might add) during the season's opening weekend as well, the team will need to play at its highest level if they want to come away with a win.

That in itself is going to be tough, especially considering Al Horford is out due to suspension, Josh Childress is out with a strained groin, and T-Lue is still out as well. Zaza Pachulia will be back, but since it's his first game back after missing 5 straight dealing with a concussion I don't know how much we can expect from him either.

Honestly? I'm willing to give the team a pass in advance tonight, provided they come home and take care of business tomorrow night against Charlotte.
Speaking of Charlotte, they're the focus of ESPN today.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Presumably Solomon Jones Has Begun Stretching

Not unexpected, but now (well, 15 hours ago) made official: Al Horford suspended for one game.
NEW YORK, December 13, 2007 – Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford has been suspended one game without pay for committing a Flagrant Foul Penalty Two by striking Toronto’s T.J. Ford on the head, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Hawks 100-88 loss to the Raptors on Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Horford will serve his suspension Friday against the Detroit Pistons.
Sekou Smith reports that Zaza Pachulia "is expected to return to the lineup and start in Horford's place."

Tonight's frontcourts: Wallace/McDyess/Maxiell/Mohammed/Johnson v. Smith/Pachulia/S Williams/Jones. I haven't been this pessimistic about the Hawks' chances to win a game since Monday. Which can (obviously) be taken as either a reason to stay in or go out this Friday night.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is Zaza Pachulia Going to Return?

A second consecutive post headed with a question but this one is a bit more serious. I ask because it doesn't sound good. Mike Woodson, in today's AJC:
"He didn't give me any indication when he was going to play but I wanted to assure him that he's a big part of what we're doing and we need him back on the floor to play whatever minutes he's going to play. We need him back on the floor."
It's nice to see that there is some common ground between myself and Mr. Woodson. It's not so nice that the post rotation consists of Al Horford (and his head coach instituted four foul limit) and, on a good night, Shelden Williams. Zaza, assuming it's the Zaza that Billy Knight could point to as his one good decision as a GM, will (would?) be a welcome addition.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Josh Smith or Luol Deng?

Steve Weinman at CelticsBlog asks the question (HT: Kelly Dwyer):
Buried in Atlanta, Josh Smith could well be a bigger, better version of Luol Deng.
A good read, inspired by Smith's outstanding performance in Orlando Monday night and written before he torpedoed the Atlanta cause against Toronto last night. Because Steve (admittedly) doesn't see the Hawks play very often, he overrates Smith's defense (great shot blocker, good help defender, reckless gambler, and helpless when posted up against) and understates his poor shot selection (which is, again, so bad because he's so effective when he attacks the basket).

Ballhype: hype it up!

Raptors 100 Hawks 88



My DVR picked up two-and-a-third quarters worth of

This Channel Should be Available Shortly.

last night.

My eyewitness account accounts only for the comeback at the end of the third quarter and immediate capitulation at the start of the fourth. So, bullet points...
  • I was a night early with my worries about a two-headed point guard shredding the Hawks' D. The combined line of TJ Ford and Juan Calderon: 48 minutes, 41 points (16-21 FGA, 8-10 FTA), 15 assists, 3 turnovers.
  • At some point Acie Law IV needs to start making shots in situations other than end-of-quarter buzzer beaters. He's shooting 44% on two-point attempts and 20% on three-point attempts on the season. Since returning from his ankle injury he's making just 32% of his two-point attempts and is 1-7 on three-pointers.
  • In 24 hours Josh Smith went from outplaying Dwight Howard to getting outplayed by Shelden Williams. 7 turnovers, 9 missed field goals (only two of them perimeter jump shots, though), just 2 free throw attempts, and 6 fouls.
  • This team is not very good when Smith plays poorly. Josh Childress returned and was effective. Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson both shot the ball well. Shelden Williams played a second consecutive good game off the bench. Al Horford and Acie Law were solid. Only Anthony Johnson joined Smith in struggling (hardly unexpected) and it was enough to make Toronto look the clearly superior team.
  • Mike Woodson letting Josh Smith foul out of the game makes his refusal to play Al Horford when Horford's in foul trouble even more particularly strange.
  • Al Horford's foul on TJ Ford was most unfortunate--the result of Horford's effort to block a shot and Ford's effort to prevent his shot from being blocked. It was not a dirty play, something Ford was apparently well enough to acknowledge to Horford late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning at Piedmont Hospital. One hopes both for a quick return from TJ Ford and no lingering effects on Horford for having committed the foul.
  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star disagrees with me:
I abhor basketball fights, mostly because, as Sam says, players can’t fight. But surely to all that’s good in the world, someone should have at least got in Al Horford’s face just a wee bit, don’t you think?

Not to punch him, but to say something, maybe push him, let him know smacking a kid in the head on a drive is stupid, very, very stupid...

...I have no doubt Horford had no thoughts of slamming Ford to the floor when he tried to foul him and maybe the rookie learns from it. Grab him around the waist, foul him at the free throw line or in the lane before he gets in the air.

Don’t swing your arm with no idea where it’s going to land.

And even though there was no malice intended, I really think the NBA has to suspend him a game and take some money away from him just to learn a lesson.
Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Preview Scraps: Toronto at Atlanta

The Canadian Press reported yesterday that Andrea Bargnani returned to practice on Monday and could return to the Raptor lineup tonight "marking the first time Toronto has had its trio of stars - Bargnani, T.J. Ford and Chris Bosh - together in the lineup since Nov. 20."

This afternoon, The Sports Network lists Bargnani as questionable. No word on the status of Childress, Lue, or Pachulia.

Toronto's offense (ranked 9th in league) will provide (especially if Bargnani's healthy) a third consecutive good test for the suddenly stingy (10th in the league) Atlanta defense.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Other Points of View

Third Quarter Collapse provides the Orlando perspective on last night's game:
We simply had no fire or intensity tonight. For the second game in a row, it appeared as though the team were still being coached by Brian Hill.
Ben Q Rock highlights Basketbawful's Worst of the Night there as well.

Kelly Dwyer provides a neutral's perspective:
Atlanta really put something together last night. It was probably the best we've seen them play since the Lenny Wilkens era, and they came away with a wholly deserved road win over a divisional rival.
Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 98 Magic 87



That was nice. By "that" I mean being wrong about most everything I wrote in the game preview yesterday, having an excuse other than laziness to skip writing more game previews, and, most importantly, watching the finest performance the Hawks have turned in this season.

Stan Van Gundy agrees:

We did make some mistakes, but I actually thought a lot of it was them. They've got great, great quickness as a team, and good length. I thought they made it very, very difficult on us to get quality shots - they contested shots better than anybody that we've played against.

Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo did not, as I predicted, torch Anthony Johnson and Acie Law IV. They didn't get a chance to get burned. Joe Johnson guarded the Orlando point guard on the vast majority of their possessions. He couldn't keep either Nelson or Arroyo in front of him any better than Anthony Johnson or Law would have but Johnson's size made it possible for the Hawks to switch on the pick-and-roll without creating a series of matchup problems for themselves. It was an effective coaching decision and came as a complete shock to me. At least until I discovered the identity of this plan's creator:
The defensive wrinkle Hawks assistant coach Dave Fizdale suggested in the scouting report for Monday night's game against Orlando seemed like a subtle one.

"Everything unfolded exactly the way it was supposed to," Josh Smith said. "Fiz went over the blueprint during shootaround and it played out just the way he said it would."
I liked that decision a lot better than Woodson's use of the Law/Anthony Johnson backcourt combo for 3:11 at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter. Neither is much use off the ball and Law especially needs experience playing the point. Orlando got within four before Woodson put a more sensible unit on the floor.

His chosen five did not, at that moment (10:05 left in the 4th Quarter), include Al Horford. The reason: Horford had four fouls and is apparently not allowed to commit any more than four fouls, ever. Sure, he struggled to guard Dwight Howard but Horford scored seven points in 8:25 and the team was +9 while he was on the floor. Once he fouled out, Lorenzen Wright (one point, three rebounds in 27:10) would have still been available to play.

But this isn't the day to harp on the things that Mike Woodson does that I don't understand. Shelden Williams (hope his elbow heals quickly) and Anthony Johnson (who has played three pretty good games in a row) can't be expected to play as well as they did last night consistently so it's imperative that the team take advantage of the convergence of their competence.

Eastern Conference Player of the Week Josh Smith has moved far beyond the realm of competence. When he is the best player on the team the Hawks look okay. When he's the best player on the court (as he was last night) the Hawks look genuinely dangerous. Smith posted another 5x4 last night and dominated a game despite occasionally lapsing into a jump shooter.

This morning the Hawks stand at 10-10, tied for fifth in the East. Should Josh Childress, Zaza Pachulia, and Tyronn Lue bolster the rotation sooner rather than later, Atlanta could force the bottom half of the Eastern Conference to chase them down and take their playoff spot. That didn't seem possible two weeks ago.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Preview: Hawks at Magic

Tonight's game (a preview of a first-round playoff game, were the season to end, quite unexpectedly, today) kicks off a big week for the Hawks.

Josh Smith is reading a lot into the home wins over Minnesota (barely) and Memphis:
This is honestly the first time we've actually carved out an identity for ourselves. I know that sounds crazy but in my eyes, we're just now hitting our stride. For a long time we've played to whatever style was dictated to us. And we've had our struggles, and probably will have some more, everybody does. But the last couple of games have felt different.
There's no new news about Josh Childress's groin. He must still be planning to play tonight.

Orlando may be without Keith Bogans (bruised right quad muscle) tonight. Tim Povtak of The Orlando Sun-Sentinel reports that that might mean a start for Keyon Dooling. Decent-to-good choices to replace an injured starter--that's one of the major differences between the two franchises, though not as important as either a big free agent signing being Rashard Lewis rather than Zaza Pachulia or Speedy Claxton, or getting to draft Dwight Howard.

Howard may not be the Hawks greatest worry tonight. (Sure, he'll be the best player on the court but he's going to do what he's going to do so why wear yourself out worrying about him. Just start a pool about when Lorenzen Wright fouls out tonight.) No, the greatest threat to the Hawks tonight will be the tag-team of Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo. Atlanta has demonstrated no ability to guard quick point guards at any point this season. If Anthony Johnson and Acie Law IV create a third option for Orlando's offense, the game could be out of hand before the Hawks have a chance to start warming up early for the third quarter.

Ballhype: hype it up!

More Late Than Never



The responsibilities of real life superseded my commitment to this enterprise Saturday night. If I spoke to anything more than the excellent first quarter, I'd be putting you on.

Apparently I missed not only Lorenzen Wright's 2007-08 debut but also an exciting halftime coaching adjustment. Take it away Mike Woodson:
"We got them out of the locker room a little bit earlier than we have in the past. They were able warm up a lot quicker, and it was a nice carryover into the third quarter."
Your thoughts, Josh Smith?
"It got our bodies moving."
I guess we'll see if this works as well when the opponent isn't 6-13 and playing the second game of a road back-to-back after the previous night's game went to overtime.

Preview of tonight's game in Orlando appearing shortly.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Franchise's Finances has published a ton of financial information about all 30 NBA teams. (HT: Kelly Dwyer)

Sortable team rankings in five categories are here. The page specific to the Hawks' details is here and features the following accurate assessment of the state of the franchise:
The Atlanta Hawks are among the worst franchises in the NBA. The team has not made the postseason since 1999 and has failed to flirt with a winning season this decade. The Hawks have drafted with apparently no game plan, traded poorly and in recent years its owners have seemed more interested in suing each other than building a credible franchise.
The overriding fact that it's occasionally best but always impossible to ignore is that the franchise has no one in charge. Building a playoff team in this circumstance is extraordinarily difficult even if the team's GM wasn't spending the fifth-overall pick on Shelden Williams and the team's coach can't conceive of useful combinations of the few good players at his disposal.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 90 Timberwolves 89



I'm at a loss as to the appropriate response to last night's game. I was initially incredulous about the celebration following Joe Johnson's game-winner as it resulted from blowing a 19-point lead to the worst team in the league and Atlanta's two best players allowing a go-ahead layup to Marko Jaric on consecutive possessions.

But, these guys (Horford and Law excluded) haven't won a lot of games recently. It's not their fault that they're part of a dysfunctional, thin roster that's deployed sub-optimally. Winning four out of every five games is more than a minor accomplishment considering the circumstances.

All the familiar, maddening problems surfaced (as did some of the causes for optimism).

But they won.


where the organization is coming from.

My expectations with regard to consistent, quality basketball Saturday night against Memphis are low. With Tyronn Lue's strained calf, Zaza Pachulia's concussion, and Josh Childress's fresh groin strain, we may see a seven-man rotation. We may see Solomon Jones outside of garbage time. We may even see Joe Johnson and Salim Stoudamire on the court at the same time. (Necessity as the mother of implementing the obvious or some such.) May they just be good enough to win another game.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Links of the 6th unveiled John Hollinger's new toy today: The Playoff Predictor. As of today, 3,000 out of 5,000 times the Hawks make the playoffs. I'm guessing that they'll need to beat Minnesota tonight and Memphis on Saturday to maintain that rate.

In his accompanying explanatory article, he writes:
This tool really shows how the East has split into the Big Three and the Little 12. Orlando, Detroit and Boston all show up as locks to win their respective divisions, while Atlanta limps into the No. 8 seed with just 37 wins.
Elsewhere, check out Kelly Dwyer's new home at Yahoo! Sports. Eleven posts in two days. Let's see if he can keep that pace up.

As for tonight's game, the Timberwolves will be without Randy Wittman (back surgery) while Antoine Walker (ankle) and Marko Jaric (foot, ankle) are both questionable.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pistons 106 Hawks 95



There are a lot fewer notes to compile into sentences and paragraphs when the game fails to be competitive for even three full quarters. There are more things to get off one's chest, though.

Detroit's an improved offensive team under Flip Saunders (and absent Ben Wallace) but the Pistons are not the defensive marauders they were under Larry Brown (and with Ben Wallace). They did not, however, get stupid when either Brown or Wallace left. They can still guard very successfully when the other team is willing to play four-on-five. Through three quarters, either Anthony Johnson or Shelden Williams was on the floor for 27:01. Neither deserved nor received any attention from Pistons defenders. The Pistons didn't much bother with Josh Smith until he got a foot in the paint, either. He obliged them by attempting (and missing, natch) four jump shots despite missing a most of the first half due to committing three stupid fouls. There was never much room for Joe Johnson, Al Horford, or Marvin Williams to operate.

Not that Johnson helped matters much. He forced most of his ten shots, turned the ball over in situations when he never looked likely to create something, and, most disturbingly, threw some terrible passes out of double-teams. Once the ball got brought up the court, was passed to Johnson, Johnson dribbled for a few seconds, then threw a pass at Horford, Williams, or Smith's ankles, Atlanta would have the ball with under 10 seconds left on the shot clock and five stationary offensive players facing a reset Pistons defense. This was not a recipe for success.

Of course, Mike Woodson never put Salim Stoudamire on the court with the starters to (hypothetically) stretch Detroit's defense and make them guard all five Atlanta players for any length of time. Stoudamire replaced Johnson with 2:43 left in the third quarter and the game, for all intents and purposes, over. Stoudamire scored 15 points in just under 15 garbage time minutes.

Salim >>> Flip Murray.

It's dispiriting that these young players are learning that's better to roll over and take a beating than try something risky in an attempt to compete with a good, veteran team. This isn't just Woodson. I think we all know that he's not going to be fired this year. The owner(s) will simply allow his contract to run out following a(nother) partially wasted season and replace him with someone willing to coach under a lame-duck, hamstrung, and generally poor GM.

I have high hopes for Al Horford (though his defensive rebounding ability seems to serve as a disincentive for his teammates to give a strong effort on the defensive glass) and Acie Law IV (once healthy enough to get a good stretch of game experience). I'm skeptical today about the rest.

Perspective from the Pistons' point-of-view at Need4Sheed and Detroit Bad Boys.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hawks 88 76ers 79



It wasn't a perfect performance from the Hawks but, if may be a bit presumptuous, it was a performance we could all happily live with on a regular basis.

Josh Smith took some jump shots and turned the ball over four times but he generally attacked the 76ers' rim, defended the Hawks' rim, and had six assists.

Joe Johnson had a poor shooting night but generally took easy shots that he allowed his teammates to set up for him. When Philadelphia's defense limited his scoring chances him, Johnson used their attention as an opportunity to create easy shots for his teammates.

Acie Law IV returned, looked rusty, missed all eight of his field goal attempts, and left no doubt that he is the best point guard on the Hawks' roster. Three of Law's misses came at the end of the shot clock. The other five were good shots (many at the rim) that he just failed to finish.

Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (Novemeber) Al Horford responded quite positively to getting the ball more often in a position to score. He made six of nine shots, picked up an assist, and did not turn the ball over. At this point, getting 13 rebounds (4 offensive) from Horford is comfortingly predictable. Mike Woodson, for reasons inscrutable, increased the degree of difficulty for Horford's rebounding average by sitting him for the entire fourth quarter. It didn't cost the Hawks the game (Shelden Williams played a surprisingly solid game.), but it didn't make a lick of sense. Twice, early in the year, Woodson benched Horford in the fourth quarter once he picked up his fifth foul. Last night, Horford only got to four fouls before being shut down for the night.


Back at it tonight in Philips Arena against the Pistons. I expect good things and I expect to tolerate more Anthony Johnson playing time than I would normally. I think Chauncey Billups is one the point guards he can still guard a little bit.

Until then, if you know any Sixers fans, today's the day to cadge a drink off of them. The Hawks dealt the Billy King Era its death blow. The man hadn't been that overmatched since he faced off against Milt Newton in Kemper Arena.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hornets 92 Hawks 86



I took in a cross-cultural doubleheader of mediocrity last night. I don't know who delivered a more disappointing performance, Joe Johnson or The Selmanaires.

The are nights when it's apparent that the Hawks need Joe Johnson to carry the offense and on some of those nights he's capable of doing so and on others he isn't but neither is he culpable for the offense's inadequacies.

Last night however, Johnson kept the ball out of the hands of the players capable of helping him carry the offensive burden. For the first time, I noticed either Johnson's inability to or disinterest in feeding the post. Al Horford isn't a polished post player yet but Hilton Armstrong isn't a polished post defender. Horford should have been allowed a chance to take advantage of Tyson Chandler's absence in the second half but he repeatedly failed to get the ball when he posted Armstrong up.

It's a shame the team doesn't utilize its smartest and most aggressive player more. Horford is certainly the Hawk most willing to push the basketball up the court. He's arguably the Hawks' best option to run the fast break. The sooner Mike Woodson treats Horford and Marvin Williams as members of the team equally valuable to Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, the better.

Admittedly, the game was likely lost due to Atlanta's awful backcourt defense. Chris Paul predictably toyed with Anthony Johnson all night (Paul made his first 7 shots of the night. Considering that Mo Williams was 9-9 from the field Wednesday night. That's at least 16 makes in a row by the opposing starting point guard. The last miss by an opposing starting point guard occurred when Kirk Hinrich has a shot blocked with 3:25 left in the second quarter on Tuesday.) but Byron Scott didn't even need Paul for most of the fourth quarter as Jannero Pargo lit up the Hawks like Jose Juan Barea, Eddie House, and Chris Duhon before him. If Peja Stojakovic had been able to make an open jump shot, New Orleans would have beaten the Hawks as badly as the Bulls did Tuesday night in Chicago.

Despite that, the most infuriating moment for this spectator was Mike Woodson's decision, with 6:26 left in third quarter and the Hawks' two-point halftime lead having been turned into a four point deficit, to replace Marvin Williams, who had scored the only 4 Hawks points (on a single field goal attempt and two free throws) of the quarter, rather than Joe Johnson or Josh Smith, who had combined for three missed shots and three turnovers in the quarter, with Josh Childress.

Mike Woodson can't identify (or can't utilize) his players strengths and he can't identify which of his players is playing well at any given moment. It's time for him to go.

Ballhype: hype it up!