Saturday, September 13, 2008
The new blog is part of the SBNation network of blogs which, in addition to the aforementioned upgrade in design, offers far more features for readers than I have proven capable of providing on my own.
Thanks to everyone who has read me here. Special thanks to those of you who have taken the time to comment on anything I've written. I hope you'll all choose to participate as much, if not more, at Peachtree Hoops.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I offer this first response as supporting evidence for my contention that Josh Smith is smarter than the only head coach he's ever played under.
Q. You and Al Horford did most of your work last year within the framework of the offense as opposed to anything schemed specifically for the two of you. Are you guys yearning for more designed opportunities that cater to your abilities on the offensive end?Unfortunately I can also offer the following two responses as supporting evidence that my assumptions should always be treated as such.
A. I think so. We’re both good enough post players that we can make moves and cause double teams on the block. Al showed that last year and I showed that whenever I got a chance to get the ball in the post. I think we can have an inside out presence, even though we’re undersized, we can cause a lot of mismatches. And I think that helps our team out to have a more balanced attack.
Q. One of the biggest knocks of your games is you take a lot of 3-pointers, a lot of ill advised 3-pointers. But you obviously feel comfortable taking those shots. How confident are you in that part of your game now?You're a 26 percent three-point shooter, man, 26 percent. For your career. IN almost 400 attempts. Stop it. Shooting three-pointers may feel rebellious and cool but it's really just self-destructive.*
A. I feel comfortable. You saw me out here [today], taking and making 3-pointers and mid-range jump shots and they were going in. I feel more confident than I ever have in that part of my game. Listen, I know people are going to scrutinize my game even more now that I’ve got a new contract. They’re going to wonder if I’m all of a sudden satisfied and relaxed or am I going to keep getting better and maintain my hunger. I’m a competitor and I’m still hungry. I go in the gym and work hard every single day to work on my overall game. And you can see the improvement on the court. And all the people that knock me for the shots I take … it doesn’t mean anything to me.
*Strictly in terms of being a basketball player. I do not believe that missing three-pointers, no matter how badly they're missed, how violently they carom off the side of the rim or the backboard itself will actually damage Josh Smith as a human being.
Q. Considering the additions and subtractions made since that Game 7 loss to Boston, is this team as good, better or worse going into training camp?I have no doubt Flip Murray will gladly pick up any dribbling-through-three-or-four people slack Joe Johnson might allow him.
A. I think it’s a little better because the guys we added have been in the playoffs, been in situations and have been on winning teams. They’re veterans who know what it takes to win. Mo Evans played a huge role in Orlando last year. Flip Murray gives us another breakdown guard who can create off the dribble so Joe won’t have to dribble through three and four people at a time. Mo can knock down a consistent 3-point shot and gives us another offensive weapon to spread the floor. And they’re both good defenders. Randolph Morris is a big body that gives us some much needed depth inside and I think overall these are all good additions to our team.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Frankly, I'd forgotten about them as NBA.com ignored my e-mails about whatever bug allowed me to see shot charts for 29 NBA teams but not the one I harp on about and my season review posts (which originally intended to draw heavily on the freely aggregated data) dragged on and on before sputtering to a conclusion. But, with access restored, I can now definitively state that Josh Smith made 381 of 646 (59%) layup or dunk attempts, 44 of 164 (26.8%) of shots inside 15 feet that were neither layups nor dunks, 66 of 224 (30.4%) of two-point jump shots outside of 15 feet, and 25 of 99 (25.3%) of three-point attempts.
By all means continue posting up Joe Johnson, coach.
Elsewhere, Drew's excited about Josh Smith's arms. And, to date, three other things for next season.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Even with the departure of Josh Childress to Greece, the Hawks made out like bandits on the free-agent scene. They kept Josh Smith in the fold for a mere $58 million and added much needed veteran help in Mo Evans and Flip Murray at crucial backup backcourt positions at minimum prices. A six-year deal for Smith with the same annual salary would have ended up being around $72 million, which is a bit more than the Hawks were willing to pay their starting power forward. But the Memphis Grizzlies did the heavy lifting for them by presenting Smith with an offer sheet the Hawks matched within hours after receiving it — making good on their promise to do just that when Smith turned down a $45 million offer before the start of his fourth season.I like Sekou Smith. He takes his job seriously, writes well, and deserves all our sympathy for having to read even some of the comments left on his blog. But I'm not buying this.
- Josh Childress's departure is, in and of itself, seriously damaging. Factor in that Childress was a restricted free agent and the Hawks lost him for nothing and it was, as international media attention would lead you to believe, an historical blunder by the franchise.
- Josh Smith is a relative bargain financially but that figures to be off-set by Mike Woodson's inability/disinterest in maximizing Smith's on-court contributions.
- Maurice Evans should be a slight positive addition. He is not capable of replacing Josh Childress's value, however.
- Flip Murray is a bad basketball player who figures to take minutes away from Acie Law IV, who might be a useful basketball player. Rick Sund signing Murray to play basketball will prove to be worse a worse allocation of resources than Billy Knight signing Speedy Claxton not to play basketball.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A quick wrap-up of those who played few minutes last year and should (with one possible exception) play even fewer minutes this season concludes the player-by-player review of the 2007-08 season.
West didn't play much; his 270 minutes were spread over 64 games with 20 appearances consisting of less than one minute of playing time. West's effort was always obvious even as he displayed skills useful to winning basketball games less frequently. Part of the problem lay not with West but with Mike Woodson utilizing a player poorly (Shock! Horror!) . Rather than using West's energy to disrupt the opposition's second unit for a couple of minutes every so often, Woodson decided that Mario West was a defensive stopper who should guard the other team's best wing player for one half-court possession at the end of a quarter. West usually responded to this assignment by committing a foul at the first opportunity.*
*Mario West scored 59 points, grabbed 48 rebounds, and committed 61 fouls in his 270 minutes of playing time.
West played fairly well in the two games he started, scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 offensive rebounds in 31 minutes. If you put him on the court with good players the other team may forget about him long enough for him contribute positively. If he hopes to stay in the league as an energy guy for a another season he'll have to learn to defend without fouling. If he hopes to stay in the league for any significant length of time, he'll also need to start knocking down jump shots. He made 2 of 12 jump shots in his rookie year. If he didn't spend the summer working on his lateral movement and shooting thousands of corner three-pointers he'll find Jeremy Richardson or Thomas Gardner holding down his old roster spot.
Jones looked every bit the project in his rookie season but there were a few skills (shot selection, free throw shooting, shot blocking) that looked as if they might serve as a foundation for a career coming of the bench and providing useful minutes.
None of those skills were evident in Jones' second season. His field goal percentage fell from 50.8% (128 attempts) to 40% (30 attempts). His free throw shooting dropped from 78.7% (75 attempts) to 55% (20 attempts). He blocked almost half as many shots per minute while committing fouls slightly more frequently. He also managed to turn the ball over on 22% of the offensive possessions he used.
Furthermore, he looked every bit as bad as his numbers would suggest. His lack of basketball awareness or game-readiness rendered his athleticism largely useless. I've no idea why the Hawks have chosen not to send Jones to the D-League so he can get some practice playing basketball. Of course, the bigger question is why they wasted the 33rd pick of the draft of the 2006 Draft on Jones in the first place, other than to demonstrate what can be accomplished when Billy Knight's drafting acumen combines with Mike Woodson's facility for developing young players' skills.
Despite his desperate need for anything approximating game experience, Jones declined to play on the Hawks' summer league team, a decision which should make it more likely that the Hawks trade him for someone, anyone willing to take on his guaranteed contract.
Over the last two years, Jeremy Richardson has played 152 minutes of NBA basketball across 33 games for 4 different teams. It would be folly to try and derive any meaning from his NBA stats.
He's scored effectively and efficiently in over 1000+ D-league minutes. He deserves a chance not just to make the 2008-09 Hawks roster but to earn some minutes in the rotation (If only due to Josh Childress's massive absence.) as either a shooter or scorer, essentially serving as second-unit insurance for both Maurice Evans' jump shot and Acie Law IV's dribble penetration.
Salim will be missed by those of us prone to forever believe in his potential to serve as a (likeable) Jannero Pargo type. Rarely used in any way that made sense during his final season in Atlanta, Stoudamire compounded matters by shooting the ball often and with very little success in his rare appearances setting career lows in two-point, three-point, and free throw shooting. Still, I'll root for him wherever he ends up.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Depending on how valuable you feel signing Stephen Jackson, getting one good year out of him then trading him straight up for Al Harrington was, Zaza Pachulia stands as either the best or second-best (Readers are likely all too aware that there is no third choice for this title.) free agent signing of the Billy Knight era. Not that Zaza has become a fan favorite simply for not being Jason Collier, Esteban Batista, Lorenzen Wright, or Speedy Claxton. I've no doubt more people took note of his productive play than his reasonable contract, though the latter didn't hurt nor did his clear disdain for favorite fan target, Head Coach Mike Woodson.
Pachulia largely escaped criticism last season which was largely fair. He was hurt. His absence was obvious but he wasn't very good even when he played. Limited to 943 minutes last year, Pachulia was far less effective than expected: attempting fewer shots while making a lower percentage of them, matching that diabolical double (fewer attempts/lower percentage) in terms of free throws, not lowering his turnover rate, grabbing fewer offensive rebounds, and appearing even more limited than usual defensively. I believe it's fair to speculate that the drop from getting 2000+ above-average minutes out of Pachulia to getting less than 1000 poor minutes from him cost the Hawks 1 or 2 wins last season even before considering who (Shelden Williams, Lorenzen Wright, Solomon Jones) picked up some of those lost minutes*.
*Josh Smith (possibly) and Al Horford (almost certainly) picked up some extra playing time in Pachulia's absence so 1 or 2 wins may well be the extent of the damage.
A return to the form (if not the volume of minutes played) displayed during his first two seasons with the Hawks falls quite heavily on the reasons-to-be-optimistic side of the 2008-09 expectations scale. A healthy Pachulia would help in the half court offense (both by scoring efficiently and as an offensive rebounder), provide the opportunity to play Al Horford at the 4 should matchups necessitate doing so, and allow Randolph Morris to be brought along slowly in the wake of his wasted 16 months with the Knicks.
On the other hand, even having access to a healthy, productive Pachulia for 15-18 minutes a night likely won't be enough to keep the Hawks in the playoff hunt past the All-Star break at which point his reasonable, expiring contract and ability to be a useful role player will quite possibly make him a desired piece for inclusion in a trade wherein Rick Sund gets someone to take on the remainder of Mike Bibby's contract. Or Marvin Williams' contract. Or, if the right offer were made, Joe Johnson's contract.
Zaza may not be long for Atlanta but I'd like to see him go out on a high, healthy note and solidify his time here as having been mutually beneficial. And, hey, there's no law against trading a guy at the deadline and then re-signing him once he's officially a free agent.
Up Next: The rest
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"By signing Flip, it provides us with another experienced player who has the ability to play multiple positions for us. Because of his versatility, he will be a valuable asset for us as a reserve, and we look forward to the contributions he'll bring this season."Here's looking forward to Murray playing both guard positions (badly), embodying the inverse of Josh Childress (Murray dominates the ball and scores only by taking lots of low-percentage shots.) on a nightly basis, and providing Josh Smith with some healthy competition for hoisting the most cringe-inducing three-point attempts.
Murray's managed to attempt 616 three-pointers over 332 career games despite making just 27.9% of those attempts. For his career, he scores 15 points per 36 minutes but needs 14 field goal and 3.8 free throw attempts per 36 minutes to get those points. He has been more willing to pass the ball recently, having raised his assist rate to something resembling a point guard's the last two years. I'm skeptical that he'll maintain that rate as he transitions from playing with his Piston teammates in Flip Saunders' offense to playing with his Hawk teammates in Mike Woodson's "offense," but he did deign to pick up some assists during his time with the Pacers last year.
If your not sufficiently sated by my encompassing pessimism, Micah Hart offers a far more positive reaction to the signing here.
UPDATE: There's also an interview with Flip Murray now up on the official site:
Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha.
Hawks.com: The Hawks have lacked guys who can create their own shots in the past. Is that something that you see as part of your role with the team?
FM: Definitely. I had a conference call with the team when we were negotiating the deal, and I got a chance to talk to Coach Woodson. I asked him exactly what role he was looking to fill, and he said he was looking for a combo-guard, a guy who could create his own shot and make plays happen on his own. Hearing that opened my eyes and made the decision that much easier for me.
Quietly chokes back tears.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Atlanta Hawks have signed free agents Thomas Gardner and Othello Hunter to contracts, it was announced today by General Manager Rick Sund. Per team policy, terms of the agreements were not disclosed.Thomas Gardner could fill Salim Stoudamire's (shooting) shoes, but, unlike Stoudamire, there's no reason to expect Gardner to make many shots. Disappointment pre-empted, I guess. Gardner's much bigger than Stoudamire but unless he added some skills while playing in Belgium, he's no better a defender.
Othello Hunter, I like. Given the opportunity, he could go a way toward replacing some of Josh Childress's offensive rebounding contribution. Though undersized (6-7, 220) even as a collegiate post player, Hunter grabbed 15.7% of possible offensive rebounds on Ohio State's 2007 NCAA Runners-up team and 11.2% of possible offensive rebounds on Ohio State's 2008 NIT Champion team.
Hunter should be capable of backing up Josh Smith on nights when the opposing team does not make it necessary for Al Horford to playthe 4 much, if at all. Even better, unlike recent, previous iterations of energy guys (Shelden Williams, Lorenzen Wright, Solomon Jones, Esteban Batista) on the Hawks' bench, Hunter both comes at relatively little cost and provides actual energy rather than mere plodding or awkwardness.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Next step: build a team around Smith and Horford.
Mark Bradley needs to get on that particular trolly. His otherwise reasonably critical column regarding the organization's decision-making process refers to Smith as the team's "third-best player."
Sekou Smith's reaction blog entry quite rightly focuses on the future: Smith and Horford. (He also floats the idea of signing Jannero Pargo which I doubt will come to pass but should it will result in endless whining in this space. Signing Shaun Livingston, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of risk this franchise should be taking.)
Joe Johnson is a good player but not a franchise player. The Hawks need to explore his trade value in an effort to acquire assets to go along with their 2009 lottery pick. Rick Sund also needs find out if Mike Bibby's expiring contract is worth more to another team that it is to the Hawks. If another team wants Zaza Pachulia or Acie Law IV or will take Marvin Williams in a deal for Bibby or Johnson, the Hawks need to suck it up and make the deal. This team isn't going to make the playoffs as currently constituted and coached. I'm not sure the difference between 20 and 30 wins is worth anything. A 20-win season might shock the decision-makers into confronting the reality of the franchise's situation.
Ultimately, this season will let us know whether they want to continue to field an incompetent but sort-of competitive team or they're willing to build a team that has a chance to make a playoff run at some point in the next 3-5 years. Smith and Horford plus annual or bi-annual lottery picks should make the former possible with minimal effort. The latter requires both long-term planning and the willingness to take a hit in the short-term. I'm not especially optimistic but I do believe that at one's core is a desire to win. I hope Atlanta Spirit LLC begins to demonstrate some human ambition.
Friday, August 08, 2008
For those interested in contemplating a sign-and-trade, here's the Memphis roster with salary information though the Grizzlies have sufficient cap room to sign Smith without giving anyone up.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
- An 0-8 start appears possible.
- With 14 of the first 22 games on the road, I may need to adjust downward the remaining length of tenure with the hawks of both Mike Woodson and Mike Bibby.
- The season could be over for all practical purposes before the new year should the Hawks struggle during their eight-game homestand from December 13-29.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Nick Fazekas is available.
I advocated signing Fazekas immediately following the Mike Bibby trade. Dallas had released Fazekas as part of the machinations necessary to acquire Jason Kidd. The Hawks did not sign Fazekas and went with Solomon Jones as their fourth big man for the remainder of the season.
Fazekas signed with the Clippers and was effective in limited minutes. Effective in limited minutes is the most one should expect from Fazekas but effective in limited minutes would be a great improvement relative to recent end-of-the-rotation contributors. The prospect of a Fazekas/Pachulia frontcourt tandem is frightening to ponder, at least when the other team has the ball but I think Fazekas would complement both Al Horford and Josh Smith* on the court.
*Despite the majority of the content of this post, the Hawks really should be focused on re-signing their best player; the consequences of not doing so being something I'd rather not contemplate unless I must. Hence this post about Nick Fazekas.
Fazekas is limited athletically but I feel that is either overstated or his college career is under recognized. He was a far mroe effective player at Nevada than other athletically limited college stars who fell into guaranteed lottery money.
The Hawks do not appear to be in the market for anybody who would dramatically improve their frontline talent. There remains a significant opportunity to improve the bench. Replacing guys who cannot contribute to winning NBA games with even decent role players could be worth a win or two to the Hawks (or about half as many wins as I assume they could gain by replacing Mike Woodson with someone competent).
Nick Fazekas makes shots. Nick Fazekas rebounds. Nick Fazekas would probably work cheap.* Rick Sund, the ball is in your court.
*Know your audience.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sekou Smith reports the signing:
Morris, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center/power forward has agreed to the NBA minimum salary, which is about $1.7 million for the two years.Morris, as you may recall, entered the draft after his sophomore season at Kentucky, was not drafted, returned to Kentucky for his junior season, upon the completion of which he signed as a free agent with the New York Knicks in a rare example of Isiah Thomas taking a chance on getting value for money. That didn't come to pass as Thomas only gave him (or Morris only earned) 225 minutes in 23 games over the season-plus he was in New York. He was not productive in his brief playing time.
The formal announcement of his signing, as well as that of veteran free agent swingman Maurice Evans, is expected as earlier as today.
In other news, this Wayne Simien profile from the Lawrence Journal-World states that Simien will take part in the Hawks' veteran camp this fall.
Tanner contradicts Manouselis's statement that Olympicaos were "offered the services of Josh Childress."
SLAM: Jim, about Josh Childress — had you guys considered Europe at all, or was that something that just kind of popped up from off the radar?The most interesting exchange (to me) implicitly reveals the level of Childress's desire to continue to play for the Hawks:
TANNER: We’d like to take credit for it, but Olympiacos contacted us. We got a call from the owner, and I think he was the one who identified Josh to the coaches and general manager...
SLAM: I think it’s been very interesting. As a Hawks fan, and I wrote this last week, I can understand why Josh would not take the deal, and I can also understand why the Hawks wouldn’t match that deal.
BABBY: Nobody ever asked them to match it, by the way. That’s kind of a misnomer that I guess they suggested, that I insisted that they match. We never asked them that.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I will tell you that offers were extended to both James Posey and Ricky Davis. We were able to personally meet with Ricky and his wife in Las Vegas during the time of the Summer League, and we were immensely impressed with him as a person in addition to his fantastic basketball skill level. While going back and forth negotiating with Ricky, we were surprisingly offered the services of Josh Childress, and so we as an organization collectively decided to wait for a meeting with him in order to assess the possibility of extending an offer to Josh, since we felt he may fit our needs at the 3/2 position a little better than Ricky. We met with Josh in Las Vegas, and then he decided to come to Athens for the purpose of his own due diligence, and here we are today.It's a lengthy interview that covers the length and value of Childress's contract (3 years, $20 million), the impact of Childress's arrival on Olympiacos's sponsorship deals, and the Greek perspective on American agents.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Journeyman Maurice Evans has agreed to terms with the Hawks on a three-year deal believed to be worth about $7.5 million, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.Career stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Olympiakos offered three years and $32.5 million, which after taxes paid by the club becomes a net of salary of about $6.7 million a year for Childress.Next, the perks:
The Hawks offered five years and $33 million, which after taxes paid by Childress becomes a net salary of about $3.4 million per year for Childress.
Olympiakos also pays for all of Childress' living expenses, including luxury accommodations, a car and driver and maid service.Then, the opt-out clause:
Childress also has an annual opt-out clause in the contract that will allow him to weigh his NBA options, as a restricted free agent provided the Hawks tender a qualifying offer to him, every summer.About that qualifying offer:
By retaining Childress' NBA rights there are salary-cap implications the Hawks have to contend with where he is concerned. Since his qualifying for the upcoming season was just $4.8 million, the Hawks don't even have the full mid-level exception to work with in finding his replacement.I haven't yet learned whether or not the dollar figure of the qualifying offer changes from year to year.
Finally, the contract with Olympiakos does not include a buyout clause:
There is no buyout clause in the contract, meaning Childress won't have to negotiate a compensation package for Olympiakos if he were to return to the NBA before the end of the three year deal.My guess is that the Hawks find a way screw up the paperwork necessary to submitting a valid qualifying offer for Childress at some point in the next two years and forfeit his rights completely.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Childress didn't want to play here anymore. I assume he was not enthused with the prospect of tying his professional future to a franchise that has no greater ambition than to stand pat following a 37-win season that included a lop-sided first-round playoff loss. I assume that he recognizes Mike Woodson's various and obvious limitations as an NBA coach. I assume that he has taken notice of two different front office regimes' inability and/or unwillingness to sign two of the team's four best players in consecutive summers. I assume he's looked at the bottom half of the roster and the summer league team and realized that the Hawks are one significant injury away from a 25-win season in 2008-09. I assume he noticed that Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and New York have each made a commitment to getting better. I assume he noticed that New Jersey has made a commitment to get worse so as to get better at a distinct point in the future. There are likely more reasons than this as to why Josh Childress didn't want to play here anymore.
I don't think he didn't want to play in the NBA anymore. I think he's headed to Greece because he didn't trust the Hawks' ability to complete a sign-and-trade. He took stock of a franchise that appears to us outsiders to be cheap and incompetent and concluded either that their incompetence exceeds even my vast estimation or that the decision-makers in the franchise are also untrustworthy.
So he signs a more lucrative (per year) deal with Olympiakos that lasts long enough that Childress won't (I believe) be property of the Hawks should he want to return to the NBA as a 28-year-old free agent in the summer of 2011. Good on you, Josh Childress. Good luck and good health.
For shame, Atlanta Spirit, for shame.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Box score (.pdf)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Childress, 25, is so flustered with the Hawks’ refusal to make a sign-and-trade deal to another team, one source familiar with his thinking believes there’s “better than a 50-50 chance” he’ll sign with Olympiakos. The team also will cover the Greek taxes for Childress, making it even more lucrative.This, I guess, is what happens when a weak dollar conspires with incompetent management. Not that the Hawks want to lose Childress. It's more that Atlanta Spirit is unable to run the franchise in such a way that a player with options wants to stay any longer than mandatory due to the misfortune of being drafted by the Hawks. Or, as the more objective Wojnarowski puts it:
“Unless he just gets there and doesn’t like it at all, I think he’s going to go,” one league source said.
Childress’ talks with the Hawks have yet to gain traction because Atlanta officials have made it clear their first priority is to resolve negotiations with forward Josh Smith, their other restricted free agent. Privately, Childress has expressed little enthusiasm in returning to play for the organization, sources said.Sekou Smith, in his most recent blog post, recounts a rather telling conversation he had with "a member of the previous Hawks’ front office administration" (He means Billy Knight, right?) last fall:
The Memphis Grizzlies are the only remaining team with enough salary-cap room to make an offer exceeding the $5.6 million mid-level exception, and they so far seem content on saving their money for next summer. Several NBA GMs interested in Childress said they wouldn’t make a mid-level offer to him because they believe the Hawks would match.
A member of the previous Hawks’ front office administration famously argued me down (to the folks who saw us debating the topic at least) before a preseason game that there was no way Smith or Childress should get extensions last summer or fall because the Hawks hadn’t been to the playoffs, as if they alone were responsible for it not happening prior to our verbal showdown.I agree. It's one thing to screw up top 5 picks in consecutive drafts. Or to trade two draft picks for the opportunity to build your team around the fourth-best player on a good team. Or to demonstrate a willingness to punt the position of head coach for half a decade. But to get no value out of possessing the rights to an above-average player who is a restricted free agent is a new frontier of ineptitude.
“If you feel that way,” I told him, and this is a direct quote “all of you clowns should resign on the spot or be fired for making colossal mistakes with choice draft picks most teams would die for.”
I hope to have more coherent thoughts as the day unfolds. Other people already do, though...
Kelly Dwyer's (apparent) early-to-rise, strong, Midwestern work ethic is already manifesting itself on this subject:
Unless a flukish thing happens (like Davis opting out of his deal with Golden State, which allows the Warriors unanticipated cap space to sign someone like Corey Maggette for above the MLE), it really is mid-level exception money or bust for these guys. The average salary. The middle class.
And Josh Childress? He's upper middle class. His parents own two German cars, but you don't need to drive past a gate to get into his neighborhood. And yet all he can grab, at this point in the free agent game, is the MLE, or hope that a team like Atlanta (smartly allowing both Childress and Josh Smith to create their own market) can finagle a sign-and-trade that would make the Hawks happy while still securing Josh seven or eight million a year.
Not bloody likely. He's an odd package who is likely undervalued by most team mainly because he doesn't stand out, or possess any single skill that is on par with an All-Star skill set. He just does everything, and quite well, but nothing overwhelms you. And that's hard thing to sell to your owner, your cap guys, and your fan base: "Josh didn't start a game for a team that won 37 games last year, but he's also not below-par in any area I can think of! Dial 1-800-4NBA-TIX!"
Marc Stein's thorough report from Las Vegas includes a section on Josh Smith:
Smith and Woodson are fine, one confidante insists. Smith's frustration with the Hawks is the slow-moving state of negotiations, with Smith apparently still waiting for a serious contract proposal nearly three weeks into free agency.
Not that this is a grand surprise given the Hawks' rep for spending or a quandary exclusive to Smith. The only team in the league with salary-cap space to throw at premier restricteds such as Smith, Charlotte's Emeka Okafor and Chicago's Luol Deng is the Memphis Grizzlies, who have no plans to make their money available this summer, preferring to focus on trade possibilities. So the Hawks, Bobcats and Bulls are naturally proceeding slowly and conservatively, figuring that their prized assets have limited leverage.
Which is true. Threatening to sign a one-year qualifying offer that would lead to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2009 is pretty much the only way Smith can apply pressure on the Hawks now.
Yet I suspect the sign-and-trade chatter will begin to pick up, maybe in all three cases, with Smith said to be especially eager to move on.
I wonder, for example, if my coaching pal who asked me why the Dallas Mavericks aren't trying to assemble a deal that features former ACC player of the year Josh Howard going to Atlanta in some sort of package for Smith isn't onto something.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
By the box score, Luke Jackson had an outstanding game (20 points on 9 shots, 5-7 3PTA, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, no turnovers). Everybody shot the ball effectively save for Acie Law IV (3-13) and Speedy Claxton (2-7). Claxton had 7 assists against 4 turnovers.
The Hawks play the Jazz tonight.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Sekou Smith also provides more coverage of Kwame Brown and Randolph Morris working out for the Hawks. Either would be a welcome addition to the frontcourt rotation. I expect Randolph Morris is far more likely to be deemed affordable by the organization but maybe Kwame Brown's willing to take a short, relatively cheap contract in exchange for playing time. On the other hand, the chances of Kwame Brown suddenly learning how to play basketball under the tutelage of members of the Atlanta Hawks organization are approximately nil.
In the same piece, Smith reports that Jim Todd and Tyrone Hill have been added to the coaching staff. Tyrone Hill would also be a welcome addition to the frontcourt rotation.
UPDATE: I jumped the gun. Micah Hart's Day 2 report from summer camp is now up.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
His Day 1 report of yesterday's practice and scrimmage offers an eyewitness account of proceedings plus audio of interviews with Speedy Claxton (his declares his knee is feeling "pretty good" for what it's worth), Acie Law IV, Al Horford, and Mike Woodson.
Woodson thinks the Hawks will re-sign Smith and Childress "no doubt."
The Hawks would likely raise the five-year, $45 million offer that Smith turned down last summer, but money will not be the only factor in the 22-year-old power forward's returning to Atlanta. As I reported in Sports Illustrated during last season, league sources said Smith would not be interested in returning to the Hawks if the team retained coach Mike Woodson, who recently signed a two-year extension. The two have butted heads frequently in Smith's four seasons, and sources said the relationship is beyond repair. With a dearth of offers, Smith may change his tune, but having a volatile relationship on such a young team may not be in the Hawks' best interests.One tries to remain open to the possibility of positive thoughts but it's difficult. I'm sure there was at least one unqualified coach out there who was willing to work cheap (undoubtedly criterion #1 during the "coaching search") and who had not utterly alienated the franchise's best player to the point he, the player, would consider turning down an eight-figure contract. Then again, I'm always open to the possibility that my assumptions are incorrect and that there are things I do not know.
Monday, July 14, 2008
"The bottom line is this, when I got desperate coming down the home stretch last season I'm the one that shrunk the rotation," Woodson said. "Nobody did that but me. My coaches fought me on it. But I thought it was the right thing for us to do in terms of making a serious run to get that playoff spot. It worked out in our favor, but if I had it to do all over again I wish I would have played [Law] a little bit more. But that's hindsight now."I'm afraid that feelings desperation and regret provide some foresight as well. This isn't the first time Woodson has come late to this party (see also: this post three days later with damning quote from Woodson).
Mike Woodson's Thought Process Regarding Personal Responsibility and Decision-Making
1. Mistakes will be made.
2. Mistakes should be recognized (eventually).
3. Don't dwell on your mistakes. That's hindsight.
4. Repeat mistakes.
It's useful to know that it's not just the players who dislike Mike Woodson's decisions and manner of making them: David Fizdale, Hawks' assistant coach last year, now an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. Harold Ellis, Hawks' scout last year, now an assistant for the Detroit Pistons. Herb Brown, Hawks' assistant coach last year, now an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats. Each took their new job after the Hawks signed Woodson to his new contract.
Larry Drew and Bob Bender must be hanging around simply for the chance to add "Interim Head Coach" to their resume. They can't enjoy working for an incompetent who is unwilling to question his decisions until well after the fact and then blithely dismiss his own error. Then again, Larry Drew is a Missouri alum.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The roster (I'm sure not all of these guys make the trip to Utah):
G - Acie Law IV
G - Speedy Claxton
G - Dominique Kirk
G - Brian Chase
G - Jeremy Richardson
G - Demetric Bennett
G - Thomas Gardner
G - Frank Robinson
G/F - Mario West
G/F - Luke Jackson
* F - Al Horford
F - Brian Randle
F - Kevinn Pinckney
F - Marcus Hubbard
F - Othella Hunter
F - Wayne Simien
C - Justin Williams
C - Jamal Sampson
C - Olumide Oyedeji
* Participating in mini-camp portion only.
A few years and several surgeries ago I thought Luke Jackson and Wayne Simien could be decent-to-good rotation guys. Justin Williams has rebounded a ton in limited minutes the last two years but is limited (456 career minutes, 2 career assists and a 34.8% career free throw shooter) otherwise. Rick Sund appears no more capable of identifying and/or acquiring potentially useful free talent than his predecessor.
Summer league begins for the Hawks next Friday.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Salary cap: $58.680 million
Luxury tax threshold: $71.150 million
Money committed to Hawks players not named Josh: $51.747507
Josh Smith is in Los Angeles today. Will Atlanta Spirit flirt with the paying the luxury tax in order to keep a 37-win team together? Should they? Philadelphia has now joined Miami and Chicago on the list of Eastern Conference teams that could improve by at least 10 wins next season. Neither New York nor Charlotte figure to compete for an NBA title anytime soon but both made massive improvements in the area of head coaching.
The Hawks will be, at best, fighting for the seventh or eighth seed in the East. There are only three guys on the roster you'd want to sign to another contract: Smith, Childress, and Horford. I still say go ahead and sign Smith and Childress (barring a great sign-and-trade offer for either), budget money to extend Horford in 2 years, and shop everybody else for whatever assets you can acquire to allow yourself flexibility in building a team around your three key young players through the 2009 Draft and the next two free agent classes.
I don't fear the Hawks missing the playoffs this season. I fear the organization would be surprised to miss the playoffs this season and lack a plan for any season beyond this one. When they're adamant that 37 wins and a first-round exit counts as a successful year, we probably shouldn't expect them to go about building a potential championship caliber team over the course of a couple of seasons instead of pretending that Mike Woodson's a competent head coach, Joe Johnson's a franchise player, and Mike Bibby's not 30 years old.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
...this is still a solid, young team that has a chance to make itself a playoff mainstay.When you read the whole thing, and you should, you'll realize that I'm fudging things a bit in dubbing this another perspective as there's nothing in the piece with which I strongly disagree. But it is a small treat for me to have the opportunity to link to a non-specialist writing something about the Hawks that's neither brief nor superficial.
But they're not championship material, even if the squad gets a best case scenario batch of contributions from every youngster on the roster over the next decade. Guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith, and the team's 27 year-old go-to player Joe Johnson are pretty good, but not the sort of transcendent stud you can bank on to move into the NBA's elite.
Consider that the Hawks have been dealing with ownership issues for years, the team just signed Mike Woodson to a potentially two-year contract extension, and it just sent some money toward Rick Sund to come in and make sense of former GM Billy Knight's up and down tenure.
Then understand that the 76ers, flush with just enough cap space once the cap holds are accounted for, can sign Josh Smith a front-loaded contract that would have the Hawks perilously-close to next season's luxury tax level (rumored to be about 71 million dollars) after the team re-signs Childress and adds to what would only be a nine-man roster once the two Joshes come back (Speedy Claxton may never play again).
The luxury tax for a team hoping to back it back to the eighth or seventh spot in the East, holding off Miami and Chicago as they race back into the playoff bracket, and with an ownership group that refused to make deals for years while they hoarded money and tried to figure out just who the head chef was. That doesn't add up.
Monday, June 30, 2008
It's my recollection that expectations for Acie Law IV's rookie season were realistically modest. Law dominated the ball at Texas A&M to a degree that he could/should not be realistically expected to match on an NBA team. He did not take great advantage of the college three-point line (though his relatively few attempts could be devastatingly effective). There were legitimate questions about his ability to defend NBA point guards.
Despite the frustrating fact that none of these concerns were addressed during his rookie season, it would be difficult to blame Law for these concerns lingering. The lack of developments (either a positive or negative) in his rookie season is due more to the injury he suffered on November 14th as a result of a pointless, dangerous display of empty, false hustle by Ryan Hollins and Mike Woodson's complete disinterest in giving Law a chance to learn how to be an NBA point guard should doing so in any way risk Woodson's tenuous prospects of future employment as an NBA head coach.
Given three below-average options at point guard to start the season (Law, Anthony Johnson, and Tyronn Lue), Woodson decided not to make a decision and just play three point guards. Sometimes even all in the first quarter. Lest even this depth chart-less approach seem to be the result of a coach trying to make the best of a bad situation rather than another example of Woodson's inability to think ahead thus causing him to do nothing other than react to every occurrence, keep in mind that Woodson managed to get Law and Lue on the court at the same time for almost 74 minutes (further keeping in mind that Law and Lue were both healthy for only 22 games) of game play. That's two small point guards, both poor defenders, one of whom has no off-the-ball skills, (Seriously, Law would trace an arc around the perimeter following Lue's dribbling while asking for the ball. Law had no idea what to do or how to move without the basketball.) and the other who has little interest in letting his teammates touch the ball outside of an offensive rebounding context. Those were completely wasted minutes for Law.
After the Hawks acquired Mike Bibby, Law struggled to get minutes (when healthy) as Woodson rode his starters (at least those who weren't in danger of potentially getting into foul trouble) nightly in an effort to make what is shaping up to be an extremely counterproductive playoff appearance. The silver lining there might be that the Bibby/Law backcourt was avoided for all but 3 minutes of game time.
Not that Law deserved to be handed minutes. The quality of his play was inconsistent and cumulatively it was quite poor. Only Zaza Pachulia and Solomon Jones (among his teammates) turned the ball over more frequently. Law's assist rate was closer to Josh Smith's and Tyronn Lue's than it was to Joe or Anthony Johnson's and nowhere near Mike Bibby's. Law's jump shooting resembled Smith's as well. Law made just 7 of 34 three-point attempts (20.6%) and 33 of 99 jump shots from inside the arc. Unfortunately, though, Law would get a few minutes at the end of the first- or start of the second-quarter during which he would play good, bad, or indifferent basketball which wouldn't matter because he wouldn't get off the bench at any point in the second half anyway.
I still don't know if Acie Law will develop into a league-average starting point guard (though I suspect that's the most optimistic scenario for him). I do believe that the brief flashes of good play we saw from him last season and his outstanding college career make it a reasonable expectation that he play 15 minutes a game backing up Mike Bibby and run a lot of pick-and-roll with Zaza Pachulia
I'm rooting for Law to succeed.
Up next: Zaza Pachulia
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Being the patriotic website we are, we will start with an exclusive look at the USA Select Team, courtesy of a “piece of paper we found on the floor,” which just happens to have the entire roster, plus the alternates. This is the group of players which could possibly graduate onto the next crop of invites to the USA Men’s Senior National Team, after the Olympics. The players will scrimmage against the senior team this summer to help them prepare for the Olympics in Beijing.Should anyone care what I think (or, should any of these opinions look prescient and thus be something I would like to link to in the future) about tonight's draft class...
Point Guard: Rodney Stuckey, Derrick Rose
Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin
Small Forward: Andre Iguodala, Jeff Green
Power Forward: Al Horford, Kevin Durant
Center: LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson
Alternates: O.J. Mayo, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Monta Ellis, Devin Harris
Also invited were Brandon Roy, who will be resting this summer and finishing up his degree at the University of Washington, and David West, who wants to rest after an extremely long season. They will still be in the mix for the future.
1) Derrick Rose
2) Jerryd Bayless
3) OJ Mayo
T4) Mario Chalmers
T4) Eric Gordon
6) DJ Augustin
1) Russell Westbrook
2) Brandon Rush
3) Courtney Lee
T4) Kyle Weaver
T4) Jamont Gordon
Small Forwards (excluding Gallinari as I'm not adequately knowledgeable about him)
1) Chris Douglas-Roberts
2) Donte Green
3) Pat Calathes
4) Bill Walker
5) Joe Alexander
6) Malik Hairston
1) Michael Beasley
2) Kevin Love
3) Ryan Anderson
4) Marreese Speights
5) Darrell Arthur
6) JJ Hickson
7) Richard Hendrix
8) Anthony Randolph
T9) Joey Dorsey
T9) DJ White
11) Darnell Jackson
1) Kosta Koufos
2) Roy Hibbert
3) DeAndre Jordan
4) Brook Lopez
5) Javale McGee
T6) Sasha Kaun
T6) Robin Lopez
8) Jason Thompson
9) Aleks Maric
10) Brian Butch
Those are very rough categories I've put them into seeing as I've got just 7 players graded in the lottery and 15 more graded as 1st Round picks.
If he goes in the lottery, Joe Alexander will almost certainly be the worst pick in this draft though someone taking Brook Lopez ahead of Kevin Love will look awfully foolish quite soon. Unless Jerryd Bayless falls to the end of the lottery, whichever of Ryan Anderson or Kosta Koufos gets drafted last will provide the most value in the second half of the first round. There's a decent chance that, as with PJ Tucker and possibly Nick Fazekas, I'll never get to know how wrong I may be about Pat Calathes.
Friday, June 20, 2008
First, Woodson dares us to hope modestly:
"I think as a coaching staff to go back to our offensive system and tweak some things is extremely important."Really, though, that'll just be something I use as a callback a week into the season, won't it?
Second, the usually reliable Mr. Smith asks a bizarre question:
Q. Guys who had sporadic roles or production during the regular season seemed to come to life in the playoff for you. Zaza Pachulia and Marvin Williams both played crucial roles in the playoffs, as did rookie point guard Acie Law IV, albeit in limited action. How do you build on what they did in the postseason going forward?Zaza Pachulia had a nice playoff series but Marvin Williams? As covered here earlier, Atlanta was outscored by 27.6 points per 100 possessions while Marvin was on the court in the playoff loss to the Celtics. To be generous, Marvin did play an important role in Boston winning the series.
Woodson's answer to the above question brings up all my mixed feelings about Marvin (not to mention the head coach's unique syntax):
Marvin building on his last two years and maybe taking that next big leap in terms of getting where Joe [Johnson] and Josh Smith and Bibby are in terms of being a consistent scorer has to take place. Marvin has to step into that role where he can be that third guy or even that second guy some nights that we rely on night in and night out.I contend that the Hawks can't give up hope w/r/t Marvin Williams turning into a useful offensive player. However, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Josh Childress, and Mike Bibby are each already useful offensive players. Smith and Horford need more touches. Childress needs more playing time. Hell, Acie Law IV, who himself needs to turn into a useful offensive player, needs more playing time and more touches with the second unit.
I'm all for Marvin working to improve his offensive game. I'm not for wasting more offensive possessions in the 2008-09 season on Williams awkwardly posting up or attempting futile, clumsy moves off the dribble just because the organization wishes he were a different player. In general, though, were this organization to begin to make decisions based on an honest assessment of the reality of its situation that would be a significant step forward.
Friday, June 13, 2008
“We are happy to have reached agreement with Mike on a new deal that signals his return to the Hawks bench,” said Sund. “Even though I came to my new position after their exciting playoff run, I have spent a great deal of time familiarizing myself with Mike’s philosophy, direction and strategies since taking the job, and I’m comfortable he will help this team reach its potential and build upon the success they enjoyed this past season.”That's really all I need to know. Mike's philosophy and strategies mostly consist of posting up his best jump shooter while keeping his worst jump shooter 20 feet from the basket, playing Marvin Williams more than Josh Childress, and an inability to count to six.
Oh, and 37 wins and a first-round playoff loss wherein you're outscored by 12 points per game counts as a successful season. Thanks for making my season ticket purchasing decision for me.
Mike Woodson's public reaction to his extension demonstrates why those of us who follow the team closely consider his shocking lack of insight/inability to utter a coherent thought to be his signature characteristic:
"I want to thank Rick for this opportunity, and to express my gratitude to the fans for the unbelievable support they’ve shown during my time here. I’ve watched these players grow individually and collectively..."