Friday, February 29, 2008

Billy Knight Attempted To Fire Mike Woodson Over the All-Star Break

The sub-headline reads: "GM Knight has urged coach's dismissal 3 times this season" which puts Billy Knight well-behind my pace. I can urge the coach's dismissal three times in a week if I make an effort.

On to serious business, Sekou Smith writes in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Hawks general manager Billy Knight wanted to fire head coach Mike Woodson two weeks ago — but the owners refused, according to two people familiar with the conversation, including one within the organization.

Knight recommended Woodson be replaced by assistant coach Larry Drew after the team traded for point guard Mike Bibby on Feb. 16, during the NBA's All-Star Weekend...

It was not the first time Knight wanted to fire Woodson, the two people familiar with the conversations told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. On two previous occasions Knight sought permission to fire Woodson. Gearon denied those conversations took place.
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The Drive for 35 Continues Tonight

It may be the cold medicine talking but I'm genuinely excited about tonight's tilt between the New York Knicks (18-39) and the Atlanta Hawks (23-32). I'm not expecting good basketball. (Thus diminishing the possibility that this is the cold medicine talking.) I'm expecting between 6 and 12 minutes, most of them likely to occur consecutively at the beginning of the game where Josh Smith and Al Horford will be guarded by Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry which should provide the Hawks with the opportunity (again) to build a lead too big to squander completely.

Such is The Drive for 35.

UPDATE: gets answers to its questions about the Knicks from the man who knows them best. The Knickerblogger game thread for tonight is here.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hawks 123 Kings 117



When Mario West was announced as the ill Marvin Williams' replacement in the starting lineup, I first wrote "He can't be serious." I crossed that out in favor of, "Is he daring someone to fire him?"

Shows what I know. Mario West went out and played a useful 7:42 to open the game, scoring seven points with two offensive rebounds and two turnovers. For whatever reason, Sacramento didn't take advantage of West guarding Artest in the first quarter, getting a single made free throw on a single Artest post up against West. West couldn't stay with Kevin Martin when West got matched up with Martin on a switch but even that resulted in nothing more damaging than a made field goal by Martin and a Brad Miller missed jumper.

West played much more as expected in the second and third quarter--undersized, out of control, and ineffective offensively while giving a serious but futile attempt to guard Ron Artest in the post. To his credit, Woodson didn't push his luck and rode Josh Childress for the final 20 minutes of the game.

Somehow, Marvin Williams' absence didn't translate into more minutes for Childress (he was right at his season average of 30 minutes played), though he took full advantage of his extended second half playing time to make the case that, right now, Bibby/Johnson/Childress/Smith/Horford constitutes Atlanta's best five-man unit.

Al Horford played almost ten extra minutes (41:07 as opposed to his season average of 31:30) despite appearances that his night would be over after picking up his fifth foul. He sat from 4:35 to 0:59 in the fourth quarter. Atlanta was +3 during that stretch but got killed on the defensive glass, allowing Sacramento to get 4 of 7 possible offensive rebounds. On the night, Sacramento got 6 of their 16 offensive rebounds in the 6:53 Al Horford wasn't in the game. Atlanta's defensive rebounding percentage with Horford in the game: 72.2%; with Horford out of the game: 53.8%.

Horford and Childress played essential supporting roles, but Mike Bibby made the key difference between winning and losing on a night when Sacramento had to be outscored. If Bibby doesn't score 24 points on 13 shots (plus 9 free throw attempts) and augment that with 12 assists against a single turnover then this morning we'd all be moaning about Bibby's defense (25 points, 8 assists, and 1 turnover for Beno Udrih), Joe Johnson's ball-handling/decision-making in the final minute, and Josh Smith wasting half of his 14 field goal attempts on jump shots. Making matters worse, six of Smith's seven jump shots were launched with at least eleven seconds left on the shot clock and only one jump shot was taken inside of fifteen feet. Four of Smith's jump shots were from at least 20 feet. Smith's three-point attempts are down, but I'd rather he take that step back and take the extra point the one out of every four times he makes a jump shot outside of 15 feet.

Bibby's performance may be most encouraging because it inspired the following from the head coach:
"He's something we haven't had since I've been here. He's played enough basketball in this league and made enough big plays offensively as far as getting shots. And he's won. He's been successful doing it. So I don't want to screw him up. And I want him to feel free to the point that if he doesn't like things that I'm doing, hey, he's got that right to let me know, and we'll change them."
I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.

The following is a different story...

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 27, 2008 vs. Sacramento

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Home Stretch

Sekou Smith is fed up:
Any win [like the one over Golden State] sprinkled in with all this losing is the equivalent of spraying Lysol on pile of trash. The vapors improve for a second or two and then it all starts to stink again.
Sekou has a hard job (and not just because he reads the comments to his blog posts at least some of the time). As frustrating as it is to watch this team 75 or so times a season and trying as it is to write something (relatively) new and insightful on a regular basis, I don't also travel with the team, thus avoiding both the stress of travel and developing any sort of personal relationship with the players, coaches, or staff which is what (I think) has Sekou writing:
Knowing how much serendipity is involved with success at a high level in any endeavor, I can forgive the occasional draft gaffe or late-game collapse that any organization deals with. No one’s perfect.

But the lack of institutional control [had to borrow that one from my previous days on the colleges beat] that’s gone with these Hawks is unconscionable.

Even if the Hawks make the playoffs, which miraculously remains a possibility, the damage has been done. Fixing it all, is an undertaking that’s going to require heavier lifting than has gone on around here to date.
while I'm merely looking ahead and speculating how many wins are realistically possible given the remaining schedule. Failing to qualify for the playoffs, with no draft pick on the immediate horizon and likely no money to improve the team through free agency (They may lack the money necessary to keep the team from getting worse through free agency.) could well forfeit what little good will the organization has accrued from what little segment of the potential fan base pays attention and cares. People will come at see players who deserve better be put in a position to fail for only so long.

27 and 1/53rd games remain. The Hawks are 22-32, one-and-a-half games out of eighth in the East, three-and-a-half games out of sixth. 14 and 1/53rd home games and 13 road games remain.

As of this morning, John Hollinger's playoff odds predicts it will take 34 wins to make the playoffs in the East and 38 wins to climb into sixth and avoid Boston and Detroit in the first round.

So, can one find either 12 or 16 wins on the Hawks' remaining schedule?

The remaining home games are Sacramento, New York, Golden State, Miami (completion), Miami (full game), Houston, LA Clippers, Orlando, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston, and Orlando. That's four games against Western Conference teams, five games against mediocre-to-bad Eastern Conference teams, the sort-of double-header with the Heat, and four games against good Eastern Conference teams.

I'd set the over/under on remaining home wins at 9. That'd be two of four against the West, four of five against their Eastern Conference peers, both games against Miami, and one of four against the good Eastern Conference teams.

The remaining road games are at Boston, New Orleans, Charlotte, Orlando, New York, Washington, New Jersey, Chicago, Memphis, Philadelphia, Indiana, New York, and Miami. Only three of those teams have winning records. Charlotte, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Memphis, Indiana, and Miami don't even have winning records at home.

The Hawks are 7-21 on the road. Maintaining that horrid pace, they'd figure win three of thirteen. Given the generally (or, if you prefer, equally) poor opposition they're scheduled to face, I expect them to outperform their season-to-date road record. (For one thing, without Tyronn Lue available to play the last 24 minutes in the next game @Charlotte, one has to like the Hawks' chances of holding a second half lead.) I'd set the over/under on remaining road wins at 4.

I'm predicting at least 13-15 stretch drive with the Hawks sneaking into the playoffs at 35-47. That assumes going 1-6 against Boston, Orlando, Toronto, and New Orleans; 2-2 against Sacramento, Golden State, Houston, and the Clippers (all at home); 10-7 against the rest of the East. Realistic?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spurs 89 Hawks 74



I don't know that anyone can have anything other than mixed feelings about last night's game or the road trip in general. Or maybe it's just that I'm so self-involved I can't imagine feeling differently than I feel.

GOOD FEELING: Holding the Spurs to 5 points in the first quarter.

BAD FEELING: Allowing 84 points to the Spurs over the next three quarters.

MIXED FEELING: Overall it was a good defensive performance (San Antonio scored 89 points on an estimated 88.9 possessions (and 9 of those points were scored in the last 1:49)) but Tony Parker dominated the third quarter and Tim Duncan the fourth. If you can't consider your defensive strength to be either perimeter or interior defense it's going to be difficult to be consistently effective. Length and energy will have its moments against skill and execution but the opposite holds just as true.

GOOD FEELING: Despite immediately getting hurt and having had limited practice time with his new teammates, Mike Bibby looks like he'll improve the offense if for no other reason than Joe Johnson appears comfortable deferring some ball-handling and decision-making to Bibby.

BAD FEELING: Mike Bibby increases the number of Hawks who you feel comfortable taking a jump shot from 1 to 2.

MIXED FEELING: Will more practice time mean Bibby's point guard skills function as an addition to the status quo or will more practice time suffocate Bibby's point guard skills within Mike Woodson's "offensive system?"

Speaking of which...

BAD FEELING: In the last three days I've seen the Hawks run plays for Marvin Williams to post up Andrei Kirilenko and Bruce Bowen. Last night, the Hawks, down 10 and having scored 4 points a little more than eight minutes into the third quarter ran a play out of a timeout for Marvin in the post while being guarded by Bruce Bowen.

WORSE FEELING: When was the last time Marvin did something useful? I can clearly remember him dropping passes against Utah and San Antonio, running into Salim and knocking him over while trying to run the pick-and-roll in Utah, and letting Ime Udoka get a weak-side offensive rebound and put back last night despite Marvin having position. Marvin played 3:39 non-garbage time minutes in the fourth quarter last night. The Hawks were -11 while he was on the floor. That is entirely consistent with my subjective experience of the fourth quarter. Earlier this year, Marvin was arguably as important to the offense as Joe Johnson. Now I'm curious what Jeremy Richardson could do with the playing time.

GOOD FEELING: Zaza Pachulia had a nice game off the bench.

BAD FEELING: Apparently, if Zaza'a playing well off the bench, then Al Horford doesn't get to play at all. Horford sat on the bench for over ten straight minutes in the second half.

MIXED FEELING: I've been agitating for Horford to get more touches in the post all season. I didn't necessarily mean for him to get all those touches in a single game when he was guarded by Tim Duncan.

GOOD FEELING: Assuming I'm not projecting, Josh Smith is slowly taking control of the team.

BAD FEELING: Smith's thumb is injured to the degree that he was unwilling or unable to try and dunk the ball last night (costing the Hawks up to four points). Smith's thumb injury did not render him unwilling or unable to shoot jump shots.

MIXED FEELING: He's not used to being double-teamed quickly in the post and the adjustment period will include turnovers but few teams will double-team him as quickly and thoroughly as San Antonio did last night.

One win was the most anyone (there I go again) could have realistically expected from the road trip. Atlanta has 15 (well, 14 and 1/53rd) home games and 13 road games remaining. 11 of those 13 road games are against Eastern Conference teams. A 12th is at Memphis. Hollinger's playoff odds have the Hawks as the 8th most likely playoff team in the East, with a little better than a 40% probability of making the playoffs.

And, for one morning at least, I haven't written the most pessimistic thing I've read about the Hawks.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jazz 100 Hawks 94



Mike Woodson:
"I thought their bench was the difference tonight against our bench."
Can't disagree with the head coach on that point. For once, it wasn't his fault. He didn't whiff on the 2006 draft. (Solomon Jones, 33rd pick in that draft, amply demonstrated his rare combination of bad hands and bad feet for the 2:11 he was on the court. Paul Millsap, 47th pick in that draft, contributed 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block while playing solid defense for almost 21 minutes.) He didn't take Marvin Williams second overall rather than trading down, gaining a pick and drafting a point guard in the process. It would have been nice had he not wasted a roster space on Mario West all season so that someone like Jeremy Richardson who might could play hasn't been around long enough to know what he's supposed to be doing.

Utah didn't play well last night. Atlanta's starters (with the exception of Marvin Williams) played when they were on the court. It wasn't enough to steal a victory but there's reasonable evidence to believe that the offense will be better with Mike Bibby and he's not demonstrably worse defensively than the players he's replaced.

There are still wasted possessions: running plays to post up Marvin Williams against Millsap or Andrei Kirilenko; coming out of the timeout with 46 seconds left, down 4, and ending up with Josh Smith taking and missing an 18-foot baseline jumper (his only miss from the field in the 4th Quarter) with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. There's ample evidence that the only thing Marvin Williams does well in the half-court is make open jump shots. There's ample evidence that the only thing Josh Smith does poorly in the half-court is shoot jump shots. Yet the Hawks piss away a handful of possessions every game further demonstrating the above.

EDIT: I think the 4th Quarter against the Warriors shows that feeding Josh Smith in the post isn't going to turn the team into an offensive juggernaut. However, even though the Hawks struggled to score for a couple of significant stretches in that quarter they never appeared completely out-of-sync and Golden State never managed to take control of the game. Atlanta made them work defensively and, in refusing to become stagnant offensively, the Hawks better maintained their defensive energy and awareness.

The offense is going to look especially bad, in terms of design, when directly contrasted with Utah's. Joe Johnson gets double-teamed in the post and his best option is to back out to the three-point line, either shooting a contested jump shot as the shot clock expires or passing the ball so someone else can. Deron Williams gets double-teamed in the post and his best option is a simple pass to Kyle Korver wide-open behind the three-point line.

Anybody know if Phil Johnson has any interest in a head coaching job?

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 23, 2008 vs. @Utah

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Welcome Back

Hawks 117 Warriors 110



Real life precludes me providing any commentary on last night's pleasant surprise.

A picture's worth a thousand words, right?

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Biedrins Out Tonight; Law Doubtful

Andris Biedrins had an appendectomy Thursday night. He'll obviously miss tonight's game. Tim Kawakami considers what that means for the Golden State rotation:
That either means a lot more Chris Webber or a little more of Webber and much more of Patrick O’Bryant and Austin Croshere.

Or, gee willickers, maybe even sliding Al Harrington to the center spot for short periods, which would allow time for… Brandan Wright. Yes, him.
Al Horford appears to be the lone potential bright spot for fans of good post play who tune in tonight.

Acie Law didn't practice Thursday and is doubtful for tonight's game. On the bright side, even at full strength and agility neither Law nor Mike Bibby can guard Baron Davis so their health might not be a significant factor tonight.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Acie Law IV's Wrist Is Not Broken

Sekou writes that Acie said so:
SACRAMENTO - Acie Law IV said it before I could even ask.

“It’s not broken,” he said, holding up his right wrist, which was stuffed into a black brace like one of those chili dogs from the Varsity stuffed in a bun. “It was killing me last night, though. I could barely sleep. But I’m going to be fine. I’ll rest and then see how I feel [Friday] and kind of go from there.”
Some combination of pride, determination, and a high pain tolerance led Law to "insist that he will play again on this trip."

Sekou also reports that Mike Bibby sat out practice today in deference to his bruised heel.

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Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

The Hawks have looked really bad defensively lately. To the eye, the games @Phoenix, @LA Clippers, @Houston, @LA Lakers, @Sacramento have been defensive debacles. All are road games and all are against Western Conference teams. Neither condition is conducive to maintaining a high level of defensive performance. Per Knickerblogger's stats page, the 5 most efficient offenses in the NBA all play in the Western Conference, as do 6 of the top 8 and 10 of the top 15.

The Hawks were 7th in the league in defensive efficiency at the All-Star Break. After the losses to the Lakers and Kings, they're 13th. My question: Are the Hawks playing worse defense or are they playing better offenses? The answer is almost certainly both, but I've spent the better part of the day estimating a measure of this which does not seem to be fundamentally flawed. (Fundamental flaws should be pointed out in the comments.)

To get the offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) for each game I estimated possessions (fga + (.4*fta) - (1.07*or) + to) for both teams and halved the sum. Doing this for the whole season, my season averages for the Hawks (scoring 103 pts/100 poss and allowing 105.5 pts/100 poss) came closer to matching Aaron Barzilai's numbers at (scoring 103.2 and allowing 105.9) than Knickerblogger's (scoring 105 and allowing 107.7) or's (scoring 103.7 and allowing 106.4).

Hoping to come as close to possible in comparing like-to-like, I used Aaron's season averages for each opponent to determine how much better or worse than their season average they performed offensively against the Hawks. I used each opponent's season average including their game(s) against the Hawks. I don't know if this is a serious mistake or not, so, again: Fundamental flaws should be pointed out in the comments.

For example, on the year Sacramento scores 106.3 points per 100 possessions. Last night they scored 124.8 points per 100 possessions. That's 117.4% of Sacramento's average offensive efficiency. That's bad. That's Atlanta's worst defensive performance of the year by this measure. (The second worst: 115.9% at Houston on February 9th. The best: 80.8% against Memphis on December 8th.)

During the current six game losing streak, opponents have been more efficient than their season average.

OppOff Eff (Season)Off Eff (Game)Adj Eff

Everybody's having a good offensive night against Atlanta right now (though Detroit's offense was mostly just its usual very good self). Following the trend further back the schedule, opponents have been more efficient than their season average in 10 of Atlanta's last 12 games. The Hawks have lost 9 of those games. The New Jersey game is the only game in that stretch where Atlanta beat an opponent that bettered their season average offensive efficiency.

On the year, 36 of Atlanta's 51 games the result has matched Atlanta's adjusted defensive efficiency. (70.6% of the time Atlanta wins when they hold their opponent below their season average or loses when they don't.) Atlanta is 16-8 when their adjusted defensive efficiency is below 100. They are 5-23 when it is above 100. The Hawks have won just 1 of the last 15 games in which they've failed to hold an opponent below their season average offensive efficiency.

This is essentially (I believe) what Ken Pomeroy does in adjusting for competition between NCAA teams. I'm sure he does it more thoroughly and exactly. Obviously there's not the gulf of talent separating the NBA's best team from its 30th as there is separating the best Division 1 team from the 341st best, but has Atlanta's defensive efficiency rating benefited from playing the bulk of their games against Eastern Conference teams?

Summing the adjusted efficiency numbers for each of the 51 games (unfinished/re-opened business against Miami excluded) and dividing by 51 suggests that...the Hawks are slightly above average defensively overall. Just as their 13th ranked defense would suggest. It's not an illusion created by the schedule. Opponents have operated at 99.6% of their average offensive efficiency against the Hawks this season. Recent opponents are faring far better than that.

I did the work, though, and thought I'd share.

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Kings 119 Hawks 107



I wasn't optimistic about this road trip but things have been far worse than I anticipated. The final 9:49 of the game last night provided a dispiriting end to a long day. I hope many of you had the good sense to go ahead and fall asleep knowing that the Hawks would play a maddening fourth quarter.

Oh, and Acie Law IV may be seriously injured. Even the possibility of a Salim Stoudamire contract push fails to cheer me up right now. Nor does some mainstream media pressure to fire Mike Woodson.

An injury update should anything become known and more on the imploding team defense later today. Feel free to leave your free agent/D-League point guard suggestions in the comments.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lakers 122 Hawks 93



I assume that the reason I did not wake up and read the headline, "Hawks Fire Woodson" is that it was not yet 6am PST. Just because a man has no business coaching an NBA team doesn't mean he deserves to be fired before his morning coffee. Even if it is overdue.

Everything I wrote after the blown lead in Charlotte last week still holds. Mike Bibby or no, this team isn't good enough to overcome a head coach who can't design or implement a sensible offense and can't impart the value and importance of defensive rebounding. (First quarter: Lakers had 5 offensive rebounds, Hawks had 4 defensive rebounds.)

The Hawks aren't going to win very often against a team that has better players, a better coach, and the home court advantage. That a victory last night was unlikely doesn't excuse the Hawks' failure to compete. There was little effective effort defensively and the offensive gameplan seemed to consist of 1) Make Joe Johnson try and beat Kobe Bryant off the dribble and 2) Look shocked and disorganized when the Lakers press full court following a made free throw.

Down 36 at the half, Atlanta opened the third quarter running the sets that might have prevented garbage time from beginning mid-way through the second quarter. Josh Smith and Al Horford had plays run for them in the post. Joe Johnson's teammates were allowed to create open looks for him. Marvin Williams didn't try to beat anyone off the dribble.

Washington and Phildelphia also lost last night so the Hawks didn't lose ground for either the 6th or the 8th seed in the East. Atlanta's best chance at avoiding an 0-5 road trip looks a little more difficult tonight after Sacramento returned from the All-Star break and won at Portland last night.

Here's hoping Woodson has the sense to do his part (I assume everyone else is resigned to his continuing incompetence.) to make this final element of the game recap much smaller tomorrow morning.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 19, 2008 vs. @Los Angeles Lakers

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Adding a Big Man

Now that the Hawks have officially signed Jeremy Richardson to a 10-day contract, attention turns to how the Hawks replace Lorenzen Wright and Shelden Williams at the butt end of the post rotation.

Ron asked this very question in the comments to this post and I offered only a tossed-off answer that, in retrospect, isn't funny at all. (I was completely serious about Pachulia and Woodson. I don't think trading Lorenzen Wright and Shelden Williams will mean Zaza gets more playing time.)

Sekou Smith offers quite a speculative list in his blog this morning:
The other names tossed about Monday (by me and the other non-factors in the decision making process I spoke to) include P.J. Brown, Justin Williams, Kevin Willis, Jamaal Magloire, Jeff Foster, Jahidi White, Jelani McCoy, Josh Boone, Francisco Elson and my personal favorite Aaron Williams...
Sekou's personal favorite is not an especially realistic acquisition however:
Aaron Williams is on someone else’s roster right now (the Clippers), so snagging him would obviously be the most complicated move for the Hawks - who for the time being are short on useful trade assets with no draft picks, no expiring contracts and no real player you can deem expendable now that the roster has been crunched to just 12 active (Speedy Claxton, as well know, is out) players.
For the same reason (and/or others) Boone, Magloire, Elson, and Foster aren't realistic additions, either. (Though I did take a moment to imagine Al Horford and Jeff Foster rebounding side-by-side.)

I think the recently released Justin Williams, D-League All-Star Rod Benson, or the soon-to-be released Nick Fazekas would be the best, realistic additions. I am, of course, open to better suggestions.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Replenishing the Roster

Sekou says that Atlanta will add Jeremy Richardson to get the roster up to 13 by Tuesday's game in Los Angeles.
You might remember Jeremy Richardson, the guy the Hawks had up on a couple of 10-day contracts last season that really showed some potential. Well, my people tell me that he’ll join them once again, fresh off his MVP showing in New Orleans in the D-League All-Star showcase.

He’s a good shooter, from mid-range and certainly beyond the 3-point line. And he has good size.
Richardson has played 64 NBA minutes in 14 games for four different teams the last two years. He's shot the ball well (in a larger sample size) in the D-League: 48.1 2PTFG%, 38.3 3PTFG%, 81.9 FT%. He was the MVP of the D-League All-Star game on Saturday afternoon.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reactions to the Trade

Before getting to reactions to the trade, I must take a moment to acknowledge that Matt at Atlanta Hawks blog saw this coming.

John Hollinger likes the trade for the Hawks:
Atlanta's two biggest weaknesses this year have been 3-point shooting and point guard play; at a stroke, Bibby solves both problems.
and doubles up my estimation of Bibby's on-court value for the remainder of the season:
...replacing Johnson/Lue with 35 minutes a game of Bibby would be worth about six wins over an 82-game season; over the final 32 games, it would be more like two wins, but that still could be huge, given the tight race for the final playoff spots in the East.
Micah Hart reports that there's an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the trade at the All-Star game:
I came over to the Arena tonight with Hawks PR man Jon Steinberg, and every person we saw when we walked into the building stopped to congratulate us on the trade. It seriously feels like we just had a son - I feel like we should be passing out victory cigars. Everyone loves this deal for Atlanta.
Sekou Smith reported Tyronn Lue's magnanimous reaction to the trade this morning:
"It's definitely a good trade for the Hawks...If you could trade me and AJ for Bibby, you've definitely upgraded the point-guard position."
Sekou also provides three reasons the trade works for the Hawks and goes a bit overboard in his blog with the proposition that Mike Bibby is exactly as good now as he was at his (younger) best:
Bibby can score at a high level (he averaged 21.2 points per game just two years ago). And he can dish at a high level (he averaged more than 8.0 assists per game twice in his career). The fact that can do both at the same time is what makes him so valuable to the Hawks right now.
Bibby scored 21.1 PPG two years ago (taking 17 shots a game), but has shot the ball considerably worse than his career average last season and this, and averaged over 8 assists in the 99-00 and 00-01 seasons playing for Vancouver. I don't think he can do either of things right now and he never did them at the same time. An upgrade at point guard? No doubt. An above average player? Possibly. A savior? Certainly not.

Drew at Hawks, Dawgs, and Jesus keeps it brief but his meaning is clear.

As is TZ's at Sactown Royalty. Pookeyguru takes a longer look there at the trade from Sacramento's perspective.

Charley Rosen gives the Hawks a B+ for the deal, breaks down Bibby's game, and again makes me wonder about the copy editing at A.C. Law? Come on, Charley, you're better than that.

Scott Howard-Cooper of The Sacramento Bee is extraordinarily pessimistic about what this trade means for Acie Law's NBA career (registration or bugmenot required):
Atlanta, though, invested heavily in a point guard eight months ago, drafting Acie Law with the 11th selection in the draft. The move for Bibby is an obvious sign the Hawks are playing for the moment rather than another season of developing the kids. What it means beyond that, however, is unclear. Lottery picks have to play at some point to get better, unless they are completely clueless, and Law is a leader and is tough. Sitting him now and in 2008-09 greatly diminishes the return on a high choice.
Playing Mike Bibby so much that Acie Law doesn't have a chance to develop would greatly diminish the return on this trade as well.

Also in the SacBee, Ailene Voisin looks back on Bibby's time in Sacramento.

UPDATE: One I missed on my first pass through the blogosphere: Braves & Birds gives a good account of how Bibby might make Atlanta better by making Mike Woodson less bad:
This team has a chronic inability to score on critical possessions because they have nothing approaching a coherent offensive structure and they end up giving the ball to Joe Johnson on iso plays, despite the fact that he's not very good at beating opponents off the dribble. The Bibby trade solves some of these problems, as it gives the Hawks a one-on-one option for the end of games. It does not solve the problem that the past six weeks have given me serious reservations about Mike Woodson's ability to coach these players. I feel good about the team now because Bibby can cover some of Woodson's failings, but I'd feel better with Larry Brown in charge.
It's amazing. One can't have a conversation about the Hawks or read a Hawks blog (or its comments without the subject quickly moving to those futile, poorly designed isolation plays. Every single person who watches this team regularly understands this yet nothing changes.

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It's Official: Bibby a Hawk

From the news release:
The Atlanta Hawks today acquired guard Mike Bibby from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams, Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second round draft pick according to Hawks Executive Vice President/General Manager Billy Knight.
Draft night will be dull but maybe the final 32 and 1/53rd games of the year will be a little more interesting.

Deeper analysis, charts, and a cavalcade of free agent big men coming tomorrow.

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Joe Johnson and Al Horford on the Proposed Trade

Sekou Smith (natch) reports from New Orleans.

Joe Johnson:
"This is another huge step for us. You're talking about a guy who can make shots and can run a team. He embodies all the things we've wanted in a veteran point guard and he's also a guy that's known for taking and making big shots. And you can never have too many guys like that in the NBA. As tough as it is to see guys like Lue, A.J., 'Ren and Shelden leave, we all realize that this is a business and decisions are made and you make the best of things and move on. But there's no doubt we're getting a guy that can help make us better."
Al Horford:
"Anytime you add a playoff tested player you know it has to be a good thing. his is obviously the first time I've ever experienced something like this, so I don't know how it will be. But everybody knows who Mike Bibby is and what he's done. And I can't imagine it being anything but a positive for us."
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Here's the Deal

Courtesy Martin McNeal of The Sacramento Bee:
The Kings have reached an agreement in principle to send veteran guard Mike Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks for guards Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue and forwards Lorenzen Wright and Sheldon Williams, sources told The Bee on Saturday.

The deal is contingent upon league approval that could come as early as today. According to sources who did not want to be identified because of ongoing trade discussions, there is a 1 p.m. conference call scheduled between the two teams and league officials.
I don't see how this makes the team worse. I'll refrain from further comment until it becomes official.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Trade Rumor Reported Close to Home

Sekou Smith filed a late Friday blog post:
Word is they’ve got something brewing, a trade that could drastically change the look of this team heading into this week’s Western Conference road trip and beyond.

It wouldn’t be right to share details right now. Not with the particulars still somewhat murky and no deal officially done (what I can tell you is that not all the talent is heading to the Western Conference. Some of it might head East).

But if you come here anytime over the weekend, there will be updates. Seriously, I wouldn’t leave you hanging after this type of build up. And if the deal I’ve heard rumblings about doesn’t happen, I’m going break it down for you as well.
Alright, you've got my attention. It's not Mike Woodson getting replaced by someone competent, but it's something. You know what, I'm so intrigued that I will, for the first time in weeks, slog through some of the comments on Sekou's blog.

Good thing I do, as one hour and seven minutes after the blog post went up, Sekou added this in the comments:
If the deal gets done the way it’s been detailed to me, the Hawks keep their core intact and add one of the pieces they’ve desperately needed.
That's got to be a big man, right?

UPDATE: Sekou, again in the comments:
In this deal you don’t have to give up Marvin or Childress and Golden State has nothing to do with it. Overall, it’s a pretty sweet deal for the Hawks, who I’ve been writing for months have all the tools necessary to get a deal done. They have the expiring contracts and several young guys on deals that can be combined to net a quality player.
I hope it's true even though I wrote the opposite for an upcoming Blogger Roundtable this past week. If the expiring contracts of Lue, Anthony Johnson, Lorezen Wright, and Shelden Williams' rookie contract can be turned into something useful, I'll gladly eat crow.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bobcats 100 Hawks 98 (OT)



I'll introduce two more pieces of evidence and then rest my case that Mike Woodson shouldn't, nay, can't be coaching this team on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

1) He just got out-coached by Sam Vincent.
2) He threw his team under the bus following the game.

"Our guys are somewhat clock-watching right now. They get leads, and the teams start to make runs. They start to look at the clock and hope the clock runs out. That's not good."
That couldn't have anything to do with the plays you're calling, could it? Or playing Tyronn Lue for the final 24 minutes of the game despite Charlotte running every single play (warning: slight, very slight, exaggeration) at him and his inability to dribble-penetrate (like Acie Law IV) or push the ball up the court (like Anthony Johnson) to create shots for someone other than his own, miniature self?

If I never see again the isolation for Joe Johnson on the left side, with a guard standing on that side of the floor 25 feet from the basket and the other three guys standing in a clump below the free throw line on the opposite side, I'll be happy. It's amazing that such a well thought out and designed set is so easy for opposing teams to guard.

When you sit in front of the television and think, "I wish the Hawks could space the floor like Charlotte," a serious change must me be made.

The players aren't dumb. After every horrible loss they get quoted speaking directly to the problems that so obviously plague this team. Last night, it was Joe Johnson:
"We can't spread the floor, and we can't run high pick-and-rolls against a zone. We can't try and attack because they are sitting in the middle. They want us to shoot those shots. And it kills us every time."
I'm convinced that this team plays so much better in transition not only because their talent is better suited to that but also because they're freed from Mike Woodson's stagnant, unimaginative sets. The players can play hard but they can't be expected to design their own half-court offense. Hence their frustration with losing game after game because of the same flaw.

Case in point: the final possession of regulation. Atlanta tried to get the ball to Joe Johnson. Charlotte knew Atlanta would try to get the ball to Joe Johnson. Charlotte kept Atlanta from getting the ball to Joe Johnson and there was no second option available to Al Horford. Horford and Anthony Johnson made chicken salad (thanks to some inattentive weak-side defending by the Bobcats) out of that situation, but their dilemma was created by a poorly designed play.

The next coach also has to make the team understand that defensive rebounding isn't just something Al Horford is supposed to do. (Woodson's unseemly fascination with Lue and Lorenzen Wright kept the potentially useful defensive rebounder Zaza Pachulia on the bench. It might not have worked, but I think when you're watching something clearly not work, it would be worthwhile to try something sensible and different.) Charlotte got 10 offensive rebounds in the third and fourth quarters. Atlanta got 10 defensive rebounds in the third and fourth quarters. Al Horford had five of those defensive rebounds in 19:10. The rest of the roster had five defensive rebounds in a combined 100:50. Horford was matched up against Emeka Okafor the entire time. The rest of the roster had only to deal with Raymond Felton, Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson, Matt Carroll, Jeff McInnis, Nazr Mohammed, and Jermareo Davidson.

Marvin Williams played 22:49 of the second half, most of it at power forward (Josh Smith's horrible, foul-plagued night should not go unmentioned) and collected a grand total of 2 defensive rebounds. While on the subject of Williams, I must respectfully disagree with Steve Smith and cast my vote for Marvin "settling" for jump shots. If he re-focused on getting his feet set and simply catching-and-shooting, we'd see fewer missed shots and be spared his aesthetically unpleasant and practically ineffective attempts to create offense off the dribble. The man cannot yet dribble in traffic or finish at the rim. Of course, this team's overriding philosophy appears to be: Make time in every game to try and do what you're least good at as a basketball player. Then watch the coach make Joe Johnson try and score against at least four defenders.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hawks at Bobcats: Small Forwards Need Not Apply

Charlotte announced yesterday that Gerald Wallace would miss tonight's game with a strained right foot. Tonight's game will be the fifth of the last six that Wallace has missed. In the last two games, Sam Vincent has dealt with Wallace's absence by giving 68 minutes to Jeff McInnis. That rather raises the bar for Mr. Woodson this evening. Maybe he'll respond by putting Acie Law IV, Tyronn Lue, and Anthony Johnson all on the floor at the same time.

Charlotte has lost seven in a row by an average margin of 17.7 points. Their nine-point loss at home to the Lakers on Monday night is the only game they've lost by fewer than 14 points during the streak.

Atlanta will likely be without Josh Childress who flew back from Charlotte today to get an MRI on his right knee:
Childress hyperextended his knee late in Tuesday's home loss to Detroit. He finished the game but said he woke up in pain at the team hotel in Charlotte Wednesday.

"We don't think it's anything to [sic] serious," Childress told the AJC while sipping a smoothie at the Charlotte airport. "But they wanted me to get it checked out just to be safe."
It's the little things Sekou contributes, I find.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Pistons 94 Hawks 90



Disclaimer: The Hawks don't win that game very often. Detroit is the better team. If you wanted to argue that Atlanta got back in the game because Detroit lost interest in the game once they went up 15 less than 3 minutes into the second quarter, I'd concede at least part of the point. The Hawks played hard in the fourth quarter (6 of 14 possible offensive rebounds, 8 of 11 possible defensive rebounds, 9 free throw attempts) but executed poorly (3-19 from the field). Still, the Hawks made things more difficult than they needed to be and wasted a rare positive night registered in the Josh Smith Jump Shot Log.

My concerns, more or less chronologically...

Detroit built more than half of their 15-point lead in 3:05 seconds when Mike Woodson allowed them to play against the following lineup: Acie Law IV, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Lorenzen Wright, and Zaza Pachulia. None of those guys can create their own shot. At least three of them are average-at-best defensively. If you're going to cling to a Joe Johnson-centric offense, replace Marvin Williams with Johnson and get the Johnson post-ups and isolations out of your system while the second unit gets their minutes.

Tyronn Lue demonstrated amply in the second quarter that he could not guard Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey's not the first guy Lue can't guard (nor will Lue be the last guy that can't guard Stuckey) but Lue contributed enough offensively to keep from hurting the Hawks. Lue's second half appearance was a different story. Half-different anyway. Stuckey again did whatever he wanted but Lue killed the Hawks' offense (which never really recovered). Lue played 7:35 across the third and fourth quarters during which time Atlanta scored 9 points. The ninth point, courtesy a Rasheed Wallace technical, wasn't even created by the offense.

As with that bad second quarter lineup, it was obvious that things were not working long before a change was made. It's not like Woodson has a lot of options to sort through. Acie Law had a bad night, another one in which he compounded his mistakes by failing to convert the two good shots he created for himself. I don't blame Woodson for not putting him back in the game. Once it became clear that Lue was not productive, Woodson had a golden opportunity to ignore his roster's point guard deficiencies (in terms of talent, not numbers) and go big against the Stuckey/Rip Hamilton back court. How can you be so resistant to putting your best players on the floor?

Speaking of which, why didn't Al Horford play the final 1:37? Was Woodson afraid he would miss a free throw? set an illegal screen? get a rebound (16 more, 7 offensive last night for Al) or draw a foul? Maybe he decided Marvin Williams had broken out of his on-going slump by sitting on the bench for the last nine minutes of game time. Assuming Mike Woodson could make intelligent tactical decisions, why would he even bother with a roster this shallow?

Without further comment, I present the final two Hawks possessions both of which began with a sideline inbounds following a timeout:
  • Down 3 with 22 seconds remaining, Joe Johnson throws a shot toward the backboard over his shoulder while stumbling backwards down the lane with 16 seconds remaining. Josh Smith gets the offensive rebound, is fouled, and makes one of two free throws.
  • Down 4 with 14 seconds remaining, Joe Johnson shoots a 26-foot air ball with 10 seconds remaining.
Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 12, 2008 vs. Detroit

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance
MISS4Q3:53(:03)23' 9"
MAKE4Q0:45(:16)23' 9"

Ballhype: hype it up!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rockets 108 Hawks 89



If you play badly enough there's no chance that the coach's tactical limitations get criticized.

Sekou Smith saw it as a contrast in styles the Hawks couldn't overcome:
Styles make fights in boxing.

In basketball, they usually end them.

And the Hawks' undersized but scrappy approach was absolutely no match for the Houston Rockets' brute force Saturday night.
If the Hawks have a scrappy approach, they're the scrappiest bunch of guys (Al Horford excepted) who don't give a damn about defensive rebounding. Marvin Williams, especially, needs to add a commitment to the defensive glass to his game. Right now, anything he does other than shoot spot up jump shots adversely impacts the team.

I checked out with 2:19 left in the third quarter. Even I'm not sick enough to watch Shelden Williams themed garbage time on a Saturday night. Until Tuesday night's reminder of how hopeless a playoff series against Detroit figures to be, I'll try to forget that I wrote this on Thursday morning. Commenter Ron was far sharper than I that day.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cavaliers 100 Hawks 95



Make no mistake, the game was probably lost on the defensive glass. Or rather, won there by Zydrunas Ilgauskas to give the man full credit for picking up the slack of his absent, injured front-court mates. The Cavaliers make half their threes and half their twos in the first half didn't help either. (Assign credit to them or blame to the Hawks at your discretion.) Still, the Hawks, beneficiaries of their own (tardy) hard work and Larry Hughes' insistence on shooting jump shots, were up a point with less than six minutes left.

The Hawks lead because Josh Smith tried his damndest to take the game over in the fourth quarter. Smith wanted the ball to the degree that he spent much of the fourth quarter going and getting it on the defensive end so he could have the chance to do something positive on the offensive end. He did enough (3-4 FGA, 5-7 FTA, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 0 turnovers) to nose the Hawks ahead, but despite Atlanta scoring on almost every fourth quarter possession in which Smith touched the ball in the paint (If I'm not mistaken, the only time Atlanta didn't score on a Smith-centered possession was when he was fouled by Ilgauskas with 5:57 left but missed both free throws. I deleted my recording of the game in frustration last night. I wish I had it to check against my memory right now.) they wasted countless possessions on Joe Johnson posting up Eric Snow, running "isolations" for Johnson (1-5 FGA, 2 turnovers, 0 assists in the fourth quarter) that saw him stymied by two or three defenders, isolations for Tyronn Lue (0-3 FGA in the fourth quarter), or Marvin Williams posting up Devin Brown rather than giving the ball to Smith against the smaller and slower Ira Newble.

The failure in the fourth quarter went beyond the inability to make adjustments. There was clear evidence that Atlanta possessed a clear avenue by which to score points and they chose not to use it. Joe Johnson is not the best player on the team anymore. Josh Smith is. The offense needs to run through him on the block. Anything else is wasteful.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 8 vs. Cleveland

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Who's Going to Play For Cleveland Tonight?

Four of Cleveland's six best players could miss tonight's game leaving Mike Brown to ponder the heretofore unsolved question of who will hurt the offense less: Ira Newble or Damon Jones?

Drew Gooden, Anderson Varejao, and Sasha Pavlovic all missed
last night's 92-77 loss in Houston. Hoopsworld reports on the injury situation for tonight's game:
Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao will both miss Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks while Daniel Gibson is listed as doubtful and Drew Gooden will be a game-time decision, the team announced Friday.
Brian Windhorst (as always) provides more information. From his post-game report last night:
Daniel Gibson has a right hamstring issue. He told me he never popped it, it was just very sore and then he started getting spasms. He was holding it in the third quarter and in the fourth he left the court. He was uncomfortable after the game and the thought of playing tomorrow was not in his head, he was more concerned with getting the leg to quiet down.

Second, LeBron hurt his right thumb. He said he jammed it going to the basket. He played through it but he wasn’t sure how it would fell to today. When I asked him about the giant ice bag on his hand, he looked down at the bucket of ice his right ankle was in and just shrugged.
This appears to be another chance for the Hawks to pick up a win against better team which is down (at least) a big man and whose best and highest-usage player suffers from a damaged digit on his dominant hand. Cleveland is unlikely to pick up any of LeBron's slack by making 11 three-pointers as the Lakers did Wednesday night. Daniel Gibson shoots 46.7% from beyond the arc and takes a quarter of Cleveland's attempts. The rest of the Cavs make just 31.6% of their three-pointers.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hawks 98 Lakers 95



I'm leaning toward boundless optimism (tangible goal: the sixth seed) again after witnessing the last seven quarters of Atlanta Hawks basketball. There will be bad stretches (For example, after the first quarter Monday night I was ready to give this team up for dead.) to weather and it's far more likely that their competitors for that sixth seed improve themselves through trade than do the Hawks but for now let's savor last night's win over the Los Angeles Lakers on a night when the Lakers played well.

I would argue that not a single Hawk player performed poorly. Thus, they deserve a roll call.

Josh Smith: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals. Ho-hum and what's new? He did all this in 33 minutes as Mike Woodson appeared to give Smith the Horford treatment after picking up his second foul with 9:40 left in the second quarter. Smith resisted the siren song of the jump shot (see below) for two-and-a-half quarters. If only he hadn't made that first three-pointer he attempted.

Joe Johnson: He certainly played like and All-Star last night. I still think he could catch-and-shoot more often but the man is unlearning years of having to do everything offensively himself. I think he'll adjust to having his teammates create easier shots for him. Johnson's good defense on (the admittedly injured) Kobe Bryant allowed the Hawks to survive a couple of poor offensive stretches.

Al Horford: 20 rebounds, 7 of them offensive. By my estimation, Al, in all likelihood, rebounded at least one out of every five missed Hawks shots while he was in the game. He stepped up and made both free throws with 3:40 left and the Hawks down a point. Though he wasn't credited with a block, his solid interior defense made things difficult for Pau Gasol and set up Josh Smith for a couple of his blocks.

Tyronn Lue: Despite my suspicion that his performance last night will earn him the right to miss a lot of shots in upcoming fourth quarters, Lue's 8 points (3-4 FGA, 2-2 3PTA) and 3 assists were instrumental to the victory. Watching Lue break down the Lakers off the dribble didn't inspire a lot of confidence (though both shots went in) but it did keep the offense from bogging down into Joe Johnson and four spectators.

Josh Childress: A relatively quiet night due, in no small part, to Al Horford cramping Childress's style on the offensive glass. Still, 8 points on 7 shots helps the offense every time.

Anthony Johnson: He struggled defending Derek Fisher in the second and third quarters but the rest of his game was predictably solid: 8 assists, 2 turnovers, and 4 defensive rebounds.

Marvin Williams: Marvin struggled mightily to finish at and around the basket (one more dribble before take-off please, Marvin) in the first half but he calmed down, spaced the floor, and knocked down some jump shots in the second half. There's no reason he should get only 1 defensive rebound in 35:09.

Mario West: Knocked down Kobe on the Lakers' in-bounds play with 7.1 seconds left. No foul was called. Score one for Mario West, Defensive Stopper.

Zaza Pachulia: Gasol (or even Turiaf) is a tough matchup for Zaza. Resting him for Ilgauskas and Yao isn't the worst thing that could happen.

I understand if everyone doesn't share my sentiments, but I'd like to invite each and every one of those front-running, bandwagon-riding, OMG Kobe!!!!!!-screaming fans to come back to Philips and, you know, root for the Hawks. It's fun. Honest.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 6 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Josh Childress Is Fairly Awesome

The comments following this post have initiated the idea that Josh Childress is a "bad coach proof" player.

Micah Hart explodes this not especially thought out on my part (and barely articulated) distinction in his appreciation of Josh Childess. Using the patented (maybe?) NBA Hot Spots technology, Micah definitively answers the question of how he shoots 58% from the floor despite standing but 6-8, tipping the scales at 210 pounds, and offering more evidence that the 05-06 season represented a seriously anomalous display of three-point shooting:
Chills has taken 312 shots this year, and of those, 80% have come from the area right around the basket. This is a good thing, since he is shooting 66% (164-249) from there. His shooting percentages from outside that area don't look that great at first glance (he is 17-63 for 27%), but it's such a small sample size it's hard to draw any real conclusions.

I tend to believe Josh is better than a 27% shooter from midrange to the perimeter, but that's besides the point. Chills knows the best way for him to score is to get to the rack, and therefore he devotes almost all his effort on the offensive end towards that purpose - getting out in transition, making cuts, and crashing the offensive glass. As a result, he is a lay-up machine (with a penchant for highlight-reel dunks as well), and he is able to average double-figures in points (12.2 so far this season) without the Hawks ever running a play for him.
A smart team is going to sign Josh Childress to a long term contract this summer. The Hawks have little recent history of making smart personnel decisions. Let signing Childress be Recent Example #2 (or #3 if they look up Josh Smith first) of Billy Knight Making a Good Decision following the drafting of Al Horford.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Sincere Offer

I can add. I can differentiate between players on both the home and visiting teams. I can recognize a made basket. I can fight off the urge to have a drink until after the game ends. I'm pretty sure I can fight off the urge to have a drink until after the game ends. I'm available and I'll work cheap.

Take it away, Sekou:
The most notorious stat crew in the NBA was at it again, causing a halftime panic in the Hawks' locker room when it appeared the Hawks had been shorted two points. It turned out that Smith was given two points that should have gone to Tyronn Lue. After a brief deliberation between game officials and the stat crew, the issue was cleared up.
Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 96 76ers 91



The first quarter was a debacle. When not allowing the 76ers to reprise their pre-game layup line, the Hawks watched Philadelphia grab 72.7% of their possible offensive rebounds and 88.2% of their potential defensive rebounds. The first quarter made the Hawks effort last week in Phoenix look spirited in retrospect. The next three quarters demonstrated that the Hawks are too good to be closer to missing the playoffs than earning the valuable sixth seed in the East.

Nothing that happened last night (obligatory Josh Smith statistical excitement further below; celebration of Josh Smith's tactical deployment to follow immediately) with the potential to impact the rest of this season as the second quarter of last night's game which provided an actual, real-life example of what I envision when I imagine this Hawks team playing consistently good basketball. (I'll ignore that once again the Hawks played their best, most sensible basketball only after falling way behind.)

For most of the second quarter, the Hawks fed the ball relentlessly to Josh Smith in the post where he scored around the basket, from the free throw line, and, most importantly, created offense for his teammates. It was what should be a standard lineup: Smith in the post, two shooters (Marvin Williams and Tyronn Lue) spotting up, Josh Childress moving without the ball, and a big man (Zaza Pachulia). (I'm not arguing that's the exact personnel one would want to play the majority of the minutes--against Philadelphia's second unit, though, this doesn't really matter.)

There was no standing around or launching guarded jump shots as the shot clock expired. If someone watched just the second quarter of last night's game (or just the 8:41 before Joe Johnson re-entered the game and things returned more or less to normal) and hadn't seen any other Hawks basketball this year, I'd forgive him or her for assuming that Atlanta has a well-designed, functional offensive game plan. They don't, but last night provided some evidence that it doesn't have to be that way.

I'll try to be patient, remembering how many bursts of effective up-tempo basketball it took to convince whoever needed to be convinced that was the best way for this team to score points.

Six paragraphs deep it's probably about time I acknowledge Smith's 9 blocks. He changed the game at both ends but we're spoiled by his defensive impact. (The good kind of impact, I mean, not the (increasingly infrequent) stretches where he ignores the team defensive concept.) Josh Smith is so amazing that 9 blocks don't really register as they should especially on a night when he's finally given the opportunity to record 9 assists.

Skeets makes the case for Josh Smith as the Hawks best player and putative All-Star this morning so I don't have to. After last night's performance it's with a certain melancholy I close with the jump shot log. Still, 0-3 on jump shots compared to 7-10 around the rim plus 5-7 from the free throw line. He can be even more devastating.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 4, 2008 vs. Philadelphia
ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance
MISS3Q8:26(:02)23' 9"