Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Acie Law's First Start of the Season Engenders Concurrent Frustration

Acie Law IV did not make an especially auspicious debut start of the 08-09 season Saturday night. It wasn't a catastrophe though: 8 points (3-9 FGA, 0-2 3PTA), 6 assists, and 2 turnovers in 28:22. Perhaps, in considering the time Law* has missed through the injury, the number of games he's drawn a DNP-CD, how little he's played with the first unit, and the practice time he's missed recently because of family illness my expectations for Law were too low. I don't think anyone could, with a straight face, claim that Acie Law's production was the greatest concern to arise from the blowout loss at home to the Clippers.

*He also provided a moment of gallows humor when Law got chewed out by both teammates and head coach after screwing up a defensive possession by (gasp) fighting through a ball-screen rather than passively switching.

Today's paper* paints a surprisingly different picture. These are, to me, revealing quotes. I would not go so far as to speculate that the Mike Woodson-Acie Law IV relationship cannot be salvaged but I think it's fair to conclude that, right now, that relationship consists of two frustrated men.

*One further caveat, I don't know if the story's focus is a result of those quoted just answering the questions they were asked or that the quotes on this subject were simply the best quotes Sekou Smith received.

Acie Law:
"It’s frustrating. You don’t play the whole year and people tell you to be patient and to keep working hard and wait your turn, and then the one chance you get, the Clippers come out and hit every shot they throw up. I mean, they don’t miss. Joe [Johnson] is sick, Al [Horford] is coming off a long layoff from his injury. The team’s not at full strength, and it’s a bad showing. So you’re sitting here now wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?'"
Mike Woodson:
"Listen, I came into this season and I told everybody that nobody’s minutes are guaranteed. What minutes you get, you make the most of them. But you better be ready to play because you just never know when you’re going to be called upon. And that’s any team, I don’t care who it is. You just can’t play 12 guys consistently. In Acie’s defense, he hasn’t played and he’s not running the first team on a regular basis. But I can’t start two point guards. So at the end of the day, there really is no excuse. Acie was rusty. It happens. The bottom line is he has to be ready."
Law is frustrated he isn't playing more. Law is frustrated the team wasn't more successful when he got a chance to play Saturday night. Woodson is frustrated that Law didn't play better. Neither party seems ready to take responsibility for his role in Law's lack of development/production to this point of his professional career. Right now, I would wager that, were the Hawks to make a trade before February 19th, it would be one which exchanges what some team might still consider a promising young point guard prospect for a player that Rick Sund believes his head coach would trust enough to play regularly.


Unknown said...

You should check out Acie's blog at Yardbarker.com. I think it's clear that he believes he's ready. I certainly believe that Acie could be a functional point guard in this league at a minimum. It would take him playing more to determine whether that's as a backup or starter. No player in the league plays well in a 'be ready' state. I haven't seen it happen for any young player, which leads me back to my old standby issue - Mike Woodson isn't being honest with Acie or us about this situation.

No one's minutes are guaranteed? Does Woody think we're stupid? ...look at how up and down we played with Bibby last year and the difference some time makes. So, to have Woodson say ...be ready is ridiculous. His statement about no one's minutes being guaranteed is bunk...he hasn't changed any sub or minute patterns due to good or bad play - he's only changed them due to injuries. The bottom line - Woodson is from the Larry Brown school of developing players (which is understandable b/c he wants to keep his job and will play vets as much as he can to amass as many wins as possible regardless of the long term impact on the team or its players).

Jason Walker said...

Gee, I don't know Coach, maybe using him as the backup point guard might be a good start.

Bret LaGree said...

I think you'd want someone in Acie's position to think he's ready whether he really is or not.

On the other hand, you'd also like to see the head coach demonstrate some curiosity w/r/t whether or not the only point guard whose rights the team has cheap, long-term control over can be a contributor or not.

I don't know whether Woodson does not or doesn't deal well with having options but once he decides on a role for a player, that role does not change.

That's perhaps why Salim Stoudamire never became a useful player here. It's why Solomon Jones' second season was a complete waste. It's certainly a reason as to why Josh Childress was lost for nothing in return (and I say that as someone who suspects that Childress's absence plays a fairly significant role in Marvin Williams relaxing and fulfilling more of his promise this season).

I think is a central frustration for Hawks fans about Woodson: We're willing to cut him some slack for the terrible personnel decisions which were made above him and have limited the talent at his disposal but he's willing to write off some of that limited talent.

I don't know whether he's too cautious or he lacks imagination but he's in charge of a mediocre defensive team that is (again) having acknowledged problems playing hard on a consistent basis and is still strongly resistant to change.

Unknown said...

Yeah Bret I agree with you on Woodson in this case. It's pretty obvious that Acie plays completely terrified of making a mistake because he knows that he'll spend the next 10 games with DNP-CD's as punishment. That's no way to play basketball: he needs to know that he isn't going to be punished for making mistakes, and needs to be able to just focus on making plays and be able to live with the mistakes when they happen. The point of developing young players is to help them improve, not to destroy their confidence.

With good coaching staffs, young players are given segments of the game where they can go play and learn which are more or less guaranteed unless they go into the tank for an extended period. You could see this with Stuckey on the Pistons last year - even though he went through rough stretches, they still let him get the experience he needed to get better. And this year, they are reaping the rewards of that commitment. Hopefully the coaching staff can look at something like that and try to emulate it here...

Drew Ditzel said...

what i also don't get is that Acie did not have a horrible game. If I remember correctly, from the defensive side, it was Thornton, Camby, and Randolph that were scoring at will.

and on offense. Acie finished with 6 assists to 2 turnovers. Shot ball bad but not Flip Murray bad (1-7), and finished with the second best +/- of the game (and best among starters).

if you want to call the game an aberration because of injuries and the fact that the Clippers were on fire. but i don't see how Woodson can comment on his game with things like this:
"So at the end of the day, there really is no excuse. Acie was rusty. It happens. The bottom line is he has to be ready.”

rusty? compared to Flip and the rest of the team, he was a regular all star that night.

what i am saying in a very long winded fashion is this: mike woodson sucks.

He made up his mind long ago about Acie and will comment according to that notion long before he ever will react to what actually happens in a game.

Unknown said...

Definately believe that Woodson's use (non-use) of Law is horrible short term thinking. Who knows if he can turn into a quality point guard (notoriously the toughest transition into the pros, just look at the Magic's Nelson and his growth after much longer in the league) because he doesn't even get backup minutes to establish himself.
Now the Hawks are going to be forced to decide between overpaying to keep Bibby in his declining years, or trying to find something in free agency. All because after a year and a half, they still don't know what they have in Law and can't rely on him.
Woodson doesn't develop players, because he doesn't think he can afford to lose this season. If he doesn't have a capable point guard next year, the fault is his and the job will be someone elses.

CoCo said...

We, well some of you Hawks fans suffer from Battered Fan's Syndrome (Myself and Drew don't fall in with you all because we feel Mike Woodosn sucks and that's that) You all keep hoping and wishing he's going to get better, but deep down you know how this will end. I have been planning to write a post about this, maybe I will maybe I won't. The basic point is we need to quit making excuses and leave his a** cause he's never going to change.

Matt said...

Mike Woodson is a bad communicator and a bad coach. His quotes are always terrible and/or make little sense. If you head coach can barely talk, is it any wonder that the team's biggest problem is an ability to come to play every night?

Woodson stinks, and the only reason this team has improved is because the talent has improved. Period. The offense is better this year, defense is still average.

Bronnt said...

I'm extremely frustrated because of what Woodson and the Hawks went through in order to reach this point. We watched as he let young players stay involved in some of the worst basketball the league has ever seen, and they won a total of only 13 games. And it seems like the plan back then was just to accumulate high draft picks. That said high draft pick was allowed a chance to develop, and eased his way into the rotation and is becoming a legitimately good player. No player since Marvin has had any leeway to grow and develop as a player.

Proponents of Woodson might argue that Horford was a starter from his first game, but you have to remember that Zaza was hurt to start the 2007-08 season. Horford started because Woodson had no other choice (which is when he's at his best) and he came out rebounding like he was still facing his SEC competitors (thus demonstrating that he didn't require time to develop). Despite this, Woodson attempted to force a still-hurt Zaza back into the starting role about 7 games into the year and Pachulia just didn't have his legs back. As a result, Zaza ended up in Woody's dog house up until the playoffs, and Horford stole the starting job. Woodson's rotation has barely changed since, despite several of the names on the jerseys not remaining the same.

bonitis said...

here's the headline from acie's blog post ATL_Hawk_Luv mentioned:


yeah...that about sums it up. it's already become an echo chamber, but i'll add my agreement and say that woodson's development/utilization of acie law is atrocious. it has been especially trying for me because ive always had high hopes for acie.

and im still waiting for the right time to buy my acie jersey...

acie says: http://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/IM_READY_POINT_BLANK/505025