Saturday, June 27, 2009

Keep It Classy, Coach

Mike Woodson:
"I’m not knocking Acie Law in any way shape or form but this kid [Teague] is what I’d call a true point guard. I gave Acie some opportunities, and it just didn’t work. That’s no knock on him as a player or me as a coach. Injuries probably hurt Acie the two years he was here, and honestly we just didn’t have the luxury of waiting on him when he first got here. We had to win."
I was of the opinion that Acie Law's upside was league-average point guard. Not great, but potentially better (and far more interesting) than running some combination of Royal Ivey, Tyronn Lue, and Anthony Johnson out there.

Injuries didn't help Acie Law over the course of the last two seasons but they were not the primary reason that Law failed here. Law failed because Mike Woodson didn't want or wasn't able to use Law in a manner befitting his skills. Law failed because Woodson didn't play Josh Childress enough in 2007-08, because Woodson never convinced Josh Smith to stop shooting jump shots and attack the rim, because Woodson felt he couldn't afford to play a rookie point guard two six-minute stints a night in the Winter and Spring of 2008 and still win a grand total of 37 games to sneak into the playoffs and improbably earn another contract to be the head coach of an NBA team that still has won only 37.3% of the games he's coached, and a whopping 51.2% of the games (not including the playoffs) over the last two relatively successful seasons.

Acie Law IV may not become a successful NBA player. That may be down to a lack of talent, a lack of health, or he may remain, to some degree, a victim of circumstance. It's hard to earn a job in the NBA. Mike Woodson didn't give him a fair shake. He couldn't accept Acie Law for the player he is so he banished Law to the bench. I think Woodson should take responsibility for that.

Drop the passive voice, coach. You and Acie didn't make it work. The franchise had time to wait for him to develop but you didn't. I'm empathetic to you wanting and trying to keep your job. You work in an almost total absence of media scrutiny. Take advantage of that. Relax a bit. A little honesty and direct speech would go a long way toward improving your reputation among the (still few) people that care about the Hawks.


rbubp said...

I too was astounded and frustrated by this quote. He comes as close to throwing Acie under the bus as he could without actually doing so...and then to suggest that he gave him some opportunities?

Woodson lives on a different planet than the rest of us.

Bret LaGree said...

Naw, I think this quote, like so many before it, is very human just not representative of our better attributes as a species.

rbubp said...

He's just very quick to remind us that HE tried and HE did everything he could have.

thirdfalcon said...

Or Acie Law just sucks, and is never gonna be any good. There really is no way of knowing at this point. But it's Woodson's job to win games and playing a rookie point guard is not the way to that.

I'm not saying either way, because I have no idea how well he played in practice, But you have to at least aknowledge the possibilty

This is the last time I'm gonna say this anywhere, but Law is now playing with a coach that's renowned for developing point guards. So if he can't play well in Golden State I say Woodson is absolved

Bret LaGree said...


I acknowledged Acie Law's role in his failure here throughout the post. Mike Woodson's job is to win games. Had he been as ruthless in doing so in ways other than not developing Acie Law, I'd give him a free pass but he wasn't so I'm holding him accountable for not giving Law a fair shot.

thirdfalcon said...


It's not like I think Woodson is blameless, but if Acie wasn't getting it done in practice he doesn't deserve minutes.

It's a very real possibility that he was just a bust, and was never gonna be any good no matter what Woodson did.

Bottom line, If he can't play than i'm glad he didn't.

Bret LaGree said...

I don't disagree with that, and I can't speak to Law's practice performance but I also know that Boris Diaw looked like he couldn't play under Woodson, Salim Stoudamire looked like he couldn't shoot, Josh Childress chose Greece rather than take the chance at playing behind an inferior player for another season here, and Josh Smith was allowed to shoot four-and-a-half two-point jumpers a game last season.

There's a lot of evidence I have access to that makes me question Woodson's ability to get the most from his players. On the other hand, I don't think Acie Law's a sure enough thing that I'd stake much on him definitely succeeding in Golden State or anywhere else.

Unknown said...

Bret, this might be my favorite post of yours - which is saying a ton. You already know how I feel about Mike Woodson and I've been fairly blunt about the fact that the Hawks absolutely had every opportunity to play Acie Law.

Everything Woodson has said is simply bunk...if you can find minutes for Mario West or Solomon Jones, then you can find minutes on a team that in his rookie year after the Bibby trade that NO OTHER POINT GUARD or during last season when Law was not injured and didn't have ANOTHER BACKUP POINT GUARD (save any reference to Flip Murray who is a shooting guard).

If I recall, Horford, J. Smith, and Marvin all had injuries - they got back on the court and played their roles. Even during those times - Acie sat. Acie never had a role here and that's on Woodson - I can't say Acie will be a star or a starter, I do know that after watching him relatively lock up Chris Paul, take a few stints and penetrate and dish early in the season, etc that he could easily play 12 minutes a game and get the same results from the Hawks season. Anyway, I digress...

I share your sentiments in that it was classless to say what he said unless he's going to acknowledge his role in Law's lack of a role here. In fact, he said twice that he was apologetic for not finding more time for Law, but did NOTHING to change it.

Jonathan said...

Agreed, but at least now we get to see the true Woodson.

thirdfalcon said...

Yeah he's had more than his fair share of screw-ups. Using Diaw as a guard is my personal favorite. But I don't know where your coming from om Salim. He shot 36% on threes in his time in Atlanta, and I as far as I can tell, he didn't even play last year.

I agree with Woodson about Childress coming off the bench, he was more valuable as a 6th man. Just my opinion, but I don't think he had the size or the strength to play small forward, and putting Joe at the three wouldn't have been good either.

If Childress thinks he's too good to come off the bench, then good riddence, imo.

Josh's insistence on shooting from long range is a major problem, and I'm not sure what Woodson should/could do about it. Whether or not another coach could get him to stop shooting those jumpshots is debatable.

I think the most valid critism of Woodson is in his Xs and Os. The iso-joe really needs an overhaul, and I'd like to see them change up how they defend pick-and rolls, much more often.

I'd really like to see the hawks hire offensive and Defensive coordinators, but I think Woodson is probably to proud for that.

At the end of the day, isn't that his fatal flaw? pride?

rbubp said...

I would say a notable lack of self-reflection is his biggest flaw, with big points off for profound lack of creativity and the tendency to say things he does not even remotely mean (such as talking about defense all the time but never benching those who refuse to play it).

I used to be pretty ambivalent about Woodson; his flaws are obvious but the team seems to share the ball and generally do a lot of things right. However, the closer I look the less I think he has any idea what he is doing on an NBA level.

Getting destroyed by a marginally better Cleveland team--in terms of depth and true talent--should tell you a lot about scheming, in-game adjustments, taking advantage of mismatches, creating mismatches, motivating the team to stay on the same page when things are not going well, calling plays to stop the opponent's in he does very little to none of any of that. Cleveland exposed Woody for the buffoon that he is. They did the same things over and over again both offensively and defensively, and Woody was powerless to stop it on either side of the court.

Everybody join in the Dennis Green chorus now: "He is who we think is."

thirdfalcon said...

Cleavland was a 60 win team, they were much better than us talent wise, and it was a bad matchup for us to boot. they lost to Orlando cause that was a bad matchup for them, and the talent levels of the two teams were relatively close. But i still think Cleavland would have beaten the Lakers. That's why Kobe was so intence in the finals. He knew the basketball gods gave him a gift in facing the Magic instead of the Cavs, an he didn't want to screw it up.

In addition to that, Marvin (the only player we have that can do a decent job guarding Lebron) was hurt, and Joe had a terrible series (no excuses but he looked exhausted to me).In all honestly we should have won 5 games at best.

Grading Woodson based on that series is a unfair, and saying that the Cavs, were marginally better than us ridiculous.

Now I agree with you that his Xs and Os are subpar and his in game tactics are questionable, but the players seem to listen to him for the most part, and they follow the gameplan. Hell the fact that they haven't quit on him after 5 years at a 37% winng percentage is in itself impresive. And it's not likes any of his teams have underachieved.

This team had a good season last year, and if everything breaks right this offseason, I think we can have a better one this season. and I don't think that's in spite of Woodson.

rbubp said...

"Cleveland minus LeBron is a lottery team"--Jerry West

thirdfalcon said...

They had the far and away the best player in the series, by huge margin. His PER was something like 15 points higher than Joe's. They had the best big man in the series, Ilguaskas, and we didn't have anyone that can guard either with Z's height advantage and Marvin hobbled. They had plnenty of shooters to exploit double teams, were a better defensive team, and a much better rebounding team.

I don't really know what advantage you think we could have exploited over them. But your gonna have to give me something other than a quote from someone who's not even really involved in basketball in any kind of decision making capatity anymore. If you want me to believe that Cleavland's talent was only "marginally" better than ours anyway.

Xavier said...

I had no problem with the quote because at the end of the day, Woodson had to produce wins. And this is not the 1st time nor the last a player will perform below expectations within an organization. As much as people complain about Woody, I think the Hawks are right where they should be. Behind Cle., Bos., and Orl. Until the management situation is resolved no matter who is coaching the Hawks we will be in the same position. I sure when the Hawks win 54 or 55 games this and improve a little more, people will still complain.

rbubp said...

Ok, I've got a fantasy here: What if we sign Bibby for 5 mil this year and next, let Marvin go, and use the rest to get Hedo at 10 mil per year for five years (which I hear is what he wants)? Is anything left over for Zaza?

Shoot, if we got Hedo we might not even need Bibby, actually.

thirdfalcon said...

you think Bibby doesn't play defense, at least he tried. Wait until you have to watch Hedo for 82 games.

If we did that though, we'd have about 10 million left, so yeah we could definatly resign Zaza. I don't think 5 is gonna get it done for Bibby though, if we don't offer him at least more than the midlevel, the Cleavlands, or the Bostons of the world will snatch him up.

jrauch said...

Mike Woodson, keepin' it classy.

As some others noted, for someone who can find minutes for Mario West and Solomon Jones, being unable to adapt to Acie Law's skills, or at least trying to put him in a position to be successful — which is a coach's job — is a complete failure on Woodson's part.

And I think that's Woodson's primary flaw, an inability to adapt to the changing circumstances around him. Its why we still run Iso-Joe five years after the fact, even though we have completely competent interior players.

I've watched enough Hawks games during this befuddling tenure that I'm convinced this isn't "X player sucks, so why should Woody play him" and more and more of this is on the coach.

rbubp said...

Part of the issue is the need to center everything around Joe. This is why we must have a PG who stays on the perimeter and makes shots--because Joe is not really a spot-up shooter (though he can do that), he's primarily a mismatch-maker who drives or posts up and draws defenders. There's not room for all those guards in the lane, so going to the lane is Joe's a 2, which is unusual (except perhaps for Kobe, which is part of the reason the Lakers never have a good PG.

So Acie's strength, driving and dishing, was counter to the skill set and offensive philosophy of the first team. His inability to shoot from outside hurt his playing time significantly.

What is unexplained is why a situational role could not have been developed, especially since he may have actually been a better defender than Mario West or any other perimeter player, and he did drive the lane better than any other guard other than Flip.

The other unexplained part is why they drafted him in the first place if his skill set was not suitable to the system in place. You all will recall the rhetoric at the was not different than the rhetoric about Teague. There was much lauding Acie's maturity and ability to contribute right away, as opposed to, say, Mike Conley (not that I think they should have taken Conley).

I know the GM has final say on the players and coaches, but I also know that no GM is going to make an enemy of the coach by getting players the coach does not want (see Isaiah Thomas/Larry Brown, Knicks 2006) or be stupid enough to get players than are not suited to the team's identity.
So I have to assume that Woody wanted Law despite his skill set clashing with the system.

thirdfalcon said...

Acie was never supposed to be a penetrating point guard, he was supposed to be a shooter that could drive as long defenders respected his jumpshot.

I think we've seen enough of him to know he's not lightning quick. Dude shot .458 on threes his sophomore year. Problem is, he couldn't shoot an NBA three. Or he couldn't shoot a contested three. Whatever the case he wasn't an effective long-range shooter with the Hawks, and his first-step isn't quick enough to make up for that.

Bottom line, he is never gonna be a quality NBA player if his defender thinks he can sag off on him, and I don't see what would make anyone think otherwise

rbubp said...

I know we like to disagree, TF. I didn't go into my research for the Cavs talent argument because it was really off-thread. This isn't, though, so here's some Acie Law pre-draft scouting reports. Despite the excellent three-point shooting as senior, all reports give him a quick first step and marginal long-range shooting. I acknowledge that they could have been wrong, but I have to assume this is what the Hawks thought they were getting:

scouting Report*

Positives: Blessed with fluid body control and a quick initial step, Law is equally proficient as a scorer or passer...Despite giving up considerable bulk to forwards and centers, he has a very aggressive nature driving the lane...Has a smooth mid-range shot ...Lacks blazing speed, but has the smooth running stride to lead the fast break...Needs to refine his shooting mechanics, but demonstrates quick feet and good balance slashing to the basketMoves up and down the court with good quickness and can simply glide through the air and draw fouls when going to the basket...Has a nasty hesitation move to take his man off-balance and shows good adjustment skills on crossover action...Consistently gets the opponent to bite on fakes and is very creative executing the spin moves while taking proper angles in his attack of the rim...Can drive to the basket with authority and has excellent stop-and-go quickness and acceleration...Determined to push the ball forward and puts a lot of pressure on his opponent with his slashing charge to the basket...Has a nice mid-range pull-up shot and while he needs to improve his strength to consistently get through traffic at the next level, he can put pressure on the defense and force his man out of the paint with his baseline fade-away...Best when shooting off the dribble, but also shows good elevation...Comes up with a lot of steals with his aggressiveness, wingspan and large hands to disrupt the passing lane...At his best when firing jumpers and floaters from the 12-15 foot range...Also effective at scoring in transition, showing good determination driving to the rim and finishing at the hoop...Compensates for a lack of blazing speed with an array of fakes and the ability to outthink his man...Better driving to the rim from his right, but can lay the ball in with either hand...His hard charge to the net easily defeats the opponent's double-team activity...Good at executing the bounce pass and has the lateral agility to change direction and fire in a floater...Likes to use the glass on his fade-away shot and would be an ideal fit in an up-tempo attack.

Negatives: Long-range accuracy is below-average and he's a marginal NBA 3-point shooter (only 11.4 percent of his 3-point shots were from NBA range)...Has a low release point on his long-range jumper and is better attacking the basket than shooting outside...NGets into a rhythm where he will fire at will, but once he starts missing, his mechanical flaws become more evident...

Compares To: SAM CASSELL, Los Angeles Clippers. Law is maturing as a court general and while he has good ball-handling skills, he is more of a shooting guard trapped in the point guard position, much like Cassell and Allen Iverson. Some have compared Law to Kenny Anderson, but Anderson was a superior passer. He plays the game with good court vision and intelligence, but is a rhythm shooter who lacks the long-range shooting ability past the 15-foot mark.


*edited for post length rule.

rbubp said...

(I am now even more concerned about picking Jeff Teague.)

thirdfalcon said...

Nice info Rbubp,

I tend to forget what i read on scouting reports, because I don't really trust them (remember the SI scouts view at the start of the season? lol). I figure that if someone is really good at scouting, he's likely working for an NBA team already, and we're unlikely to get his take on a player.

But I guess I was wrong about how Law was projected coming out of college. I still think he's gonna have to develop an outside shot though. His quickness isn't anything special imo.

Maybe playing in Don Nelson's system will bring out the best in him, it certainly wouldn't be the first time someone left Atlanta and found life in a different role (see Diaw, Boris).

Also i little about me, I'm a arguer by nature. I know things have gotten a bit heated between us, but please know it's not personal. I think your a smart guy, and I've enjoyed debating/arguing with you the past couple of days

jrauch said...

If Acie Law is successful in Oaktown, could we consider the final indictment of Woodson's total inability to put young players in a position to, you know, develop (namely Diaw, Law and to a certain extent, Horford)?

thirdfalcon said...

That would make Woodson look pretty bad, yeah.

rbubp said...

Mutually understood and respected, TF.

I too think that Law needs to shoot better. My only point is that I think the Hawks knew he wasn't a good fit and took him anyway, then did not give him much chance to improve on the court in live games (where it matters most).

And now it looks like we drafted someone whose profile is nearly identical! Arrgggh...

Yes, Turkoglu is a bad fit. Birdman would be nice.
Can we trade Teague for a vet that Woody will use?

thirdfalcon said...

And now we come full circle. We drafted Acie because Billy Knight thought he had to take a Point Guard. Same as Sund thinking we had to take a point guard this year.

Which brings us back to our original argument about draft philosophy. Your ready to trade Teague already, which is the main reason i think you should always draft the best available player, if he's good but doesn't fit in with your system, you can always trade him. But if he theoretically fits into your system and sucks he's just dead weight

I will try to give you some hope about Teague though. His skills (along with his weaknesses) are more defined than Law's were. Law was a bit more well-rounded, but that's not always better in the NBA, not below a certain talent level anyway.

rbubp said...

Ok, ok...I'm gonna let this go after this.

Law and Teague are NOT point guards. Never were. They are COMBO guards. Like Joe Johnson, Flip Murray, and Jamal Crawford. Yes, we already have three of them.

jrauch said...

I think a larger point to be made about Acie Law is that pick, in hindsight, shows the growing schism between Billy Knight and Woody.

Billy delivers a point guard thar arguably fits the mold for what the team might need: A distributor who likes to run the floor, has a little bit of a mid-range jumper, but loves to drive and kick and get on the break.
Would work great, in theory, with a bunch of 6'9" gazelles running the floor all day, right?

Instead, we shoe-horn this kid into iso-Joe and have him try to jack up spot-up 3's as the shot clock expires because Joe dribbled the air out of the ball while three guys played to his side of the floor. Coach hates him for some ill-defined reason (surely wasn't being less talented than Mario West, that's not possible) that's never fully explained, and his minutes get yanked around so much he covers up an injury to stay in whatever semblance of a rotation Woody uses at the end of the bench. And, just when the kid appears to earn some minutes, he gets some bad breaks, gets injured and is back to square one again. Rinse, repeat.

All while Billy is trying to fire Woody, then leaves in a huff because ownership backs one boob over the other.

I think its any wonder why Acie's dad didn't bum rush Woodson on the floor and cold-cock him at some point this season.

Its the roundabout way of saying that within three years now, we don't know what we have/had with Acie, and that's totally an indictment of the coach. But it shows Woody and Billy weren't exactly communicating on what would be the best fit at that position.