Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 100 Wizards 89



What a difference two regular season wins make. Joe Johnson:
"We've got enough guys to score the basketball, make plays, defend and rebound. I don’t think that's ever going to be a factor. As long as everybody just stays focused and confident and keeps the negative out, we're going to be fine."
Note to self: it sucks to lose, take post-loss quotes with a grain of empathetic salt.

Mike Woodson says what the fans want to hear:
"I think we have enough players that we can spread it around. There will be nights when Jamal is probably going to lead us in scoring. There's going to be nights when Al is going to lead us in scoring, and the same goes for Marvin and [Josh]. We have enough offensive weapons if they just buy into sharing the basketball, and the minutes they get, they make the most of them."
Then he does one for himself:
"But you win in this league on the defensive end, in terms of defending and rebounding. And tonight, we made a serious effort to defend and rebound the ball."
Josh Smith blocked the 900th shot of his career last night. He's the youngest player to reach that milestone. Soon thereafter, he became the youngest player to block 901 shots.

"I wasn't thinking about it. I was just thinking about getting a win. Any individual accolades can wait. I'd rather get the W."
Brendan Haywood continues to make one compliment his fine defense, rebounding, and competent offensive game through gritted teeth by saying something like this about the officiating after an 11-point loss wherein Josh Smith sat out the last 3:33 of the second quarter and 9:41 of the third quarter in foul trouble:
"Some of it was them being aggressive and some of it was stuff I can't comment on."
Ladies and gentlemen, the subtle wit of Mr. Haywood.

What does Truth About It say, um, about it?
Atlanta was also 31-34 from the free-throw line while the Wizards shot 14-22. The disparity seems dramatic, but the Wizards migrated between trying to carelessly attack the basket and settling for jumpers. So in that regard, the Wiz really don’t have anyone to blame but themselves … but I’ll also credit Atlanta’s defense just a tad.
Joe Smith made the 30th three-point basket of his career last night. 22 of those makes came prior to the summer of 1997. He was on a nasty 4-41 streak behind the arc from 1997 through 2008 but has made 4 of 7 since December 23, 2008.

Drew wins best Nick Young line of the night:
Cure for Mike Bibby's defensive liability? Nick Young.
It's funny because it's true.

Anyone who's not Mike Miller* or DeShawn Stevenson should check out
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly at The Vent.

*Unless he's willing to take its contents as constructive criticism.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hawks 100 Wizards 89


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
47.5 17.7
18.2 16.3
ATL 91 1.099 44.2

Before tonight's game, Mike Woodson, when asked about the possible difficulty of learning very much about his team in the atypically fast-paced and high-possession* game Wednesday night, answered:
"It was a fast pace but Indiana forces you to play that way. I'm not too strong on always racing up and down the floor but they forced our hand to do it. I thought when we had to defend coming down the stretch that's when we really stepped up. We held them to 15 points in the fourth quarter and that's huge. That's when you've got to get it done and I thought our guys stepped up and met the challenge."
*The 101 possessions in the first game were more than in any Hawks game last season.

The Hawks didn't wait four quarters to step up defensively tonight. They didn't even wait four minutes. Gilbert Arenas had 5 points and an assist in the first 3:35 to guide Washington to a quick 12-4 lead. Mike Woodson called timeout and from that point forward the Hawks allowed 12 points on Washington's 17 subsequent first quarter possessions, scored 25 points on their 17 remaining first quarter possessions and built a five-point lead they would never relinquish.

Jamal Crawford and Maurice Evans keyed a strong effort off the bench, first by shoring up the defense, in relief of Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby respectively, in the second half of the first quarter. Evans scored eight points on three shots and played solid defense for all of the 16 minutes and 34 seconds he spent on the court. Crawford had a nice start to the game on the offensive end as well, making four of his first five field goal attempts, getting to the free throw line, earning a couple of assists, and not turning the ball over.

Crawford kept shooting but didn't keep making his shots. Just as it appeared Crawford might shoot Washington back into the game* Mike Woodson did what Jim O'Brien failed to do Wednesday night. Woodson accepted what he'd gotten form his bench and turned the game over to his starters. With 8:42 left and Washington within seven, Mike Bibby re-entered the game, ball movement re-entered the Hawks' half-court offense, and Washington never drew closer. That's how it should be. Jamal Crawford was acquired to shoot the ball. It's his primary skill as a basketball player. It's Woodson's responsibility to let or not let him shoot as best serves the team.

*Crawford made one of his last six field goal attempts.

In that fourth quarter, Marvin Williams scored 9 of his 10 points. Josh Smith scored 9 of his 20 points. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby combined for the other 7 points and 3 assists. The bench's collective fourth quarter line: 5:03 played, 0-1 FGA, 1 turnover. Woodson could lean so heavily on the starters because they were rested. Johnson played a second over 30 minutes. Josh Smith (who suffered from some minor foul trouble in the second and third quarters) played 29:08. Bibby played 32:21. Marvin Williams played 31:43. Only Al Horford (12 more rebounds, 3 offensive) played heavy minutes.

Eight of the ten Hawks who played last night recorded a positive +/-. Joe Johnson's was 0. Jeff Teague was the straggler at -2. This happened because Woodson kept the matchups favorable. He rested the starters when he could afford to do so and thus he could turn to them when they were needed. Crawford, Evans, and Pachulia are good reserves. Joe Smith and Jeff Teague are going to be overqualified as ninth and tenth men most nights. There's no need to complicate matters as O'Brien did Wednesday night, or Flip Saunders, without Caron Butler* in the second half, did in allowing Nick Young to double his 0-fer (from 0-4 to 0-8) in the first four minutes of the second half before putting the superior Randy Foye in the game for the duration.

*He suffered a bruised knee courtesy of contesting a loose ball with Zaza Pachulia.

It's only two games, and two home games at that, but the Hawks have shown some promising signs: in getting to the free throw line fairly frequently, by controlling the defensive glass, and, perhaps most importantly, Josh Smith has taken 21 field goals through two games and 16 of those attempts have been at the rim. Of the remaining five, one was a result of a failed attempt to penetrate rather than a desire to shoot a jump and another, the only of the five field goal attempts away from the basket he's made, was a 16-footer taken at the end of the shot clock with 34.4 seconds left in a game the Hawks led 98-89.

The upcoming trip to West Coast will likely reveal more about this team but the first two games have provided little reason for concern.

October 30th Game Thread: Washington (1-0) @ Atlanta (1-0)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Wizards


WASHINGTON INJURY REPORT: Antawn Jamison and Javaris Crittenton are out.


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Truth About It, Bullets Forever

PREVIOUSLY, THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS...beat the Mavericks 102-91 in Dallas Tuesday night. Gilbert Arenas made a triumphant return, scoring 29 points on 21 shots and earning 9 assists. Andray Blatche scored 20 points off the bench to make up for Antawn Jamison's absence on a night when Caron Butler (6-17 FGA) struggled to find the basket. Randy Foye matched Blatche's 8-14 mark from the field and allowed Flip Saunders to leave Nick Young and Mike James on the bench the entire night. There may be a correlation between that and winning this year for the Wizards. Sadly, JaVale McGee played just 42 seconds.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts. Daily Dime Live Starts at 7pm

Join me for a chat, won't you?

Season-Long Theme: Backcourt Defense

This may or may not be a regular* feature, but with little news prior to tonight's game I thought I'd take a moment and look at one game's worth of evidence regarding one of my areas of concern: backcourt defense.

Pacers @ Hawks, 10.28.09

First, the two-man backcourts...

BackcourtDef PossOpp PtsDef Eff

As for three-man backcourts, the Hawks played Joe Johnson at small forward for just three defensive possessions. Atlanta allowed 3 points on 2 possessions with the Teague/Crawford/Johnson backcourt on the floor and 0 points on 1 possession with the Bibby/Crawford/Johnson backcourt on the floor.

There aren't, of course, many definitive conclusions to draw from such a small sample size. The Bibby/Johnson backcourt allowed the fewest points but also got to play the most against Indiana's TJ Ford/Brandon Rush backcourt. How much credit for Indiana's starting backcourt's offensive struggles should go to Bibby and Johnson and how much blame should be assigned to the Pacers is, as far as I'm concerned, an open question but at least now we know what happened.

Here's a table of the on-court defensive efficiencies for each player mentioned in this post:

PlayerDef PossOpp PtsDef Eff

Lest anyone get too concerned about Jeff Teague's defense, the Hawks scored 33 points during the 27 offensive possessions (Off Eff: 1.222) for which he was on the floor. For the game, the Hawks scored 1.188 points per possession.

*Regular in the sense of bi-weekly, monthly, etc. It will almost certainly not be a regular feature after each game.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 120 Pacers 109



Al Horford:
"It's just the first game. We can't make too many judgments. But we are trying to make an effort to play better and we needed to shut them down inside and we did a good job of that when it mattered late."
Joe Johnson:
"There's no doubt Josh and Al carried us in the first half and that's big. I knew I had to step it up after halftime because I was pressing a little too much early. But when you have those guys going off like that on both ends of the floor we're a tougher team to deal with."
Mike Woodson, on Josh Smith and Horford:
"They really did a great job of protecting the paint. [Smith] made some unbelievable blocks when guys had plays right at the rim and he came form nowhere and got the block and we were able to secure the ball and go the other way. We really need those two guys to be shot blockers as well as to protect our paint."
Josh Smith:
"You're going to have nights like this, when the other team is shooting lights out and you're forced to play outside of your comfort zone a little bit. We wanted to clamp down on the defensive end and put the onus ourselves to get stops when it mattered and I think we did that...I know it wasn’t the sort of defensive masterpiece coach loves to see, but it turned out positive for us in the end."
Mo Evans:
"I feel like we kind of succumbed to the way they wanted to play and to the rotation they wanted us to use instead of milking that newly formed bench we brought in here. We’ve got to learn how to trust our second unit as well to go out there and play. We’ve got a lot of talent over there and I think we got a little nervous because they were out there making shots and then we had to extend our starters’ minutes a little longer than we probably wanted. That’s not going to work during those stretches when we have four games in five or six nights."
Mike Woodson:
"We’re all trying to get used to one another. They’re especially trying to get used to me and what I’m expecting when they’re out on the floor."
I had no problems with the distribution of bench minutes. Mo Evans had a very nice game but Marvin Williams is a better player. There will be nights when Jamal Crawford or Zaza Pachulia or maybe even Jeff Teague are playing better than a starter but last night wasn't one of those nights. So let's hold off on criticizing the coach on this issue until it's, you know, an issue.

If you really want to vent about something, note the apparent return of the Horford Treatment: Marvin Williams sat the last 2:43 of the first half after picking up his second foul and Josh Smith sat out the last 41.1 seconds of the first half after picking his second foul.

The Human Highlight Blog:
Game One also showed some of how Woodson may plan to deploy his bench and not use Mike Bibby so much. In what was not a settled game until the fourth quarter wound down, Bibby still logged just (30) minutes. He used that rest to make three big fourth quarter shots that gave the Hawks the lead and then put it out of reach. Two of the buckets were bombs that were standard issue open Bibby looks, but the 2-pointer sandwiched in between was a runner in the lane in which Bibby seemed to lose the handle on, but was able to sneak it by the taller players inside and get the bucket. That basket gave the Hawks a (4) point lead with 7 1/2 minutes left and the Hawks never trailed again.
It was nice to see you too, department: CoCo has the good, the bad, and the ugly over at The Vent. I presume Hawk Str8Talk will have a recap once Larry recovers from witnessing Al Horford's IMPRESSIVE performance.

Be warned, the bar for describing Horford's performance has been set high atPeachtree Hoops:
Oooohhhh, Mr. Horford. I love you when you average 10 and 8. So 24 and 16 is going to cause problems for my marriage.
To answer Joe Johnson's earlier question again, yes, that is a guy writing.

Mark Bradley:
[Joe Johnson] deferred to Josh Smith and Al Horford for a half, and then the Hawks’ best player reminded us that, even though this team has more good players than at any time in two decades, he’s still the Hawks’ best player. And if that’s the new method — let others get involved early and let JJ save it for later — it just might work.
Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star has a nice piece on Indianapolis native Jeff Teague.

John Hollinger:
It’s a simple concept, really: get the rebound, throw it to a guard, and run.

Unfortunately, the Pacers were so focused on the “and run” part on Wednesday that they glossed over “throw it to a guard” on several occasions. Indiana made a whopping 25 turnovers in a frenetic 120-109 loss to the Hawks, and by my count at least six of them came in the backcourt while trying to advance the ball upcourt.

Each time, an Indiana player rebounded the ball and tried to throw it ahead to T.J. Ford or Earl Watson to push it upcourt. Each time, a Hawks defender was sitting on the outlet pass and pried the ball away from the Pacers.
Let's all spare a thought for Jared Wade of Eight Points, Nine Seconds:
Right after Solomon Jones entered the game, he found himself playing helpside D when the ball-handler was in the corner and his man was near the opposite elbow. He stood there under the basket, wildly looking back and forth between his two responsibilities and seemed to be overwhelmed by all the excitement going on around him.

I’ll chalk this up to Solo still being inexperienced and having nerves due to the fact that he is trying to carve out a role on a new team that he might actually be able to get burn for. But Solomon Jones looked lost and frenetic out there — and it wasn’t just on this one play.
That Indiana went with Jones as Hibbert's backup rather than the smaller, quicker, and more talented Jeff Foster may be an indication that other NBA teams do not consider Al Horford as undersized a center as do some Hawks fans. Or it might just mean that Foster was playing hurt.

A couple times last night, I forgot for a second that Brandon Rush doesn't play for Kansas anymore before I'd remember and feel the peace of not having to be frustrated by him anymore. Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows does not feel that peace:
Despite the quibble about Dahntay being TOO aggressive, I'd much rather have that than what Brandon Rush ended up offering tonight. After a decent start and a couple of nice buckets in the lane, Rush wasn't able to rev up his game to match the intensity of the game. After a pair of turnovers where he literally just lost the ball on the dribble, JOB kept him tethered to the bench. Won't be surprised to see Dahntay starting on Friday.
In the long term, I like Jeff Teague a lot. Still, I note that, in his NBA debut, DeJuan Blair scored 14 points on 10 shots, grabbed 11 rebounds (5 offensive), and earned 3 assists against 2 turnovers all in 23 minutes. Blair needs a nickname. Forward your suggestions to @kpelton.

In another debut, Ty Lawson scored 17 points points on 13 shots and earned 6 assists against a single turnover. It would have been nice to get more than one of the underrated players available at the bottom of the first round.

Lest I injure myself in the act of premature self-congratulation, I should also note that Jonny Flynn had a very nice debut for the Timberwolves.

If you've made it this far, let me know what you think about the switch to two post-game posts per game: the game recap appearing at night and quotes, notes, and links in the morning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hawks 120 Pacers 109


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
IND 101
60.3 28.8
18.2 24.7
ATL 101 1.19 56.9

Through a little more than three quarters, Jim O'Brien got a lot out of Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson. Then he asked them for more and learned they'd given all they had. Through a little more than three quarters, Mike Woodson got a lot from Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Joe Johnson. He asked for more and he got it (plus a couple big baskets from Mike Bibby to get from 100-101 to 105-101). There's no better decision an NBA coach can make than to put his best players on the floor.

In O'Brien's defense, neither TJ Ford nor Brandon Rush made a strong case for fourth quarter playing time but no matter how frustrating the distance between their talent and their production, they're better players than Watson and Jones. To expect more from the reserves (especially Watson, who visibly tired early in the fourth) who had, unexpectedly given so much, was equal parts greed and foolishness and neither a sound short-term nor long-term strategy.

Indiana provided further aid to the Hawks by spending their offensive possessions not letting Danny Granger touch the ball during the 10-point Hawks run that turned a one-point deficit into a 110-101 lead for the home team. On four consecutive scoreless possessions, Indiana posted up Roy Hibbert, Dahntay Jones, Hibbert again (this possession ended with a rushed, missed three by Granger), and Troy Murphy. In 9:44 of fourth quarter playing time, Granger scored four points on just three field goal and three free throw attempts. The Hawks (with Joe Johnson rather than Marvin Williams providing the initial effort) defended Granger better in the fourth quarter but Indiana also made them defend him less.

The first three quarters offered little solace for any Hawks fans that spent the summer worrying about perimeter defense and rebounding. Mike Bibby began the game guarding Brandon Rush with Joe Johnson marking the quicker Ford. Rush beating Bibby off the dribble for a lay-in began a procession that included Dahntay Jones beating Jamal Crawford off the dribble twice, beating Mo Evans off the dribble, successfully posting up Mike Bibby, Luther Head beating Crawford off the dribble, and Earl Watson making an uncontested layup and an uncontested three on consecutive possessions (with the help of Troy Murphy screens) against Jeff Teague and Joe Smith.

On the other end of the floor, the Hawks' offense offered little cause worry at any point during the night. Josh Smith took an ill-advised, unnecessary 21-footer with 5:58 left in the first quarter then did not take another jump shot the rest of the game, choosing instead to create offense for himself (He made 7 of his 9 remaining field goal attempts.) and others. He was credited with 8 assists against a single turnover, almost all a result of attacking the basket.

Al Horford took advantage of his mobility against the plodding duo of Hibbert and Solomon Jones to find ample open space. His teammates found him frequently in these dangerous scoring positions. The offensive load didn't prevent Horford also pulling down 13 of Atlanta's 27 defensive rebounds in 33:31 of the team's 240 minutes. Mo Evans chipped in 12 points on 5 shots in 15:08 before Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby took over in the fourth quarter. The starting backcourt combined for 17 points on 17 shots with 8 assists and 5 turnovers through three quarters. They combined for 18 points on 11 shots with 3 assists against a single turnover in the fourth, scoring or assisting on 20 of Atlanta's 25 fourth quarter points.

Little went according to plan on opening night. There were obvious examples of improvements possibly made and obvious areas where improvement is possibly needed. I'm hesitant to think I learned too much tonight if only because the Hawks are unlikely to play another 100+ possession game this season (barring multiple overtimes). It was a good win, born out of talent and improvisation. If this proves to be a successful season, I think those characteristics, more than anything else, will be what one remembers about opening night.

Quotes, notes, and links in the morning.

Opening Night Game Thread: Indiana (0-0) @ Atlanta (0-0)

TIP-OFF: 7pm


RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Pacers


INDIANA INJURY REPORT: Mike Dunleavy, Travis Diener, and Tyler Hansbrough are out. Jeff Foster is questionable. Danny Granger is doubtful a game-time decision.


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Eight Points Nine Seconds, Indy Cornrows

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

30 Reasons To Celebrate The New Season

Optimism. Unrelenting positivity. (Not this positive or optimistic, but still plenty positive.) 30 reasons, one for every team, to celebrate the new season.

Atlanta: Marvin Williams successfully consolidates his developing and disparate talents into a coherent whole thus making his value obvious to even the casual observer.

Boston: Glen "Seems like he should be more likable than I find him" Davis's unfortunate college reunion gives Shelden Williams his last, best chance to make a positive impact for an NBA team.

Charlotte: Larry Brown's accomplished a lot of great things in his career. Greatness is unlikely to be present in Charlotte this season so we'll settle for a small, good thing when this team that defends so well and scores so fitfully forces observers, even if only temporarily, to consider the canard "Defense wins championships."

Chicago: I honestly believe that this is the year that Vinny Del Negro learns Mr. Hinrich's first name.

Cleveland: I don't know if this will be the last year that LeBron James is the best small forward in the league or the first year that he's the best power forward in the league but the best player in the world is evolving.

Dallas: Rick Carlisle embraces Drew Gooden's unpredictability and gives him regular minutes. Gooden repays the trust by spear-heading a four-headed monster (Gooden, Dampier, Marion, and Humphries) of offensive rebounding that devastates opponents on the relatively rare ocassions that a Maverick misses a jump shot.

Denver: Ty Lawson per 36 pre-season minutes: 22.1 points, 6.4 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 4.1 steals.

Detroit: Will Bynum wins one for all the underemployed point guards out there.

Golden State: Anthony Randolph somehow becomes more effective and more sui generis.

Houston: The results of the conscious half of the great usage experiment.

Indiana: I'm not down on Jim O'Brien but neither am I predicting him to work a miracle in Indiana this year. Still, if Mike Dunvleavy, Jr. returns at close to full health, this could be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference in calender year 2010.

LA Clippers: One hopes that Blake Griffin's physical gifts extend into the realm of healing quickly.

LA Lakers: You got your Ron Artest in my triangle. You got your triangle in my Ron Artest.

Memphis: The torch is going to be passed, but from Iverson to Mayo or from Iverson to Rudy Gay? There's also the chance that Hamed Haddadi outplays Hasheen Thabeet.

Miami: Michael Beasley reduces his reliance on the jump shot and begins to fulfill his potential to be a largely unstoppable offensive force.

Milwaukee: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute moving his feet defensively. All-Defensive Team voters, take notice.

Minnesota: #1 off-season bargain, Ramon Sessions, puts Jonny Flynn in perspective.

New Jersey: Chris Douglas-Roberts' coming-out party (begins Wednesday in Minnesota) makes League Pass worth it all by itself.

New Orleans: A prayer for patience from Byron Scott and simplicity from Julian Wright doubles as a prayer for Chris Paul.

New York: The backcourt's thin and Nate Robinson's in a contract year.

Oklahoma City: Meaningful Spring games are likely a year away but the joy of discovery has yet to grow stale.

Orlando: The defense will be constant, there will be nights when the offense consists of nothing but layups, dunks, free throws, and open three-pointers, and we will wonder how the Magic ever lose.

Philadelphia: Marreese Speights gets a taste of his own importance and takes the steps to make himself physically capable of playing the volume of minutes his (offensive) talent demands.

Phoenix: As manifestation of a dry sense of humor, Steve Kerr trades for Marcus Landry.

Portland: Nate McMillan leverages his over-abundance of talent by raising the number of possessions per Trailbazer game.

Sacramento: Either Paul Westphal molds this motely collection of defenders into a recognizable resistance force or they're going to have to scramble to outscore the opposition every single night. Both scenarios are must-see.

San Antonio: The model franchise takes a final shot at a championship with its current core. I anticipate both a worthy effort and the coming reconstitution of the team.

Toronto: It's not the Wizards, but the Raptors who possess the highest degree of variability in the Eastern Conference. It's eminently plausible all the parts to fit together and things work according to plan but, with few overlapping parts, it could all far apart with a significant injury to almost anyone. Fourth with 48 wins? Eleventh with 32 wins? Neither would surprise me.

Utah: Kosta Koufos, darkhorse Most Improved Player candidate.

Washington: While learning on the job, JaVale McGee will do shocking things, and, not being a Wizards fan, the bad shocks won't get me down.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Previews


Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

"The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. ... Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he's the Hawks' best player."


Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

"It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment."


Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

"Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck."


Matt McHale | By the Horns

"During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them."


John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

"After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation ... However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this season is whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring."


Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“'Rebuilding' teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions."


Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

"The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve."


Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

"However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep."


Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

"Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin."


Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

"The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football ... Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter."


Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

"It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. ... Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee."


Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

"[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season."


Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

"God, is it good to be hated again."


Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

"The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?"


Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

"38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck."


Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

"If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs."


Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin' T-Wolf

"Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. ... The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota."


Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

"Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any chance the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer."


Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan | Hornets247

"Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move."


Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

"2010 could be New York's return to winning."


Royce Young | Daily Thunder

"The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game."


Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

"Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago."


Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

"The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space."


Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

"Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. ... There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball."


Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

"The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids."


Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

"Enter Tyreke Evans -- a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose."


Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year."



"How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?"


Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

"With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat 'If we can stay healthy.'"


Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

"Flip Saunders has never gotten a team 'there.' That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. ... 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place."


* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.

TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers...and the best guess from Hoopinion.

Crowd Says: 45-37
Hoopinion Says: 44-38

The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

It’s tempting, in the transactional flurry of the off-season, to assume that if a team’s not busy getting better, it’s getting worse. When all that exists is potential, reward can overshadow risk and the act of reconstituting a 47-win team fails to capture the imagination.

Even a partisan fan, given the choice between the obvious appeal of believing that Jamal Crawford directly replaces the 575 unproductive minutes of the players for whom he was traded (Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton) rather than Flip Murray’s 1975 minutes of excellent production, Mike Bibby will age gracefully, the team’s 3-point shooting will be as bountiful and accurate as in 2008-09, that Jeff Teague is historically unique in being capable of contributing as a rookie point guard drafted outside the lottery, there will be more (and/or better) shots for the young frontcourt of Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia will stay healthy for a second consecutive season, and, if he doesn’t, that Joe Smith will provide a better insurance policy than Solomon Jones would will all come true and vault the Hawks into contention for the Eastern Conference championship, or, a more sober appraisal of the objective evidence that the 2009-10 team will look an awful lot like the 2008-09 team, will fall out of the divisional race fairly early but will fight to the end for the fourth seed and its accompanying home court advantage, will win or lose a close first-round series, and, if the former occurs, might even win a second-round playoff game can be excused for feeling dissatisfied with an off-season agenda that first did no harm.

The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. Instead, a bifurcated ownership group, former GM Billy Knight, Mike Woodson, and current GM Rick Sund have worked (if not always together) to assemble the best Hawks team in a decade, a 44 to 50-win squad almost certain to make the playoffs in the East for a third consecutive season. The franchise’s barren years were too recent and lasted too long for Hawks fans to feel wholly impatient about this new approach.

A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

They've put a lot of time and hard work into becoming the runner-up to third place in the NBA. And that's just sad. (Matt Moore)

A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

@zaza27: I’m glad it worked out and glad to be part of this team. And one more thing:HAWKS FANS U R THE BEST. Thanks for all the support. Love yo

Already a beloved fashion plate, rebounder, and committer of hard fouls, Zaza Pachulia secures his fan favorite status on the occasion of signing his new, four-year, $19 million contract. Hawks fans love yo, too, Zaza. They love yo, too.

Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

Mike Bibby, speaking to Mike Woodson on the subject of Josh Smith during the first half Game 7 of the Heat series as reported by Sekou Smith:
“If you don’t want me to throw to him put him somewhere else. He’s wide
[@*&$percent] open. Wide open. What do you want me to do? If you don’t want
him shooting that then put him somewhere else. You tell him.”
By winning the first-round playoff series, Mike Woodson assured his return to the Hawks’ sideline this year. By pointing out a long-standing conceptual flaw in the Hawks’ half-court spacing, Mike Bibby assured himself a more welcome reception than a 31-year-old point guard who can’t play defense would expect to receive upon being re-signed for three more years.

Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 10th
Defense: 12th
Pace: 24th

Team Factor Strength(s): Free Throws Allowed (5th), Turnovers (6th tied)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Defensive Rebounding (24th)

The Hawks didn’t win 10 more games in 2008-09 than they did in 2007-08 by playing significantly better defense (They improved from slightly below average to slightly above average.) or by rebounding better (Josh Childress’s departure wasn’t as significant a loss as some, this observer included, feared but his offensive rebounding wasn’t adequately replaced.) but by improving significantly in the fundamental area most often taken for granted: making shots. The 2007-08 Hawks made 47.3 percent of their 2-point shots. The 2008-09 Hawks made 49 percent of their 2-point attempts. That helped, but more importantly, the Hawks went from attempting one out of every six field goals from beyond the arc in 2007-08 and making 35.6 percent of them to attempting one out of every four field goals from beyond the arc in 2008-09 and making 36.6 percent of them. The improvement was a team effort. Mike Bibby and Josh Smith bettered their career 3-point field goal percentages. Flip Murray, Maurice Evans, and Marvin Williams each set career highs in 3-pointers made, attempted, and 3-point field goal percentage. Whether this was a sustainable, systemic improvement or just a confluence of unlikely performances will go a long way toward determining whether the Hawks’ win total in 2009-10 is closer to 47 or 37.

Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What's the play?

On a decisive possession it’s widely known that Joe Johnson will get the ball on the left wing, usually via a hand-off or short entry pass from Mike Bibby. After delivering the ball, Bibby rotates behind the 3-point line and stations himself at the top of the key. Marvin Williams stands behind the 3-point line in the right-hand corner. Al Horford settles in on the right baseline, 15-to-18 feet from the basket. Josh Smith stands just inside the 3-point line on the wing opposite Johnson as Joe surveys the defense, watching it rotate to the strong side, toward himself and away from Smith. With all that as a given, what I’d like to see change this year is as follows: As Johnson puts the ball on the floor, initiating a double-team, Smith cuts hard to the basket, Horford moves to the high post, giving Johnson four good options with each of his four teammates in a dangerous offensive position with only three defenders to account for them instead of the two bad options (Johnson forcing a runner against at least two defenders or Smith, the league’s worst 2-point jump shooter, standing wide open 20 feet from the basket) to which Hawks fans have grown accustomed.

The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Rookie point guards generally struggle. Rookie point guards drafted outside the lottery, whether because they’re typically lesser prospects, get drafted by better teams, or a combination of those two factors are even more likely to struggle. Longing, though, can outweigh rational thought. It’s been 10 years since Jason Terry gave Hawks fans a small guard of such promise as Jeff Teague. With the aborted Acie Law IV era a fresh, frustrating memory, expect a lot of “Yes, but...” arguments for playing Teague ahead of the competent veteran troika of Bibby, Johnson, and Crawford.

The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player yet he’s the Hawks’ best player. With Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, and Maurice Evans (player option) under contract for 2010 and all of those guys save Crawford and Evans signed beyond 2010, the Hawks, barring a significant trade, don't figure to have $15-16 million to spend on a shooting guard who serves as the team’s primary offensive option. That fact and the organization’s aversion to change suggest that Johnson will receive another generous offer from the club this summer. If building around a fringe All-Star doesn’t give the front office pause, the mileage on Johnson’s legs should. He’s finished in the top 4 of the league in minutes played every season since 2003-04, with the exception of the 2006-07 season when he averaged a career high 41.4 minutes over 57 games before an injury ended his season in early March.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Someone Forgot To Forget It, It's Pre-Season

Had you any good vibes that weren't snuffed out by Friday night's meaningless, though sobering*, demolition at the hands of the Magic, let Joe Johnson take care of those for you:
"Sometimes, I can't tell if we really want it. It's discouraging. Sometimes, you never know what you're going to get from this team. And that won't work."
Happy Basketball Eve, everyone.

*Sekou Smith's pre-season optimism was another casualty:
Anyone wondering why the national pundits and fans in other places don’t take the Hawks serious, rewind the tape and watch this game again and you’ll have your answer. And that space between the Hawks and the upper crust of the Eastern Conference (the Magic, Celtics and Cavaliers) is even greater than I realized.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hawks 92 Heat 87


More good shooting from the Hawks means a greater temptation to read something into pre-season stats. Jeff Teague's six point, four turnover, one assist performance should help reduce expectations on the rookie to their previous, realistic levels.

Erik Spoelstra doubled his efforts for quote of the night, calling the matchup "a meaningless pre-season game" and further opining:
"I'm not sure what we can take out of this game. I don't think it was played efficiently or well."
Perhaps pre-season makes one a bit stir crazy.

Real basketball starts Tuesday, the Hawks start the season on Wednesday but anyone who wants or needs a sneak peek is in luck: Hawks @ Magic on ESPN at 8pm (ET) tonight. If your Friday night plans preclude you from watching the game live, there's always ESPN360 if you have that option.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Previews Roll In

Kelly Dwyer previews the Hawks for Ball Don't Lie:
Atlanta will be better in 2009-10, but so will the rest of the East. And though the team has no real major weakness save for possibly giving up too many offensive rebounds, the Hawks will struggle to keep up. Especially if they swoon again. Especially if the inconsistency sustains. This is an above-average team in all areas, but the Hawks rarely play like it. It's all peaks and valleys.

That isn't to say there isn't quality, there. I'm just not that enticed by the upside.
It's also Hawks day at Nets Are Scorching as Mark Ginochhio offers the latest position-by-position comparison of the Nets and an Eastern Conference foe.'s ever-popular "anonymous scout" feature on the Hawks is out and seems more accurate and informed than normal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Congratulations, Othello Hunter

And thus the roster is set a week ahead of schedule:
The departures continue from the Hawks...the team just released C Garret Siler. Thirteen players now make up the team.

The End of an Era: Mario West Cut By the Hawks

Sekou Smith tweets:
Mario West and Courtney Sims are gone. Cut this morning. Othello Hunter and Garrett Siler are the only two free agents left in Hawks camp.
I've had some fun at the Hawks' expense for carrying West on the roster for the last two seasons and I stand by the underlying premise of that fun--that any NBA team that uses a roster spot on him isn't serious about the end of its bench. I hope that belief doesn't obscure how unlikely an achievement it was for West to spend two full seasons with the Hawks after playing less than half of Georgia Tech's minutes in either his junior or senior seasons.

West wasn't a big man. He wasn't project. He was a guard with no offensive skills who stuck around purely on the basis of effort, effort that held little utility but was generally admirable. Good luck to him in whatever comes next in his life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Does Paul Pierce Owe Al Horford Money?

At the 4:36 mark of the interview embedded linked below, broadcast live from the Hawks practice facility at Philips Arena this morning on "Mayhem in the AM" Al Horford (joined by Marvin Williams) says the following in response to a question about Paul Pierce and the 2008 first-round playoff series (HT: Peachtree Hoops):
"...he owes me money. Marvin was a witness. We were at the free throw line and he was telling me that they were going to sweep us and all this and, you know, we bet and I never got anything."
Questioned as to what Pierce owes, Horford responds:
"Ten thousand."
Marvin Williams clarifies the terms of the bet:
"He bet ten thousand we wouldn't win a game."
Listening to the interview, the alacrity with which Marvin Williams (paragon of honesty and genuineness by all accounts) jumps into the conversation lends the exchange credence.

At 12:50 of the interview, the subject returns to Pierce and whether Horford and Williams have lost any respect for him. Marvin Williams says:
"Absoultely not. You know, growing up, you know, Paul Pierce was one of the guys I looked up to. At the end of the day, he's a competitor, man, he wants to win just like we want to win and it's never personal."
Specifically addressing the unpaid bet makes things personal for him, Al Horford says:
"I'm not mad at him at all. You know, I mean, he's a competitor like you said and, you know, he wants to win. He's a good player so, I mean, it's fine for him to talk. He's a vet."
My questions are thus:
  1. Do players regularly make cash bets during games?
  2. Do players regularly make cash bets during playoff games?
  3. Do players regularly make "cash bets" during games that neither party has any intention of paying/collecting?
Listen to the interview

Hawks Release Juan Dixon, Mike Wilks

via Twitter:
Hawks down to 16 players with the release of guards Juan Dixon and Mike Wilks.
Three to go to get to 13.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hawks 113 Wizards 95


There's no narrative to a game that doesn't count. Hence, bullets...
  • Mike Woodson on the fight for the 13th and final roster spot:
    "It could be a big guy. It could be a point guard. It could be an in-between perimeter guy. We've got a tough decision to make. It's good because everything's been so competitive but I don't like to see guys not have a job, either. That's the tough part about it."
  • Zaza Pachulia (hip) sat out his second straight game.
  • Joe Smith made his pre-season debut with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
  • Jamal Crawford returned to action 49 seconds later.
  • In Pachulia's absence, Jason Collins replaced Al Horford with 1:56 left in the first quarter.
  • Antawn Jamison (right shoulder) and Javaris Crittenton (left foot tendon) both sat out for the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller missed the game with the flu. Cavs to blame?
  • Today's reason to buy Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10: Kevin Pelton on Flip Saunders, defensive* coach:
    Saunders is never thought of as a defensive coach, but his Detroit teams finished no worse than sixth in Defensive Rating and were second in the league in 2005-06. Only once in Saunders’ eight full years in Minnesota did his teams rank worse than 16th on defense. In Washington, that qualifies as locking down at the defensive end. The best Wizards team under Jordan finished 17th in the league, while Washington was 28th on D in 2006-07 even with a healthy squad.
  • These two teams will do this for real in 11 days. The proximity of real basketball brightens my evening.
  • On Washington's first possession, Randy Foye attempted to post up Mike Bibby.
  • The Hawks scored on their first four possessions. On the fifth, Al Horford blew a layup after Josh Smith found him in transition.
  • The Wizards went zone on the first possession after the last of the Hawks' starters left in the first quarter. Jeff Teague penetrated from the left wing and made a floater.
  • Nick Young makes one appreciate Jamal Crawford's relative versatility as a basketball player and restraint as a shooter.
  • At the start of the second quarter, Joe Smith looked spry defensively by both helping on Caron Butler in the post and getting back out to challenge Dominic McGuire's 20-footer.
  • Despite spotting him a couple of minutes of game time and a near-infinite difference in the desire to shoot, Jason Collins scored before Jamal Crawford did.
  • Even allowing for the difficulties in drawing meaningful conclusions from pre-season games, watching the Hawks blow out the Hornets without Okafor, Diogu, Darren Collison, and Marcus Thornton, the Bobcats without Chandler and Diaw, and the Wizards without Arenas, Jamison, and Mike Miller has not, I suspect, broadened my knowledge of this team. The starters (plus Teague and Mo Evans) looked sharp again offensively but the resistance (again) appeared minimal.
  • By my best estimation, JaVale McGee is eight feet tall. The six offensive rebounds he grabbed in the second quarter were impressive, too, but he remains a work in progress.
  • Randolph Morris got the backup center minutes in the second half. He didn't commit a foul for almost five minutes of game time, making a bucket and grabbing three defensive boards in the meantime.
  • For his third personal foul, Morris just ran through JaVale McGee while jogging back on defense.
  • Fact: No one will run harder down the length of the floor to foul a three-point shooter than Mario West.
  • Replacement refs note: 24 fouls and 23 free throw attempts through three quarters. 16 fouls and 27 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. Players and quality of play are a factor in these pre-season foul and free throw totals.
*Washington is obviously without a defensive anchor like Kevin Garnett or Ben Wallace (and I say that as an admirer of Brendan Haywood's utility) in his prime so building a league-average defense would be a decent accomplishment.