As for the former, there's no shame in being a good-but-not-great basketball team, not even one that falls short of greatness despite nuzzling up against the luxury tax line and possessing just two above average players under the age of 29-and-a-half.
As for the latter, there's no need for a public recitation of failings (I don't know where or what my next job is going to be, either.) but the willingness of those within the organization to insult the intelligence of the fan base with which the franchise has a less than stellar relationship historically.
There's no benefit to Rick Sund describing the Hawks as "elite" based on a highly personal and in no way exclusive interpretation of the term.
Nor to him calling his team "analogous" to the NBA's model franchise, the San Antonio Spurs.
Nor to the continued self-congratulation for the team taking more than half-a-decade to go from the low 13 wins to the high of getting swept in the second round of the playoffs.
Assume Sund convinces one casual fan with any of these public statements. Does he create realistic expectations for that hypothetical fan when said fan chooses to watch the Hawks? Does the damage such dubious statements do to the perceptions and confidence of the team's relatively small but hearty fan base* outweigh the gains made with this hypothetical casual fan? I think it might. Given the lack of local media coverage, I think a casual (or potential) Hawks fan is far more likely to interact with a serious Hawks fan in their day-to-day life than to read Rick Sund quotes buried inside in the sports section of the AJC, or on Michael Cunningham's blog, or at Peachtree Hoops, or here.
*This deep lack of trust can perhaps best be exemplified that ownership, despite over-spending for practically every member of the roster not named Smith or Horford, is still accused of being cheap. The failure to couch the discussion of this organization's failings in terms of objective reality goes both ways.
Larry Drew appears not to have made the adjustment from thinking, during his 18 seasons as an assistant, about how he would coach an NBA team in the abstract to coaching the particular team he was hired to lead.
In the abstract, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Larry Drew believing in using the bench or wanting energetic defense but he's struggling to adjust his platonic ideals to the reality of coaching a team with a bad bench and a team whose limited individual defensive ability cannot be overcome by any amount of effort.
When Drew says about Jamal Crawford, as he does in this morning's paper:
"I don't want [poor shooting] to dictate how the rest of his game is going to be. He has the ability to break defenses down and get into the interior and make some nice passes, and I look for him to do that as well. Not just to go out there and sit on his shot."Is he convincingly discussing how Jamal Crawford plays basketball?
Shooting is Crawford's game. There is no rest of it. His assist rate sits in a similar range to those of Al Horford and Josh Smith, not those of lead guards. Crawford is almost 31 years old. He is the player he is at this point and that's a useful player if a head coach leverages his strength and remains aware of the potential damage his weaknesses could cause the team.
This isn't the only instance of Drew (or his assistants) describing a team or player completely different from the one everyone else sees.
There's Drew's apparent belief that Josh Smith is one of the best spot-up shooters in the league.
There's the deeply painful sideline interviews during television broadcasts where an assistant calls for a commitment to defense...while Jamal Crawford, Josh Powell, and Etan Thomas are all on the court. Or for the Hawks to overcome a second-half deficit by having the guards drive the basketball and get to the line. As if the last season-and-a-half of guards* not being able to drive the basketball and get to the line (the latter problem extending to most of the roster, to be fair) was either anomalous or the result of lack of direction to do so.
*There are two Hawk guards who have demonstrated an ability to get to the line, but neither one starts.
And there's the contest scapegoating of "energy" for poor defensive performances.
Energy's not going to improve this team's defense. Better defensive players are going to improve this team's defense.
Spending more money is not, in and of itself, going to improve this team's results. Spending money more wisely is going to improve this team.
This is why the Hawks are not analogous to the Spurs. Both teams are spending about $69 million on player salaries this season. The Spurs are winning (and have won) more because they spent that money on better players, because they don't miss on the majority of their first round draft picks, because they find the occasional useful player in the second round of the draft, because they draft players with a plan as how to use them in the NBA in mind, because they fill their Summer League team (and field a Summer League team every year) with potential assets rather than players already signed to foreign clubs for the upcoming season, because they operate a D-League team to provide extra depth on the cheap.
The Hawks aren't the least analogous team to the Spurs in the league but one would have to squint to find a strong similarity between them beyond each employing a great post player who doesn't want to be called a center.
The public comments of Sund and Drew are not disconcerting because I assume either of them to be disingenuous, they're disconcerting because I assume them to be honest and it's the self-serving and/or impractical expression of their honesty that enervates.