Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Initial Feedback: In Toronto, Al Horford Is Not a True Centre

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Sidekick No. 1. 6/10

Joe Johnson: If you wanted to be picky, he didn't do much defensively or on the glass. If you are picky, remember his age, the schedule, and the 13 shots he made. 10/10

Marvin Williams: Per minute, he remains excellent. Like the team itself, the playoffs figure to be the test. 5/10

Josh Smith: The Hawks can survive him going through the motions on a night like this. Things might be dicier if he can't contribute in all facets of the game against Memphis or Philadelphia. 5/10

Zaza Pachulia: It's almost as fair to complain on a game-by-game basis that Zaza didn't get regular minutes the past two seasons as it is to lodge the same compliant about Teague. 6/10

Tracy McGrady: Somewhat of the inverse of Smith, one doesn't want McGrady to use too much of himself against such an overmatched opponent. At the same time, one understands why he wanted to exert himself on this night. 6/10

Kirk Hinrich: Only marginally more important to this regular season than to the last, he could again have a significant impact in the playoffs. 4/10

Ivan Johnson: His D-League experience held him in good stead against that front line. 4/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Good to see him getting the meaningless minutes. He'll have a few meaningful minutes ahead of him. 3/10

Willie Green: In and in the jump shots go, when it stops nobody knows. 4/10

Jannero Pargo: Three shots in the final five minutes. I felt he was holding back. Be yourself. 2/10

Jerry Stackhouse: The highest paid assistant coach in the game? At least the only one collecting money from his team and the league. 1/10

The head coach
Given the history of this franchise and the history of this particular team composition, taking care of business can never be dismissed. If greater tests await, let not that distract us from the level of accomplishment inherent. 7/10

A thought regarding the opposition
I think getting a quarter-and-a-half of good defense out of this group is a decent performance from Dwane Casey. If it never happens, part of me will always wonder what would have happened had he coached Josh Smith.

Arena Apothecary: Never Trust the Hawks...But Maybe Sometimes?

Counterpoint, Mr. Harper:
If you appreciate Zach Harper's work or you're a regular on the Daily Dime Live chats he moderates during NBA games, then you already know one of Harper's primary basketball axioms: "Never Trust The Hawks." There are no conditions or subsections to that rule, folks. Never means never. Doesn't matter how good they look on a given night; the other shoe is always a few possessions away from falling.


And yet ... I just can't write 'em off. After watching the Hawks give New Orleans the business last night, despite it being the second-to-last game of a grueling road trip, I have to think that maybe, just maybe, I can trust my team a little bit this season. Yeah, yeah, the Hornets are a terrible excuse for a professional basketball team right now, and anybody worth their salt ought to crush them, so it wasn't exactly a touchstone victory. I'll admit that ... however...
To me, "never trust the Hawks" means that the Hawks aren't very good when the jump shots don't go in the basket. In its clarity and popularity, the phrase "never trust the Hawks" also explains why Zach has a full-time gig with ESPN.com and I do not.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Initial Feedback: The City That Offensive Talent Forgot

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Carried the Hawks offensively and was the number one non-Hornets reason for the win. 24 points on 11 shots, 4 assists, and nary a turnover. Not sure you can play better than that. 9/10

Joe Johnson: A terrible shooting night but another entry in the ledger of wonder: How was Al Horford's presence preventing Joe Johnson from rebounding? 5/10

Marvin Williams: From one perspective, a very able sidekick to Teague. From another, the best possible game one can have while blowing the finish on an alley-oop in embarrassing fashion. 6/10

Josh Smith: Not a great night, but if you're going to phone one in, the Hornets are as good a team as any to do so against. The most impressive thing about Smith's night were the blocks he got while playing help defense against his own man after getting beat. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: A workmanlike effort. Nothing more was needed. 4/10

Willie Green: There was worry about the Hawks replacing Jamal Crawford but between Jeff Teague's non-rebounding and Willie Green making 30-footers at the end of quarters, the Hawks haven't missed a beat. Willie Green is having a career season. Maybe Larry Drew is to whatever Willie Green is as Mike Woodson was to Crawford and Flip Murray. 6/10

Tracy McGrady: I don't envy the fine line Larry Drew needs to walk between keeping McGrady sharp and not taxing his body. I'll admit to flinching as McGrady landed following his fourth quarter alley-oop from Hinrich. 5/10

Kirk Hinrich: He's nowhere near sharp but, without exaggerating matters, the value he can provide this team is still apparent. 4/10

Ivan Johnson: In a laugher against a terrible team, Ivan Johnson's presence provides pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. 4/10

Jason Collins: I don't know why you play Jason Collins instead of Vladimir Radmanovic against the Hornets, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't affect the result. The Hawks were +23 in the 25 minutes Collins didn't play. Effectively padded his rebound total in garbage time. 2/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Can't blame a man his age for going through the motions and running out the clock. 1/10

Jannero Pargo: If anything, he should shoot more once the game's decided. 2/10

Jerry Stackhouse: This space left intentionally blank. 1/10

The head coach
The Hawks are, in Al Horford's absence, essentially a defensive team. They aren't going to score efficiently or consistently enough to keep pace when their opponent scores on a regular basis. This isn't to say that the Hawks are an excellent defensive team but they can certainly handle a team that uses Jarrett Jack and Jason Smith as options one and two and plays Trevor Ariza and Al-Farouq Aminu together on the wing. Even on a sub-par night, the Hawks could thoroughly overwhelm what was left of the Hornets. 6/10

A thought regarding the opposition
Poor Monty Williams. At least he didn't have to suffer the indignity of Dominique Wilkins insisting that the Hornets' offensive problems were down to scheme rather than the "talent" available.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seven Reasons Why the Hawks Won't Trade For Chris Kaman

Marc Stein reports:
The New Orleans Hornets are actively trying to trade center Chris Kaman, who was not with the team for its home game Friday night against Orlando as the league-owned Hornets field trade calls for him.

The Hornets have decided to shelve Kaman until they can find a trade home for him after making the decision to give his minutes to young players. Kaman had been made inactive for Wednesday's loss at Oklahoma City even though he's not injured.
1) Chris Kaman makes $14 million this season and the Hawks are still over the luxury tax line. Per Sham Sports:
[P]layers with less than two years experience that are signed to the minimum salary are, for luxury tax purposes only, counted as having the minimum salary of a two year veteran/third year player. Therefore, Greg Stiemsma's $762,195 salary and cap hit is treated as $854,389 for tax calculations, and only for tax calculations. The same is true of the first- or second-year minimum salaries being paid to Mickell Gladness and Terrel Harris of Miami, Donald Sloan and Ivan Johnson of Atlanta, and Gary Neal and Malcolm Thomas of San Antonio.
2) Related: The Hawks lost $15 million last season. That's without paying the luxury tax, receiving their share of the luxury tax paid by other teams, and playing six home playoff games. Also related: There's no one with money who wants to buy the team.

3) Chris Kaman has been good and healthy exactly once in the last four seasons. A better record than Jerry Stackhouse or Jason Collins...maybe this isn't the best example. However, I doubt present-day Chris Kaman will or should be the guy for whom the Hawks go over the tax line.

4) Chris Kaman's an okay player. So is Zaza Pachulia. So is Kirk Hinrich can play. So is Marvin Williams. So might be next year's first round draft pick. The Hawks would have to give up some combination of the four to acquire Kaman. Plus, if the Hawks choose to trade another first-round pick, it should be traded for someone better than Chris Kaman if this team's going to improve significantly.

5) The Atlanta Hawks think that Jason Collins can play in a general, rather than highly specialized, sense.

6) Though the Hawks are having a very good season, so are the Bulls and the Heat and the 76ers. The Hawks' playoff chances are a function of both their quality and the quality of the rest of the conference. The Eastern Conference is seriously top-heavy. The Hawks are without Al Horford, they don't know if he'll be back for the playoffs, and being without him has made a difference:

2011-12Off EffDef EffDiff
w/ Horford109.2100.6+8.6
w/o Horford104.2100.4+3.8

Is this really the season the Hawks should completely throw financial caution to the wind?

7) The Hawks already made their big move. They locked up Joe Johnson in full knowledge that doing so would severely limit their flexibility. Expecting a subsequent blockbuster trade or free agent signing seriously misreads the powers that be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Initial Feedback: Happy To Get Out of Detroit

By Mark Phelps

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Teague's woes this game echoed the team's first-half play: erratic, out-of-control, missed defensive assignments, and an unwillingness to attack the basket against a clearly inferior team. Showed a spark before going down with an ankle injury. 2/10

Joe Johnson: You would think by now a seasoned vet like Joe should know that when your shot isn't falling, you can still affect the game in other ways. Not so for Johnson in the first half, as his lackluster 1-9 shooting was accented by only one assist, one rebound, and no steals. Joe turned in the opposite performance in the 2nd half, scoring 10 in the first eight minutes of the 3rd quarter and 30 overall, while also facilitating offense for others. Got to play hero at the end of regulation with an amazing 3, then led the attack while the Hawks sealed the win in overtime. 8/10

Josh Smith: Once again, Josh fell in love with the jumper. They were not always falling, but he provided solid D, great rebounding and assist totals, and capitalized on the opportunity to throw a nail-in-the-coffin 3 in. 7/10

Marvin Williams: Marvin showed off some very efficient basketball. He was 6-9 from the field (five threes) with 8 rebounds and a huge 3 toward the end of the game for 22 points (season high). This was his first game this season where he reached 35 minutes, and he really showed what he could do with his time. 8/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza was extremely effective down low and attacking the glass, and capitalized on Detroit's late lack of post defense. Was always in the right place to receive the easy bucket. 7/10

Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich picked up all the available minutes from Teague's injury in only his second game back. While his shot wasn't perfect, he still picked up a team-high 9 assists. 5/10

Tracy McGrady: T-Mac provided the only hot hand in the first half and really picked the team up when it was struggling. He was the only Hawk during that time to effectively create his own shot and create for others. Really making Sund look great for that signing. 7/10

Jason Collins: Collins contributed on the glass, but mostly looked lost on defense. 2/10

Willie Green: Hit his lone shot and played reasonable defense while on the floor, but thankfully didn't receive too many minutes. Pretty much exactly what you need from Green. 3/10

Ivan Johnson: Seemed to have a difficult time knowing where he should be on the floor and got burned a few times. Contributed on the glass and was strong to the hoop on one play, but it seemed Drew realized that Ivan was outmatched when on the floor and he received his second-fewest minutes in the past 10 games. 2/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Barely stepped on the floor and wasn't a factor in the game. 1/10

The head coach
Drew may have finally realized what most of us have: Marvin will need extended minutes, especially in light of Horford's injury. Drew should be credited with drawing up some good plays down the stretch, but mostly the Hawks were capitalizing on mistakes by the Pistons, and Drew's inability to adjust to the Pistons early lane attack was what helped dig the hole in the first place. And Jason Maxiell goes off for 19? -1 for that alone. 5/10

A thought regarding the opposition
The Pistons seem to me like the Hawks of the mid-2000s, a team full of forwards and more talent than sense. That showed clearly tonight, as mental mistakes clearly cost them this game. Greg Monroe has a bright future in front of him, and if Brandon Knight can find his shooting stroke, they have an edge on those old Hawks teams by having a legitimate floor general. That said, only 3 Pistons have a PER over 15 (Monroe and Stuckey being the only ones who played tonight), so you can bet it will be a long rebuilding process.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Initial Feedback: Homecourt Advantage Is Huge This Season

By James Goeders

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.



Jeff Teague
: The loan bright spot for the Hawks on a night when only three players scored in double figures. Did a decent job being matched up against Tony Parker and added 3 steals to go with his 5 rebounds and game high 20 points. Did not have an assist, but that's more because no one's shots were falling after Teague got the ball to them. 8

Joe Johnson: After such a strong finish Monday night Joe just couldn't find his shot against the Spurs. Did have 7 assists but went 0-for-3 from behind the arc and only 5-for-12 from the floor. Did not have a rebound and was held to only 10 points (his second fewest points on the season). Joe only took four shots after halftime (making 2-of-4) . 3/10

Josh Smith: Spent a big part of the game on the offensive end just standing around the three point line.
Not able to take advantage of the long rests that the Spurs gave to Duncan, though that could have been more the zone defense the Spurs went to while he was out. Another Hawk that was cold from the floor (shot 6-for-17) and couldn't grab any rebounds (1 offensive/5 total) to lead to second chance points. Tiago Splitter absolutely shut him down inside. 3/10

Marvin Williams: Rough first half for Marvin who kept leaving Richard Jefferson alone at the three point line. Did not make his first basket until there were 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. He did play with intensity when the game was still in question in the second half hitting a couple of threes and grabbing 9 rebounds. Need Marvin to pick up his game so that the team doesn't have to rely so much on Ivan Johnson and VladRad.

Zaza Pachulia: Complete nonfactor offensively most of the game.
Missed him defensively when the starters were on the bench for the extended period in the 2nd quarter, but he wasn't doing much on the glass (you might be noticing a pattern with the Hawks tonight). 2/10

Kirk Hinrich: Looked good shooting for his first game since April 28, 2011. Went 3-for-4 from the field making a three on his first shot of the season. The biggest positive will be less minutes going to Pargo and Green. 4/10

Tracy McGrady: Had a couple of nice passes to Ivan that Johnson just couldn't finish. Ended the game with only 3 assists, but on a better shooting night by his teammates that easily could have been close to double digits. TMac's best asset is setting up other players, and when shots aren't falling he's going to come up short on the stat sheet. 3/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Missed both 3pt attempts and was a huge liability on defense. VladRad consistently left Bonner alone to drain threes which greatly contributed to the Spurs run in the 2nd quarter. Did make his two late free throws to avoid the goose egg. 1/10

Willie Green: 17 minutes and 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting. Atrocious while the game was still competitive. 1/10

Ivan Johnson: Ivan wanted to have a strong showing in front of his hometown crowd, but instead he had trouble on both ends of the court. Went completely invisible for big stretches and got abused inside defensively. Had a few pointblank shots that just wouldn't fall. Need more out of the first big guy to come off the bench. 3

Jannero Pargo: Got in for the final six minutes when the game was way out of hand. With Hinrich looking strong in his first game of the season we will not see much more Pargo. 2/10

Jerry Stackhouse: Another sacrificial lamb getting minutes with the Hawks down 20+. At least maybe the starters will be well rested for Detroit. Did hit his second three of the season and had 2 of the Hawks 6 offensive rebounds. 1/10

The head coach

Left the second team in for a long time in the second quarter when it was apparent they were getting destroyed both inside and outside. Team just went cold in the second half and really missed Al Horford’s help on the boards. Wish Drew could have figured out Matt Bonner as he was consistently open at the 3pt line (5-for-7 on the night). 3/10

A thought regarding the opposition
On a night where Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson were held to single digits and the Spurs had more turnovers than the Hawks, they were still able to get an easy win at home by destroying Atlanta on the glass (44-34 that was even worse when the game was in doubt), inside (52 points in the paint compared to Atlanta's 34), and behind the line (11-23 vs. 4-12). The Spurs won this game by getting 51 points from only 4 bench players.

SI.com: Robson: Hawks hang tough without Horford

Britt Robson bucks the trend of ranking the Hawks on the basis of what is expected to happen in Al Horford's absence rather than on their body of work:
The Atlanta Hawks should be folding any day now.

That's been the dismissive conventional wisdom about the team from the "Highlight Factory" for more than a year. It's not fashionable to like Atlanta's chances, or even to respect its identity. The Hawks are the bickering team that was annihilated by Orlando in the 2010 playoffs (except they came back and beat the Magic in 2011). They are the team that overpaid for Joe Johnson, preventing them from making upgrades that can get them to the next level (except they have upgraded at point guard with the emergence of Jeff Teague and the imminent return of Kirk Hinrich).

The Hawks are also the team widely regarded as having more talent than maturity, and not enough of either to be a real factor in the postseason, a notion that was reinforced by the potential season-ending injury to their best and smartest player, Al Horford, a couple of weeks ago. I know: Even after the Hawks had won three of four, I docked them seven spots in last week's Power Rankings on the assumption that Horford's absence would doom a good team to mediocrity.


Atlanta is 6-1 since the Horford injury. Yes, the schedule has been soft, but the Milwaukee team that the Hawks knocked off Monday had just finished upsetting the Heat in Miami. And Horford or no Horford, Atlanta already has played the Bulls and the Heat two times apiece and still owns the NBA's third-best record, behind Chicago and Oklahoma City.

I've learned my lesson. I won't prejudge the Hawks, who jump to sixth this week. I suspect the loss of Horford will eventually take its toll (old assumptions die hard), but Atlanta has earned the right to trump conventional wisdom with reality.
The Hawks remain fourth in John Hollinger's purely results-driven power rankings, a state of affairs that would be more exciting did they not also rank fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Initial Feedback:

By Buddy Grizzard

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Joe Johnson: There is nothing wrong with going iso-Joe when it's working. Johnson continues to put this team on his back in the absence of Al Horford and against the Bucks he took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 28. 8/10

Josh Smith: The Josh Smith 2012 All-Star Campaign made a whistle stop in Milwaukee where he made the accustomed statements from long range to the usual, underwhelming effect. He did punctuate his remarks with what was likely the game-winning 3 after Teague passed up a wide open shot off a Joe Johnson double-team. Josh took the hot potato and buried it. 7/10

Jeff Teague: He started out the first quarter completely outplaying Brandon Jennings on both ends. He had 11 points, almost all attacking the basket, in the first quarter before Jannero Pargo subbed in with 3:03 to play. Teague is averaging as many shots at the basket as Derrick Rose, who is vastly more celebrated for it. Teague only had 4 points the rest of the way after Larry Drew, the master extinguisher of the hot hand, took him out in the first. Got to pace the kid after all the minutes he's played in his career. 6/10

Zaza Pachulia: Anybody who had any misgivings about my contention that Zaza can produce as a starting center in the NBA shall henceforth refer to Exhibit A. Pachulia completely outplayed Andrew Bogut, limiting him to 3-10 shooting on mostly straight-up man defense. In 38 minutes Zaza scored 9 points on 4-for-9 shooting with 14 rebounds. 7/10

Marvin Williams: Was quiet as a church mouse on a night when Mike Dunleavy and Ersan Ilyasova had big nights off the bench. Played 22 minutes, understandably the only starter to play fewer than 38. 3/10

Tracy McGrady: Continues to make steady (if rarely spectacular) contributions off the bench, chipping in 4 points, 3 rebounds and 5 huge assists. He had some isolation plays that were derailed by strong Bucks defense but he continues to be a wonderful free agent find. 6/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: After the bench mob gave back most of the lead the Hawks built with a strong opening by the starting unit, Drew wisely chose to ride his starters and not play any bench player other than McGrady more than 9 minutes. He had 6 points on 2-for-3 shooting from 3-point range but would have needed an elevator to get a rebound with Ilyasova in the game. 4/10

Willie Green: 1-for-4, 2 points in 7 minutes. 2/10

Jannero Pargo: Shot well hitting 2-for-3 for 4 points in 7 minutes but was wild with the ball as he came in and instantly killed the early momentum for the Hawks. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: Johnson seems like he's overwhelmed by having earned a rotation spot and playing not to screw up. That's screwing him up. The aggressive offensive play that got him where he is has not been in evidence in several outings, and he passed open a wide-open elbow jumper to start the 4th, the possession ending in a contested Joe Johnson corner three that missed, followed by a Drew Gooden layup at the other end. He had one of his accustomed rookie turnovers where he just lost the ball, although he didn't embarrass himself defensively at center as the backup to Zaza in a game where Jason Collins did not appear. 2/10

The head coach
In this game Drew instantly saw that his bench was not getting it done. Every starter except Williams played close to 40 minutes as Drew did what it took to get an important (and rare) road win to start off a 5-game swing. At the start of the 4th quarter, the Bucks made consecutive layups to cut the Hawks' lead to 70-68. After a Hawks timeout, McGrady set up Smith for an alley-oop on a beautifully-drawn-up play that kept things from getting out of hand. 7/10

A thought regarding the opposition
The Hawks were no doubt the beneficiaries of the unsettled roster situation for Milwaukee, given Stephen Jackson's unhappiness. The team also benefited from Milwaukee playing the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back. However, the Bucks were coming off consecutive road wins at the Knicks and Heat. Despite the loss, they appear to be a team on the rise, making this a quality win.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fun With a Small Sample of On/Off Numbers

Everything courtesy BasketballValue.com

The Hawks are almost 11 points better per 100 defensive possessions with Jason Collins on the court so far this season (96 minutes, 188 possessions). Which would be great were the Hawks not a hair more than 17 points worse offensively with Collins on the court.

Putting that latter number into context covering Collins' time as a Hawk:

CollinsOff +/-Off Poss
2011 playoffs-12.05278

Tracy McGrady and Marvin Williams have shared the court for two offensive and two defensive possessions so far this season. The Hawks outscored opponents 6-3 over those four possessions. Yes, the Hawks are +150 points per 100 possessions with McGrady and Williams both on the court. Greatest duo ever? Let's give it a shot and see what happens.

Assessing the Hawks After the First Quarter of the Season

[Ed. note -- Matt Tanner is going to check in with his perspective on the Hawks approximately once a quarter this season.]

By Matt Tanner

Thanks to the lockout-abbreviated schedule, we are less than a month into the season but already the Atlanta Hawks have played 17 games, or roughly one quarter of the regular season. While players across the league bemoan the fact they occasionally have to (gasp) play basketball three days in a row! - the nightly slate of marquee games has been rather enjoyable from the fan perspective.

Here locally, the sultry pipes of Bob Rathbun and the familiar non-commentary of commentator Dominique Wilkins are wafting through our living room seemingly every night, so we thought it made sense to pause and take stock of how the team is looking at this stage of the season. We will return 3 more times throughout the year-after every quarter of the season is completed.

A few caveats: My basketball playing days ended in high school and my coaching experience is currently limited to a team of 4th and 5th grade girls, so if you are looking for in-depth commentary on how the team is defending the pick and pop, you are likely to be disappointed. And while statistical analysis was a major part of my professional career for a spell, I know there are those better suited to apply that knowledge to the hardwood so you won't find a lot of that here either.

What will you find? An attempt to take the pulse of this Hawks squad as it navigates a season where most believe they sit precariously on the ledge of that NBA purgatory between the Elite and the Lottery known as Mediocrity.

Without further ado, your Atlanta Hawks so far. . .

The Record: 12-5 (.706)

Current Pace: 47-19 (58-24 in a normal 82 game season)*

*Would be best winning percentage in franchise history. And yes, I know it’s early, but still.

The Opponents: @ New Jersey W, Washington W, New Jersey W, @ Houston L, @ Miami W, @ Chicago L, Miami L, @ Charlotte W, Chicago W, @ New Jersey W, @ Indiana L, Charlotte W, Minnesota W, Toronto W, Portland W, @ Philadelphia L, Cleveland W

The Highlight

The temptation is to go with the night the Hawks went into American Airlines Arena and handed the Heat (at full strength) their first loss, 100-92. However, the more impressive moment came at the tail end of the teams first ever back-to-back-to back, when the Hawks defeated the Bulls 109-94. After playing 8 quarters and 4 overtime periods the two days prior, the Hawks looked fresh and motivated as they outplayed and outhustled the mighty Bulls from the opening tip to the final buzzer. It was a surprising response from a squad that 48 hours earlier had managed to play the least entertaining 3 overtime game in the history of sports.

The Lowlight

An easy, if not nauseating paragraph to write. The loss of “glue guy” Al Horford for what looks to be the remainder of the regular season-and maybe longer-was a crushing blow to a team that had raced to one of the best records in the NBA. No one seems to be giving up on this season just yet (the team is actually 5-1 since the injury, albeit against largely inferior opposition) but one does not replace the former number 3 overall draft pick with Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia and not expect a significant drop-off.

Runner Up: The aforementioned night in which the Hawks lost a triple overtime thriller (sic) to the Miami Heat while Charles Barkley spent four hours blasting the Hawks on national television.

Everything in Between

Outside of the impressive wins over the Bulls and Heat, the Hawks essentially beat everyone they were supposed to and lost whenever playing anyone on decent on the road. Wins over the Wizards, Raptors, Cavaliers, Bobcats (twice) and Nets (thrice) were nice, if not expected. Beating a solid Portland squad capped off a four game home winning streak, but that streak was sandwiched with road losses to Eastern upstarts Indiana and Philadelphia. The New Year's Eve loss on the road at Houston was by no means shocking (although the Rockets were on the final leg of a back-to-back-to-back).

Stepping Up

At this point it has become cliché to to rip on Joe Johnson and his max contract, and to start the season he was doing little to assuage the criticism. Johnson averaged 16.7 points per game through the first eleven with a healthy Al Horford, and while obviously a small sample size, it would have been his lowest average as a Hawk if he continued at that pace.

Since Horford went down however, Johnson has upped his scoring average to 22 points per game and has been demonstrably more of a leader on the court. Watching Johnson play like Robin when we want so desperately for him to be Batman has always been maddening, but perhaps the Horford injury will force him to seize the spotlight. (And yes, I know that is quite possibly the biggest reach at a silver lining in the history of silver linings).

Letting us Down

Josh Smith and his continued love affair with the 19-foot jumper was going to be our choice for this segment before I remembered the notion that the very definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. I have watched Josh Smith repeatedly over the years while expecting him to stop settling for jumpers and instead use his superhuman quickness and jumping ability to become one of the greatest players in the league. He refuses to do it. Continuing to expect this from him is therefore insane on our part, not disappointing.

Since I can’t go with Smith here, let’s just go with Willie Green. Everything about him.

Not a Flash in the Pan?

Though I saw glimpses of his ability during the playoff series against the Bulls last year when he held his own against Derrick Rose, it has been nice to see Jeff Teague step into the point guard role with gusto. His current +/- of +102, while a debatable stat to be sure, ranks among the league leaders and he is averaging 5.4 attempts per game at the rim-while the mercurial Derrick Rose is averaging 5.5. (I am aware that Rose is converting 63.9 percent of these attempts while Teague is converting only 54.7, but expect those to even out somewhat).

The bottom line: While he continues to be a work in progress, through 17 games Teague has done little to dissuade Hawk fans from believing he can be a very good point guard. He is never going to make fans completely forget about passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but he has certainly eased the sting of those mishaps considerably.

Polling the Power Polls

NBA.com's John Schuhmann places the Hawks 13th in his Power Rankings behind Eastern Conference foes Chicago (1st), Philadelphia (4th), Miami (5th), Orlando (7th) and Indiana (11th). SI.com’s Britt Robson also has the Bulls at 1, with the 76ers (3rd), Heat (5th), Pacers (8th), and Magic (9th) all coming in ahead of the Hawks, who he has at 14th. ESPN’s Marc Stein makes it a trifecta for Chicago as he has them at the top of his rankings, followed by Philadelphia (3rd), Miami (5th), Indiana (9th), Orlando (11th) and Atlanta (12th). (Finally, ESPN’s John Hollinger, who does his rankings based on a complex formula and updates them daily, has the Hawks ranked 4th.

The Big Picture

If you looked at things solely on paper (and maybe squinted a bit) you could talk yourself into the Hawks being amongst the East Elite with the likes of Miami and Chicago. (Sorry, we just aren’t buying the 76ers yet). After all, the Hawks split with both of those squads and came tantalizingly close to being 2-0 against both. Of course, in reality, the Horford injury changed the entire tenor of this season and most are predicting the Hawks to fall off considerably the rest of the way.

I doubt the Hawks will rally around the injury of the guy Larry Drew calls the “glue” of the squad and continue to contend for a top seed in the East, but we also don’t anticipate them falling out of the playoff race entirely. But even a precipitous drop in seeding might not be a terrible thing. Is landing the 4th seed and facing off against a Philadelphia or Indiana squad really that great of a reward? There are worse things than landing the 7th seed and getting a healthy Al Horford back in time to open up the playoffs with an exciting series against the Bulls or the Heat. Why put it off a round? This team seems to play better when no one is expecting anything from them anyway.

Looking Ahead

The Hawks are set to embark on a lengthy road trip that will see them play 5 games in 8 days. And while we doubt flying is as tough on NBA teams as it is on the everyday business traveller, the league office did the Hawks no favors as it will head from Atlanta to Milwaukee, down to San Antonio, up to Detroit, back down to New Orleans then back up to Toronto. If you aren’t good at geography, just trust me, it’s a patently ridiculous trip.

Travelling woes aside, the next quarter of the season figures to be far tougher than the first. The Hawks only left the confines of Philips Arena 8 times through the first 17 games, but 11 of the next 16 are on the road. In addition, the average winning percentage of Atlanta’s 17 opponents thus far was .502-only good enough to be the 18th toughest schedule in the league, while the next 16 opponents are a combined .521.

Whatever happens, we will be watching.

Matt Tanner formerly worked the missing kitten beat for a small daily newspaper in Milledgeville, GA before eschewing the journalism world for a corporate gig. Recently he eschewed that gig to sell popsicles. He is an Atlanta native and lifelong Hawks fan.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

NBA Playbook: The Art of the Thief

Brett Koremenos on Jeff Teague's five first half steals in Philadelphia:
Any good thief has either quick hands or great instincts. The special ones, like Jason Kidd, have a combination of both. Against Philadelphia, Teague showed he may be in that elite category.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Initial Feedback: Cleveland Rocked

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.



Jeff Teague
: At some point I'll get over this but I watched god knows how many hours of Mike Bibby over the past two season and Jamal Crawford last season (Crawford was sublime in his first season courtesy of Mike Woodson, lead guard whisperer, but Larry Drew overused him, last season, as an instrument as blunt as Woodson's switching defense) for no good reason. Teague is not great. He's good. He's useful. If Kirk Hinrich doesn't get hurt in Game 6 against the Magic, we still wouldn't have proof. 7/10

Josh Smith: Struggled, to say the least, from the field, but how good did the offense look when Smith caught the ball int he post, drew defenders, and found the open man. Joe Johnson spotting up and taking the open shot a teammate creates for him is a much more sustainable strategy than Joe Johnson creating a shot off the dribble. The variety of Smith's contributions are wonderful as well. 7.5/10

Joe Johnson: Not to be flip, but Anthony Parker isn't Andre Iguodala. 8/10

Marvin Williams: If I had any confidence that Marvin could build on this performance and/or be encouraged to build on this performance in Milwaukee and San Antonio next week, I'd be excited. I'm not excited. Curious at most. 6/10

Zaza Pachulia: A couple minutes into the third quarter, Zaza had more points, offensive rebounds, and assists in this game than Jason Collins had in 88 minutes (entering the game) this season. By all means, start Collins against the Magic to frustrate Dwight Howard and encourage the Hawks to play sensible team defense. But let's not forget which healthy center is, in all other circumstances, the superior option. 7/10

Tracy McGrady: It's in everyone's best interests for McGrady to pace himself on a night like this. 4/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: It's only the Cavs, but Radmanovic demonstrated why he has to shoot when he catches. For best results, he should probably also not be asked to guard guys as big, young, and athletic as Tristan Thompson. 4/10

Jannero Pargo: Not to damn with faint praise, but Pargo has done as well as could have been reasonably expected in Hinrich's absence. I'd like to see him stick around as an asymmetrical threat on those nights when nothing goes according to plan. 4/10

Willie Green: Willie Green has a long history of comfortably below average NBA play to his name. Kirk Hinrich is going to take some, if not most, of his minutes relatively soon. That being said, if you're trying to create a culture of accountability, why would you not give someone, even someone as limited as Green, a solid first half run against the Cavs, at home, on the second night of a back-to-back, the night after he scored 14 of your team's 76 points, the night after you claimed your team quit on you? 3/10

Ivan Johnson: Didn't do anything special but still made a good argument for being the third guy in the post rotation in typical situations. He remains a fun and good signing. 4/10

Jason Collins: I guess he needs some game action to stay in shape for that mid-February matchup against the Magic, but he remains the least qualified garbage time player in the history of basketball. Approximately. 1/10

Jerry Stackhouse: The longest and least celebrated farewell tour in the history of the NBA? 1/10

Donald Sloan: I'm shocked I've never been compelled to make a Donald Sloan in place of Jannero Pargo argument on the basis of just because he's Jannero Pargo. Tough luck for Sloan. 1/10

The head coach
Blowing out a bad team at home isn't going to quell doubts about last night's postgame reaction but blowing out a bad team shouldn't be taken for granted, either. Perhaps some positive reinforcement of the theoretically best and tightest rotation results. Maybe keeping Jannero Pargo instead of Jerry Stackhouse becomes more likely. Maybe someone notices that the Hawks took a bunch of jump shots but took about half of them from beyond the arc. 6/10

A thought regarding the opposition
I very much hope that Tristan Thompson didn't suffer a serious ankle injury in the last couple minutes. If he did, and Byron Scott left him out on the court to hobble around on one leg, that's a firing offense. It didn't look good to me.

Larry Drew Bandwagon Update: The Wheels Fall Off

By Buddy Grizzard

In Wednesday's home win over Portland, Jamal Crawford tried to put on a show and steal one from his former team. The Hawks built several leads down the stretch but Crawford kept shooting the Blazers back into it. I was at Phillips and I kept expecting the Hawks to fold in the face of challenge after challenge.

It didn't happen.

Josh Smith and Joe Johnson played with a tremendous amount of heart. Smith was involved in a brutal trench war with LaMarcus Aldridge the whole game, prompting the Western Conference All-Star candidate to say, "I definitely didn't play big down the stretch." Johnson picked Wesley Matthews' pocket and set up Jeff Teague for an alley-oop that put the Hawks ahead 86-80 with 1:25 to play in one of the biggest plays of the game. They seemed to be saying to Crawford, "This isn't your house anymore. This is our house."

I honestly was expecting a letdown against the first quality opponent the team had faced since Al Horford's injury. Instead I watched the Hawks move to 7-1 at home and momentarily take over first place in the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference behind the Bulls. That set up a meeting of division leaders Friday night as the Hawks traveled to face the 76ers, a team that has absolutely had their number in recent history.

I suspect that the 76ers play so hard against the Hawks, not only because many of them have Atlanta ties (Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams won high school championships in Georgia; Thaddeus Young played at Georgia Tech), but also because the Hawks passed over opportunities to draft some of them. In 2005, the Hawks owned the first pick of the second round and spent it on Salim Stoudamire, leaving Williams and Monta Ellis on the board. In 2007, after selecting Horford with the third pick, the Hawks took Acie Law with the 11th pick. Young went 12th to the 76ers. Can you imagine if the Hawks had selected Horford and Young in the same draft?

So Friday in Philly the Hawks faced a motivated, fast, athletic and statistically brilliant team on the road, where Atlanta has accumulated the bulk of its losses. They also faced Doug Collins, who enters the conversation with a guy like Tom Thibodeau when discussing the best coaches in the NBA. Let's just say Larry Drew doesn't enter that conversation. Let's just say Larry Drew is in the conversation about coaches who may not have their contract extended past this season, especially after what he said following the loss.

After a solid first half for the Hawks, the 76ers came out of halftime, where coaches have their best opportunity to make adjustments, and ran the Hawks off the floor. Did Drew do anything to counter Collins' strategy of packing the paint and daring Smith to shoot jumpers? Did he send Ivan Johnson in to counter quickness with quickness on a night when Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia were ineffective? No. He watched the 76ers put on a brilliant display of shot making as the Hawks went ice cold, then threw his players under the bus, telling media after the game that they quit in the 3rd quarter.

Let's get something straight. There is absolutely no shame in losing on the road to one of the best teams in the league, a team that has shown the ability to run the Hawks off the floor prior to this season, especially when you are missing your third-team All-NBA center. There is absolutly no shame in Joe Johnson, after a string of strong performances, having an off night against possibly the greatest wing defender alive, Andre Iguodala. The Hawks at 11-5 are sitting a half game back of division leader Orlando and have far exceeded expectations.

The Atlanta Hawks did not quit. But Larry Drew needs to stop and re-evaluate where he's at in his career. Coaches who are truly successful in this league, such as Phil Jackson (and I daresay Thibodeau and Collins), are coaches who both respect and earn the respect of their players.

Somebody tell Jeff Schultz the bandwagon needs a tow to the shop.

Quote of the Day -- January 21, 2012

Larry Drew:
"It got tough for us in the third quarter and we quit. That’s what happened."
Strong words following a game where your team allowed just a point per possession on the road against a team that ranks in the top five in the league in offensive efficiency. The Hawks shot the ball poorly and rebounded worse (or vice-versa, I wouldn't argue the particulars) but those are both single-game risks inherent with this roster, built around jump shooters and reflecting a long-held, institutional belief that rebounding is not a skill.

With Al Horford out, Marvin Williams is clearly the team's third-best rebounder. Either Tracy McGrady or Vladimir Radmanovic is the fourth-best rebounder. And the team is again near the top of the league in long, two-point jump shots attempted per game. That's not accounting for pace.

If you're going to have fewer than 90 offensive possessions a game and you're going to use 26 of those possessions on long, two-point jump shots, then you're going to have nights where you struggle to score and put tremendous pressure on your performance in the other three factors.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Initial Feedback: Those Shots? They're Not Efficient.

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.



Jeff Teague
: Teague showed both his utility and his limitations. He's an above average player but he lacks the combination of ability, confidence, and experience to take over a game at this point. 5/10

Joe Johnson: Just as there was no shame in Josh Smith getting outplayed by Kevin Love in the win over Minnesota, there's no shame in Joe Johnson getting shut down by an excellent defender like Andre Iguodala. Unfortunately, Johnson wasn't able to contribute in other areas of the game. 3/10

Marvin Williams: I think any discussion of Marvin Williams deserving more playing time can take the night off. 3/10

Josh Smith: 11 jump shots, made just three. Grabbed but five defensive rebounds on a night the Hawks allowed Philadelphia to rebound 15 of their own misses. 4/10

Jason Collins: A contributor to Philadelphia's offensive rebounding excellence. Collins is clearly stretched beyond his abilities when asked to play 19 minutes in a game. He averaged less time than that on the court against the Magic, when his presence had a clear purpose, last season. 2/10

Tracy McGrady: I continue to believe he'd be more effective playing the bulk of his minutes alongside the starters. The 76ers made him look a little old and slow when the Hawks tried to run the offense through him. Still the second most effective Atlanta player on the night. 5/10

Zaza Pachulia: Another Hawk who disappointed on the defensive glass sufficiently to undermine an otherwise acceptable performance. 3/10

Willie Green: The Hawks don't score 70 without Willie Green tonight. A shame to waste this performance. Jamal Crawford would have killed for a return engagement this effective. 5/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: I don't know if it's the missed shots or the irregular playing time, but if Radmanovic doesn't shoot when he's open beyond the three-point line he's limiting his contributions to team success. 2/10

Jannero Pargo: Ehh. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: Meh. 1/10

Jerry Stackhouse: Wha? 1/10

Donald Sloan: Hm. 1/10

The head coach
Doug Collins talks openly about wanting the other team to take jump shots. The Hawks needed a contested 30-footer to hit double digits in the decisive third quarter, a period in which they attempted just three shots in the paint.

It was only a matter of time before the Hawks missed Al Horford, at least for a game. I doubt he would have reduced the team's reliance on jump shots but his ability to defend the pick-and-roll and rebound on the defensive end would have come in handy. 4/10

A thought regarding the opposition
The 76ers were no paragon of offensive efficiency themselves, but the second chances they made for themselves (as well as those they almost thoroughly denied the Hawks) and the fast break points they scored wore the Hawks down. It's impressive to beat a good team so thoroughly despite your own obvious weaknesses.

Bad Wheel on the Bandwagon: A Look At Larry Drew's Asset Management

By Buddy Grizzard

Last season’s trade of Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and the Hawks’ 2011 first round draft pick to the Washington Wizards for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. One side of the discussion holds that trading consecutive first round draft picks (Jordan Crawford and the 2011 pick the Wizards used on Chris Singleton) for a season-and-a-half rental of Kirk Hinrich mortgaged too much of the franchise’s future for too little potential gain.

My side of the discussion holds that this trade, along with the previously-discussed selection of Jeff Teague in a draft rich with other point guard options, was the masterpiece of Rick Sund’s tenure as Hawks GM. I would maintain this opinion even if Hinrich never played another game for the Hawks because of the way the trade transformed the culture and identity of the franchise, and because of the way Sund used it to save Larry Drew from himself.

As previously noted by Bret Lagree, Drew does not appear to have been Sund’s choice to replace Mike Woodson as coach. Despite speculation that Woodson was fired in part because of his refusal to develop Jeff Teague, Drew continued to play Teague sporadic minutes, following promising appearances with prolonged stretches on the bench. This provides the backdrop for Feb. 23rd of last year, when the five-player trade was executed as the Hawks sought to hold on to the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That night, Zaza Pachulia was held out of the Suns game due to ongoing trade discussions. Days later, as the trade deadline passed and Pachulia remained on the team, he expressed to AJC beat writer Michael Cunningham that he was unhappy about his playing time. In the same article, Cunningham quoted Drew saying that he was considering moving Josh Powell ahead of Pachulia in the lineup, the same Josh Powell that ESPN’s John Hollinger claimed multiple front-office types felt was the single worst player in the NBA.

For those of you still trying to decide if the Hawks are better off with Pachulia still on the roster, consider this remarkable statistic. The following is the list of players who ranked in the top 10 in rebounding rate in at least two of the last three postseasons.

Marcus Camby
Dwight Howard
Joakim Noah
Carlos Boozer
Zaza Pachulia

Pachulia wasn’t the only player struggling for consistent minutes. In the 8 games the Hawks played in February leading up to the trade, Teague’s minutes looked like this: 11, 6, DNP, 21, DNP, 1, 4, 13. Teague started the next 4 games, scoring 10 points in 19 minutes in the loss to the Suns, then contributing 6 points and 6 assists in 26 minutes in a win over Golden State. In a victory over Portland on Feb. 27th he played only 13 minutes as Hinrich joined the team and played 29. He then scored 7 points with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in a loss to Denver on Feb. 28th as Hinrich sat with a calf injury.

Starting with the Hawks home win against Chicago on March 2nd, Hinrich took over the starting point guard role and Teague’s minutes looked like this: 7, 14, 11, 9, 3. On March 12th, with Al Horford out due to a sprained ankle, Drew started a 3-guard lineup. Teague played 44 minutes and matched a career-high with 24 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals as the Hawks snapped a 4-game losing streak. His minutes remained inconsistent for the remainder of the season, and we all know what happened when he was thrust into a starting role in the playoffs against Chicago after Hinrich’s season-ending injury in Game 6 vs. Orlando.

Fast forward to this year and Teague has comfortably settled into the starting role thanks to Hinrich’s continued absence due to injury. The contrast between this year’s Hawks and the Hawks of Bibby and Jamal Crawford is startling. The latter two were widely considered among the worst defenders in the league, and both rank at the bottom of the league in rebound rate. For Bibby, this is obviously due to diminished ability, as evidenced by his collapse in the playoffs last year. For Crawford, who is listed at 6-5 and noted for his quickness, this is obviously a matter of effort. Once Hinrich returns, the transformation from switching-by-necessity to defensive-effort-at-all-positions will be complete.

And it wouldn’t have happened if Sund hadn’t made a calculated move to get rid of Bibby. Is there any doubt in anybody’s mind that if Bibby remained with the team after the trade deadline that he would have started against the Magic and the Hawks would have been out after one series? Meanwhile Jordan Crawford is shooting .268 from 3-point range for the Wizards, Singleton is averaging 4.8 points and both look years away from being contributors on a winning team.

As soon as Hinrich is able to go full speed, I have no doubt he will once again replace Teague as the starting point guard, even though he has trouble guarding quick point guards and has a very pedestrian assist-to-turnover ratio. I feel Hinrich would help the Hawks more as a backup at both guard positions but I’m not concerned… it will be a good problem to have. Zaza’s situation remains unsettled even with the huge need at center created by Horford’s injury. He sat the final 7 minutes of Wednesday’s win over Portland, despite contributing 5 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes, in favor of Ivan Johnson. The latter sparked the Hawks to a win over the T-Wolves but didn’t show much in 13 minutes against the Blazers.

Another good problem to have is the sudden log jam at small forward. Marvin Williams may be in the process of having a career year but his minutes have been severely cut into by contributions from Ivan Johnson, Tracy McGrady and Vladimir Radmanovic. Marvin will just have to keep playing well and get his when and where he can. I’m less inclined to criticize Drew for under-utilizing a player when there isn’t an obvious, glaring need at the position as there was at point guard last year with Bibby and at center this year without Horford.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Initial Feedback: Welcome Back

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.



Joe Johnson: The two bursts during which Johnson scored most of his 24 points were crucial but let's not overlook his sudden ability to rebound which has emerged since Al Horford left the scene. Another blocked shot, too. He's almost matched his total from the 2009-10 season in the last two games. 8/10

Josh Smith: He's a good player even when the jump shots aren't falling. The combination of 11 defensive rebounds and his post defense against LaMarcus Aldridge were definite difference makers tonight. 8/10

Marvin Williams: It's getting ridiculous. 12 points and 8 rebounds in just 21 minutes. There's essentially no level of production possible to get Williams above 25 minutes in a game if Tracy McGrady is healthy enough to go. Ivan Johnson's a nice addition but he shouldn't be getting fourth quarter minutes ahead of Marvin Williams. 6/10

Jeff Teague: If only the Hawks had been willing to pay the luxury tax to keep Jamal Crawford, Teague would be sitting next to Marvin Williams on the bench int he fourth quarter instead of scoring five points and earning an assist in the final two minutes of a close victory over a good team. To be fair, Crawford committed four fewer turnovers than Teague tonight and scored seven more points, only needing 17 more field goal attempts than Teague to do so. 6/10

Jason Collins: Your guess is as good as mine. Made Kurt Thomas look productive and agile. 1/10

Zaza Pachulia: 11 rebounds are good enough to aid a winning cause but probably not good enough to earn a start. The former is far more important. 5/10

Tracy McGrady: A solid return. He wasn't as effective as Marvin and shouldn't have played as many minutes for that reason alone. I'd rather grade this performance after I know when he's physically able to play again. 5/10

Jannero Pargo: The three turnovers were unfortunate but you put Jannero Pargo in the game to take shots frequently for a brief period of time. Tonight, he made those shots. 4/10

Willie Green: Another night without a rebound. No matter his own numbers, Tracy McGrady's return lessens the chances of extended Willie Green minutes. There's value in that. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: At some point he needs to bring something more than energy to justify a rotation spot. 2/10

The head coach
He's tying one hand behind his back by limiting Marvin Williams' minutes. Here's hoping it doesn't take a loss to enact change. The team's record suggests that doing inexplicable things around the margins of the rotation doesn't really matter much when Joe Johnson is making loads of shots and Josh Smith is dominating the glass. Talent over everything. 7/10