Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Initial Feedback: Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows

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: I'm beginning to think that Jeff Teague is a fairly substantial cause of Atlanta's poor pick-and-roll defense in Al Horford's absence. Still, he's a talented enough offensive player and defensive gambler to break even on nights when he scores 12 points on 9 shots, earns 7 assists, and grabs four steals. 5/10

Joe Johnson: You agree to pay the man $123 million over 6 years because he can shake off a 3-14 night to make a clutch three en route to dragging a short-handed (largely because he's being paid $123 million over 6 years and was 3-14 on the night) team to an overtime win at home against the 24th best team in the NBA. This should be the night memorialized in statue when the franchise decides giving $200 million to Joe Johnson, his agent, and the government just isn't sufficient expression of gratitude to an above average (playoffs not included) player. I envy Bob Rathbun's ability to be delighted by another 22 point, 19 shot Joe Johnson performance at this point. 6/10

Josh Smith: A rather sui generis Josh Smith night wherein he scores 32 points, grabs 17 rebounds, earn 5 assists, and blocks 3 shots while making a fairly strong argument for not getting anywhere near his next contract. 30 of those points were scored in the paint (on 20 shots and 14 free throw attempts). He scored 2 points on 9 jump shots and made no effort to box out a Cavalier. Once he can no longer rely on his athleticism to bail out his purposelessness, he'll have nothing. 7/10

Zaza Pachulia: Making open layups late in close games just isn't his thing. Otherwise, another very solid night. 5/10

Kirk Hinrich: Younger men than Hinrich (Teague tonight, for one) have failed and will fail to stay in front of Kyrie Irving. In a similar vein, lots of guys can score 10 points on 13 shots before fouling out. 3/10

Tracy McGrady: I'm losing interest in Tracy McGrady and Marvin Williams playing together. I also suspect we've heard the last playing time demand from McGrady this season. 1/10

Willie Green: He's back. 2/10

Jerry Stackhouse: Possibly the best Atlanta guard or wing or 30-something in regulation. Can't knock his effort even if his presence on the roster doesn't convince. 4/10

Jason Collins: Did not use any offensive possessions while going scoreless tonight, tallying just two fouls in five minutes and eight seconds. During which the Hawks were outscored by 12 points. 1/10

The head coach
It's not his fault that guys are hurt, the bench stinks, and the Hawks are on course for a fifth consecutive losing playoff record. It would take a special coach to change the direction of the franchise and you get what you pay for at both ends of the bench. 4/10


Jonesy2x4 said...

In 5 minutes of action tonight Jason Collins was -12, that has to be some type of record...

CoCo said...

This recap had some gems. I lol'd a lot.

Bronnt said...

Watching Jason Collins play only makes me wonder why Erick Dampier is on the roster, if he's behind Collins in the rotation.

Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Teague, and Josh Smith have had to play a ton of minutes recently, and it's really starting to show, especially with the latter two. Teague's still learning to play with tired legs in his third season, where he's played a career high minutes in a condense time frame, and it's really affecting his jumpshot. Zaza has, perhaps coincidentally, stopped taking jumpshots, despite being decent from the midrange.

And the biggest impact is Josh Smith. He has such superlative athleticism that the lack of lift in his legs (that was unintentionally alliterative) is visible to the naked eye. He's not getting nearly as high as we're used to seeing him. Running lob plays for him is now more of a crapshoot, since you can't trust that he's going to outjump everyone to grab the ball. He's not always able to finish, or to get up far enough to drop in that jump hook. So on a night like this, where he played 51 minutes and hit 12/14 free throws, I can forgive quite a deal of lethargy on the defensive end. Especially since Antawn Jamison is one of the few guys in the league who can make Josh's shot selection seem reasonable.

I still might wonder why a guy with exhausted legs takes 9 jumpshots, but someone does need to actually take shots. Jeff Teague took only one, Zaza Pachulia took only one, while Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, and Kirk Hinrich were fairly ineffective on offense all night. With all those tired legs out there, simply being willing to shoot can be regarded as a potential positive.

Even on a night when I can't find it in me to say anything bad about Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, or even Zaza Pachulia missing bunny lay-ups, I still have to reflect on the organizational decisions that led this team here. Most teams in the league, true, don't have to deal with 5-6 injuries at once. But even with 5 injured players, the Hawks have 10 available players to deal with a bad team. They still needed 5 different guys to play at least 40 minutes because, of those available: (2) are aging players in probably their last NBA seasons. One of those did not even get into this game against a team with a poor frontcourt while his own team has many frontcourt injuries, making one question seriously his presence on the roster (nevermind the tax implications his being here causes). A third is a formerly great player who can still see the court very well and flashes greatness, but is limited by a balky need. There's a fourth who might arguably be the worst player in the league. That leaves the 5 starters, and one other who might be expected to contribute to any other team but this one, and he would still be used in a strictly limited capacity.

A team should not miss Ivan Johnson, a very fringey NBA talent whose greatest virtue is high intensity, this much. Having Tracy McGrady around is a fine thing. And you can't predict that a guy might require an appendectomy, or that a pair of your opening day starters are both hurt at the same time. But you can try to keep at least some young players around, if only for nights like tonight, when simply having fresh legs can be a virtue. Keith Benson, Magnum Rolle, Donald Sloan, perhaps none of those guys are NBA talents. But apparently, neither is Erick Dampier nor Jason Collins, but the organization committed to keeping both of those guys around. Going into a weekend where you play 3 games in 3 nights, there comes a point where the ability of a reserve to just stay on the floor to give the starters a break becomes very valuable by itself, especially for a team with playoff aspirations.

Buddy Grizzard said...

Bronn, well said, and the key organizational decision you're talking about is the decision to throw all that money at Joe rather than sign and trade him for assets. Joe was a free agent so he would have dictated which teams he was willing to sign with. But I doubt he would have turned down the extra money and contract length the previous CBA allowed for in sign-and-trades, so the Hawks would have received some form of compensation.

But would they have been good enough to take Chicago to 6 games? Don't know. Will the Hawks be able to convince Josh Smith to extend at the end of next season? Don't know. He will become an unrestricted free agent at the exact moment Dwight Howard and Chris Paul become unrestricted free agents.

Whatever the future may hold, your points stand with regard to the current roster. I wouldn't expect Collins, Damp, Stack or T-Mac to be back with the team next year (but who can predict what the wiley Rick Sund will do). The guy I do expect to be back, and many will call me overly-enthusiastic about him, is Ivan Johnson. You call him a fringe NBA talent. I think he makes 5 other guys on the roster expendable if LD will give him consistent burn and let him learn through his mistakes. There's very few players in the NBA who can play small forward, power forward and center with some degree of competence. Ivan is one.

dwayne.bracy said...

Ughhh, ughhh.
Whew, that was close, I almost threw up on my computer screen after reading that feedback. You would think he could find another team to hate less, but I think he actually needs the Hawks to feed his cynicism.

Buddy Grizzard said...

Haha... the Hawks are like an all you can eat buffet when it comes to feeding cynicism.

Bret LaGree said...

Pessimism and cynicism are two completely different things.