Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grow A Pair

Prior to the season starting, I was the only person I know who wasn't convinced that "contract year Joe Johnson" was a good thing for the Atlanta Hawks. In my season preview I wrote the following:

Everyone is so sure that Joe Johnson playing for a contract can only mean good things for the Hawks. I don't really see it that way. Quite frankly, I'm worried.
Joe already tries to do way too much. This season Joe will try to do even more. He's got to prove that he's worth more than $60 million over 4 years, which is debatable.
The one player in recent history who did not defer to Joe Johnson is no longer here. Flip, (yes I'm talking about Flip Murray) signed with the Bobcats since the Hawks let him go in favor of Jamal Crawford. He was streaky and on any given night he scared the hell out of me, but he was at least proactive about getting his shot. This team needed that because the rest of the guys are far too content with just standing around watching Joe dribble 17 seconds off the shot clock only to end up with a contested jumper. Not that all of Joe's shots are of that nature, but as I pointed out last season, Joe takes bad shots often enough that its noticeable. There was a time when a Joe Johnson contested fade away jumper was a better option than a wide open jumper by anyone else. That is no longer the case because Joe's teammates are better, he just needs to trust them. Will he sacrifice his stats for the good of the team this season? Not in a contract year.....Joe has never been described as a "selfish player", but I'm willing to bet he will display a lot of "selfish player" tendencies this season. I guess we'll have to wait and see what position that leaves the team in when it's all said and done.

I felt like this was worth revisiting because well, Joe is struggling. According to Hoopinionblog "Johnson has taken 66 shots in the last four games. He's made 23 of those shots overall, and just 5 of 19 three-pointers. That's an eFG% of 38.6. He's also turned the ball over nine times while earning just 10 assists in 157 minutes while getting to the line for a grand total of five free throw attempts."

Look, I have not the time nor the desire to go game by game to point out the shortcomings of one Joe Johnson. Just know that even in some of their impressive wins, he's shooting a lot. In their losses, he's shooting a lot. Is he shooting 30 times per game? No, but he's shooting around 18 times per which isn't that bad, but he's only making like 5 shots. That's where the problem arises. Joe has the ability to shoot the team out of the game and everyone seems just fine with it. It's like they've all decided hey, if Joe isn't playing well, then we don't deserve to win anyway. Okay maybe it's not that extreme, but it seems to me that outside of the Philly game, they are content to let Joe shoot, and shoot and shoot even when he's not making shots. No one has the balls to tell him to stop, or at least take the damn ball out of his hands. Early in the season I thought it was odd that Jamal was sort of playing keep away from Joe, now I totally understand why he didn't pass him the ball. Joe has always tried to do too much, and there was a time where that was cool, that time has passed. There have been several games where Joe didn't have it going, but his teammates did and yet they all seemed to be content having to win the game in spite of his bad shot attempts. It's one thing to have to win games in spite of bad coaching, but it's going to be very hard to win games in spite of poor decision making by your "best player".

Someone on this team has to reign Joe in. We all know its not going to be Mike Woodson. He's the same guy who draws up plays for the struggling Johnson out of timeouts, and he wonders why he wasn't extended in the off-season. It's not going to be Joe, because while he's great at pointing out flaws, he rarely acknowledges where he contributes to the struggles of the team. Shooting and shooting and shooting when you aren't hitting shots won't help your team win games. I haven't heard him mention this in any post game quotes. Maybe we should get the ball in the hands of the guy who's actually making shots. He's not said anything like that either.

My point is that it is not okay for Joe to shoot the Hawks out of games. Someone has to stop him, yet no one seems to know how. The logical answer would be for the coach to bench his ass, but since that's not going to happen, the other 4 starters damn well better figure out a way.

Will he play well again? Of course, but in the meantime he needs to find ways to help the team win without shooting.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Friday, November 27, 2009

Magic 93, Hawks 76 or Where you know your guards suck defensively when Anthony Johnson scores 15 fourth quarter points.

Well that was a bad way to end Thanksgiving. The Hawks played well in the first half. They had a little pep in their step and they actually looked like a team that wanted to show the basketball world that they could hang with the big boys. They decided otherwise in the second half. The ball stopped moving as well as the 4 other players without the ball. Jeff Teague got traded, at least I assume he did because he didn't get play in the second half even though the other guards couldn't make a shot. It's like Orlando went on their second half run and the Hawks just conceded the game.

The Good: Anthony Johnson. He was out there running around like a 20 year old offensively and defensively. He had 15 fourth quarter points! I mean if someone had said to you "Johnson will have 15 fourth quarter points" you would have assumed they meant Joe Johnson. You would have been wrong. Honorable Mention: Dwight Howard. 22 points and 17 rebounds is more than just good, but he's Dwight Howard so you kind of expect that.

The Bad: Atlanta Hawks perimeter defense. Look, I can deal with a loss to the Magic because of Dwight dominating and Vince actually trying, but to let Anthony Johnson blow by you for 3 uncontested layups is almost unforgivable. Nothing against Anthony Johnson, but seriously. Honorable Mention: Jeff Teague playing under 5 minutes when he really couldn't have sucked any worse than the other Hawks guards.

The Ugly: The Hawks second half. It was brutal. They only scored 25 points. Nuff said.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hawks 105, Rockets 103 or Where 44 fourth quarter seconds of Josh Smith is all you need to win a game.

I don't really want to do a Good, Bad and Ugly, I just want to say Josh Smith was in an absolutely pissy mood tonight. Yes Dick Bavetta and the crew have had better days, but his displeasure with the officiating landed him a warm seat beside Mike Woodson and the gang. He was on the verge of losing it, so much so that Mike Woodson sat him for all but 44 seconds of the fourth quarter. He really didn't have a choice. It was either sit him, or let him get a technical and a possible ejection. Somehow Josh found himself on the court in a tie game with 5 seconds to go and he immediately righted all of his wrongs with one put-back dunk. Josh Smith alone was Good, Bad and Ugly, just not in that order.

Next up, New Orleans Hornets.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hawks 105, Heat 90 or Where the Hawks are 10-2!

The Hawks are 10-2, and its a legit 10-2, not like a 10-2 against the cellar dwellers of the NBA. Yeah the Knicks are one of those 10 wins, but its still legit.

The Good: Josh Smith. Joe had 30 points, but this team goes as Josh goes, especially in the Highlight Factory. He finished 16 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. When he's soaring all over the arena it gets the crowd into it and there's pretty much nothing the opponent can do. Aside from LeBron I defy you to name a Forward in the East playing better than Josh. He's doing it all. If I played fantasy basketball I'd want him on my team. Honorable Mention: Team defense on Dwyane Wade aka Nature Boy. I don't think he got a clean look at the basket all night. The Hawks strategy to build a wall around him and disregard his teammates will not work versus the other superstars in the league because their teammates do not suck quite as bad as Dwyane's. Oh well, that's a Miami problem.

The Bad: The Hawks third quarter. They came out flat and the Heat managed to turn a 17 point deficit into a 5 point deficit seemingly in the blink of an eye. Obviously the Hawks were able to overcome the new found energy of the Heat, but they need to find a way to start the third quarter strong. Bad third quarters remind me of yesteryear.

The Ugly: Heat players not named Michael Beasley. He finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds and he was pretty much the lone bright spot for the Heat. He's drawing comparisons to a young Josh Smith which is very accurate. He's extremely athletic, but very raw. He should be a hell of a player when he matures, but that won't likely happen this season.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hawks 99, Blazers 95 or Where the Hawks had no business winning that game, but did so anyway

First of all (there will be no second of all, I just wanted to start this post with first of all) the Hawks had NO BUSINESS winning this game. None, Zip, Zero, Nada! However you choose to describe it, they should not have won. They played horribly for three and a half quarters. In reality Portland didn't play that great either, but someone was going to have to win the game.

The Good: Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. I really couldn't choose between the two. Joe The Basketball Player was a man in the fourth quarter and overtime. He had that "THERE'S NO WAY IN HELL WE'RE LOSING THIS GAME" look in his eyes when it mattered most. He finished the game with 35 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists. Josh Smith was crashing the boards like a man possessed. He had 20 points and 16 rebonds. Joe The Baksetball Player does not get to have his night if Josh doesn't rebound and defend like he did. Honorable Mention: Al Horford. He finished the game with 15 points, and 10 rebounds.

The Bad: The Hawks through 3.5 quarters. They were just bad. They couldn't hit a shot, and they couldn't or wouldn't stop Portland from hitting a shot. It was just bad. There was no energy or enthusiasm within miles of Philips arena.

The Ugly: The late arriving/non existent Atlanta crowd. Look, I know Atlanta Hawks games are just a place to be seen for a lot of you, but would it be asking too much for you to get there before the third quarter begins, or at all? Going into this game the Hawks were sitting atop the East and the Blazers hadn't lost a game since the Hawks beat them about 6 games ago. I know it's Monday and all, but there's no reason for that arena to be that empty. There are $10 tickets, buy one and get your ass downtown. The players need your energy and it's not a home court advantage if you can hear a pin drop in the arena. Josh Smith feeds off the crowd, y'all know this! They are one of the best teams in the league and you all damn well need to acknowledge that and come to the games.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hawks 97, Celtics 86 or Where the Hawks just flat out wanted it more

The Hawks won in the Garden (the one in Boston) for the first time in forever and a day. They used their youth and athleticism to out-hustle, out-rebound and hell out-everything the Celtics. The Hawks were just better tonight. Are they the better team? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Good: Atlanta Hawks rebounding: When you out-rebound the Celtics by 18 on their floor that's better than good. That's damn near great. To put things into perspective, Joe Johnson had one less rebound than Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace combined and two less than Kendrick Perkins. All of the 50/50 balls went to the Hawks. To say they wanted this game more is an understatement. Honorable mention: Al Horford and Jamal Crawford.

The Bad: Paul Pierce and his "sprained knee". If you live in Boston or root for the Celtics, chances are you love Paul Pierce. However if you live outside of Boston and don't root for the Celtics you probably hate Paul Pierce. I don't live in Boston, nor do I root for the Celtics. Honorable mention: Kendrick Perkin's scowl. It's not scary and he should just stop it.

The Ugly: Celtics 3 point shooting. They went 1-15 beyond the arc. Rasheed hit a 3 early in the game and that was it. They were more than willing to keep shooting them and that worked out great for the Hawks. In fairness to the Celtics, the Hawks weren't great beyond the arc either. Honorable mention: Atlanta Hawks 10 first half turnovers.

Up next, Chris Paulless Hornets.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hawks 114, Knicks 101 or Where Al Horford makes me smile.

The Good: Al Horford. The Boss totally lived up to his nickname tonight, particularly in the second half. He finished the game with 25 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. He really ignited the Hawks in the third quarter. Its like he finally decided he was better than the Knicks low post players and he went to work. Honorable mention: Josh Smith. He actually deserves more than an honorable mention because he was every bit as good as Al. He finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 2 steals.

The Bad: Joe Johnson's first half. Joe literally has the capability to shoot the Hawks into a game or shoot them out of one. Either way, he's shooting. He's been able to overcome his slow starts in a couple of games this season, but Joe would be better served to pass the ball to players who can actually make a damn shot as opposed to shooting over 2 to 4 defenders. Luckily he was able to rebound in the second half. He finished with 19 points.

The Ugly:
Letting the Knicks shoot over 60% at one point (second quarter) during the game. That's just unacceptable. I mean, yeah, Larry Hughes was on fire early and of course no one could have foreseen that, but the Knicks were getting wide open shots and uncontested layups at an alarming rate in the first half. To be such a defensive minded coach, Mike Woodson's team sure doesn't defend with any regularity. They defend in spurts, which is a recipe for disaster in the long run.

Up next, the Boston Celtics.

For more thorough analysis, visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawkstr8talk and Humanhighlightblog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hawks 97, Blazers 91 or Where Jamal Crawford was so good I didn't even notice Jeff Teague's DNP (Coach's Decision)

Hawks fans, your girl is down and almost out. I either have a really bad chest and head cold, the flu, Pneumonia or something else that drains all of your energy, takes your voice and prevents you from sleeping because you can't breathe or stop coughing. I am sick.

I did however muster up enough energy to watch the Hawks/Blazers game last night and I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't fold after the Blazers gut punched them. I'm getting dizzy, so on with the G B U (there will be no links in this post)

The Good: Jamal Crawford: When Joe Johnson was threatening to shoot them out of the first half, he was shooting them into it. 27 points, 7 assists and no turnovers. When Jamal is good, he's great. Honorable mention: Second half Joe Johnson.

The Bad: The First Quarter. The Blazers came out swinging and the Hawks were back pedalling.

The Ugly: Joe Johnson's First Half. He was 1-8 with 2 points. Honorable mention: Jeff Teague DNP

For more thorough analysis visit: Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawkstr8talk and Humanhighlightblog.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hawks 110, Lakers 118 or Where Mike Woodson cares not about the flow of the game

I'm not going to recap this game because it would be disingenuous of me considering I was flipping back and forth between it and the World Series. (The Yankees are my favorite team) I did watch the first quarter and most of the second quarter and it reaffirmed one fatal flaw of Mr. Woodson, he does not make substitutions based on the flow of the game. He only makes substitutions for 2 reasons, foul trouble and the predetermined substitution patterns he had planned prior to the tip-off. There was absolutely no reason I can think of for him to sit Joe Johnson after the way he opened up the game. He had 18 points in the first quarter, so forgive me if I'm a little salty that he finished with 27 for the game. As Drew points out, he was on pace for 90 before Woody inexplicably sat him.

I'd love an explanation for why he felt the need to cool off his own player, but I know we'll never get one, because no one ever asks the questions that people want answered. Obviously that is not the only reason the Hawks lost. It's probably not even one of the top ten reasons, but when you sit your most productive player when he's playing at an insanely high level it certainly doesn't help matters. I just wanted to Vent about that.

For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawkstr8talk and Humanhiglightblog