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NBA PM: End of Hawks As We Know Them
Posted By Bill Ingram On May 8, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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Five Things the Atlanta Hawks Learned
It’s never easy to admit defeat, scrap a team and start over, yet that’s exactly where Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry finds himself in the wake of yet another disappointing postseason for his team. The reality is that Ferry was brought in last year to rebuild, not revamp, the Hawks, and the process is just about to kick into high gear.
With that in mind, here are five things we learned about the Atlanta Hawks this season, including insight from HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene, who covers the NBA from Atlanta.
1) The first step is finding the right coach. It wouldn’t be fair to blame Hawks head coach Larry Drew for what might be perceived as an early exit from the playoffs, any more than the team’s previous shortcomings should be blamed on his predecessor, Mike Woodson. Woodson has shown his worth at the helm of a more talented team, and Drew’s opportunity will likely come, as well. It just won’t be in Atlanta. The Hawks rebuild has to start with the installation of a fresh voice to set the direction and tone of the team going forward. It would be bad for that to be a first-time head coach from a winning program, like Brian Shaw, perhaps.
Lang Greene writes:
We know from past experience newly crowned executives, in any business, typically prefer to begin their reign with their own appointed guys in place. Ferry has already made some internal changes not visible to the public, so it is expected the next phase will come on the sidelines. Since Drew is a disciple of Woodson, the Hawks have been led from the sidelines by a similar voice since the 2005 campaign. Think about that for a moment. Maybe it is time for a change, from a philosophical standpoint. I can see that, but make no mistake about it Drew has done a fine job coaching this franchise over the past three seasons and hopefully will find a landing spot should the Hawks go in another direction, which is widely expected.
If you’re looking to find a head coach, this summer would be the time to jump in the market. Names such as Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan, Brian Shaw, Mike Malone, Mike Budenholzer and maybe even Maurice Cheeks will get another look.
2) Al Horford is a nice piece, but not THE piece. The centerpiece of Atlanta’s rebuild is most likely to be Al Horford, but it’s important that the team sees him for what/who he is. Much like Chris Bosh, Horford is a great complementary player, a second option, but any attempt to make him the go-to man night in and night out will likely be met with disappointment. The Hawks aren’t looking for players to build around Horford, they’re looking for someone Horford can complement so they can build around the two of them.
Ferry told HOOPSWORLD last month that he believes too much emphasis is put on number one or two options, but also made it clear he values Horford’s presence on the roster and as long as he’s on it the big man will receive plenty of touches.
If you listen to Ferry talk about his visions for the franchise, one of the first words you’ll hear him say is “culture” as in building the right culture – both on and off the court. So like you were saying, Horford fits right into this type of space as a guy capable of averaging 20 and 10, solid locker room presence and possesses a winning pedigree (playoffs every season as a pro and championships at the University of Florida).
3) It’s time to say farewell to Josh Smith. Smith may not deserve all of the harsh criticism he has received from the fan base in Atlanta; after all, he was taking on a bigger role than his game is really capable of carrying. Smith is a very good player, more than capable of starting at power forward for a winning team, but move him to the small forward position and everything falls apart. His shot selection is spotty, his ball handling suspect, and when turnovers and bad shots result, fans get uptight. The Hawks are looking to make Horford their full-time power forward, meaning Smith is gone and the team needs to look for a legit small forward to play next to him. It would make a great deal of sense for the Hawks to work a sign-and-trade for Smith to help them acquire some solid pieces for their rebuild rather than to let him walk away for nothing.
This is not a knock against Smith, but maybe it is time for a fresh start for his sake and the organization’s. Smith is such a unique talent, but it’s hard to truly establish his market value throughout the league. Teams aren’t going to trade a franchise player for him, but as an executive you’re not going to take an opposing team’s number two or three options in return for him.
Smith would thrive in a faster-paced offense like those deployed in Denver or Golden State, for example. In those systems he would get out on the break more and wouldn’t fall victim to some of those long range jumpers he takes as a product of being in a predominantly half court set.
Smith is a polarizing figure in Atlanta. Fans are seemingly either 100 percent with Smith or 100 percent against him. That alone would make it hard for any franchise to put him as the face of the organization and drive enthusiasm at the ticket office.
4) Lou Williams was a great value in free agency. Last summer, Williams’ camp tried to bluff the Philadelphia 76ers into giving him a huge new contract; instead, the Sixers let him walk and went in another direction. That worked out great for the Hawks, who landed him for a very reasonable number at just over $5 million a season for four years. He and Jeff Teague were a solid one-two punch at point, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if those two comprised the Hawks’ point guard attack next season, even after significant roster changes.
Without a doubt, Williams was one of the best signings of free agency last summer. It’s unfortunate he suffered the season ending knee injury (torn ACL). You could really see how his presence would have helped the Hawks in their opening round series versus Indiana. The Hawks struggled to consistently get buckets against the Pacers throughout the series and there’s one thing Williams has done rather consistently since entering the league and that’s get buckets.
Along with Horford, Williams will play an integral role in Ferry’s vision for the franchise.
5) It’s time to turn the keys over to Jeff Teague. When the Hawks drafted Teague with the 19th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, there were few who believed he would be a great starting point guard. Still, it’s never easy to evaluate young players and project who they might become in three or four years. The Hawks put Teague to the test, and he started coming into his own in his third year, averaging 12.9 points and 4.9 assists per game in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. This year he took another significant step forward, averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists, and while that doesn’t put him in elite status, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Teague can lead the Hawks going forward if he is given a strong enough supporting cast.
The development of Teague has to be on the list of positives for the Hawks this season. Teague followed up on his strong showing last year by taking his game to the next level, posting career highs in points, assists, three-point percentage (and makes) and free throw percentage. Teague also posted 17 games with double-digit assists, compared to only three in 2012.
Teague will likely enter the summer as a restricted free agent. It is almost a certainty the Hawks match any offer he receives, within reason.
The next developmental step Teague needs to make next season is taking more control of the team. There are just too many occasions where you’ll see Teague deferring and allowing a frontcourt player to bring the ball up the court and facilitate the offense. I’m not sure if that’s coaching, but the truly good point guards in this league command the ball and run the show. They are the floor generals and I have no doubt Teague is the next in line … but there’s still work to do.
The 2012-13 NBA season marked the end of the Atlanta Hawks as we have known them in recent years, but with cap space, a forward-thinking GM and a roster ripe for overhaul, there is reason to believe that their rebuilding process will be short and successful.
Is the Pressure On San Antonio?
For three and a half quarters of the first game of the Western Conference Semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, the upstart Warriors looked like the superior team. As the Spurs lethargically made their way up and down the court, Steph Curry and the Warriors pushed the tempo and scored at will en route to a 16-point fourth quarter lead.
And then the Spurs did what they do.
A veteran team doesn’t allow the highs and lows of a game to impact their intensity, and there are few teams in the league who have seen as many runs and weathered as many storms as the grizzled Spurs. True to form, the Spurs kept working, and wound up tying the game before winning in double overtime. Rather than taking the stunning loss as a setback, the Warriors are doing what they’ve done all season, spinning it into a positive.
There can be little doubt of Curry’s confidence; after all, he has been one of the best players in the league in postseason play. He scored 44 points in the Game 1 loss, with his own fatigue seeming to be the only thing that could slow him down. Prior to that he averaged 24.3 points per game in Golden State’s first round win over the Denver Nuggets, shooting 47 percent from the field and better than 44 percent from three while also dishing out 9.3 assists per game.
“We’d like to figure out how to hold Curry under 40,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after Game 1. “I have like 10 phone calls out to people asking for suggestions. He’s unbelievable.”
The Warriors have been here before, as well, having lost the first game of their series against Denver on a last-second Andre Miller layup. Warriors head coach Mark Jackson has little doubt that his team will bounce back in similar fashion in this series.
“This is a tough, tough basketball team that I have,” Jackson said. “Mentally tough, great competitors. I think it says a lot about the DNA of our basketball team, that on the road against a championship caliber team with great history and four future Hall of Famers, that we battled and put ourselves in position to win the ballgame.”
The Spurs, too, will make adjustments, of course, and the first adjustment will be having a fully healthy Tim Duncan available for Game 2. Slowed by a stomach bug, Duncan played just 34 minutes in Game 1 and the Spurs were -14 with him on the floor. Expect a very different performance from Duncan in tonight’s game. Expect, too, to see more of Kawhi Leonard covering Curry, a scenario that worked well in the fourth quarter of Game 1.
All in all, Game 1 was a great showing for the Warriors despite their eventual loss, but the fact remains the home team won Game 1 and is favored to win Game 2. The Spurs are likely to come out ready to blow them off the court in Game 2, hoping to avoid the need for another huge comeback late in the game. The Warriors may say that the pressure is on San Antonio, but it’s not.
Get ready for a battle , and a very exciting game, in San Antonio tonight.
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