(Preview: Hawks @ Pacers, 11/18) Great teams have selective memory. In any sport. But in basketball, where each team guts it out through 82 contests, highs and lows are inevitable. One week you are on top the world, the next you are nothing but street trash in the media’s wasteland. The Hawks need what all great teams play with – amnesia.
In layman’s terms, the Hawks were spanked over the weekend and it wasn’t pretty. Coming off a competitive contest on Friday in which Joe Johnson single handedly kept them in the contest (he was flat out unconscious), the Hawks were abused Saturday at Phillips. Although the game was close at half, the Nets ran away with in the 3rd, courtesy of 8 three pointers, the majority of which came from former All-Star Vince Carter. (Carter by the way resembled a shell of himself the past season until the Hawks awakened him)
There were a number of striking developments in Saturday’s contest. The Hawks lost their ability to defend. While Harris weaved his way through traffic like Batman through Gotham, it was the Hawks inability to stop other players – namely Ryan Anderson, Vince Carter and Jarvis Hayes – which inevitably doomed them. Additionally, the losses of Smith and Pachulia were further evident as the Hawks ran a largely perimeter offense. Live by the three pointer, die by the three pointer. The Hawks may have well been stabbed.
The Hawks can ill afford to run a perimeter offense a la Chicago and Golden State. For one, as exciting as it may look at times, its too gimmicky to win a championship. Golden State couldn’t make the playoffs last season after stunning Dallas two years ago. Perimeter offenses by definition lack consistency – even the best shooting teams run into cold streaks. That’s why the Hawks need to feed the offense and continue to establish the presence of Horford, Smith and Pachulia in the paint. Easier shots means easier wins.
More than anything though, the Hawks need to maintain consistency on defense. Defense in the NBA is about effort. It’s not about scheme. It’s about desire. The Hawks need the latter and they need to keep it there for the entire season if they are going to remain relevant in the suddenly strengthened Eastern Conference.
WITH PRAISE COMES CRITICISM: Hawks GM Rick Sund deserves praise for his off-season free agent bargain signings: Flip Murray and Mo Evans. While Murray has been instant offense off the bench (Ian Eagle of YES referred to him as instant “coffee” – I believe there was even a Sanka reference) and Evans has provided hard nosed defense and perimeter shooting, a lack of depth still presides over this team. Sund correctly addressed the need for an added perimeter element and a veteran presence. But what Sund failed to see was the lack of interior depth. I was one of the first ones to applaud the Randolph Morris signing. Morris, however, has yet to get consistent playing time. Either (1) he’s not good enough to work himself into the rotation or (2) he hasn’t grasped the offensive scheme well enough to play in the game. Neither is good news for Hawks fans.
GARNETT SUSPENSION: Given the constant chest pounding that is Kevin Garnett, I thought Hawks fans would like to hear that the power forward has been suspended. While Garnett hasn’t warmed the hearts of those in the Dirty (nor myself), Commissioner Stern yet again overreacted to what amounted to a game of pattycake in Milwaukee. For those who missed it, Andrew Bogut -after being fouled by Garnett- had his right arm come down and whack Garnett on the shoulder. Garnett shrugged him off and began mouthing back. Seriously, if I didn’t know any better I would have thought Garnett has turrets given his constant shouting to thin air, but I digress. The bottom line is Stern should know better than to suspend Garnett. Garnett’s too smart to get in a fight, and if the Pachulia staredown taught us anything, Garnett wants none of one.