In the first half and the start of the third quarter, Atlanta’s Josh Smith was firing away jump shots — and he was 0-for-6 from beyond 16 feet. He made up for that with four turnovers.
All that frustrated coach Larry Drew, who saw that as playing into the hands of the Bulls defense, he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“I want him flying all over the place,” Drew said. “I don’t want him sitting out there just shooting jump shots and trying to make plays off the dribble.”
Drew is right. Completely. We have just one little question:
Now you’re mad about this? Where was this anger during the season?
This season Smith averaged 6.3 shots a game beyond 16 feet and 5.9 at the rim (via Hoopdata). For the record, Smith shot 68.9 percent at the rim, 39 percent from 16 feet out to the arc and 33.1 percent from three.
Smith has killed the Hawks offense with jump shots all season — he has defied Drew’s motion offense and shot more long balls per game than he has at any other point is his career.
And now Drew is mad? He needed to curb this behavior long ago.
Now the Orlando/Atlanta series moves on to Game 3 on a neutral court… wait, it’s in Atlanta? Interesting. We’ll see if anyone notices.
Seriously, the Hawks fans will be into it if the Hawks are into it. And in it.
Whether the Hawks are in it may depend in part on how much run Al Horford gets, which became one of the big stories out of Game 2. Horford — the Hawks best player in the regular season — picked up two fouls in 2:10 of the first quarter and got yanked by coach Larry Drew. And never put back in for the entire first half. Stat heads are down on the idea of yanking a guy with two fouls in the first place, go ahead and debate that if you wish. Nobody was down with Horford not getting back in until the second half. Or with sitting Jason Collins — the guy who bangs with Dwight Howard and allows the Hawks to single cover on the perimeter — when he picked up a second foul with 8:44 in the second quarter. Both sat the rest of the half.
The result was Orlando made a 12-2 run and a separate 14-3 run in the second quarter while the two bigs sat. The Magic grabbed a lead they never relinquished. Collins was saved for a fourth quarter he almost never played in because the Hawks needed guys who can score.
It’s not rocket science. You’ve got to play your best players to win. Horford is as good as the Hawks have inside. Give the man his run.
The Hawks best player so far this series has been Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 24 points a game and is shooting 58.4 percent from three. In general the Hawks have had stretches where their shooters — Joe Johnson, Josh Smith — have been nailing the jumpers they too easily settle for, and they have held the lead. The Hawks expect that to last, the Magic think they can close out and shut that down.
The Hawks have a real shot here — they played poorly and had bad coaching decisions in Game 2 on the road and still were in it late. They create matchup problems that Orlando struggles to solve. The Magic have nobody who can hang with Josh Smith if Mr. Smith wishes to take over. Atlanta should open up the Mike Woodson playbook and isolate the guy.
At some point, Orlando fans and players expect their shots to start falling. Atlanta thinks that they, too, can shoot a lot better against the Magic defense.
One of them will be right. And one of them will be up 2-1 in this series come Saturday morning.
Larry Drew’s seat got hot fast in Atlanta.
Which is on one way unfair — they gave him the exact same team that had been making the playoffs, getting to the second round and getting crushed and expected him to turn that water into wine. Not happening. But those were the expectations because the Hawks front office paid a lot of money last offseason to keep that roster together, a big extension for Al Horford (smart move) and the biggest contract anyone got last summer to Joe Johnson (not so smart).
The Hawks got worse under Drew. They dropped from 53 to 44 wins. Their defense was basically the same but their offense went from an ugly isolation-heavy series of sets that worked to a more fluid ball movement offense that players never fully bought into or executed and got worse. They went from 111.9 points per 100 possessions (second in NBA) last season to 106.1 this season (20th in NBA).
Add to that dissention in the locker room with Josh Smith reportedly leading the insurrection and you’ve got problems.
Those problems are not all Drew’s making, but he will take the fall if the Hawks don’t do better in the playoffs.
So tonight in Orlando Drew and the Hawks begin the campaign to save Drew’s job. If they can win the series over Orlando — who embarrassingly swept the Hawks out of the playoffs last season — Drew stands a chance of staying on. If not, he could well be gone reports Marc Spears at Yahoo.
Which means Larry Drew’s job rests in the hands of Jason Collins. Scary.
Drew was the top assistant of former coach Mike Woodson and the Hawks were able to hire him on the cheap (he is due just $1.5 million next season). Again, if they wanted change why bring in the top assistant of the guy you just let go? He made changes but the players were not on board. It all echoes the Hawks long-standing problem of overvaluing the talent they have in house, thinking what they have is better than it really is.
And unless Collins is better than I think he is — he was effective during the regular season keeping Howard out of the post but the Magic are going to 1/5 pick and roll him to death this series — the Hawks may make a change. And Hawks fans should hope it’s the first of a few changes that shake up the roster.
The Atlanta Hawks got their heads handed to them Saturday night by the Washington Wizards. A 32-point beatdown. That would be loss number four in a row. They are stumbling toward the playoffs, and this is not a team anybody has seen flip the switch.
The last two of those losses were without Josh Smith — but he is still the story.
Larry Drew is on the hot seat for the Hawks — this team has taken a step backwards this season — but the bigger problem is that he may have lost the locker room because he could not control Smoove, Sam Amick reports at Sports Illustrated.
And then there is the not-so-obvious sensitive spot: the Josh Smith factor. Drew has been unable to stop the veteran from being a season-long disruption and undermining his position with his other players in the process. Add to that the relative affordability of cutting him loose (he’s owed $1.5 million for next season, lockout notwithstanding), and Drew is looking very vulnerable unless he can lead a deep postseason run.
Where is the veteran leadership on this team? Either Joe Johnson has no faith in Drew either or he didn’t have enough backbone to stand up to Smith and tell him to get in line.
The Hawks defense this season was exactly the same as last season statistically — they gave up 106.7 points per 100 possessions both times.
But Drew came in promising more ball movement in the offense, no more iso-Joe, and the team never seemed to buy into it. That or they were incapable of executing it (meaning they are unwilling or incapable passers). Either way, the offense went from 111.9 points per 100 possessions last season (second best in the league) to 106.5 this season. The results are 44 wins (and they should probably not have that many), which is down from 53 last season.
Drew is and should be in some hot water. Drew and Hawks fans can dream that a healthy Jason Collins can body up Dwight Howard and lead the Hawks to a first-round upset of the Magic. And that winning cures all ills. But that seems about as likely as getting the Golden Ticket to visit the Wonka factory.
If Smoove is a locker room problem, the issues in Atlanta are running deeper than Drew or no Drew and will be much harder to fix than management may realize. Especially in an organization known for over-valuing what they have.
It’s been a rough year for Jamal Crawford.
On the court, his game has taken a step back as he has tried to get used to the concept of ball movement in Larry Drew’s offense and not just going isolation all the time. (To be fair, it seems most of the Hawks have struggled with this.)
Then there’s this, via TMZ. And anytime you are in a TMZ headline, it’s not good. Especially if the words “dog urine” also are in the headline. (Hat tip to CBS Eye on Basketball)
Crawford had rented a large Atlanta area home, and had to put down a $20,000 deposit. He got none of it back upon moving out. That money (plus attorney) fees is in dispute, but the landlord is willing to say why she is keeping the money.
But according to MyFoxAtlanta.com — the landlord says she’s going EASY on the guy — because his massive doggies — 2 bull mastiffs and a Rottweiler — relieved themselves all over the home … we’re talking #1s AND #2s.
In fact, the landlord claims the designer blinds are stained with dog pee … and she has to replace the carpets because the smell is unbearable. She claims the dogs also chewed up several banisters and doors … and the plumbing needs to be replaced because the sinks were clogged up with dog food.
Maybe it’s time to buy, not just rent, Crawford. Just saying.
That said, no idea who is in the right here. Other than the dogs, who one way or another were just doing what dogs do.