Jamal Crawford is back. Or the one from last season that was runaway Sixth Man of the Year is back.
After a lackluster regular season Crawford has been lighting up the Orlando Magic to the tune of 23.7 points per game and shooting 58.8 percent from three.
Which brings us to the dagger from Game 3. Crawford has the ball because he’s hot and he’s the guy who can create shots off the dribble. Except he really doesn’t do any of that, he just goes into the body of Jameer Nelson, puts up the shot and tries to draw the foul. Didn’t work. But he called bank. (By the way, check out the good play the Hawks ran before to take the lead over at NBA Playbook.)
Can the Atlanta Hawks afford to revamp and remodel?
After a pathetic game three performance by the Atlanta Hawks — one that followed two other ugly losses to the Orlando Magic, which followed them getting pushed seven games by the Milwaukee Bucks — there are calls to break up the Hawks.
There are calls to fire Mike Woodson (that one we’re down with). There are calls to let Joe Johnson go. There is a desire to shake up the under-achieving roster and rebuild.
But it’s not that simple. The Hawks are not the Lakers or the Celtics or even the Bulls — this is not a rich franchise. Their arena revenues do not print money. They cannot go sky high over the luxury tax.
All of which makes rebuilding a challenge.
According to Forbes, the Atlanta Hawks lost $2 million last season. This season their attendance was down (by just 203 people a game, but that is down). They did not have any more home playoff games. They still have the reputation of papering the house — giving away or deeply discounting — a lot of tickets.
This may be the best Hawks team in a while, but it didn’t make more money.
The Hawks’ $66 million payroll ranked last among Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs. It’s $15 million shy of Orlando and $8 million behind the lowest payroll among the other seven teams still playing.
“They’ve all gone out and they’ve spent money,” Woodson said. “Not that our owners haven’t. They’ve done it gradually and we’ve grown gradually as a basketball team for that. Do we go to the next step? I don’t know where we go.”
The Hawks are stuck — they are no longer a young team getting better, but they don’t have a clear path to improvement. New coach next year, Johnson will be gone and maybe Josh Childress returns from Greece.
But then what? There are no easy answers.
Joe Johnson backtracks on his comments on fans. Sort of. Not like they are keeping him anyway.
Joe Johnson and his teammates were booed after game three. Well deserved, by the way, they quit. After the game Johnson said of the fans the kind of thing that a free agent to be says on his way out of town:
“It’s about us in this locker room. We could care less if they showed up or not.”
“It was tough. I don’t think we’ve heard the boos like that in the five years since I’ve been here. When I first got here, man, there were probably like 100 people out there in those seats. I won’t say everybody is a diehard, but they’ve shown us a lot of support over the years. In the heat of the battle you tend to say a lot of things. But it was tough, man. I was a little [ticked] off but I am over now.”
The Hawks (and Mike Woodson) supporters have been going to this card recently — “remember how bad it was five years ago?” It’s faulty logic. Yes, things are better for the Hawks than they were five years ago, but that is different than saying this team lived up to its potential. This team did not fully take advantage of its skills and players, especially in the playoffs.
And part of that falls on Johnson, brought in to lead this team, but really suited to be a number two on a top title team. He is Pau Gasol or Jameer Nelson, a really dangerous second guy, but not a night in, night out team leader. The Hawks have gone to Iso-Joe offense a lot these playoffs, and it has let them down.
The Hawks need to make a change. These comments just make it easier.