Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Previews: The Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks turned the potential they've been stockpiling for years into a playoff berth last season. They pushed the Celtics to seven games and seemed to be on the verge of coming back to legitimacy. Oops. Childress bolts for Greece, then they bungle their way into a steal for Josh Smith. So where do they go from here? Your Preview is a back and forth between Corn and Matt Moore.



Corn: To say that this preview is going to make me throw up in my mouth a little bit is a vast understatement. In fact, it could be a straight up bile bazooka coming out when I have to rep the Hawks. Atlanta has long been one of my least favorite cities, especially for sports. But, I've gotta give the dirty birds their due, because being able to build off that great 37-45, 8th seed in the East clip from last year is impressive. No facetiousness in there at all. Double promise.
What Atlanta, in all seriousness, does have this year is a greater hope and vision for where they are going. Bibby has been with the team all offseason, the resigned Smith to a deal that is way way WAY too reasonable by current NBA standards, Al Horford and his massive guns are back to battle in the paint and Joe Johnson is still one of the best, pure offensive weapons in the league.

The key for the Hawks this year is to get better depth out of their bench. Although initially that sounds far more difficult to conceive ever since Josh Childress went all Lord Byron and high-tailed it to Greece, there are some slivers of hope. Marvin Williams will finally be allowed to come in and completely take over offensively in the second unit. Still not enough to take away those CP3/D-Will "what could've been?" thoughts, but still, his awakening should happen this season. Acie Law has looked so far in the preseason and though I still do not think of him as the answer yet at backup PG, any sign of life from him is strongly encouraging. Mo Evans was a nice addition and who knows what to expect from 9-12. That being said, this is a roster that (besides Bibby and Evans) has been together for a while, are comfortable with each other. And while other teams have made bigger roster changes or added talent, Atlanta - for once - has gone conservative. This could end up bringing them a great advantage early in the season, allowing for a hot start.

Yet, no Hawks preview would be complete without failing to mention that Mike Woodson is a juicebag. From his constant scuffles with Smith, inability to run a complex offense, misunderstanding of his players essential strengths and weaknesses and awful mustache, Woodson may not make it through the season if the Hawks are 7-9 games under .500 heading into the All Star break. His toughness and defensive attitudes are starting to sink in (slooooooooooowly), but without a coherent vision and a true Super-Duperstar to keep the team focused, its a crapshoot at best for ATL. My prediction is they finish slightly better than last year (let's say 39-43) and miss the playoffs as the 9th or 10th team in the East. That's right. I am naive enough to think the East might actualy have 6-7 teams above .500 heading into the playoffs. This is my first preview though, so I definitely have some brain warming to do.
But god, Mike Woodson sux.

MOORE: It's bizarre to me that this team has all of a sudden turned into some sort of tough, grizzled team. For years they were all about youth and athleticism. And while they're still loaded with that, Johnson is turning into a veteran scorer who will be underappreciated until he signs elsewhere once his skills drop and then he'll be overrated. Bibby is the opposite of young and athletic, and I think he could end up being a liability very soon. Mortgaging their future on Bibby was a huge mistake from where I'm at. But Horford is somehow young, athletic, tough, talented, a leader, and coachable. When has that ever happened for the hawks? My big concerns is they still don't have reliable shooters. They have a bunch of guys that can drive and no one to kick to. If Law can be that guy, awesome, but it's unlikely he'll spend time at the two with his size, so it's a moot point.

You can talk all you want about Woodson being the problem, but he's also managed to get more out of this squad than his predecessors, and done it with no solid management whatsoever. I think you should cut the guy some slack. Life's hard enough with Marvin Williams as a key rotation guy for you and Zaza Pachulia your true, legit "big."
VISIONS by Rob Mahoney


Last season's match up between Atlanta and Boston was like the little engine that almost could. It was sort of like Golden State and Dallas the year before, only entirely different. It was hope. Hope for a city and hope for a crew of young guys who put in work and finally yielded some results. If you were not a Boston fan watching and you somehow didn't find yourself falling in love and excitement with the Hawks, then you may want to get that checked out.

Why you need to watch this year? Josh Smith going nova (thanks Matt, for coining my favorite NBA term), on a nightly basis. This man is simply unbelievable. He is so freakishly athletic that watching him is like being on a roller coaster in the dark. You don't know when the exciting drop will happen but you are lurching forward in anticipation of it coming. With Josh, you know if you turn your head for a moment, it's likely to be that moment that he decides to show the world that life isn't fair and he was blessed with skills most of us couldn't dream of as he decides to kiss the sky just for fun.

Al Horford was my rookie of the year and the progression of his play is another reason to tune in to ATL this year. Consistently strong, Al showed some grit in last year's series with the Celtics. It'll be fun to see what he can string together this year. Marvin Williams is a player we all want to do well and I'm willing to wait on him to see if this may be his year. Joe Johnson, well, this is another guy who can just decide to flip the switch on and dominate your team, so watching him is not an option, but a requirement.

While they may not be seen as the underdogs that they were last season, the Hawks are still that feel good team in the East. If you love basketball, you've got to love them and their struggle because it can be beautiful to watch.

You want to know why I hate the Hawks? Because they're a tease. That's why. Every year you get excited about them. Joe Johnson. Josh Smith. Marvin Williams. You get excited about the possibility of them not sucking. Of them somehow making athleticism matter. About them finally showing that potential can lead to something. And then you know what they do? They go out and get blistered by the Pistons. By the Bulls. By the Magic. You dismiss them. And then they start that little run. Get some wins. Sneak into the playoffs, which is supposed to be some sort of validation. And they push Boston to seven games, just enough to where you start to think, "Hey, if the Celtics have a bad day and the Hawks are on..." which is, of course, idiocy. The Hawks are not beating Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a seven game series. Why? Because the universe would explode. That's why.

The Hawks annoy you by simply fulfilling the prophecy of being mediocre. You pushed the Celtics to seven games? Am I supposed to be impressed by that? How about you win more games than the team that lost it's starting All-Star point guard for the season, and we'll talk. Hate the Hawks because not only do they never exceed expectations, they target mediocre expectations, lower their beak, and dive right into them, splattering feathers in every direction. Tell the tease to get off of you and go find a team that will satisfy you right.




Al Horford is the basketball incarnation of Walker, Texas Ranger.

Josh Smith is Ender, He Will Save Us All. Seriously. I completely understand why people doubt Josh Smith. With all his hype, what is it about him that is going to make that much of a difference? How good is he really? I just hope those people have their stories straight when they meet Jesus.

Don't you imaging Mike Bibby as guest starring on Jackass, eventually? Or walking into the arena with Mickey Mouse Ears and demanding to play in them? He's also uneven as all get out.

Marvin Williams has pretty much two options. He can rise up and become a superior player on this team, or he will simply be another guy who puts "professional basketball player" on his tax form and end up as a trivia question answer in the greater Atlanta area.

Zaza Puchulia needs a fanclub.

This team seems empty without Lorenzen Wright. Not in terms of actual basketball talent, but just in general.

Related Blog-Y-Blog: Peachtree Hoops

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