Lang Whitaker is many things - executive editor of Slam Magazine, a columnist for SI.com, and most importantly, a die-hard Hawks fan. For 2007-08 , Lang will be sharing his thoughts on the team in an exclusive column for Hawks.com. Check back every Wednesday throughout the season to read his latest musings, and read him every day at www.SLAMonline.com
"A Good 1-2"
by Lang Whitaker
First, the bad news: One week into the season, the Hawks are 1-2, dancing below .500, where they've dwelled for the better part of this millennium.
Now, the good news: The Hawks could very easily be 3-0. They've played three of the best teams in the NBA, and their two losses have come by a combined 6 points. If there's such a thing as a "good 1-2" record, that's what the Hawks have right now.
So why does my mind want to continue to focus on the bad?
LOSS ONE: Sunday night, there were about 4 minutes to go in the Hawks/Pistons game, and I found myself frantically reaching for my cell phone to try and call Mike Woodson. The lead the Hawks had been clinging to since the second quarter was dwindling, and for reasons I couldn't immediately divine, Tyronn Lue was on the floor. I planned on calling Woody, but then I realized he probably wouldn't take my call.
And then I thought about it a little more. While it didn't really make sense to have Lue on the floor trying to guard the 6-3 Chauncey Billups and the 6-8 Jarvis Hayes, did it make any more sense to have a rookie Acie Law out there, who was even less likely to get a call or a break than Lue?
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There were two options, neither of them particularly wonderful. Woody went with
the more conventional choice, playing his vet, Lue, who got scorched by the
bigger Pistons. It's not Lue's fault -- they may as well have asked Lue to post
up Rasheed Wallace or complete a 360 dunk over Amir Johnson. Woody eventually
called the Law, but the lead was gone for good. And at the end of the day none
of that mattered anyway because Marvin Williams got screwed on a call as
Chauncey Billups drove to the basket.
(Thing is, I'm pretty sure the Hawks loss to Detroit was mostly my fault. The entire time they had that lead, I was sitting on the right side of the sofa. Wifey made me move to the left side so she could use my laptop and shop online, and as soon as I moved seats everything went downhill. So I'll take the blame for that one. Sorry, everyone.)
LOSS TWO: I was in Jersey last night for the Hawks/Nets game, and the Hawks had every opportunity to win but just couldn't get anything going consistently. The Nets slowed the tempo down and literally executed the Hawks in the halfcourt offense.
When the Hawks looked their best this season it was against Dallas, when they were pressing the tempo. When teams slow it down, like the Nets did, the Hawks find themselves stuck trying to create their own looks in the halfcourt offense, which doesn't really work so well—the Hawks totaled 15 assists, while Jason Kidd alone had 12.
So those are the losses, the negatives.
What about the positives? Marvin Williams has looked great thus far, and Al
Horford is terrific, improving game by game. I also love Acie Law's nose for the
rim and his fearlessness driving to the basket. And we haven't even mentioned
Joe Johnson, who has quietly averaged 25.5 a night while leading the team in
assists at 4 per game.
That's right, our shooting guard is leading the team in assists. What does that mean? Well, our halfcourt offense, at least in the two losses, appears to be designed to minimize movement and opportunity. Many possessions end with JJ isolated, dribbling the ball up top, then shooting over his defender. Which isn't the worst option in the world, considering.
What happened to the new run-and-gun team we were promised in the off-season? They're still in there, somewhere, waiting to be unleashed. And until they come out and play, until Woody unleashes the hounds, I fear we're in for more of the same old Hawks.
Even if we are a good 1-2.
Finally, I wanted to get you guys involved. I know I'm not the only one with opinions, thoughts, questions. I'll run the best emails here each week from now on.
Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at www.SLAMonline.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.