On Tap: The Atlanta Hawks

Kurt —  February 15, 2006

Record: 15-34 (15-34 Pythagorean), 13th seed in the East (ahead of the Knicks and Bobcats)
Record last 10 games: 4-6 (including a win over Detroit)
Offensive Rating: 106.5 (16th in league)
Defensive Rating: 111.8 (27th in league)

The Lakers coming in: They played defense against Utah and they got the win. Oh, sure, they didn’t make it easy on themselves (although part of that falls on Phil Jackson for some early and interesting lineup experimentation), but they got the win.

While I tend to focus on the tangible here, tonight’s game for the Lakers is about professionalism and focus. They play a lower-tier team on the last night before the long All-Star break, it’s the kind of game the Lakers could look past. And they are not good enough to look past anyone. Nor can they afford to with the tight playoff chase.

About the Hawks: Last off-season the Hawks brought in Joe Johnson to be there best player. The good news is he is their best player. That’s also the bad news.

Johnson leads the Hawks (among regular players) with a +/- (per 48 minutes) of +2.4 — making him the only regular Hawk player with a raw +/- in the positive. He leads the team with a PER of 18 and has been playing well of late, shooting 54.6% (eFG%) in the last 10 games. But Johnson’s numbers are off from his breakout season in Phoenix, for example last year he shot an insane 47.8% from three-point range, this season that number is 35.5%.

The Hawks have some other athletic and talented young players. Al Harrington leads the team scoring 20.1 per 40 minutes, Josh Childress has a true shooting percentage of 61%. They are even getting a decent offensive season out of Tyronn Lue.

But Lue is not much of a defender (despite Laker fans memories of a few good games in the Finals) and point guards are shredding Atlanta. It’s not all on Lue — Johnson has never been a good defender and so far really none of the Hawks have.

Easy Laker Buckets: While we’re talking defense, Atlanta’s Josh Smith is third in the league with 13 goaltending calls (on defense) this season. Just so you know if you see him knocking the ball off the cylinder.

Draw the charge: Brian Cook has become very good at drawing the charge and he is second on the Lakers with 15 so far this year (Sasha has 16). He could pick a few more tonight with Zaza Pachulia on the other team — he is fourth in the league in the number of charging fouls he has gotten. Pachulia actually gets called for a charge on 5.7% of his possessions. Just something to look for.

(By the way, if you follow the above link you’ll see Kobe third in the league in the number of charging calls he’s earned — but the important thing to note is it is only 2.1% of his possessions, which is a reasonable percentage considering how much he has the ball and how much he drives to the basket.)

Apropos of nothing: If you’ve never seen the video of Vince Carter dunking over Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics, you need to see this. Thanks to Henry at True Hoop not only for the posting, but also for the reminder at the bottom of how long the Knicks GMs have been making horrific mistakes.

Key’s to a Laker win: This is certainly a winnable game — but ask the Pistons about looking past the Hawks.

The weakest spots defensively this season for the Hawks have been the point and the three — or Smush/Odom (depending on how the Hawks match up) and Kobe. They should have big nights.

That said, the key again is playing good defense. The Hawks offense is average by NBA standards, but they can outscore the Lakers if the home team is not focused tonight. Kobe has been gambling more on defense lately, jumping into passing lanes and going for steals, and that could pay off tonight as the Hawks don’t have the passers and veterans that could exploit that.

22 responses to On Tap: The Atlanta Hawks

  1. The Kwame Theory:
    I have noticed that when it comes to Kwames hands, his brain gets in the way. When a player sets Kwame up for an easy lay-up (not a dunk cause Kwame can’t dunk in traffic unless its a tip jam) he misses the pass or fumbles it out of bounds. Then again, he’s great at tracking down rebounds and is very good at securing the ball. How is this possible?
    The theory is his brain gets in the way. When he is tracking down a rebound or catching the ball at the high post the thought of shooting does not enter his mind. Watch next time he gets a rebound. He will look right to the top of the key for someone to pass to, even if he is wide open for a shoot. Its the same at the high post, he gets the ball and can’t wait to get rid of it.
    Now when someone passes to him in scoring position and Kwame knows that he has to shoot the ball, things go wrong. Against Utah, I counted 5 passes that were in his hands and were missed for lay-ups. How can a good rebounder not be able to catch the ball for lay-ups?



  2. On Pincus:

    Is it satisfactory to not make any moves at all before the deadline?

  3. Yes because I can’t think of a move out there that is both feasible and desirable.

  4. how much does francis make? cause why not try to get him for say george and miami’s first round draft pick? I don’t know just a thought.

  5. Daniel– you’re on to it re Kwame and indeed
    the wider dilemma of specialized play.

    Watching Kwame I have thought the very same thing
    you have– he cannot seem to process more than one task at a time. If he is made to, you literally “see” him
    deciding what to do, and in that moment of decision
    the opportunity is closing or lost.

    It’s also true to a lesser extent with Lamar;
    you “see” him decide to drive to the paint
    instead of pass, and that extra moment of consideration is just enough for the open lane
    to close and he gets an offensive foul or a blocked
    shot instead of an “and-one.”

    Stu Lantz uses ( sometimes overuses )
    words like “rhythm” and “momentum”
    for good reason, because the decision to
    give or to go, to put back or kick out
    ought to be part of the flow of information
    that traffics the mind to be open to all possiblities
    and pick the most favorable.

    Kwame’s in the lane thinking
    “rebound, rebound, rebound”
    because he wants to focus on being better
    at it than he had been last week.

    He has to be shown how to do what he already does
    in other activities
    ( especially if he drives in Los Angeles )
    rebounding may be his focus, but if he’s open
    look for the ball, and as he’s nearest the basket
    he needs to be physically set to put the ball in
    with the fewest moves.

    I hadn’t watched him play with the Wizards
    or before so I don’t know if he’s maybe doing
    a mental rebuilding or if he’s always been
    a one-track mind player, but I do know
    that some of his “Roberto Duran disease”
    can be addressed by practice, but he’s got
    to ask the questions and test body positions
    and court vision and opposition and make it
    “subconcious” which he does rather better on
    the defensive end and do same on the offensive side.

    When I see how much mental discipline
    goes into making an elite athlete
    ( or an elite anything, really )
    I really appreciate seeing so-called role players
    like Chris Mihm and Brian Cook stretch their limits
    and my respect for Kobe’s dedication continues
    to grow.

    mental discipline also may be the intangible factor
    that some scouts and GMs can perceive
    better than others.
    If they have they will, they will develop the skill.

    – 5 –

    – 5 –

  6. so, like i said a couple days ago, draft thoughts anyone?

  7. i think i have the perfect zen-mind control recipe for the current laker situation. it’s not fancy. all it does it face cold, hard facts.

    this laker team, it’s not made of men.

    they’re kids. boys. not men.

    you can blame they’re age, “hey, they’re young”. bull. there are kids much younger than them in iraq right now handling their much more difficult business infinitely better than this group. and they earn a hell of a lot less.

    every time phil is in front of a mike he should point out that it’s obvious this team is still a team of children and hasn’t earned anyone calling them anything but. not in a harsh way, at least at first. like he’s trying to be patient in waiting for them to grow up.

    point out with some disbelief at how they’re so childlike, immature, lazy in how they present themselves. and are getting away with highway robbery every time they cash a check from this organization. wonder how they can possibly sleep at night.

    be upfront and honest with the city– this team is basically one of the pussiest teams in the league. when another one of the gigantic pussy teams comes into town and sows your ass to your face on your home floor– over and over again– congratulations. you’ve won the Most Spineless Team Award.

    let that run in all the papers for the rest of the season, let’s see how the players take to being found out.

    if phil doesn’t say it, kobe should be all birdlike and say it himself. celtics changed their tune mighty quick.

    and if somehow this team continues to play in this ridiculous way, you may want to wonder HOW FUCKING EMBARRASSING IT MUST BE TO BE A FAN

  8. Again what a disgrace to watch the Lakers play….They looked great in the 1st quarter, Giving the ball up in the post and getting shots within 10 feet, scoring over 30 points…….Then after the 1st they forgot what gave them that big lead by starting to “Chuck the ball” again from 20 feet and beyond. Bryant is great in the post but they stopped that all of a sudden. Vujasucks again has shown once again that he sucks….what did he shoot like 1-8 yikes!! Do they know the meaning of hustle as well, too many second chances by the hawks and I can tell you one thing if Shaq was in the middle this would not have happened. I counted like over 14 easy layups. Kwame is soft, Vujasucks should not even be in the nba, Cook-nice shooter but has to play like a 6-10 guy on def, Parker lots of glitz but not a thinking man when it comes to ruuning the O. Lammar-Needs to step up and be a leader. THE LAKERS LOST TO THE FREAKEN HAWKS FOR GODS SAKE!!! If Mitch Kupsucks (He sucks too) needed a wakeup call to shake things up maybe the hawks (who were 4-20 on the road) is the thing to wake his UnWEST like GM up. Out of all the past Lakers I miss Jerry West The GM the most. Even when they were in rebuild mode we still be the Sonics in the first round with Peeler, Threet, Vlade……..They hustled that is what is missing today with these Lakers. I turned off the game in the 4th with 8 minutes to play and the Lakers only losing by 5 because I knew they had no heart to win

  9. Offense finally gets its act together (granted against a terrrible team) and the players decide that they don’t have to play defense. Ron, Ron, where are you?

  10. Does the word lethargic ring a bell in describing the defensive effort this year? However, enough with the excuses and trying to rationalize as to why players aren’t jumping at shooters, fighting for rebounds, or cutting to the bucket instead of shooting darn three point shots. It seems many of the players on this team think the “calls” and hence the “w’s” will come simply because of the mystic that goes with the franchise and the uniform they wear. This was most obvious when Smush missed the dunk at the end and instead of fighting for the rebound when the game was on the line simply stood by and glared at the official demonstrating disbelief as though they “owed” him that call. This plays to the mental part of the battle on the court and it is obvious they have much work to do on and off the court. They need to improve their “defensive execution” and “conditioning” and bring SOME sort of intensity every game because nothing will be giving, it has to be earned!


  12. after the 1st quarter, which they executed their offence and played some nice D…welll…

    Lakers: perimeter passing, time clock winds down, jack up a 3, long rebound, 1 shot and out-
    Atlanta: rebound, push it up the floor, find a cutter, or a few passs underneath – layup

    Lakers: perimeter passing, time clock winds down, jack up a 3, long rebound, 1 shot and out-
    Atlanta: rebound, push it up the floor, find a cutter, or a few passs underneath – layup

    Lakers: perimeter passing, time clock winds down, jack up a 3, long rebound, 1 shot and out-
    Atlanta: rebound, push it up the floor, find a cutter, or a few passs underneath – layup

    and so on, for the next 3 quarters…
    a few thoughts…
    Lakerjoe is right, I’ve seen Smush play as if he’s owed something cause he’s in the pros now…and he stps playing and glares at the ref, like he expects the ref to stop play and change his call, he also gets in a funk and almost gets caught crossing half court by the 8 count, and this is just not acceptable on a team that should reflect hustle above all else, since we are not winning it based on talent, it’s gotta be heart and desire.
    speaking of hear and desire…I really like what Ronnie brings to the game, hope to see him become a star ala AC Green, or even a Ben Wallace…he deserves it. I think with what’s he’s been through, he has an appreciation for life and an understanding of what’s important, (not like some of these whinners who “can’t feed their family on 7 million/year” …you know what I mean…)

  13. I just hate thinking about how sorry we are at the all-star break so thank goodness I can let it out with the Laker family. I just noticed Kobe was tired. He couldn’t hit his freethrows which I noticed when he has played alot of minutes. As for everyone else I think Vujacic and Smush cost us the game. They went 2-16 from the field. Kobe and Smush went 7-16 from the freethrow line. And all the layups given up. We can thank Kwame for getting in foul trouble. I’m sure they didn’t practice with him on the bench before the game. Nobody fouls out in practice. What the hell is Kareem teaching these fools on defense. Bynum looks top heavy. He can’t get good position when the other team crashes the boards. He just gets pushed aside even with a weak team like the Hawks. This is a man’s league. Unless you were built like Lebron he just needs to stay in the gym and workout. He shouldn’t be bragging that he could now bench 175lbs when he weighs 275. He’s freakin weak. I don’t see him being a great center. Otherwise he would be great!. Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone came out of high school and I don’t see Bynum in that class. He’ll probably be at best like an awkward Mutumbo. Kwame is just a younger version of Elden Campbell. Mental headcase that thinks he can dominate. He said he was going to be a beast this year. Yeah more like road kill. Now that he has the stage while Mihm is out he can’t outplay anyone on the Hawks. Watching this team is bitter sweet. But one thing that keeps me going is knowing the owner wants to win. Phil wants to win, Kobe wants to win. Kupchak I’m not to sure of. With the Lakers lack of depth I can’t believe that when Baron Davis was available he didn’t pick him up and now Artest. How hard is it to pick up Smush from the Development league? or an average center like Mihm, or a bust like Kwame? I’m still mad that we gave up Shaq for 3 chumps. Kupchak rhymes with wack. He pieced this team together and they are all head cases. We’ve got a playground legend that is stinking up the court with his inconsistency, Walton who has no shot and no D, We’ve held onto Medvadenko another headcase, picked up Vlade whom still thinks he’s with Sacramento and never gave us anything, It just goes on and on.Lamar i’m coming around, I see him improving. Aaron McKie, he might as well be playing in the ymca cause he can’t get well if his life depended on it. Green and Wafer, they’d probably be riding the bench in a city league. Buss needs to fire this chump before he makes anymore mistakes. He wasn’t much when he played for the Lakers and he’s not much since being hired as the GM. At least during the early 90’s we still made the playoffs with the execption of the 93-94 season. If 2007 carries over with no additions I say fire Mitch Whackchak.

  14. Dallas had an offer for Shaq: Nowitski and Nash. So what if Dallas wins a championshiip or two before Shaq’s body falls apart. Nowitski, Nash, and Kobe would be contenders year iin and year out and they’d eventually and probably repeat somewhere in there. As much as Kupchack is an idiot, this was about Buss hooking is old bud Pat Riley up.

  15. Paul, Mark Cuban has said several times that Nowitzki was never part of the offer for Shaq.

    And wilzuvsteel, let’s give an 18-tear-old Bynum couple of years to put on that muscle he needs. He is a kid.

  16. DJ not damon jones February 16, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    after that loss, kobe’s going to come out and get All-Star MVP. i can feel it. if he doesn’t, he’s going back to playing his best since january to pull the lakers above .500. also, steve ‘old franchise’ francis is still a good grab. mitch kupholder better do something before trade deadline.

  17. mICHAEL Cooper once said you win game in the trenches Kareem postup, Worthy Postup, Magic Postup…..These Lakers now think the trench is out past the arc….YOU CANNOT WIN LIKE THAT ONCE AGAIN!!! The Lakers need to get a key post up player (Kobe for one gets was awesome in the 1st posting up and the double comes and he finds someone for a 10 ft or less shot…Perfect basketball….I think Cook must develop an inside game, Lamar can but he is so wishy washy he would get more frazzled…Brown hell no just play def like bEN wALLACE AND Rodman, Parker-He must go to the bench—He does not know how to be a floor general—–Vashuvsuck on this team just sickens me…..His shooting and def is jsut horrible I feel like chokibg Kupsucks!!! I have noticed George has no drive he jusyt does that goofy smile when he does something wrong–Trade him!!! Bryant is the only “Alpha” player out there—–WE need a second scorer not as Kupsucks says in which teh Lakers should hold pat because Mckie will be recovered soon—WHAT!!!!! The Hawks have not beaten a West team since 2004 until the Lakers acted like idiots again…..I know Phil is was giveen this crappy deck from Mitchy….We need a new GM, not someone who goes to Italy with the trading deadline near…..Thease Lakers just plain suck which should drive them instead of making them head cases like Parker-Brown Lamarr-Vujisuck

  18. is it just me… or do you get the idea that this last loss to the lowly Hawks is kinda like …the last straw??
    I was of course dissapointed by the loss, however I wasn’t shocked…
    it seems to me this team is far from the Laker tradition we all know and why we are such passionate fans…and that’s what this team is lacking…passion…heart…will and desire to win???
    I know that sometimes a team is just “one bad bounce” away from a win, but there’s also the concept that hustle gets the bad bouce and then you get another shot.
    when we fall out of rhythm on offense, which so often happens these days, with the love for the outside shot, then we need to TURN THIS TEAM INTO DEFENSIVE SPECIALISTS!!! GET A WIN WITH D!!!

  19. you know what.. I started reading this site because of the BASKETBALL insight that was given by Kurt, John, and Gathino… Today’s analysis just makes me sick. 1st off. yes we lost to a horrible team…(a horrible team that beat the Pistons). I know that it was only one win out of their 15, but still its not like they’re the knicks or anything. Lets just keep it at that though. it was a loss. we are what 500% now? with something like 30 games left. Everyone is acting like the seaon is over and we are the worst team in basketball. I don’t have the luxory of living at home in LA like most of you do but I will still keep hope when it seems like there is no reason to keep it. Even though I can’t watch all the games on TV I still watch the scores update every 30 seconds. I’m just saying don’t give up hope. How do we improve on our current situation? 1. get Mihm back. As much as I like seeing Bynum get more playing time I would rather see Mihm out there (not getting in foul trouble). 2. never let Kwame start another game in his life. (I think that no matter what team he is on he needs to just be a hustle player aed not have to worry about scoring or having anything rest on his shoulders) 3. We need to get a true point guard. (and I am not talking about A. Mckie) As much as I love to watch Parker play when he seems to have a chip on his shoulder he shouldn’t be a starting point guard. (oh yeah and we need to just let sasha go.. please I mean just pay him the rest of his contract and let him go back to where ever we found him.). 4. In closing we need to find a good shrink and send him to mitch cause seriously maybe there is something wrong with the man.. I mean I am kinda worried about him… he may have serious medical issues that no one has ever noticed.

    Please just keep your heads up because no matter what happens I’ll still be here rooting for the only team in LA.

  20. i don’t think a basketball game has made me so mad. at least as an adult.

    i don’t know if “surprised” is the right word. i think a little. only because the previous days there was a lot of lip service about the mid-season phil interviews and all the players running their mouths about how they’ve underachieved. making such a big to-do about the problem, one would hypothesize there would be at least a short-term solid effort to erase it.

    then you had the start of the game, another great start on a very short list. which was heaven, at least from an offensive standpoint. all sorts of activity, everyone getting involved. made you think, YES, THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE. at least against the weaker defensive teams, you know? then the same old immaturity kicked in, and they let their faces get kicked in.

    phil said he didn’t know what the problem is, but he does. he or kobe has to question this team’s manhood. it’s totally offensive and painful to hear that kind of thing. and in this case it’s entirely true.

    and it’s even better if that diagnosis is delivered without any kind of emotion. just a statement of fact that has to be eradicated.

  21. preach John… PREACH…

  22. One of the main problems overall these days in general in the NBA is that players seems to play with the mind set that they are playing for the “name” on the back of their jersey’s rather than what is on the front. Simply put, the boyz need to put in some serious work defensively. I don’t know if many will agree or not, but I think there is such a thing to lose with dignity, effort, and energy. You obviously can’t win them all, but you can at least try.

    I for one definitely have not given up on the boyz. I just wonder how soon till they start giving up on each other at this rate? I think Ronny deserves more time on the floor because he does bring a positive attitude, energy, and heart which go a looooong way!