Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

Kurt —  December 8, 2006

The Reverse Ewing. Most of you are probably familiar with ESPN.com’s Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons, who coined the phrase “the Ewing theory” for when a team overachieves without its star. He based it on those Riley-coached Knicks of the 90s, who had some good games sans Ewing. And while the evidence is anecdotal, I think we’ve all seen teams for a short while rise up and play well with their star out, the Lakers did it the first few games of this season.

Others have suggested it but I agree, part what I think happened to the Lakers against the Hornets was the “reverse Ewing” — Kobe wasn’t expected to play but then decided to, and the team saw him on the court and the Hornets without three starters and just relaxed.

We’ll see if they can bounce back tonight.

Kobe is expected to play. However, his ankle was more swollen on Thursday than before the last game.

Suggested reading. Got a couple of links sent to me you may want to check out. Over at 3-man lift they have listed the top shooting guards in the NBA right now (shockingly, a Laker made that list). Then there is the new blog Bandwagon LA which is higher on this year’s Lakers than I, but he makes a great point about why this is a fun team to root for:

And it’s because these are OUR guys. Not a bunch of hired guns and accomplished transplants. The core of this team are known as Lakers or not at all. Think about it. We have four draft picks making solid contributions in Luke, Bynum, Farmar, and Turiaf and two more getting decent minutes in Sasha and Cook (when he’s not battling vertigo… man, 6’9″ with vertigo…). Also, we have two starters who were essentially NBA castoffs before they arrived in L.A. in Smush and Kwame; for Smush, I’d go so far as to say he was in the NBA dog pound waiting to be put down before we adopted him and gave him a home.

That would be your sixth-seed Atlanta Hawks. Sure they are 8-9 and in the East that’s still 1.5 games ahead of the 9 seed, but did you really think the Hawks would be this good?

Leading the way is a guy I thought was overpaid but is proving to be a good pick up: Joe Johnson. He’s shooting 56.7% (eFG%) and 39% from beyond the arc. Normally I’d say put Kobe on him, but with the bum ankle that will not work, so it will be interesting to see what Phil chooses to do (Odom? Extra minutes for Mo Evans? Smush?).

Curse of the underachieving former Laker point guards.
Last game it was Pargo having us all saying, “wait, he’s not that good” and with the Hawks that role falls to Tyronn Lue. Lue has a PER of 18.14, and is averaging 19.8 points and 5.2 assists per 40 minutes. He’s the Hawks second scoring option right now. If he can keep that up he’ll be proving me wrong, too.

Lue, however, is not a great defender (Laker fans often remember that wrong because he had the one good series against Iverson in the NBA Finals), opponents are averaging a PER of 19.8 against him. So, this is a night Smush should step up.

Vegas, baby. I am out of town for the next few days, in Vegas visiting the in-laws (trust me, not that much fun, having in-laws in Vegas turns the town into Fresno because you don’t get to go near the casinos). The good news is I’ll be watching the San Antonio game Sunday on their new 60-inch high-def plasma television, although I’m not sure I want to see what Smush looks like up close on that thing.

While I’m away the site will be in the more than capable hands of Gatinho.

Things to look for:
The Hawks mirror the Hornets in that they are not a very good offensive team (24th in the league in offensive efficiency) but they play decent defense. The Lakers need to play better defense to keep the Hawks down and not let them up.

The good news, the two positions the Hawks have struggled to defend the most this year are shooting guard and power forward. So, the Laker big guns should be able to have a big game.

Josh Smith is having an off year, shooting just 25.2% (eFG%) on jump shots and 41.9% overall and is turning the ball over on 15.7% of his possessions, He is, however, athletic and if you let him lose inside can be a force. So, it’s pretty simple, make sure he is shooting jumpers and pressure him defensively.

Josh Childress has been out with a hairline fracture in his foot and Speedy Claxton’s knee has forced him to sit, but Marvin Williams has been cleared to play his first game of the season against the Lakers.

He comes off the bench, but Salim Stoudamire appears to be a spark plug for this team and plays a lot of minutes. The good news is he is turning the ball over on 8.8% of his possessions, so the Lakers should try to pressure him defensively.

The Hawks are coming off a thrilling come-from-behind win against the Nuggets and are feeling pretty good about themselves. The Lakers, if they play like they did against the Hornets, will lose this one too. Hopefully Phil lit a fire under the team – or better yet they did it themselves – and will come out and secure the win.

Kurt

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20 responses to Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

  1. I got some of the Hawks game against the Nuggets, obviously Joe Johnson is their focal point on offense, on defense they ran a lot of zone, so I hope we practiced our zone o.

  2. Another aspect of young teams is that they usually don’t follow one dog game with another. Here’s hoping we are talking about the ‘turnaround’ tomorrow at this time.

  3. The Lakers need to be ready tonight. We cant take the Hawks lightly or we’ll get blown out by them just like the Hornets. They are not a very bad team. Especially since they are gonna be here playing in “Hollywood” in front of all the actors and stars, you know they are gonna play hard. Plus, the Lakers have had a history of losing to the Hawks at least once a year, even back when we had Shaq. So the Lakers need to take Phil’s harsh words after last game seriously and use it as motivation to come out strong tonight. I read in the LA Times that Phil is thinking about starting Turiaf tonight at center. That might be a good idea for a game or two just to inspire Kwame and Andrew to play harder

  4. Bill Simmon’s has a funny take on Dwayne Wade winning the SI Sportsman of the Year.

    Of course, Dwayne Wade won the honor. And you know what? It was a gutsy choice by the new editor of Sports Illustratred, Mr. Bennett Salvatore.

    i completlety agree and will remain bitter about the 8 man title over-waded and crew stole

  5. I think the ewing theory was mor einspired by the Knicks rise to the 99 finals under Van Gundy than during the Riley year, wasn’t it?

    But then, what kind of idiot am I to get all semantic about a Bill Simmons term?

  6. As a non-partisan, but an Atlanta resident, I am shocked that Hawks are playing as well as they are especially considering Josh Childress’s absence. He’s far and away their second-best player.

  7. a game or two? go turiaf!!! they gotta find more time for that boy. a little more at the 4, maybe?

    yeah mannie, i’m pretty sure you’re right about that.

  8. Someone was saying something about some “Ewing effect”or “reverse Ewing effect?”

    Kobe is the fire for this team. I think early season success has blinded some of us (I think I’ll include myself) that this team will ALWAYS need Kobe.

  9. Frick….that this team doesn’t ALWAYS need Kobe that is…

  10. Walton is officially my second favorite Laker, he’ll never surpass McKie of course :), but a great game.

  11. Alright….I don’t want Lamar traded I just want him to be replaced in everyone’s mind as the second option. He is, ultimately, a very good role-player. The fact that it is Luke’s scoring that is taking up Kobe’s slack just proves that to me even more.’

    But beyond that…Smush should now be regulated to being a “scoring punch from the bench” from now on.

  12. Man, that Jordan Farmar kid is something special. We gotta keep giving him playing time. He is instant energy and he makes very sound decisions with the basketball. I think my highest complement to him is that after 19 games, I trust him running my Lakers during crunch time. Great win tonight without Kobe. Total team effort.

  13. WOW! That no look hook by Evans after two great passes will be hard to forget. In the second half, the Lakers started having fun! Haven’t seen that for awhile. For a moment there, Farmar had me thinking I was watching UCLA.

    How many times have the Lakers lost when Kobe wasn’t playing this season?

  14. well here is my take.. (kurt).. first off Smush doesn’t need to start another laker game unless its for the DFenders..I’m serious too.. I really like the guy but he is a second string SG that is playing a starting PG role on a quality NBA team.. my NBA team.. and my last observation is that Ronny needs to be on the court. While Lamar offers everything that no one wants to do he isn’t physical enough on the defensive end..(yeah I saw his two blocks in a row..).. but I still stand by my statement.. Ronny will use his body… dive for loose balls… jump infront of the person that thinks that they have a wide open layup…(and block the ball).. to end off though Ronny needs to Start.. Period.. this isn’t going to happen though.. I know it…. you know it.. heck my next door neighbor knows it and he isn’t even a lakers fan.. but if we want to win a Chp then he needs to be in the lineup….(Thanks for this site Kurt)

  15. oh and don’t get my post wrong I don’t want lamar traded or bumped out of the starting lineup either.. I just want to see some quality D..

  16. I don’t know about Turiaf in the starting lineup, but he is a perfect complement off the bench. I expect to see him plenty during crunch time, especially since kwame and bynum seem to like fouling anybody that is in the paint. What a deep team we seem to have to enjoy that luxury.
    My biggest concerns are consistent defense and streaky shooting. What I like about Farmar is that he takes the ball to the rim and gives us some realistic fast break opportunities we haven’t had in years. I don’t mind Smush starting, but I want Jordan finishing.

  17. I’m not sure Jordan is ready to start right now, he just isn’t consistent enough (shooting, even decision making at times). But, by next season I could see him and Smush switching roles. Right now I’m comfortable with what Phil is doing — start Smush, bring in Farmar and see which one is hot, then play that one late.

  18. So nice to have options at all 5 positions. You’re right, Kurt, when Smush gets hot in the first quarter, the Lakers are a tough team to beat. I like that Phil is playing the hot hand at both PG/Center positions. Mix that with Kobe, Lamar, and Luke, and the Lakers should be playing better in the 4th quarter than they have been lately. Let’s hope they can all gel on SUN. What a measuring stick game we have in front of us.

  19. i was gonna propose farmar starting before this game… now, it seems like a very distinct possibility.

    i just like the move because it would irk smush and probably push him to play harder on the defensive end. get him to earn it back. maybe wait for a bad patch to change things up first.

    i still believe for this season smush would be the betterstarter overall, but right now he could benefit from some mind games.

    i don’t like ronny starting, but he really seems like a guy whose potential is akin to luke’s because of his work ethic– the guy is not just a hustler. we hurt ourselves in the long run by not finding him more time. not a real fan of him playing center too much though because kwame and andrew need the growth as well.

    he sucked in the first half last night.

  20. “i just like the move because it would irk smush and probably push him to play harder on the defensive end”–John

    play harder on D? I hate to say it but it doesn’t matter how “hard” he is trying he can’t keep up with the faster PG’s in the league, thats why last year PJ actually had to let Sasha play a little bit, because he would actually TRY to play D…I just wanna see Smush try. His lathargic attitude like he belongs on the court makes me want to reach threw the TV screen and punch him in the mouth. Yeah we all know that when he gets that hot hand on offense he can score, but he doesn’t get anyone involved in the game… yeah its the triangle and it doesn’t have to be the PG’s role to do this but come on now he could make an effort at least sometimes out there.. my prediction is that by the ASB you’ll see a new starting PG.