Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

Darius Soriano —  February 14, 2012

Records: Lakers 16-12 (5th in West), Hawks 18-10 (4th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 103.1 (15th in NBA), Hawks 104.0 (12th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.0 (11th in NBA), Hawks 99.8 (7th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hawks: Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia
Injuries: Lakers: none; Hawks: Al Horford (out for the season), Jason Collins (out)

The Lakers Coming in: First, the okay part: the Lakers are back home after a grueling 6 game road trip that saw them play .500 ball. Many expected them to play to that level and considering they could have won two of the three games they lost and lost two of the games they won, that record seems about right. It’s also fitting because at this point, this team is pretty much a .500 team that has the talent base (in its big three) to play a step above that. Hence, their current 16-12 record.

Now, the not so okay part: the Lakers seem to be grasping at straws while players are being a bit more vocal about either their individual roles or the prospects of adding (or subtracting) from the current roster, and thus implying the state of the team isn’t that strong. MWP has spoken out about his role and his playing time, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture or inspire thoughts of a harmonious relationship between himself and the head coach. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant has stated that bringing in Gilbert Arenas “can’t hurt” after the Lakers worked out the former all-star guard over the weekend. Neither of these stories are particularly damning, but both bring into question how this team is progressing and whether or not the belief still exists that the current group of players can compete at the level they’d all like. And while I understand fans have felt this way for sometime, it’s quite another thing for players to feel this way or for the front office to grab at players that no one else seemingly wants. (As an aside, I have more thoughts on Arenas that I’ll share another time).

All in all, the Lakers are in a tricky position now. The expectations coming into the season were to compete for a championship, but the moves made – the hiring of Brown, the conservative approach to free agency, the Odom trade – all speak to a more long-term approach. Time will tell if there are bigger moves made or if this group can find its stride, but right now there seems to be a lot of uncertainty amongst the people who need to be single-minded in their belief regarding this team. Ultimately, that’s not a positive.

The Hawks Coming in: While the 76ers are one of the surprise teams of the league, the Hawks don’t trail them too far for exceeding expecations. Coming into the season this team was considered a group that would likely slip in the standings, becoming a lower playoff seed that couldn’t do much damage. Instead, they’ve won 18 of their 28 games and have found a way to compete even after they lost their best player (Al Horford) to a torn pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the season. If you had the Hawks still being a top 4 seed in the East after Horford went down you can raise your hand, but understand no one believes you because no one thought this was possible.

The Hawks, though, are still playing well and it’s mostly on the backs of Joe Johnson (who made his 6th all-star game roster last week) and Josh Smith (who was again snubbed from the ASG). Johnson, though not living up to his contract, is still providing his steady production by creating shots for himself and his teammates and giving the Hawks a late game option to get a bucket in close games. Smith, meanwhile, has stepped up his game with Horford out by hitting the glass harder and stepping up his paint defense. He still confounds fans with his penchant for taking long two-point jumpers, but his work around the paint is still exceptional and his ability to finish at the rim in transition and the half court is of great value to his team.

When you add those two players to a solid Marvin Williams and an improving Jeff Teague, you have the makings of a solid team that competes every night by playing tough defense, taking care of the ball, and playing a team-centric game on offense. Their talent level may not make this a championship level team, but their style of play is a winning one.

Hawks Blogs: Check out Hoopinion, they do very good work covering this team.

Keys to game: The Hawks offer an intriguing match up because they have the types of parts that typically give the Lakers fits. Teague is a speedster PG that can push the pace and create off the dribble. Josh Smith is a rangy PF that will start possessions deep on the floor but use his athleticism to create shots at the rim (while also taking some deep jumpers). Joe Johnson is the type of power SG that can create shots all over the floor and must be paid attention to at all times. Defensively, they’ll bang you inside with Pachulia, with Smith coming over to clean up and block shots from the weak side. They also have no qualms about packing the lane and daring you to shoot from the outside, because their wings have good size and can cover enough ground to chase shooters, but can also rebound or cover the paint if need be.

This means the Lakers are up for a real challenge even if they have advantages in certain match ups when utilized correctly. On the surface, tonight should be about Pau Gasol going to work on Josh Smith in the post. Smith is a fantastic helper but his man-on-man D can leave something to be desired, especially when defending the post. I’d love to see Pau get some touches on the left block and for Kobe to run some P&Rs with Pau to get him the ball in space, where he can attack off the bounce or shoot his short jumper (or set up Bynum with the lob when the defense rotates).

I’d also like to see Bynum get going early, especially against a rugged defender in Pachulia. At the start of the game is when Bynum will have the most energy and should be able to beat Zaza up the floor to get early position on the block. If Bynum can force Pachulia to foul him, the only backup with real size is the newly signed Erick Dampier, and while he offers strength, he lacks quickness and athleticism at this advanced stage of his career.

Defensively, the Lakers will need to finish possessions with rebounds because the Hawks aren’t going to do them any favors by playing sloppy basketball. As has been their style for years, the Hawks are very good at taking care of the ball and running their sets to get decent looks. I’m assuming that MWP will start on Joe Johnson and we’ll see if he has the footspeed to match Joe on the perimeter when he works off the dribble. MWP has not been as steady on that side of the floor this year, but he typically gets up for the bigger match ups and tonight offers one of those in Johnson. As for Smith, Gasol will have his hands full but he should be able to keep him under wraps if he sags off and invites the long jumper. Even if Smith doesn’t take the bait by settling for the long two, Pau will at least have an angle on his drives to cut off penetration and contest shots when he does attack the paint.

The bigger issue will be containing Teague. As mentioned earlier he will attack the rim, and he’s good at changing ends quickly and taking advantage of poor transition defense. Toward the end of the Lakers road trip, they were quite poor in this area, and will need to be better tonight or Teague will race by them to create good shots for himself or teammates. Teague’s also a threat to turn the corner in the P&R so the Lakers bigs will need to hedge well to deny his driving lane and then recover to the paint to shut down passing angles.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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77 responses to Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

  1. I wonder how they will play after the trading deadline, the looming trade scare could have affect their plays and chemistry.

  2. “The expectations coming into the season were to compete for a championship, but the moves made – the hiring of Brown, the conservative approach to free agency, the Odom trade – all speak to a more long-term approach. ” When I first heard Mike Brown was hired coach, as opposed to previous Laker ass’t Brian Shaw and that a new offense would be installed, I said “this looks like a transition year”.

    Then they tried to get CP3, and I said, “I was wrong”. But that’s the way things are in business, situations can change your business plans. I would have no problem standing pat on personnel if I thought the Lakers had a 50-50 chance of signing Dwight & D-Will in the off-season signaling a new chapter in the Laker franchise. I would hope Kobe would be willing to restructure his contract (can that be done in the NBA?) so the Lakers can really push the re-tooling process. As for Bynum, Gasol, & company, they’d all be available for players to surround D-12, D-Will & Kobe.

  3. Hey Lakers fans..

    we should try this…

    What better place to start this movement than here on forumblueandgold..

    We could actually affect the outcome of games with a little coordinated effort..

    It’d be fun to try anyways

  4. I’m very worried about the MWP story. A guy like MWP, unhappy, is toxic to the team. I hope that Brown can reach out to him and make him buy into his role.

    Having said that, I can see how MWP is angry over his role and his minutes when Fish continues to get minutes while underperforming as much as MWP.

    I really think that the success of this season will boil down to a simple factor: can Mike Brown effectively coach this squad, with its volatile personalities and egos?

    As it stands right now, I think the answer to that question is “no.” I know I am not a good student of the game like some of you are, but what little I know leads me to the conclusion that Brown is under performing based on the pieces that he has been given. Sure, what coach would not like a team perfectly constructed for him. However, unless you are Jerry Sloan or Greg Popovich, that rarely happens. I realize this team has big holes, but this team has the potential to be a play off threat – and perhaps a a contender. In my opinion, Brown has not been able to put together effective line up combos or make adequate in-game adjustments based on the pieces that we have. Also, Mike Brown is not the type of coach that fits in with the high-powered offensive style this franchise is known for.

    Just had to vent before tonight’s game.

  5. just an FYI, now living in east TN, i found the game will be broadcast on a Southern Sports channel, with Atl only a couple hours away, I guess I found regional coverage. yeah!

    right now, we need someone to step up and become a Lin type gamer, some unexpected surprise from a sub, maybe Gouldlock? but then, he’d need to get PT for that to happen, eh?
    i kind of miss seeing mcRoberts, loved his game

  6. This is a very insulting statement, especially bringing up Brown’s background, suggesting that he is not really qualified to be a coach:
    “And right now, coach is a stats guy. His background is video coordinator or whatever. So he’s all stats. But Ron Artest is all feel. He doesn’t understand that. ”

    Maybe this will cause Brown to play MWP less!
    I certainly hope so.

  7. As much as things have changed, nothing has really changed since the last part of the 2010-11 season.

    The point guard play is still deficient to compete against good guards. Even with Blake and Gouldlock upgrading their games, teams like the Clippers can still kill the Lakers on the perimeter, just like Dallas did last spring.

    Small forward isn’t giving enough scoring. Barnes really needs to get a steady starting role here.

    Bynum and Gasol still aren’t getting enough attention on offense. When you have two seven footers, both All-Star-level guys, there’s no reason to keep chucking three-point shots and making next to none of them. This is one of the worst outside shooting teams I’ve ever seen, and with no good threat to open up the floor – and little speed with which to run – every possession becomes harder than it should be.

    There is nothing to suggest this team can make a deep run in the playoffs, and even the pined-for Howard-for-Bynum deal wouldn’t help that cause. This roster is fundamentally imbalanced, and it’s going to take some significant changes before the team can compete against the likes of Oklahoma City, the Clippers or others in the west, let alone the Bulls or Heat.

  8. Here’s some positive energy! My second child, a healthy 8.5 pound boy was born tonight! May the Lakers cap off this great Valentine’s day!

  9. The Lakers need a SF that can consistently manufacture a perimeter game to take defensive pressure off of Kobe and the BIGS.

    That isn’t something that MWP can offer at this stage.

    On most teams competing for the playoffs it’s fairly obvious he would have been already relegated to deep bench status.

    As far as I can see, Brown has given him every opportunity to find a way to make a consistent contribution and the guy hasn’t responded.

    Seems prudent at the moment for Mitch to see if interest crops up from another team who’s chasing a playoff birth and wants a tough, gritty defender and then try to make a move.

    If circumstances become intolerable, there is always the amnesty route.

    Hard to hang this guy’s 2 year drop off in performance on Brown. It’s not like we didn’t signs of this all last season.

  10. I think the recent discussion has been excellent. I love this forum (well most of u). So for tonight’s game: Pessimists: Please continue to say outlandish, repetitive things, because it is amusing. Optimists: Please continue to tell us that it is all going to be fine. Personally, I need both groups, just to make it to the ASG. Go Lakers + Go Kobe

  11. Brown is right to bench to MWP. But why is he not benching Fisher? This is what P*sses me off about this guy. He has the nads to bench the mercurial guy, but cant do the same for the aging PG? I would be more afraid of an uppercut from MWP than being bored to death from a monotone speech from Fisher on why he needs to stay on the floor.

  12. DY: Congrats.

    You managed to post on the day your child was born.

    Kapono needed a week off from the Lakers for the same – go figure : )

  13. Congrats DY. Great news.

    To respond to someone’s question earlier (and to a number of comments of late about the same topic) – I am almost positive (99%) that you cannot restructure your contract in the NBA. So even if Kobe wanted to move a few mill around to give the team some flexability to sign players, he can’t.

  14. Congrats DY!!! Awesome.

    Lakers can use all of the good mojo they can get.

    Watched the Clips & Mavs last night. Not scared of the Clips. Mavs would take the Lakers’ lunch money again though.

    I’d like to see Murphy get/take a few more shots. I’d like to see Kobe clean up his fourth quarter shooting. I’d like to see Bynum and Gasol play with energy the whole game. I’d like to see Fish launch a very successful business career asap.

  15. Congrats DY!

  16. I only hope thus causes FO to dump Metta. LO sulked to his agent and he gets trashed to Dalas.

    Metta Head shouts to the media while playing the worst ball in the league and the FO hides it’s head?

    Scared of Metta or scared of eating that dumb contract?

    Either way Phil, Riley, Pops, Sloan you name it
    would bury this guy for a month on the bench. Let’s see if Brown has grown some since he was in Cleveland? I doubt it.

  17. This team has a lot of areas which require attention if not immediately. Bench the worst in the NBA, you can’t win on the road without a fairly good bench. Small Forward play, Lakers rank last in this area, and PG, the Lakers Ranked dead last in this position as well.

    So you have the NBA leading scorer on your team and everything else that makes a team in ranked dead last, this is a formula for internal bickering and a coach possibly losing his team.

  18. Sportswriter

    Couldn’t have said it better. I have been trying and trying to the dismay of some on this sight.

  19. LINSANITY!!!!!

    Honestly I fully expect Lakers to lose tonight. Hawks have a good team and good bench. Lakers big 3 won’t be enough. Need a big game from a unexpecting player to win.

  20. man, linsanity is something else.

    this turnovers are something else too, but dang…

  21. My go to site for the games is down tonight. Can somebody please post a link to the game when they have it?

  22. Sportswriter: Ken is in a good mood tonight. Many of us posted similar words in pre-season, so if u want to be a “sportswriter”, u will need to come up with something we do not know already : )

    Kevin + harold: This is a Lakers board. I think this is one rule everyone would agree on : )

  23. Let’s not act like this MWP act is new. Last year he wanted out and was causing friction.

    Remember close to trade deadline. The Lakers-Bobcats trade. Should have traded him then. Now look what were stuck with.

  24. I have said this before, I will say it again here. I think people haven’t paid enough attention to the seriousness of the coaching situation for the Lakers. When an individual player on the team plays poorly, it the player’s problem. But when the entire team under-performs, one has to conclude that it is the coach problem. Now we are two months into the season, MB has to show some improved connectivity with the players. I don’t think this is happening. MWP complaints really are a tip of iceberg. I wouldn’t surprised other players have similar feelings towards MB. It’s troubling time for the Lakers. We can only hope that the nightmare won’t last long.

  25. Will Baby Dy apply for Lakers PG 20 years from now? Better start early, no crying and no more whining. Enjoy the day.

  26. Let’s go Lakers. This is a classic west vs east where the west is going to show the east which conference is best (9-3 in championships since 2000)

  27. 27. Edwin Gueco. My son is half Asian and African American. Take that Jeremy Lin! (and my wife and I both went to any Ivy League school: Penn). Double take that Lin. Lol.

  28. Nice 2 footer Fisher. Is he on the All-Stars?

  29. Love that block by ‘Drew! Looks like we got motivated Bynum to start the game! Love when he plays like this.

  30. Linsanity, indeed. And Calderonsanity, err something. Amusing to me that tonights NYC/TOR game featured the two PGs that recently Lakered themselves (i.e., achieved career highs against our phantom PG position). Also funny that they both did great against _each other_ . . . 27/11 for Lin and 25/9 for Calderon. Maybe that DFish “d” is still with them, like slow-half-life-LAL.PG-fairy-dust….

  31. Couple of nice post moves by Drew. Excellent foot work.

  32. Barnes showing what a penetration point guard could do for this team

  33. Kobe is in one of those I don’t care moods. That’s a problem. He is hurting the team. Does Brown know how to call TO and break up this bad starting lineup.

    They are tuning out Brown like Cleveland used to.

  34. Mike Brown has to get Kobe on the move. Iso ball has looked bad since philly

  35. Congrats DY! Great news.

  36. umm cant we go back to drew?

  37. @Robert

    yeah, but our game didn’t start and even the Lakers were watching the game according to McMennamin, so there 😛

  38. Another half with Fisher 2 points Metts with 3.

    I am now convinced as Brown leaves this team on the court 11-0 run that Mike Brown is simply basketball STUPID.

    Sorry but it’s becoming more and more obvious.

  39. Kobe 1-10 and Pau 4-14 struggling. Not a coincidence. Get those minutes down Brown

  40. 18 of 24 down under in first quarter.

    Zip in 2nd quarter.

    Either no one cares what Brown is babbling about or he has no clue to tell them to go to the bigs.

    Right now this is the worst coached Laker team in my memory.

    Am I the only way seeing this?

  41. And while you are at it Brown, give us a triple reverse flip and land on your nose.

  42. Congrats DY! where in asia did your wife came? Hope that 18-20 yrs from now the Lakers would have a DYnamita PG 😀

  43. Can someone explain to Metta this is not soccer.

    Making one shot per game is not the same as kicking the only goal in soccer.

    Stop posing and act like a professional!

  44. The Lakers are ahead 38-30. Then they bring in “Chuck” Bryant–with his unique individual contributions. They end up the half ahead 42-41.

  45. Have to keep feeding the BIGS. Both are extremely aggressive 2nite. Kobe still stinking it up in regards to shooting. If his jumper isn’t falling and he can’t break down his defender off the dribble (obviously can’t and that’s why he keeps calling for a high screen), then he needs to play off the ball. It’ll be hard for him to post up because he has bigger defenders (Johnson or Williams) guarding. Finally, our point guards have to stop picking up their dribble. It stagnates the offense.

  46. i do wonder if this team is starting to quit on Mike Brown

  47. Team has quit on this Coach.

  48. 44) Kobe and Pau came in. maybe brown should sit them something he hasn’t done all season

  49. Did you see Teague go around Fisher. Amazing and Brown just sits there. Amazing.

  50. Pau Gasol is going a great job on the offensive boards tonight.

  51. Ken’s vendetta against Fisher is always funny. Never gets old

    Keep them coming. lol

  52. Lakers defensive frenzy gives “Chuck” Bryant another chance–and he makes a few points/turnovers this time.

  53. Loved that stretch in the end of the second quarter where the ball never went inside, and the Hawks went on an 11-0 run.

    Lakers looked best tonight so far when Kobe was on the bench and Bynum got to run with four reserves.

  54. looks like Kobe trying to catch Pau in shot attempts

  55. Kevin the sad part is coach won’t listen and Blake is not much better. Zero points.

    Oh well.

  56. I keep wondering why Brown doesn’t bring kobe off screens off-ball or stagger screens. Instead he elects to give him Iso’s. Makes it much tougher for Kobe when defense knows where he gets the ball.

  57. Kevin

    Your assuming Brown has any clue of what your are asking?

  58. Brown is riding Kobe like the secretariat…

  59. This team looks so much better with Barnes and Goublock on the floor. Is there a reason they ate not starting.

  60. i wont even bother pointing out the obvious with the only player with a negative +-. In other news this may be the quickest laker game i can remember

  61. MWP Smash on Radmanovic

  62. Metta World Peace!!!

  63. Someone was saying that this team has no chemistry- I don’t see that at all. I think that this team actually likes playing with each other, but it helps when guys are hitting their open shots. Blake is +19 by the way…

  64. If we could just hit 35% of our threes..we would be a 22 win team right now.

  65. Kobe may have just played his best fourth quarter of the season.

  66. drrayeye-
    You have so much Kobe hate. It’s humorous if nothing else.

    Mike Brown-
    1. Please give Blake more burn.
    2. Please give Goudelock more burn.
    3. Please have more stretches with Bynum as the lone big with Goudelock, Blake, and Murphy.

    Lakers players-
    1. Just keep hitting those open shots!

  67. Good win lakers had on cement shoes but still pulled it out. This obviously is a totally diff. team at home.

  68. The minute disribution should be like this EVERY night.

  69. Good win for the Lakers especially first game after the long Grammy road trip. The bench along with Bynum and Gasol both with a double double led the way. Even MWP had a good game, nice to see him with some scoring.

  70. I think a lot of this was just Atlanta missing shots, but I’ll take it. Props to Brown for finishing with Blake again. Goudelock played pretty well. Kobe made a few nice shots when the Lakers took the lead back and then facilitated late.

    Also, I suggested to Robert in an email that perhaps Josh McRoberts has already been traded in principle and that is why he is getting DNPCDs every game. McRoberts cannot be officially traded until March 1.

  71. Well, after a pretty poor first half and start of the 2nd half, we turned things around and came away with a solid W.

    Great game by our bigs and solid contributions from the bench. Even MWP showed some life on offense with a few 3’s and a couple of dunks.

    Besides too many sloppy turnovers and giving up too many O-boards, I think what concerns me the most is Kobe’s string of piss poor shooting games. He’s probably shooting like 43% for the season now, which isn’t good.

    Sorry, Robert. You know I love Kobe as much as you do, and I usually defend him to a fault because of all the haters, but even you have to admit that his shooting has been pretty awful lately, and not great for the entire season.

    And the reason why I’m more concerned about his shooting % this year than in seasons past is because most of his teammates, although they stepped up tonight, can’t be counted on consistently, especially the bench. So that makes it more imperative that he have efficient shooting games to give us the best chance at winning.

    Now it does always help to keep Pau and Drew involved, but Kobe really does need to start finding his shot again. Otherwise, it’s not going to bode well for us the rest of the season. This is where a coach needs make adjustments to help Kobe get easier looks and find his rhythm again. I’m sure his shooting will pick up, but until it does, that remains one of my biggest concerns.

    But all in all, a good team W against a solid opponent tonight, even thought ATL didn’t necessarily play well. I’ll choose to credit our D for most of that.

  72. (71) KenOak,

    when Kobe is “Good” Kobe, the Lakers are nearly unstoppable. Despite his first half lack of judgment, this game was overall an example of Kobe at his best. Team chemistry was overall very good.

    The first game Pau played for the Lakers, the team won by a big margin–Kobe had 6 points–and he was dileriously happy.

    A superficial “points scored–always right” hero worship for Kobe, is the type of worship he himself would just as soon not receive. He’d rather win.

  73. I thought taking a flier on McGrady was a good idea. He looked SHOT tonight pass.

    Pau was 9-22 but it didn’t seem like it because his aggressive hid FGs. When he’s aggressive Lakers are a diff. team. Saw it in Boston saw it tonight

    Steve Blake PnR was great tonight. Saw some offense too. Shall I say progress or is it too premature

  74. Good energy and great contribution from the 2nd unit. Lakers can duplicate that feat if they stay cohesive as a team.

  75. 30,

    Indeed, Baby Dy is our lucky Valentine presents for the Lakers. Good mix with great resume from both parents, so don’t be surprised if your baby’s dna will produce Dysanity, he could be the future first Asian-American President. Start saving now for the campaign and also from sleep. My daughter in east Bay also celebrated her 35th today.

  76. when Kobe is “Good” Kobe, the Lakers are nearly unstoppable

    I think it’s more, “When the other team goes 31/90 from the floor including 7/27 from the arc, the Lakers are nearly unstoppable.”

    Kobe’s shot selection often has a profound effect on the team; I would like to see some numbers that show how many runouts have been converted into buckets by opponents off long Kobe misses.

    But I would say the same thing to you that I have often said to people who focus too much on Kobe: it’s a team game, and there are always two teams on the floor. The Lakers got three things tonight that they rarely get: decent SF play; in spurts, decent PG play; and 3pt shooting. Barnes and Metta were 7/14 tonight, and had 9 Rebs. Metta even made two 3s. Blake had 6 dimes, 2 TOs and a nice +10 in his floor time and hit a big 3 in the 4th. They were a nifty 8/17 on 3s as a group.
    Also, without Al Horford, and even with him, Atlanta is basically a jumpshooting team, and when the jumpers are not falling, the Hawks can look very bad.

    Now , how much of that is about Kobe? A bit, maybe. A lot of people blame him for other guys playing badly, saying that the team checks out when he goes into Mamba mode. That may be true to a degree. But Kobe is not some gravitational force that all the other 9 guys on the floor at the same time revolve around.

    This was a nice win, but like Aaron said, no pro player plays badly every game. If Metta and Barnes put together 10 games like this, and the Lakers hit 35-40% on 3s over ten games, then that may mean something. As it is, I just hope they beat PHX on Friday and will wait to see what the FO does.