Saturday, July 21, 2012
Sup ya'll. This is Buddy Grizzard, former contributor for ESPN TrueHoop Network affiliate site Hoopinion. When Hoopinion founder Bret LaGree opened the floor for posts on his site last season, I jumped at the chance. Bret's unique combination of eloquence, sarcasm and realism in analyzing the Atlanta Hawks drew me in. His high basketball IQ kept me coming back. Whatever Bret endeavors to do in the future, this site will always owe a debt to Hoopinion's inspiration.
As for the inspiration for the title of this blog, it was provided when Lou Williams agreed to a below-market contract to rep his home city. Although Josh Smith expressed dissatisfaction with Atlanta as an NBA market, his recent comments about Danny Ferry's young tenure as Hawks general manager give me some hope that he will continue to rep the A beyond his current contract. The final piece for an Atlanta-born and -based basketball dynasty would be Dwight Howard. Tracy McGrady thinks Dwight is a Hollywood type of dude, but all the New York and LA teams are loaded with long term salary. Dwight has to land somewhere, and I give the Hawks as good a chance as any team as things stand.
Before I get up to date with the Hawks in my next post, I'd like to review the story arc of my opinion pieces for TrueHoop. My first feature on Hoopinion riffed on Eminem's "Lose Yourself," and talked about how the Hawks needed to stop blowing opportunities. I'm actually not that big of an Eminem fan outside of that song, my tastes leaning toward the conscious hip hop of Public Enemy and Arrested Development. Eminem has proven capable of deeper discourse, but he punched his meal ticket with some of the more exploitive aspects of the genre.
Getting back on topic, my post jumped straight to the central question that would prompt the Hawks to hire Ferry: do the Hawks have title aspirations? The decision to hire Ferry and give him the level of autonomy he has received has convinced me that the Hawks organization has turned the corner and will no longer refer to mediocrity as "success." Next up was the first of a trilogy of articles taking exception with the high opinion of coach Larry Drew expressed by writers such as the AJC's Jeff Schultz. In that post, I detailed how Drew's decision in the previous playoff series against Chicago to over-rely on Jason Collins, a marginal NBA player, and Jamal Crawford, an unproductive player in that series, likely cost the Hawks a chance to go to the conference finals. I felt Zaza Pachulia, who again proved to be among the elite in playoff rebound rate (and who has proved to be a capable NBA starter), could have been utilized more.
The second post in that series introduced the theme of saving Larry Drew from himself. I expressed that I felt this was what Rick Sund had done by trading away an ineffectual Mike Bibby. This sentiment will carry over into my analysis of the present-day Hawks roster. And my final post in that series took exception with Drew's claim that the Hawks "quit" in a loss to the 76ers that would prove a mere bump in the road during a regular season that would exceed a lot of expectations.
February was a predictably brutal month (given the tough schedule) in which the Hawks went 4-9. I nevertheless saw a silver lining after Collins went down with an injury against Memphis. Ivan Johnson played much of that game matched up against Marc Gasol, who would make his first All-Star appearance later that season. Far from embarrassing himself, Ivan showed that he could be a factor at center despite his lack of height by matching Gasol's production in 7 fewer minutes. February would turn out to be the team's only losing month for the season, but the news in March wasn't all good. On March 8th, AJC beat writer Michael Cunningham reported that a source close to Josh Smith had indicated that Smith wished to be traded to an organization more committed to competing for an NBA championship.
Having questioned that commitment myself in my first post for Hoopinion, I took the opportunity to write my most detailed analysis to date of the Hawks franchise, from the Dominique Wilikins era when I first began to follow the team, to the week before the 2012 trade deadline. In that analysis I made three recommendations for the Hawks organization to overcome the perception that it was not committed to competing for championships. I recommended trading Joe Johnson for expiring contracts to prepare the roster to be built around Josh Smith; I recommended hiring a general manager from the Spurs organization to replace Rick Sund; and I recommended firing Larry Drew. Danny Ferry wasn't the GM I had in mind (that was Dennis Lindsey), but he proved to be the right choice by quickly getting the Hawks out from under the crushing burden of Joe Johnson's contract.
Before executing the Ferry hire, however, and while Sund labored as a lame duck GM, Hawks ownership took it upon themselves to pick up the option for the third year of Drew's contract. You can expect to see further critique of Drew's tenure as Hawks coach in the coming pages. That critique continued in late March as I pointed out that Collins, whom Drew continued to rely on, had ranked near the bottom of John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Ratings every season since 2005-06.
As the regular season drew to a close in April, the month in which Ivan Johnson became the reigning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, I pointed out that Ivan's per-minute production compared favorably to the since-traded Marvin Williams. Later in the month, after a report that Dwight Howard would demand a trade at the end of the season, I speculated that the Hawks might resume trade talks for Howard and even be in a position to pursue Chris Paul at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season (Hollinger would speculate several months later on the possibility of the Hawks landing both Howard and Paul).
In my final post before the playoffs, I reiterated my criticisms of Drew and warned that, "Drew must stop giving significant minutes to scrubs and washed up veterans." Sadly, Drew wasn't reading. In Game 3, during a 6.5 minute span of the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Hawks had a disastrous stretch with career journeyman Jannero Pargo on the floor. Kirk Hinrich sat the entire 4th quarter and overtime as the Hawks lost to trail 2-1 in a series they would ultimately lose 4-2. Given the opportunity to regain home court advantage in Game 3, Drew played Pargo and Willie Green to close the game while Hinrich sat. This prompted me to post the aggregate +/- numbers for Hinrich, Pargo and Green. After Boston seized control of the series in Game 3, Hinrich was +13 in 42 minutes through three games, while Green was -18 and Pargo -20 in 25 minutes each for the series.
Three games and a blown season later, I posted my after action report for the playoffs. Particular attention was given to the fact that Josh Smith cost the Hawks in Game 6 with a silly technical and by arguing with refs while failing to run back on defense. Willie Green, who had a team-worst aggregate +/- for the regular season, again led the Hawks in this category for the postseason with -40. For the series, Smith shot 13-for-47 outside the paint. That's just under 6 missed jump shots per game in a series in which the Hawks lost 3 games by single digits.
On May 17th, after Cunningham's report that Josh Smith's trade desires remained unchanged and that he was dissatisfied with the support the team received from Atlanta's fans, I made my final post for Hoopinion, an open letter to Josh. At the time of that post, anything other than status quo from the Hawks was unimaginable. I wrote that I largely agreed with Josh's assessment of the franchise, but that I felt Atlanta's fans shouldn't be compared to Boston's until there are some championship banners hanging in Phillips Arena. Also in that post was some autobiographical information concerning some of the things I've done to rep my city.
That brings us up to the present where, after some deliberation, I've decided that I'm not through talking about the Atlanta Hawks. This site will provide me a forum to share my analysis of the Atlanta Hawks franchise going forward, and I hope that you will drop by again to humor my ramblings. Thanks for reading, and welcome to the Rep ATL blog.