AN IDIOT’S GUIDE TO VANISHING WHEN IT MATTERS :2011 ATLANTA HAWKS PREVIEW

By Wes Lilliman

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Head Coach: Larry Drew

Projected Roster:
PG – Jeff Teague
SG – Joe Johnson
SF – Marvin Williams
PF – Josh Smith
C – Al Horford
G – Mike Bibby
G – Jamal Crawford
G – Jordan Crawford
F – Josh Powell
F/C – Jason Collins
C – Zaza Pachulia

Everyone knows what the Atlanta Hawks need to do.


For a few years, this team has been like the little brother of the Cleveland Cavaliers. They work their way through the regular season, do quite well for themselves, and look like a team that could get some momentum going in the playoffs and maybe surprise a few people.


Then they dive head first into the lake that is the postseason, and we find out that they flat-out can’t swim.


Honestly, it’s been ugly. Two years ago, Cleveland walked through them, sweeping them with ease. Not to be outdone, last year’s Magic also made their series as short as possible… winning by an average of over 25 points per game. Now, Orlando was damn good, but the Hawks weren’t that bad. But they looked REALLY bad. Like 1973 Philadelphia 76ers (record of 9-73) bad. Like Eddy Curry in 2006-2007 (295 turnovers) bad. Like Debut of The Shockmaster bad.



You’d figure that they’d address this in the off-season by making some adjustments. Maybe add some depth, pick up a versatile point guard, grab a few veterans with playoff experience and leadership abilities. All while trying to keep their superstar, Joe Johnson, around.

Well, they got the last part done. A good move, but just one catch: it cost them $123 million. Out of all those monster free-agents that were available this past summer, it was JOE JOHNSON that got paid the most. That doesn’t exactly leave you with much for anybody else.

This is not to take away from Johnson. He’s a perennial All-Star in the midst of his prime, and he’s one of the top 10-15 offensive players in the league. The stats don’t lie. Unfortunately, Joe went the way of his team in the playoffs and sort of disappeared. That absolutely has to change, or else we’ll be hearing again how he “could care less if [the Atlanta fans] show up” after they uproariously booed him during his poor postseason play.

Of course, a guy is only as good as his supporting cast, and his backcourt mate didn’t exactly strike fear into any opponent’s heart. Mike Bibby was, at one time, a solid point guard. At that time, the following songs were, as they say, “hot”:

– “Hot in Herre,” Nelly
– “Get The Party Started,” Pink
– “Complicated,” Avril Lavigne
– “A Thousand Miles,” Vanessa Carlton
– “Ain’t It Funny,” J-Lo

The point is, Bibby ain’t what he used to be. It’s likely that he’ll be supplanted by the much younger Jeff Teague this year. Is that more exciting? I guess. I don’t know, on the surface, it’s like the difference between having to wake up at 3:15 AM and having to wake up at 3:45 AM. Feel free to prove me wrong, Jeff. Hell, he’s got to have more in the tank than Bibby, and if it looks like he doesn’t, then have him tested for mononucleosis and things of that nature, ‘cause something is wrong.

The starting frontcourt is comprised of the same young threesome that was around last year. Al Horford returns as an undersized but productive center with plenty of upside. He’s good and getting better, but they’re screwed if he has to guard the likes of Dwight Howard (which he probably will). Marvin Williams and Josh Smith are your forwards, and that sounds nice. It also sounded nice last year, and we saw what happened. Williams underachieved, and Smith let his laziness and poor attitude get in the way of his pretty impressive abilities. The good thing is that all of these guys are only in their mid-20s, so they should improve. Or, they could all blow out their knees. The game is a fickle mistress.

In addition to the starters, the Hawks also have good immediate help off of the bench in the form of Jamal Crawford, a RAINIER BEACH alum and Sixth-Man Award winner. He can score in bunches and is a dynamic guard. And hey, if one Crawford works, why not try another? The Hawks used the draft to acquire Xavier guard Jordan Crawford, who you’ll best remember for chucking up 3’s with no regard for time and/or distance against Kansas State in last year’s NCAA Tournament (and you who might NOT remember for dunking on LeBron in a scrimmage last year). Both have one more thing in common (besides names and scoring): they’re allergic to defense. Realistically, they’d be perfect for the Nuggets, but they’re too young and I don’t wish a tenure with Denver on anyone right now.

That’s it. The rest of the bench is pretty weak. A decent addition came in the form of center Zaza Pachulia… decent because he
s a big man who can take pressure off Horford and allow him to spend more time at power forward. Other than that, anyone else is there just to eat up minutes.

Finally, I almost forgot to mention the other big offseason move Atlanta made: LARRY DREW is the NEW HEAD COACH. I know… it’s like getting a sweater and some coupons for your next oil change for Christmas, but let’s look at the positives. Drew has been an assistant for a long time in the league, and he’s been with the Hawks for the past 6 years. Mike Woodson couldn’t get it done in the playoffs, so maybe Drew can. I, however, just don’t see that. Color me underwhelmed.

IF THEY GET LUCKY: They actually play well in the playoffs. That alone would be some sort of moral victory – just showing some fight. No one expects them to beat any of the big guns in the East, but if they played well enough to hang with those teams, I’d say it’s cause for celebration.

IF THEY DON’T: Everybody goes limp in the playoffs yet again, and they set another record by somehow getting swept by 50 points per game by the Heat. A part of me thinks that actually could happen.

REALITY: Why should I believe this will be any different than previous years? They’re probably going to be better than they were in the past, but all of their competition got better, as well. They’ll make the playoffs, but this time, they’re going out in round one. Just don’t get swept.

BONUS SECTION: … BUT BOY, CAN THEY DUNK.

The Hawks always have strong dunkers. I actually think they scout for it. Who cares about championships when you can THROW DOWN?! A few examples…





… JOSH SMITH …






… SPUD WEBB (ALL FIVE FEET SEVEN INCHES OF HIM) …




… and, for my money, the top dog… the HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM, DOMINIQUE WILKINS…




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