October 21, 2010
Last year's record? 53-29, lost in the second round to Cleveland.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 48-34
Why I think that sounds about right?
Nice additions, a cheap but possibly effective hire in Larry Drew, and a step away from former coach Mike Woodson's stifling "offensive" attack? It would seem that, even after a slow start as everyone gets used to the new boss, the Hawks would eventually fall in line and into that safe middle road.
Fewer wins than last season? I just think it's a product of their surroundings, and that potential slow start. I think the Magic will play better, the Heat have to play better, and I'm guessing the Celtics could be more effective during the regular season. The Central will be tougher, the West is the West, and the team might enter December with a .500 (or worse) record that makes it tough to match last season's 53-win run.
This isn't a bad thing. Under Woodson, these guys always started hot, but topped off. With Drew, the hope is that they'll be penny-foolish and pound-wise, shuffling their best work toward spring as opposed to peaking in fall.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
Al Horford(notes), Josh Smith(notes), Joe Johnson(notes) and Marvin Williams(notes) are all a year older. And a year better. Johnson may play the same, but the rest are set to take a step forward as they move closer to their primes.
And if Smith continues his heady play from last season, eschewing those 3-pointers, the Hawks could really give teams fits if they work in some sort of equal-opportunity offense. As opposed to the "let's get Joe Johnson some stats offense in order to justify that sign-and-trade we worked for him"-isolation attack.
Even if I did underestimate this team's potential move forward with all that young talent, how high is that ceiling, with that bench? I dig the Crawfords, and Jeff Teague(notes) is being groomed for better things, but how high can this team go? Fifty-five wins?
Step up or step off
Everything that was there when the Hawks selected Marvin Williams out of North Carolina in 2005 -- the length, the agility, the quickness, the athleticism, the suggestion of a shooting touch -- is still there. At 24 years old, he's still a couple of years shy of the average player's prime, and with five years in the league and three playoff appearances under his belt, you'd figure the time for him to "get it" might soon be upon us.
But flashes of cognition and ignition like Game 5 of last year's first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks have been too few and too far between. Another middling year of 30 minutes, 10 points, five rebounds, too many jumpers with a league-average-at-best conversion rate and virtually across-the-board declines in performance, and it's close to curtains for Williams.
With four years and $32.2 million remaining on the extension he signed in August 2009, another non-factor of a season will turn him into a full-on albatross and all but extinguish the extant flicker of a hope that he can matter in the way Big Things Matter in the NBA, the way No. 2 overall picks are supposed to matter (no Darko).
So come on with it, Marvin. Get loose in Larry Drew's motion-friendly offense and use that athleticism to your advantage. Attack off the bounce and get a step or two closer before you launch that sucker. If the play doesn't go your way, crash the boards. And if your shot's not falling, take that length and that quickness and make life hell for the other guy; you're not an alpha dog, but it'd be pretty cool to see you try to become a Doberman. Whatever you need to do, do something.
Remind us what everybody saw in you five years ago, and do it more often than a half-dozen times a season.
Give the world a reason to realize it's insane to write somebody off before he celebrates his 25th birthday.
Or, don't. It's all you.
Five things about the Hawks that furrow Ol' Man Howard's brow
1. That young fella, calls himself "Pop C" like he just came up with it. Let me tell you something: Tom Bosley and I walked into Garry Marshall's office together to read for "Happy Days," and in that office, I came up with Pop C. Would've gotten the part, too, except they thought I didn't look square enough next to Fonzie for the scenes to play right. Man alive, I hated that leather jacket.
2. Two Crawfords? Both with J names? Now, how the heck is anyone supposed to keep that mess straight?
4. That center, trying to be like one of them beatniks with the funky hair and the jazz shops. No need to drop the "h" out of your name, son. Ethan's a strong name, a land speculator's name, and your parents gave it to you for a reason.
Words to live by, as true today as they were after Game 6 in 2008.