Running with Zaza

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Hawks vs. Bucks

Remember how you felt immediately after the final scene of the Sopranos went to black? Very hard to describe that feeling. You were kind of confused, but you kind of liked the ending because you could fill in the blanks of what happened. Then, you woke up the next morning and you were like, "What is David Chase doing, give me an ending." Give me an ending and I might take out the small loan to buy the 33 DVD set of the entire series. In short, you were frustrated, happy, or glad that Tony did not get whacked. That feeling is exactly what I felt watching the Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks tonight—glad the Hawks won the game, but ambivalent as to how they are playing--uninspired and a little worried.

I am watching an NBA game almost every night. I pretty much have stopped watching college basketball until conference play starts in January. The Hawks are my adopted team. Tonight, the Hawks won the game to go 5-1 at home, but they really played an uninspired, lackadaisical game. The Bucks starting line up tonight was as bad talent wise as you can get in the NBA. The Bucks started Richard Jefferson, Charlie Bell, Luke Ridnour, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Dan Gadzuric. Jefferson is legit. Bell is wearing the biggest knee brace I have ever seen in an NBA game. Ridnour is fun and hip, but not good. Moute is a role player at best. Gadzuric is so athletic he just hangs around the league collecting checks. The Bucks’ second best player tonight was Ramon Sessions, a point guard off the bench. He is better than Acie Law.

Really, the Hawks should kill this team. These guys were scrappy and played harder than the Hawks. Give the credit to Scott Skiles and his staff. They out prepared and out coached Mike Woodson and company tonight. For example, I actually saw assistant coach and NCAA pariah Kelvin Sampson coaching Richard Jefferson. The great part was that Jefferson was actually listening to Sampson! I should not complain because the Hawks are 9-5. That is better than most people predicted. Their schedule has been very tough so far, and they are missing Josh Smith. But, almost every other team also is dealing with injuries. Here are a few of my problems with the Hawks on the eve of Thanksgiving:

Hawks do not have the hustle type role player. The hustle player for the Hawks is Al “the Boss” Horford. Horford leads by example, but he is getting himself into foul trouble. The Bucks had any number of hustle players tonight. Acie, Solo, Mo Evans or someone has to match Horford’s effort. Right now, Horford is the Hawks’ most valuable player and emotional leader.

Mike Woodson has to use Joe Johnson more effectively on both ends of the court. Stop making Super Joe guard the other team’s best player. Look at Jefferson tonight—most of the time he was guarding the Hawks’ worst perimeter player. On the offensive end, if the Hawks’ have 80 possessions, 25 of those plays should be sets to get Joe the ball where he can score or create for someone else. The first possession after halftime the Hawks’ ran a great set play for Johnson, and he made a 3 point shot. You need to get Joe moving without the ball and not make him break his man down off the dribble all of the time.

Stop making Johnson bring the ball up the court against pressure and inititate the offense. Did Jefferson ever bring the ball up for the Bucks? No. Johnson should run down to the baseline and wait on people to set screens for him like a Richard Hamilton, Ray Allen, etc. Remember when Iverson played for Larry Brown in Philadelphia? They used to run sets for Iverson all night long. It is not like Joe Johnson will not pass the basketball. Really, the opposite is true and Johnson passes too much. Run some plays for him.

The Hawks have to figure out a way to get better play out of Zaza and Solomon Jones. The center position is where they are struggling. Gadzuric was awful tonight for the Bucks, but the Hawks could not take advantage. At the very least, these guys have to pound the offensive glass.

I am excited about the Hawks’ start to the season. Without Josh Smith one of their top players, they are winning games. But, there is something missing--maybe a killer instinct, maybe an overall attitude. The Hawks had so much more talent tonight than the Bucks, but they let Charlie Villanueva play like an all star in the 4th quarter. They have been off since Saturday, and they should have come out fired up to blow the Bucks out of Philips Arena. The Hawks need a “glue” guy--someone other than Horford that will chest bump Joe Johnson or Bibby and get these guys to show some emotion. Tonight, it did not seem like it hurt enough when the Bucks scored on the Hawks. In the NBA if you play to the level of your opponent and play the scoreboard, you will lose when you are supposed to win. You will end up 37-45 again and out of the playoffs. No one who was downtown in June last summer wants that for this season.


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