Hawks could be blown up after being blown out
ATLANTA -- As Joe Johnson headed to the bench for perhaps the last time in an Atlanta uniform -- booed mightily by his own fans, his team on the way to another blowout loss -- it was hard to keep in perspective all the good things the Hawks did this season.
Like winning 53 games. And finishing as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But getting swept in the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row raised a troubling prospect: The Hawks have reached their ceiling after five straight seasons of steady improvement, at least with this star player (Johnson) and this coach (Mike Woodson).
Johnson's contract is up. So is Woodson's. There's no guarantee either will return next season, even after the Hawks won their most games since 1996-97.
"I don't think we're that far away," Woodson insisted. "If you add two or three pieces to this team, legitimate pieces, we've got a legitimate shot at making a run at it."
Treated to a farewell buffet that included shrimp, clam chowder and mountain trout, the Hawks returned to Philips Arena on Tuesday to clean out their lockers and meet separately with Woodson and general manager Rick Sund before heading into a summer filled with uncertainty.
Losing to Orlando was surely no cause for embarrassment -- the Magic haven't been beaten in more than a month -- but it's the way the Hawks ended the season that was so discouraging.
The Magic won by an average of 25.3 points, the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history. For a team that's gotten used to improving every season, the Hawks have clearly run into a major roadblock.
Last year, a team with three injured starters was blown out in four straight by the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, the Hawks were healthy and felt capable of seriously challenging the Magic; instead, another sweep by even greater margins than those doled out by LeBron James & Co.
"It just kind of came crashing down toward the end," said Jamal Crawford, who won the NBA's Sixth Man Award. "I hope our season doesn't get lost in the way it ended."
Management will have to decide whether this cast needs a major overhaul or only minor tweaking.
The most likely change will come on the sideline. Woodson has been at the helm for six years, but there were times when the players seemed to tune him out, times when a more imaginative offensive mind might have helped. The owners hardly gave Woodson a rousing endorsement by steadfastly refusing to even talk about a new contract until after the season, which gave him the appearance of a lame-duck coach.
Asked about his future, Woodson said, "I have no idea. I don't know. My contract is up at the end of June. I'm sure we'll sit down and discuss it."
He clearly wants to stay with the Hawks, a team that won 13 games his first season but became only the seventh in NBA history to win more games than the previous season for at least five consecutive years.
Ultimately, it may not be his choice.
"You don't start something and go through hell for six years and not want to finish it," said Woodson, who can start talking with other teams in a week and has been reported as a possible candidate in Philadelphia should Larry Brown take control of the 76ers front office.
Johnson didn't sound nearly as committed to staying in Atlanta, especially with the way the season ended. He averaged 13.4 points on 32 percent shooting over his last seven playoff games, and criticized Atlanta fans who booed him and the team for the worst home loss in playoff history, a 105-75 rout in Game 3.
Johnson was jeered the first time he touched the ball Monday night and booed even louder when he came out for the final time, having scored only 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
"I just need to take some time off, man, clear my head, spend some time with my family," Johnson said.
All things equal -- and remember, the Hawks can offer him more money than any other team -- would he definitely return to Atlanta?
"I don't know, honestly," Johnson replied. "I really don't know."
Even with what figures to be the most glamorous free-agent class in NBA history, it's hard to envision the Hawks signing a better player or coming up with some combination through a sign-and-trade that would be more productive than Johnson, a four-time all-star.
Besides, Atlanta doesn't want to repeat its mistake after the 1999 playoffs, when a second-round sweep led the team to trade away Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock. Nine straight losing seasons followed.
"I've been on that side where they blow a team up and it never recovers," Woodson said. "This is a solid ballclub that just needs some more pieces."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD DO
keep their team together... but joe isnt gonna stay...
They need a tough big man... Zaza "Gay" Pachulia needs to go... I have no idea why he's still in a Hawks jersey... He's a soft player that can be solid at times but he's not a player that can face a KG or Dwight man to man... He uses dirty tactics most of the time... He sucks...
How on earth can you blame their back up center who plays like 15 minutes a game in both the regular season and postseason for their problems in this series????Wtf??
I hope the Hawks are able to keep their pieces together to make another run. They wiLl more than likely lose Joe Johnson, but maycounter with signing John Salmons. Maybe they even land a decent C for a cheap price. Woodson deserves an extension though immediately!
Randolph Morris should play more he has skill and size to be the defensive big off the bench but as for Joe he's as good as gone and Bibby might follow and Mravin Williams may be trade bait for a star wing or a soild PG
They could have added a solid big man to boost their front court... That's my point... If it were a better defensive big man like Diop or whoever, I wouldn't have blamed Pachulia but the guy sucks and has done nothing to help ATL...
what Atlanta does will probably depend on what Orlando does the rest of the way if they blow out Boston then it may not look as bad the way they lost but just from watching them play, I think you need to move some people. Al Horford needs to be a 4 man and they need to move Marvin Williams for a center. Portland should have a surplus. Jeff Teague is a nice point guard but Bibby a vet is playing ahead of him right now. That could soon change. Also ATL needs to trade Childress rights to a team he wants to play in so that can get something back for him.
Zaza is a backup...you act like he is a starter. He is solid coming off the bench.
i have to disagree with you fizer singaling out zaza. He is a backup. That's like the spurs blaming Matt Bonnar or the Heat blaming Joel Anthony for what went wrong.
Anyways, I think Joe ends up leaving. They need to give teague the opportunity to run the pg with bibby as the backup. They must get a legit center who is a starter so Horford doesnt have to match up with real centers all game. Crawford could star at sg in joe's absence and they could sign a backup. Maybe even bring Childress back.
Hard to see the hawks getting any better next year, but they dont have to blow it up either. Just take some time to get some young guys in there and find a true big man.
JJ walks, Horford needs to play PF to stay alive, Josh Smith and Woodson never got along and Smith to me is tired of playing the defensive tweener role, Jamal is chucker and will not be good with Teague and Crawford starting backcourt...Bibby needs to go, Marvin has disappeared, Zaza needs to step up...ETC.EtC...I see them Trading Smith and Bibby and resigning JJ...IMO It's JJ or Josh this summer...one has to go...my money is on Smith for some reason...A package of Smith/Bibby/Williams or Zaza would sound to some one like NY...then they sign JJ and Salmons to replace Josh in rotation and sign J.Oneal to start at Center
JJ-Ny signs him him and trades him back to Hawks for Josh/Bibby and Zaza...
The hawks need to remain patient and find a legitimate defensive-minded center who can run the floor rebound and defend so horford can be a power forward. Pachulia is a solid back up and that's all he needs to be. They need to either trade bibby or let teague start or something along those lines as bibby is a liability on defense and now even on offense. All in all they need a defensive center, and a point guard. Then they'd be a vert legit threat. Also they need to apologize (the fans) to Joe johnson after he made it possible for the hawks to get to where they've gotten over the past 5 or 6 years. They're not that far off but they may have hurt their chances by booing him like that. Salmons is a great player but he is no Joe Johnson. Atlanta needs to be patient but I don't know that they will be
They need to really, really push Jeff Teague next year. Teague has the potential to be a Devin Harris type PG, and although Bibby is more effective than Teague as of now, he won't be in about a year in a half. Teague does, however, need to touch up on his shooting, defense, and PG skills. Bibby struggles BAD on D, and he can't score unless he is super wide open. I think whoever coaches the Hawks next year needs to push Teague HARD in the training camp, and if he comes out alive, he should be thrown in the starting lineup to see just what type of player he'll be.
Crawford can backup Teague and provide offense, and he can play SG. Mo Evans is terrible, but he does defend as hard as any player on the Hawks roster and can make open shots. I hope Joe stays, but if he doesn't I think the Hawks will have to either move Crawford to starting SG, which would be a downgrade, or draft for a SG in the late 1st, which would be another downgrade.
Marvin Williams has been TERRIBLY underutilized with the Hawks. He can shoot well, rebound, he is a good defender to have against big guys on the wing like Lebron and Pierce, and he's vey coachable and unselfish. Hopefully if the Hawks get a new coach, they try to incorporate Williams as more than a spot up shooter from mid-range/3-point. He should be much more of a factor in the post and slashing than he is. Evans can backup here, and Joe can if he's still around and they use a small lineup.
If the Hawks look to trade someone outright, Josh Smith should be that guy. He's talented Swiss army knife, and as athletic as they come. But sometimes he is too whiny, and can have a serious attitude and effort problem. He also isn't a great defender 1-on-1 contrary to popular belief either. He's a headache though a lot of times, and you could really get value for him if your smart too. He gets on a alot of people's nerves (including mine) in Atlanta with his mood swings and attitude problems. Marvin can function at PF for spurts in small ball lineups. Joe Smith is likely gone.
This is the trouble spot if the Hawks want to reach the next level. Horford had an All-Star year, but he's not quite the best true C because of his size, or lack thereof, in the playoffs against guys like Dwight Howard. He also probably dodge a bullet not having to match up with Bogut too. He's definitely a true PF, so if possible, the Hawks should go after a true Center. Chris Kaman should definitely be someone to look at if they were to trade. Zaza provides a bull-in-the-China-shop type bench player that's kinda valued in Atlanta. He's not a great talent, but he can bang a little, and he takes no prisoners. A solid backup. Randolph Morris and Collins, are terrible.
if the nets get the first pick
Harris and Chris Douglas Roberts for Josh Smith
Then trade Bibby for Murphy (Indiana)
Harris - JJ - Williams - Murphy - Horford
Teague - Crawford - CDR - draft pick - Za Za
dont know if everyone else does....