Hawks Brighten Present But Dim Future

The Atlanta Hawks announced the addition of guard Kirk Hinrich and center/forward Hilton Armstrong from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford and a their 2011 1st round draft pick.

Although the deal immediately strengthens the clubs perimeter defense, the future seems a lot less promising than it did at the beginning of the season.

Twelve year vet, Bibby, started off the season shooting the ball like never before. The early weeks of the season saw him lead the league in three-point field goal percentage. Despite cooling off considerably, Bibby is still on pace to finish the season with a career high in this category.

On the flip side, Bibby is old. Asking the 32 year-old to chase around speedsters such as Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, etc. is asking too much. Even in his prime Bibby probably would have struggled to contain the aforementioned guards and given his aging body, this task has become mission impossible.

As the old saying goes: “If you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Bibby is set to do just that as he will serve as back up to one of the quickest players in the league, John Wall. Bibby, who was an elite point guard in the league just half a decade ago, could prove to be a good mentor for his rookie counterpart.

Hinrich is set to take over the starting point guard spot. The seven year veteran spreads the floor with his shooting but he can also penetrate and has developed a reputation as a hard-nosed perimeter defender. Hinrich is averaging 11.1 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game but he looked particularly sharp when Wall was out with injuries.

It’s rare to sit in on a Larry Drew press conference and not here something about “blue-collar effort.” This is exactly what Hinrich brings to the table on the defense end of the ball and he currently posses more offense versatility than his predecsessor.

There is no doubt that Hinrich makes the Hawks better right now, however, its not certain that this trade is the best thing for the Hawks future.

The Hawks entered the 2010-2011 season with two of their three team captains, Al Horford and Josh Smith, being just 24 and 25-years-old respectively. Rumors were also swirling that second year guard, Jeff Teague, could threaten to crack the starting lineup. Also, the Hawks managed to nab Jordan Crawford in the draft, and he has showed signs that he can develop into an effective scorer in the years to come.

The Hawks still have their young core in tack but the trade for Hinrich combined with limited playing time is just even more proof that the predictions of Teague becoming the hawks point guard of the future are probably never going to come true. The Hawks also gave up on Crawford’s potential and a the potential to grab the Gary Neal of the 2011 draft.

Also, considering Evans managed to sneak into the starting lineup this season and earn a few extra minutes here and there due mostly to injuries sustained by Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford, it seems risky that the Hawks would send him off without getting another wing player in return. This could mean more playing time for small forward Damien Wilkins.

Hilton Armstrong is the latest to join list of players that might help the Hawks depth in the froncourt alongside Josh Powell and Etan Thomas. Considering the aforementioned bigs aren’t getting much burn this season, it will be interesting to see if Armstrong finds a spot in the rotation.

Ultimately the Hawks filled some needs for this season with the deal but they have plenty of questions to answer about the direction of the team over the next couple of years.

Del Negro Sticks Up For Griffin

Each year the announcement of the NBA All-Star rosters is accompanied with a lists of complaints and snubs and this year is no different as Portland Trailblazer guard Andre Miller has came out and blasted rookie phenom, Blake Griffin’s selection.

The Oregonian reports Miller said that his teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge, is more deserving.

“They are putting this guy on every ESPN highlight,” Miller vented to the media. “Yeah, it’s cool because fans want to see that, but you isolate him from his team. Especially, he ain’t made nobody better. It’s basically his rookie year, as an All-Star? LeBron James didn’t make an All-Star team as a rookie.”

Clearly Miller hasn’t forgot the altercation with Griffin which ended in him launching into the rookie human cannonball style and earning him a suspension.

Friday night, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro came to the defense of his star player.

“He is worthy of [the All-star selection],” Del Negro said during a pre-game press conference. “He deserves to be in it. We’ve had more success at home lately and our record indicates that he has been a huge part of that.”

Del Negroe did not spare his tongue when Miller’s comments were brought up.

“That’s why player’s should just play and leave the rest of it up to their coaches,” Del Negro said. “That’s just not accurate. The stats speak for themselves and we will just leave it at that.”

Del Negro said he can understand why Miller made the comments.

“He is probably just sticking up for LaMarcus Aldridge who I think should have made it,” Del Negro said.

Although many think that Blake Griffin was the obvious choice of the two, the decision is not so clear cut. Blake Griffin has the better numbers as he is averaging 23 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Aldridge is averaging 21.3 points, nine rebounds and two assists per game.

Griffin seems to be sparking the turnaround that has eluded the Clippers for years. On the other-hand, Aldridge has emerged as the leader on one of the most injury prone teams in the league. Since Brandon Roy fell victim to knee injuries again this season, Aldridge has elevated his team to the next level and still has his squad in the hunt for a playoff berth.

Regardless of what fans or bitter point guards may think, a decision has been made.

“I think wins matter,” Del Negroe said. “But its out of your control. You vote for who you vote for, the others coaches do and you have to just go with it. Every year there is always one or two, sometimes three that deserve but don’t get on. Its unfortunate but that’s the system and that’s the way it works.”

Wilkins Happy To Be Home

Last week the Atlanta Hawks announced the signing forward Damien Wilkins to a contract that will last the remainder of the season.

Wilkins said he is just relieved to be in a place he is familiar with.

“I’m home,” Wilkins said. “In the past you go on the road and come back home to place that isn’t even yours. Here I come home to my family and to my kids.”

Wilkins hasn’t made a huge impact in his 22 games off the bench averaging just 2.8 points, 1.8 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game. However, he has been a big part in helping the Hawks weather their recent injury problems and coach Larry Drew seemed more than happy about Wilkins remaining apart of the team.

“When we made the decision to bring (Wilkins) back it was definitely a relief,” Drew said. “He is already aware of what we do. He is not pretty, he is not flashy but he just works his tail off.”

Wilkins has earned the respect of his teammates and coaching staff with his hard-nosed defense. This played a big part in him landing on the team in the first place.

“He was brought on board specifically to defend some of the stronger two’s and some of the stronger three’s,” Drew said. “We need a guy with that type of size and mentality to guard those guys. When we play against teams that have players like (Danny) Granger, players like LeBron (James), players like (Paul) Pierce, we are definitely gonna put him in the game and let him chase those guys around.”

Wilkins said he is not letting the opportunity get to his head.

“Its a privilege to play in this league and play on this team,” he said.  “It’s not my right, so just getting the opportunity to do it is a blessing.”

One perk Wilkins said comes with being a Hawk is getting a chance to spend time with his uncle, Dominique Wilkins who is currently a vice president and color analyst for the team.

“I think I have spent more time with him over the past couple of months than I have my whole life,” Wilkins said. “I love and appreciate that so much so to see that the opportunity was coming to end was painful.”

After signing Wilkins to a maximum of two 10-day contracts the Hawks were forced to make a decision to either sign Wilkins to a longer contract or let him go. Both parties seem happy about the new contract and Wilkins seems like he has no intention of going anywhere else anytime soon.

“I have always dreamed of being Hawk since I was a little boy,” Wilkins said. “Having this opportunity is one of the best things to happen to me.”

Hawks Host Local Poetry Event

Last night the Atlanta Hawks teamed up with United Way to present the Atlanta Hawks Poetry Slam at the Hard Rock Cafe Atlanta.

The contest pitted 14 Atlanta area high schoolers against each other as they shared poems based on the theme of the night, “Live United.”

All the contestants put forth a great effort but at the end of the night Kayla Tremble of Druid Hills High School walked away with the grand prize of a laptop. She is also set to preform during the Hawks’ annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday game on January 17 as the Hawks take on the Sacramento Kings.

Tremble presented her poem, “Segue,” with an undeniable swagger that stole the show.

Pebblebrook High School featured two of the competition’s stand outs. Aaron Small confidently performed his poem, “Epitome of Success,” to earn the runner-up prize—a 32” flat screen television and an autographed basketball. Shamarria Brooks finished third with her poem “Unification of a Broken Nation,” earning a digital camera and an autographed picture.

Atlanta Hawks Center Etan Thomas showed a different side at the event. Not only did he serve as a judge for the competition but he also took to the stage to perform a piece entitled “Haters.” Thomas encouraged the kids to keep writing and reflected on his childhood which was filled with writing.

Thomas even said he was a member of the speech and debate team in high school.

“I always got a pass because I played ball,” Thomas joked.

Thomas took time to chat with HOOPSADDICT.com before the contest started:

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Bibby Embraces His New Role

If you have been paying close attention to the Atlanta Hawks this year, you probably noticed that Mike Bibby has been shooting the ball like the Mike Bibby of old.

In fact, the 12-year-vet is on pace to set a new career high in 3-point field goal percentage. Bibby is shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 48.6 from deep after shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from the three last season.

Bibby had a simple explanation for his increased efficiency from the field.

“[The shots] have been going in,” he told HOOPSADDICT.com with a laugh. “I’m just taking the same shots. I’m just waiting for the ball to swing around and being ready to shoot.”

In a league filled with young explosive guards his job isn’t getting any easier. Still, Bibby has managed to hold down the starting point guard spot despite the developing talents of the young speedster, Jeff Teague.

Even though over the past two years Bibby has played less minutes than he is accustomed too, he has adjusted well and he said he feels even more comfortable this season.

“Last year was probably a down year for me,” he admitted. “But you have some. There were different looks as far as playing time and I was trying to get used to what they were trying to get me do. It was hard for me.”

To compound Bibby’s problems with adjusting to his new role, he said he didn’t get to work-out in the summer of 2009 as much as he would have liked.

“Last year I didn’t get as much extra work in the summer as I usually do,” he said. “I think it really showed.”

Coach Larry Drew said he is happy with the effort from his veteran point guard.

“Mike (Bibby) is a workhorse,” Drew siad. “He is playing against younger, faster, quicker guys and at times it’s a little tough on him. But when its all said and done, he is a perfect fit for what we do because he knocks down his shots.”

Drew added that Bibby makes things easier for his go-to guys, Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith.

“We go through Joe (Johnson), we go through Josh (Smith), we go through Al (Horford) and when those guys are double-teamed we have a guy sitting out there who can make shots,” Drew said.

Bibby’s hot shooting could not have come at a better time as Johnson has been struggling to find his stroke all season. Problems with his shooting elbow have seen Johnson shoot 40.1 percent from the field and an abysmal 26.6 percent from downtown.

Despite returning early from a December surgery, Johnson said that he is still not 100 percent and can’t quite get the extension on his jumpers that he normally gets.

When hoop fanatics talk about most-improved-players, they usually look to see who has the most dramatic increase in scoring or rebounding. However, it is hard to ignore the dramatic increase that Bibby has shown in three-point percentage.

Orlando Working In New Additions

Unless you were under a rock this weekend (or a horrific snow storm) you probably heard about the drastic changes the Orlando Magic made to their roster. Monday night marked the first time new additions Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark reported for action.

Any time a team undergoes a makeover it takes time to adjust but this will prove to be an even bigger challenge for the Magic as their landmark trades happened to go down right before a six game in nine day stretch.

Before Monday night’s game against the Hawks, head coach Stan Van Gundy pointed out the irony of trying to pull his new team together to take on Atlanta.

“The Hawks have been together for six years,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t even been together for six hours yet so we have a little bit of an experience deficit.”

The most interesting part of this transition will be seeing how Van Gundy deals with the newfound depth in the back-court. He is going to have to split playing time and touches between Jameer Nelson, Gilbert Arenas, J.J. Reddick and Jason Richardson. It doesn’t help that Turkoglu feels most comfortable when he has the ball in his hand and they still have to try to please franchise player Dwight Howard down in the post.

“I think our depth on the perimeter is pretty damn good,” Van Gundy boasted. “Probably what is gonna’ effect guys minutes more than anything else is how they play. Over long periods of time if you’re not producing there’s not reason to run you out there.”

Turkoglu said he was happy to come back to Orlando because he feels his talents fit in here more than they did in Toronto or Phoenix.

“I just want to be using the stuff that I’m good at,” he said. “I like being in the pick-and-roll and just being a creatable guy looking for the best shot for me or for my teammates. I was able to be that when I was making those decisions even in crunch time.”

Turkoglu might be in for a disappointment as Van Gundy said he isn’t sure how often he going to allow him to facilitate.

“We will certainly put the ball in his hands during pick-and-rolls,” Van Gundy said. “Will we do it as much as we did before? Probably not quite honestly because Jason (Richardson) is a scorer and Gilbert (Arenas) is a scorer and a guy who will run a lot of pick-and-rolls so it will be split up a little more. I don’t think anybody, including Dwight (Howard), will get as many shots as they have been getting up to now.”

Despite all of the challenges they have to overcome the team already has a little bit of chemistry. Turkoglu helped lead the the Magic to the finals just a couple of years ago and Arenas and Richardson seem to be excited to play together again as they both spent their rookie seasons in Golden State.

“We’ve been knowing each other forever,” Richardson said. “We came in the league together.”

Considering the rumors that were circulating that Howard was unhappy with teammates Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, any sign of good chemistry is an improvement.

There have been some speculations that Howard had some input in the recent transactions but Howard refused to comment on the topic. However, he did say that he plans on welcoming his new teammates with open arms.

It’s not often that a team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals makes such a dramatic change so it will be interesting to see how things play out down in Orlando.

“We got about four months to become a good team,” Van Gundy admitted.

Johnson Returns With A Vengeance

Despite suffering a loss in Boston on Thursday, Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew received the encouraging news that Joe Johnson was in Atlanta chucking up shots this week and was pain-free.

“While we’ve been gone he’s been coming in everyday shooting the ball,” Drew told HOOPSADDICT.com before the game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Still the players and coaches were surprised when it was announced a little over an hour before the game that Johnson was cleared to start.

Marvin Williams said he and his teammates did not believe Johnson when he said he was ready to play.

“He healed so fast,” Williams said. “I thought he was gonna miss eight weeks. Its been twelve days. This man just had elbow surgery.”

Mike Bibby expressed his excitement after hearing the news an hour before the game.

“He came back quick,” Bibby said. “That’s the kind of warrior he is. It shows that we need him. He is one of the top players in the NBA because he causes a lot of attention and it opens up things for everybody else.”

Even Johnson seemed a little surprised at how early he was able to return but he credits a great rehab regiment.

“My rehab has been going so well that I was able to get back a lot earlier,” he said. “(I’ve) been playing one-on-one with (assistant coach) Nick Van Exel. He did a great job of banging me and just trying to see if I was game ready.”

Johnson seemed a little stiff at the beginning of Friday’s shoot around but continued to loosen up with each shot.

Johnson could not have picked a better time to come back as the Hawks returned to Atlanta after dropping two on the road, including the 23 point shellacking served up by the Pistons Tuesday. That same night Jamal Crawford sustained a lower back injury which has limited his play.

Crawford  was pulled in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game and did not even suit up for Friday night’s contest.

The Hawks seemed energized by the return of their star as they opened Friday’s night game against the Charlotte Bobcats with an 8-0 run sparked by stingy defense and a number of fastbreak finishes.

Despite slowing down a bit, the Hawks earned their seventh straight home win behind Johnson’s 16 point, eight assist and five rebound performance.

It was a rough week for the Hawks but the return of Johnson and a win has to help the team morale as they take on the Nets in New Jersey on Sunday followed by a meeting with the Orlando Magic in Phillips Arena on Monday.

Johnson’s speedy return has earned him the respect of his teammates and he will be one of the last guys in the league that will get brought up in conversations about faking injuries or a lack of toughness.

“I think it gives us a lot of inspiration,” Johnson said. “It just shows these guys that I definitely got their backs and we are in this thing together.

Johnson Undergoes Surgery On His Elbow

The Atlanta Hawks announced Wednesday night that All-Star guard Joe Johnson is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with an elbow injury.

“Obviously we have to look for point production in other areas,” Coach Larry Drew said. “We just have to get the difference of what we will be missing without him and I feel very confident that we can do that.”

Johnson has been diagnosed with what medical officials are calling a “loose body” in his right elbow. He is set to undergo arthroscopic surgery within the next few days.

The injury is in Johnson’s shooting arm and may have been a contributing factor in his recent shooting slump. Johnson is shooting 40.9 percent from the field which are his worst numbers since the 2002-2003 season with the Phoenix Suns. His 25.6 shooting percentage from the three point line has Johnson on pace to set a new career low in the category.

Despite his shooting woes, Johnson is still leading the Hawks in scoring with 17.1 points per game this season to go along with his 4.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

“Obviously, we are going to miss Joe,” Al Horford said. “At the same time I think it is going make us stronger as team but we can’t wait for him to get back.

Drew said he hopes the team will stay the course while Johnson recovers.

“We know that without Joe in our lineup we have to pick up the slack,” Drew said. “We will continue business as usual and we will just try to hold the fort down until he gets back.”

Role Players Step Up For Atlanta

When Hawk’s players arrived at Philip’s arena Wednesday evening, they were greeted with some ominous news that Joe Johnson would undergo surgery and will miss four-to-six weeks.

Anytime a superstar goes down one question has to be raised: who will step up? In their first contest without Johnson it could have been Al Horford, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, Mo Evans or Josh Powell that picked up the slack. Luckily for the Hawks (12-7) it was all of the above as they beat the Memphis Grizzlies (8-11) 112-109 victory with a balanced offensive effort.

The Hawks had a staggering seven players finish with point totals higher than their season averages.

“You see a balanced attack,” Jamal Crawford said. “I think that’s tougher for the opposition to key in on.”

Larry Drew’s motion offense looked unstoppable at times as the team also dished out 33 assists; close to 11 more than their average this season.

“That’s what its going to take,” Drew said. “When you have a guy out, everybody has to step their game up and we had some guys that did that tonight.”

Horford led the way for Atlanta with 20 points as he continues to be one of the most efficient players in the league. He connected on eight of his 14 attempts from the field. He is now shooting 60.2 percent from the field this season

“Al’s been playing well for us,” Drew said. “We are counting on Al and he has stepped up big for us.”

It has been an efficient year turned in for Mike Bibby so far as well as he entered the game shooting a whopping 52.1 percent from distance this season despite shooting just 38.9 percent from deep last year and 37.8 percent in his career. He managed to knock down four-of-five three point attempts as his father, assistant coach Henry Bibby, watched from the Memphis bench.

“I have to get more play calls ran to [Bibby],” Drew said. “He is into a groove. When he gets his feet under him, he can knock them down with the best of them.”

Josh Powell also had a big impact on the game, especially in the second quarter where he hit 6-of-7 attempts from the field.

“I just did the same thing I’ve been doing every game,” Powell said. “I can score but that part I don’t really worry about. I just wanted to come out and show what I could do on both ends of the floor.”

Crawford paced the Hawks with eight assists to go along with his 16 points.

The Hawks have proved a lot already this year. They have proved that they can string wins together, they can win on the road and they even proved they can win without their best player. Perhaps next is proving that they can compete with some of the elite teams in the league as their record against teams above the .500 mark is still a gaudy 2-6.

Atlanta will finish up a two game home stand Friday as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers before traveling down to Florida to face the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic respectively.

Hawks Ready For A New Streak

The Atlanta Hawks responded to their second longest losing streak of the season by dismantling a young Wizard’s team on Thanksgiving night. The Hawks dominated the entire game on their way to a 116-96 victory.

It was easily their best showing of the year and they seem to answer a lot questions that have been raised about their play recently.

“We talked about it before the game, before they even hit the floor,” Coach Larry Drew said. “They had to bring energy. That was the most important thing.”

Drew said he had not seen that type of energy sustained throughout a whole game all season.

Another good sign was on the boards as the Hawks managed to out rebound the bigger longer Wizards. Over the last couple of game the Hawks have been getting knocked around on the boards. As a result Drew said he put an emphasis on boxing out and limiting Washington to one shot.

“(Javale) McGee has been playing so well coming up to this game,” Al Horford said. “We held him off as best we could and I think our guards played a huge role of coming and making sure they helped out with the long rebounds.”

Perhaps the most promising sign from the Hawks is the amount of chemistry they showed as they played together the entire game and seemed to have fun doing it. This was evidenced by the amount of celebration from the bench as Jason Collins drilled in an unlikely three late in the fourth quarter and then pointed over to his teammates on the pine.

“We are just trying to get wins and have fun,” Josh Smith said. “We are trying to figure out how we got wins when we were 6-0.”

Part of the reason they were able to string together wins early in the season is because of a number of weak competitors. Its been a season of streaks as the Hawks ran off six games straight, dropped four in a row, won back-to-back games and then dropped three.

With a number of weak opponents on the horizon the Hawks may look to put together another long win streak.

Hawks Continue To Struggle Late In Games

Yesterday the Hawks got a taste of the best remedy for a struggling team: a win. But despite putting an end to a four game losing streak the Hawks still have to be concerned with their 0-4 record against teams over the .500 mark.

After dropping four straight capped by a lost to the sizzling hot Utah Jazz last Friday, Joe Johnson commented on the teams the Hawks have faced so far.

“I didn’t really get excited from the 6-0 start because none of the teams were playoff teams,” Johnson said. “[The four teams we lost too] were play-off teams.”

The team showed signs in both of the games this weekend but a blown lead on Friday begs questions about their ability to finish off opponents. Yesterday the Timberwolves began making their own run late in the fourth but the hawks managed to hold on for the 111-105 victory.

“We definitely have to be able to put teams away,” Josh Smith said. “We just have to watch film, see what we are doing wrong and try to correct it.”

Coach Larry Drew echoed Smith’s sentiments.

“When we put ourselves in certain positions our decision making has to be better, our defense has to be much stronger and we have to continue to be a blue collar team,” Drew explained.

Drew also added that the team has to work harder to secure rebounds.

Smith said that he isn’t concerned that the team hasn’t pulled things together as well as most people expected.

“If you look at Miami, they haven’t really got it together either,” he said. “Its not the time to panic.”

Smith would have a valid point unless you take into account that Miami made drastic changes to their roster this year and the Hawks have the same parts they had last season.

One of the problems over the four game slump was energy off of the bench. Drew said he was pleased with the effort he got from his subs in the first half against Minnesota.

“It was a huge relief,” Drew said. “They played really well the first half. Second half, I don’t think they played as well but their was not a big drop-off when I put them in there.”

Luckily for the Hawks, they have a light week ahead. They will take on the Pacers in Indiana on Tuesday before coming back to Phillips to take on the Mavericks Saturday.

The rest between Tuesday and Saturday may be what they need to earn their first win over play-off team.

Hawks Mired In A Three-Game Losing Streak

The Atlanta Hawks were off to one of the hottest starts in the NBA. At least on the surface, as they eased their way through a number of mediocre opponents to start the year with six straight wins.

Unfortunately for Joe Johnson and the crew, injuries and schedule difficulty has finally caught up to them as they have dropped three straight including a 17 point bashing at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks tonight.

The three game skid seems to have Josh Smith down as he explained how badly the team needed a win.

“We just wanted to get a win tonight,” he said. “We were already on a two-game losing streak, so we just wanted to get a win no matter who it was against.”

The Hawks are definitely less than 100 percent right now. Both Marvin Williams and Mo Evans sat out last night with injuries and yet to step on the court this month. Most teams would struggle if their two first options at the small forward position went down and the Hawks are no different.

Production off the bench has also been a problem in the three latest games and the frustration was written all over coach Larry Drew’s face as he expressed his difficulties trying to make match-ups and substitutions during a post-game press conference.

“I’ve got to find a better substitution pattern or just better combinations to have in there during the game,” Drew said. “That is the third straight game that we have just gone dead in the water.”

“Dead in the water” is the best phrase to describe last night as the Hawks were outworked by a team coming off the front-end of a back-to-back.

“You would’ve thought, in watching this game that we were the team that played last night,” Drew said. They had way more energy than we did. We seemed to be a step slow and didn’t have that zap in our movement.”

More concerning than the Hawks’ three straight losses and their injury problems is their attitude. The team has looked uninspired during stretches in all three of losses.

Last night was there worse showing yet as they seemed lackadaisical for the last three quarters of the game.

“I don’t understand what happened between the start of the game and the end of the first quarter,” said Al Horford. “Its one of those things that you can’t really explain.”

The Hawks have not looked good responding to their first bit of adversity with Drew running the show and this will be a great opportunity to see what the first year head coach really has.

Ironically enough the Hawks will attempt to right the ship Friday night when they take on a team headed in the totally opposite direction. The Utah Jazz come into Atlanta after stringing three come from behind victories, including an overtime shocker in Miami on Tuesday.

Hawks Show Potential In Win Over Heat

It’s easy for spectators to place a higher level of importance on preseason games then they deserve. However, with that being said, Atlanta’s win over Miami was a pretty big deal for the franchise.

True, it was just a preseason game so the Hawks didn’t gain an advantage over any of their Eastern Conference foes.

Also worth noting is the fact Dwyane Wade did not play so this game is not a fair indication of how the Hawks would fair against the full brunt of the Big 3.

However, the Hawks did manage to down LeBron James and a talented Heat team in an atmosphere that rivals the average regular season game.

The Hawks offense looked a little rough early on as they resorted to their infamous Joe Johnson isolations but Johnson scored the ball with ease the first half. When the Heat attempted to put more pressure on Johnson, the Hawks began to move the ball with much more efficiency.

Josh Smith showed he can play hard despite being emotionally charged. In the past he has been knocked for disappearing on the court after having a bad call go against him but this was not the case against Miami. After being issued a technical foul late in the third quarter, Smith stole a James Jones pass and sprinted down the court for a nasty fast break finish. This is the type of leadership the Hawks will be looking for from their newly appointed captain.

Bibby showed exactly why he has been a starter for so long in the NBA by knocking down a three, a long two and a couple of free throws late in the fourth quarter to help the Hawks seal the game.

There has been a lot of debate about whether Jeff Teague or Bibby should get the starting point guard job. However, perhaps a better question is who will be on the court when the game is on the line.

The Atlanta fans made their presence felt, especially whenever the ball was in James’ hands. When he pulled down the first of his nine rebounds, Philip’s Arena was filled with a chorus of boos that had to make James feel as if he were back in Cleveland.

Which raises an interesting question: Were the Atlanta fans, who have a historically bad rep for supporting professional teams, pumped to cheer on their Hawks or did a bunch of people show up to the game to voice their hate of James? The former would be a great sign for the Hawks but as of now I’m inclined to believe the latter.

Last night’s preseason game was also big because it was the closest head coach Larry Drew has gotten to playing his regular season rotation.

“We are just trying to get into some type of rhythm,” Drew said in a post-game press conference.

The Hawks seemed to have found their groove and gave us the first true display of what to expect in the regular season.