Not to be disparaging or anything, but after watching the Orlando Magic beat the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter of Game 2 last night, I have come to the conclusion that the Hawks are indeed one of the dumbest postseason basketball teams I have ever come across in my 20 years of watching professional basketball.
Not dumb in a math, reading and writing kind-of-way; just in the “I have no idea how to play basketball” kind-of-way.
Maybe it is no coincidence that many of the Atlanta Hawks played one year of college basketball or less. Six of the Hawks top eight players were one-and-done collegiate athletes or came straight out of high school. To me, college basketball gives a great college player the opportunity to receive one-on-one coaching from the best coaches in the nation. However, going to the NBA early, often results in getting very few minutes early on in your career, and NBA head coaches cannot afford to waste their personal coaching expertise on players that do not get on the court. They just don’t have that kind of job security.
That lack of personal coaching can be fulfilled later on in the careers of these early entry candidates if they get on the court soon enough. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett are all great examples of that. But for every LeBron James, there are a ton of early entry candidates that didn’t make it at the professional level. There are many more who, while leading worthwhile NBA careers, never quite “got it” and failed to reach their max potential in the NBA.
That’s where a lot of the Atlanta Hawks are right now. They are at a point where they have exhibited all the talent in the world, but they haven’t developed the basketball I.Q. that would take their games to that next level, where they could reach their max potential. And I have no problem targeting the Hawks most high profile player for being a victim to basketball stupidity.
Joe Johnson, as good as he is, is not a very smart basketball player. Sure, during the regular season, his one-on-one exploits result in 50+ wins for the Hawks during a time on the NBA calendar when other teams are less likely to alter their defensive gameplans to the same degree that they do in the postseason, when everything is on the line. Still, Johnson thinks he can get away with playing one-on-one basketball, pounding the rubber off the rock, and not being a play-maker for the rest of his teammates during the NBA Playoffs. He’s pulling bad jumpers, shooting the ugliest floaters I have ever seen, and he has 9 turnovers in two games against the Orland Magic. He has not been playing smart basketball. In his defense, it’s hard out there for pimp, especially with Dwight Howard clogging up the middle. But even when Howard is on the bench, I don’t like what I see from Joe Johnson…or from this guy…
This guy being Josh Smith—another dumb basketball player. Maybe Josh doesn’t realize he’s a power forward. He dribbles the ball way too much, seems reluctant to be a part of whatever offensive system the Hawks are running, and all of a sudden he was shooting the outside jumper at a frequency that I thought he had given up this season. And what was with all of the crying and complaining? One time he got swiped in the face, maybe it was even in the eye, but he sat back on the offensive end as Orlando raced down the court with a 5 on 4 opportunity, in which the Magic scored. It wasn’t as if Josh Smith couldn’t walk, run or even see. At worst (and I doubt it was even this bad) Smith had to hold his eye closed for a few seconds. But he had no problem seeing the rim the next time he got the basketball in his hands.
Then there is Jamal Crawford. Man, I love him as a person, and his energy is very infectious. But what the hell was he doing out there last night? Don’t get me wrong; for three quarters, Crawford was the man, but that fourth quarter was ugly. He didn’t attack the rim nearly enough, he pulled up one too many times and his defense was as porous as ever. He’s a guy that can get away with that in the regular season, because teams won’t commit to stopping him the same way they do in the playoffs. Crawford has to recognize that there are 10 eyes looking at him when he has the ball, and he can be much more of a distributor than a jump shooter if defenses are going to key in on him like that.
A smart basketball player would recognize that. Of course, those are a rare commodity on this Hawks team.
[[This article originally appeared on thesportswatchers]]