Opening Statements: Wizards vs Hawks, Game 54
Oh, to be a young man with money in Atlanta. The last time we checked into ATL, John Wall was throwing quite the party on the eve of a game with the Hawks. Was it his poor performance in the first half of that game, the admonishment of a coach, a chastising text from former Wizard and whippersnapper-disciplinarian Emeka Okafor, or merely the fickle will of the NBA schedulers that prevented a remix of that night this time around? I’m sure all of the Operas, Vanquishes, Pink Ponies, Onyxes, and Compounds of the city came calling.
As a former resident of southeast Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, I can understand the restlessness that must set in when a resident of the District of Columbia is confronted with the far superior nightlife of a city that also houses the love of Young Angel aka Cap’n Save-Em aka Drake’s life: Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree. But as many a soon-to-be divorcée has told her husband over the years, “it’s just not fun anymore” when your team is three games under .500 and losing ground to the (gasp!) Nets and (gasp!) Cavs.
Teams: Wizards at Hawks
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Hawks favored by 1 point.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: Before the season started, I was hoping the Hawks would consider erecting a statue of Danny Ferry outside of Philips Arena for his commitment to terraforming Atlanta’s player personnel plateau into a malleable geoscape of gelatinous bilateral potentiality.
Now, on the eve of the trade deadline, which way does Ferry go? Buy? Sell? Stand pat and patiently reap the benefits of his already established flexibility?
@ColePatty: Stand pat. Traditionally, the Hawks would be in a great spot to be buyers in an NBA trade deadline market. Unfortunately, I can’t see Ferry buying what these other GMs are selling. Jeff Green, Evan Turner, or somebody on the Knicks for Jeff Teague and one of OUR firsts? None of the deals seemingly move the needle in Atlanta to improve upon their mid-to-bottom seed prospects in the East this season. So I expect for Atlanta to be quiet these next few days and head into the summer with their current roster.
Q #2: We miss Shelvin Mack.
In the most recent Wizards Optimism Index, I listed the forbidden tongue lyric sequence of Washington’s backup point guard progression (drafted Mack who was cut in favor of Jannero Pargo and A.J. Price who were replaced by Eric Maynor) as one of the main reasons why we should not place much trust in Washington’s front office. Tell me, friend, what is it like to watch Shelvin play inexpensive, meaningful minutes for the Hawks?
@ColePatty: Shelvin has been one of the best stories in Atlanta this season. He’s gone from almost not making the roster this summer to playing big minutes every night. Part of it is in fact Coach Mike Budenholzer’s system—Mack just has to play intelligently and run most of the ball-handling duties—but part of it is the fact Shelvin fits what Bud tries to do with the point guard situation. Shelvin’s been great on such a small deal, and has essentially lengthened a career that was dwindling by a thread. He should be an NBA backup for the next few years.
Q #3: What has been the most discernible difference between the coaching styles of Larry Drew and Mike Budenholzer?
@ColePatty: The ball movement. The hashtag #BudBallMovement is popular among Hawks writers for a reason. Atlanta has had a vicegrip on the league’s top spot in the assist column, and it’s visually apparent anytime they step onto the hardwood. Guys like Korver and Carroll specialize in making off-ball cuts that leave them with easy looks, and Budenholzer puts those two in the kinds of situations that they flourish in.
Over/Unders! with @ColePatty:
Over/under 41.5 wins for the Atlanta Hawks this season?
Under. I want to say they’ll finish at 41-43, so just barely under.
Over/under 0.5 tears shed for the discontinuation of The Al Horford Radio Show on 680 The Fan in Atlanta?
Under. Any sacrifices that can be made to get Al Horford out of the radio booth and into a jersey can and will be made.
Over/under 0.5 ways a Jeff Teague trade makes the Hawks better this season?
Under, but I will say a Jeff Teague trade in the summer could be very interesting.
Over/under 7.5 defaced, oversized Zaza Pachulia cardboard heads after heavy use by section 118, Philips Arena’s only rowdy section?
Under, again. Fans still love Zaza for his service to the organization over his tenure as a Hawk, so despite the hole he left in their hearts I doubt they’ve done anything to disrespect him.
Philosophical Question! with @ColePatty:
Waugh or Camus: is change the only evidence of life or the refusal to be who you are?
@ColePatty: I’m pro change. Without progress, we’re nothing.
Q #4: Should anyone be looking for the man in the mirror?
@ConorDDirks: Mirror, mirror, on the wall. For the first time in what seems like an age, the Wizards are a team that has been relatively static as far as lineups and injury concerns. So why the fluctuations in performance? For Marcin Gortat, after the loss against the Raptors, it boiled down to self-reflection:
“I would say the most important thing is to just get back to the hotel, look in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do to help this team?’ and ask yourself the question, ‘Did I do everything I could to win this game?’ If you really did everything that was necessary to beat your guy and win your matchup in the game.”
On any given night, there seems to be an aberrant performance from at least one Wizards player, whether it be via bad shooting or temporary invisibility. One game after setting a franchise record for 3-point shots made in Houston, Trevor Ariza disappeared against Toronto. And a week after setting a career-high in points with 37 against Memphis, Bradley Beal couldn’t find his shot. But I think that distilling the problem to one of self-reflection, self-realization, or self-actualization cheapens the game, and reality. The Wizards are a jump-shooting team. While the law of averages may govern a stable result, that result isn’t packed like so much jam in the mason jar of any single game. In wins, Washington is shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent from the 3-point line. In losses? 43 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from the 3-point line. Rebounds, turnovers, blocks, and even free throw attempts are fairly similar in wins and losses.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who have the same record as the Wizards coming into tonight’s action (25-28), have a scoring margin which, averaged over the course of the season, should make them a top 10 team. But like the Wizards, there is an intractable gulf between the T-Wolves’ win-loss splits when it comes to shot-making, and particularly 3-point shot making (40.1 percent vs. 29.1 percent). Some of that is expected (of course your statistics in a loss will be worse!), but it is the wide margin for error that is concerning.
Ultimately, making jump shots, and particularly, making 3-point shots, falls to Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Martell Webster. Beal, who was eighth in the NBA in 3-point percentage coming into the game against Toronto, has (for now) earned the right to be forgiven for poor deep shooting once in a blue moon. But Ariza and Webster need to find sustainable attempts (“green offense,” you heard it here first) that stem from repeatable plays in order to become consistently visible, and consistently good.