Opening Statements: Wizards vs Hawks, Game 13 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Hawks, Game 13

Updated: November 25, 2014

Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks - Nov. 21, 2012

Wizards, Hawks. Hawks, Wizards. Atlanta leads the all-time series 145-137, but the last time they won in D.C. was on December 18, 2012, in overtime. Jordan Crawford messed around and got a triple-double, but Lou Williams carried then-head coach Larry Drew and the Hawks to victory with 24 points off the bench. “I look up every morning to make sure the sky is up there, that it’s not falling in on me,” Randy Wittman wheezed after the game.

Making things tougher for Atlanta this season is some finger-lickin’ good home cooking. The Wiz are 5-1 at the Verizon Center, their best start at home since 1974-75, and are holding opponents to 95 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting from the field. The Hawks won’t simply roll over, though. They play defense, they pass, and, while just 6-5, they’ve stepped up when it matters most: Al Horford & Co. have scored as many—or more—second-half points than their opponents in nine of 11 games this season.

Bo Churney (@BoChurney), lead writer and editor of HawksHoop, the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog, joins TAI to preview the action.

Teams: Wizards vs Hawks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wiz favored by 4.5 points.

Q #1: The Hawks traded Lou Williams (and the rights to Lucas Nogueira) to Toronto for (a second round pick) and John Salmons, who was waived in July. Williams had a career scoring night against the Cavs, but it’s his defense that has impressed Dwayne Casey.

Was giving away Williams to another Eastern Conference team, a contender, worth $4.45 million this season?

@BoChurneyLou Williams is having a career-year on both ends of the floor so far with the Raptors, which is something nobody really could have or would have predicted. But before Williams was traded, I fully endorsed him being shipped out of Atlanta, mainly because the Hawks already had a surplus of guards. Shipping Williams out had cleared the way for the development of Dennis Schröder, which has been one of the best things about the Hawks this season.

That said, the trade was a dud when it was made and Williams’ resurgent play has only further proven that. The Hawks were trying to clear salary—I get that. The problem is, the Hawks struck out in free agency and now have nothing to show for trading TWO assets away in Williams and Nogueira. Williams did not have much value at the time he was traded, but those two should have been able to net the Hawks more than what they received. I like a lot of what the front office has done, but this left me scratching my head.

Q #2: Al Horford has two years and $24 million left on his contract (including this year). Will the Hawks re-sign him? *Should* they re-sign him?

@BoChurney: I believe the Hawks should re-sign Horford when his contract is up. He is an All-Star caliber player that is currently re-acclimating back from his injury and he is still putting up a PER of 20. His jump shot is still fantastic and, hopefully soon, he will start to carry more of the load on offense. With his injury history and under-the-radar play, Horford can likely be had for another bargain deal when his contract is up. (Bargain in the sense that the cap is going up and he likely won’t command a max.)

Q #3: Adreian Payne, Atlanta’s 6-foot-10, 3-point shooting big man, was recently sent down to the D-League. What’s your take on that? And are you worried he won’t be able to stay healthy?

@BoChurneyPayne was sent down because the Hawks have a really crowded backup frontcourt and he needed playing time. Although he has been sitting out with plantar fasciitis, Payne likely would be sitting if he were healthy. Plantar fasciitis does concern me some, as it often is an injury that does not go away, but I also think that Payne sitting out was more precautionary than anything else; the Hawks are currently carrying the maximum of 15 guys on the roster, but only 13 can be active for a game. Because of that, I think Payne was an easy choice to sit, as there was really no reason to risk it.

Q #4: The Wizards and Hawks split last season’s series 2-2. What’s your series prediction in 2014-15? And are the Hawks better than their record (6-5)?

@BoChurney: I think the teams will split again this season, with some lean towards Washington potentially winning the series 3-1. Paul Pierce has always been a thorn in the Hawks’ side and I don’t expect that to change with him now being a Wizard.

I think 6-5 is an accurate assessment of how the Hawks have played their first 11 games, but I expect them to get better. DeMarre Carroll, who is an often underrated piece of this team, missed four games and the results were the Hawks falling from 11th to 23rd in defensive efficiency, per I also expect Schröder, Thabo Sefolosha, Shelvin Mack, and Pero Antic (combined 12-for-73, or 16%, on 3-pointers) to start making shots at some point. This is not an elite team, but I expect them to be a “solidly over .500” team by the time the season ends.

Q#5: how much do you trust Coach Budenholzer with “basketball operations,” now that Danny Ferry is on an indefinite leave of absence?

And what has the franchise done since FerryGate in an attempt to repair further damage while trying to penetrate the perpetually baffling Atlanta market?

@BoChurney: On Budenholzer: I trust him, but I’m not sure if his role has really changed too much. He has been a part of the decision making process since he was brought in. With Budenholzer coaching, I imagine assistant GM Wes Wilcox has been the one that has taken on more responsibility. From the conversations I’ve had with Wilcox, I also have trust in his decision making.

From my perspective, it looks like the Hawks have tried to do more community outreach since the Ferry scandal. There has been some improvement in attendance, too. I have no idea if either of those things will last through the season, but it looks promising. Since the Atlanta fans have not been impressed with the Braves or Falcons lately, this will be a good test to see if the Hawks can capitalize and try to grow their local roots.

Q#6: Prediction!

How does the score of this game go?

@BoChurney: 101-95 Wizards. The Wizards are a really good team and the Hawks have not proven enough yet for me to pick them against a really good team on the road. The Hawks did lose close road games at Toronto and at San Antonio, but until they finally break through, I’m going to have a tough time picking them on the road against playoff teams.

John Converse Townsend on EmailJohn Converse Townsend on FacebookJohn Converse Townsend on InstagramJohn Converse Townsend on Twitter
John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.