Joe Johnson Commits to Atlanta Hawks

July 5, 2010

by Jack Maidment

The Atlanta Hawks offered Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million deal on July 1 and he has agreed to sign, making him the first of this year’s premier free agents to commit to their future.

A cynic would say that any meetings the 29-year-old had with other teams in the past four days were a highly visible way of compelling the Hawks to offer Johnson the money that he wanted.

Or perhaps he just loves Atlanta and was glad to make the deal.

Either way the Hawks kept the man that matters most to their franchise. Regardless of any playoff exits in the past few years the fact is that Johnson has led a team long a basement dweller into the light of the post season.

A Championship is far from realistic but number 2’s signature means the Hawks can carry on being relevant at least.

If Johnson can start to thrive in the playoff atmosphere, something he has not done up to this point, the Hawks could yet surprise someone in the Conference semis in the next few years.

Or the deal could turn out to be a crippling financial burden; too much money for an ageing shooting guard who has never shown he is capable of carrying a team when it needs him too.

As for Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks it seems that regardless of how convinced he is that he will be playing in New York for the next 5 years he will have to wait for LeBron to say no before he can say yes, or wait for an invite from James.

It is understood that the Knicks have given LeBron the chance to pick his own big man as part of their pitch.


NBA Playoffs 2009: Cleveland Cavaliers Handle Hawks With Ease

May 12, 2009

mike brown

by Jack Maidment

The word best used to describe the Cleveland Cavalier’s Playoff performance thus far? Ease.

After completing their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks last night, LeBron and co have become the first team since the Miami Heat many moons ago to dispatch their first and second round opponents in the absolute minimum of 8 combined games.

Some of the games may have been close at times but the outcome for each one rarely looked in doubt.

The Detroit Retaliation that was predicted my many never happened. Instead of the dormant talent and experience rising up in the face of the challenge, it preferred to stay sleeping, confining the Pistons to an embarrassing first round exit.

The Atlanta Hawks couldn’t be much more different than the Pistons. They are young and are clearly progressing, yet the outcome was the same: getting past the Miami Heat in the 1st was an entirely different proposition to facing LeBron in the Conference Semis.

If you look up ‘stroll’ in the dictionary there is likely a picture of Detroit and Atlanta united by their collective trouncing. Yep, they were trounced.

Despite the fact that the Cavs would have you believe that they have worked hard against tough opposition to get this far, the reality is that they could not have made it look much easier.

Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week, right?

The very best make the game look easy. Effortless. Jay-Z, Alex Ovechkin, Barack Obama, Lionel Messi. We know that what they are doing is difficult, sometimes impossible, but their success is rarely doubted.

However, the Cavaliers are not at the top yet, and they know it. As the top seed, their route to the Conference Finals has been as stress free as possible. Atlanta and Detroit are not the Boston Celtics or the Orlando Magic. At all.

For LeBron, the playoffs really start now. Against teams that have the ability to take you to the last possession every game, no matter where it is being played.

The ease of progression has led Cleveland to constantly defend its preparation going into the Conference Finals and also The Finals themselves. Playing mediocre teams can hardly get you ready for battling the Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers, can it?

They say rest is the bonus that every team would prefer over hard fought 7 game series. They say that they will be ready.

They probably will be, but there can be little doubt that the Cavs will find it difficult to come out firing like the winner of the other Semi which will go at least 6, probably 7.

Rhythm is important in all things. Finding the groove. The Cavs will have to find theirs real fast in the Conference Finals. 

Do the Cavaliers have ‘it’ on tap? We will soon find out. 


NBA Playoffs Conference Semi Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers Too Much For Atlanta Hawks?

May 4, 2009

joe-johnson1

It seems like the epic nature of the Chicago/Boston first rounder has made it difficult to even contemplate the other match ups that have taken place.

But that is over, the Bulls have gone, and the Conference Semi Finals are upon us. All 4 are intriguing and difficult to call with any degree of certainty given the way that most teams have decided to play either really good or really bad on any given night.

The only team who hasn’t experienced any worrying fluctuations in form are the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have been solid.

The biggest worry for LeBron and Co was that they took their foot off the pedal when they were up 20 in a series against Detroit that they won 4 to zero.

It almost felt that LeBron felt the need to fake annoyance because everything had gone so well: ‘Those other teams have problems right? Maybe we need some too… Hey! We only won by 20. That is not good enough Cleveland!’

If that is their only worry, they have to be pretty confident going into a series against the least fancied of any of the Semi Final occupants.

The Atlanta Hawks may have just dispatched the Wade-reliant Miami Heat in 7 ‘schizophrenic’ games but in Cleveland they face a team who have just destroyed and stamped all over a Detroit Pistons team who, on paper, were not far removed from the team that had challenged for all the marbles the last 6 years.

4 games. Cleveland has had enough time off to go fishing with Detroit AND come back in time to play the Hawks.

Despite the fact that this series has been written off already as a Cavaliers white wash, Atlanta has a lot more going for them than people are crediting.

For example, there is no other team in the League which is better equipped to deal with LeBron James than the Hawks who are as long and as athletic as is necessary to have a chance against King James.

Josh Smith may not have the measured and polished jump shot game of LeBron, but he is his equal athletically. The Hawks will be safe in the knowledge that they have a guy on their team who can run and jump with the Best in the Game.

It is also worth looking at the Atlanta front court which is one of the most slept on in the NBA. The tandem of Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia is mobile and long, giving the Hawks an imposing paint presence to combat Zydrunas Ilgauskus and Anderson Varejao down low.

One of the keys to this series will be how the Hawks deal with the Cavalier backcourt pairing of Delonte West and Mo Williams.

Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson have the size and athleticism to tie up Cleveland’s guards and if they can successfully put pressure on them the Cavs will starve offensively.

Joe Johnson should be able to take a nervy Mo Williams out of the game with his mix of size and speed.  

The major problem for Atlanta is that they cannot rely on their bench the way that Cleveland can. Ben Wallace, Boobie Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Pavlovic, Joe Smith. All guys that can be brought into the game when the starters need some rest.

The burden will rest solely on the Atlanta Hawks starting 5 to do anything in this series, making fatigue a real issue.

Regardless of the magic that has been sprinkled this post season, barring a miracle, the Cavaliers will beat the Hawks. Cleveland are just too deep and they have the King.

But. It wont be the blow out that has been predicted.

Cavs in 6.


Welcome to the Highlight Factory: Josh Smith’s House

April 23, 2009
Nobody Does It Better

Nobody Does It Better

Josh Smith is flat out scary. Worryingly so. Every single basketball player in the world should be afraid of him. His jump shot might not be as consistent as his team mate Joe Johnson, and he might not be able to thread the needle like his point, Mike Bibby, but nobody in the NBA, let alone the Hawks can match him for straight up athleticism. He is Mr Jump Out Of The Gym.

 

You could argue that Nate Robinson is at least in competition with Smith since the little Knicker-Bocker can clearly jump. Over Centers. At 5-7 he isn’t really supposed to be able to jump that high.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, some people would have you believe that Dwight Howard is THE athlete in the League. Dude can dunk on 12 feet. And he barely even tries. But Howard, standing at just under 7 feet, has so much length that any dunking kinda looks too easy. Howard and Robinson are premier leapers but their respective sizes gives Smith the edge in this race.

 

As the average sized NBA player, 6-8, Smith kinda comes out out of nowhere. He creeps up on you even though you know that his freakish legs are just ready to explode upwards at any time. The massive amount of air time that he can generate means that he can attack the rim with an unrivaled ferocity from further out than pretty much all the other NBA’s players, LeBron and Iggy excepted.

 

If teams are stupid enough to not put a body on him to keep him out of the air, just get out of the way or its your own fault why you are on the next top selling poster.

 

Dunks don’t win games. They ruin lives. Andrei Kirilenko will attest to that. His dreams are still haunted by Baron Davis.

 

There is a reason Atlanta’s home court is called The Highlight Factory, and his name is Josh Smith.