By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NBA BEAT: If Anyone Needs To Be Fired It Might Be Billy Knight…Not Mike Woodson
Billy Knight (center) has assembled a roster for the Hawks that is unproductive against the NBA competition but Mike Woodson could become the fall guy for such a bad draft if this team continues its losing ways and that would be unfair to the second year coach.
SAN ANTONIO— The Atlanta Hawks are 0-9 and as of this writing, this team has not found a way to win a single game. Their upcoming schedule doesn’t help their cause either as they have Boston, Indiana, Portland, Houston and Miami to finish out the month of November.
Ladies and gentlemen of the sports world this franchise is looking at is a 0-14 start that would be the worse start that anyone would know of in modern sports history. The fans of this team, the few that actually show up at Phillips Arena, may want a change and ironically they may start pointing fingers at the one man who orchestrated a roster that is very inept at playing a complete game.
No they won’t be pointing the fingers at Mike Woodson, the team’s second year head coach; those fingers will be pointing directly at Billy Knight, the general manager of the Hawks.
There is a consensus going around the league right now that Knight has not done his homework as to what this franchise needs to be at least a competitive participant in the NBA. Let me explain what I term as competitive basketball.
This roster is made up of nothing more than six players who are shooting guards in this league. One player, Saleem Stoudamire, is listed as a shooting guard when clearly by size he is a point guard. Royal Ivey, who is listed on their roster as a point guard, is clearly just a guard.
This roster has only three big men (players who are legitimate power forwards/centers) and everybody else not mentioned is a ‘tweener’.
Athletically, Knight has assembled players who can get to the basket and some can even shoot. However what he has failed to assemble is a workable roster of players that complement each other. Of those players that I didn’t mention, no more than five of them all play the same position and all have similar style of play.
Al Harrington plays like Josh Childress. Childress has a similar game to that of Josh Smith and Smith has a similar game to Marvin Williams. Ironically the only player who may be the only true shooting guard on their roster, Joe Johnson, plays an in between game depending upon who is on the floor at that time. He is still a threat but his problem is that he is not a first option.
This franchise has gone through some changes during the off-season that has also been a contributing factor. Over the summer the ownership group aired out a public squabble between then Board Governor Steve Belkin and the other nine owners.
They went to court over the fact of bringing in one player (Johnson) and Knight was caught in the middle and siding with the majority of dissenters. Belkin has since been removed but the problems that Knight faces are still there. This team was awful last season and this season it is proving to be not different with their hellacious start.
As a sports fan you want to give your favorite team the benefit of the doubt. You want to believe in the fact that maybe the front office is making the right moves. You’d like that to be the case with the Hawks but it simply is not.
Billy Knight has made it tough for Coach Woodson to win games and this roster is a result of Knight not doing his research on the type of players that may compliment each other.
This franchise doesn’t have a ‘franchise’ player and is in flux. That’s his fault and if they have not won a game by December, then maybe the ownership group will want to look at replacing him with someone who can make a better assessment of talent for a wayward franchise that hasn’t seen the glory days since Dominique Wilkins and Doc Rivers.
WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT This past week, we’ve seen some gritty performances, some highlight spectaculars and then some plays by teams and/or individuals that could send one to the showers. Here are this week’s top performers, contenders and pretenders.
Who’s Hot: LeBron James’ fifth career triple double against the Philadelphia 76ers was the highlight of the week. 36 point, ten assists and eleven rebounds that included five turnovers was a milestone for the third year pro.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ Elton Brand joins James as this week’s top performer. Averaging 24 points per game to go along with ten rebounds in ten games, Brand has become the leader that the Clippers have wanted for a very long time.
Who’s not: Portland’s Ruben Patterson may be on his way out of the Rose City. The oft troubled power forward has clashed with Nate McMillan during the team’s recent loss to the New York Knicks and the team has sent him home to ‘cool off’.
Patterson’s agent, Dan Fegan, believes his client still has plenty of ability in him but maybe Fegan might want to consider anger management for his client. After all, Patterson’s past history does not bode well for him against a coach who believes in high moral character and fiber both on and off the field.
2. Clippers (8-2): Mike Dunleavy may have the best team in the Western Conference right now and that’s a surprise to many. Yet nobody is debating the fact that this year’s team is more cohesive than any in franchise history.
3. Spurs (9-2): The defending champions are struggling against opponents that they definitely have the match up on. The close win against the Kings on Tuesday only solidifies why they are the #3 team in the rankings. You can’t lose a big lead in this league like the Spurs do and have done in seasons past.
4. Cavaliers (8-2): This is definitely the best coach franchise in the Eastern conference. LeBron James’ triple double on Saturday night may have quashed many nay sayers as saying that he is not a complete player or a team player.
5. Mavericks (7-2): Sure they have spanked a couple of teams that are good (Detroit, San Antonio) but with the loss of Doug Christie for some time and the fact that this is Avery Johnson’s first full season, the Mavs are learning playoff caliber ball early.
6. Grizzlies (7-4): Mike Fratello has the Grizz playing good but is it enough to stay in the top ten till the first of the year? Mike Miller and Pau Gasol will need to pick up their games if they want to get this team to be one of the better young teams in the West.
7. Pacers (6-3): This team has forgotten their ills of last season but one has to scratch their head on how this team loses by 32 to the Bobcats. Then again, Dallas beat Detroit by 30 plus. Rick Carlisle still needs consistent production from Stephen Jackson.
8. Wizards (5-4): The Wizards have returned to apprentice status right now. Many thought that Eddie Jordan could have this team playing at a high level all season but this team is still living true to the prediction of getting to the playoffs and maybe being on the other side of the bracket.
9. Bucks (5-3): Terry Stotts has done a wonderful job with rebuilding project but as his young team is finding out, it isn’t easy trying to get wins in this league. Andrew Bogut is going to be learning the game all season so Bucks fans will have to be patient as he learns the ropes.
10. 76ers (6-5): What is Maurice Cheeks looking for to help this team? How about consistency across the board. Somewhere Allen Iverson has get his teammates to be on the same page with him and his teammates MUST get on the same page with AI in order to survive this season.
11. Nuggets (6-5): With NeNe out and with K-Mart out, the Nuggets will have to rely on team play to get them through the season. K-Mart will be back in a few games but the loss of NeNe for the season truly hurts this athletic team in a key position on the bench.
12. Warriors (6-5): Probably one of the teams that will be fun to watch down the stretch, Mike Montgomery has this young squad playing like they can beat anyone and their record shows that they are definitely giving the effort to prove the point. Baron Davis and Jason Richardson need to continue guiding this young team and keep Dunleavy, Jr. involved in the mix.
13. Heat (6-4): The addition of Williams and Walker are still baffling but what is more baffling is that the team is beginning to show that it cannot win games without the Shaq Daddy. This team needs to get some mental toughness, shut out all the rumors, squash the bickering and just play ball. The Heat’s 5-3 record sans Shaq isn’t bad. Heat’s crunch-time collapse Sunday in Toronto was criminal, Shaq or no Shaq.
14. Suns (4-5): The Suns are setting early with two key injuries now. Amare Stoudamire needs to sit out the whole season with micro fracture surgery on his knee and now with Barbosa out with an MCL sprain that he sustained against the Spurs, this team will be scrambling to find warm bodies to fill the holes.
15. Nets (5-4): Wasn’t it just a few seasons ago that we were touting this team to be one of the best in the league? Oh that’s right that was before Vince Carter graced this team with his presence. Well there has been a cure to Vincesanity has been inoculated of late and that has hurt this team in trying to put some distance between them and their Atlantic Division rivals.
16. Timberwolves (5-4): Will Kevin Garnett be a Chicago Bull by the time the All Star game rolls around? The way things are in Minneapolis right now, anything is a go and if KG isn’t happy, then the franchise isn’t happy. Kevin McHale needs to realize that he has not done an adequate job of late in trying to put his star player in a position where he can thrive. After all it’s if KG is fine, the franchise is fine; if KG is unhappy, then everybody is going to be miserable.
17. Supersonics (5-5): Winning your last four games doesn’t impress the polling here. Consistency and quality of wins will however and the Sonics will be up and down this season. Don’t expect them to be contending in big stretches, as this team simply does not have the firepower to compete in the Northwest division.
18. Celtics (4-5): This team should be better than this position. The good thing is that they can play better. The bad news is that they simply have not done it of late.
19. Hornets (4-5): So far the Hornets have found a home in Oklahoma City and that little reassurance has allowed them to be a team that is a handful on angry given night. Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Paul is learning the pro game fast but as this month winds down, the next month will be rough.
20. Bulls (4-5): A 4-5 start for a franchise that is supposed to be better than what many believe, the Bulls seem to ether stuck in neutral or they are having a hard time trying to find the energy to do the simple things in their game. Scott Skiles has the talent but the loss of Eddie Curry definitely is showing of late.
21. Kings (4-6): This team could easily be seven slots higher this week had they won two more games including Monday’s three point loss to the Spurs. Mike Bibby continues to show consistent play while Brad Miller seems to trying to feel his way around in the offense. If this team is going to go anywhere in the next month, the bench play of Peja and from the rest of the bench will be crucial.
22. Rockets (3-7): This team has no reason to struggle this year with the addition of Derek Anderson but then that’s the reason why the Rockets haven’t one anything since Clyde and the dream retired. The acquisition of talent is not this franchise’s answer; they need an infusion of fresh legs. They’ll struggle again this week and might struggle in the first part of December.
23. Lakers (4-6): Maybe the mere fact that everybody else knew that the love affair that was Kobe and Phil wasn’t real is just not settling into the jet set fans of Los Angeles. After all this is the city where a frontrunner is the king of all kings and pretender is just an heir apparent. With the tables now turned, the Lakers are finding themselves to be just another NBA team with a talented shooting guard who takes 48% of the shots in the offense. Translation – this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; especially with Kwame Brown out for roughly a week or so.
24. Magic (3-6): Josh Howard may be doing well as a sophomore in the league but what fans really need to look at is how well Jameer Nelson is running the show. This franchise isn’t going anywhere soon and maybe what they need to consider is sending Grant Hill home for good because with him sitting, they cannot bring in someone who could play his minutes.
25. Knicks (3-7): Page 6 headlines – Stephon having problems with the system. Yeah right. How about its just time for the Knicks to realize what they have, quit wishing for something that may never materialize and for Larry Suitcase to quit whining to the writers. This team is middle of the road but even right now they are playing below their ability and that isn’t sitting well with Spike and his few thousand fans.
26. Trail Blazers (3-5): Zach Randolph may be the best example of why time is the true healer of a micro fracture surgery but even with that positive in their favor, the fact that Ruben Patterson has become the “T.O.” of the Blazers means it is time for that franchise to find some sucker who will take him off their hands. Can anyone say New York City?
27. Bobcats (3-8): I know it’s only their second season but shouldn’t this team have more interest across the basketball nation? Then again it’s the Bobcats and the only thing that seems to be going their way is that they are playing well enough to make things interesting. One of the days that young talent will do something special on a more consistent basis.
28. Jazz (4-7): Not wishing any bad will on the Jazz but if Jerry Sloan sticks around this season, I’d be surprised. This has to be the worst team Sloan has had as head coach of this franchise and what makes it worse is that both of their big men are out with injuries. Could be a long month of November and December for this proud franchise and fan base.
29. Raptors (1-9): So they finally won a game and they beat the Heat on top of that. Well that doesn’t excuse the play of this team where they have veterans who understand what needs to be done.
30. Hawks (0-9): The Atlanta faithful are questioning what in the heck did the Hawks spend their money on this off season and the rest of the experts are wondering why is the head coach not be dangled over the plank of shame. Plenty of blame to go around but you can bet that somebody will not have a job by the time Christmas somebody will be getting a lump of coal in the form of a pink slip.