Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hawks Start Well, Despite Conspiracy

Seriously, does the NBA not want the Hawks in the playoffs or what? Here's the rundown of their first 6 games:

vs. Mavs (Won 101-94)
at Pistons (Lost 92-91)
at Nets (Lost 87-82)
vs. Suns (Won 105-96)

at Celtics (Nov. 9th)
vs. Wiz (Nov. 11th)

To be 2-2 after that slate of first 4 games in encouraging. Even more encouraging, though, is the fact that, if not for 2 uneven performances against their Eastern mates, they could easily be 3-1 or 4-0.

I guess this is what makes the NBA different than the NFL. With enough high draft picks, you can eventually put together a decent team, especially if you can snag one legitimate All-Star, like Joe Johnson.

This team is pretty much former coach Lenny Wilkens' wet dream, 4 starters who could post a double/double in some form on any given night, and one off the bench in Josh Childress. Marvin Williams, and Al Horford are all capable of being monsters on the glass from their respective positions, and Josh Smith and Joe Johnson could do it in any number of ways.

Safe to say Horford has been a great pick. He's solid on the glass, and plays physical underneath. It also looks like we may finally see the Marvin Williams that was worth passing on Chris Paul for. A shooting guard with a nice touch, rebounding savvy, and the ability to penetrate and draw a foul. Acie Law still needs some seasoning, but has shown a daring that Atlanta's been lacking from their 1.

Still - a very young team. The games against veteran half-court squads like New Jersey and Detroit show that. The Hawks, with a style more suited for the freewheeling West, struggle when the other team wants to slow it down and run set plays. Luckily, the Suns and Mavs didn't catch on until it was too late.

They've received lukewarm attention from the national media - the real chance to announce the beginning of a turnaround comes Friday night. The Celtics have raced out to a 3-0 start against 3 playoff teams from last year. Because of the orgasmic euphoria being experienced in Bean Town right now, it's expected they will knife through the rest of the East this year like the Celts of old.

The Hawks win there, and people will notice.

I think the most encouraging thing is that they've managed to do all this without the services of a veteran post (either the injured Zaza Pachulia or Lorenzen Wright), and without the oft injured Speedy Claxton...who will surely see some minutes, when 100%.

It's a long season, but I'm starting to believe the long National nightmare is over for Hawks Nation - even if it is the NBA equivalent of Luxembourg.

It gets a bit easier after the next 2 games, so if they can somehow knock out the Wizards as well, they'll be set up for a nice season. And by nice, I mean close to .500.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Know-Nothing Party, Week 7 - You Can't Spell Change Without "Chan"

First, some thoughts from last night's "Disaster at Dodd":

“When your running game is not working, you’ve got to go to the air,” Bennett said. “There’s only two ways to score on offense.”

That’s a quote from Taylor Bennett. Mind you, this is after stud freshman Jonathan Dwyer had 10 carries for 68 yards. Yet, any time Tech got on a roll running the ball with Dwyer (who should have started), they resorted next to some underneath route on 3 and 2, or a non-play action pass.

There are alot of things right with the Gailey regime. The recruiting is better than it’s ever been, and he has one of the best Defensive Coordinators in the country in Jon Tenuta.

But, when that D is getting no help from the offense…and the offense is making mistakes like under-running a sure TD or fumbling on a long gain, you have to ask what is wrong over there.

I get the feeling Gailey is still calling most of the shots, not John Bond. It’s time someone sits him down and tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he either gives up control of the O, or he’s gone. There is too much talent on that side of the ball for it flounder so mightily, even without Teshard Choice in the game!

The questionable personnel decisions for one, are concerning. Bennett should have been out after his 3rd pick. You put freshman QB Josh Nesbitt and Dwyer in the backfield and run a read draw/option offense. Both guys were moving the ball on the ground. That kind of offense would have ground the Hokies out last night, but Chan has his boys. He wouldn’t start the true freshman, instead opting for a less than stellar Bennett and an underwhelming Jamaal Evans.

That is just as bad as sticking with Ball. It may even be worse. Bennett currently has a 1-3 TD/INT ratio and a 51% completion percentage. He should be riding the pine, he is not the answer.

Now that I've got that out of the way, we can review my semi-disaster of last week's Party. I was right that this was the year at Georgia would finally win the WLOCP they shouldn't have. It was quite the performance by Knowshon Moreno, as he showed his coach the value of a brutalizing feature back. Richt might learn to embrace the running game yet.

Still, Arizona State remains the biggest surprise succes, while Cal is quickly becoming the biggest surprise failure. Oregon covered, and now sets up a big showdown with Los Diablos Del Sol in Eugene. UConn, much to my chagrin, proves again to be a tough out regardless of who they are playing. Randy Edsall might be auditioning for a move back to Atlanta.

On to this weeks game. I was too lazy and late to pick the Tech-Tech game. Considering the Jackets were favored, my first instinct would have been to pick The Hokies and the points. Oh well.

Lonely Local Collective

We're giving an Auburn a pass this week with FCS Tennessee Tech on the schedule. No line there, thankfully, because Tuberville would find a way to win by one fewer point than whatever it would be. So...

Troy (+16) at Georgia: All the makings of a trap game. Dawgs coming off a big win, facing a tricky Air Raid-style offense, run by a mobile and resourceful veteran QB. If the Dawgs stick to the gameplan they had against Florida, this should be a walk, but I expect a bit of a letdown. Dawgs by 14.


My weekly parlay of death. Sure to make me sweat, but alternately could pay for my beer for the next month.

Cincinnati at USF (-5.5): Both these teams got off to ridiculously hot starts, only to come tumbling back to earth in the last few weeks. As far as talent and coaching experience goes, though, the Bulls are way ahead of the Bearcats. Despite 2 Big East losses, the Bulls still have a shot at the conference title with a strong finish. They get started here, and win by 20.

Arizona State at Oregion (-7): Dennis Dixon has gone from Heisman afterthought to vice-Favorite after a strong performance against USC. Another strong game here, on national TV, puts him in the lead over Matt Ryan. Does the Heisman have to wear the ugly white or ugly green, or mustard yellow unis?

LSU (-7) at Alabama: Saban Bowl I. Alabama looked pretty solid against the hapless Vols D a few weeks ago. This isn't the Vols defense, though. Add the bitterness LSU fans feel towards Saban, an inside track to the SEC West Crown. LSU doesn't lose this game with superior talent, and, you could argue, superior coaching. Bayou Bengals by 17.

More Chan-tastic picks next week!