There are four types of teams in the NBA. Some of them fall into categories relative to your particular franchise allegiance, and some stay the same no matter what the colors you cheer for.
1) The franchises you love
A pretty easy one; the city you live in, the region your family is from, the college you went to or the place your spouse grew up. The team you live and breathe and die with, the one that gives you fits late at night and effects you deep into the summer.
2) The franchises you hate because of the franchises you love
Any team that would threaten the superiority of the team you love. Perhaps it’s the crew that prevents your beloved franchise from reaching superiority. You hate them viscerally, like your DNA was programmed with the genomes that set your senses ablaze when those colors came across your corneas. You hate because you love.
3) The franchises you respectfully hate
And then there is the point where the rivalry is no longer a simple issue of them being better than you, or you trying to be better than them. It’s a rivalry steeped in deep tradition that will permeate through the histories of both regions for as long as organized ball is played. Hundreds of games have been contested, and with it, championships and accolades for both of those teams have followed. But through it all, you come to hatefully respect them on the opposite side of the field. They know the thrilling rush of victory, and the desolate emptiness of defeat. In all of your hostility and antagonism, there’s a unity of spirit that can’t be denied. You hate them, with respect, because in the end, you’re all a part of a shared tradition.
4) And then there’s the franchises you just hate…because they’re awful
There comes a point in your love of the game transcends the simple loyalty you have towards a certain team. You begin to love the sanctity of the sport that it inhabits. You start to see players as not just opponents, but also through the prism of how they represent the principles of the game you love so much. Oddly enough, the more you become invested in your team, it seems the more objective you become about the sport it’s in.
As such, the hate flows from you like a barbed Tupac lyric. Teams, players and management that you would otherwise find benign, as they have no daily, weekly or even monthly impact on your sports-watching life, begin to anger you than you have any logical cause to be. They consistently make the wrong moves, misevaluate players, hire the wrong coaching staffs and say the most offensive statements possible in the media. You hate them because they violate the sanctity of the sport you take so seriously. You hate them because they are terrible. Simple enough.
This is why I hate the Atlanta Hawks. And you should do.
The current core of Hawks have been together for over 5 seasons now, and have made the playoffs the past 4 years. Though there have been a lot of revolving pieces around them, guard Joe Johnson, forwards Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and center Al Horford have been at the middle of one of the most successful eras in Hawks basketball. Having missed the playoffs for a franchise-worst 8 seasons in a row, these four men comprised the core that got the team back into the postseason and winning the first round 3 years running.
1) They’ve needed a point guard since 1999.
With the signing of Joe Johnson in 2005, the pieces started coming into place for the Hawks team befouling your otherwise pristine flat-screen televisions today. Josh Smith was drafted in 2004, Marvin Williams in 2005 and Al Horford in 2007. While all those players are nice cogs in the machine, none of them will ever fully work to capacity without a proper point guard in place to take advantage of their multitudinous skill sets.
|This caption is so freaking comical.|
Most notoriously, during the 2005 draft, the Hawks knew they were going to offer Joe Johnson a massive $70 million dollar deal. They mistakenly believed that a shoot-first chucker like Johnson could masquerade as a point guard (I mean, BockerKnocker would look like a great passer if he played with Steve Nash in his prime) and decided to take small forward Marvin Williams with the number two selection in the draft. Williams has had a pretty decent career, but nothing resembling the massive talent evaluators thought he was in 2005 coming out of North Carolina.
To get him, they passed up on both Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
Even when their biggest and most pressing need was most clear, the Hawks still decided to draft a player who played the very same position as the guy they took the year before in Josh Smith. Year after year, they see their need for a ball distributor in an offense that so often stalls and ends up in a Josh Smith 30 foot shot. Yet, year after year, they refuse to address the need that perhaps has kept them out of the elite in the Eastern Conference.
|Horford with fellow Gator Joakim Noah (right), the
last true center he’s played with.
Since Al Horford was drafted, the Hawks have decided an undersized natural power forward will be a good choice to lead the Atlanta Hawks into playoff glory.
Still, they’ve continually swung and missed when it comes to finding another big man to help Horford. Zaza Pachulia, Shelden Williams, Solomon Jones, a Collins brother (does it really matter which one) and an ancient Joe Smith have been the extremely mediocre warriors to share the paint with Big Al since 2007.
When you have a team, you’re supposed to start with either a point guard or a capable big man. The Hawks have done neither; quite the opposite in fact. They’ve filled out every other position on the team. It seems almost as if the Hawks are trying ACTIVELY to find a way around basketball principles that have stood for decades, in a new and brilliantly insidious way to torture the dedicated basketball fanatic and their own fan base.
They compacted the mistake of drafting Marvin Williams by giving him a long term contract.
Williams’ is a natural small forward who can disguise himself as a power forward if you have a great point guard that can run the fast break (WHOOPS). However, in a conventional offense like Atlanta’s, he’s going to be a 3. Now, because he’s at the 3, another highly paid natural small forward like Josh Smith has to play big at the power forward spot. This bumps Al Horford, a natural power forward, to the center position. So now you have an undersized lineup with 2 of your best players out of their natural spots. Congrats, Marvin. Your existence has effed up the Hawks’ universe.
But this is all organizational jargon. Unless you’re a NBA freak like me, you’re not going to be aware of half of what I just pointed out. The problem is that all this front office mismanagement leads to an incredibly inferior product on the floor.
The Hawks have no organized plan of attack. They have a bunch of guys that go one on one and occasionally pass. I’ve heard that everyone that plays with Steve Nash is more apt to pass because Nash’s ball-sharing is infectious. He leads by example, and it shows on every one of his teams. Atlanta is the exact opposite – they consistently pull up after a singular passs, and by the sheer talent, they sometimes convert. There is no sense of team basketball when Josh Smith is taking jumpers he can’t make and Marvin Williams is shooting with 22 seconds let on the shot clock. And if you think about it, the discombobulated nature of Hawks basketball makes perfect sense. Management has bestowed the city of Atlanta with a bunch of miscast players, who are all trying to play outside of themselves in roles they’re not suited for. They’re doing so without a proper facilitator bringing the ball up the court. It’s so incredible to see how Atlanta finds new and exciting ways to compound their weaknesses by finding the exact way to exploit them further.
If you look at them on paper, you see the stats, and you can’t fully understand how deplorable it is to watch this team play. Every time I watch them (like last night, they unearth new methods to make a hoops fan furious. Their play makes them look selfish, stupid and lazy. You have to watch them to truly appreciate how much you’ll hate them.
I want to murder someone.
And then there’s the “franchise guy” in “Silent” Joe Johnson (here’s a hint GMs everywhere…don’t sign up someone to be “the guy” if his nickname is “Silent”). Here is a list of guys that currently make as much, or more than Joe Johnson (other than future Amnesty victim and current Weekend at Bernie’s impersonator Rashard Lewis):
- Kobe Bryant, $25 million: 5-time champion, 2008 MVP. One of the 10 greatest players ever to live.
- Tim Duncan, $21 million: 4-time champion, 2002/2003 MVPs. One of the 10 greatest players ever to live and the greatest power forward ever.
- Kevin Garnett, $21 million: 1-time champion, 2004 MVP. One of the 30 greatest players ever to live, and the 2nd best power forward of his era
- Dirk Nowitzki, $19 million: 1-time champion, 2007 MVP. The best shooting big man ever.
- Pau Gasol, $19 million: 2-time champion, perhaps should have been the 2010 Finals MVP. One of the best power forwards of his era
- Carmelo Anthony, $18 million: The best pure scorer in the league, and the best crunch-time player in the league.
- Amar’e Stoudemire, $18 million: One of the most effective scoring power forwards, been in the top-10 of MVP voting 3 times.
- Dwight Howard, $18 million: The best center and defensive player in the league.
|Keep looking hard, Joe!|
And then there’s Joe Johnson. He sucks.
I mean, does he actually suck? Of course not. Joe Johnson’s a really nice player. He’s averaged 17 points, 4 boards and 5 assists on 45% shooting an 37% 3 point shooting a game. He’s comfortable taking 17 shots a game and being Atlanta’s offensive focal point. Those are really fine stats, especially if you can get them dependably.
They gave Joe Johnson a $121 million contract that pays in the stratosphere where only superstars belong. But, as I’ve said, Johnson just isn’t a superstar. There are going to be nights where he won’t affect the game much, or can’t explode past his defender. Those are just his limitations. But the problem is that your fans are going to be angry. You’re paying him like a star, you’ve raised expectations for him, and yet, he can somehow go 7 games without scoring more than 14 points (this actually happened last year). He can’t elevate his team past the very mortal levels they’ve been at the past 5 years. He can’t do any of these things because quite frankly, he’s not that good. He’s not a leader. He’s just fine. But fine shouldn’t get you $121 million dollars.