DionRabouin.com (sort of)

Hawks May Be in Need of New Team Leadership

Posted in Sports by dionrabouin on March 31, 2013

(Written for Atlanta Daily World)

Visitors to the Atlanta Hawks locker room after Wednesday night’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder may have been a little confused about whether they were in the winning or losing team’s locker room.

Two starters wondered aloud who had won the season finale of “The Voice,” while one of the team’s star players and another starter chided a teammate about whether or not his designer hat was made by Hermes or a knockoff.

No one seemed at all that concerned that the team had just surrendered 41 points to the Thunder’s Kevin Durant or that point guard Russell Westbrook had owned them in the first half, dropping 21 points in the first two quarters.

There’s something to be said for giving your best and simply losing to a better team on their night, but the Hawks were outplayed and outplayed badly the entire game.

Forward Josh Smith put on his best defeated face as he talked to reporters, earnestly diagramming some of the team’s failings on the floor that night, but the team seemed to just accept their loss. Kevin Durant’s season-high 41 points, apparently, could not have been stopped.

“He’s just one of those players,” guard Kyle Korver said. “People don’t understand how tall he is and how long his arms are.”

Korver was Durant’s victim for much of the fourth, as coach Larry Drew matched the defensively challenged 6’7″ two guard against the 6’11” Durant late in the game.

“That’s him, though,” teammate Al Horford said of Durant. “He can do it. He’s that good of a player, unfortunately for us.”

Yes, unfortunate.

Much the same thing happened on Thursday when the Hawks lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Hawks lost for the third time in four games with the 99-80 L. In all three losses the Hawks have trailed by at least 17 points. The only win was an overtime victory over the three-win Wizards.

The Philly loss may be the straw that breaks coach Larry Drew’s back with regard to his starting lineup.

“I’m very concerned,” Drew said. “I’m so concerned that I’ve got to think about the lineup now. That’s three out of four but I’m more concerned about our energy. That is what concerns me the most. I can take losing but if we don’t bring the energy, if we don’t bring the juice, that’s when I really have to look at things and I’m certainly going to do that. I may have to take a look at our lineup.”

Much of the Hawks problems this year have centered on a lack of discipline and a lack of ability to step up in big moments. In their last three games the team has looked lost and out of sorts – a far cry from the surprisingly impressive group that jumped out to a 14-6 start.

The departure of Joe Johnson has left the team searching for a new identity and has forced Smith to step into the role of unquestioned leader of the team.

Teams take the identity of their best player and right now Smith is it. Smith is a good player, but a lack of hunger and urgency from the team, combined with Smith’s seeming apathy for wins and losses is beginning to create a culture of mediocrity. Thus far his leadership has left something to be desired, in terms of play and results.

Word on the street is that GM Danny Ferry is very fond of Smith and has a handshake deal in place to compensate the College Park native very well to keep him in town. If things keep going the way they are, Ferry may want to reconsider.


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