Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ron Artest: Kryptonite to the Hawks

For further evidence that Joe Johnson has become the fulcrum of the Hawks' offense, take last night tepid performance against the Sacramento Melechim. (A lil' nod to our Hebrew-speaking readers. Did you know that B&B is HUGE in Israel? Me neither. Maybe Maceo Baston lovers all end up together.) I was interested coming into the game to see how the Hawks would play offensively with Ron Artest guarding Johnson and the answer is: not very well. With Johnson unable to make mischief on offense, by either scoring or passing, the offense withered on the vine. The team played good enough defense for three quarters to stay in the game, as they were trailing only 71-69 going into the fourth, but the fourth quarter was a miasma of players standing around and making individual moves with no offensive movement or flow whatsoever. 71-69 became 92-78 in about eight minutes. It was NBA basketball at its worst. I guess you could also say it was an example of a player taking control of a game without his effect showing up in the box score. Artest, for all of his demons, is a great basketball player. This Sacto team would be nowhere without him, which ought to be remembered when he blows up and the howling idiots in the media shout their "told ya' so" chorus.

Other thoughts on the game:

1. The Hawks came out playing well and then lost their lead almost exactly in congruence with John Edwards' entry into the game. Edwards accomplishes nothing on the court. He doesn't rebound very well, nor can he play defense, nor can he score, nor does it appear that he's a crazy effort guy who earns a paycheck by throwing his body around. It takes a special kind of player to make me miss Esteban Batista.

2. Speaking of suspect defenders, the moment Marvin Williams came into the game, Ron Artest went right after him for a basket. The kid still has a lot to learn. In his defense, Marvin did score 17 points on nine shots, but he also had three turnovers without recording an assist. We need to keep Marvin's limitations in mind, assuming that he takes the small forward spot in place of Al Harrington next year. Long term, it's the right move to sign-and-trade Harrington this off-season, but it's going to hurt initially and Hawks fans aren't going to have that much patience with another slow start next year.

3. The wife got seriously angry when Section 119 got free Chic-Fil-A instead of our Section 317. For those of you who wonder why pro sporting events feature so many giveaways and non-sports related skits during timeouts, please remember people like me who get to go to 20 Hawks games every year because the bread and circuses keep our significant others interested. In the wife's defense, she does pay attention to the game, at least enough to tell me that I had said that the Hawks weren't getting enough assists on at least ten occasions during the fourth quarter. She then accidentally hit me in the nose with our free cooler (compliments of Sprite!) when we were leaving the game. I guess I shouldn't be so repetitive.

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