According to Chris Vivlamore from the AJC, the Atlanta Hawks held a meeting Sunday (originally their off day) to air issues and grievances following three losses in their last four games.
The Hawks, who once led by 19 points Saturday night, lost to the Boston Celtics, 89-81, just one day after falling to the lowly Detroit Pistons. The Celtics held Atlanta to nine points in the third quarter as the Hawks strayed away from moving the ball consistently struggled with Boston’s on-ball defense coming out of the half.
From the session, head coach Larry Drew broke down some of the team’s issues.
I think what we are struggling with right now are situations that when it gets a little tough mentally we don’t push through it. We don’t push through it. That was a big part of our discussion this morning of dealing with adversity and being able to persevere through adversity. You can’t expect to play well every game. This game is a game of runs. But when you do go through stretches where things aren’t going well you pull together. You don’t fragment. Last night, we fragmented. That was very discouraging. When you fragment, you start looking like a soft team and you start pointing figures and you start making up excuses. We fragmented last night. That is something we talked about today because it’s going to happen again. It’s understanding and it’s learning how to push through it. Those are the situations that make you a better ball club because you know how to handle it. You can deal with it.
The Hawks are a team who has surprised many this season by jumping out to a 20-12 record and the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings. It is their first year without Joe Johnson, who despite his “Iso-Joe” sets, was considered the leader of the Hawks and a stable force in crunch time.
Without Johnson, the Hawks have relied on players such as Josh Smith and Al Horford to lead the group. And when teams go through adversity, they should be able to rely on their leaders.
Drew specifically noted Boston’s captain, Paul Pierce, as being the driving force to the Celtics’ halftime turnaround.
Paul Pierce had an interesting quote when asked about the difference between the first half and the second half. They realized that they were fighting each other instead of fighting the opponent. Lo and behold, that’s what we did the second half. We started fighting amongst ourselves instead of the Celtics.
Smith and Horford combined for 2-of-14 from the field for eight points in the second half. Smith was a team-worst -23 over that span, settling for four three-point attempts after only attempting one trey in the first half and recording a team-best +17.
Breaking down the first and second half only tells part of the tale. They’ve been inconsistent, beating teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers– two of the top squads in the Western Conference. But they’ve also lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and most recently, the Pistons.
This team, as they attempt to mesh after bringing in a grouping of new pieces this summer, is still growing together. And according to Drew, it’s a completely different atmosphere.
In the past this type meeting would have resulted in some tempers flaring in there. It was very professional. I’ve got a very mature group. Guys said what they felt. There was no bickering. There were no hard feelings. Everybody was shaking their head in agreement. It was very, very professional. … Sometimes it takes a game like that to humble you a little bit. They voiced their opinions about different things. I was very professional. It was unfortunate that we had take an L to bring us together like that. But like I said, things happen for a reason and maybe that was the reason.
If anything can be taken as a positive out of the losses, though, it’s this kind of a discussion. An honest-seeming, adult conversation with a team that has to be considered as contenders.
They’ve beaten good teams. Atlanta has won in close games, too. But their ability to notice a flaw in their team and attempt to correct it is remarkable.
Maybe this team bands together and makes an incredible run. Maybe this squad uses the meeting to push themselves even further into the upper echelon of the NBA.
Let’s be honest, no one expected them to be doing this well. But if they can have conversations like this and come out stronger, as a team, the sky might truly be the limit.
We’ll see how they respond when the Hawks get back to the court Tuesday, against the Minnesota Timberwolves from Target Center.