Who knew that Jamal Crawford would make this much of a difference?
I loved Jamal during his days with my lowly New York Knicks, but I didn't think he'd be the one to put this particular Hawks' unit over the top. Sure it's early in the regular season, but heading into tonight's action Atlanta is atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Good for them, and passionate head coach Mike Woodson. He doesn't strike me as much of an X's and O's guy, but he brings energy, enthusiasm, and an especially positive attitude. I pegged the Hawks as a playoff team in my preseason predictions, but I felt they didn't do enough during the offseason to truly compete with the Celtics, Magic, and Cavs.
Maybe I was wrong.
It's still too early to tell, but I have to give Atlanta credit for what its done to this point. Crawford has given Coach Woodson another one-on-one scorer to complement team MVP Joe Johnson, and the right amount of shot opportunities are there for Jamal. PF/C Al Horford is off to a flying statistical start, as is freakishly athletic swingman Josh Smith aka "J Smooth."
I don't think the Hawks' organization is happy with what they're getting from F Marvin Williams (especially considering the fact that he was once the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft), but at least he doesn't get in the way of Crawford, Johnson, and Smith. Williams has a considerable amount of natural ability, but he's passive and seems almost afraid to elevate himself to the next level. Perhaps he was overestimated by the scouts and executives around the league.
Regardless, Atlanta is in great shape right now. Mike Bibby continues to provide a combination of leadership and perimeter scoring, and he's handled the addition of Crawford quite well. Instead of taking it as a slap in the face and a slight on his ability at this stage of his lengthy career, Bibby has handled the situation like a true professional, thinking of Jamal as a guard who can help the Hawks improve their collective performance.
And that he has.
Will the Hawks be in this very same position at the end of the regular season?
I doubt it...but who am I to say?
Prove me wrong, Atlanta. Please do.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. John has also done some work for NBA.com. Check him out on Twitter as well.)