The season is only a few days over and already what is sure to be busy off season has officially begun for the Hawks. Yesterday the team cleaned out its lockers and conducted exit interviews with Mike Woodson and GM Rick Sund. You have to wonder if the cleaning out was permanent for Joe Johnson and Coach Mike Woodson. The Woodson part of the question will undoubtedly be answered first but if comments coming from Michael Gearon Jr are any indication then Woodson needs to have his bags packed.
The fact that management all but refused to discuss an extension for Woodson before the season shows just how on shaky ground he was coming into this season. Now he is taking some criticism from one of the owners in Gearon:
"“I thought we kind of looked like a deer in headlights,”“When we play the right way and we have a rhythm, we are a tough team to beat,” Gearon said. “We don’t have Dwight Howard. We don’t have a LeBron [James]. We’re successful based on the sum of the parts.”"
Gearon was less than thrilled with the Hawks offensive system and was not happy with the way Woodson utilized rookie point guard Jeff Teague.
"“He has extraordinary talent and is capable of producing now,”“Teague has a ton of talent, I would have loved to see him play more this year.”"
While that statement might have a touch of fan homerism to it, the premise is that Gearon felt that Teague should have played more than he did. Brett LaGree at Hoopinion does not agree with Gearon’s assumption.
"Teague’s 2009-10 stats and a study of rookie point guards drafted outside the lottery. I think you’ll find both the amount of Teague’s playing time (on a good team) and production to be right in line with reasonable expectations."
I fall directly in the middle of this disagreement. If you have followed this blog at all you know that I feel like Teague should have been utilized but given a role. A defensive role, a push the tempo role, or something. The fact is that Teague didn’t fit into Coach Woodson’s iso driven offense very well. He doesn’t have the outside shot like Bibby does which is the only reason someone like Bibby fits. My very big complaint about Teague’s rookie season is that we haven’t a clue going into next season if he has the potential to take over as point guard for this team. He is essentially a rookie all over again although at least this time he will have a summer league to participate in this time around.
I find Woodson’s comments on the point guard situation ironic given that he says he told Mike Bibby during exit interviews that next season would be Teague’s time, meaning a reduction in role for Bibby.
"“He’s getting older now,” Woody said of Bibby. “He might have taken us as far as he can take us. Teague, we probably have to give him first crack to see if he can do the job [next season].”"
Shouldn’t he have gotten a small crack this season? Here was a coach that was very snide in comments made about Teague stating that he hadn’t earned playing time. Yet now with himself firmly on the hot seat he is announcing his plans to hand over the reigns to Teague?
Those things are relatively minor in the grand scheme of the Woodson saga. At the forefront is the fact that this 53 win Hawks team struggled in the postseason and basically quit in two of the four losses to the Magic. Leading people like myself to speculate that players like Josh Smith quit on the coach and tuned him out. Woodson doesn’t agree with that assumption:
"“I don’t think they quit on me,” Woodson said. “I think they just lost confidence.”"
Ultimately I would think being outscored by a total of 101 points in four games in the sweep to the Magic says otherwise. That is for Rick Sund to decide, but clearly all signs point to a change being needed. Take nothing away from what Mike Woodson did in Atlanta. This team is a lot better than the one that he started with. Most times one coach doesn’t get to see the thing all the way through the way Woodson has until this point. It appears that time has now run out on Woodson.
Many people are already speculating about the next coach. Mark Bradley has a story up about Dwane Casey. I have ideas and wishes as well but am going to refrain until it is certain what the Hawks are going to do in regards to next years coach. However, any decision on Woodson will likely be coming fairly quickly.