Their sixth man is in Greece, their power forward is injured, they lost four games in a row -- and they were 7-4 through Thursday.
As Johnson sees it, he started turning the corner when the Hawks acquired point guard
"When we got Mike, I started to elevate my game a lot more," Johnson said, "because he was a guy who can make a shot -- he can create not only for himself but for his teammates as well. He helped me out because the defense had to play more honest, and then I was being more aggressive.''
Johnson leveraged Bibby's presence to average 20.0 points in the playoffs while hitting one big shot after another in the Hawks' three home victories of their opening-round series with the Celtics. He has built on that fortnight to average 25.3 points (fourth best in the league) this season with 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals -- the kind of elite production the Hawks originally envisioned.
"He's reaching the point when the game is on the line that he wants to take over,'' Hawks general manager
Now Johnson is the kind of finisher who provides confidence to his young teammates: If they do the little things, he'll take care of the big ones. He does his scoring without doing harm to the team, because at heart he's a playmaker who takes pride in sharing the ball and rebounding his position.
He has no problem admitting that he was unprepared to fulfill his leadership responsibilities over the first two years in Atlanta.
"I had no idea,'' he said. "It was a business move.''
Johnson is finally escaping his reputation as a player who left a winning team in Phoenix in order to make more money with a loser in Atlanta. The truth, he says, is that he didn't fully understand the challenge he was taking on.
"I figured sooner or later we would turn out to be a pretty good team,'' he said. "In the playoffs last year, it just brought me so much joy to be able to experience that again."
Winning, he means.
Knight instead was replaced last summer by Sund, a former GM of the Sonics, Pistons and Mavericks. On those rare trips when Sund travels with the team, there is none of last year's conflict.
"We were a team ready for some change and some continuity at all levels,'' said Sund, who represented the change, with Woodson, who signed a two-year extension last June, providing the continuity.
The Hawks appeared to be in trouble last summer when sixth man
"They are the veteran guys that we didn't have the last few years coming off our bench,'' Woodson said.
"It's one of the strengths of the Hawks, and something I tried to do in Seattle,'' Sund said. "I love players who are multipositional. Joe Johnson can play the 3, and
Williams used to serve as a reminder of Knight's biggest blunder: He chose Williams with the No. 2 pick in 2005, when the Hawks might have taken point guards
"Josh is one of the few players in this league who has the ability to be part [
Never mind the four-game losing streak that ensued. They've earned a winning record despite this run of 10 road games among their opening 16. Next month, Atlanta could press ahead with a rare stretch of eight consecutive home games. After years of false promise, the Hawks might be a winner at last.
I didn't understand the Camby giveaway either. But now the case can be made that the Camby move made it possible for the Nuggets to take on Billups. There may be luxury-tax consequences down the road, but the deal for Billups saved the Nuggets $11.7 million this season in salary and luxury tax while gaining an asset for Iverson instead of merely letting his contract expire.
"My favorite person in Las Vegas was
Not only did the Nuggets save money by acquiring Billups, but they also improved their team. Not a bad exchange.
Honestly, I have no idea what Bosh will do. Neither, probably, does he. But after this season, he'll have a better feeling for where the Raptors are headed than anybody.
It's too early to say. But you could be right. We may look back and decide that Rose was indeed the best point guard in the conference from his opening month in the league. He is exceeding expectations as a leader, and he already knows how to channel his athleticism in an efficient way. He's much more prepared for the NBA than anyone could have expected after one year of college.
Here's another frustrating thing: I have, in fact, written this season about Joe Johnson, Greg Oden and Jose Calderon -- and you're complaining anyway.
The possibility of losing LeBron to free agency in 2010 is focusing Cleveland's efforts to build a championship team as soon as possible. That is no distraction; it is motivation.