Friday, January 25, 2008

Opposing View - 1/25 vs. Atlanta

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Today, Micah Hart of and the excellent Hawks BasketBlog talks about a possible playoff berth and more. Also see a nice feature on the current West Coast road trip. Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution runs one of the best beat writer blogs in the league, so give it a look.

How important would it be for the Hawks to make the playoffs?
It'd be huge. You never want to be known as the franchise with the longest playoff drought, and after the Warriors made it last season that's exactly where we are. I think, even with the team's recent slide, they are in very good shape to make the postseason. The goal is to not only make the postseason, but try to avoid the #7 or #8 seed and a first-round match-up with the Celtics or Pistons. But I imagine we'll take what we can get.

What's been the difference for Bremerton native Marvin Williams in his third and best season?
His confidence. Marvin's always had the talent, but in the past he was reluctant to assert himself on the offensive end. This year he is looking for his shot more often, and his aggressiveness going to the basket has paid off as he gets to the free-throw line the second most on the team behind Josh Smith. Marvin has a bright, bright future in this league.

We've heard plenty about rookies here in Seattle. How is No. 3 pick Al Horford coming along?
Horford has been everything the team has asked for and more. He is a tenacious rebounder and an underrated scorer, and he definitely has the talent to be in the 20/10 range in his career. He doesn't get a ton of touches, but as he gets more comfortable with his repertoire of moves (he seems to get called for traveling once a game) he'll become a much bigger part of what the team does offensively. What impresses me the most about him is his basketball IQ. He rarely makes a bad decision, and he leads the break as well as (if not better than) any guard in the league. Much like Kevin Durant, he has the talent to play in several All-Star games in his career.

How much has Anthony Johnson's steady play at the point helped the Hawks?
AJ has been a revelation this season, and I'd say he's been every bit as important to the team's performance as anyone else on the roster. Pretty impressive for a guy who appeared to be the odd man out when the season began. The key to his play is his ability to avoid mistakes - currently he is fourth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.82, and while he isn't a big scorer he is enough of a threat to keep opposing teams honest. With injuries all around him at the point guard position, AJ has parlayed his minutes into some of the best basketball of his career.

What don't we know but should about the Hawks?
This team is talented enough to make some noise in the East, if they can ever put it all together. Even with the current losing skid, there is no doubt that given the right circumstances, they could pull off something similar to what the Warriors did last season in the West. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but confidence on a young team is a funny thing. Right now I don't think they believe they can go out and win every game they play, but if they could string together a few victories, anything is possible - just look what is happening in Portland. Maybe it won't happen this year, but if it does, just know that you heard it here first