Gearing up for the series against the Hawks, I traded questions from Matt from HotlantaHawks.com
By the way, Matt and I have a small side wager. I'll let Matt describe it:
I have a small wager going with Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com. If (when) the Celtics win the series, this site is going "green" for a week. If the Hawks win, Jeff will write a 500 word essay about each player on the Hawks, extolling their greatness. He has even thrown in an offer to write 300 words about the greatness of the team for every win they get. Here's hoping.
Here are my questions for Matt and his answers:
1. What effect has Mike Bibby had on the Hawks this year?
Mike Bibby created an offense where none previously existed. If nothing else, we have 2 more plays besides "Joe Johnson tries to beat his man off the dribble and make a fadeaway jumper". We now have "Bibby fakes a dribble drive and throws an alleyoop to Josh Smith" and "Joe Johnson fakes play #1 and kicks it to Bibby for the open 3". If Bibby had been here from day 1 (although I realize he wasn't healthy until right before the Hawks traded for him) this would be a solid playoff team with maybe 45 wins to their credit.
2. What's up with Josh Smith? Talented head case or just tired of losing?
This whole team is tired of losing, but Josh Smith is almost certainly not a fan of the coach. Privately it is rumored that if Woodson isn't out then Smith is gone. Not being a fan of the coach isn't a good excuse for throwing up 20 foot jumpers when you are one of the more athletic players on the floor at all times, however. I'm convinced that Josh Smith can be a premier player in the right situation, although I am sad that it probably won't be in Atlanta. It bears mentioning that he's only 6 months older than Al Horford and Marvin Williams, too.
3. What is your opinion of Coach Mike Woodson?
Just an awful, terrible coach. This team has improved its record every year, but at no point have they had any kind of identity. I think the improvement can be directly attributed to the growth of Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Marvin Williams, rather than coaching. Hoopinion and Braves & Birds have both chronicled *why* he is terrible- his minute management is ridiculous, the lack of defensive *and* offensive strategy is baffling, and I've never heard him speak intelligently or given me any insight into the team. It says something that Billy Knight tried to fire him 3 times this year, which is another insane story of its own.
4. In three years, which player on this Hawks team will be the best of the bunch?
Josh Smith. I think we are seeing the ceiling of Joe Johnson, who is a fantastic shooter and great dribbler with solid defense, but without the explosiveness that would put him in the same realm as the best of the best. Josh Smith's ceiling is a more athletic Rasheed Wallace. I can't believe I just wrote that, but it's true. He could average 26/12/8/4 in 3 years and I would not be at all surprised.
5. Give us 3 good reasons why the Hawks should not be overlooked in this series.
1- The backcourt. If Joe Johnson and Bibby get hot and stay hot, get ready for a steady diet of crowd silencers.
2- Josh Smith trying. If he wants it (big fat if) he can match up against Garnett on both ends.
3- Mike Woodson with a shaved head. Do not underestimate how terrifying and horrible he will look. He has disregarded my request for a playoff beard, and in fact (probably in response) is going the opposite direction.
Here are Matt's questions for me and my answers:
1. During or after last season, did you ever, in your wildest dreams, imagine that the Celtics would be the favorites to win the NBA Championship this year?
Short answer: No. However, as longtime CelticsBlog readers can attest, I've been angling for a Kevin Garnett for a couple seasons before it happened. It was about the only scenario I could imagine anything like this happening. It is, quite litterally a dream come true for me and many fans.
2. Other than the Pistons, what team in the Eastern Conference do you think has the best chance of knocking off the Celtics?
Right now I have to say the Wizards, only because they took 3 out of 4 games against us. For some reason, they seem to match up well against us and they've just played great against the C's this year. I still think that in a 7 game playoff series the Celtics would win, but the Wiz would be a tough out.
3. Despite what Vegas might say, do you think the Celtics should be favored to win a 7 game series against every team in the Western Conference playoffs?
There's something to be said about the fact that all those teams have become battle tested against each other. On the other hand, come June whoever comes out of there is going to be battle weary as well. So you could make a case that whoever comes out of the East (hopefully the Celtics) will have an edge. Besides, I consider the Celtics the best team in the NBA, so they should be favored over anyone in any series. I hope I worded that in a way that is confident yet won't anger the jinx police.
4. Did you know the Hawks could have drafted Glen Davis instead of renting Anthony Johnson?
Anthony who? A lot of teams passed on Big Baby, no shame there. In fact, the Celtics had two second rounders and waited till the second pick to select him. Gotta give him credit. He shed a lot of weight and kept enough beef to bang down low. He's a great energy guy, but I think Doc plans on using PJ Brown in the playoffs because of his experience. Regardless, Baby will be a fun guy to root for in the years to come.
5. Will the Celtics be this good next year, or is their one best shot at the title with KG, Allen, and Pierce?
I don't see why they can't be as good if all three remain healthy. If they don't win the title, there's a chance they could come back even hungrier. You can't count on a team repeating 66 wins but they could win fewer games and win the title and nobody would complain around here. I've said all along that this team has 3 legit shots at a title with this nucleus. In fact, give Danny another offseason where he can pick up additional free agents and find a player in the draft and the team could be even deeper next year. Still, you never know what can happen tomorrow, so I'm focused on the here and now. We've got lightning in a bottle. We just need to follow through.