The Hawks had the Celtics where they should have wanted them: Rajon Rondo was out, the C’s were on a two-game losing streak, and the Hawks were at home. Nate Robinson, who’s not really a point guard, was starting at point guard for Boston. And although Joe Johnson had shot just 8-for-26 the last two games, he was facing a team that the Hawks swept last regular season.
So what happened? The Hawks fell behind by 26 in the first quarter, and the Rondo-less Celtics bruised and cruised to a 23-point win that was never close.
Atlanta head coach Larry Drew — who had to use three timeouts in the first quarter alone trying to squash Boston’s run — let his team have it after the game. The Hawks locker room was reportedly closed to the media longer than usual before the customary post-game interview session, though Drew did speak to reporters outside the locker room.
“This was very, very embarrassing,” Drew was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If I had to sum it up in one word: embarrassing. To come out with that type energy, that type of urgency. What I see with our team right now I don’t feel real good about.”
The players were saying things that made them sound like the Minnesota Vikings. Al Horford admitted the Hawks “have some soul-searching to do,” adding that the team “tends to have excuses for everything.” Joe Johnson said, “I never would have thought we would come out so not ready to play.” Mo Evans suggested, “We don’t have an identity.”
But Drew delivered the most damning comments.
“We’re playing like we’re coming off a back-to-back-to-back,” Drew told reporters. “I told the guys, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing the night before we play, I don’t know what you are doing away from the floor.’ Something is going on that is not allowing us to play with an energy and passion that we should be playing with. As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.
“Something is going on and I’ve got to get to the bottom of it,” Drew said. “Players have to know themselves. They have to know their bodies. They have to know how to get physically and mentally ready for every game, especially at the start. First four minutes of the game, when I see my players bending over grabbing their shorts because they are winded, something is going on. Something is wrong.”
Atlanta is one of the NBA’s notorious party cities (up there with Miami and New Orleans), though that’s generally thought to be an advantage for the home team. Theoretically, the guys on the Hawks aren’t as distracted by the Atlanta nightlife since they live there and should be over the novelty — it’s like how tourists who come to New York City always want to visit Times Square, whereas people who live in NYC try to avoid Times Square due to the huge crowds.
Drew can’t be a babysitter, though. This isn’t college. Road trips are one thing, but he can’t install a curfew at home when guys have families and lives off the court. If the Hawks are being irresponsible with their time away from the court, that falls on the players to discipline themselves. They’re young, rich athletes, but they’re also grown men with a job to do.