In Defence Of: Joe Johnson And The Hawks – Introducing Media Driven Misconception

You Are Here! Or At Least I Am…

One of the interesting things about living on another continent is detachment from the mainstream society you grew up in. You are unplugged from the matrix. Without passively understanding what’s being said around you the tools the media machine use to ensnare you become disabled. It’s a comprehension based EMP Shockwave. Stories about Terri Schivo {{1}}[[1]]tubeytubes[[1]] or The OJ Trial that previously occupied many thoughts have become the Tiger Woods affair: something I heard about for five minutes and then marveled about how people were still talking about it on facebook months later.

After experiencing this detachment from Michael Jackson’s death, The Balloon Boy and various negative Obama/Political stories I came up with a name for the phenomenon. Two names actually. These events are either Media Driven Misconceptions (MDM’s) like the Obama stories or Media Driven Distractions (MDD’s) like the trivial Tiger Woods saga. There’s no arena where they are more powerful then the world of sports.

Tiger wants YOU! And You! Oh, And You Look Cute Too!

It starts with a trickle. Various sources start saying thing that doesn’t seem to make sense. Last year the entire first month of the season was dominated by MDMs trashing the Miami Heat. Chris Bosh was playing terribly and should be traded. Lebron has major problems with his coach. Then when they railed off a 39-6 win streak rather then lose face they created another MDM, Derrick Rose, not Lebron was the one playing MVP basketball.

MDM’s start during high profile events. Casual comments are made that everyone repeats. Dirk is a choker was one I heard often before 2011. This season I’ve heard the inaugural MDM. First on a forum, and then later when I watched it’s inception from the mouth of Charles Barkley during the Hawks/Heat match up. Joe Johnson and the Hawks are bad lazy basketball players who are done getting better. Why? Their top four players have been together as long as the Celtics and Lakers. They have all the talent but have never made it past the second round. The Celtics and Lakers have won titles and made finals… time to laugh at the Hawks.

Now I’ve heard it on talk radio, blogs and sportswriters. Check this Hawks fan:

“There is no doubt that the team can consistently make the playoffs, but is it worth playing every year for a No. 5 or No. 6 seed and a first-round playoff loss?”

But it’s not that simple. In fact, the augment makes little sense at all. Lets look into it.

Do The Hawks Really ‘Have All The Talent’?

Wait… what? So we are comparing the Hawks foursome of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams to Boston’s KG, PP, Ray Ray and Rondo. Or LA’s Kobe/Pau/Odom and Bynum/Fisher. Is this sane?

Pau Gasol came to LA in his 7’th year. Many considered Kobe to be the best player in the league. (not me). Bynum when healthy is in the best big in the league discussion. Fisher is a ultra-seasoned championship vet. Odom is the toughest match-up in the league and post-prime is the reigning 6’th man of the year.

KG came to Boston as a former (near unanimous) MVP, best player alive candidate, and won DPOY that year.  Ray Allen went to Boston after averaging 26.4 PPG 4.5 boards and 4.1 dimes and was arguably the best 2 guard in the league. Paul Pierce put up 27 PPG, 7 boards and 5 dimes his last healthy season. Rondo/Perkins were already recognized as totally elite defenders at their position (if not the best).

What’s Older: The Collisium Or The Celtics Combined Experience?

That’s before role guys. Boston is nuts. Shaq, Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Big Baby, Jermaine O’Neal, Sam Cassell. LA even had Ron Artest,  Trevor Ariza (playing awesome that one year) and players who made solid contributions to their runs from the bench. They’ve been so talented Odom was even coming off the bench for many games.

So who the Hawks got? Joe Johnson is a super solid player, but has never been in the top 10 discussion. Al Horford is nice but is still on his rookie contract and only came into his own two seasons ago when it was clear he was still learning the ropes. Josh Smith is a legit player but never made the all-star team. Part of that is because it’s so competitive but all the more reason to not compare them to Boston/LA who played with the best bigs in the game who ‘were’ getting those selections. Marvin Williams is and always has been a project player and in no way has he shown Fisher’s veteran savvy or Rondo/Perkins’ ability to impact the game.

Lets count it up. Horford is a 2 time all-star. Johnson is a 5 time all-star. Atlanta has 7 combined selections.

LA’s team in 2009 had 17 combined selections. In 2010 they had 18. Beyond that, their bigs Odom and Bynum never made an all-star team but play at that level.

In Boston it’s dizzying to count. Their 2010 finalist team had a whopping total of 40 all-star selections playing for it. There is no reason to place LA/Boston expectations on a team like the Hawks with no top 10 players and developing young guys/busts. The only common trend is number of games played together as if talent in the NBA is equal across all teams.

Have The Hawks Under Or Over Achieved?

Atlanta as shown has never been tooled to compete with the Bostons, Miamis and Lakers. You get real recognition by having deep playoff runs as Reggie brought up they’ve never been out of the second round as evidence of how bad they were. But lets look at their results.

2008: They went out very respectibly to the eventual champion Celtics in 7 games playing them tougher then the Lakers managed in the finals. Almost had a HUGE upset when getting swept was predicted. Over-achieved. Check out Joe Johnson keeping his team in a series they were supposed to be swept in.

2009: That was after beating a tough Miami team with Wade going merely apeshit on them. Then got flattened by a much better Cavs team who had the best record in the league and Lebron going positively, utterly ape shit crazy on them. He opened that series shooting 60%, 64% and 60% and finished it shooting 60%, 50% and 50% from 3. The last game was not as impressive but that series was already over. Expectations met.

2010: Beat a very resilient Bucks team that had the official “team no one wants to play” status. They were totally legit. Then got flattened by the Magic. They lacked any way to compete with Dwight going positively, utterly ape shit on them. Dwight shot 84% in that series and opened with 12, 17 and 16 rebound games with 10, 18 and 18 free throw attempts. The only recourse they had to compete was to foul Dwight every time he got the ball. Expectations met.

2011: Then last year they handled the Magic. They shouldn’t have considering that Dwight was even more dominant. A lot of this has to do with Horford growing and coming into his own. A lot of it has to do with the Magic being not quite as good as the year before. The Hawks were still not supposed to win. At all. Then gave the Bulls all they could handle for 5 games till they got crushed in game 6. After 4 games, the Hawks had outplayed the Bulls, which they had 0 business doing. Over-achieved.

Is Joe Johnson Really A Junk Player?

All you have to do is look at Johnson’s stats from last year to tell that he’s lost it and his prime is over, right? His stats are down across the board right? Well, not really. It’s true his stats are down but it’s also no secret in Atlanta that this was because of nagging thumb injuries that nagged him all season producing his worst 3 point shooting output of his career. He shot mildly worse in Boston but it doesn’t count.

You Don’t Get To Sit Here Five Times Straight If You Are Junk

For Johnson’s detractors from his great all around game I’d point to his 5 straight years as an all-star compared to his output while playing hurt to help the team. An injury he over-came by the playoffs to help lead his team to the second round over the favored Magic and to compete with the Bulls. Joe Johnson might not be worth his entire contract, he might not be a top 10 player in the NBA, but he is a legitimate great star player who only adds things to the table without taking a single thing off.

His contract isn’t even close to one of the worst in the league either. He’s making 16 million. Much less then Gilbert Arenas or Rashard Lewis who are coming off the bench. Reggie claims that he has to produce more to make that kind of money, but established stars producing more then Johnson mostly get paid more.

Aren’t We Forgetting Someone?

Who’s that important person who makes the difference on ‘every’ championship team I can ever think of? That’s right, the coach. It’s really not fair to compare these teams without looking at the coaching. Now, no disrespect to Mike Woodson (okay, he sucked and lost the team) or Larry Drew (who seems to be doing a better job) but there is just no comparison to LA with the godfather of coaching, Phil Jackson and Doc in Boston. Both Coach Of The Year (COY) winners.

Doc Rivers built himself up over years to actually become a very good, if not top flight coach and by the 2008 finals it did look like Doc out-coached Phil. Then in 2011 Doc’s assistant, Tom Thibodeau, went to Chicago and promptly won his own COY award. Not to mention Jackson’s partnership with hoops legend and triangle offense inventor Tex Winter and other quality assistants. That’s a lot of brains on the benches.

Considering that this whole conversation was about how the Hawks don’t look prepared and don’t execute optimally on the floor all the time it seems it may be a problem coaching issue rather then blame the players. I watched Jerry Sloan have amazing executing teams for 20-30 years no matter who was playing. Coaches matter and the Hawks don’t have a great one.

So Whats The Problem Chuck?

Just Sayin… My Great Aunt Forget How Old We Were And Garbled Her Sentences Too…

Chuck’s comment was also predicated on his assertion that the Hawks “got a bunch of old and veteran players.” Joe Johnson is 30, sure. But Josh Smith is 26. Al Horford is 25. Jeff Teague is 23. Marvin Williams is 25. In comparison to the Lakers and Celtics the Hawks starting unit should be on the lookout for Gary Glitter.

This whole segment started when they posted a graphic about how the Hawks were the second oldest team in the league. Charles immediately assumes that this translates to their starters and begins to laugh about how they need to ‘grow up’ and makes his “old guys and veterans” statement about 25 year olds.

As far as I can see there isn’t a problem with the Hawks who are off to a 7-3 start with great wins over Chicago and Miami. Charles however is having some age issues of his own when gems like this come out of his mouth:

And I have a rule when I’m evaluating these teams, this team reached it’s ceiling three years ago.”

First problem: this is not a rule. Just a statement. Second problem: it makes zero sense. Three years ago Horford was starting his second year in the league. He and Williams were both only 22. Josh smith was only 23 when he still jacked 3’s at 25% and was a very ineffective player. How can you claim that a team hit it’s ceiling when 3 of the four main starters you are still years away from their primes?

And That Missing Piece Is…

If there’s a real problem it’s that Atlanta is just one piece away from pulling it all together. The real problem is that they passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams. As a result they’ve got no one to effectively run an offence except Johnson who’s so much more effective playing off a good point. Marvin Williams has skills but he’s never going to be that guy or good enough to erase their need for a great PG either. Jeff Teague is actually looking like he’s up for the challenge and should he succeed people need to look out for this team.

So It’s Really Your Problem Chuck? Can You Stop Sounding Stupid?

Listen I like Joe Johnson he’s a good player, but they’re not gonna get past the first round of the playoffs, they could have got that for 10 million a year.

You probably could have gotten Joe Johnson for less money, but 10 million would have seen him signed with another team. That’s pretty dumb in and of itself. What’s really dumb is that Atlanta has made the second round of the playoffs every year since 2008 when they narrowly missed them by taking the eventual champion Celtics to 7 games in the first round.

But Chuck, Really, What Is The Problem? No, not you too… Reggie?

Having two of your childhood idols, who in their day unquestionably had the two most entertaining quotes in the game, call a game ‘sounds’ like it’s going to be amazing right? Right? Not when they insist on making uninformed moronic statements it’s not.

Reggie: Just look at his point production over the last 5 seasons.

We Are Scratching Our Heads Too Joe… Why They Hatin?

On the graphic they show his production from 2007. 25.0, 21.7, 21.4, 21.3, 18.2, 16.0. That looks bad no? It’s not. When you consider that the year before in Atlanta he score 20 PPG you see the uptick for what it was. A peak from a team that really needed him to carry more scoring load. The next season they drafted Horford and flipped Tyrone Lue for a still prime Mike Bibby. The team was much more balanced so Johnson played a more balanced role in a team oriented offence.

What the numbers actually reflect is 6 straight years of incredibly consistent point production. 2011’s injury affected season. And Johnson’s average over the first paltry four games of the season. Packaged neatly to look as if an unwarranted decline took place. Chuck keeps going though.

Yea but lemme tell ya something. I blame… It’s going back to Phoenix. You look at Boris Diaw. You look at Shawn Marion. All those guy’s numbers were inflated because of that system. Mike D’antoni has a great offensive system. So people think guys cuz they average a lot of numbers they are better then they actually are cuz they average an extra 6 points a game.

Oh Chuck. Joe Johnson peaked out in Phoenix averaging 17 PPG before coming to Atlanta. He’s put up a higher PPG in every season since he’s left for six straight seasons now playing fewer minutes in most of those seasons then he did in Phoenix.

This Is Where Media Driven Misconceptions Come From

Chuck’s opinion is given lots of water because he was a great player. He was given his job as an analyst because he’s a highly entertaining personality. If he read my article on how to fake his job maybe he wouldn’t be so transparent. Unfortunately it really doesn’t look like Charles Barkley ‘knows’ the league. He’s being paid huge money to fake it.

In only a few minutes he reveals that he thought a team of 22 and 23 year olds had peaked being all they could be.

  • He ‘forgot’ that Atlanta had made the second round for 4 and almost 5 straight years.
  • He wasn’t even aware that Joe Johnson made a HUGE statistical leap when he went to Atlanta and played far better then he had in Phoenix where the Suns were actually holding him back.
  • He’s seems to have no idea of how old major players in the league are (a huge factor in evaluating teams)
  • He seems to be having trouble forming complete logical sentences.

Not that this matters. What does matter is he’s on TV and millions of people hear him say the same thing without the knowledge to defend themselves from the misinformation. The birth of the Media Driven Misconception.

Stop The Blood Clot Crying! Just Because Someone Is On TV It Does Not Mean They Know What They Are Talking About!

Sportswriters running out of ideas jump on it and without researching the idea (someone famous said it, it must be true) they begin to sculpt a narrative that’s easy to digest but low on factual nutrition. It’s published. People read it and start repeating the MDM to their friends and on the internet as talking points. All of a sudden a consensus starts to build and an idea that’s factually incorrect enters the public consciousness as if it were fact.

The MDM states the Atlanta Hawks have hit their ceiling because no one on their team was willing to act their age and be serious about the game when they had the chance to win titles. The reality is they have 2 legitimately great players in Smith and Horford who are just starting to enter their primes and one legitimately great player who’s on the tail end of his who will continue to be very good into his 30’s because his game is based on skill and hoops IQ instead of athleticism.

It’s the Matrix. MDM’s are all around you. They control the politics you vote on, the websites you read and the sports you watch always cavorting as insightful commentary in the face of informed opinions. I’m not going to make some blue pill/red pill cliche, but will leave you with this. Do your own research. Believe none of what you read, half of what you see and if they win a ring or not, don’t give up on the Atlanta Hawks.



4 Comments on "In Defence Of: Joe Johnson And The Hawks – Introducing Media Driven Misconception"

  1. PistonsAffiliated | January 19, 2012 at 6:18 am |

    Nice article. One thing it proves is that analysts tell people what they WANT to hear. I can’t tell whether Barkley and Reggie voiced their TRUE opinions, or if they just said what they were paid to say.

  2. Thanks. Honestly it’s getting pretty sad when people who are influencing countless numbers of opinions don’t even know, or take into account, the ages of players on a team. It’s like, they get the memo… we are supposed to dog on this team. Then just say a generic list of disparaging comments about the player to make it look like they are soft and not competitive because of their inherent ‘weaknesses’. The toughest players always happen to come from the teams that win. It’s because they’re tough… not cuz they overwhelmingly crush their opponents with superior talent. Yep. 🙂

  3. That was a well-written, well-thought out article about a subject that has bothered me for some time now. The news media has long forgotten any integrity that they should follow in reporting the actual truth-driven news and spends all available resources trying to entertain the markets with the most eyes.

  4. Hey thanks! The interesting thing too is that it’s not just related to sports, but MDMs really do affect everything in life. The sad thing is that they are mostly random quick quips that people say and then catch on. Except for politics where it’s a little more sinister and they actually hire people to write sound bites to be dispersed to the public and have talking points. Not a lot different in sports though too, since you can hear the announcers deciding what they’re going to say sometimes when they think the mics are off after commercial breaks. I’m sure they saw the graphic they were going to load up and had a little chat about how they were going to slam the Hawks and then came up with those lame comments on the fly.

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