In today's installment of "Questionable Blogger", Jason Walker of the SBNation Hawks blog Peachtree Hoops answers some questions I put to him. The Hawks' fortunes changed significantly when Al Horford was lost for the season. Now, rather than battling Chicago and Miami for a top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Atlanta is back in the pack with Indiana and Philadelphia.
Thanks to Jason for providing these insights into this Hawks team -- apparently he liked Josh Powell as much as we did. Also, remember to check over at Peachtree Hoops for my answers to Jason's questions.
Jason Walker: My take is that everything the Hawks have done in the past three offseasons have been about winning in the short term. From re-signing Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams to overpriced contracts to Joe Johnson's better-than-LeBron deal and including dealing two #1 picks (Jordan Crawford and 2011's pick) for what was left of Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks have peddled away some of the future to win now.
So what will they do? Nothing. They are playoff bound, most likely, and there is no way that Rick Sund is going to rock the boat unless he can deal the next 10 #1's and some scraps to get another veteran rotational player.
SP: Who thought it was a good idea to sign Joe Johnson to a contract that would be paying him $25MM when he's 34 years old? Was that you?
JW: Me? Most certainly not. I wish some people had spoken up when it all was going down. Alas. So the fruits of mortgaging future seasons to win is spelled out in a 6 year, 123 million dollar deal that buys the last 2 or 3 above average season of Joe Johnson's career. He has had a little bit of a bounce back season this year, after last year's elbow surgery, but he has missed some time again this year. His isolations are considerably down from even two seasons ago, thanks to Larry Drew, Al Horford, Josh Smith and the emergence of the penetrating power of Jeff Teague. Still, those last three seasons of that deal will be grizzly, at best, for Hawks fans.
SP: Obviously the injury to Al Horford was a huge loss for the Hawks. But realistically, could this team have competed with Miami and Chicago even with a healthy Horford?
JW: After this game, I thought it would be possible. After all, they won in Chicago last playoffs, have a year more with Teague at the point, and a better bench than last season. It was possible. Then Horford went down, Joe got hurt, and the fight to stay in the playoffs was on. I thought this might be the year the Hawks push past the second round after seeing how well the team was playing together. Now, there is no upside, only survival.
SP: I caught some garbage time of a Hawks game recently and saw Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier and Tracy McGrady on the floor together. If you're at Philips Arena, can you actually hear their joints creaking, or is that just a rumor? Seriously, what's with all the free agents in their mid-thirties?
JW: Garbage time? Are you sure? It might have been the critical minutes of a recent game. When Johnson was out, Stackhouse had to play -- even getting 18 minutes in a game -- but fortunately Joe has returned and Jerry won't have to do that again, hopefully. The veteran bench, which also includes Vladimir Radmanovic and the aforementioned Hinrich, has been good and an improvement from last year -- which tells you how gaudy is was to watch last year. Two words: Josh. Powell.
SP: I've always felt like Zaza Pachulia, that famous native son of Georgia, was a little underrated. How has Zaza done stepping into the starting lineup after Horford's injury?
JW: Zaza has been great, but oddly enough Larry Drew still doesn't trust him fully to take all the Horford minutes he can eat. Even since the injury, Pachulia averages less than 30 minutes a game, hilarious, considering the passable effort he provides. He gets to the line, gets offensive rebounds and causes mayhem in opponents. Where's the downside?!