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Behind Enemy Lines: Atlanta Hawks

Home Game #2 tonight, as New Orleans welcomes the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta is fresh off wins against Orlando, Philadelphia (and a pre-season finale vs. Detroit), so they're on something of a roll, sans J-Chill. I don't know how much we'll see James Posey on Joe Johnson, though it'll definitely be the matchup late in the 4th. Peja and Tyson return tonight, after practicing yesterday.

Peachtree Hoops (SBNation's new Hawks blog) helped us preview the matchup:

At the Hive: At 27, has Joe Johnson hit his ceiling? Or are there aspects of his game that we can still reasonably expect improvement in?

Peachtree Hoops: I think Joe Johnson is what he is, a fringe All-Star who is good enough to carry the team to victory some nights (such as last Saturday) but not so good that he isn't sometimes the reason the Hawks are having to come from behind in the first place. I would like to see, over the course of this year and next, some of Johnson's responsibilities in the half-court offense be shifted onto Josh Smith and Al Horford so that A) They're both used more effectively and B) now that it's a realistic possibility Johnson lets his teammates create the occasional open shot for him.

@tH: Two tough games to open the season, and two impressive victories. How likely is it that the Hawks will be better this year, despite losing Josh Childress in the offseason?

PtH: I thought it was highly unlikely that the Hawks would be better after first losing then failing to adequately replace Childress. With a combination of outstanding team defense and Zaza Pachulia'a 13 offensive rebounds in 33 minutes, they've made it through two games without missing him. I still have concerns about any combination of Ronald Murray, Maurice Evans, and Acie Law IV taking the shots Childress used to take and make at such a high percentage but if they can continue to keep the other team from scoring, a less efficient offense won't be a huge problem.

@tH: After the initial hoo-ha caused by the Hawks selecting Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and that one guy on the Jazz, Marvin has quietly made some nice strides forward. What parts of his game has he improved since entering the league, and are there any go-to moves the Hornets should look out for?

PtH: Marvin hasn't really developed a go-to offensive move. His improvement last year was mostly a result of eliminating his three-point attempts in favor of 18-footers he stood a far better chance of making. We heard again this summer about him working feverishly on his post game but between his suspension for the season opener in Orlando and his brief, terrible performance on Saturday night we've seen no evidence that this purportedly useful post game exists.

@tH: How do you feel about the Hawks' handling of the Josh Smith situation over the offseason? Do you think not showing him more respect was worth potentially paying less for him?

PtH: Nothing involving the Hawks front office happens quickly. The delay in getting Smith signed had more to do with the franchise's typical ownership dysfunction than any lack of respect for Smith.

@tH: Finally, what happens with Mike Bibby after this season- will Acie Law be ready to step in, or will we see Bibby back in Atlanta next year?

PtH: I don't think the Hawks should re-sign Bibby (Not that I think they'll necessarily try. After all, this is the team that recently proved incapable of re-signing their own restricted free agent.) but with every passing game, my hope that Acie Law will emerge as a plausible starter by next season diminishes. I don't know who will play the point in Atlanta next season though it's probably safe to assume it won't be Speedy Claxton. My hope is that the Hawks are lying in wait for Larry Brown to overreact and talk Michael Jordan into getting rid of Raymond Felton.

Thanks again to Peachtree Hoops. Check out our answers over there.