If you’ve every played any high school sport, most notably football, there was one phrase you always hated to hear the most. “No pain, No gain!”
If I could have had a dollar for every time I heard that in practice, I’d….well, I’d still be no richer than I am now, because I didn’t know how to save a single stinking penny back then. But you get my drift, right?
If anybody understands the correlation between pain and gain, it’s the Hawks. They sure got a good dose of this age old adage in game 4, where Zaza led the way in both the pain AND gain departments. But what the Hawks have to be wondering right now is exactly WHAT gains will they get from all the pain they’re experiencing right now? And believe me, there is a lot of pain to spread around. Horford’s ankle. Marvin’s back. Acie’s back (is it still hurting some?). Zaza’s shiner. Woody’s ulcer. Josh’s brain. Okay, maybe the last two are fictional (and no doubt the first could be related to the second), but you have to have a reason to grin amidst all these reasons to grimace.
So what DO the Hawks have to gain? Experience, for one thing. Toughness, for another. Nothing teaches you more about yourself, about your resiliency and resourcefulness, than adversity. You don’t gain toughness by always having it easy. And nobody gains the most valuable experience by simply watching events pass them by. Adversity has a shock value. The first time, you are simply beaten by it, in most cases. The second time may also be a surpise, but less of one. And each time after that, you learn how to weather the storm better and better.
The Hawks have weathered the storm of injuries before, but not to this extent when it actually meant something. More importantly, not to this extent in the playoffs. The last I read, Coach Woodson has elected to start Solomon Jones if Al Horford can’t go. This is a smart move by Woodson, as the Heat would no doubt try to take Zaza Pachulia out of the game early, were he to start. This series, and most notably game 4, has taught them what Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics learned in last year’s playoffs: You don’t want none of the Stormin’ Georgian! But again, there is all kinds of opportunity for gain here, despite Horford’s injury. Jones gets invaluable big-time, big-game experience. But better than that, he gets a chance to prove himself to some very important people: his coach, his teammates….and himself. Is there anything than building confidence in one’s coach, one’s teammates, and one’s own self? These are the fires that team chemistry and cohesion are forged in. The same goes for any other less-used players, such as Mario West and Acie Law (assuming he is healthy enough and wants bad enough to play). Every bit of experience helps, and the hotter the heat, the better the forging. Men do not become warriors on the practice grounds. The become warriors on the battle field. And who better to fight alongside, than someone who has been to war with you before?
It would seem that the Hawks have a daunting task ahead of them on Friday night. But they must not see it as such. They must look upon it as a unique opportunity. The opportunity to go on the road and get the first playoff series win this franchise has had since ‘98-’99. Not only that, but they get to show they can win on the road without being at full strength.
Now, going on the road without two of your regular starters in a playoff game is hardly what most would call ideal conditions. But remember…
No pain, no gain.
The Hawks are faced with a unique opportunity, and they should see it as such. They may have the opportunity to learn and find out what it takes to
For the Hawks, this is essentially being assigned the same task or project, only without some of the tools they had become accustomed to using.