That should be on a sign, and it should be posted on the outside of the door to Rick Sund’s office.
For like, a month.
The Hawks have made strides this season, as the record alone shows. They’ve won their first playoff series in roughly a decade. We should be celebrating, right? Ask the players and coaching staff if they feel like celebrating. Probably not very much, after getting ushered out of the postseason unceremoniously via a 4-game sweep. Injuries to key players had a lot to do with it. Injuries have a psychological effect as well as a physical one. But the Hawks weren’t the only team to experience this. Houston lost center Yao Ming. Orlando lost starting point guard Jameer Nelson well before the season ended. Boston lost Kevin Garnett. Perhaps, however, those are different stories. In each case, the team in question only experienced losing one major player to injury, whereas the Hawks had to deal with three starters not being anywhere near full health. That, and well….the other teams were better prepared for such things, in ways that the Hawks were not. We’ll get to that later, and not necessarily in this particular blog.
And so, the review in progress begins.
There is a dual meaning here, as you might have guessed. No doubt it is now time for Sund and his assistant to begin reviewing the season. Thus the “review that will be in progress.” The roster, the coaching staff, wins and losses, injuries, drama, all of it. But it’s not just a review of the past season. It’s also a review in “progress”, itself. As in, what does progress mean to the ASG, to Sund, and to the organization as a whole?
Does progressing simply mean winning more games than the previous season? How about getting to the second round of the playoffs? What it means exactly, and how many factors are involved in this review and analysis will determine what happens next. If winning more games than last season and making the second round of the playoffs was the only goal in the mind of ownership and management, then progress was certainly made. But if getting better year after year, and eventually contending for a championship is the goal, then things are not so simple after all.
Teams like the Hawks have no further to look than the Chicago Bulls of a couple years back. Fighting their way to 49 wins and proving themselves to be a very tough out in the playoffs, they had the entire Eastern Conference scared, and the pundits all over them….only to fall all the way down into lottery land the very next season.
Progress is not necessarily just about putting one foot in front of the other, or just going further than you did yesterday. It’s also about putting yourself into position to go even further tomorrow, than you did today. And going further than that, the day after. It’s not all about how far you have come. It’s also about how far you can go. “Baby steps,” we always say. And it’s true. You have to take baby steps. But you also eventually have to learn to walk smoothly, and with varying speeds. And then, you learn to run.
And that’s where the Hawks are right now. Trying to figure out if this is truly progress, or not. The numbers of course, tell a simple but very static story. The numbers tell you what you’ve been hearing and reading for the last 4 or 5 years. You keep hearing that the Hawks have been winning more and more games each year. Very true. Undeniable. But when you are that far down, where can you go, but up? (Unless of course, you STAY down, but that’s how people get fired and teams get sold…we won’t go there). Plus, there is something to be said for organic growth (I almost can’t use that term without asking Astro Joe for a copyright allowance/exception). Is it not reasonable to expect a young group of talented basketball players to get better year after year?
The question that probably burns the most is, can the Hawks go further? If they can, then we count this season as a major step in the progression of this team. If they cannot, then progress suddenly stops, and becomes something else. It’s called peaking, and it’s not what you want. Why? Because at this point, you realize that things cannot get any better. They can only stay the same, or get worse, which is of course called regression. That alone should be enough to motivate anybody to do all they can to stay on the path of true progress.
I was one of several people that thought last summer was a huge key to the future of this team. Plainly stated, it wasn’t, and I was wrong. I think it’s this summer (stop laughing…I could be wrong again, I know). General Manager Rick Sund has his work cut out for him, as what he (more specifically what the ASG) does this offseason can quite literally either boost or retard this team’s progress. Each move, and most likely the first, will be a domino effect on all of the others. One of the biggest issues is team chemistry. The Hawks don’t have enough of it, and need more of it to become better than they are. Sund has to figure that puzzle out, and it probably won’t be easy. I’m glad I don’t have that job. I won’t lie, I’d rather sit here and make outrageous proclomations from the safety of the ol’ armchair. I suspect most of us would (no Ando, I’m not referring to you).
So there it is. A review in progress. The season is over, and the “real” front office work begins (not that it ever really ends). Sund and the ASG have to decide what progress means to them. They have to decide whether or not the team has lived up to that standard. And they have to figure out what can be done, going forward. So what do you think? Are you happy with the strides this team has taken? Do you think they have exhibited true progress? What does Sund need to do to help improve upon the existing product? Are you sick of the word progress yet?