HAWKSVILLE - One by tragic one they fell Saturday.
Boston started it early, with a dazzling assist from Chicago rookie point guard Derrick Rose.
San Antonio kept it going, unable to keep the pace with an equally elderly … er, experienced Dallas team.
And Portland finished off the hat trick late last night, taken apart from start to finish by Houston’s Yao Ming and his crew.
So much for home court advantage, Hawks fans.
Your team has to come and play or all that hard work for home court could be gone in an instant if they allow Miami to steal the edge with win tonight in Game 1 at Philips Arena.
I’m not making any predictions and I’m certainly not trying to scare you (I’d think Saturday’s pillaging of home teams was sufficient), I’m only pointing out that there’s no time to rest for the home team.
Come out sluggish early all you want in the playoffs and see what happens.
Because if you don’t the Heat is thinking “steal Game 1 and turn this thing upside down” is a very real possibility, then you’re crazy. I know that’s all I’d be talking about to my team or teammates this morning.
THE REAL X-FACTOR?
I picked Michael Beasley. Two other writers I know are convinced it’s Flip Murray.
But might the true X-factor in this Hawks-Heat series be veteran Heat center Jermaine O’Neal?
My main man Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald made a case for just that with his story on O’Neal out this morning.
Having known JO for a number of years now, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him rewind the clock a bit in this series and give Al Horford and the Hawks fits in the post.
His injury issues have certainly dealt a blow to his game compared to where he was when we were both in Indiana (I was writing and he was playing, of course). Back then he was in the conversation about the best big men in the league, a national team member and in the top three of three of the MVP race one year.
No doubt, times have changed. He’s been shuffled around from Indy to Toronto and then to Miami all in the past couple of years. Now that he’s got a chance to perform on the big stage again, after watching the playoffs the past couple of years, I can’t see him fading into the background in this situation.
COMING UP ROSES
The next time anyone wants to debate you about drafting an elite point guard over an elite big man, just mention the name Derrick Rose over and over and over again.
Like many others, I wrote before last year’s draft that he had to be the Bulls’ pick at No. 1 overall. And he did nothing throughout what is sure to be his Rookie of the Year campaign to change my mind. But watching him destroy the Celtics yesterday in Boston was beyond my wildest imagination for a point guard barely old enough to vote.
Rose did what he wanted to out there and proves my post-CP3 and Deron Williams theory that if there’s a transcendent point guard talent in any draft, you have to take him above any swingman or big man that excites you. The position is just too important in today’s game to ignore, particularly when you have a chance to get a young one that will play at an elite level on a rookie scale contract (as opposed to overpaying for one later, as the Hawks did once, when you consistently ignore point guard talent in the draft).
HAWKS IN SIX
At least one person in South Florida is willing to say it out loud and pick the Hawks to win this series against the Heat.
Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post made a strong case as to why Dwyane Wade and the Heat could pull the upset, only to trash that thought at the end by predicting the Hawks in six.
Mr. Stoda comes to the same conclusion my photo-taking colleague and Smyrna neighbor Mark Bradley came to days ago, when he made his own case for the Hawks to take this thing in six.
I haven’t expressed an opinion publicly about where I think this series is headed. But six games sounds like a careful and accurate approximation of where we’re going.
TIMES ARE CHANGING
In a chat with Hawks part owner Michael Gearon Jr. earlier this week, we visited on several topics about this team that have changed as the wins have piled up, relatively speaking, in each of the past two seasons. He said something interesting to me about one of the barometers he uses for the change is that his son’s friends are now wearing Hawks jerseys and not those of stars on other teams.
I can’t think of a more grassroots way of gauging whether or not your team has “arrived” on the local sports scene. The only Falcons game I’ve been to since I’ve lived here was against Pittsburgh a couple years back and I was stunned to see all the Steelers fans (in their jerseys) filing through the doors at the Georgia Dome, only to be told later that “that’s just Atlanta.”
Well, according to one of Gearon’s partners, the Hawks are turning the tables beyond the metro area.
“I’m hundreds of miles from Atlanta in a suburb of Washington called Gaithersburg,” Hawks part owner Bruce Levenson said by phone the same day I spoke with Gearon. “And earlier this year I was leaving this office to go to the airport. And I got about four blocks from here and there was a guy standing at the bus stop in a Josh Smith jersey and it was really shocking to see, but a pleasant shock, if there can be something like that.”
That’s not the only subtle (or not) change Levenson has noticed in the Hawks’ profile the past couple of years.
“I’m usually there an hour or an hour and half early for home game,” he said. “And in past years when we were playing teams like the Celtics or the Lakers there would be hundreds of people watching the visiting team warm up and nobody watching our team warm up. It was interesting to see that start to change the second half of this year. To see the fans coming together, watching our team warm up … it’s just the little baby steps that are encouraging.”
Indeed. I still get questions to this day about the “notoriously” bad home crowds that are supposed to be so common here. I can honestly say it’s gotten a lot better. Philips Arena might not be the Staples Center or TD Banknorth Garden just yet, but it’s no better or worse than a number of other venues around the league.
And I’m expecting the playoff posse to be out in full effect tonight. Hawks-Heat Game 1 at 8 p.m.
But we’ll be here all day.