So much for home court advantage!

Are Josh Smith and the Hawks ready to fight Dwyane Wade and the Heat to keep home court advantage? We'll find out tonight.

Are Josh Smith and the Hawks ready to fight Dwyane Wade and the Heat to keep home court advantage? We're going to find out tonight at Philips Arena.

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.

280 comments Add your comment

The Hawksta

April 19th, 2009
12:07 pm

I’m baaaack! Let’s baby! Game on fellas where ya’ll at!?

The Hawksta

April 19th, 2009
12:09 pm

I’m I too early? Still hungover from last night’s but whipping Houston put on Portland. Let’s go baby!

Ariose

April 19th, 2009
1:04 pm

I’m So Amped for this Game!!! Sekou, no need to worry, theres NO WAY after what transpired yesterday do the Hawks slip up and drop one at home…….In the end we MIGHT see a double digit victory…….just sayin’…

Ariose

April 19th, 2009
1:13 pm

So Who is the best Pointguard in theis years upcoming draft?

Da Real Real

April 19th, 2009
1:16 pm

I agree with you Ariose. I understand that there’s a chance for upset (that’s the reason why they play the game). I just think as a combined team that we’re better than the Heat, heck we went 3-1 against them this season, and if it wasn’t for a major melt down when we went down to Miami it could have possibly been 4-0. What’s the record going against those guys for the past 2 seasons or since we got Bibby??? I’ve been saying for a month now that if we were to match up against those guys we’d beat them in 6 and today, on game day, I’m sticking with that prediction. I’m not worried at all.

Astro Joe

April 19th, 2009
1:26 pm

Ariose, don’t get it confused. Sekou qualified it as “transcedent PG”. Mike Conley was supposed to be the best PG in the ‘07 draft. He may eventually become a solid starter but not likely “transcedent”. And of course, we won’t be in a position to draft Rick Rubio (supposedly the best PG in this year’s draft).

Speaking of rookie PGs, Aaron Brooks didn’t look phased by his first NBA playoff game last night. His performance was quite impressive when you throw in the fact that he was performing in front of family in friends (dude went to school in the state). A ton of pressure to step up and he did exactly that. Of course, it helps when you have Yao treating the Portland bigs like they were middle high schoolers. Even Mutumbo was out there doing his thing last night. Let’s hope that Chalmers doesn’t follow the performance of Rose & Brooks and leads his team to a road victory in his first NBA game as a rookie.

Mychelfromatl

April 19th, 2009
1:35 pm

Let’s get this thang started!!!!!!!!!!

O'brien

April 19th, 2009
1:40 pm

The Hawks held home court against the Celtics last year, but there are more Miami/DWade fans in Atlanta than Celtics fans. Therefore, I think the Hawks need to come out and not fall behind.

I think the Hawks in 6.

SouthAfrican09

April 19th, 2009
1:52 pm

Wow, Gearon and Levenson might be the biggest idiots I’ve seen.

OMG MY SON HAS A HAWKS JERSEY NOW! WE HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED!

Fans are now watching the Hawks warm up? Was that the case when literally 1,000 people were waiting for Kobe’s autograph a few weeks ago before the game?

OMG I SAW A HAWKS JERSEY IN WASHINGTON D.C.! Big freaking deal. I’ve seen people wear Lamar Odom Clipper jerseys every day in Atlanta–are the Clippers now an elite team?

Please do not post this garbage our “owners” have to say. They obviously know nothing about this team, except Gearon’s smug *** who thinks he has this whole thing figured out by hiring a 30-year “veteran” GM who managed awful teams and whose only goal this year was to win 5 more games and make the playoffs

SouthAfrican09

April 19th, 2009
1:53 pm

How the heck can Levenson tell fans are watching our team warm up? Does he have binoculars from his courtside seat, and scour the entire arena, trying to look where our eyes are pointed?

SouthAfrican09

April 19th, 2009
1:55 pm

Hawks just need to get off to a good start and not get too selfish on the offensive end. SWITCH on every P&R, and give Mo and Duck huge minutes if you need. They haven’t played much for what seems like a month

calico

April 19th, 2009
2:06 pm

Paul Pierce missing the potential game winning free throw is sweet revenge for a hawks fan remember just a couple months ago paul held up the choke artist hand gesture when joe johnson missed the second free throw that would have tied the game versus the celtics and possibly sent it to overtime you gotta love it-we have to win this game 2night dont give miami any chance at winning in Atlanta.

nola hawk fan

April 19th, 2009
2:21 pm

Blog Z – is it a sell out tonight? God I hope so… I don’t want to hear those same nat’l writers come out and blast Atlanta. “they can’t sell out playoff baseball…and now basketball games”

If I wasn’t 500 miles south in N.O, i’d be there.

Ree Roe

April 19th, 2009
2:22 pm

Is Marvin starting tonight? And what is the Hawks official playoff roster? Go Hawks!

-Ree!

SouthAfrican09

April 19th, 2009
2:24 pm

Marv is starting.

I don’t think the game has sold out yet (I bought great seats on Friday). Game has not sold out.

AtlSouthside

April 19th, 2009
2:38 pm

Hawks need to come out with an attitude, and play this entire series with a chip on their shoulders. If D.Wade comes to the hole with all that “SportsCenter” stuff, I either want it thrown in the stands, or I want him fouled HARD. Joe Johnson needs to really take advantage of the physical advantage he has over Wade by posting him up and shooting over him (Jo-Jo’s fade-away is money).

As long as everyone on the Hawks plays their role, we can sweep Miami. Josh has to limit the amount of jumpshots he takes, and Bibby has to knock down some big 3-pointers to keep the Miami defense spread out.

All in All, I think Atlanta has too weapons for Miami, we just have to play smart ball, and not allow other players besides Wade to put up big numbers.

Dr. Warren

April 19th, 2009
2:42 pm

At the NBA store here in bball-crazy Shanghai, I recently asked (in Chinese) where their Hawks stuff was. I saw nearly every team’s t-shirts, shorts, and jerseys but theirs. A manager came out, and I was led to a glass case, whick contained 30 silver lighters, one with a small Hawks logo. Maybe the Hawks brand has not progressed as much as Gearon thinks.

gypsyjoe

April 19th, 2009
2:58 pm

Sekou,

I have a question. Does the Hawks have to set a playoff roster for each playoff series like Baseball and Football?

J.J.M.

April 19th, 2009
3:16 pm

i think hawks will start off slow but they will shake off the nerves and get it goin in the 2nd half.

Eric

April 19th, 2009
3:27 pm

It’s all mental for the Hawks, they are as talented as any top team in the league. Woodson is learning how to coach on the fly, but still makes critical mistakes that set this group back. My advise to Woody, don’t start Marvin over Evans, and play Mario West alot. Hawks should win this series in 6 or maybe 5.

Tech sucks

April 19th, 2009
3:37 pm

AtlSouthside

April 19th, 2009
3:44 pm

Yea I agree West should get big minutes for defensive purposes. And Woody should allow Joe Johnson to take the first few shots for Atlanta.

bigdave

April 19th, 2009
3:57 pm

i think Joe should take the first shot… its a must… get him and his confidence going early…
even better would be one of those patten Joe to Josh alley’s right after the ball is jumped… havent seen that one in a while…

"Big Baby" Davis

April 19th, 2009
4:09 pm

**calico**: Always great to see the look on Pierce’s face when karma bites him in the ass.

Sucker.

Ariose

April 19th, 2009
4:14 pm

Shannon Brown looks Real Good at tha PG spot for the Lakers. I told y’all not to sleep on that man….. I even suggested us plaing him at PG… Since he’s bigger he completely nullifies Derons size advantage.

keepin it real

April 19th, 2009
4:17 pm

In the cases of Boston and San Antonio, both teams are hampered by injuries to one of their Big Three. Not that it lessens the significance of the upsets yesterday or anything, but considering that the Hawks are mostly healthy I think it’s less likely they get upset. San Antonio in particular wasn’t really any better at home than on the road all season anyway, so it may not even make a difference to them.

I’ve always thought the most emphatic first shot the Hawks ever take is the one where the Hawks win the tip and immediately throw an alley-oop to Josh Smith. That’s about as strong a signal as you can give to the other team that you are going to attack the basket with your superior athletic ability all game.

When it comes to PGs in the draft though… can’t say I entirely agree with the logic there. In the years CP3, Deron Williams, and Derrick Rose entered the draft, there was no truly dominant big man to compete with them for draft position. Derrick Rose is a phenomenal player, no doubt. But would I take him over Dwight Howard or Yao Ming if they were in the same draft? Depends on my current roster, but probably not. If you look at the elite teams and championship teams in recent NBA history, sure there have been teams keyed by the success of their point guards, but there have been more teams keyed by the success of either one dominant big man or a group of big men who collectively dominated the boards and set the tone defensively.

All that said, if you are building a team from scratch and you have a top 3 pick you simply have to pick the best talent available regardless of position. If you reach for one particular position over another, you run the risk of having a Bowie/Jordan or Oden/Durant situation on your hands.

Ariose

April 19th, 2009
5:02 pm

No, I’ll tell you what the real tragdey was. Drafting Shelden Williams over Rudy Gay in 2006….

Mitch

April 19th, 2009
5:13 pm

I have one better than that Ariose, passing on Chris Paul and then signing his backup, Speedy Claxton…thats just plan sorry.

scottbravesfan

April 19th, 2009
5:52 pm

I hate to break it to Sekou, but it’s like that in every stadium the Steelers play in. Did you watch Monday Night Football last season when the Steelers played the Red Skins in DC? There were 30,000 terrible towels in the stadium that night. It’s like that everywhere they have a huge fan base and a ton of bandwagon fans. Most sports fans are terrible and usually just root for a team that is winning. That’s why you see so many Laker fans in Atlanta and across the country. That’s why you suddenly see a ton of Red Sox fans and Cubs fans the last few years across the country because it’s cool to like those franchises.

Also to the guy who said there were more Heat fans in Atlanta than Celtic fans, you are insane. There are a lot more Boston transplants and bandwagon Celtic fans in Atlanta than Heat fans. The Heat do not even have a large fan base and they barely draw flies to their own arena. I know black people have a tendency for some reason, to follow starts instead of a team but I doubt you are going to see that for the Heat.

Lacsho

April 19th, 2009
6:00 pm

I want to see JJ close out the quarters strong.

KJ

April 19th, 2009
7:02 pm

i doubt the hawks will come out flat in this game. From the interviews that I have read everyone realizes the importance of the first blow (so to speak) I believe that watching 3 home teams advantage go up in smoke yesterday did not fall on blind eyes and the boys(hawks) will be that much more focused when the tip goes off.

Sekou Smith

April 19th, 2009
7:05 pm

Inactive list for the Hawks tonight: Thomas Gardner, Randolph Morris and Acie Law IV. That means Speedy Claxton and Othello Hunter will be in uniform for Game 1.

And I’m aware that the Steelers have a nationwide fan base as do other teams like the Cowboys, Lakers, Celtics and Yankees. That’s just a reality around the country.

I just like to see the local fan base go crazy when their team is in the playoffs, sort of like the folks in Portland did all week and last night, before they got trounced at home by the Rockets. And like Hawks fans did last year here for those games against Boston.

That, to me, is what being a fan is all about.

otrhawksfan

April 19th, 2009
7:17 pm

less than a hour left and i ready for game one. my bro is in sec 308. i wish i was there.. i hope josh takes his time in the lane and under control. i recall last year they tried to draw so charges on him..

alright hawks its time to put on for tha city!!! i think a lil shaved ice will do the trick tonight.. clumps on top of clumps of shaved ice baby..

bigdave

April 19th, 2009
7:18 pm

i expect the arena crowd to be just as raucous as last year… and even more come round 2 when QUEEN James comes through…!!!
as a native im used to big hometown representation in all leagues when we host a playoff game… but, u know given our latest sports history thats a rare happening…

LETS GO HAWKS…!!! LETS GO HAWKS…!!! LETS GO HAWKS…!!!

Iggy looks unstoppable in the open floor…

Astro Joe

April 19th, 2009
7:31 pm

Pre-game is on Fox Sports South.

Astro Joe

April 19th, 2009
7:32 pm

Sorry, Fox Sports Network.

robert

April 19th, 2009
7:49 pm

Miami will come in and steal the first game.Heat wins in 6

NICK

April 19th, 2009
7:55 pm

IS THE GAME SOLD OUT TONIGHT?

Astro Joe

April 19th, 2009
7:55 pm

Looks like we may have a late start. Magic-76ers game may take another 20-30 minutes to play.

otrhawksfan

April 19th, 2009
7:57 pm

yo sekou tell steve sam and 3d thanks for the calls and comments on the games..nothing like following the game in the big truck with their eyes and ears

KJ

April 19th, 2009
8:06 pm

the orlando game is pretty good. like i said in jeff’s blog, if philly can get this one i believe they will steal the series

Big Ray

April 19th, 2009
8:13 pm

Bibby needs to pull some old school stuff on Chalmers. :)

I notice that nearly all, if not all of the playoff teams are running 8/9 deep at a MINIMUM, with some running 10 deep. Something to think about…

Uno-Ocho

April 19th, 2009
8:17 pm

Why the crap is Josh Smith shooting jumpers!!!???

Ed

April 19th, 2009
8:17 pm

It’s starting to look as if the Hawks were lucky not to draw the 76ers. What a shot by A.I.

Blast

April 19th, 2009
8:17 pm

That is why I didn’t want Hawks facing Philly in Round 1. They just took the 1st road game from Orlando.

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

April 19th, 2009
8:25 pm

Marvin Williams started off blazin’ why did Coach pull him out early???Sixers were very impressive.

bigdave

April 19th, 2009
8:27 pm

MY BOY IS BACK… PLAYOFF JOE…!!

KJ

April 19th, 2009
8:33 pm

tight game so far

Big Ray

April 19th, 2009
8:41 pm

Tight game indeed.

bigdave

April 19th, 2009
8:44 pm

bull shyt refs… its the playoffs…!!!