HAWKSVILLE – It’s a fair question to ask at this stage of the (pre)season.
And one the Hawks are more than ready to answer, Monday night, when the Washington Wizards come to town for the home preseason finale (the next time you see the Hawks on the floor at Philips Arena after this game will be for the regular season opener Oct. 28 against Indiana).
“I think everybody’s getting anxious for the real thing to start,” Josh Smith said. “It’s not just us. You sense it around the league, at least wherever we’ve been so far.”
The Hawks need the test that will be this game against the Wizards. Hawks coach Mike Woodson has already made it clear that the starter’s minutes will rise in these last three preseason games (all three against Southeast Division foes).
“It’s time to buckle down a little bit and get really serious about what we’re doing,” he told me over the weekend. “We don’t have any time to waste.”
Whatever the Hawks accomplish this season begins and ends with the work they do in the division. One of the main factors in their rise up the ranks the past two seasons was the injury-driven fall of the Wizards, who have a healthier and retooled roster for Flip Saunders to work with this season.
“We’ve had some good battles with them over the years,” Smith said. “They used to be the team in the same spot we’ve been in the past couple of years in the division behind Orlando. There’s no question them Magic is the team we’re all chasing. So you have to start there and work your way up and that’s what we’ve done.”
Something tells me the Wizards (with Agent Zero, or whatever moniker Gilbert Arenas goes by these days, back to form) won’t accept their current fate willingly, which makes not only Monday night’s game but the Oct. 30 game extremely interesting viewing for all of us.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
There was some serious bird bonding going on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome. Falcons were on the field. Hawks were in the stands. The nest was big enough for everybody.
As many as half of the players on the Hawks’ training camp roster were making plans to attend the Falcons-Bears game, including Hawks center Zaza Pachulia. ZP was apparently an American football virgin prior to the game. The proof came via Twitter, where he proclaimed: “I’m kind of emberrased to say this but first time in my life I’m going on football game tonight. Falcons vs Bears.I hope I will like it.”
Trust us Zaza, you will like it.
RA’S TAKE ON THINGS
There are few things in life more consistent than the rapid-fire vitriol of our good friend RA when he senses bias from the national punditry regarding his Hawks. He was on fire over the weekend. It seems our friends up north have dismissed his Hawks one too many times and he’s firing back. RA’s latest salvo:
“It was kinda funny. ESPN, the [Mark] Bradley proclaimed world leader, was previewing the Sourtheastern division and they had three pictures of players on the website, from Orlando, Miami, and Washington. Sekou! When was the last time Washington made the playoffs again? Remind me because I forget. I also had the privilege of seeing the video interview that Tim Legler had talking about the Hawks. He said that Atlanta was a second tier club. That’s debatable, but he also said that there was such a huge gulf between them and the top three teams in the east that it’s impossible to rank them up there with them. Well, that’s just hooey. I’ve watched a lot of basketball Sekou, and I can tell you without reservation that the greatest strength of the “big three” is also their greatest weakness. They all run through and for one player. Just hear me out. Orlando, Dwight Howard, need I say more? Vince [Carter] might help with the scoring but the bottom-line is that if Dwight Howard went down, Orlando’s playoff chances would go right down with him. Aside from that, they’re going to miss [Hedo] Turkoglu more than they realize. Cleveland, Lebron James. They might make the playoffs if he ever went down, but it’s not likely. The guys on that team really need to start thinking beyond the LB era because once this year is over, he’s gone, and this is a league with a long memory. All the showboating that they did and terrible sportsmanship, it’s coming back to them times three once their god leaves them (note I used a little g on that). Which brings me to Boston. Yeah, Boston lost Kevin Garnett and still made it to the second round of the playoffs, even with a sub par effort from Ray Allen. Well, the wrong one got hurt. If Paul Pierce had gotten hurt, Boston doesn’t make it out of round one. Yeah, they’ve got the names, Allen, Garnett and [Rasheed] Wallace, but as far I’m concerned only one name matters in Boston, Pierce. All of the big three have nice pieces, but that’s what they are, pieces to compliment one great player. Atlanta has a team of very good players and they don’t have any one spot that you could point to and say, “well, if they have an injury there, it’s over.” Now, don’t get me wrong, when the chips are down and it’s make or break, having that one great player is a big deal because you know he’s going to bring you home, but at the same time, in a league where “depth” is everything, having one player whose absence could make or break your team’s chances is a little bit….scary.”
From the I-didn’t-know-this-existed-until-recently department comes this trusty link from our friends at NBA.com. It’s true. No one reads anymore. And why would they when you can watch the video? This is smart stuff.
Now if the league could just provide us with some virtual referees until the real stripes get their whistles back the world would be a better place.