San Antonio– It’s been interesting to see perceptions of the Hawks in Western Conference outposts Houston and San Antonio. Both teams were scuffling and coming off worrisome efforts and both considered the Hawks a threat to continue their slides.
Rockets coach Rick Adelman was matter-of-fact in talking up the Hawks like they are an elite team. He worried about their ability to score one-on-one and their open-court prowess. Then the Hawks used their one-on-one scoring ability and open-court prowess to beat his team. Afterward, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, a Rockets TV analyst, said of the Hawks: “They are a team that has it all, and they proved it tonight.”
Now the Hawks are in San Antonio, where Spurs guard Tony Parker tells the San Antonio Express-News (last item): “They’re good — long and athletic. A little bit like the Bulls.” Normally, that might be taken as a backhanded slap since the Bulls are eight games behind the Hawks in the East, but Chicago just beat the Spurs on Monday.
It was the third straight home loss for the Spurs, and that hadn’t happened since 1996-97 (wow). Though coach Gregg Popovich has never been one to put too much stock in the ebbs and flows of regular season, viewing it as a process to get ready for the playoffs, the Spurs sound desperate for a victory. Said Spurs guard Roger Mason Jr.: “This is all a process for the end of the year, and we understand that. At the same time, you know, we’re trying to win games.”
Are the Spurs really in trouble? Woody glanced up at those championship banners inside the AT&T Center and said he’s not buying it: “They are still one of the top teams in the West. Any time ‘Pop’ puts a team on the floor, they are going to compete. You don’t hang four banners in here without doing that.”
– The Hawks will see San Antonio’s first three-game losing streak since ‘96-’97 and raise them 11 straight losses at San Antonio. The Hawks last won here on Feb. 15, 1997. And they haven’t swept all three Texas teams on the road since 1990-91. The possibility of doing so tonight has Big Ray feelin’ good
“Will they pull it off, or will we be singing ‘Two out of three ain’t bad….’? Either way, if you don’t think this is yet another sign of a team that is significantly better than it was last year, then consider the fact that the Hawks didn’t win a single one of these three daunting road games last season. How’s that for perspective?”
– Never mind San Antonio’s struggles. The Hawks will have to be better tonight than they were at Houston Monday night. Hoopinion says (in that very interesting, statistical kind of way) that the Hawks beat the Rockets with just an OK effort:
“Despite the niggling worries, it speaks to this team’s ability that they can go on the road, face a perfectly average team, and win comfortably while playing about 12 minutes of really good basketball.”
– Woody sees winning tough road games as another stage of growth for his team. He said the one constant has to be defensive effort: “Some games on the road you shoot lights out. But you’ve got to have a defensive mentality to win on the road. All elite teams win on the road. Cleveland. The Lakers. Boston. Orlando. It’s not easy.”
– Two days later, and no one with the Hawks seems to know the real story behind Woody’s missing eyebrows. And the accusations and counter-accusations are flying, with everyone seeming to think the person pressing them for info really knows the truth and isn’t saying.
Woody’s still not talking: “To be honest, I don’t know what happened.” And he’s letting them grow back even if the Hawks keep winning.
“It’s growing now as we speak. What am I going to do? Just let it grow.”
After seeing two days’ growth, I’d guess Woody has a good three weeks before they really come back.
– There’s a cattle convention in town. Driving through downtown on the way to the AT & T Center for shootaround, I saw some cowboys with cattle on the sidewalk. I was trippin’ about this. Everyone else just kind of went about their business.
No point to that tidbit, really, just trying to wrap my head around it.
– Talk amongst yourselves, Hawks fans.