Miami–Both before and immediately after the Hawks beat the Heat, L.D. and his players claimed to reporters not to care that they don’t get more buzz.
Don’t believe them.
Long after inquiring reporters left, and with most of the team already on the bus, a couple Hawks players and a staffer talked about the W. They speculated that stories about the game would focus more on the Heat losing than the Hawks winning. They joked that ESPN’s ticker would probably show the score, some stats for LeBron and Wade, note Miami’s losing streak and then flash the next score.
“And now on to Memphis!” one of them joked.
The truth is the Hawks, like all competitive alpha males, do want accolades and respect. To their credit, they’ve never complained that they deserve more of either. They understand they have more to prove. They beat the Heat with a tough effort but they are still just 5-9 against opponents with winning records (though they notably beat the last two on the road while Miami is now 2-5 against Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Orlando).
The Hawks are now a half-game behind Chicago for fourth in the East. Even if the Hawks keep rolling, they have to know that for many casual observers the lasting memory is that surrender to Orlando last spring. For those watching them closely now, games like that ugly loss to Houston, which immediately followed the stirring victory at Utah, make them wonder if the Hawks are for real.
So for now the Hawks aren’t publicly making the case that they should be in the conversation with Boston and Miami as true contenders. But they do notice that they haven’t gotten much love despite staying among the East’s top five all year even as the injuries piled up.
Will beating Miami change the perception of the Hawks?
“Maybe,” Jamal said. “But we like being under the radar, honestly. We kind of like creeping and doing our thing that way. Nobody talks about us. That’s good as long we we keep racking up the wins.”
“We are content with staying under the radar and just keep trying to play consistent basketball,” Smoove said. “We’ve been pretty good as of late. We are getting guys healthy and we are figuring out a way to play together.”
Of course all this respect stuff won’t mean much in the end. The Hawks will either prove their worth in the playoffs or they won’t and then earn praise or criticism based on those results. Right now this is all just fodder for discussion among NBA media, fans and–as that scene in the locker room late last night showed–the Hawks.