Hawks are hoping to use Saints as a blueprint

Can Josh Smith and the Hawks replicate the Saints' post-season success?

Can Josh Smith and the Hawks replicate the Saints' post-season success?

It took 21 seasons before the New Orleans Saints finally reached the playoffs. It was 34 years before they won a postseason game and 43 before they found their way to the Super Bowl.

So let’s start with this: When it comes to the playoffs, regardless of the sport, having an impressive resume is not a prerequisite to winning a championship. If the Hawks were seeking some affirmation that unlikely story lines develop every day, they just got it.

The Saints just won the Super Bowl. Next week, Liechtenstein conquers China.

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The Hawks face the Miami Heat Wednesday night at Philips Arena. It will be their final game before the All-Star break. After Miami, they’ll have played 51 games and hold the third or fourth best record in the Eastern Conference. They went 4-0 against Boston. They’re still looking for a win against Orlando (0-3) or Cleveland (0-2). So much for the measuring sticks.

At this point, it’s easy to look at the Hawks and think: Pretty good. Still prone to inconsistencies. Probably no better than third in the East. But New Orleans just showed how quickly things can change when a team grows up in the post-season, even if it is another league and another sport.

“When you see a team like that do something that nobody thought they could do, it makes you think we can do the same thing,” Jamal Crawford said. “Why not? It’s possible, especially when you look at the steps this franchise has taken.

“I wonder what that feels like — to win a championship? We’ll see what happens. But I certainly don’t see us capping out. We’re continuing to get better. We’re continuing to gel. We’re about 50 games  into the season and everybody is understanding their role. We’re starting to understand what it takes to win.”

The Hawks have never won a conference championship, let alone a league title, in Atlanta. Their only NBA title came in 1958 when the franchise was in St. Louis.

Jamal Crawford and the Hawks swept the four-game series with Boston.

Jamal Crawford and the Hawks swept the four games with Boston.

After a 19-6 start this year, they leveled off to 13-11 over the next 24 games, going into Tuesday’s game at Memphis. They’re certainly better, even if not great, on the road than a year ago (11-12 before Memphis). General manager Rick Sund says he likes the team the way it is. He gave no indication Monday that he’s looking to make a deal. “People are talking about us as being one of the top three or four teams in the Eastern Conference, and that’s what we were striving for,” he said.

But will that translate to winning more than one playoff round?

Josh Smith, a long-time Indianapolis Colts fan, wasn’t happy about the Super Bowl result. But he liked the backdrop it created for the next few months.

“The Saints have a bunch of guys most people haven’t heard of,” Smith said. “But they had a confidence and a swagger about themselves in the playoffs. That’s what we need to have when we play the likes of Boston and Cleveland. That confidence goes a long way.

“Like I’ve always said: impossible is nothing. You can’t give up on your dream. Here you’ve got a football team that’s hardly ever been past the first round and they just won a championship. You start to realize, we can get it done. We can be the sleeper. Even when Detroit won the championship in 2004, they weren’t a losing franchise or anything but they pretty much came out of nowhere and overcame huge odds to beat the Lakers. If we can get hot after the All-Star break, I think we’ve got a chance to do something special.”

The Saints’ victory parade was scheduled for Tuesday night through downtown New Orleans. The team ordered 1.8 million strands of beads to throw.

Crawford smiled, thinking about what a similar celebration would be like in Atlanta. “That would be big, right?” he said. “Peachtree would be shut down for the whole day. I couldn’t even imagine that. Hey, you never know. Nothing is scripted.”

69 comments Add your comment

A.J.

February 9th, 2010
2:43 pm

Jordan

February 9th, 2010
2:52 pm

second or third. darn.

Shawnhawkings

February 9th, 2010
2:53 pm

I would love to see these guys go to the finals. Hopefully, we will play Cleveland in the conference finals because we haven’t even been competitive against Orlando. We don’t match up well against them. I say don’t double Howard. If he goes all Wilt Chamberlin on us then fine, Just contain the others.

side note the game Wilt scored a 100, His team lost that game.

Ree Roe

February 9th, 2010
2:55 pm

SMH @ Josh being a Colts fan. WTF is that about? I thought Josh was from ATL.

Anyway, as far as this article goes I don’t see those dummy Aints in the Hawks. But if the Hawks do make it to the Finals & win it, they would have probably gone thru Lebron/Dwight or The Big 3 to get there. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t see that same team of destiny “magic” with us as I see with the hated Saints.

-REEspectfully Roe!!!

hoho

February 9th, 2010
2:58 pm

TYPO: 4TH paragraph, 2nd sentence: After Miami they WILL HAVE PLAYED, 51 games. 9TH paragraph- THEY leveled off to 13-11.

budget cuts are hard on proof readers I know. But this is a column, yes, not a blog? So proof reading issues can be pointed out without reproach I hope.

Russ4Heisman.net

February 9th, 2010
3:09 pm

Impossible is nothing? Did Josh hire Aleksey Vayner as his life coach?

hoho 2

February 9th, 2010
3:16 pm

hoho: ‘budget’ should be capitalized. If you’re gonna nitpick, you better not make any mistakes yourself…douche.

JSS

February 9th, 2010
3:21 pm

Shawnhawkings,,,
The Philadelphia Warriors won Wilt’s 100 game… 169-147
http://www.nba.com/history/wilt100_moments.html
Those Knicks were horrilble! 21-59lll
That Philly team lost in the Eastern Conference final to the Celtics in 7 games on the final shot of the game by Sam Jones…Wilt averaged 35 pts a game and 26.6 per game in the 12 playoff games…
http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/PHW/1962.html

JSS

February 9th, 2010
3:23 pm

Jeff Schultz, check your comment filter…

JSS

February 9th, 2010
3:28 pm

It is not about stopping Howard, it is about stopping Vince Carter (who owns the Hawks) and some of their other pieces on a consistent basis. Anderson, Barnes, Lewis, Nelson and other lesser players have CAREER nights against the Hawks… It is mind numbing!

Kurdt Kobain

February 9th, 2010
3:34 pm

How far they go depends on if and how soon they would have to play the Magic in the playoffs. Gotta find a way to solve the Magic.

indianman

February 9th, 2010
3:39 pm

they will make to eastern con finals

Andrew

February 9th, 2010
3:57 pm

“But New Orleans just showed how quickly things can change when a team grows up in the post-season, even if it is another league and another sport.”

Um, Jeff, did you sleep through the regular season? I mean, New Orleans won 13 straight to start the season and clinched home field advantage throughout before taking a couple of losses, so it’s not like these guys were 6th seeded wild cards who suddenly came together…

I’m just not sure your analogy holds up at all

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 9th, 2010
4:08 pm

I believe wilts team actually won the 100 point game 169-147

Clay

February 9th, 2010
4:09 pm

Jeff, someone else will have to knock the Magic out cause we don’t match up at all against them. I also think the refs aren”t gonna let anyone beat King James this year. The Hawks went toe to toe with the Cavs in those back to back games, then the Refs took over late, calling a foul on any Hawk that got in the same zip code as King James. Now I’m depressed ….

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 9th, 2010
4:10 pm

oh someone had already pointed out the score oh well i am glad it was the knicks that got embarrased that time

Ted Striker

February 9th, 2010
4:11 pm

Good column.

Bob Horner stayed hurt

February 9th, 2010
4:16 pm

I agree with Clay……

dream

February 9th, 2010
4:25 pm

Dream the impossible dream…no way they are beating Cleveland or LA

Najeh Davenpoop

February 9th, 2010
4:43 pm

Ree Roe, Josh did commit to play at Indiana before entering the draft, so maybe his Indiana ties go deeper than we think.

How far the Hawks go in these playoffs depends a lot on whether Boston can wake up again. The Hawks match up poorly with Orlando but they are good enough to win the division since they play well against most other teams. But even if they do win the division, they will still lose to Orlando in Round 2 if they draw them in the 2 seed-3 seed matchup. They need Boston to leapfrog Orlando in the standings to have a legitimate shot at the conference finals, since Boston is the one team they can probably beat in a 7 game series.

F-105 Thunderchief

February 9th, 2010
5:26 pm

twenty FIRST!

dawgma

February 9th, 2010
5:31 pm

What a joke!

The Hawks are a basketball team. The Saints are a football team – DUH!

Whopper Dawg

February 9th, 2010
5:42 pm

No team except the Lakers can beat the Cavs now. Because the Cavs are good enough to keep it close and James will get all the calls late. Only Kobe has enough referee strength to battle James one on one, no one else does.

KevinA

February 9th, 2010
5:46 pm

Why we don’t feed Al and his jumper to get Howard out of the paint – I have no Idea. On defense just front the guy. If he gets 30 – who cares. Just play D on the rest. We could also try fronting Howard with Josh. Whats to lose.

FUZZUP

February 9th, 2010
6:21 pm

Wink

February 9th, 2010
6:22 pm

Beating Orlando will take a team effort. I agree we have to let Howard get his points. Its best to try to keep him away from the basket. He does not have a go to move. He’s a power dunker. Got push him away from the rim. Use all the fouls Horford, Collins, & Morris.

The main culprit of late who steals the game from us is Anderson. He seems to be all world, shoot the 3, attacks the basket, & hits the the tweener shots, literally taking over the game.

Vince Carter has to have special attention while on the floor. Man up on him with Marvin & Mario and limit his production, but especially at crunch time. If they are in the game he will take it upon himself to win it.

Stay up on the 3 point shooters and let Howard work his one move & trade baskets with him on the foul line. We get a bucket and misses 1 or both foul shots.

Forget about beating Cleveland. The refs want allow that. LeBron can Crab Dribble all day without repercussions. Cleveland vs Lakers is clearly ordained by the NBA…remember Commissioner Sterns rules!!

Southern Girl

February 9th, 2010
6:37 pm

Saints haters even on THIS column about B-Ball? Truly pathetic and funny….I’m laughing so frickin hard as I watch the Saints’ SUPERBOWL CHAMPIONS PARADE ON THE NFL NETWORK….good luck Hawks!

JASon

February 9th, 2010
6:40 pm

Is it not enough that we have a great basketball team, and a great group of guys?

“Uh, hey, Hawks players, since you’re not good enough, why don’t you get inspired by the Saints?” May I also remind you that we are supposed to hate the Saints? That they are in our division in football. In other words, if anybody talks about how great the Saints are DON’T WRITE ABOUT IT.

kj

February 9th, 2010
6:40 pm

The Hawks will win one playoff round. They are not big enough to play with Orlando or Cleveland. You only have two scores. Joe and Jamal. The bench is ok but seeing them play on the road against teams like Dallas, San Antonio which is old, the Lakers, Orlando and Cleveland, they are not ready. They can’t beat Oklahoma.

kj

February 9th, 2010
6:43 pm

Hawks could not stop Kevin Durant. Durant is the bomb.

kj

February 9th, 2010
6:48 pm

When i watch the hawks play, they do not pass the ball. It’s more one on one play. I see no crisp passing. The ball usually is passed one time and then Joe Johnson tries to take someone to the hole or shoot the ball from the outside. With that type of offense they will not win a championship.

a-jax

February 9th, 2010
7:19 pm

The “Saints blueprint?” Jeeze I wish everyone would get off the Saints jock b/c it’s New Orleans. First, the Saints were the NFC’s number one seed, they didn’t “grow up in the playoffs” they had arguably the best QB in the league, two home games in the playoffs, the last which was just gift wrapped to them and still nearly blew…and then they had a virtual home game at the Super Bowl. Not to mention that they might have been the luckiest team to win a SB outside of the Giants of two years ago. That onside kick goes the other way and the Colts likely win. I’d rather have the “colts blueprint” or “lakers blueprint” or “steelers blueprint” where management will commit to having a consistent winner year in and year out no matter what.

“Saints blueprint”? get outta here….

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Paul Hewitt's dry board marker

February 9th, 2010
7:20 pm

The Hawks did have a victory parade, it was just before the season. Then Moses and Reggie played.

scott

February 9th, 2010
7:33 pm

MY DREAM???AN AWSOME FALCONS TEAM THAT WIN SO MANY GAMES CAPTURING HOMEFIELD THROUGH OUT PLAYOFFS..AND GOING AGAIN TO THE SUPERBOWL BUT WINNING IT THIS TIME AND BRINGING THIS RACIALY DIVIDED CITY TOGETHER AND TO A STATE OF FRENZY….

NJ Dawg

February 9th, 2010
7:44 pm

I know it’s tempting to hope the Saints are an object-lesson for all of Atlanta’s long-suffering franchises, but apples to oranges.

tanny504

February 9th, 2010
7:46 pm

all u ATL fans go suck on your baby bottles and stop crying about the Saints Win we dat who dat could do dat win dat BLACK & GOLD SUPERBOWL BAYBEE Ha ! Ha! who laughing now dirty birds SAINTS 4 LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bobbi Dud

February 9th, 2010
8:00 pm

Nobody cares about the Hawks! Jackets only roundball team in town!

GULFWAVES DAWG

February 9th, 2010
8:04 pm

The only problem The Hawks would have in the playoffs is we can’t beat Orlando or Cleveland.

eddiedawg

February 9th, 2010
8:21 pm

Silly analogy-football is one and done-basketball best of 7 where the better team usually prevails. Hawks are a center away from a championship-so get Amare now.

cdog

February 9th, 2010
8:24 pm

FORGET ABOUT A CHAMPIONSHIP AS LONG AS RICK SUND IS RUNNING THINGS.HE’S SATISFIED WITH JUST COMPETING.

Big B CH 99

February 9th, 2010
8:32 pm

I’m not sure the league would let them. We all know that Stern hates the hawks. You would definitely have to beat the other team & the refs. Remember how the league screwed the Suns against the Spurs a few yrs ago.

Velveta Jim

February 9th, 2010
8:38 pm

And maybe if it rains cheeze whiz we can all have Nachos.

Velveta Jim

February 9th, 2010
8:45 pm

While we are in fantasy land… if Sarah Palin can hold elected office and earn $100,000.00 to speak in public to people who paid money to see her(crib notes in hand), then maybe Brooklyn Decker will dump Andy Roddick and come beg me to make wild passionate love to her: Just about as likely as the Hawks going all the way.

eddiedawg

February 9th, 2010
8:48 pm

Hey Velveta-anything is possible-this country elected an incompetent clown to run this country-so why not the Hawks?

eddiedawg

February 9th, 2010
8:51 pm

Let me clarify-in 2008 (although 2004 wasn’t much better……)

jfreak13713

February 9th, 2010
8:55 pm

This Hawks team can beat anyone on any night, but they can also get beat by anyone on any night. I’m proud of the progress they have made but they aren’t built for a title just yet. They can’t matchup with Cleveland or Orlando and that will do them end, but the continue to progress and we should all be proud of that. Who knows a trade or injury can level the playing field quick. I’m pulling for you Hawks and I’ve been wrong before!

Velveta Jim

February 9th, 2010
9:22 pm

I actually Love the Hawks… but they do not play consistently together as a team. too many times they stand around and wait for Johnson or Crawford to create something… and I am sorry Jeff… but i cannot let the ignorant control the debate any more: Eddiepuppy: Which incompetent clown? The one who ran us into the ground for 8 years? You got guts? If so, follow the link below and go watch 82 minutes(uncut and unedited) of the so called clown taking questions from Republicans and responding to every point with intelligence, class and common decency… watch this and tell me he is incompetent. Governing is a little more difficult than taking pot shots from the sidelines. Here it is:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/29/transcript-of-president-o_n_442423.html

Marsha

February 9th, 2010
9:26 pm

The Hawks are the Hawks. They died the day they left St. Louis and moved to Atlanta. We’re approaching fifty years of grossly overpaid mediocrity.

So who cares.

JSS

February 9th, 2010
10:18 pm

So after eight years of Warren G. Harding reincarnated, every form of corruption, pure imbecile character and behavior; but you fools continue to have the gall to talk about 13 months of a presidency as if Armageddeon has come… And that “palm reader” who has made Calvin Cooliledge look like a genius is suppose to be the answer? Oh, maybe you can bring back old trembling John or Furlough Huckabee? Not even a clue, not a clue in the world!

Now back to the Hawks, defense wins championships… Commit to stopping and disrupt the Magic like the Lakers did, and anything can happen… Just ask the 08-09 Cavs….