Checked StubHub this morning. You can buy playoff tickets for as low as $6 for the Hawks’ likely season exit Monday night against Orlando. Wait a while. They’ll go down.
After all of the progress they’ve made over the past three years, the Hawks woke up as a severely damaged product this morning.
They have lost three games to the Orlando by 87 points. They have suffered the worst home defeat of the season and the worst home playoff loss in franchise history (Saturday’s 105-75 loss). They’re only the fourth team in league history to drop two games in a playoff series by 30 or more points.
So what were the national reviews? About what you would expect.
“Joe, do you think you are costing yourself money?” That was the question posed to Joe Johnson after one of the more lackluster playoff performances a supposed max-salary player had played since the term “max-salary player” was added to the NBA lexicon in 1999.
And even more unbelievable than his performance and that of his teammates was Johnson’s answer: “No.”
Let me try to get this straight: In one of the final games this highly talented player will perform in before becoming an unrestricted free agent July 1, Johnson attempted 15 shots, missed 12 of them, was booed repeatedly and loudly and had about as much impact on the outcome as teammate Mario West, who was inactive. Memo to Johnson: Go back and take a look at what the Dow Jones did last Thursday. … Read up on what’s happening with the economic crisis in Greece, where the word “plummet” is being redefined downward with each passing day.
The Hawks waited 12 long years to have another 50-win season like this one. Too bad it’s ending in disaster.
It wasn’t worth the wait.
These aren’t growing pains anymore, a young team trying to find its way, a route these Hawks previously traveled. They look more like chemistry issues, a team that comes home for Game 3, and treats its paying customers to the biggest disappointment of the season.
“They deserve to be pissed off. The way we played, the fans deserve to be upset,” said Hawks forward Marvin Williams. “If your team lost by 30 in the playoffs, wouldn’t you be upset? If you get blown out like that, effort is always a factor.”
It’s been a hard and violent fall for Johnson and Atlanta the last few weeks, squeezing out a 7-game series against the Bucks, then enduring an ongoing Dwightmare in the Eastern Conference semifinals. And when they finally reach bottom with a splat, the pieces of their once-promising season could scatter and blow away.
Meaning, coach Mike Woodson, on the final year of his contract, will not be invited back. Same for Johnson, a free agent this summer, especially after insulting the fans as well as his team with poor play in this post-season. Losing by 43 in Game 1 was more graceful than refusing to compete at home in Game 3, bowing out by 30. Swiftly and suddenly, the Hawks went from soaring to sulking, from being admired to being disgraced.
But the demise of the Hawks actually began against the undermanned Bucks. Being taken to the limit by a team missing its best player wasn’t a good reflection on Woodson. Whether true or not, it gave the appearance the Bucks were better coached and prepared.
You’d think that a coach who takes a team to the second round of the playoffs would be safe, but there are mitigating circumstances. First, Woodson is not general manager Rick Sund’s coach; Sund inherited Woodson when he took over for Billy Knight. Secondly, this Hawks team has raised many questions, and not just because it lost all three of these games by double digits and two of the three by at least 30 points. These problems started in the first round, after two dominating wins over Milwaukee was followed by three straight losses and forced Atlanta to win two life-or-death games in order to advance. Whether these issues are Woodson-related or chemistry-related are for Sund to answer, but they certainly are present, probably the reason the circumspect Sund has not given Woodson a contract extension.
This was not a basketball game so much as it was a funeral march. The only thing missing from the pre-game introductions was a lone bugler playing Taps as the Magic carried a coffin draped in a Hawks banner out to midcourt.
This was no coliseum; it was a mausoleum, a place where NBA atmosphere comes to die.
You call this place an NBA playoff basketball crowd. It looked more like a WNBA midseason crowd.
“It’s no wonder that Gone With the Wind author [Margaret] Mitchell was born in Atlanta: Frankly, my dear, this city doesn’t give a damn about the Hawks. And the feeling seems to be mutual.
The Hawks made a statement to everybody.
Just the wrong one.