Hawks roll again (and what’s this about Dwight Howard?)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are off to a flying start this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATED: 10:45 p.m.)

They won their season opener by 36 points at New Jersey. They won their home opener by an easy 18 over Washington on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.

They have a point guard (Jeff Teague) who is dishing, a sometimes-maddening star (Josh Smith) who is playing under control, a team that is defending and … wait, did somebody just show Marvin Williams where the paint is?

So this is what Hawks’ bliss looks like. Feels like. Sounds like.

Well, maybe not sounds like. Considering this was the home opener, the crowd in Philips Arena was remarkably small (generously announced at 17,750) and relatively staid. But if the Hawks can continue to play like this against teams that figure to finish well north of New Jersey and Washington in the standings, they’ll get some deserved attention. Maybe even a sellout. Maybe they’ll even attract a buyer.

Williams, who has had a largely unspectacular career, led the Hawks with 17 points and eight rebounds. Yes, that was him crashing the boards for a follow slam dunk after a missed shot.

He says he feels better after having back surgery in June, adding that the lockout afforded him extra time to rehabilitate. “It [the lockout] was a blessing for me,” he said. “I know not a lot of guys would say that, but it was good for me.”

Al Horford said that William has “gone back to just playing, not thinking too much out there. He’s being aggressive on the offensive boards. If Marvin plays like that, we’re that much better.”

So, seemingly, is everybody to this point. Smith (15 points) was patient and had a spectacular block when he ran down the Wizards’ Andray Blatche and slapped away a would-be dunk. Joe Johnson scored 18. Teague, who looks more like a real NBA starting point guard every game, had 11 points, five assists, two steals and was strong on defense. Tracy McGrady — yes, he can still play — had 11 off the bench.

A 2-0 record doesn’t ensure anything, not even in a 66-game season. But it has been a comforting start for coach Larry Drew, who has his team playing with energy and defense.

“We’ve been preaching for the longest time about trying to be a better defensive team,” Drew said before the game, the inference being that the Hawks are finally getting there.

Marvin Williams, who says he feels better after back surgery, finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Marvin Williams, who feels better after back surgery, finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Afterward, Drew bemoaned the fact the Hawks led the Wizards back in the game after blowing them out early.

“Against a team like that, you have to take away their hope,” he said.

But it’s nice to be picky about a win.

True, it’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions yet. Short training camps and an abbreviated preseason will affect some teams more than others. At some point, probably six weeks into the season, there will be market corrections all over the league. But the early results are encouraging for a Hawks team that returns the same core as a year ago (save Jamal Crawford, a payroll casualty). The Hawks never seemed inclined to make a major move in the summer, especially with the ownership situation in flux. Obviously, if they continue to win, making a significant trade remains unlikely.

But the question is whether they are still considering a roster-shaking deal – particularly one that involves Orlando center Dwight Howard.

We’ve beat this drum before about Howard. He’s the most dominating center in the game. He’s a hometown product who would give the Hawks the marketing centerpiece they desperately need. And he’s available. Howard is due to become a free agent after this season and, while the Magic claim they’ve pulled him off the market, it still seems likely they’ll trade him during the season rather than risk losing him for nothing.

It’s also now apparent that the Hawks have made a run at Howard. Our Michael Cunningham reports that Horford (not Johnson) was the most likely centerpiece of a multi-player trade offer, with the Hawks keeping Smith in hopes that Howard would want to play with his childhood friend. The obvious question is whether Howard would be willing to sign a contract extension with the Hawks. To this point, he has said the only teams he would sign with are Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey.)

If the report of a trade offer is true, it would be a bold move by the Hawks. Trading for Howard without assurances of a contract extension would be a huge risk. But going after one of the league’s top players – and the most dominant center – would have support among the fan base.

And if the Hawks remains as currently constructed, maybe they’ll be OK after all.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

117 comments Add your comment

CONservative Johnson

December 28th, 2011
10:26 pm

Great start to the season . . .

26belly

December 28th, 2011
10:28 pm

KC in Smyrna

December 28th, 2011
10:29 pm

The Hawks bench seems better this year. There are more players instead of only Jamal “Green-light” Crawford. Radmonivich might become a big piece off the bench. I also like having Pargo as a backup PG. Solid job of filling the roster. This is subject to change. 2 games is a small sample size.

Hawks Fan

December 28th, 2011
10:33 pm

Love the bench. Vlad Rad is terrific and a better all around sub than Jamal. Marvin looks revitalized and Josh is playing great. If Horford will get his butt in the paint and Teague drives more, this team will be terrific.

Hawks Fan

December 28th, 2011
10:34 pm

All those Sund haters should take a look at the bench he has assembled.

Jesse

December 28th, 2011
10:35 pm

They look good. They have a much deeper bench and they all seem to be playing together. Joe really doesn’t have to do much…. yet. We’ll see how they look when they play a better team, but at least they are handling the teams they should. And Marvin….. he should have gotten this back surgery years ago. He isn’t waddling like a duck anymore, and actually playing some decent ball.

WeBurn

December 28th, 2011
10:35 pm

Superman…come home. Metropolis needs you.

A$G, bring Superman home.

vuduchld

December 28th, 2011
10:37 pm

Ok, so this team is 2-0 by feasting on NBA cellar dwellers….YAWN YAWN

cdog

December 28th, 2011
10:39 pm

just a thought, josh smith, zaza pachulia and a draft pick for dwight howard.imagine horford and howard on the frontline for the hawks, wow!

Gwinnett Fred

December 28th, 2011
10:43 pm

Hey Jeff,

You might want to check the facts before making a stupid statement.

I would hardly call a crowd of 17,750 small, much less REMARKABLY SMALL. I won’t argue the fact the excitement level was thin, but if you’ll do your research, that was the largest weekday crowd to see the Wizards play here since Michael retired.

Yes, you are paid to write your opinions – however – when facts are involved, such as a posted attendance figure, and you flat out ignore them – you lose even more credibility and you don’t have a ton left to lose partner.

As for the game, for a 2nd straight night the best thing I saw was the team getting to the free throw line. Yes, it’s just 2 games, but in those games the Hawks are averaging 28 trips to the line (hitting 82.1% I might add) as compared to last years 21 attempts a game. That helps a team set it’s defense, and it’s shown so far.

Ajax

December 28th, 2011
10:47 pm

Like every other team in this city, the Hawks will look like world beaters against the leagues second tier, get everyone’s hopes up, then get destroyed by the elite. Same ‘ol shtuff.

Kapoonka

December 28th, 2011
10:52 pm

I watched both games…not bad, but not all telling either. The Wizards and the Nets are not the Heat and the Bulls. Let them play a real team before making any lofty declarations. The Hawks still lack a bonafide “star” that will fill the seats. Horford is now the “face” of the Hawks because Joe Johnson has the personality of a …a…wait he has no personality. Howard would be an interesting piece to acquire, but I don’t think he really wants to play here. He is entertaining….has a ton of personality, and I would actually pay to see him play on a regular basis.I would part with Josh before Horford though…Josh is just too inconsistent

ijonathan

December 28th, 2011
11:06 pm

Gwinnett Fred…Schultz is commenting on the age-old tactic of announcing “paid” or “paper” attendance, when in fact the actual “butts in seats” attendance is much, much smaller.

Gwinnett Fred

December 28th, 2011
11:11 pm

Well I was there and would agree there weren’t 17,500 in the place, but at least 13-14,000, which is still far from REMARKETEDLY SMALL for a weeknight game against a crap opponent.

jimbo

December 28th, 2011
11:14 pm

Atlanta Spirit Sucks

December 28th, 2011
11:15 pm

The DASG are known for posting “inflated” attendance numbers. The numbers the DASG use for attendence purposes don’t usually equate to the number of individuals that are actually present in the arena. The DASG “counts” seats “given away” to charities as attendence when most of those seats aren’t filled.

John

December 28th, 2011
11:16 pm

Hawks Fan, are you crazy? Jamal was an awesome scorer, a great floor leader, and could shake more than half the league with his crossover. Vlad isn’t bad, but no way he’s better than Jamal.

Reid Adair

December 28th, 2011
11:17 pm

Acquiring Dwight Howard without the certainty of him signing an extension would be a disaster. Of course, that means ASG will probably do it.

Hawk Fan Near Vinnings

December 28th, 2011
11:17 pm

@ Hawks Fan – 10:33 PM Post:
“Love the bench. Vlad Rad is terrific and a better all around sub than Jamal. Marvin looks revitalized and Josh is playing great. If Horford will get his butt in the paint and Teague drives more, this team will be terrific.”
Couldn’t agree more with all your statements above. Maybe if indeed Al would get more in the paint and draw some defenders with him, Teague would get more room to drive to the basket. Al Horford is listed as a C but doesn’t show his nose near the post, most of the time.
The only doubt I have about the bench is Pargo, though. Way too many TO’s, and his shooting% is not great neither.

Let's Be Honest

December 28th, 2011
11:18 pm

Get Dwight and we’ll worry about the rest later.

GOI HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Columbus

December 28th, 2011
11:21 pm

If the Hawks trade ANY starter for ANY player in the league for ONLY one season with NO guarantee of resigning him, that would take the cake! I mean they already do and have but……

The only positive thing of making a move like that would be that when Howard did NOT re-sign with ATL(and he wouldnt) and we were left with HUGE holes in MORE than ONE! position, there would be some money freed up to sign a nice free agent MAYBE. But ATL would be right back where they started, with holes to fill.

SOOOO. You do NOT trade away a starter for many years to come for a one year starter that NEVER led his team to anything that WILL WALK when the season is over UNLESS you are quite sure you WILL make the conference or NBA finals. You got Chicago and Miami in the way…..IF Howard WILL agree to re-sign WITH the HAWKS….DO IT! If he wont, dont!

I

Occupy Phillips

December 28th, 2011
11:22 pm

Occupy Phillips and chant come home howard come home howard…

hawks4life

December 28th, 2011
11:22 pm

very encouraging game, the crowd was never really that loud which was disappointing,but if the hawks keep winning, the fans will come!

J.J.M.

December 28th, 2011
11:23 pm

lol come on now its the nets and wizards mr shultz

Brandon

December 28th, 2011
11:24 pm

Anybody that tries to argue that the Hawks are, and have been the best Pro team in Atlanta is an idiot. GO HAWKS!!!!

doc

December 28th, 2011
11:26 pm

i imagine there are about the same 4 thousand in the stadium club drinking it up with their exclusive buddies that fill the soft seats. overall a pretty good crowd for the phillips. seriously if gearon could get his buddies that sit behind him to show up it might look very presentable.

AthensHawk

December 28th, 2011
11:37 pm

Watched both games. The Nets came back on the Wizzards–. Even the Washington Post doesn’t have much good to say about the Wizzards. Nice the Hawks beat both of them, but these teams are struggling, so it isn’t a decent measure of how good the Hawks might be. But there is hope!!!! I would love a return to the glory days of Wilkins!!

keepinitreal

December 28th, 2011
11:38 pm

I’m not going to make any bold proclamations (remember, the Hawks started 6-0 last year and played .500 ball the rest of the season), but this team looks dangerous because they finally have a legitimate point guard who can break down a defense and pressure the ball. Maybe the surprising run in the playoffs last year was a sign of things to come.

With Boston in decline and the Magic in disarray, there’s no reason the Hawks can’t get the 3rd seed in the East this year.

Dr. Warren

December 28th, 2011
11:42 pm

The season is very young, and if we have learned ANYTHING about this team, it’s that they will work very hard and win sets of games at a time, and then laze around and lose in equal amounts, with no rhyme or reason. Trading Horford for 3 months of Dwight Howard would be a uniquely Atlanta thing to do. Ask yourself this: how many ambitious, super-competitive, ultra-employable, attention-seeking single 25-year-olds would choose to return to their hometown over LA or NY, much less to a work for a “company” that has lackluster visibility, a small customer base, and problematic ownership? I love Atlanta, but I don’t think this guy wants to be here.

Spirit is a Joke

December 28th, 2011
11:46 pm

ASG are a complete joke. F the Hawks until they’re sold from these bafoons! I hope they lose every singe game.

Screw Basketball

December 28th, 2011
11:56 pm

Who cares about Basketball and their half season, they’re just starting and the season is half way over…lame…it’s Bowl time! Go Dawgs!

Walt Bellamy would come in handy

December 28th, 2011
11:59 pm

2-0 beats 0-2. Where did Radmonivich (sp) come from? And finally, isn’t there a way we could keep Al and get Dwight? DH at 5 and Al at 4? Be a tough lineup with Teague dishing and Smoove, or even Marvin at 3. Do the Magic need Joe, or Marvin or Hinrich, or maybe we could throw in ASG and a bag of popcorn.

Big Crimson 75

December 29th, 2011
12:10 am

Face it ATL, this is only pro team in the city thats gonna win any playoff games/series. The Braves choked again & will again. The Falcons got no backbone either.
These Hawks look good.
This team is good enough to win the East. They can beat Chicago and maybe…..maybe beat the Heat!! They didnt exactly look like the best team ever tonight against one of those “below” average teams!!!
Go Hawks………….. Lead em Joe – be the Man! you damn sure get paid like one.

Devil's Advocate

December 29th, 2011
12:14 am

Trading for Dwight would makeup for trading away Nique IMO!

Owners...needed.

December 29th, 2011
12:16 am

I imagine ASG would offer Joe, Josh, Marvin, Al and Jeff for Dwight…and then wonder what went wrong.

the truth

December 29th, 2011
12:45 am

They should trade Marvin, Horford, and Joe (assuming he doesn’t take a pay cut) , with a future 1st round pick. Starting 5 would like Teague, Johnson, McGrady, Smith, Howard. That line up could beat any team in the league agree?

ToeKnee

December 29th, 2011
1:30 am

I don’t want Dwight Howard. He doesn’t want to come here. I like our guys. Keep the team together this year!!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

December 29th, 2011
3:12 am

17,750 was not that generous. The crowd arrived late as usual but most of the seats were filled. It was quieter than it should have been, I’ll give you that, but the size of the crowd was not bad at all for a weeknight.

More important is the news that the Hawks-Nets season opener drew higher TV ratings than any Hawks game last year. That sounds a little hard to believe, but if it is true, it is a really positive sign for this team.

hawk1985

December 29th, 2011
3:58 am

I wish we could of gotten rid of Marvin and kept Crawford….damn!!!!!

59bulldawg

December 29th, 2011
4:40 am

I wouldn’t trade Horford unless we get Howard with a new long-term contract. Otherwise I much rather keep Horford and continue building around him.

Mookie10

December 29th, 2011
4:49 am

What’s up with all this trade talk? I like how the Hawks are playing right now. Marvin is playing great. Jeff is playing with more confidence. JJ, Al, T-Mac, Rad, Zaza are all playing great together. Let’s see how this team plays out first. Acquiring Dwight doesn’t solve a thing if the Hawks have to give up too much in a trade to get him. I happen to like this team the way it is. Go Hawks.

Stinger2

December 29th, 2011
4:57 am

Jeff: Don`t get too excited yet. Two wins against low tier teams is not a great barometer.
59bulldawg: Agree with you. Don`t give up a cornerstone of this team for a player that may not be here for more than one plus years.

Rationale

December 29th, 2011
5:15 am

Folks, get real. DH is not coming here. Why? Payroll. The Hawks cannot dump enough payroll to be able to afford him. Plus, if they trade Horford, even with DH, the quality of the team diminishes, because if the list players. His self-professed nickname may be Superman, but he’s not.

beejayrufino

December 29th, 2011
5:23 am

we don’t need Dwight period, Horford is better, Howard most of the times becomes frustrated, Al is not, when the hawks is trailing he encourages his team to get back into the game

gunga din

December 29th, 2011
5:31 am

still the same bunch of tattooed, overpaid thug millionaires. NBA fans are the most stupid of all sports. after the lockout/strike by a bunch of whiners, they should boycott the games. these guys are paid way to much by idiot owners who should know better!!!

Notso Fast

December 29th, 2011
5:41 am

2 games don’t make a season but I have to confess that I like our second team. They actually can play and give the 1st team rest. On some nights I expect they may even play better. The only problem that I still have is that it is not a long term fix. PLayers that are on a down hill side usually fade as playing time and the season goes on. So far so good. Go Hawks

dwight

December 29th, 2011
6:45 am

why would dwight come to loserville atlanta when he can go to NY or LA??? Get real.

Paddy

December 29th, 2011
6:47 am

Howard has already said what teams he would accept a trade to. That appears to be the end of the story since the Hawks were not listed. No big stars are coming to ATL as long as the ASG is in control.

IAW

December 29th, 2011
7:07 am

Its obvious that Jeff Schultz is trying to play down any interest in this team. Not mentioning the increase in local tv ratings for early season games after a lockout shows the agenda. Not a hawks fan but I see the hawks are a very good not elite team. But that no different than the team down at the dome.

slydog

December 29th, 2011
7:22 am

What do you do when you have a mediocre starting lineup and team overall? You improve the bench. Good job Sund. Now, as the season rolls along, this mediocre team will start losing the games against better competition and beat bad teams. HHHMM??? Sounds like every single team in Georgia right now. And let’s not forget an early playoff exit. REAL TALK