One week ago, the Hawks won a game by 23 points in Toronto. They went 4-1 on a road trip — their most successful trip in 43 years — and held one of the best records in the NBA at 16-6.
Then the team came home, and it was like watching Sybil change personalities.
The Hawks lost to the 9-14 Phoenix Suns, 99-90, on Monday night at Philips Arena. That makes three straight home losses to Memphis, Philadelphia and Phoenix. They’ve trailed by 20-plus points in all three games.
The one thread in the three losses has been a mixed effort.
There are several reasons why this may have happened. The most obvious: Being undersized without two centers, Al Horford (potentially out for the season) and Jason Collins (sidelined for two weeks), has led to physical fatigue, which has led to mental fatigue.
Players are not nearly as aggressive as they were earlier in the season. They’re not sharing the ball as much. They’ve probably has lost some confidence.
“We didn’t respnd well to their runs,” coach Larry Drew said after the Phoenix game. “I just don’t see how we can respond as if the game’s over.”
Here’s what has become obvious: This team needs some help.
General manager Rick Sund’s ability to make a trade is hamstrung by payroll issues. Any significant acquisition would put the Hawks into a tax situation, and there’s no indication that ownership is willing to pay that premium. But Sund can’t afford to sit back and do nothing, but to assume these problems are just going away is a dangerous game.
The Hawks were just starting to get some deserved attention. But after three straight flat performances at home, they’re threatening to slip off the landscape again.
On that note: pitchers and catchers report in two weeks.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow after speaking to Drew, Sund and some players. But I wanted to get your early thoughts on this team.
The floor is yours.
By Jeff Schultz