Weird series. The Hawks win by 26 and lose by 29. The Heat win by 15 on the road but lose by 10 at home. Joe Johnson underwhelms. Dwyane Wade hurts his back. Marvin Williams hurts his wrist. Zaza Pachulia cements his reputation as the greatest playoff performer since Jim Leyritz. James Jones has two four-point plays in the span of 11 seconds, and still his team loses by double figures.
And me, I’m corresponding with a bird.
As some of you know, Spirit the Hawk, who went rogue at the start of Game 2, has pecked out a presence on Twitter. (He’s SpirittheHawk, if you care to follow.) Via this online mechanism, he and I — I’m told Spirit is indeed a “he” — have established a dialogue.
It began Friday. Spirit tweeted me at 9:43 a.m. — that’s verb of choice for Twitter — saying, “Keep hope alive. Look for me in Game 5.”
Given that Spirit’s pregame flights have been grounded by Hawks management, I wasn’t exactly where and when I should look. So I tried, politely, to dig. On Monday I sent this Tweet: “Ready for your close-up, Mr. Spirit?”
His response: “Well, Mr. Bradley, what kind of bird do u think I am?”
I tried again Wednesday morning. I asked for a hint as to Spirit’s Game 5 whereabouts. His response: “Unless Madonna shows up, I’ll be the only one there tethered to a man with a leather glove.”
That didn’t help me much. (Heck, I’m old enough to remember Madonna actually showing up at a Hawks game back in 1994.) Nor did Spirit’s mass-tweet at 5:30 p.m.: “Hearing that the NBA commish might be coming to see me take the floor tonight. Are you?”
I ducked into the Hawks’ locker room. Spirit wasn’t there. But Josh Smith had a Band-Aid over his left eye. Did the bird, I asked, nick him on his errant flight?
“No,” Smith said. “It probably would’ve been worse if he had.”
Who (or what) inflicted the cut? “Mario Chalmers swiped up at the ball. He got me. It bled a little.”
Right about then, Zaza walked past. He’s sporting a black left eye. Mario Chalmers again?
“No,” Zaza said. “I really don’t know who did it.”
Actual basketball news: Marvin isn’t playing tonight. Wade is. And with that, I’m going to look for the bird. I’ll report back soon.
Bird hunt: Where to look for a hawk? On HawkWalk, I figured. (Am I smart or what?) I went upstairs and took a lap. I saw Dennis Scott, but no Spirit. Then I saw Rick Sund, the Hawks’ general manager. I asked about Spirit.
“I’m not the bird’s keeper,” Sund said.
I have since been semi-reliably informed that Spirit will be part of tonight’s pregame festivities — but in a grounded capacity. Can’t wait for Spirit’s postgame interview to see how he feels about that slight.
The commish addresses the bird issue: I just asked David Stern if, in his tour of Atlanta today, he had a chance to shake Spirit’s talon. He said he didn’t. I think asked about the league’s bird policy.
“Actually, it’s a raptor policy,” he said. “Or an osprey policy.”
Then this: “It is kind of funny to have basketball ops [operations] talking to a team about its hawk … But I feel bad for the bird. I’m sure he was scared.”
I mentioned Spirit’s newfound Twitter fame. Said Stern: “Oh, he tweets?”
Yes, he does, Mr. Commissioner.
Still no sight of Spirit, alas.
Pregame introductions: What a dud. Spirit was tethered to his handler’s arm, and the two were part of the little tunnel formed by the Hawks’ subs through which the starters run out to do their jump-and-bump thing. I have to confess I couldn’t spot the bird at all — esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore did — and apparently the handler’s arm wasn’t even raised.
The bird’s wings, I fear, have been clipped for good. (Figuratively, I mean. Don’t want PETA on this team’s case as well.)
T.I. update: He’s here. Didn’t do the intros, though.
Final Spirit update: Even after his less-than-stellar performance, Spirit tweeted me. “Sorry I missed you, Mark,” he wrote. “Got tied up.”
That, folks, is one funny bird.