The Hawks rank No. 1 in the NBA. Yes, the Hawks

Win, win, win: It's getting to be a habit for these Hawks. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Win, win, win: It's getting to be a habit for these Hawks. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Before Monday’s game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein’s NBA power ratings on ESPN.com.

In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The … Atlanta … Hawks.

“That’s pretty nice,” said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of NBA.com likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?)

“I didn’t know that,” said Josh Smith after being informed of his team’s new lofty perch.

“It’s just Week 2, though,” counseled Randolph Morris, who was seated alongside. (Actually, it’s Week 3. But close enough.) “We want to be there at Week 50.”

Which would be shortly after Halloween 2010, which I don’t believe is what Morris meant. Still, you get the drift. It’s a long season, et cetera. But you know what? These Hawks might be No. 1 for a while yet.

After three-plus quarters Monday night, it looked as if that ranking wouldn’t last 24 hours, let alone 50 weeks. The Hawks trailed the Trail Blazers by 10 points with eight minutes left. But the home team steadied itself and nearly won in regulation — Rudy Fernandez hit an outrageous tying trey over Al Horford at the horn — but did win in overtime.

And now this club is 9-2 having handled a good Portland team twice and having won in Boston and having blown out Denver here. That’s a flying start by any measure, and it shouldn’t be considered an aberration. This team is good, folks. This team is really deep, really gifted, really good.

“It’s kind of nice to sit at the top of the division,” said Woodson, speaking of an NBA South that also includes Orlando, Miami and Washington. “There’s nothing wrong with winning your division.”

Could that happen? Sure it could. The smart money will still ride with the Magic, but the smart money wouldn’t have had the Hawks at 9-2 having played six road games. The smart money wouldn’t have been on the home team with eight minutes left Monday night, but the Hawks wore down the Blazers and outclassed them in the end. (Joe Johnson owned Brandon Roy, FYI.)

And to those who keep saying the Hawks must have a big man to do anything of substance: Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge, the fourth player drafted in 2006, and Greg Oden, the first player drafted in 2007, at power forward and center. Aldridge and Oden combined for 29 points and 16 rebounds Monday. Josh Smith and Al Horford had 35 points and 26 rebounds between them. And the Hawks outscored Portland 56-38 in the lane.

“They’re playing for something,” Woodson said of his men. And then: “They know they’ve got a chance to win every time they step on the floor.”

Five years ago, the Hawks figured it differently. They figured they’d lose no matter what happened. But look now. Look at those power ratings. Save the Web page and print it out. Put it in a frame and hang it on yonder wall. Because seeing the Hawks as No. 1 in anything good is truly a moment to treasure.

159 comments Add your comment

FIRST

November 17th, 2009
12:46 am

Second

November 17th, 2009
12:48 am

FIRST

November 17th, 2009
12:50 am

imagine how good the hawks would be if Marvin got going!! He looks like a mess out there right now.

michael

November 17th, 2009
12:52 am

so hard to believe the progress theyre making…we just have to stay healthy. this team reminds me of the pistons teams from earlier this decade, with the sum of its parts being better than the whole. The pistons team that won it all emphasized the team rebounding concept that the hawks have been using and is what i feel is the key to their success. Just gotta stay healthy

MattRyanforPrez

November 17th, 2009
12:54 am

These hawks are for real…hope all this attention doesnt go to their heads

Big Daddy

November 17th, 2009
1:14 am

These Hawks make me, a native Atlantan and long time Hawk fan, proud. The young guys have matured enough to listen to their coach and execute. They have also learned that if they are down, there is still hope because they are a different team now than they were in the past. Leading in points in the paint, blocked shots, dunks all indicate a strong disciplined team. If this trend continues, I expect to see this team still playing in June. GO HAWKS!!!!!

MitchC

November 17th, 2009
1:19 am

Mark, I’m not as emotionally involved with the Hawks as I am with the Braves, because, with my not living in the Atlanta area, I dont see their games every night. However, I’m very proud of this team’s start.

Yes, we’ve had some nice wins, but the key will be piling up 50 plus wins, and hopefully, being able to stare down, and at least compete with, the Cavs and or Celtics, in the Eastern Finals, Come June 2010.

Gravy Train

November 17th, 2009
1:20 am

MB,
‘Bout time you do more Hawks material. The game tonight against Portland was as close to a play-off atmosphere as you could get. Last minute theatrics, energetic crowd and a big win.
This is a basketball town, put a winner on the floor and people will come. It’s time for the Spirit Group and the Thrashers to get out of the way.

Crawford looks like the easy favorite for 6th man of the year award and Joe silently puts up MVP type numbers per usual. This is a team to get excited about.

Sports Illustrated has the Hawks at 2 behind Pheonix, btw.

Cedrick

November 17th, 2009
1:30 am

GO HAWKS!!!! I am really glad to see these guys continue to progress in some way every year (unlike other teams in Atlanta, Falcons). I am watching these guys and I hope they have another great year. P.S. Management we do NEED to resign Joe Johnson!!!!!!

Bishop

November 17th, 2009
1:41 am

How about fans showing up to the games now?

Volman

November 17th, 2009
1:43 am

Great stuff Mr. Bradley. I’m loving it. You’ve been doing some great blogs over the past couple of weeks when you have covered winners (Georgia Tech, Atlanta hawks).

Did you just use the term, “trey” also? Wow… That’s classic. I think I’m going to print that out and frame it.

Great stuff though. Keep it going. Come say hi sometime at Phillips—I’m in section 303 every night. Second row. Season tickets.

Go Hawks!

Volman

November 17th, 2009
1:44 am

Gah, did my post get eaten?

Volman

November 17th, 2009
1:46 am

Okay, I’ll write it again.

Great stuff Mr. Bradley. You’ve been pumping out some great blogs the past couple of weeks when you cover WINNERS like Georgia Tech or the Atlanta Hawks. Great stuff.

Also, did you just use the term, “TREY” ?? Hilarious. That’s classic. I think if I’m going to print anything out it would be that. I could never see you using that word.

Anyway, come say hey sometime at Phillips if you’re there. I’m in section 303 row 2 each and every game in my season ticket spot screaming “DEFENSE!!!!”

The Hawks fans need to start showing up…COME ON NOW!!!

merbertmoover

November 17th, 2009
1:55 am

man them hawks be looking solid homies! jj be shooting like his pants on fire, know what im sayin? and big al be putting fools on they backs like a hedgehog in a cabbage patch, know what im sayin? and how bout jsmoove? man, he looks like he be on a trampoline the way he be dunkin, know what im sayin? we best be smokin d-fade this week…..11-2 baby! mmmmhmmmm

johnny

November 17th, 2009
2:39 am

glad the Hawks are off to a Great start. Hopefully they can avoid injuries. long time Hawks fan… they need to keep doing what they have been doing and Hopefully Marvin will get rolling again soon. they need to put some distance on the other teams in their divison.. Go Hawks…

Sleek_Nique_21

November 17th, 2009
3:41 am

This team is still (one of) the most athletics teams in the league. Still on of the youngest. We have one all star with a potential 2 more. Joe is becoming the leader we sorely needed. Jamal is H O T. Al is a beast. Smoove has stopped shooting 20 feet and beyond and is dominating the airwaves. Bibster is doing the little things a veteran should do to be the grease in the wheels of this steam roller.

Mostly though, this team has MATURED. They know how to win a game. The know how to pace themselves and control the tempo even when they’re behind on the scoreboard.

This team is really building something special here.

RISE UP!!

Wink

November 17th, 2009
5:29 am

Atlanta Hawks ranked #1 on any national poll is a moment to remember. The team is on a roll. I did not think I would ever say this but Josh (JSmoove) Smith is our MVP so far this season. Guy is playing under control 90% of the time. That other 10% is directed at his point guard skills, wish he would give ball to a guard and fill a lane. Shot selection has been the greatest improvement and I can live with the occasional jumpshot. He is dominating in the paint, getting rebounds & points in the paint. He keeps this up he will be an All Star. Also, believe the NBA gave his Player of the Week trophy to JJ. I believe JJ was the third best player on his team that week behind Josh & Crawford.

Big ups to JJ last night against Portland, as he brought us home in the 4th & OT, Another solid game from Josh (20 points & 16 boards),

We are number one on a bubble as Miami is playing well also; DWade in town tomorrow night. Let’s see if we can match up with them. JJ needs to play big in this game like he did in LA, but maintain his aggressiveness for the whole 48 minutes.

Observation time: Have you noticed against elite teams JJ takes a supporting cast roll? Example players like Kobe, DWade his numbers take a dip along with his play. The last thing I want is DWade talking about Phillip Arena as ” His House”. Joe should make it clear that this is his house.
Follow the lead of Kobe from the LA game. Joe came out and posted 18 points in the first on the Lakers. I believe Kobe had 8 points. They sent Artest over on Joe and he finished the game with 26 & Kobe stepped his game up and finished with 33 points. Joe needs to make a statement game against an elite talent.

Observation 2: Anyone see the confidence of Teague starting to decline, along with his energy level and style of play? Has Woody gotten to him too? Teague does not seem to be the same player on the floor!!!

now that's funny

November 17th, 2009
5:37 am

Joe Johnson gets lots of love and rightfully so, but Josh Smith makes this team great. Smith has the ability to put this team on his back and will them to win. It’s interesting to see him just know realizing that. Josh Smith is my MVP for this team right now.

kudos to coach Woodson. He handles this team very well. They are a very well coached group.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 17th, 2009
6:10 am

Jamal was less than off, Josh went John Abraham for 3 quarters and yet they won.

They have balance Daniel-san.

Dr. Warren

November 17th, 2009
6:19 am

Ahem, isn’t it Brandon R-o-y?

seed

November 17th, 2009
6:29 am

Actually Mr. Bradley. Randolph Morris is right on both counts. From a literal point of view, yes, it is week 3. But, from a championship mentality point of view? It’s week 2, or day 2 even, the first hour, the very beginning so to speak… in other words it’s early man… too early… earlier than you can imagine.

As for week 50? Ahh the brilliance of RFM a.k.a. Nostradamus. Right yet again… We do, in fact, want to be there at week 50… It’s like Drake said, we “want this thing forever…”

And I’ll tell you something else Mr. Bradley…

You are also correct sir

Last night?

Brandon Roy…

Was Brandon Ray

SWAT Native

November 17th, 2009
6:33 am

I love this quote from Marc Stein’s ESPN power ranking: “How much more must the Hawks do before we all start saying that the East elite runs four teams deep?” I think that says it all.

RomeDawg

November 17th, 2009
7:11 am

Wasn’t sure I would see the Hawks atop any list of positive nature in my lifetime. Go Hawks!!! Defense!!

F-105 Thunderchief

November 17th, 2009
7:23 am

What a difference a strong bench makes, huh?

Ed

November 17th, 2009
7:31 am

As a huge Magic fan I hate seeing the Hawks here but if your a huge NBA fan then you have to love all the compatition this year. If the Magic can’t win it all then go Hawks or go Heat. Bucks? WOW
Now lets get some good refs and all will be well. I used to think they where out to get the Magic but if you have NBA ticket then you know they just pick a couple of games to adjust some spreads. They can’t beat on the games but there little nephew can. Keep up the good work Hawks and we will see you in the ECF

Bandwagon

November 17th, 2009
7:36 am

Team trumps star every time. I’m loving what I see!

Ed

November 17th, 2009
7:44 am

Thats why the lebrons don’t have a chance. Magic-team, Hawks-team, Heat-team, Boston-(makes me sick but) team, Lakers-team, and look at Houston-teamwork. Sorry Cavs and sorry Denver. You won’t win when it counts.

JDK

November 17th, 2009
7:46 am

MARK – you’ve got TWO TYPOS. I know you’re excited, as am I, but slow down just a bit.

To correct:

“And now this club is 9-2 having BEATEN a good Portland team twice…”
“Put it IN a frame and hang it …”

BirdWatcher

November 17th, 2009
8:01 am

Congrats, Hawks! It’s taken time but it’s great to see it all coming together. And MB? Congrats, to you. Of all the teams you cover for the AJC, I’ve always felt you have the most passion for the Hawks and they have dashed your dreams much more often than built them. You’ve covered them honestly & frankly for all these years. Glad they’re all coming together now for you, too. Keep the pressure on ‘em , tho. Don’t let up.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

November 17th, 2009
8:05 am

Mark, what I like about this team is its ability to run with the first or second unit. The Hawks can match their second unit with anybody and run them out of the gym. I really like what I see. The only problem I see is that their half court O is not that great and you know you have to have that in the Playoffs.

Chris

November 17th, 2009
8:06 am

KEY PLAY OF THE GAME LAST NIGHT: 4th quarter, clock is running down, ball rotates out to Josh Smith at the shoulder of the lane, he cocks to shoot…. and then he passes it to Marvin under the basket for a layup. In the prior 5 years, Josh shoots that shot and we all groan as it clanks off the iron. If Josh continues to play selfless ball, the Hawks have a real chance.

Chris

November 17th, 2009
8:13 am

I’m in a Dilema here. I nejoy getting the cheap tickets on stub hub, but I also want more fans at the stadium…can’t have both.

Section 108

November 17th, 2009
8:13 am

No, Joe did not own Brandon Roy – no one ever has or ever will OWN Roy – he’s one of the best 2 guards in the league and he can score at will – Joe did however impose his will as a scorer, defender and leader – I’m glad to see that the team is not letting the premature accolades go to their heads – I love Teague’s quickness and energy – I want to see the guards look for more alley oops though – we got some home cookin last night – the refs gave the home team the benefit of a doubt and they swallowed their whistles last night

Robert

November 17th, 2009
8:37 am

Recognize Coach Woodson NBA coach of the year that’s right I said it and Joe Johnson MVP I said that too

Decatur Native

November 17th, 2009
8:42 am

Hawks are playing just like the Piston’s squad from a while back(Woodson was on the staff) as someone said above, and after thinking about it you might be a guru, they look alot like that squad great sum of parts, true team, and everyone is taking shot at Marvin but I think he’s ok, different options on the team has taken away some of his shot’s, but he still solid.GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bird

November 17th, 2009
8:43 am

[...] Mark Bradley, AJC: "Before Monday's game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein's NBA power ratings on ESPN.com. In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The … Atlanta … Hawks. ‘That’s pretty nice,’ said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of NBA.com likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?) [...] ‘It’s just Week 2, though,’ counseled Randolph Morris(notes), who was seated alongside. (Actually, it's Week 3. But close enough.) 'We want to be there at Week 50.' Which would be shortly after Halloween 2010, which I don't believe is what Morris meant. Still, you get the drift. It's a long season, et cetera. But you know what? These Hawks might be No. 1 for a while yet." [...]

Dalton

November 17th, 2009
8:53 am

I’m sorry Section 108, but anyone who was at last night’s game or saw it on TV knows that Joe Johnson took over the game with his offense and defense against Brandon Roy. Call it what you will.

Eric

November 17th, 2009
8:57 am

It only gets better from here the Hawks schedule was brutal the first few games(Lakers, Portland, Portland, Boston, Denver). Take care of Miami Wednesday and defend your home the rest of the way, and all should be good!!!

Boneyard Randy

November 17th, 2009
8:58 am

AND NOW YOU KNOW! GO HAWKS! SEE YOU AT THE HIGHLIGHT FACTORY ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, D-WADE!

RA

November 17th, 2009
9:01 am

I’m sorry Section 108, but if Joe didn’t OWN Brandon Roy, he definately rented him for a quarter and a half…

ATL Steve

November 17th, 2009
9:03 am

JJ – All-Star and steady!
Josh – Has figured it out…he’s the most athletic “4″ in the league
Marvin – Slow start …will get better and plays solid D
Al – A man! Hard worker!
Bibby – Slump breaker…get’s sthe big shot when the team falls behind
Crawford – Best 6th man!
Zaza – Plays with an attitude and has accepted his role
Mo Evans – Good spot up shooter and solid body defensively
Joe Smith – Veteran who plays well on both ends of the court
Teague – Lightning quick and is the future…he will contribute more as the year goes along!

DOES THIS NOT GET YOU EXCITED…10 DEEP!

jacket3

November 17th, 2009
9:03 am

This is a great example of staying with something and seeing through the fog. Took a long time and a lot of consternation for hawks fans, but Woodson’s team has arrived.

They just need to stay focused and work together through a long season. All of the bad times, bad games, “me” players are gone now. This is a great living example that if you want it bad enough and work for it long enough that anything can be achieved.

Keep it up Atlanta Hawks – one week at a time.

EW

November 17th, 2009
9:04 am

Nice entry MB… Really glad to see the Hawks coming together. Let’s keep this thing rolling, it’s a long season. Josh Smith is finally realizing how to maximize his strengths (read: not settling for jumpers/three pointers) and he is a BEAST.

David

November 17th, 2009
9:05 am

Fans will start going to games when regular season tickets for some of the lower level seats get cheaper. Sucks to say but its true. No one wants to pay 75 bucks to see the bobcats on a wednesday night. Unless, it was 30 bucks for some of the lower seats to see the bobcats on a wednesday night. Same goes for the thrashers…at least when you go to braves games you can get tickets or stubhub tickets for second row in right field for 10-15 bucks..people will say..ATL has the cheapest tickets compare them to orland boston lakers blah blah blah..we arent the lakers..
Another thing that grinds my gears is the locals who sit on their butts the entire game..they dont stand up for nothing unless jsmoove does a 360 back flip dunk…its kinda like when mike vick was with the falcons…

I love the hawks! I am 23 so I cant remember all the history of them. I remember the years of always playing or seemed like playing the bulls in the first round of the playoffs and remember the 11-0 start or something like that..the guarantee season ticketholder bet to make the playoffs (fail)..and now this batch of hawks that seem to be doing something special…I hope we can stay away from injuries..if we do we will coast into the playoffs..the question is what seed will we be?

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

November 17th, 2009
9:06 am

Section 108
<>

So what??? They won on the road in Portland and Boston too. The refs suck we know that and we move on to El Heat.

[...] Mark Bradley, AJC: "Before Monday’s game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein’s NBA power ratings on ESPN.com. In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The … Atlanta … Hawks. ‘That’s pretty nice,’ said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of NBA.com likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?) [...] ‘It’s just Week 2, though,’ counseled Randolph Morris(notes), who was seated alongside. (Actually, it’s Week 3. But close enough.) ‘We want to be there at Week 50.’ Which would be shortly after Halloween 2010, which I don’t believe is what Morris meant. Still, you get the drift. It’s a long season, et cetera. But you know what? These Hawks might be No. 1 for a while yet." [...]

falconidae

November 17th, 2009
9:10 am

If Josh Smith keeps filling up the stat sheet lines, except for TO and 3 pointers, this team will soar.16.3 points a game on 58% shooting with 8.9 rebounds is good, but its the 0, ZERO, ZIP 3 pointers for the year that make me happy. Then you add 2 steals and 2.5 blocks and 4 assists [ yes, I rounded up] a game; those are numbers that win championships.

Mark Bradley

November 17th, 2009
9:13 am

The Detroit championship team of 2004 is indeed Rick Sund’s model, Decatur – no one superstars but good players at every position. Those Pistons had Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.

Manny

November 17th, 2009
9:17 am

FIRE COACH WOODSON!!!!
(remember those???)

But seriously, the Hawks look good so far. They have really gelled as a team and they can run with any team.

But also, this is only Week 3, so I don’t put much stock in it. All it should say is that they have a good formula, but they must continue to improve in order to get better.

But if they stay undefeated for the week THIS WEEK? Man, that would be an excellent building block for this season!