We’ve had some fun with our Facebook friend John Hollinger of ESPN.com. We’ve noted more than once that he picked the Hawks to win 31 games in 2008-2009 — they won 47 — and declared their bench “a FEMA disaster zone.” (It was actually pretty good.) More recently we’ve noted he predicted the Hawks will slide from those 47 victories to 44.
Well, fair’s only fair. And if we we tweak Big John for his less-than-glowing appraisals, we must also recognize him when he says something nice. And here it is: In his first power rankings for ESPN’s Insiders (link requires registration), Mr. Hollinger has the Hawks No. 1.
If you’re counting, that makes the third set of ratings that puts these Hawks at the top. Hollinger’s ESPN colleague Marc Stein and John Schuhmann of NBA.com made the same call earlier in the week. (Chris Mannix of SI.com is the contrarian: He has the Hawks No. 2 behind Phoenix.)
With early success comes, as day follows night (or is it the other way around?), increased media attention. I’ve noticed correspondents from ESPN.com (Hollinger again), NBA.com (esteemed former colleague Sekou Smith), CBSsports.com and Yahoo! Sports on hand for tonight’s game with Miami, and it wasn’t so long ago you’d go to a Hawks game find rows of empty chairs in the press gallery.
I’m not going to tell you I’ve been here for every game of the past few years, but I’ve seen a few. And not since the middle ’80s have I seen the Hawks playing at such a high level. (The Lenny Wilkens teams of the ’90s were never quite this good.) I expect the Hawks to win again. I expect them to win every game the rest of the season and finish 80-2.
Yes, I’m kidding. But I’m also excited in a strictly professional way. I love basketball. I love being able to see good basketball without leaving town. And you’re welcome to join me as we chat about Game No. 12 in what has already been a blissful season. To borrow the catchphrase from the Hawks’ failed 1994 postseason: Bring it on!