Two astute bloggers help dumb ol’ me assess the Hawks

A Smoove swoop. Note absence of swooners in the background. (AJC phto by Curtis Compton)

A Smoove swoop. Note absence of swooners in background. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Hawks, it’s safe to say, have been better than most of us envisioned. But now, the season’s midpoint having just passed, the discussion changes. Is better good enough?

Because I know you tire of my bloviation — heck, I tire of my bloviation — I’ve decided to give you folks a slight break. I’ve enlisted the help of two of the best Hawks bloggers around: Bret LaGree of Hoopinion and Jason Walker of The Human Highlight Blog. (I would encourage you to patronize both sites; I do.)

Question No. 1: Are the Hawks legit contenders?

LaGree: “The Hawks have turned the East into a four-team race and they’re not necessarily the fourth team in that race. Obviously the path to the NBA finals would be much easier if they draw Boston in the second round than if have to go through Cleveland and Orlando. Even though the Hawks would not be favored in a seven-game series against either Cleveland or Orlando, they’re capable of beating either of those teams.”

Walker: “The Hawks have the talent to seriously compete for the championship, yes. At this halfway point in the season, the Hawks are among the elite in all advanced statistical categories, so the talent is producing at a top shelf rate. On the court, they have dispatched the Celtics three times [once even with Kevin Garnett], showed an even matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and beaten some top Western teams [Denver, Dallas, Portland, Utah, Phoenix] proving their mettle as a top team there as well … This is the season the Hawks get out of the second round of the playoffs.”

Me: The Hawks are good enough to win two playoff series and reach the Eastern finals. I don’t know if they can win three.

Question No. 2: Do the Hawks need to make a midseason trade?

LaGree: “I think about this a lot — because who doesn’t like hypothetical transactions? — but I struggle to see a plausible scenario where the Hawks have someone to trade that another team wants and they can afford to give up. Barring a serious injury, I expect they’ll stand pat. Which shouldn’t surprise us as continuity would be the defining characteristic of this team’s ascent.”

Walker: “What might be missing from the Hawks is a super-duper-star to make a path to a championship easier, but I don’t believe the Hawks are going to or should disrupt what they have to make such a deal. They are going to have to go the Detroit Piston share-the-ball route to a championship.”

Me: I don’t see an obvious personnel match that can be gotten before the trade deadline. Antawn Jamison of the Wizards, you say? He’s 33, he makes $11 million and his contract has two more years to run. And don’t the Hawks have to save money to keep Joe Johnson this summer?

Question No. 3:Why aren’t more fans coming to Philips Arena? (The Hawks are 21st in a 30-team league in home attendance.)

LaGree: “We had a good discussion about attendance on the site last week. The consensus seemed to be some combination of: 1. Traffic makes it difficult to get to Philips by 7 p.m. on weeknights from a fair percentage of the metro area; 2. Joe Johnson’s style of play, though effective, doesn’t capture the imagination of the casual fan that checked out on the Hawks sometime during the previous decade; 3. There just may not be a lot of basketball fans here.”

Walker: “Atlanta fans need the big draw to take them to sporting events. Big names and big events get their attention and their dollars. The Hawks packed them in when they had Dominique. The Falcons [did] with Michael Vick, the Braves with the national attention in the early ’90s … The Hawks aren’t there yet — but they’re getting closer. As of today, they are 10th in road attendance, their best showing in a long time and a litmus test of their ‘it’ factor. For over a decade, and even in the Lenny Wilkens years, this team hasn’t been the most fun to watch, but they are now and being at Philips Arena when things are happening is a great use of the sports dollar.”

Me: I thought the crowds would have picked up by now, but I’ve about given up trying to figure out the Atlanta sports fans. But I do think there are enough people in this city who like basketball to fill an arena on a regular basis. Maybe by May it will happen. Maybe.

134 comments Add your comment

G-Money

January 25th, 2010
12:06 pm

There are some exciting things happening with this team. As they continue to mature and grow the fan base will expand. I like the direction they are headed in.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:08 pm

So do I, G-Money. And kudos for being first.

big mat

January 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

Matt

January 25th, 2010
12:14 pm

National “Boring” Association. Sorry, but there is only so much isolation/one on one that I can take. Much prefer college hoops, but not GT due the same problem, lack of fundamentals.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:15 pm

Close, big mat. So close.

And I think the NBA has backed off the two-man games and the isolation, if only by a bit, tell it … It’s a better game now than five years ago.

Astro Joe

January 25th, 2010
12:18 pm

Great stat that the Hawks are a top 10 drawer on the road. And ESPN added several Hawks games to their line-up, sugesting that they can sell advertisements during Hawks games. Or said differently, people outside of Atlanta have taken notice. Maybe now that football is over AND with better weather, local fans will make their way down to see possibly the lone Atlanta post-season team.

Mike

January 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

It’s the economy. Most inner-city fan or even some suburban families can lay down $100 or better to see a Hawks game. So we rely on the local broadcast. We get the same disrespect when the Braves are in the playoff. Bad economic, some people just don’t understand.

Ree Roe

January 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

Good article as always Mark. Could we trade Marvin & Mo for say Caron Butler? I think the Hawks could use an upgrade at the 3 position

-REEcently Roe!!!

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

The Hawks of the late ’90s — Mutombo, Mookie, Smith, Laettner, Henderson — weren’t much fun to watch. This team is, Astro Joe. That’s why I don’t get it.

ATL Native

January 25th, 2010
12:20 pm

Enter your comments here

O'Brien

January 25th, 2010
12:22 pm

Mark,

1) I think the Hawks are legit contenders. Both Cleveland games were winnable, and we’ve beaten Boston 3 times.

2) I dont think the Hawks need to make a midseason trade, for the reasons mentioned. It would be very tough to find a match (although I think we could use Marcus Camby, the Clips will not trade him and his expiring, plus what would we offer).

3) Home attendance is low because fans would prefer to stay home and watch the game from the cheap and comfortable living room, with the added bonus of listening to Dominique.

I think what the Hawks need to work on is internal (focus, intensity, adjustments etc).

ATL Native

January 25th, 2010
12:22 pm

NBA…Give both teams 100 points and five minutes to play. Boring!!! Go Hawks.

cattle dawg

January 25th, 2010
12:24 pm

Im 2 hrs south of atl and want to come up for a good weekend game but just cant get the timing right.Ive actually watched a couple of games on the tube this year. Which I never do.

allan in texas

January 25th, 2010
12:24 pm

Living here in longhorn country I love the hawks. It just seems to me like they are missing something. Would you trade a marvin williams for a rudy gay? Would it mess up their chemistry? Thanks.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:25 pm

I suggested Marvin-for-Butler last summer as a sign-and-trade, Ree Roe, but Marvin’s value is even lower since he signed that new contract.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

I’d make the Marvin-for-Rudy-Gay trade in a New York minute, Allan in Texas. But Memphis would not.

chuckw/deadjournalist

January 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

Regarding the last question, I think there are a couple of other factors at play as well:

- First, Atlanta has always been slow to react – we are as cynical of a fan base as there is in the country. There’s an over-riding “prove it to me and then I’ll come” mentality.

- Second, Atlanta has been one of the hardest-hit areas because of the economy. It’s hard for most folks to justify the amount of money it takes to go to a game (and not site in the rafters) when that money just isn’t in the budget.

- Third, scheduling/media coverage. Starting a game at 7PM is a hard start-time because of traffic – but the lack of TV/Web attention also makes it hard for the casual fan to know when I big game is one the horizon. Yes, all the transplants like their stars, but they also know about the games because coverage is much better. (Not to mention you can’t hear radio broadcasts at night because of the low-wattage.)

- Lastly, an area that wasn’t touch on: How are TV ratings this season? I’ll admit I haven’t been to a game in a few season – but I do watch any game I able to. Granted, I was watching when they were winning 13 games, but I would imagine TV ratings have to have increased.

Charlie

January 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

big mat = TOOL

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:28 pm

ChuckW, Stan Kasten said back in the ’80s — when the Hawks were getting rolling and the crowds weren’t yet following — that it always took Atlanta a half-season longer to catch on than it did other markets.

And that’s a good question about the TV ratings. I’ll ask.

Freshmaker

January 25th, 2010
12:29 pm

I think if they can get to (and especially if they make it out of) the 2nd round the season will be a success. The goal is always to win a championship, but we might still be a year or two away from that. I’m very happy with the team as constituted. To answer your questions:

1) I think the Hawks are legit contenders. They have proven that they can play with the best teams in the league. It would be helpful if they didn’t have to face Orlando, but they can beat anyone. The biggest improvement, to me, is that they are much better on the road than in seasons past. Beating Dallas, Portland and Boston on the road were huge for their confidence. They were also up 17 on Cleveland at one point on the road, even though they lost the game in the end. They know they can play with them.

2) I don’t think they do, for the reasons you mentioned. I don’t know that there’s an impact player out there that they could get that wouldn’t hurt them too much, cap-wise. Then again, I never would’ve thought Sund could get Crawford for Law and Claxton. Getting a guy like Jamison, but would the Wizards really want, say, Marvin Williams in return? The trade market will be fun to monitor as the deadline nears, but I don’t think the Hawks make a move.

3) I think this is a function of the early start time for weekday games. Getting to the arena by 7pm is tough for folks that live outside the perimeter. The fans do seem to show up and support the Hawks when they are playing decent opposition. When teams like the Kings and Nets come in, though, you’re going to get a sparse crowd.

Anyway, my 2 cents.

Grip

January 25th, 2010
12:30 pm

It is time for the NBA to take control and highlight two young and up and coming players, Josh and AL and one veteran, Jamal Crawford, Joe does not come off as a person who craves the attention. We need the league to Co-sign our emergence, to the people of this town, or a breakthrough to the Eastern Conference finals. The problems is without a superstar it will really be difficult. Has any one noticed the small amount of trips we take to the free throw line? The truth is we are better than Boston, as good or better than Cleveland, and a bad matchup for a fading Orlando team, but we could get lucky and never see them in the playoffs. But a top ten draw on the road, THAT IS INCREDIBLE.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
12:33 pm

It’s telling, Grip. And I can attest that writers in other cities are taking the Hawks very seriously.

All I'm Saying Is...

January 25th, 2010
12:36 pm

I don’t have the numbers handy but I believe Hawks average attendance has improved over the past five years.

On the other hand, don’t ignore the obvious as the economy has had a real impact on number of season ticket holders and the walk-up crowd. While I realize NBA tickets are expensive in all markets, the city of Atlanta has less than a million people and the entire metro area has several million but that’s spread out over 20 plus counties. Like I typed, don’t ignore the obvious (expense) when compared to other options: for instance, I, my wife, and my 11-years-old-son attended that last home game versus the Celtics and three good tickets (lower level in ‘the corner’) alone cost me (via Ticketmaster) over $300 (and I wish I was exaggerating). $300 and I haven’t even paid for parking/transportation yet or had anything to eat! That’s steep, people, so I will not likely be able to attend another home game this season (and I cannot justify three season tickets or find enough friends interested in buying them with me). Some sports are becoming in person viewing for strictly single people, childless folks and or those who can get tickets via corporations.

As for your other point, Hawks are legitimately one of the top four teams in the East and playing like it. Not sure if we can get past Orlando or Cleveland given their low post and inside presence unless we purposely run the floor on offense and/or go with a three guard lineup to try and make that a competitive advantage of ours. Either way, loving the Hawks and they are much more fun to watch!

LET’S GO HAWKS!

matt6buckeye

January 25th, 2010
12:40 pm

O’Brien,

I’m gonna assume you were being sarcastic about people wanting to listen to Nique. Seriously, he’s awful. Steve Smith was absolutely fantastic as our color guy, but he left for greener pastures. Now we’re stuck with the “legend who has no business speaking in public…ever”. He’s just a mess of mumbling, awful grammar, and cliches upon cliches. For a guy who might be one of the 25 best players of all time, he seems to have no idea what he’s watching. Bob Rathbun seems to have more pertinent analysis.

Going from Smiddy to Nique was worse than its gonna be going from Boog to Chip for Braves games this year. Time to warm up the radio.

ChippersLoveChild

January 25th, 2010
12:44 pm

Superstar attractions don’t always pack them in, ask the Thrashers… the reason the attendance is down, is because this city has terrible sports fans! The end, case closed. Stop trying to figure it out, Atlanta proves it time and time again, the fans here just aren’t that good.

Khao$

January 25th, 2010
12:46 pm

For me to consider us “legit” we’ve got to win more on the road and not let the have nots (Knicks) beat us. Granted, we’re 10-9 on the road as we speak. This next stretch of games will be huge.

WhatIThink

January 25th, 2010
12:51 pm

This is a good team but at the same time they like to give you a reality check by loosing to New York and any other team that we should be wining agaist. I think the Hawks worst enemy is themselves. Some nights they look completely unbeatable and some nights they look like they really don’t want to put in the effort. If I could only convince the Hawks that every team they face is either tied with them or ahead of them in the standings. But as far as the future, I have always thought the NBA is a super star leauge. Before you go screaming Detroit, just remeber only Detroit has ever pulled off a championship. Everyone else had a star. When I look at the team I like Joe Johnson but I don’t think he is the awnser. He is a top 25 player but leaders are defined in the playoffs and he always disapears, and none of us know what night Joe is going to show up. He also holds the ball WAY too long and that seams to put the rest of the team to sleep. Here is how it works: Bibby hands the ball to Joe, Joe dances and takes 14 seconds off the shot clock, the rest of the team stands and waits, Joe second guesses and throws the ball to Horford, Horford as 4 seconds to think of a shot and something ugly goes up. When you need Joe to take a game over he does not, when you need him to give you 30 on a night no one else is shooting, he can’t. As a matter of fact I don’t know day in and day out what version of Joe is going to show up. When he is on, its great, but when he is off, he disapears. To me Crawford is the other half of Joe that Joe does not have. Watching Dwade last year single handedly push us to a game 7 because he is too proud to go quietly is what I see missing in Joe

Marcus

January 25th, 2010
12:53 pm

agree with khao$. for us diehards .. following isn’t hard. For the casual fan, momentum killers like getting blasted by the NYK twice@ HOME and letting a young team like OKC grind a W, when we are supposed to be serious contenders sends the “inconsistent” flag up the pole and justifies (in their minds) staying away.

Khao$

January 25th, 2010
12:54 pm

Sometimes I feel like we’re a big league city with a small town mentality when it comes to sports. Anything dealing with college football, we’re all over. But, we treat the pros like a plague. Granted our pro teams haven’t given us much to cheer for throughout the years. But even when they do, we don’t draw well unless
a) we have a huge name on the roster (Vick, Nique)or
b) we’re a feel good story (91-95 Braves)

Ineptitude aside, Blank (the only owner in this town with a brain), Liberty Media and the Spirit have a tough task on their hands.

Daniel

January 25th, 2010
12:54 pm

Nicely done MB, As always us regular Hawks bloggers love to see you “big boys” pay us some attention. I think the consensus view of the Hawks ability to go deep in the playoffs (ECF appearance) is accurate. Why attendance is still down? I don’t know, but I love the 7:00 times, jump on MARTA avoid traffic home by 10:00pm, and I always have access to good seats, so selfishly, I don’t care if the fair weather fans want to come out(Now, I know I should care about fiances, etc, but I am being selfish here). Ultimately, I say the poor attendance has to somehow be the fault of Dave O’brien (I mean after Griffey, isn’t it all his fault?), Jeff Schultz (just cause ya know) or Mike Woodson (since he gets all the blame and none of the credit anyway)

Daniel

January 25th, 2010
12:55 pm

I also have to agree with matt6buckeye… We all love ‘Nique, but the dude may be the worst color commentator ever! Mark you know he actually ended a game by saying “time to get out the marshmellows and make some home fries”?!?!!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

January 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

They need a good little mascot and I know where they can find one. I can hang out with the A-Town Dancers.

Hawksfan30

January 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

The rumors are Joe Johnson is going to walk and go to Chicago or somewhere else in the offseason. Why not get Jamison for insurance. And it would cause match-up problems all over the court if you had him, Josh and Al in the front court on offense. Josh is quick enough to gaurd a three on defense. Even if you cant get Jamison, add another big man and get Haywood. Hes avg. 10 boards a game right now. Go Hawks. We could beat the Cavs if it wasnt 8 on 5.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

Here is a reason: Family Night 2/5 vs. Bulls

Section 316
Row C
Seats 1-4

Family of four? $106.40. Sorry, not sitting in Section 316 dropping $200 for the evening and driving down from Chattanooga to watch. Nique ain’t suiting up anytime soon.

O'Brien

January 25th, 2010
12:58 pm

matt6buckeye,

I was being sarcastic. I can do without hearing “Heat Check”, or “Hawks have nimbers” and the usual name mispronounciations.

Daniel

January 25th, 2010
12:59 pm

Hawksfan30- Do you really want to take Josh, who’s dominating on off the ball inside defense, rebounding and interior play IS THE BIGGEST REASON the Hawks have improved this year (plus Crawford) and move him to the perimeter? Don’t you realize that when he is on the perimeter is when the Hawks lose? C’mon man watch the games.

WhatIThink

January 25th, 2010
12:59 pm

Joe Johnson is not the awnser

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 25th, 2010
12:59 pm

Section 316
Row C
Seats 1-4

$106.25, that is one reason. Worst seats in the house and on “FAMILY NIGHT” versus the Bulls (2/5) this is the cost. Drive down from Chattanooga and this is easily a $250.00 trip. Its simply not worth the effort anymore, and Nigue isn’t suiting up anytime soon.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

January 25th, 2010
1:00 pm

A little dog mascot is the answer.

sfh

January 25th, 2010
1:08 pm

one of the dumbest moves was to move the start time to 7pm from 7:30pm. you can’t get to the games on time from the burbs. same goes for thrasher games

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
1:09 pm

The New York losses were the low points of the season. One you can write off; two you can’t.

sam

January 25th, 2010
1:10 pm

why i dont go to Hawks games

1. it costs too much
2. too hard to get down and back
3. 2 young kids
4. wife wont let me

Ree Roe

January 25th, 2010
1:10 pm

I never understood why people wanted Antwan Jamison when we already have a PF (Josh Smith). If only we had a solid 3, we’d be fine. Solid bench, plenty of scoring & end of game closers (Jamal & Joe).

If Joe does walk, what’s our backup plan? Do we make a run at DWade?

-REEcently Roe?

Daniel

January 25th, 2010
1:11 pm

Why do people think that Joe “disappears” in the playoffs? One bad series against Clevland when he was hurt? He looked great against Boston and Miami. Oh wait, we deal with hyperbole and perception…not facts right?

Dwayne Wade

January 25th, 2010
1:12 pm

A man can dream, but a perfect move would be to allow Joe Johnson to walk after this season and sign Dwayne Wade, who has a player option for next season, as a free agent. Joe is an outstanding player, but during crunch time running the offense through him slows the team down and isolation plays that leave the other players out of the flow.

Don’t even get me started about Lebron.

sam

January 25th, 2010
1:13 pm

does john koncak have a son?

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
1:14 pm

If there’s a backup plan for Joe leaving, Ree Roe, I’m unaware of its contents.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2010
1:14 pm

Joe had a big Game 7 against Miami but wasn’t very good until then. He got hurt in Game 2 against Cleveland and probably shouldn’t have played in Games 3 and 4. And there’s some thought that Joe was fighting an injury — before the one in the playoffs — the latter part of last season.

JabboRockefeller

January 25th, 2010
1:15 pm

The economy is a huge factor. Especially for folks with kids, and for those who live outside the perimeter.

We also don’t have that electric mega-star, who can pack any building, anytime, anywhere.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

January 25th, 2010
1:15 pm

I think the Hawks should trade Bibby and a 2024 second round pick to Cleveland for Lebron James. That might increase attendance by a couple dozen a night.