As the Hawks approach a new season, the buzz is long gone

Jamal Crawford and Larry Drew: Why aren't they smiling? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Jamal Crawford and Larry Drew: Why aren't they smiling? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There was a time when the Hawks were coming off a 13-win season, but that was in 2005. These Hawks are coming off 53-29, which represents the third-best mark since the team moved here from St. Louis. So why does it feel as if last season was an epic dud?

Because the season ended with a playoff series that was an epic dud, and the summer was worse. The Hawks underspent for a coach and overspent to keep their best player, and their solution to the annual plaint of we-need-a-real-big-man was to sign the journeymen Josh Powell and Etan Thomas.

Getting swept by Orlando by an average of 25.3 points set the Hawks, who’d been clambering ever upward since the 13-69 nadir of Mike Woodson’s first season, back years in the eyes of its constituency, and the double move of promoting Larry Drew and making Joe Johnson the highest-paid free agent simply underscored the long-held notion that this club doesn’t know what it’s doing. (Never mind that losing Joe Johnson would have issued a similar message.)

The result: The team that finished third in the NBA East will open its season next Wednesday, and there’s no buzz of anticipation. There’s only a rumble of discontent.

“I’m not oblivious to what people are saying and feeling,” said Jamal Crawford, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and the happiest story of what should have been a happy season. But Crawford contributed to the fractious summer by demanding that the Hawks sign him to a new contract or trade him, neither of which has happened.

“Everyone has an opinion [as to how these Hawks will fare],” Crawford said, speaking after Wednesday’s practice. “It remains to be seen. We’ve got a whole new offense, a whole new system. I hope we’ll be able to take the next step. But you never know.”

Note the contrast. This time a year ago Crawford was as happy to be a Hawk as a 5-year-old running loose in Toys R Us. And now? “You never know.”

Exhibition games don’t mean much in any sport, but it’s worth noting that the Hawks have lost four of five, the most recent being another ritual drubbing by Orlando. On Thursday LeBron James will bring his talents to Philips Arena, and that could get messy, too. Indeed, this whole operation has the capacity to go really bad really fast.

Five of the first eight regular-season games are on the road. Said Drew, speaking of his retooled offense: “I see guys starting to pick it up. I was aware it was going to take some time. But the guys have bought into it, and what’s more important is that the main guy, Joe Johnson, buys into it.”

The proof of this purported buying-in, however, won’t be found in any preseason game. It will come in the final two of minutes of the games that count. Only then will we see if Johnson, who’d grown accustomed to taking nearly every key shot under Woodson, will be willing to defer to Crawford and Josh Smith and Al Horford. Only then will we see if Drew is up to the task.

Woodson was never popular with Hawks fans, and replacing him with just about anybody should have yielded a PR boost. Instead the Hawks replaced him not just with a man who hadn’t been a head coach but one who had been Woodson’s aide-de-camp for six years. (And who, not incidentally, came cheap.)

It was clear the Hawks had gone as far as they could under Woodson. Unclear is whether a guy who has been around this team — the starting five of which has remained unchanged since February 2008 — all along can be an agent of change. It’s possible Drew could represent an upgrade; it’s also possible he could be to Woodson as Ron Jirsa was to Tubby Smith at Georgia.

I take no pleasure in being so downbeat so soon, and I’d love to tell you I’m expecting nothing but great things from these Hawks. But I’d be lying through my teeth if I did.

159 comments Add your comment

Pepe

October 20th, 2010
2:57 pm

That’s what she said…

J.J..M

October 20th, 2010
3:02 pm

I have sold my season tickets

Ugghh...

October 20th, 2010
3:04 pm

UGABugKiller

October 20th, 2010
3:07 pm

Until the DisSpirit are GONE, there won’t be an ounce of goodwill coming from any basketball or hockey fan in Atlanta.

I love the Thrashers because I love hockey. I’d like to at least like the Hawks, because basketball is (usually) fun to watch (Iso-Joe is NOT fun to watch).

But like I can’t and won’t support the DisSpirit with my money by buying hockey tickets, there’s no way in hell they’re getting my money for a Hawks team that will be lucky to finish 6th in the East, and will probably finish 7th or 8th… by default and not due to any talent.

And that sucks, because I really like Horford (who is miscast as at the 5). But one guy out of 12? That’s not going to excite anyone.

DawginLex

October 20th, 2010
3:07 pm

This team won’t win 45 games. They will struggle to finish 6th or 7th in the East and will be 1st round playoff fodder for Orlando, boston or Miami.

Inept management is the correct term.

What an awful thought...

October 20th, 2010
3:07 pm

…an anology involving Ron Jirsa to Tubby Smith…that is REALLY a downer, but you did apologize for it…

DawginLex

October 20th, 2010
3:08 pm

Mark,

You coming home this weekend to cover the Dawgs?

Who told those NBA players...

October 20th, 2010
3:09 pm

…including Jamal Crawford, that it was cool to make your skin look like a cologing book done by 3 year olds…

OOPS...

October 20th, 2010
3:11 pm

…”cologing” = coloring – my bad…

wxwax

October 20th, 2010
3:13 pm

I hope the Hawks play pretty offense.

Because it seems almost certain that they’ll play ugly defense.

They fired the coach who preached defense. They hired a coach a only wants to talk about offense. And since the team has never demonstrated a taste for playing tough in their end of the court down the stretch, I expect a lot of matador defense.

I agree, this could get ugly fast.

A friend

October 20th, 2010
3:22 pm

I think they will win no more than 38 to 40 games. What’s to get excited about?

Dirty Pimp

October 20th, 2010
3:22 pm

Can we please trade for Melo? Or at least try? He’s there for taking, why are we not making a move? We have expiring contracts, Bibby, Jamal, and Mo, a servicable small Forward, Marvin and as many draft picks as it takes. I would love to see us trade all the aforementioned pieces for Melo, Chauncey and Nene. I think it’s a win-win for both teams. We get a superstar plus a pg that can get to the hole and defend, plus the true center that everyone says we need, although I think Al has been one of the better centers in the league that last few years. The Nuggets would get three expiring contracts plus Marvin and draft picks to re-build with. What say you fellow Hawks fans?

ATLBQ

October 20th, 2010
3:23 pm

Pepe is right

DogTheMan

October 20th, 2010
3:27 pm

The Hawks are run on the cheap. We will never be more than a playoff team who kicks punched in the kidneys in the first round. We hired a coach because he was cheap. We kept Joe Johnson because we know no other high profile player would come. We need an infusion of SPIRIT (NO PUN INTENDED) . And more guts from the fromt office..

dreamteam

October 20th, 2010
3:27 pm

Bradley, the hawks did not go 53-39….

Denver Hawk

October 20th, 2010
3:28 pm

I wasn’t sure whether it was just me getting older, or the accumulated wear of so many clueless franchise moves, but this Hawks season ticket holder from the 80’s just doesn’t care anymore – how depressing…

Will

October 20th, 2010
3:29 pm

Same ole teams in NBA always win it. Miami, LA(of course) blah blah….why even watch it when you know who will win before the season even starts?

Westurd

October 20th, 2010
3:30 pm

Trade Jamal and Marvin for some fish tacos!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, iiNDiiA.mermaiD™, Jamal Crawford Fans, Roy Harris, Hot About Google and others. Hot About Google said: As the Hawks approach a new season, the buzz is long gone | Mark Bradley http://safe.mn/14Ke [...]

gadawgs

October 20th, 2010
3:31 pm

I no longer care about the Hawks. As a matter of fact I think I will make a point to make this my only entry onto a thread concerning them for the rest of the year. They are irrelevant until they get new ownership.

RAD

October 20th, 2010
3:34 pm

I was at the game Monday night. It was obvious that the Hawks were very bad. The sad thing to me was the fans didn’t seem to care enough to express their displeasure in the team’s performance. I concur that the buzz is gone!

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

October 20th, 2010
3:37 pm

I hate to admit it but i am expecting these hawks to miss the playoffs , or either slide in as a 6 or 7 which is about the same thing . i think Miami, Boston, Orlando, chicago,and the bucks are clearly going to be better just to name 5 .
but go hawks anyway prove me wrong

allan in texas

October 20th, 2010
3:37 pm

I know that it was just a preseason game,but that was such a depressing game to watch the other night against Orlando. I hope that the players pick up on the offense fast! I would rather see the Hawks lose big and get a top five pick than go to the playoffs and get your doors blown off again!

Mark Bradley

October 20th, 2010
3:39 pm

I’m sorry. The Hawks were 53-29 last season. I’ve corrected my egregious error above.

Bobby Coccyx

October 20th, 2010
3:42 pm

Even I don’t care about the Hawks, and they’re all good kids…

Andy

October 20th, 2010
3:43 pm

The Hawks are DOA this season. They have no chance of winning the title so what’s the point? Attendance will be worse than ever this year except when Kobe and Labron come to town. I’m not much of an NBA fan but I have zero interest in this team.

some sense

October 20th, 2010
3:48 pm

Monday night was it. As Mark says, “…another ritual drubbing….”

Over before it even begins.

Just watch.

The Real Hawk

October 20th, 2010
3:50 pm

TM

October 20th, 2010
3:56 pm

The problem with the Hawks:
1. same ol’ song and dance.
2. iso offense with players who don’t get better.
3. NBA is rigged.

Other than that, i can’t think of why people aren’t interested.

Hot Dawg

October 20th, 2010
3:58 pm

Hawks are doomed to utter failure…………….say goodby Coach.

Russ

October 20th, 2010
3:59 pm

The NBA only wants teams with superstars to win titles. The Hawks, along with 80-90% of the teams in the NBA, don’t have a superstar, so their season is essentially over before it begins.

Hankie Aron

October 20th, 2010
4:02 pm

Mark,
It’s sad to see this team. Max contract for Joe is sickening but unfortunately as you noted they had to do it to stay competitive. After the 102-73 beatdown they took the other day by Orlando, I just can’t find a reason to pay any attention to the Hawks. You would think although it’s preseason that there would be some fire in their belly to beat the Magic even if it was live from YOUR backyard. You know Mark

Russ

October 20th, 2010
4:10 pm

Maybe the NBA should make that their new marketing slogan: 90% of our teams’ seasons are over before they start. Might not generate much fan support, but at least it would be true.

Bradleyisalwayswrong

October 20th, 2010
4:21 pm

Even your loyal blog fans — all 15 or 20 of them — don’t care.

shawn

October 20th, 2010
4:21 pm

This team is a joke becasue AS (their owners) are a joke. I watched Them the other day and this team does not excite me at all. Defensively, they are small and not good. Offensively, I have no idea what LD is trying to implement. Anyway, as I said before, I do not see an upgrade when you hire LD as your coach.

Chris

October 20th, 2010
4:22 pm

Teague and Marvin have got to step their game up for the hawks to be better this year than last.

GT Alum

October 20th, 2010
4:27 pm

wxwax -

And how much good did all of Woody’s talk do? It’s not like they’ve been a top defensive team the past few years.

TommyJack

October 20th, 2010
4:32 pm

With respect, I couldn’t care less.

JTH

October 20th, 2010
4:34 pm

Last season was the peak. They’ve done nothing to actually improve the team. Wake me when they’re sold.

Auburn Fan

October 20th, 2010
4:34 pm

The NBA is the real problem. Playoffs only part of the season to get excited about and Hawks have never been good enough to beat Boston, Chicago or now Orlando and Miami. We are not stupid and don’t want to waste money on a team that can’t win.

SR

October 20th, 2010
4:34 pm

“It’s possible Drew could represent an upgrade; it’s also possible he could be to Woodson as Ron Jirsa was to Tubby Smith at Georgia”.

….or more likely, he could be to Woodson as Pat Peppler was to Marion Campbell…

GT Alum

October 20th, 2010
4:36 pm

Fire Rodney Ho -

How about blaming the players – only one of them seemed as frustrated with their postseason performance as fans were. The rest were either just despondent or were more worried about their contracts and expressing their frustration with how fans expressed their frustration.

Or how about blaming the people running the team. What have they done to build excitement in the community? Their star player basically said he doesn’t care if anyone shows up to watch this team, and ownership seems to share that feeling.

Born2Buzz

October 20th, 2010
4:49 pm

Mark, by now you should know that Atlanta takes a wait and see approach to the Hawks. The Spirit Group has done nothing to build the fan base. They are apparently just trying to make as much money from the product (or not lose as much) as they can…witness the ridiculous ticket pricing structure where they are gouging fans to see the teams that really try to field a winning product.
By January we will know whether this team is going to be worth watching for the rest of the year or whether we should start wondering about the Braves and spring training.

Rufus1

October 20th, 2010
4:54 pm

The Hawks will be better…

The Hawks will be better with one simple move that LD has already stated will happen….Teague will get the bulk of the minutes a PG or Better stated, Bibby’s minutes will be reduced.

NO team in the NBA that won 50 games last year made BIG changes… A negative outlooks causes so many of you to forget that obvious fact.

Talent wins in the regular season and coaching wins in the playoffs, that is why Woodson was fired. We had and still have the TALENT that won 53 games. Also, their is only one Orlando Magic team in the NBA, SO PLEASE STOP GIVING THE MAGIC’S CREDIT TO EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE LEAGUE.

NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS… That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. We swept the Celtics, Blowout the Bulls twice and beat the Bucks with Bogot twice. Please don’t tell me the Bulls have Boozer(Boozer’s # against the Hawks 9pts, 8rbs).

The season wouldn’t look so grimm, if you didn’t every team in the east the Magic’s Credit….

Go Hawks

Rufus1

October 20th, 2010
4:55 pm

Enter your comments here

RealSquawk

October 20th, 2010
5:01 pm

Mr. Bradley

Thank-you for your honesty.

observation

October 20th, 2010
5:06 pm

Meh, basketball is a worthless garbage sport anyways….

n

October 20th, 2010
5:12 pm

The NBA is painful to watch every year because you know who 3 of the final 4 teams will be before the first tip. The Hawks lack the elite player to make a serious run at a title. Only 3-5 teams have one of those players and until we get one, we have no chance. As much as I hate to say it, might as well have another fire sale and start praying for success in the lottery. At least with Billy Knight and Pete Babcock gone we won’t end up with more Williams (Sheldon and Marvin) and Ryders.

Brett

October 20th, 2010
5:20 pm

I was at the disgraceful showing Monday and I have a real bad feeling that they are going to get off to a bad start.

Rufus1

October 20th, 2010
5:30 pm

The Hawks will be better with one simple move that LD has already stated will happen….Teague will get the bulk of the minutes a PG or Better stated, Bibby’s minutes will be reduced.

NO team in the NBA that won 50 games last year made BIG changes… A negative outlooks causes so many of you to forget that obvious fact.

Talent wins in the regular season and coaching wins in the playoffs, that is why Woodson was fired. We had and still have the TALENT that won 53 games. Also, their is only one Orlando Magic team in the NBA, SO PLEASE STOP GIVING THE MAGIC’S CREDIT TO EVERY OTHER TEAM IN THE LEAGUE.

NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS… That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. We swept the Celtics, Blowout the Bulls twice and beat the Bucks with Bogot twice. Please don’t tell me the Bulls have Boozer(Boozer’s # against the Hawks 9pts, 8rbs).

The season wouldn’t look so grimm, if you didn’t every team in the east the Magic’s Credit….

Go Hawks