The Heat showed up; the Hawks (and their fans) left early

It was a no-go night for All-Star Joe. (AP photo)

It was a no-go night for All-Star Joe. (AP photo)

Even by the Hawks’ careening standards, this has been a turbulent season.  With shifts in conventional wisdom attached, we offer a recap:

• Opened by winning four of their first five games, including a victory over the Heat in Miami. And folks thought: “Hmmm.”

• Blew a 19-point lead and lost in Chicago. Lost in triple overtime here to the Heat without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And folks thought: “Same old Hawks.”

• Won the next three games but saw Al Horford injured — and subsequently ruled out at least for the remainder of the regular season — in a loss at Indiana. And folks thought: “Stick a fork in ‘em.”

• Won nine of the next 11 without the man considered their most indispensable player. And folks thought: “Hmmm.”

• Came home for a four-game stand and lost the first three games by a total of 39 points. And folks thought: “Same old Hawks.”

• Went to Orlando and won. And folks thought: “Nice win, but didn’t the Hawks prove last season that they could handle the Magic?”

Against this backdrop of forth-and-backing, the regal Heat again arrived at Philips Arena with LeBron’s corporate partner ESPN in dutiful tow. Speaking before Sunday’s game, Hawks coach Larry Drew said: “It shouldn’t take a motivational speaker to get guys ready.”

In professional sports, motivation tends to matter rather less than talent. This game wasn’t one quarter old when it was apparent that the Hawks sans Horfy would offer no resistance. The star-spangled visitors led by 12 points after one quarter, by 22 at the half, by 32 eight minutes into the third period. (For those keeping score, it marked the second time in 10 days the Hawks had trailed by 30 at Philips.)

Yet again, the temptation is mighty to pronounce these the same old Hawks and move on to spring football. That’s not quite accurate. Even with Horford, the Hawks had found their ceiling — Round 2 of the playoffs. Without him, we need to lower the overhead by a couple of feet. No matter what the record might suggest, this isn’t a team capable of challenging the Heat or the Bulls for Eastern eminence.

It is, however, a team of enough skill and depth to make the playoffs and maybe, if it’s lucky enough to draw Orlando in the first round, to slip past. But that’s about it. To hope for anything more is to deny the aggregating reality.

Over the past 10 days, the Hawks have lost four times at home, and none of the losses have been close. What lifted them to 16-6 was a nice bench and a nicer schedule, but you can’t play the Nets and the Wizards every night. The Hawks are 13-1 against teams that are under .500, 5-9 against those above it. In sum, they’re better than the bad teams.

And now you’re saying, “This is news?” In a way, yes. It has taken 28 games to reach some sort of conclusion about this odd crew, and the verdict isn’t necessarily damning. Without Horford, many among us had visions of a total surrender. That hasn’t happened. On most nights, they’ve hung in there.

But you cannot expect a team minus its anchor to hang in against the Heat. Not that there are many, if any, like this. Wade, who’s Miami’s second-best player, destroyed Joe Johnson, the Hawks’ $120 million man, in the first half, outscoring him 21-8. Chris Bosh, third-best among the Heat, put up a first-half double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) against Josh Smith, who fancies himself an All-Star.

Midway through the second quarter, the Hawks had ducked their heads and were looking for the exits. Drew conceded the point: “They were obviously the aggressor. We did not respond.”

An obviously disgusted Smith played 11 minutes in the third quarter and managed more fouls (three) than points (two). Jeff Teague was pulled 3 1/2 minutes into the second half, Drew having seen more than enough. Marvin Williams put the finishing touches on one of those horrid Marvin games — six points, three rebounds — we’ve come to know and hate.

On what was billed as a big night for this franchise, the crowd left early and the Heat didn’t break a sweat. The home side was outrebounded 31-13 in the first half and yielded 63 points in 24 minutes, which doesn’t speak of dedication to duty. But you know what? The Hawks could have played their best and tried their hardest and still lost by 10.

For what they are, they’ve done well this season. But what they are is a cut above middling.

By Mark Bradley

110 comments Add your comment

Walt Frazier

February 12th, 2012
10:08 pm

You all now see, this was what I was talking about; the local paying fans are the big losers, as well as ESPN, TNT, ABC, or any other national spotlight that even thinks the Hawks are on the same level as other than any 8th seed in the NBA east. Don’t give me that ole excuse about Al Horford being hurt. The Hawks still would’ve been blown out in this one. They gave up early in the first quarter. None of the Hawks players seemed like they wanted to play tonight, including Teague, who should be an aggressive “Rose” like player, making a name for himself in the NBA-regardless of the team he plays for. The Knicks right now are a better team than the Hawks. Because the weather is very cold, maybe the paying season ticket holder would rather give his/her game ticket to a neighbor, friend, or church member, but decided to go to the game-because it’s Miami, and of course, LaBron James and Company are “the ticket” that was marked on their calendar. They may have wanted the Hawks to win, but instead was entertained by the “road” team. The Hawks are a disgrace to all Atlanta sports fan home team television viewing mankind. This team needs to chopped of immediately, no matter what-playoff or not. When David stern was in the Phillips-the Hawks seemed to play better; I wonder why. Their spotty basketball play seems to take on a life of its own; it seems to say-winfm (what’s in it for me?). There’s no motivation to play hard, defensively or offensively. Joe Johnson ought to be in the Fulton County Jail for stealing money. If someone gave me season tickets for the remainder of the season-I would probably go twice-maybe, if it’s on a nice balmy warm day. This Hawks team is an enigma; it’s decent team with a very weak fan base-for good reason. Just let the Knicks come to town-and it’ll be Jeremy Lin night-all over the place. Same rings true for Blake and CP3. This team needs a new owner and new management from top to bottom. David Stern’s comments about his confidence in ASG are just what the owners want him to say; he could care less. As cold as it is outside, I personally would not want to sacrifice my body-to travel-to put my car through winter stress-trying to get downtown, pay for parking, then walk in this frigid cold-to enter Phillips arena, only to see Atlanta’s “home” team giving up a game so early and so easily and that’s why this Atlanta fan base is going to be a forever shrinking entity until, finally- this team is dissolved and run out of town.

Ron in Vegas

February 12th, 2012
10:09 pm

Very frustrating to watch this team over the long haul……..first???

O'Brien

February 12th, 2012
10:11 pm

Mark,

We saw the Dallas Mavericks win the title last year, and instead of bringing everybody back, they took a step back this year with the hope of retooling next offseason when they will have cap space and can go after a guy like Deron Williams.

All the ASG has done is spend (and sometimes overspend) to keep their own guys. We have a top 10 payroll, but we have peaked as a second round team (and we will be fortunate to make the second round this year).

And to make things worse, LD is not the man to help this core reach a new level. Changes are needed on the court, and on the bench (imo).

tmc

February 12th, 2012
10:14 pm

you wonder why no one cares about the Hawks?
use this as exhibit A as to why no one cares.

Cause they lay an egg like this and can not compete
against the good teams. PERIOD.

= Hawks suck… and their owners are worse.

Edo River

February 12th, 2012
10:32 pm

Mark, I agree totally with everything you have said. This isn’t what you need to hear to improve. I like you because you bring out a healthy overall positive perspective which I don’t see in the other columnists here on a consistent basis. You are the only one I am sure I would enjoy sharing dinner with. I would not waste an evening anymore to go to a pro sports game since my father died. Our family is from Ga.Tech and one member is on the board (but he andd I don’t get along, so there)so for as long as I can remember I have seen a few Tech games of various sports (do you remember Billy Lothridge, misp?) Reading about Tech is too painful :-) Back to the topic of the Hawks, I support the management, and I think Drew is doinga surprisingly good job. What I most strongly regret (but I think I completely understand the rationale) was the selection of Marvin Williams

Harry Hawk

February 12th, 2012
10:33 pm

The Hawks miss Horford, but they’ve been the same way with him in the lineup. I don’t understand these guys and likely never will. The real question is which guys should be removed from the team’s structure in order to renovate and improve it.

HawkerI

February 12th, 2012
10:34 pm

the hawks were just flat—they’ll be back big in the next game. When horford comes back, the hawks will make some noise in the playoffs–mark it down!

Tomahawkin

February 12th, 2012
10:35 pm

I Turned That Trash off At Halftime

Why Do Atlanta Teams take Pride in Getting Clowned on National TV in Big Games….? It always happens

If I was at the Lowlight Factory, I would’ve started doing the Tomahawk Chop Out of Protest….

F The Hawks and The NBA baseball starts in a week

Go Braves!

Nanny

February 12th, 2012
10:36 pm

MB,

Any truth to ESPN stating that one of the owners (presumably Gearon), went to the locker room at half? If so, any idea as to what was said?

Tomahawkin

February 12th, 2012
10:41 pm

I can’t wait for Mattlanta (Matt Chernoff) To rip these Clowns on 680AM The Fan Tomorrow! They deserve it

They were probaby still hungover from kicking it with The Lying King (Lebron James) at Mansion Elan last nite? There was a Big ass party there that he hosted….

Najeh Davenpoop

February 12th, 2012
10:41 pm

“It is, however, a team of enough skill and depth to make the playoffs and maybe, if it’s lucky enough to draw Orlando in the first round, to slip past. But that’s about it. To hope for anything more is to deny the aggregating reality.”

They can get to the second round if they draw any first round matchup other than Philly, Miami, or Chicago. But they are not going to go any farther than the second round unless something crazy happens.

tyger

February 12th, 2012
10:44 pm

This has nothing to do with Horford…

In fact, ZaZa played well, shouldve fed him…
All on the defacto Allstars, Joe and Josh…
When the going gets tough, they get going…

Guess Josh doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder…
He got a foot in his a44 instead…

Joe aint even worth hecklin…
Maybe u just pay him to stay home???

Arnold Ziffel

February 12th, 2012
10:53 pm

The story and ongoing saga of all Georgia teams.

anthony

February 12th, 2012
10:54 pm

And you want to know why they don’t have people come to the games. They’re not worth watching. They should have gave the fans their money back. I mean, when Jeff Teague walks the ball up the court every time you can tell it’s gonna be a long night. There is no sense of urgency in these guys, beginning with him. Just happy to be there I guess.

keepinitreal

February 12th, 2012
10:56 pm

The Hawks, over the last couple of years, seemto have taken a “Why bother?” approach. The core players on this team know that their best efforts are in vain, because this roster simply doesn’t have the juice to compete with the NBA’s big boys.

It’s hopeless being a Hawks fan. The only chance this organization has of winning a championship is if it hits the ping-pong lottery in a year when there’s a transcendent player in the draft. Failing that, the Hawks will continue to toil in abject irrelevancy, where they’ve resided for the whole of their history in Atlanta.

bali

February 12th, 2012
11:03 pm

wow …what a terrible showing by the hometeam….really no class by the atlanta hawks….really wish they would move to a new city like the hockey team did….i can understand why other players do not want to come to atlanta….atlanta s superstars really suck joe johnson makes 120 million hard to believe anyone would pay so much for so little….josh smith an allstar..yea right…spring football and spring baseball sounds great to me …at least the players try…professional basketball really sucks

cedrick

February 12th, 2012
11:10 pm

Ok, its called adjustments and LD did none of that in time! LD should have pulled Marvin Williams in the first quarter, he should have pulled Zaza in the second to get more point production. Maybe LD should look at bringing Joe Johnson off the bench because if he does not hit his first couple of shots he vanishes early and often. The ASG should have done themselves a favor before the season started and located a real big man and other players who want to compete. Nothing against T-Mas and Stackhouse but they were out of a job for a reason. As long as these men flop like this the fans base is going to stay FAR away.

J.J.M.

February 12th, 2012
11:15 pm

im just curious what their excuse will be this time

Melvin Flowers Macon Ga.

February 12th, 2012
11:16 pm

The ESPN Sports Announcers Claim The Hawks Were A Desgraise To The Fans In Atlanta Plus It Might Be A Long Time Before They Have A National TV Game In A Long Time.
We Pay To Much Money To See These Guys Play Like a Bunch of Junior College.Players.
Now You See Why The Fans Don”t Fill The Arena At Phillips.
What do The Owners See Why Want They Make Trades, These Guys Stunk the Whole Night.
A Sell Out They Should Have Refunded Each Fan Back Their Hard Earned Money.
Make Some Trades Of Get The Hawks Of Of Atlanta.

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:18 pm

The reg season don’t really mean much other than seeding and Hawks have proved that they can beat the bulls and the heat if at full strength. I told ppl that the Hawks would beat the Magic when ppl said I was crazy. This is not the same team as last year. in the second rd last year the bulls won 4-2 it wasn’t that bad Joe and Jeff played well but remember our bench was Crawford, No back up PG, a new starting Jeff, Josh Powell,Joe smith, and Hilton Armstrong. This year we have real players to come and play and we are deep .It doesn’t matter how you get there its just about how well you play in the playoffs look at The NY G, They were not good, but they clicked when it mattered.

The Big Fat Blogger

February 12th, 2012
11:19 pm

Yep, should anyone be surprised by this? The Hawks do this every year, start off looking great at the beginning of the year and then take a downward spiral in the middle of the season, and then bounce back, and finally lay an egg in the playoffs…. Until ASG is replaced, Until we get a true Center in the paint, Until this team gets some n*ts and stop getting embarrassed on National TV we will be saying these same statements about this team (and other Georgia Teams for that manner) for years to come….. It was a painful game, thank Goodness for the Grammy’s (Even though it wasn’t much better)…….

Mark Bradley

February 12th, 2012
11:19 pm

I didn’t know that one of the owners went to the locker room at halftime, Nanny.

Me, I’d have gone home.

Mark Bradley

February 12th, 2012
11:21 pm

Belated kudos to Ron in Vegas.

And dinner with me is no treat, Edo River. Ask my daughters. (But thanks for the kind words all the same.)

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:23 pm

I really don’t get some of these comments. No the Hawks don’t have a big name but they have made improvements. The reason why the Hawks can’t get pass the 2nd rd is because when they play a different team they have not matched up well. Boston,CAVS,Magic( But wait we beat the Magic when we had a chance to prepare)

heartofdarkness

February 12th, 2012
11:24 pm

I’m surprised Erick Dampier didn’t give his jersey back and leave claiming he didn’t want to tarnish his legacy.

Nanny

February 12th, 2012
11:26 pm

Not sure if it is true, but it was reported by ESPN coming out of the half.

Cutty

February 12th, 2012
11:26 pm

The Hawks are stuck with Joe Johnson’s horrendous contract. Look at how he competed (or did not) tonight, compared to guys in which he is making more money. Josh Smith is a bum too!

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:27 pm

Hawks will be in the Eastern conference Finals trust me don’t get sucked into smoke in mirrors. Some teams are made for the regular season. Hawks can beat any team in the East in the playoffs

if... if... if

February 12th, 2012
11:29 pm

“This has nothing to do with Horford…”

Idiot.

Adam

February 12th, 2012
11:30 pm

Even though you all don’t realize it, Joe Johnson’s MVP run continued tonight.

He continues to own each and every one of you. This is not debatable.

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:30 pm

@anthony there is no excuses for the Bobcats to have better attendance than the Hawks we rank 23 and we are a top 10 team in the entire league so please don’t give me that

if... if... if

February 12th, 2012
11:32 pm

“This has nothing to do with Horford…”

SMH

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:33 pm

@Mark Bradly you feed to much into what a is lack of energy at home when the fans are dull and quiet. I heard ppl screaming when Bron made a shot nobodys said anything when Josh and Joe made shots early

Biff Pocoroba

February 12th, 2012
11:37 pm

Any truth to the rumor that the Hawks are bringing back Tree Rollins and Dan Roundfield next week to try and get a center? When the team is having to sell tickets on Groupon with free popcorn to try and get fans to come, you know they are a joke. Just sell the team, get rid of Josh Smith, and try again in about three years.

Stan

February 12th, 2012
11:45 pm

The Hawks problem is couching orlack of couching,After the game LD excuse we were not motivated, we were not focus, we did not have energy,
we got out played ot took back shot, tire of the excuses, what is he doing about it NOTHING. Takiing all bet what will he excuse be after next game

A Real Hawks Fan

February 12th, 2012
11:47 pm

@Biff if the Hawks are so bad the city needs to sell the Falcons, and Braves because neither has done better than the Hawks in the last 5 years

PALM BEACH BARON

February 12th, 2012
11:50 pm

Every time 1 of my Atlanta teams is on national TV they lay an egg and get blown out. When’s the last time the Falcons won on Monday night? Every time the Hawks have the nations attention on a nationally televised game they stink. The Braves – 14 division pennants and 1 ring. The Falcons got to the big game (SB) and got routed.
The hawks could be great – if ownership was willing to go after a true A-list center. But again, as it has been for years since the days of Kevin Willis playing center when he was a power forward, and claiming John Contract was a center when he refused to even step into the paint, we put a lineup on the floor that features no center. ZaZa is a klutz. He is a good backup – Horford is not a a center.
I look back to the saddest day in Atlanta sports history – the day they traded Wilkins – that was the one year we had a chance to get to the finals. That’s the day the Hawks died.
Until we get a center the other players are made to do things they can’t. Smith can not be expected to play center.
Trade Horford, Marvin “Bricklayer” Williams, K-Man and a 1st round pick for Howard. We’ll only be giving up one great player – Horford.

Draft history

February 12th, 2012
11:53 pm

Mark bradley: you wrote a good column this week showing that regular season doesnt matter just get hot at the end. We just need to get hot at the end of season. Shake up the roster via yrade and maybe we’re the team that catches lightning in a bottle

Mark Bradley

February 12th, 2012
11:54 pm

There’s no trade that’s going to make up for Horford’s absence.

Draft history

February 13th, 2012
12:01 am

Rent D12- thoughts???

Matt the Brave

February 13th, 2012
12:06 am

Everybody keeps saying we need to make change, but the sad truth of the matter is that no change is going to happen for the Hawks until the bleeding cow better known as the Atlanta Spirit Group is not the owner anymore. Apparently, they can’t even get selling the team right, so we are stuck with promotions from a losing staff for the head coach, the same players that are getting older and slower against better competition, and the same stupid draft picks that the old coaches and GMs wanted. (I mean, really? We cut our 2nd round pick from this year in the preseason. Why even draft him, then?) Don’t blame the fans for not wanting to come and see a poorly run franchise that puts on an awful show when money is extraordinarily tight for most of us.

Nique's suit t

February 13th, 2012
12:07 am

How do the knicks find a 20 point starting point guard from the d league scrap heap

Ron in Vegas

February 13th, 2012
12:08 am

Mark, any idea what was said by, or to, the owners today as part of the season ticket holders “town hall”…just curious if it will be reported.

Nique's suit tab

February 13th, 2012
12:10 am

And we get nothing from d league, nothing from draft, nothing from free agency and we ont have any starter close to averaging 20 pts a game!

Mark Bradley

February 13th, 2012
12:12 am

I heard Gearon Jr. was upbeat in the “town hall meeting” but I know no details.

Joe

February 13th, 2012
12:13 am

At the game tonight, 3rd home loss I was at that absolutely SUCKED…………grizz, 76ers and now this. As a season ticket holder went to a whatever with owner M. Gearon…….. while, he
speaks a good game, his product is awful. People come to games to see exciting stuff and this team so far has failed to deliver. Once the opposition gets a lead, this team lays efffing DOWN.
I’m done, so friigin depressed that i bought season tics to watch this bullsh$$, I’m gonna go watch golf.

Joe

February 13th, 2012
12:19 am

Yeah he was upbeat but so what, he’s a billionaire and the hawks suck

superiorblogman

February 13th, 2012
12:24 am

Listen Mark quit being so negative. You love writing articles about the team after this type of stuff. Don’t make me catch you in the streets in correct you.

Now, the Hawks simply need to blow this thing up starting with the front office. Sund, the ASG, Drew, Dominique and everyone else. I’m only gonna ask you once to find a exit politely.

The core

February 13th, 2012
12:25 am

Why does sund believe this core can win it all?

Joe

February 13th, 2012
12:25 am

And why does Osh think he’s an all-star, cry me a river, sure he can put up big numbers now and again but like tonight the dude was invisible. Coaches know, bad shots, lousy attitude, get you no where.