Watch the NBA finals. You’ll see why the Hawks aren’t there

Westbrook, LeBron, Durant: All of them better than the Hawks' best player. (AP photo)

Westbrook, LeBron, Durant: All of them are better than the Hawks' best player. (AP photo)

I’ll admit it. I thought it, and I even wrote it. With Derrick Rose gone and with Chris Bosh hurting, the Hawks might have had a chance to make serious noise in these NBA playoffs — had they contrived to survive Round 1, which they didn’t. But now I’m watching the Heat and the Thunder have at one another in their made-for-the-Weather-Channel finals, and I’m thinking …

Nah.

I know, I know. The Hawks managed to beat Oklahoma City in their one meeting this regular season, and they even beat Miami in Miami on the second day of the calendar year. But could anyone — and here I’m talking mostly to myself — have seriously seen the local NBA franchise giving either of these a real postseason run? With all parties at full strength, could the Hawks have taken even a game off the Heat or the Thunder?

I know, I know. Here you’re saying, “The Hawks aren’t as good as the teams playing for the NBA title — this is news?” Well, no. But I’m guessing we’ll be hearing very soon that the Hawks have decided to give it one more go with their Core Four, and I can’t see staying that course having much upside. As is, the Hawks aren’t quite talented enough or committed enough to matter.

The Heat and the Thunder are apt to be sorting out championships for a long while. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are 23 — as noted previously, that’s younger than the young Hawks hope Jeff Teague — and LeBron James is barely a year older than Josh Smith. Yes, the Hawks have collected a handful of gifted players, but none among them is a superstar. Miami and OKC have two superstars apiece, and that’s not counting Chris Bosh.

And it’s not just the players — it’s also the organizations. The Heat have Pat Riley as patriarch; the Thunder are run by the rising star Sam Presti. The Hawks … well, they may or may not be in the market for a new general manager. Rick Sund’s contract is due to lapse as month’s end, and nobody’s sure whether he’ll stay in place. If he doesn’t, are the Hawks apt to go hire a hot shot from some other organization?

Let’s ask ourselves this: What happened when this team last had a key opening? They hired Larry Drew, who’d been Mike Woodson’s assistant for six seasons, to replace the fired Woodson. Drew has been neither bust nor smash, which is the story of the Hawks. They’ve settled in as a plus-.500 team, and nothing about this crew suggests that an upward spike is at hand. Yes, they finished with the fourth-best record in the East with Horford gone for 55 games, but that’s also what the Hawks do: They offer hope only to snatch it away.

We saw in Round 1 the difference between the regular season and the playoffs. Doc Rivers didn’t worry about resting his aging Celtics, while Drew left his starters out too long as the lead began to dwindle in the pivotal Game 2. (That was the night Rajon Rondo didn’t play due to suspension.) By Game 4, the Hawks — even with Smith and Horford back from their respective injuries — were back to their wretched habit of getting blown out. They lost that night by 22 points after trailing by 37.

To their credit, the Hawks mustered stouter efforts in Games 5 and 6. But the lasting impression of the Hawks — under both Woodson and Drew — is of a team that never has fully believed it’s cut from championship cloth. It knows it has no LeBron, no Durant, no Dwyane Wade, no Westbrook. The Core Four, together since 2007, knows full well that it’s capable of going so far but no further, and it also knows that its management pales alongside Miami’s or OKC’s or San Antonio’s or Boston’s or Chicago’s or the Lakers’ or …

OK, you get the point. You get the point better than I do. Because there are some nights — like March 3, when the Hawks beat the Thunder without Horford and Joe Johnson — when I think, “You know, if this team played like that every night …”

But that’s the thing: This team doesn’t play like that every night, and as constituted it never will. And I can’t really see this front office, with Sund or without, making the bold moves needed to step up in class. I see only more of the Core, of which we’ve already seen too much.

By Mark Bradley

159 comments Add your comment

crose714

June 18th, 2012
3:43 pm

First? Afternoon Mark!

Jon Koncak

June 18th, 2012
3:44 pm

Bring back Jon Koncak.

crose714

June 18th, 2012
3:48 pm

Unfortunately, I believe the odds that the Hawks could win a playoff series against a caliber team like the Thunder or the Heat are the same as the Braves winning an American League East series. Just not going to happen.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 18th, 2012
3:49 pm

Can’t win in the NBA without superstars. The longer the Hawks keep this team together, the more they continue to prove they don’t care about winning titles.

With that said they are still sadly the best team in Atlanta until the Braves or Falcons decide to show up in the playoffs.

Matt.A

June 18th, 2012
3:54 pm

It is pretty crazy to see the mistakes this organization has made and I’m sure will continue to do so in the future. Drafting M Williams instead of Chris Paul, trading Jordan Crawford & a 1st rounder for Kirk H, then only to discover Teague can actually play as opposed to ride the bench. Hiring an assistant of the coach that couldnt get the job done to begin with just to save some money? The ownership of the Hawks is satisfied with being average, that just doesnt make sense

DIT

June 18th, 2012
3:56 pm

“Why aren’t the Hawks in the NBA Finals?”

This is a trick question right?

Slimjr

June 18th, 2012
3:56 pm

No doubt the braves are by a mile the worst professional team in Atlanta!

They also have the worst coach!

Rutherford Seydel's bubonic chronic

June 18th, 2012
3:58 pm

It’s ownership, plain and simple. It starts at the top. Until that changes, ain’t nothing gonna change.

Heisenberg

June 18th, 2012
4:00 pm

nice try….good game

juvenal

June 18th, 2012
4:01 pm

would have drafted better drawing names out of a hat….

StanCo

June 18th, 2012
4:01 pm

Such a shame we have ownership and management like we do for both the Hawks and the Braves. This is the results we expect, and the best we can expect, from both teams!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pitiful and Very disappointing!!

Ghost of 'Nique's Past

June 18th, 2012
4:03 pm

Put EVERYONE on the trading block. Hear every offer and stockpile draft picks. Try to sign Brandon Bass and Brandon Jennings who are both free agents this year. No superstar is going to come here, so try to obtain as many good players as possible through free agency and the draft. What am I saying. The Hawks will find a way to screw this up.

lenzo G

June 18th, 2012
4:09 pm

jeje!!!!!!!!! for threeeeee

Blow It Up

June 18th, 2012
4:09 pm

Looking forward to first- or second-round playoff exits in 2013, 2014, 2015 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. It adds a measure of predictability to my life.

mwb

June 18th, 2012
4:14 pm

worst sports town ever and will continue to be. Braves,hawks,falcons,bulldogs and GT.

Priest Lauderdale

June 18th, 2012
4:20 pm

Bring back the GIANT! He should be able to rim protect better than Mr Camel toe? Huh?

Stick a fork in them

June 18th, 2012
4:21 pm

Fredi for President!

drmaryb .(*_*).

June 18th, 2012
4:26 pm

Tragic!

Poop is wrong as usual, but it’s funny that he thinks the Hawks are better than the Braves and Falcons when it’s just plain easier to “win” in the joke that is the NBA post-season. The Hawks have a roster of BEEFCAKES with ZERO BRAINS!

BYE, JOSH!!!

Mark: Buy a Clue

June 18th, 2012
4:27 pm

Hawks have been and continue to be a write off for the seven one percenter’s (BASG)

Ball Busting Atlanta Spirit Group

Peter

June 18th, 2012
4:27 pm

They need a go too guy.. JJ is NOT ONE. They need a center, not a Power Forward playing the position.and that is just for starters.

They need a real small forward that can supply offensive punch.. That means getting rid of Marvin Williams.

The Real Thunder Dan

June 18th, 2012
4:32 pm

Forget Koncak, bring back Dan Roundfield.

Mark: Buy a Clue

June 18th, 2012
4:39 pm

Atlanta is a sports town? Go figure….

Sage of Bluesland

June 18th, 2012
4:41 pm

Mark Bradley finally understands the importance of “organizations”.

Just wow.

Too bad he didn’t understand that when he kept defending the embarrassing incompetence of Pete Babcock.

Too bad there isn’t real competition in this town for the newspaper.

Too bad there are still so many sheep who will continue to subsidize these wretched sports organizations Atlanta is saddled with. Want real change? There is only one way: cut the funds; funds they do not deserve.

Geaux Tigers

June 18th, 2012
4:44 pm

“Watch the NBA finals. You’ll see why the Hawks aren’t there”

The short answer is because they are the Hawks.

Sam

June 18th, 2012
4:46 pm

One of the best articles of yours I have ever read Mr. Bradley. Got me all fired up – against the Hawks!

THUNDER STICKS

June 18th, 2012
4:46 pm

1)ownership (def of dysfunctional)
2)GM -major misses in the draft, signing extensions that cripple the team(m williams and joe johnson).

ROD

June 18th, 2012
4:48 pm

Mark two words for you, JOE JOHNSON!!!! Until the tin man finds a heart, the Hawks will never win. He’s not a leader, he’s inconsistent, and just an average player. I’m old school, I’m not use to this kind of play in today’s NBA. Bring back BIRD, MJ, MAGIC, and others. Any team should be able to win in this league.

BOB

June 18th, 2012
4:51 pm

“like March 3, when the Hawks beat the Thunder without Horford and Joe Johnson ”

And there, in a phrase, Bark Madley has captured the essence of the matter. The Gearon LLC has from day 1 focused on the wrong players to build around, albeit for different reasons. Joe has cost the Hawks both in terms of cash and credibility more than they can ever recover and frankly, Gearon et al will maintain to the signing of the sales agreement that signing him twice was not a mistake.

With All Pro Al, they have a pedigreed player who has openly clashed with both team mates and management about his role on the team yet is treated in some press accounts as both a model citizen as well as a team leader. (Just one question: how hard has this guy worked on his body since arriving to better survive the physical rigors of playing center?)

The Hawks’ internal politics are what prevents them from moving to the top more than any perceived lack of talent.

welikebaseball2

June 18th, 2012
4:53 pm

Ugh. Ownership – clueless & cheap. Head coach – average (at best) & easily outcoached on any given night (you get what you pay for). Roster – decent enough to make the playoffs & inconsistent enough to be blown right out of said playoffs.

Brownie

June 18th, 2012
4:54 pm

Answering this blog question is essentially a lay-up…..they’re just not talented enough, well-coached enough, or motivated enough.

However, I’ll offer a different viewpoint for everyone to slam……this team under ASG has shown tremendous success over the past few years!!

1. they elected to tear down the roster to start over – succeeded.
2. they drafted more talented players than previously here – succeeded.
3. they focused on improving their play and record year over year – wildly succeeded.
4. they were driven to make the playoffs – yep, succeeded year after year
5. they wanted to win in the playoffs – another success (although not this year)

Let’s face it, compared to the incredibly dismal performance by all of the Hawks teams at least since the ’80s for the most part, this core group has been very good…..just not exceptional. I would wager that 8 years ago or so, none of the Hawks ownership/management even considered winning a championship as a possibility – let’s just keep improving to show our fans that we’re trying to make headway and to enjoy some ever-expanding success.

Funny how some success changes our definition of success.

Now having said all of that, the Hawks have absolutely plateaued. Along with the above-described successes, ownership’s failures have been overpowering: horrible draft-day decisions, sub-standard coaching talent, resigning limited players to big contracts, etc. They stuck to their “core” group plan way too long.

Nothing they can really do now to fix this in order to win a championship in the next 5 years or so. JJ’s contract is suffocating. ONLY thing they can do to improve at all is to trade Josh Smith – he doesn’t want to be here anyway, and he has proven he is not a true leader.

OK, enough of this…when does football start?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Mark: Buy a Clue

June 18th, 2012
5:01 pm

News Flash Mark: Mr Blank is already looking for a replacement QB. He offered to make a block buster trade with Denver to acquire Peyton Manning, word on the street..

Hunting Dawg

June 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

Who was this article about??? A professional basketball team in Atlanta??? Didn’t know there was one. Guess you learn something new everyday!

LakeDawg

June 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

Who are the Hawks?

RealTAlk

June 18th, 2012
5:03 pm

I think we should hang the Atlanta Spirit LLC on Peachtree. It would be Bigger than a World Championship Parade. What a Bunch of Clowns. I am 32 and from Atlanta. I can’t get over that they ran off Hockey for the last time in our lifetime.What a bunch of Carpet Bagger Clowns!!

Steve

June 18th, 2012
5:04 pm

“Mark: Buy A Clue” = Moron.

welikebaseball2

June 18th, 2012
5:05 pm

Ugh. Ownership – clueless & cheap. GM – the guy no one else wanted & likely the only GM ownership could persuade to step into this mess for peanuts. Head coach – the walking discount prone to be outcoached on any given night. Roster – decent enough to make the playoffs consistently yet inconsistent enough to be blown right out of said playoffs.

Gary

June 18th, 2012
5:09 pm

Mark, if we don’t have a bona fide star, why are we paying the salary for one? The hope for this team lies not in its players, or their coach. Its the ownership that can’t get it together and develop a plan for producing a winner. Until the owners can agree to focus on doing whatever it takes to produce a real winner, including starting with an experienced GM who knows how to build a playoff contender, all we can hope is to host a couple of playoff games in the first round each year. Right now we have a playground team, not a playoff contender.

Ted M

June 18th, 2012
5:10 pm

yep …same ole same. The Hawks have to wait till JJ contract is up to begin the rebuilding process.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 18th, 2012
5:12 pm

“Poop is wrong as usual, but it’s funny that he thinks the Hawks are better than the Braves and Falcons when it’s just plain easier to “win” in the joke that is the NBA post-season.”

Fake drmaryb (pretty obvious that is not the real drmaryb), in the last 6 years we have seen the 83 win St. Louis Cardinals and the 9 win New York Giants win championships. Name one NBA team that was one or two games above .500 in the regular season and caught fire and won it all in the postseason, at least in a non-lockout shortened year. Didn’t think so. You have to be good to win in the NBA playoffs.

VinceVanGo

June 18th, 2012
5:16 pm

Here’s my suggestion for the Hawks with limited resources available. Trade Josh Smith now for the highest 1st round pick they can get. Trade Marvin Williams and their 2nd round pick hopefully for a 1st round pick. Then use their three 1st round picks to start rebuilding. Trade Joe Johnson in the next year or two as his contract winds down. As they would say in the auto repair industry, this “core” has many leaks and needs to be replaced, not repaired. Build around Teague and Horford(as a power forward).

Mark Bradley

June 18th, 2012
5:17 pm

Belated kudos to crose.

moorman

June 18th, 2012
5:19 pm

yall STILL dont get it………….the nba is run by david sterns……..its MARKETING…………….they pick what players go where and the playoffs……………

moorman

June 18th, 2012
5:21 pm

the nba doesnt have a OVERRIDING reason to “make” the hawks a championship team…………its M.A.R.K.E.T.I.N.G. no different than W.W.E. .WRESTLING……….

moorman

June 18th, 2012
5:22 pm

its ALMOST football season, and the NBA M.A.R.K.E.T.I.N.G. is STILL in full effect. they drag the playoffs and finals out over 3 months………..

ShoNuff

June 18th, 2012
5:29 pm

OMG Matt.A @ 354pm today!!!!! I’ve been screaming that all year!!!! We have dug ourselves into a hole and the ONLY way out is actually blow this team up and stay in that hole for a couple of years.

ATLtodolavida

June 18th, 2012
5:33 pm

The Hawks have been the best men’s professional team in Atlanta for the past 3 or 4 years, though.

ATLtodolavida

June 18th, 2012
5:34 pm

Enter your comments here

Gene

June 18th, 2012
5:34 pm

If you think about it. The Hawks haven’t had a winning coach, much less an experienced coach since Lenny Wilkens. After that they either hired a college coach or an assistant coach who has NEVER been a head coach. They need to stop hiring these “newbies” and hire someone established so they can light a fire underneath them. We have suffered long enough!!!!!

Spyro

June 18th, 2012
5:36 pm

“I’m old school, I’m not use to this kind of play in today’s NBA. Bring back BIRD, MJ, MAGIC, and others. Any team should be able to win in this league.”

So… you say any team should be able to win, but you want to go back to the times where only like three teams had a shot?