The Hawks are good, but just wait

Here’s a sobering thought, but only for the rest of the NBA: Despite much goodness this season for the Hawks, including their current streak of greatness with victories over the splendid likes of Detroit, New Orleans, Utah and Portland, they still have a long ways to go.

It gets better: They know it.

Said Joe Johnson, the Hawks’ extraordinary player who suddenly is operating at a level much higher than that, “We’ve got to get better in closing out quarters and in being aggressive and putting teams away when we’ve got them down. Those are things that we really have to work on.”

Let that sink in, especially since the Hawks have been adept at slaying the elite this season. Take Sunday at Philips Arena, for instance. With much help from Johnson’s 35 points, the Hawks won for a fifth straight time by cooling that previously hot Portland team with a 98-80 rout. They were energetic from start to finish against their long and athletic twins from the West.

As a result, the Hawks solidified their hold in the East on fourth place, which guarantees the last spot for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

It gets even better: The Hawks have prospered without Marvin Williams, who watched the likely end to his renaissance season after he damaged his back five games ago against Detroit. He has missed seven games overall. They’ve also survived missed games by Josh Smith (12), Mike Bibby (2) and Johnson (2).

Here’s where it gets worse: Folks are expecting too much from a Hawks team that has improved in victories during each of the five years that Mike Woodson has coached them. “No, people aren’t being realistic,” said Woodson, with one of the Hawks’ eight owners suing his peers, no true point guard until recently, the death of a player before a season and overwhelming youth. “Since we pushed the Celtics to seven games in the playoffs last season, expectations were flying high coming into this season. And I expect them to be high from a coach’s standpoint.

“There is no excuse for our basketball team not to compete on a night in and night out basis. We’ve done that pretty much this year. But I think sometimes people expect too much too soon. This team gradually has grown, but we’re not an elite team. Are we heading that direction? Yes.”

It’s just that, despite the Hawks’ 39th victory on Sunday after 37 last season, they remain a work in progress. So this is impressive: In the increasingly impatient NBA, the folks who count the most for the Hawks realize the truth.

That is, the Hawks are about where they should be.

“We’re not a veteran team right now, and if you watch young teams through the history of the NBA, they start off by first learning how to win at home,” said Michael Gearon Jr., one of those Hawks owners, whose team is 25-7 at home. They are brutal on the road, but only elite teams win there.

Then again, we just told you that the Hawks aren’t an elite team.

Not yet, anyway.

Video: T. Moore on NCAA tourney, baseball

40 comments Add your comment

BobbySurapptitious

March 20th, 2009
1:26 pm

Davenpoop, what the heck are you talking about? That type of scenario analysis is completely useless and definitely not “somewhat realistic”. You’re dealing with all kindsa space-time continuum stuff there

Andy

March 18th, 2009
11:23 am

Yea, I guess you are right “Sam from the Swats”. “Marvin’s stats are the same as last year”.

I just checked his 3pt% and you’re EXACTLY right. 10% last year vs. 36% this year. 10 3PT attempts vs. 152 this year. I guess the 142 other attempts that counted as FGA last year were the ones he took 1 inch inside the 3PT line.

Sorry I didn’t do my research.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 18th, 2009
7:41 am

I think someone else pointed it out earlier, but the Hawks traded Rasheed Wallace for Josh Smith. So that wouldn’t have worked out.

Here’s a more realistic fantasy Hawks roster: PG Chris Paul, SG Joe Johnson, SF Ronnie Brewer, PF Josh Smith, C Al Jefferson. That could have somewhat realistically happened, if the Hawks used their #6 pick in 2004 on Jefferson instead of Childress, their top 4 pick in 2005 on Paul instead of Marvin Williams, and their almost certainly lower than #5 pick in 2006 on Brewer instead of Shelden Williams. (I would have plugged Rudy Gay into that spot but it’s highly unlikely they would be picking in the top 7 in 2006 with CP3, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson on the roster already.)

Or you could go with this lineup: PG Rajon Rondo, SG Joe Johnson, SF Danny Granger, PF Josh Smith, C Al Jefferson. Use the #6 pick in ‘04 on Jefferson, the 2005 pick on Granger (although that would have certainly met with just as much opposition on draft day as picking Marvin did), and the 2006 pick on Rondo, who went 16 picks after Shelden Williams.

Of course, with either one of those lineups the Hawks would probably be a top 2 team in the East, since not only would they be much better but the Celtics would be much worse, not having had Rondo and/or Jefferson (the centerpiece of the Garnett trade) on their roster.

But whatever. I like this team.

RA

March 18th, 2009
6:36 am

SlimG,

Everyone struggles against the likes of Boston and LA. Having future hall of famers on your team, tends to give you an edge over just about anyone.

SlimG

March 17th, 2009
11:34 am

Still need a 5man to help al and josh. We can win with this team, but our big 3(hortford, johnson, and smith) must be on the top of their game. Until we can go to Jsmooth on a consistent basis for buckets, we will struggle against the likes of boston or la. Go hawks!

Sam from the Swats

March 17th, 2009
10:22 am

Renaissance season? Marvin’s stats are the same as last year, even after adding the 3 point shot.

Ed

March 16th, 2009
8:42 pm

Enter your comments here

Snowman

March 16th, 2009
8:17 pm

Whammer, I like that suggestion (JS to the garden section). I wonder how Jeff Schultz would like if the people of Atlanta constantly ripped him apart about his work and his writing. Constantly suggesting, aren’t there better writers we can replace him with? He is NOT doing that team any favors in the things he says. Sometimes I wonder if Jeff should be boycotted (I am just asking…and yes, I am a believer of the freedom of speech)? The players read that crap Jeff writes and believe me it is NOT doing coach any favors.

Someone sent in a earlier entry that Jeff should go rip the other teams apart and their coach and spare our guys…what’s up with that anyway?

Why would you you side with the 23 year old player against the 50 year old coach and the authority figure of the team?…Do rules and order no longer matter in team sports? Well, ok, ok enough of that (I digressed). Good job again Terence and good idea Whammer (the garden section…lol…look out Azaleas here comes Jeff)…

RA

March 16th, 2009
6:58 pm

Hey For Real, if indeed that is your real name, I don’t know what team you’ve been watching, but you don’t beat Detroit, Utah, Portland, and New Orleans unless you can put a good team away. Listen, they had plenty of chances to lose those games, they didn’t. Look, I know that it’s easier to be senical. It’s easier to believe that this is the same old bunch of has beens and never-will-bees that have broken our hearts again and again, but a wise man once said that it is “better to trust and be betrayed than never to trust at all.” I believe in this team. I always have and even if they disappoint me, I’d rather feel that than number myself among the timid souls who believe nothing, feel nothing, and aspire to nothing.

wxwax

March 16th, 2009
5:40 pm

Interesting take on Acie, CONZY. I’ll look for that next time he plays. Thanks.

for real, the Hawks would be happy with a first round win in the playoffs. Anything more would be unexpected gravy. They’re making measured progress with a young team. Obviously, some folks want instant success and those are the people who are frustrated with Woody.

But NBA history would suggest that the maturity and devotion to winning strategies required of successful teams comes slowly to most players, and not at all to some. It isn’t just about talent, it’s about disciplined and passionate play. The young Hawks players seem to be learning this, albeit in fits and starts.