Never really bought into it last year. Not after the 60 win season. Not after sweeping up the “Greatest Month in NBA History”. Not after seeing four starters from the same squad all be named to the All-Star team for the first time ever. Which, and not to be a total hater, was really more of a commentary on the general crumminess of the Eastern Conference rather than the transcendent brilliance of Atlanta. I mean, c’mon, Budenholzer coached the All-Stars, his entire team came off the bench (I can just tune in to a Hawks game if I want to!), and the whole corporate family-friendly event fell down into the next sub-basement of lame. Well, at least Zach was kinda cool.
I don’t know why this was the case. Maybe part of it was a rejection of the concept of Atlanta being some kind of “Spurs East” where the strength of the system eclipsed the individual talents of the players. Maybe it was a secondary rejection of anyone who felt comfortable thinking the Atlanta Hawks could come close to rivaling the San Antonio Spurs in any way (how about taking a little paycut Paul?). Or maybe it just came down to me being totally unfair to these guys and writing them off for never having any kind of game-changing superstar or turn-up player who would elevate the whole team to a truly can’t-miss-TV level (although shoutout to the Hawks for revolutionizing the emoji game and introducing the world to the beautiful face of Kyle Korver)
Now, Atlanta did have a pretty big breakout player for their squad last year. Admittedly this was less in the vein of the traditional “breakout” Jimmy Butler type, who makes a huge leap in his third or fourth year as hist comfortability playing at NBA speed coagulates with his growing into his physical prime. Na. Instead, the Hawks got 28 year old Demare Carroll suddenly turning his trade-mark junk yard dog defense into an all-around game that included 40% shooting from three and some crazy new off the dribble offense and play-making ability. For a player that old to transform himself like that in his 8th season in the league?? Mazel Tov!
Welllllllll, except he’s gone. Because over the summer, division rivals Orlando Magic threw a pretty aggressive offer sheet at Paul Millsap and the Hawks were forced to match, allowing the Toronto Drakes (shout out Grantland!) to swoop in and steal Mr. Carroll on a four year $60 million contract. And, even after picking up Tiago Spilitter from the Spurs and Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks (PREACH!! Leggo Jerian!) the Hawks are going to be lucky to come even close to the heights they were flying last year. Lolz.
Don’t get me wrong. Paying Paul is a far better decision than trying to re-up on a 29 year old Carroll coming off a serious knee injury. And yes, the Hawks had the second best record in the NBA next year, but that shit is regression central (I SAID I WOULDN’T DO REGRESSIONS) when you consider that the East is slowly getting better, the Hawks lost their best lockdown defender, and already had the point differential of a team much closer to finishing in the mid 50s in wins. Throw in an aging Kyle Korver and the not-quite-junkyard-aspect of Tim Hardaway on the other side of the court (I guess people in London like Timmy too!), well then have fun comparing yourself to Golden State next season.
On offense? Man I’m just not excited. Again, I’m biased, I’ll admit it. But I don’t think these guys have the socring pop or star power to be more entertaining than a league average team. Sure, it’ll be cool to have Splitter and let Horford play a few minutes per game at the 4 spot (loved that limited three point stroke last season). And yes, Jeff Teague is almost always underrated, though not nearly to the same degree as a Conley. It’s sad to say, but the best part of this team’s offense in Kent Bazemore bench celebrations may have just gone out the window cus they’re now going to need him on the floor. Hol’ Hol’ HOLD ME BACK!!
Look the Hawks will be a playoff team either way. But in the same way I skipped the Grizz, I’m skipping them too. These guys were a nightmare handling the Nets in the postseason last year for chrissakes and if I wasn’t tuning in then, I don’t know what’s much different now.
As for everything else about the great city of Atlanta, what’s not to love?