The Hawks won their fifth game in a row last night. I can’t believe that happened. My excitement over this fact is quite tempered, however, by the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss album I’m listening to now (it’s pretty somber…great, but somber). Anyway, back to the Hawks…
There are a number of reasons that the Hawks are hitting their stride. For one, they’ve had some consistency in personnel. Mike Woodson would’ve been fired this off season by many other teams, even though it was clear that he took over a MAJOR rebuilding project. But he wasn’t fired. He was allowed to continue to build what should have taken 3-5 years to build–a focus on defense and athleticism.
There is also consistency on the court. The only new players to this year’s team are the draft picks (and they’ve made HUGE contributions). The core of this team has been together for 3-4 years, and they’re figuring out each other’s nuances. On a team full of guys that haven’t won anything before (in the pros, at least), this chemistry is huge.
This team is also extremely versatile. Anthony Johnson runs the point, but can defer to Joe Johnson at any time and know that the team is in great hands. Anthony’s effect on this team cannot be overestimated. However, at the same time, a quality backup is being groomed behind him in Acie Law. The rookie point guard has his typical inconsistent, up and down games like any rookie point does. But the flashes of athletic brilliance that he shows are a harbinger of what’s ahead.
The same athleticism that Law exhibits is perhaps the Hawks’ biggest strength overall. Every man can play at least two positions because they are so physically gifted. Josh Smith can play any position from the 2 to the 5, because he has the speed and agility to cover a guard and the shot-blocking/overall defensive ability to cover a center (albeit a smaller center…I’m not saying he could shut down Tim Duncan or anything). And that’s just one example. All of this athletic versatility gives Coach Woodson a number of options for the structure of his rotation.
Furthermore, the Hawks are a very entertaining group–to both the basketball novice and purist. They have the athletes to run the fast break and shatter backboards, but they also have the big men to play the post-up game with the best of them and the sharpshooters to hit threes. They’ve got scores of energy, which should be expected from a group of guys with an average age of 25.
It’s a shame that the Hawks do not make one appearance on national TV this season. Every time the Heat embarrass themselves and the league on ABC the remainder of this season (which, judging by the schedule so far, should be about 96 more times), David Stern is going to ask someone to kick him in the nuts while wishing he had chosen the Hawks instead. Thank God for FSN South!