Atlanta wins a battle of Coming Up Small squads. Likely doesn't portend anything positive.
I still don’t think the Hawks have a big season ahead of them without Al Horford on the court. But, they can still beat up on the franchise that represents the only city that Atlanta has defeated in a major sport’s championship game.
Just the other day, valmikcle was telling me how the Cavaliers were looking all right. Probably not good enough to make the playoffs, but trending positive. He also noted that young Kyrie Irving was coming along swimmingly. (In addition to being a long suffering Mistake by the Laker, my fellow blogger and all-around great American is also an unapologetic Duke-bag.)
All evidence to the contrary tonight. The Hawks shredded the Cavs, winning by 27 at home in the Highlight Factory (which often doubles as the Lowlight Factory). I won’t belabor this point, as in the world of Coming Up Small, that would be fool-on-fool violence—especially given that the Hawks have played only two 2011 playoff teams since Horford went out (and lost to one of them, the Sixers, by 14).
I don’t really see big things in store for either of these squads this year—aside from their odds in the draft lottery.
In this uproarious clip that multiple friends sent me last week, Charles Barkley unknowingly unburdens himself during a TNT broadcast of the Hawks’ pitiful, triple-overtime loss to what was essentially a developmental league team fielded by the Miami Heat. During a break in the action, Sir Charles discusses his success on the Weight Watchers plan and then moves on to panning the Hawks, characterizing them as just a “bunch of nice guys.”
Barkley’s comments cut not just to one of the main facets behind the Hawks’ enduring mediocrity—the other being the franchise tying all its money up in second tier, aging “star” Joe Johnson—but it might also explain a pervasive issue with all Atlanta franchises. I am not sure I’ve felt a sense of urgency with an Atlanta team aside from the 1991 Braves and the 1998 Falcons, two teams that ended up in their respective league’s championship games against what was written in everyone’s script (including their own). There’s a lack of fire that seems to infect all Atlanta teams and all its players.
The last, truly intense, seemingly unhinged competitor I can recall was Jesse Tuggle, the standout Falcons linebacker who did it all on the field and made me feel like he might not be the nicest person in the world off it. (His eyes were pretty close together, so he always looked like he was glaring.) I’m not saying we need a Ray Lewis (he allegedly murdered someone, by the way), a Ndamukong Suh, or a James Harrison—but someone with an unmistakeable competitive fire burning in them would be nice.
Maybe a Patrick Willis-type? Or an Osi Umenyiora? A Pujols? Or even a smug fuck like Kobe?
The Hawks' MVP, from my perspective, is done for the majority of the 2011-2012 season. What does that mean for the Hawks?
Last night, in the first quarter of a game on the road against the Indiana Pacers, Al Horford tore his left pectoral muscle. He’s out for at least three months.
I don’t want to be dramatic, but I’m pretty sure that means the Hawks’ fan base will miss out on watching the team’s annual performance of getting to the second round of the playoffs and bombing out.
Last year, Horford led the team in player efficiency rating. He was second to Josh Smith thus far this year. Joe Johnson makes more than five and a half million dollars per season than Horford, but I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made that the latter is a bigger cog in any potential Hawks playoff run. (Update, Jan 16: The Hawks one their first two games after the Indiana game where Horford was injured, beating the decidedly non playoff-bound Bobcats and TImberwolves, respectively.)
I’m drained from another exhausting one-and-done Falcons playoff season. Now I feel like I might not have to waste too much time on the Hawks this year. That said, this may be a boon. Maybe I’ll take up a hobby with my spare time.
With so much money tied up in Johnson, it’s not like the Hawks were going to be able to get the player they need to get over the hump through free agency. Maybe they’ll win the lottery.