Hawks Hot On NFL Falcons’ Tails In ATL

HANG TIME MIDWEST – The Atlanta Hawks and their fans (hey, they know who they are) probably are too busy enjoying this nine-victories-in-10-tries ride to focus on teams other than the one they’re facing that night. But if they wanted to, hoo boy, could they have some laughs at the Los Angeles Lakers’ expense.

While Lakersland wrings its hands over its glamour team’s 9-11 start, the Hawks are flying below pretty much everyone’s radar at 12-5. That puts them third in the Eastern Conference, slotting in where we might normally expect to see the Boston Celtics or the Indiana Pacers.

Even as the Lakers were going through their massive offseason makeover – adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, among others – in pursuit of an insta-contender, the Hawks were undertaking a more traditional tear-down-and-rebuild. Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, two central pieces of a squad that made five straight playoff appearances, were traded away more for salary-cap maneuverability than talent returned. New Atlanta GM Danny Ferry appeared to just be getting going.

Now he and the Hawks might be closer to a destination than they could have predicted. Coach Larry Drew, whose job security was bandied about during a 2-3 start, sounded in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story like he hadn’t seen this coming.

“I knew these guys as individuals,” Drew said. “I knew what their skill level and their talent was. The big question was, would it all fit? Would they mesh together?”

The offense, with Drew opting to speed things up now that the “iso-Joe” focus through Johnson is gone, still is coming along. The Hawks rank just 13th in offensive rating (104.6) and are 28th in offensive rebounding, while making only 69.6 percent of their free throws.

But defensively, Atlanta is a unit. Sixth in defensive rating, second in opponents’ turnover percentage (16.5 percent), all the while giving away points through fouls and free throws at a stingy pace (Hawks opponents average only 20.4 FTA).

Point guard Jeff Teague ranks 10th in assists percentage. Al Horford already has played more games than he did in 2011-12 (torn pectoral muscle), at a higher level (16.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg) than in his first five seasons. Then there’s Josh Smith, finally looking like a cornerstone player even as he heads toward unrestricted free agency. Smith is making more 3-pointers (38.1 percent) while taking fewer, his blocked shots are back above 2.0 and he’s enjoying himself so much that signing elsewhere might not appeal to him the way it once might have. As Smith told the AJC’s Jeff Schultz:

“No disrespect to anybody else. But when you’re willing to do stuff [together] off the court, it creates a different kind of bond. Guys really care for each other. It makes us want to help each other out on the defensive end that much more.”

And to think, it’s all happening without Howard, the All-Star center Atlanta coveted but a fellow who has his hands full now – and his freedom looming – out West.

If the Atlanta native wants to add the Hawks to his short list of possible destinations for 2013-14, it will be a different club than the one he and others anticipated a few months ago.

23 Comments

  1. qwerty says:

    Atlanta doesn not need a point guard because they have a quality back court with the skill and experience of Lou Williams and Devin Harris and there is a lot of energy and potential in Jeff Teague who i believe will be an awesome point gaurd soon. Not to mention he’s already a better point gaurd then what a lot of teams have. What the Hawks really need is a tall and quality center. Al and Josh are both playing positions that they are not tall enough to play even though they have still played well at those positions. If the hawks can land Howard or any other great center in the league then Horford can finally be a power forward and Smith can finally be a small forward. They were finally be balanced at basically every position with great depth off the bench

  2. jose machado says:

    the hawks are going well, to soon yet, but a good team to watch and i hope they can maintain this level of play, waiting forward for tonight game against the heat, it´ll be a good game for sure.

  3. underrated hawks says:

    the hawks have the most underrated back court with a lot of athletic ability and energy in Jeff Teague, a lot of scoring and expirence from Lou Williams, and a mix of both from Devin Harris. The hawks have probably the deepest front courts in the NBA with Horford, Smith, Zaza, Johnson, and more. They could make a deep run in the playoffs this year but i dont know if they can make it but if they can get a true quality center and then move horford up to power forward and Smith up to small forward where they were both supposed to be when they got to the NBA then they can definatly be a contender when they get that true center

  4. The Spaz says:

    When has Marvin Williams been central to anything?

  5. karoLT says:

    I love this HAWKS team better than Last years…. Josh, AL & Teague carrying the load
    Lets go HAWKS

  6. Jumppong says:

    if Dwight go to atlanta hoping that would be a great fit.. not in the lakers where every body didnt know what to do

  7. HAWKSFLYINGUNDERRADAR says:

    Way to go,Hawks. You guys are on the right track. Much respect.

  8. Jorge says:

    I believe the hawks have had a solid season. I believe they should chase cp3 not dwight, seeming that al and josh already have a good front court. They should chase a good small foward too. Next year I see them at 2 or 3 and maybe eastern finals if they get cp3 heck maybe even finals, but this year i see them 4 or 5 hopefully 2nd round. Either way the guys are playing great

    • ATL Fan says:

      The Hawks big problem is size, that’s why howard would be the best option for our team. Al is definitely a power forward who’s forced to play center, and Josh is more of a small forward then a power forward. If we get a legit center, like Howard, the who dynamic of our team shifts from being undersized to extremely big at each front court position. And any Hawks fan certainly remembers the Mike Woodson days where he refused to play Jeff Teague, and no one wants to go back to him riding the bench now that he is definitely starter material. Even though CP3 is great, I’d rather have Howard.

    • HAWKSFLYINGUNDERRADAR says:

      I concur. Big men in today’s NBA is overrated. Definitely should go after CP3 and get that solid 3.

  9. Noel117-CelticsAllDay- says:

    Smith will go to the celtics hahaha =)

  10. Melo Fellow says:

    good for the hawks i did not know they were doing so well this season.

  11. sixers fan says:

    wow i did not know how well they are doing lately

  12. AtlHawksGuy says:

    I believe we could be a 3rd or 4th seed this year. Its all about avoiding injuries. Playoffs, i think we could be condenters in the east, possibly eastern conference finals. Gotta stay focused and keep playing hard. Josh is our star now, and if he continues this play, we are gonna do big things. Go hawks

  13. manny says:

    I agree that its amazing to see how Atlanta is playing without two starters. Regular season doesnt mean anything and cavaliers lakers boston chicago Dallas and miami have shown that The last team to win it all with the best regular season record was the Detroit pistons.

  14. Fabrizio says:

    More of the same stuff ? When will people admit that they were wrong? That the Hawks didn’t gave a step back when dealing players for Cap Space. So if we traded Joe Johnson, he is overrated and overpaid, the true all-star player in Atlanta is Horford and maybe Josh Smith, they always deserved it more than Joe.
    The Hawks are a better team now, a balanced roster of 12-15 good players worth a lot more than 1 or 2 all-stars, the Lakers is the perfect example. Maybe Atlanta didn’t reach the contender level yet, but the Clippers and the Grizzlies are the real contenders, because they have a deep roster, not the Lakers or the Pacers, so i think Atlanta is on the right track.
    I don’t really think Atlanta needs Howard for the next season, Horford is an all-star this year, thats a fact, we should spend the cap space at great PG and then next year, fight for the title.

  15. Nich says:

    Good balanced article. The Hawks aren’t contenders yet, but they have not lost a step due to our losses of Joe and Marvin. Its down to good coaching and good personalities. The team will only grow and I look forward to it.

  16. jimmy the #1 atlanta hawks fan! says:

    The Hawks are gonna win the championship this year. I can guarantee it! They have already beat memphis, L.A. Clippers, and okc! If we can beat the top teams in the east, people will start talking about us! The Hawks are for real!

    • uoykcuf says:

      Are they better off with JJ? yes. Are they playing great? Yes. Are they going to win the chip this year? Hell NO!

  17. Victor Manoel says:

    Please, god, Howard to Atlanta next year, and they will surely be contenders!!!

    • uoykcuf says:

      If d.howard is going to ATL, that will be a terrific frontcourt.

      • Blobby Blue says:

        I was thinking about that last year when they got rid of Johnson for some benchwarmers and roster fillers. They freed alot of cap room and got some players with some potential. All they have to do is get rid of a few overpaid players with little impact on the team and they will have enogh room to sign Howard and they way their playing why wouldn’t he sign with them. Plus if i’m not mistaking Josh and Howard are very good friends. the hawks would have an amazing front court :) , this is written from a bucks fan