The Atlanta Hawks have had an up and down season, in terms of wins and losses, but also in the locker room. Can the Hawks solidify and straighten up in these last 18 regular season games?
The last few weeks for the Atlanta Hawks haven’t exactly been smooth sailing. Coach Mike Budenholzer was suspended for a game for bumping a ref. That doesn’t happen often in the NBA. Starting PG, Dennis Schröder, was suspended for a game after a delay in his arrival after the All-Star break due to visa issues. The issue was apparently something in his control.
The latest flap was a public one where Schröder angrily castigated Dwight Howard, in a game, after an errant pass, failed to get back on defense, where Steph Curry dropped a three, and started a run that the Warriors would use as a catalyst for a win in Atlanta. All this en route to a 4-6 record in their last 10 games. Not what a playoff team looks like in March.
Still, The Atlanta Hawks (35-29) currently hold 5th place in the Eastern Conference, are three games behind 4th place Toronto, and two games ahead of 6th place Indiana. It is a far cry from the 60 win team from a few years ago. But reality is that Atlanta in the 4-seed is fairly historically accurate.
So, what to make of all of this? Who are these Atlanta Hawks? Well, for one, they are a team in the middle of a facelift. Those procedures are usually painful and unsightly. Other than Paul Millsap, the pieces relied upon, night in and night out, are unproven and still learning. Even Howard, an NBA veteran, is in his first year with this team. Atlanta’s players are still learning how to play in the NBA, and how to play with each other.
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This doesn’t excuse players and coaches getting suspended. It also doesn’t explain or excuse open arguments on the court that lead to losses. But even through this tumult, the Hawks find themselves in the playoff mix. If they can put a run together over these next couple of weeks, they could do some damage.
That is short-term, though, and one has to wonder where Coach Bud is taking this team. Are Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Schröder the backbone of Atlanta’s future self? If Millsap leaves, who is the clubhouse leader? This writer doesn’t have an answer for that last question. Neither does Atlanta’s Front Office, I suspect.
The remainder of this season, and the resulting off-season, will be a harbinger as to where this team is going. Open conflagration and Draft Day misses can’t continue. The DNA of this franchise will be formed in the coming months. This DNA composition formed will last for the coming years and beyond. That isn’t hyperbole.
In speaking about our beloved Atlanta Hawks recently with some folks, my brother intoned, “The last month, or so, I’ve been waiting to see how this new iteration (2016-2017) would come together. In the last few weeks I’ve realized it already has.”
If that is true, the Hawks are in trouble in the not-too-distant future. How they finish out this season will decide perception. How they fill out their bench in the off-season will decide their future. The Hawks still have life. They still have a chance to make waves. They have a chance to fly high.
The win against lowly Brooklyn was needed and necessary. But that isn’t an indicator that all things are well. Atlanta is supposed to beat that team. There are 18 games left in the regular season.
Every single one of them is a chapter in a story that is unwritten. That story could be a romance. It could also be a horror. Maybe it is a thriller. We wait to see what these cast of characters will do.