The NBA season for the Atlanta Hawks has come to an end after being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm a long-time die hard when it comes to the Hawks. Don't ask me to explain, except for the fact that they're the hometown crew, and basketball is my favorite sport to watch. I watched as the team devolved from a championship contender to trading Dominique Wilkins for Danny Manning, Steve Smith for Isaiah Rider, and Jason Terry for Antoine Walker (and later, Antoine Walker in exchange for nothing). Where did that put them? The bottom of the basement, trapped in a barrel underneath said basement.
The true defining moment? An ugly 13- 69 season 5 years back. We've improved every year since then, doubling our win total 4 years ago, making the playoffs last season, and becoming the #4 seed this year with 47 wins. But I would argue that we've both over and underperformed this year.
We were 28th in free throw percentage. We lost too many one point games. We blew a lot of leads. We easily could have won 50 games (a so-called important number) if not for all of these factors plus injuries to Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams (all of whom missed somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-16 games). And Joe Johnson had a terrible start to 2009, despite being white hot at the beginning of the season. Clearly, looking at the regular season, we're better than our very frustrating to get 47 wins.
But then the playoffs rolled around. We tore Miami apart in Game 1, holding them to a franchise playoff low 61 points while firing on all cylinders on our end. And then we looked like the worst team in the playoffs in Games 2 and 3. It was an ugly series, but we came out on top in 7 games.
And then the eventual champion Cavs came to town. They exposed every weakness we had. Short bench, no offensive strategy, and a lack of guys who were willing to step up regardless of injuries. They made us look like we had no business being in the playoffs, let alone as the #4 seed. And the worst part is... Cleveland didn't even play that well.
Did they over perform during the season, or under perform during the playoffs? Which team is the real team?
Each season is a long and arduous one. The Hawks never let me get content that they're going to do what they're meant to and just perform at a higher level. They jump, they dive, they sidestep. They never let me know what's coming next. I guess that's what being a fan is like.
It's an interesting summer they're heading into as well. Bibby, Williams*, Zaza, and Flip are all free agents (*restricted). We have the money to sign them all, I'm sure, but... Does it help the team? And what happens after next season when 3-time All-Star and captain Joe Johnson's deal is up? And just where was he for most of the playoffs?
I love the Hawks. One day, I hope they'll return the favor.