That was such a “Hawks way” to lose, wasn’t it? The term is pejorative, despite Atlanta’s insistence on remaining decent, year after year. Everything they do is framed negatively. Like the Spurs-as-boring, LeBron-as-choker, or possibly, Blake-as-flopper, Hawks-as-disappointing is an article of faith.
Perhaps it’s the crowd. The “Highlight Factory” is an echo chamber of murmurs. It’s hard to feel inspired by that kind of backdrop. There’s also Marvin Williams, who plays on for the team as a haunting reminder of what could have been (Chris Paul, Deron Williams). There’s Joe Johnson and his contract. There’s Josh Smith, the incandescent talent who makes some brilliant plays, and some decisions so awful that they require a certain genius to even conceive of.
But despite all that disappoints, the Hawks keep trotting out a roster that Golden State Warriors fans would bob apples in boiling water for. This is a good team. This is an exciting team. When you forget the external and focus on the players, divorced from expectations, the Hawks are what’s right with hoops.
They fight hard, scrapping admirably despite losing nearly their entire frontcourt mid-series against the Celtics. They managed to finish fourth place in the Eastern Conference, despite losing their best player for all but 11 games. Jeff Teague shoots through defenses with the speed and inexorability of a sun ray, squirming through adjoined boulders. Al Horford remains a highly-skilled player and so does Josh Smith, but the two have wholly different skill sets. “Iso Joe” is a diss, but Johnson couldn’t pull the act off without having such a sticky handle for a guard his size.
Not everybody can win the title, only four teams have a shot most years. So why not embrace consistent competence? The Hawks give you that, and have since 2007. They probably will next year, so you might as well enjoy it for once.