Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Hawks' return to obscurity begins

Posted By on Tue, May 11, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Playoffs Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks' performance in this year's NBA Playoffs can be summed up in one word: depressing.

After being pushed to the brink by an over-matched, under-manned Milwaukee Bucks team in their first round series, the Hawks returned to the Eastern Conference Semis for a second consecutive season.

And for the second consecutive season, Atlanta was swept embarrassed humiliated blown out by a far superior and more relevant team: the No. 2-seeded Orlando Magic.

Ah yes, the relevancy debate. You didn't think I was finished talking about that did you?

As some of you argued after reading my recent post regarding the irrelevancy of the Atlanta Hawks franchise, this is a Hawks team that is showing no signs of regression and is poised to win for years to come.

With a regular season win total that has increased every season over the last six years, how could you argue that Atlanta wasn't continuing its ascent up the NBA mountain?

It's simple really—-a team with a below average head coach, a passive "superstar" with one foot out the door and a heartless, gutless prima donna might win more meaningless regular season games, but come playoff time, they're more likely to fold like a cheap tent than rise to the occasion.

In that regard, the Hawks sure didn't disappoint this year as they suffered the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA Playoff history, losing to Orlando by a total of 101 points.

Compared to the 72-point second-round sweep at the hands of the No. 1-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers last season, even the most subjective, delusional and mentally unstable Hawks' fan can't argue that Atlanta took a step forward this year.

Returning home after getting thrashed by a combined 57 points in games 1 and 2 in Orlando, the Hawks still refused to put up a fight and were deservedly booed by the home crowd following a 30-point loss in Game 3.

But that didn't seem to bother Joe Johnson who averaged just 12.8 points per game against Orlando—-8.5 points fewer than his regular season average.

Good luck getting that max contract, Joe.

This isn't the first time an Atlanta team has underperformed. The Hawks have won 50 or more games eight times in franchise history and have finished either No.1 or No. 2 in their division 15 times.

Unfortunately, that regular season success has amounted to little as Atlanta exits the 2010 Playoffs still looking for the first Conference Finals appearance in its 42-year history.

Despite a stretch in the 1980s and early 1990s when "The Human Highlight Film" (Dominique Wilkins) roamed the floor for the Hawks and won a couple Slam Dunk Contests, the Atlanta Hawks have been irrelevant on the national sports scene.

Since 2001, the Hawks have averaged the 25th-lowest home attendance numbers with roughly 14,724 "fans" begrudgingly making their way through the turnstiles at Philips.

If no one in Atlanta cares enough about the Hawks to buy a $10 ticket and the team refuses to make deep playoff runs or hire a head coach who wants to fulfill his job title, why should anyone outside the state of Georgia give two poops about this organization?

Sure, the Hawks aren't the only franchise still seeking their first championship, but it's hard to think of another team that's as easily forgettable.

The Suns, Pacers, Magic and Jazz at least made it to the NBA Finals and they had guys like Barkley, Reggie, Shaq and Malone to entertain the masses.

The Mariners had Griffey, A-Rod and the Big Unit under the bright lights of the Kingdome while the Rangers had Nolan Ryan and still have a cocaine-snorting manager.

The Bills had Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas and appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls. The Lions had Barry Sanders, the Browns had Jim Brown plus the NFL's most loyal fans and the Jaguars won't be around much longer to challenge for the title of sports franchise irrelevancy.

Look, I like the Hawks. I really do. But let's not kid ourselves, people. They aren't a franchise heading in the right direction.

Regardless of regular season records and individual talent, the Hawks will never transcend 42 years of mediocrity unless they commit to building a cohesive unit that is engineered to win basketball games as opposed to a roster full of potentials (Marvin Williams), show-boaters (Josh Smith), has-beens (Mike Bibby) and frauds (Joe Johnson).

Once again, I raise my imaginary glass of bubbly liquid to the Hawks' relevancy knowing that the best part about supporting an irrelevant sports franchise is that I don't have to commit too much energy in doing so.

And neither should you.

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