After crushing Cavs, Hawks (18-7) have earned attention

LeBron James’ complaints to referee didn’t stop Hawks from rolling to one-sided victory. (AP photo)

LeBron James' complaints to referee didn't stop Hawks from rolling to one-sided victory. (AP photo)

LeBron James’ complaints to referee didn’t stop Hawks from rolling to one-sided victory. (AP photo)

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the Hawks through the first 25 games of this NBA season, here are three things you need to know: 1) They’re better than 5-9 (Falcons); 2) They’re better than 79-83 (Braves); 2) They’re better than the Belk Bowl (Georgia).

They’re 18-7. They just went on the road and crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-98.

Yes, LeBron James played. So did Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The only team missing a starter was the Hawks. They played without their starting point guard, Jeff Teague. That didn’t matter because guard Shelvin Mack came off the bench to score 24 points and went 6-for-6 on three-pointers.

Question: Can Mack pass rush, too? Or play center field and hit leadoff? Maybe build a privately funded stadium?

The Hawks trailed the Cavaliers by eight points after the first quarter, then outscored them by 37 over the next three.

Cleveland could’ve done that without LeBron.

I wrote about the Hawks last week and their transition from an off-court grease fire in September to one of the NBA’s most impressive teams on the court. Here’s a link to that column.

There has been some question whether the Hawks are legitimate contenders because they had beaten mostly losing teams in their first 23 games. But they’ve just beaten the Eastern Conference’s projected two best teams in consecutive games – Chicago at home on Monday (93-86) and now Cleveland. Wednesday’s win was an impressive response against a Cavaliers team that drilled the Hawks in November 127-94.

This difficult five-game stretch continues with road games at Houston and Dallas and then back home against the Los Angeles Clippers. But to this point of the season, the Hawks look legit. They have won 11 of their last 12, own the third best record in the East (one behind conference-leading Toronto, which is 19-6) and seventh best in the NBA (four behind No. 1 Golden State, which is 21-3).

Championships aren’t awarded in mid-December but coach Mike Budenholzer is maximizing the talent on his roster, which is a nice change of pace for local teams.

It’s unfortunate the Hawks are struggling to get on the radar in their own town. Their average (announced) home attendance of 15,345 ranks 25th in the league.

Maybe it’s time to start paying attention.


A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Expect Falcons’ roster overhaul, regardless of finish
— AJC: 5 thoughts on Falcons, starting with Arthur Blank’s marketing problem
— MyAJC: John Hart: ‘It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees’
— AJC: Falcons reality check: One great half won’t get it done
— AJC: What would it take for Falcons to keep Mike Smith
 — MyAJC: Hawks go from off-cour embarrassment to on-court success
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— AJC: Jimbo Fisher leaves Georgia off ballot; Bielema puts Tech 19th on his (huh?)
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— MyAJC: SEC title: Mizzou can’t compete with Alabama –nor can any team
— AJC: Short takes: Sims leads way as Alabama rules SEC again
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Georgia Tech ends Florida State’s run
— AJC: New rankings make college football playoff look like set up
— MyAJC: Rare situation: Eyes are off Bulldogs and on Jackets
— MyAJC: Tech’s Bobinski finally stops stalling with Johnson
— AJC: Georgia Tech finally offers Johnson contract extension
— MyAJC: Finally, a real football team named Falcons shows up
— AJC: Falcons’ short takes: Devin Hester says officials admitted mistake
— MyAJC: This Georgia season was just another big tease
— AJC: Georgia ‘short takes’ on loss to Georgia Tech
— MyAJC: As Georgia loses SEC title shot, Tech suddenly has higher ceiling
— AJC: Missouri wins SEC East — will it affect Georgia?

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
BobDawg
BobDawg

Let's see,  The present GM (Danny Ferry) jettisons Joe Johnson and his stupid Max Contract to the Nets; let's Josh Smith and his 3 Point-itis go to the Pistons…. gets Millsap to come here; drafts Shroder; Payne; Scott; Bazemore and gets Shelvin Mack here. Gets the top Assistant - Coach Bud to come here and rework this team into San Antonio East. Gets Demarre Carrol; Antic and Brand (great in Locker room and when needed on court).  AND WE WANT TO RUN HIM OFF????   WHAAAAT????


The Braves are trying to do the same thing as the Hawks have successfully done. Please Hawks, don't shoot yourselves in the foot…. Keep Ferry…… 

DjYogi
DjYogi

@BobDawg New Ownership will decide Ferry's fate.  I think he needs to make a public to move forward from this whole debacle.  He goes into hiding instead.  I think that's a little cowardly.  Just take the blame and move on.  He shouldn't have read that part of the report or at least made it very clear he made a mistake at the time.

ReyB
ReyB

@BobDawg As a black male, I have this to say. What Danny Ferry did was boneheaded and highly insensitive/offensive. Should he be punished? Perhaps. But the man has done nothing but work magic since he's been with the Hawks. I don't care how he feels or what he says "behind closed doors" and "out of view of the public", as long as he keeps putting a winning product on the court I'm good. 


Now if we could only switch out Danny for Thomas Dimitroff and coach Bud for Mike Smith. 

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

@BobDawg Ferry has done a pretty good job. (You are overselling him a little; his draft record hasn't been great.) But whether he should lose his job for the racism scandal shouldn't have anything to do with his job performance. Either what he said is egregious enough to make him lose his job or it isn't. His track record of acquiring players and his track record of making racist comments are two completely separate issues.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Please, please, PLEASE, Atlanta fans!! Contact the Atlanta Journal Constitution and let them know you've had enough of this half-witted stooge writing for the AJC. We're talking about the NBA, Schultz, you dolt. Not a little girls church league team and not pick-up games behind your mom's house. It's an 82 game season and 2 wins in December don't mean ANYthing. Please tell me, everybody, you are sick of having these idiots write for the AJC. Complain loudly, complain often. Get professional writers working Atlanta professional sports instead of these small town goombahs who have not even the very faintest inkling of what professional sports success requires, and who think every 1/2 way decent play means the road to championships is open. Please help bring some degree of journalistic competence to the city of Atlanta, by letting the AJC know you are sick of the pathetic misfits blogging the sports sections.


Thank you.


feedback@ajc.com

atlfanman
atlfanman

Congrats to Mack for a great game! To defeat Cleveland without Teague is a tribute to the players, coaching and management. The Hawks have assembled a team without a superstar but a team with depth that plays hard and smart. It will take a while for skeptics to get on board because of the history of the team. However, if they keep winning more fans will make a financial investment into supporting the team.


I hope they go deep into the playoffs and make a run at the championship. After looking at the failure of the Thrashers, the close but not good enough Braves and the train wreak that is the Falcons, it is a pleasure watching the Hawks play the American game so intelligently. Keep the winning going Hawks, you need to defeat some giants, in the media and mystery official calls but those who are true to Atlanta are pulling for you. Remember giants do fall.

E.J. Trey Alverson
E.J. Trey Alverson

Also, glad to see this column, Jeff. You're absolutely spot on. 


Now, if only the jokers and clowns on Atlanta sports radio would actually wake up and share your mindset. They're too busy brown-nosing Arthur Blank and droning on and on about our third rate NFL team and the Dawgs. 

E.J. Trey Alverson
E.J. Trey Alverson

I've been to five home games already and I've seen almost every other game on t.v. I'm having a blast.


This is the most exciting and fun to root for team the ATL has had since the Dirty Birds of '98. Like the Chandler/Reeves/Jamal Anderson Dirty Birds, these Hawks are playing above expectations, winning on fundamentals and they're rooted in extremely strong coaching. More similarities: The locker room is full of good, tough guys--but no flashy superstars. They believe in each other and it shows on the court... And I think their ceiling is higher than people think--just like those '98 Falcons, our lone Super Bowl team.  


These Hawks are the best pro sports product we've had in this city in a generation. I'm going to go to as many games as my wife lets me. They are just so much fun to watch. And it feels good to support the team that isn't fleecing me and all of the rest of taxpayers for an un-needed new stadium.  

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

Atlanta consistency places in the top 10 in ratings for the NBA's national TV events (All Star game, NBA Finals, etc.) A few stereotypical "durrr it's the NBA who cares where's my college footbaw" comments in this comment section aside, this city has more than enough fans to fill Philips. The problem is that they have not had a star in 20 years and have lost an entire generation of young fans as a result. Most of Atlanta's NBA fans have jumped on other teams' bandwagons. 


Rather than being like Levenson and stressing about attracting fans whose prejudices prevent them from considering the NBA in the first place, the Hawks should be marketing to these bandwagon fans and trying to convert them over to being Hawks fans. They have taken some positive steps in that direction, and the product on the floor is a good one, but that transformation will really happen when they get a star in here. 

JR947
JR947

If the local Atlanta sports fans continue to care little about the Hawks, there is a city in the Pacific Northwest that would love to take the Hawks in a heartbeat..all they need is an owner from Seattle to step up.

JSSN
JSSN

@JR947

Again, somebody who doesn't understand the Hawks lease and their debt situation (to Phillips'  financing). Atlanta's not getting Clipper or OKC selling price. Seattle knows that the Sacramento was their last best chance for a while. They're holding out for Milwaukee.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@JR947

IF the Hawks continue to win, the "local ATL sports fans" will NOT continue to care little about them.

JSSN
JSSN

Belkin still own shares? No thanks.

SonomaCountyDawg
SonomaCountyDawg

I have begrudgingly remained a Hawks fan since I was a kid and this seems like one of the best teams we have ever had. I am on the fence with whether we NEED a superstar to take the team to the next level or if we can get it done with what we have. Everybody is comparing this team to the Spurs for the obvious reason that 1) Budenholzer was a Spurs guy and 2) Ferry had some Spurs time as well. But the Spurs also had two #1 picks in David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Horford was a great pick up but I am not sure he is of the talent Robinson or Duncan was.


I agree with the sentiment below that Ferry is going to be a commodity on the market should the Hawks choose to let him go. Bummer that this organization finally gets some traction but still has to deal with the ownership issue and the racism issue. Here's hoping we get  a great, passionate owner in here and that Danny Ferry's ultimate outcome doesn't negatively impact the team on the court.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

@SonomaCountyDawg They need a star. What Bud has done so far with this roster is spectacular and he is a keeper, but it's hard to imagine this team seriously contending for a championship. 


The good news is that a) Schroeder looks like a player for whom the sky is the limit, and b) the Hawks get the Brooklyn Nets' first round pick this year. Let's hope the Nets collapse and Schroeder continues to develop, so the Hawks' chances of acquiring that elusive star increase. 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The Hawks are almost completely off my radar and they have some near insurmountable hurdles to overcome. (1) They moved out of St. Louis, breaking my heart as an avid fan and kid growing up there; (2) the owners sold out us hockey fans after torturing us with years of mismanagement; (3) the infighting of the owners is a complete turnoff, especially the incident earlier this year (who wants to give them money???), (4) I really do not care for the NBA game as it is played today. Playoffs are generally watchable.


Add: The one-and-done stuff has destroyed my interest in College Basketball in terms of following favorite teams and conference play.

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

Well-coached team that plays good O and D.  If they could get one true star-caliber player, they would an unstoppable force.  But that star also has to be willing to work within Bud's system - no Carmelo types wanted.

LMO
LMO

@ATLBrown Not if Danny Ferry is GM...not' going to happen.  What I like about the team is NO one is selfish..each night it's next man up!  They shoot alot of threes, but Jenkins is not playing at all..is he hurt?

Smokeyone
Smokeyone

The Hawks have my attention now but I won't be convinced until they reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps this is the year?

DrGonzo
DrGonzo

Noo! Don't pay attention. I've been getting $30 lower level mid-court seats for a couple months now, you're going to drive the price up on me!

JackClemens
JackClemens

Now if we can just get a Steve Ballmer-type to buy out ALL of the ASG and get Ferry back in the house.

Ersatz
Ersatz

Loving this team, but I won't spend a dime in Philips Arena until the a$$g are all gone.  Them writing off the Thrashers and their once-growing fan base is enough for me to not set foot in the building until a new owner takes the reins.

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

It's hard to be excited with an ownership group so dysfunctional that it drove it's only successful GM in decades to a leave of absence.


Think Ferry is going to want to stay after being stabbed in the back?


The only hope is for a deep-pocketed billionaire to buy the Hawks and tell Ferry it's his ship to run as he sees fit. 

There are plenty of mediocre NBA teams who will chase after Ferry if the Hawks success continues.

LMO
LMO

@peanutgallery Stabbed in the back?  By talking poorly about a prized FA they were targeting? Doing fine without him and will continue to do so.  Ferry never did anything nor did he sign any big FA.  Now with this VIEW of African and Blacks no one else is going to come here under his watch.  I guess if it was 1950 there would be no problem, but unfortunately for him and others that support his viewpoint it aint...and thank God.  BTW the most dominant Players and superstars in the league are not Euro-Americans....

RangeRover
RangeRover

@LMO

The biggest bigot and racist on this board is you!  In fact, the American Black race is the single most racist group on planet earth.  You hire, promote, defend and elect anything black solely because,,,they're black, with zero regard for the truth, who is best or what is right.

Remember, racist, hundreds of thousands of "Euro-Americans" have died for your freedom, and your President--by most standards the easily the most unqualified and arguably the least productive President in US History--would not have been elected were it not for millions of "Euro-American" voters...dumb as they are for doing so!

creative
creative

@peanutgallery @LMO actually MOST people are taught to not be racist and then become more bigoted as they get older.  This is contrary to public opinion, but think back to when you were a kid, did you have any stereotypes or dislike people because of skin pigmentation.  Of course not, it sounds silly even saying that.  However, if you are raised in an environment where a certain group (black, white asian) is continually a negative presence then you develop preconceived notions about that group.  Stereotypes exist for a reason.  LMO, why are there not more whites in the NBA?  It's because blacks are more athletic as a whole.  Why are women better at raising children (For the most part)? It's because they are more nurturing.  Not even sure why I am writing anymore.  

RangeRover
RangeRover

@creative

You're waisting your time.  Research some political articles and you'll learn this scumbag hates all white with a passion.  He's extremely poorly educated which becomes more apparent in every comment.

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

@creative @peanutgallery @LMO


I like how you say "most people" then lecture us about stereotypes. Your entire post is full of stereotypes.


To the other poster regarding what Ferry has done I'll tell you what he did: he refused to overpay for Josh Smith when most other teams are so desperate to hang onto any potential "stars" they grossly overpay them. 


Josh Smith is rotting on the bench in Detroit after they found out what all of us already know: a talented player who can attack the basket who chooses to lob 3-pointers poorly. 

LMO
LMO

@peanutgallery @LMO I dont go by what YOU believe I go by actions/deeds as well as his Inability to bring any BIG time FA wherever he's gone.  And you have whites that work and live around other ethnic groups their entire lives...yet if it aint WHITE it aint right.  happens everyday, so poor analogy.  

Smokeyone
Smokeyone

@creative @peanutgallery @LMO This is just my opinion but I don't think any one race is inherently more athletic. Using basketball as an example, if MOST blacks live in an urban environment where open land is scarce, then they are going to gravitate to playing a sport that can fit into smaller spaces and doesn't need as much land. Basketball fits this perfectly. Culture also plays a role as well as one culture favors a particular sport perhaps out of familiarity and comfort and thus places a higher priority at excelling at that sport. For example, I don't see many blacks playing and excelling at hockey but if they became familiar and comfortable with it they would probable excel in greater numbers at that sport

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

@LMO @peanutgallery Ferry played in the NBA for over a decade in a black-dominated sport and we are supposed to believe he is a closet racist?


GIve me a break.


LMO
LMO

@RangeRover @LMO Thanks for the HIS story lesson... most of my background is Native American, but true to Anglo I know it all form you ASSUMED like you knew better.  yes Whites put their lives down to try to Undo the action of other Whites who have superiority issues.  No one is buying what you clowns are selling anymore.  Go pat yourself on the back and get sympathy elsewhere.  Mad because Ferry got caught making horrible remarks about an African NBA free agent... No i dont want him here as it will affect his ability to sign big Free Agents.. Period... Obviously he has some sort of stigma as he hasn't landed one big time FA his whole GM career... fact look it up.  I dont want THAT aurora around THIS team.  If he and you are accepting of his behavior then move to Utah.

Pama123
Pama123

@peanutgallery @LMO Well if  Ferry is not a racist, and he's "suppose to be this smart guy" why is ferry trying to make a joke about a free agent player african hertiage, my question is, why is he wasting time with that nonsense. I guess he felt if the owner levenson can make racist nonsense talk, I can too. Welcome to Atlanta, this aint Utah or Nebraska.


Ferry is gone, the political ATL power is going to make sure he is not retained. Get over him.

Hawks must retain Coach Bud and his staff, they are doing a wonderful job. Go hawks!

Waredawg
Waredawg

Wow! Haven't really followed the Hawks in years, but this team looks legit (Spurs East?). This team should win at least 1 round in playoffs and maybe 2. Think winning the East might be a stretch this year. Obviously, we need to resign Millsap long term. If we do that, have a chance to entice a difference maker as free agent in offseason. Unfortunately, in NBA you can't win a title without a "franchise" player - Kobe, Duncan, Lebron, even 

Niwitski, and getting a guy like that is near impossible. However, competing for a finals berth is quite an accomplishment. Cheers to Bud and let Ferry out of the doghouse (obvious, he was "set up" by one of the disfunctional ownership group). Bout time long suffering Atlanta fans had a team, any team, that we could get moderately excited about. GO HAWKS!

falconfever
falconfever

Man, they are fun to watch/ can go 10 deep easily and everyone can hit 3's. Need a big man but don't give up too much.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

A no-nonsense coach will get this kind of result VS the constant nonsense from Flowery Branch and Hank Aaron Dr.

MacongaMan
MacongaMan

People need to realize that Danny Ferry is a huge part of this turn around and this team.  He certainly mishandled Luol Deng matter and had to go to the side line for a while.  However, I hope is allowed back into the fold and I hope we can get a decent owner SOON!

Rhetoric
Rhetoric

The victories against Chicago and Cleveland have made a believer of me. Hope the Hawks can stay healthy.

They have an excellent coach and good chemistry. The players know their roles.

creative
creative

OK, I'm back on board.  It's been well over 20 years since the Nique trade.  I guess I can forgive and forget at this point considering they ruined my childhood when they traded him.  I 'm with you guess.  I will start watching.  So what's the deal.  Are we still called the Hawks?  How's parking at the Omni these days?