It’s not cute anymore.
The success earned by the Atlanta Hawks in the first half of the 2014-15 regular season was a cute little story to most. It was perplexing to figure out how they so easily cracked the code of being successful despite having no star players – something that shouldn’t be possible in today’s NBA.
It was fun to watch them shred opponents, both quality and cupcake, and win every game they played in January. Yes, the Hawks were adorable.
But it’s more than just a sweet little success story now. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time.
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At 43-11 and the projected No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the stakes have been raised through the roof and into the atmosphere. Anything short of an appearance in the NBA Finals will be considered a failure.
For Hawks fans, that’s a little scary. We know how hard this city has failed, especially in recent years, during the postseason. Putting expectations at “championship or bust” levels usually doesn’t pay off for Atlanta in the end.
But the Hawks are on a runaway train, and even though we can’t see where the tracks are leading, we’re holding out hope that they don’t end up going right off a cliff.
This team has its flaws, mostly in rebounding. That could be exposed in the playoffs, but it also might not matter if the Hawks keep shooting like they have in the first half of the year. They’re sixth in the league in scoring, second in assists and fourth in defense – a relentless style that they play to perfection.
The Hawks were notably silent during Thursday’s trade deadline while many other teams were making deals in hopes that they could improve their standing for a postseason that seems wide-open. After all, if Atlanta and Golden State are the favorites, heck, anyone could make a run!
But when a reporter asked Paul Millsap about the team’s lack of action during the deadline, he didn’t hesitate to defend that decision.
“We’re 43-11,” he said.
Yes we are, Paul, but none of that matters now.
Image: AP Photo/Jessica Hill