The Atlanta Hawks should be folding any day now.The Hawks remain fourth in John Hollinger's purely results-driven power rankings, a state of affairs that would be more exciting did they not also rank fourth in the Eastern Conference.
That's been the dismissive conventional wisdom about the team from the "Highlight Factory" for more than a year. It's not fashionable to like Atlanta's chances, or even to respect its identity. The Hawks are the bickering team that was annihilated by Orlando in the 2010 playoffs (except they came back and beat the Magic in 2011). They are the team that overpaid for Joe Johnson, preventing them from making upgrades that can get them to the next level (except they have upgraded at point guard with the emergence of Jeff Teague and the imminent return of Kirk Hinrich).
The Hawks are also the team widely regarded as having more talent than maturity, and not enough of either to be a real factor in the postseason, a notion that was reinforced by the potential season-ending injury to their best and smartest player, Al Horford, a couple of weeks ago. I know: Even after the Hawks had won three of four, I docked them seven spots in last week's Power Rankings on the assumption that Horford's absence would doom a good team to mediocrity.
Atlanta is 6-1 since the Horford injury. Yes, the schedule has been soft, but the Milwaukee team that the Hawks knocked off Monday had just finished upsetting the Heat in Miami. And Horford or no Horford, Atlanta already has played the Bulls and the Heat two times apiece and still owns the NBA's third-best record, behind Chicago and Oklahoma City.
I've learned my lesson. I won't prejudge the Hawks, who jump to sixth this week. I suspect the loss of Horford will eventually take its toll (old assumptions die hard), but Atlanta has earned the right to trump conventional wisdom with reality.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
SI.com: Robson: Hawks hang tough without Horford
Britt Robson bucks the trend of ranking the Hawks on the basis of what is expected to happen in Al Horford's absence rather than on their body of work: