A year ago at this time, of course, the Hawks were brimming with possibilities. They went all of January without tasting defeat, and were 20-3 between the start of 2015 and the All-Star break.
Honestly, the break was an imposition, like interrupting a promising date after the appetizer course.
What a change in sentiment just one year later. Now, the All-Star break arrives like a pardon from the governor, a reprieve, a much needed chance to rest, reflect and possibly reboot.
You could practically hear the relieved sigh from here when the Hawks beat the depleted Bulls in Chicago Wednesday and left for their time off. And unlike a year ago, when everyone was an All Star, only Paul Millsap has to go to the party this time.
Their record in 2016: 10-11. Seven of those loses came to teams with sub-.500 records, including the recent embarrassment of back-to-back losses to Orlando. We haven’t seen consecutive pies to the face like that since the Stooges stopped making movies.
While this team remains an enigma, what have learned is just how its accomplishments last season were as flimsy as gossamer. What looked like a giant stride then now seems more like an aberration, especially as trade rumors involving supposedly cornerstone players continue to percolate.
Last year the Hawks blew up. This year, there is talk of them being blown up. Big difference.
There is a chromosome missing with this team, and it can’t all be the loss of Demarre Carroll. I didn’t see him anywhere on the recent ESPN top 100 players of all time (and by the way, ranking LeBron James ahead of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell – are you kidding me?)
Kyle Korver can’t hit his 3s like he used to. Al Horford wants to make more of them. The beautiful ball movement isn’t quite as pretty. The intangible magic that last season’s team possessed has been repossessed. Their world is just slightly off its axis.
That they can still do some damage in the East is more an indictment on the conference than it is an expression of hope.
Unlike just a year ago, they badly need this break. As do their fans.
Just be sure to wake us up when they play Golden State (twice before March 2).