Awash in basketball that is at least captivating if not always artful, we are so very lucky. The college game has commanded our gaze. Even the NIT, now that Georgia Tech has made that cute little tournament locally relevant, tempts eyeballs.
Thus for a solid month enthusiasts of the 94-foot sport have been spared any need to watch the Hawks. And by the time there are no other alternatives, all that will be left to do is pull back the sheet and identify the body. We have been spared a good deal of the bloody decline.
In fact, I feel a little guilty even mentioning the Hawks at this time, like someone who brings up credit card debt during the Christmas holiday.
Apparently while we’ve been elsewhere, the Hawks likewise have been wandering.
Seven straight losses. A March record of 4-10. A record of 5-12 since the All Star break. That it seems inevitable this team will make the playoffs despite its swoon is not particularly good news. Better it falls all the way off the cliff and improve its draft position than to linger as postseason fodder.
The roster has been beset with injury – three key players missed the most recent loss, to the Nets – and has revealed just how fragile it is without Paul Millsap in game gear.
Meanwhile, two of the notables the Hawks decided they could do without are contesting for the Eastern Conference summit. Good for Al Horford in Boston and Kyle Korver in Cleveland. They earned their early release.
And that call to go with younger Dennis Schroder driving the bus rather than Jeff Teague has not produced greater efficiency in the short term (assists down from 25.6 a game last season to 23.4 thus far this season, turnovers up from 15.0 to 15.7). Dwight Howard has done nothing to tip any balance of power – but then we realized that from the beginning.
The painful truth is that the depleted recent lineup may be exactly what the Hawks require now, and perhaps for a couple of seasons to come. Painful as starting over may be – ask any Braves fan – that is a place where the Hawks find themselves once more. Millsap surely will move on after this season, leaving this team with even less playing personality and teetering ever more toward the they-really-need-to-stink-their-way-into-the-draft-lottery plan.
Once more the Hawks find themselves a middling team when the only foreseeable route to improvement involves multiple seasons of wretched results. And even that would require the kind of luck and creativity on draft day that this franchise never has possessed in bulk.
Heavy are the issues concerning where the Hawks go from here.
And eventually we may ponder them. But not before laying in supplies for basketball’s best day, the NCAA Tournament semifinals.