NBA / May 9, 2011 / 1:30 pm

Why The Hawks Are The Perfect Team For Atlanta

Why The Hawks Are The Perfect Team For Atlanta

Last night, the Atlanta Hawks put on an incredible performance against the Chicago Bulls to even their second round series at two game apiece. They played aggressive, moved the ball well and played with energy – all of which have not always been the case for the team this year. Atlanta seems to be the ultimate light switch team – they show up sometimes and completely disappear at others – but their talent should allow them to be one of the best teams in the NBA.

With Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford, and a deep bench, the Hawks play to their potential almost as often as they play disinterested. And not knowing which Hawks team will show up, they have been one of the most interesting teams to watch in the past few years. This bipolar identity makes the Hawks the perfect team for the city of Atlanta.

Atlanta has never been in the conversation for best sports town because despite having four pro teams, the support isn’t what one would expect from one of America’s largest and most dynamic cities. When the Atlanta Braves won 13-straight division titles, playoff sellouts were still not a given at Turner Field. The Atlanta Falcons have had attendance problems until recently when the franchise has been revived behind the play of Matt Ryan. The Atlanta Thrashers are losing a lot of money and have made only one playoff appearance in their history. The combination of a lack of support and losing money has the team’s ownership group, the Atlanta Spirit LLC, looking for new investors. The Hawks face the same problem with their fans.

Since taking the Celtics to seven games in 2008, the Hawks have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. While the franchise has drawn more fans than it did previously, the Hawks still ranked 22nd in the NBA in attendance this year, not exactly the ranking you’d expect for a team as good and exciting (at times) as them. Additionally, since Atlanta is home to a lot of northern transplants, when the Celtics, Knicks or Bulls come to town, Philips Arena will often be divided 50-50 between fans of the Hawks and those teams. The inconsistent fan support changes in the playoffs though when Phillips Arena becomes one of the loudest arenas in the NBA.

During the playoffs, Hawk fans have rallied and come out in force for their team. They wear their white shirts and wave their towels. They shout, they motivate, but most of all they are there. One might say, well it’s the playoffs, every fan base does that. That might be true, but for a team that hasn’t realized their full potential yet, having fans fill up “The Highlight Factory” makes a big difference.

The TNT announcers made a great point last night that the Hawks have a lot of athleticism, but that having athleticism gets confused with playing with energy – something the Hawks don’t always do. However, they played with a ton of energy last night, attacking the rim in a way not seen often enough from this team. Guys like Smith and Zaza Pachulia feed off doing things that put the crowd into a frenzy, whether it be a ridiculous dunk or a headbutt. And when the crowd gets going, the players get noticeably juiced.

So while the Hawks don’t always play to their potential, they epitomize Atlanta as a sports town. Both can be inconsistent – one in their play, the other in their support – but when both are at their best, they make for a pretty lethal combo.

What do you think?

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  • bballeducator

    Agree completely, I’m a huge bulls fan, but when the Hawks play like they did last night, they can beat any team in the league. They have it all; shooters, defense, low post play, bench, and yet they are never in conversation as an elite team because they seemingly pick and chose when to show up.
    And it seemed like the fans chose to show up with energy last night as well, they actually had a home court advantage last night, forcing the bulls to play sporatic, missing lay-ups and key free throws and making it look like the Bulls completly forget that they have an offense to run through.
    If they fans and the team both show up, ATL is a tough matchup for anyone.

  • Air Zaza

    As a Hawk fan, this article sucked.

    1. The Falcons sold-out most of the time Vick was here and had a 70K waiting list. That wasn’t been the case since.

    2. The Hawks aren’t good enough to be the perfect team for Atlanta. We have a lot of options and the Hawks are 2nd rate at the moment.

    3. As for more fans, well yes but they were at the cellar or had an even twice as boring team with Deke. They just haven’t been a viable product.

  • Daniel Marks

    @Air Zaza. They did sell out when Vick was there but in 2007 the year before Matt Ryan got there, they had a MNF game vs the Giants where maybe 30,000 fans showed up for Monday Night Football. Yes the team was bad, but seeing scores of empty rows for an MNF game is shocking.

    I’m not saying they are the “perfect” team to root for. I’m saying that the way they play fits the city’s reputation as a sports town, very hot and cold.

    Also, I can’t blame fans for not going before the team made the playoffs recently, they were awful before that, but as one of most exciting teams in NBA, 22nd in attendance is kind of surprising cause right now the product is very good

  • Diego

    Marks, glad you noted that the fans have showed up for the playoffs. Notwithstanding some of the bullshit folks may hear (I heard it on tv from a local columnist last night post-game), last night the crowd was certainly a large, large dominant majority of Hawks fans–which is great, because the Bulls certainly have devoted fans and there are playoff tickets to be purchased by Bulls fans from the Hawks directly and from a large secondary market. (Of course, Chicago is a much bigger metro area and has tremendous history.)

    It is disappointing that the local fan base of all Atlanta sports do not come out and support the teams better as a whole. Atlanta does have a lot of transplants, and like everywhere, has a lot of frontrunners who come out for a team like the Lakers (but have probably never been west of the Mississippi).

    But on the flip side, there really is a nice (albeit small) few thousand of devoted season ticketholders that consistently show for every game. (I know; I am one; and I see the same faces, year after year.) As to devoted Laker, Bulls, Chicago, etc. fans and douchebag frontrunners, it does not cost much $ to shell out at a premium for 1 or 2 games a year to see your chosen team. The serious Hawks fans love the game, the local team and seeing a variety of competition and don’t give a shit or get a boner for such high profile teams. Thus, they (plus, of course, some ticket broker season ticket holders who sell for every game) sell their tickets (and extra tickets to such games bought on speculation by them–I am certainly guilty of this, and I’m making some nice extra $ on this playoff series) to such games for great $ on the secondary market or pass on their tickets to such games for business development purposes. This is not just novel to the Hawks, hell did you catch the Bulls or Boston play Miami in Miami during the regular season?

  • Diego

    Also, in a year like this, it certainly doesn’t help when the Hawks get repeatedly pounded by 20-30 points at home during the regular season. The players are adept at shrugging it off and turning it around next game–but the players don’t seem to get that having your team getting its ass kicked at home by halftime makes for a pretty shitty game experience for the folks who paid to see the game.

  • H-Man

    The main point of the article could also be applied to just one player, Josh Smith. When he drives, when he plays with intensity, when he looks to dish instead of taking ridiculous 25 foot fadeaways, J Smoove can be unstoppable. Too bad it doesn’t happen more often.

  • karmatic

    hawks have 4 very good players in josh, joe, jamal, and al…marvin williams has been a disappointment, hinrich isn’t the answer, zaza and collins are statues, jordan crawford and maurice evans went in the hinrich trade..i am impressed that the hawks are doing as well against chicago as they are…if tyson chandler had come to atlanta, they would be true contenders this year.

  • bookkwormmaster

    Co-sign with Diego.

    The Hawks had some VERY ugly losses (two blowouts to the Nets immediately come to mind) this year that were just mind-blowing and quite a putoff.

    The biggest turn-off for me (outside of their sporadic play) has been the head scratching, mismanaged moves made by the front office. This team, as good as they are presently constructed, COULD HAVE been so much more on the level of or even possibly beyond that of a Boston, Los Angeles, or San Antonio elite level with smarter decision making.

  • Chaos

    @ bookwormmaster

    you are right, the team has a chance to really be a great team that everyone expected but never seemed to get over the hump, or even seemed that they desired to. they seem to have too much apathy and no real leader on the team which leads to blowouts because no one says, “get ya heads out ya asses and lets win.” JC goes out and can get red hot but cant win by himself. Horford is talented as hell and can be a perennial allstar but he still is like a third option on his team when he should probably be the 2nd at least. and the front office has sucked tremendously. but it goes both ways as well. team get energized by a raucous crowd(look at OKC, Boston and Chicago). this playoffs is the first year that they seemed to give a damn and the hawks need the crowd out there to support them