There’s a lot going on this week. The college basketball season just finished, while baseball season just started. Then there’s that golf tournament going on to our east that’s a little special.
And I want to write about the Hawks? The Atlanta Hawks. What’s wrong with me?
Well, I guess there’s some confusion in place. Why has this season been so weird for this Hawks team? How could the Hawks start the season 9-2 and then fight to stay in the playoffs as the regular season winds down?
It’s hard to believe it’s been just two years since the Hawks were the No. 1 seed and won 60 games. Only one member of that starting five is still with the team, and it seems Paul Millsap is headed out the door this summer through free agency.
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Jeff Teague is in Indiana. DeMarre Carroll is in Toronto. Al Horford is in Boston. Kyle Korver is in Cleveland. Yeah, Korver. Let’s start with him.
Perhaps we can go back to Jan. 7, just three months ago, when the Hawks decided to trade Korver. At the same time, there were rumors Millsap was on the block. Then the Hawks took Millsap off the market, fearing the attendance would plummet if the All-Star were traded.
When Korver was traded, the Hawks were five games above .500. They had already gone backwards from the hot start. It just seemed the Korver traded was a signal the team was throwing in the towel.
Since then, it has been a mess. Dennis Schroder has been great some nights, maddening others. Millsap has missed 10 games since the All-Star break, and the Hawks can’t seem to win without him. Kent Bazemore, who signed a mammoth deal last summer, has continued to disappoint.
And the Hawks are just not that good. Sure, they beat Cleveland Friday night, and they deserve credit. No one in the world would have taken them with Millsap, Schroder, Bazemore and Dwight Howard all out, but they won anyway.
It’s not enough to give the fans hope this team can do anything when the playoffs start soon. If anything, the bipolar nature of this team only gives more credence to think it’s an organization searching for its identity.
Millsap has been great for the Hawks in his four years in Atlanta — an All-Star each season. But he just turned 32 two months ago. Will the Hawks want to give him a long-term contract, not knowing how he’ll still produce one he gets into his mid-30s?
No way. A first-round playoff exit, which is expected, will perhaps convince the Hawks that they haven’t been able to turn the corner with Millsap, so they might as well go in another direction.
Then there’s Schroder, who teases everyone with his talents and then makes people wonder if he should be traded this summer. Yeah, Schroder will drive you nuts, but he’s just 23. The Hawks must give him time to mature and develop. What could Schroder be in three years? A star.
Bazemore’s contract is the only albatross, which should help their financial flexibility. There are young players besides Schroder who they can build around, specifically Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.
The Hawks must convince a star player to come to Atlanta. Howard’s under contract for only one more year, so he’s past his prime. They’ve just got to figure out a way to find a cornerstone for this franchise, and even building off the 60-win team two years ago wasn’t enough.
The Braves are in year three of rebuilding, and the Falcons just got to the Super Bowl. But where are the Hawks? Stuck in the middle, trying to find their way, which unfortunately, has been the story for this franchise since it moved to Atlanta decades ago.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.