Bill Shanks

Shanks: Maybe Hawks will do something special

The Atlanta Hawks are one heck of a feel-good story. The franchise had perhaps it worst offseason ever, a scandal that brought the team the wrong kind of headlines. Yet the team -- the players -- went out and had the best regular season in the organization’s history.

There is no Dominique Wilkins. There is no star. But a team concept has made this group fun to watch. As the Hawks take the court Wednesday night in Game 2 of the series with Brooklyn, they will still be trying to convince the masses that this is a different Hawks team.

We are accustomed to having our hearts broken, with not only the Hawks but by most teams in this state. We’re used to seeing Matt Ryan misfire against San Francisco or Mark Wohlers hang a slider to Jim Leyritz.

And many of us can remember the years when the Hawks had some good teams, but other teams, led by players like Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan, were simply better.

There have been more disappointments than thrills in the history of Georgia sports. Maybe that’s about to end.

How great would it be for the Hawks to do something special this year in the playoffs? When a team is the top seed and wins 60 games, you hope that will be the result. But what will define doing something special?

The Hawks have never been to the conference championship. Never. Will it be enough if they just make it to the Eastern Conference Finals? Well, the sad part is, it will be hard to complain if they do make it that far and then lose, since we would have to admit they at least did something they’ve never done before.

But when a team has as great of a year as the Hawks have had, you want more. You want them to win it all. You want them to prove critics wrong and show them this was their year.

And they are not getting the love they deserve. ESPN did have a conversation segment with head coach Mike Budenholzer last weekend. But it wasn’t the main conversation segment. That went to LeBron James, who plays for the team ESPN likely is hoping and praying will be in the NBA Finals.

This team doesn’t seem to care. They know the Cavaliers are going to get the love. They likely know they are going to have to win the NBA championship for people to believe in them. But if they do what they’ve done all year, it might not matter.

Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague have been remarkably good. Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll have not missed a beat. And while the bench took a hit with the bizarre injury to Thabo Sefolosha, it is still very talented and deep.

The parallels to the 1991 season for the Braves cannot be ignored. It’s scary how similar this seems to be to that magical season for the Braves. No one expected the Braves to make it to Game 7 of the World Series, but they did. And that one year launched a fever for Braves baseball that is still in place today.

Let’s hope the Hawks can do something that special. Most fans are already going to say this is the best season in the franchise’s history, but it will be defined by what happens in the playoffs. If they lose early, the built-in disappointment we have as fans of teams from this state will be a familiar feeling. But maybe this is the team to break the bad tradition.

The Hawks have been exciting to watch this season, and the next few weeks should be very entertaining. It has been a special season, and there’s no reason to believe it will end anytime soon.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at