The Hawks are trying to maintain winning habits even as they lose games. For some teams, too much of the second thing can overwhelm the first.
The Hawks have lost eight games in a row. In six of those contests they had the lead (or were close to it) late in the game. They've been competitive against a tough schedule, and amid mounting injuries. But losing is losing, even if everyone knows it's the hard part of a larger plan.
And there could be more of it over the next week for the Hawks. They are at the Cavaliers Sunday and at home against the Celtics Monday. Next weekend they have back-to-back road games against the Pistons and Wizards.
Coach Mike Budenholzer said he's not concerned that the losing will become normalized with his players.
“I don’t worry about it being accepted,” Budenholzer said. “I do worry about it just weighing on them. They are competitive guys. They want to have success. It’s frustrating. But I don’t think his group is going to accept anything less than competing their ass off, and hopefully having some success.”
The Hawks are competing but not having success, at least in terms of victories. The Hawks hadn't lost as many as eight in a row since 2013-14, Budenholzer’s first as an NBA head coach. The Hawks lost seven in a row twice last season but that was a more talented and experienced team.
After the Rockets routed the Hawks Friday night , Budenholzer said his team didn’t compete at a level that its “high expectations, high standards” demand. It’s the first time Budenholzer has offered criticism of his team's competitiveness. He said he and his players have to be better.
“I don’t want to harp on it,” Budenholzer said the next day. “Teams that have won 10 games in a row have bad (efforts). We talked about it, and we understand how important it is.”
The Hawks have seven rookies and second-year players on their roster. They are developing their skills as NBA players and learning how to be pros. Kent Bazemore, a fourth-year Hawks player, said he does worry that too much losing might lead to those players accepting it as inevitable.
But Bazemore said the team's young players have been professional and are eager to prove themselves.
“We are a competitive group,” Bazemore said. “But you understand it’s a long season, and that’s what I try to reiterate to guys when I talk to guys, if I pull them aside. Just continue to work. At this point, it’s all about getting better.”
Does Bazemore believe losing so much is wearing on the team?
“It’s not as bad as it may seem. For me, anyways," he said. "It’s to be expected. We are playing against a ton of teams that have been together a while and that’s important in this league. Chemistry, camaraderie—all of those things play a part in winning games. This is a fairly new team, a lot of young guys. We are kind of starting from the ground up, implementing a new system.
"We’ve showed glimpses of being a pretty good team. We’ve just got to wise up. We are playing hard; we are giving a consistent effort. There’s just some plays you just can’t make in this league, like some of the turnovers and certain shot selections. It’s part of being a young team. You’ve just got to roll with the punches and continue to grow.”
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