The Hawks’ preseason ends this week in the humble confines of Georgia Tech, as their regular digs undergo a makeover. Per Monday’s game against Memphis, that meant large players roosting on small folding chairs in a cramped secondary locker room. Their pregame meal spread consisted largely of self-service PB&J on white bread. Lost somewhere between Philips Arena and Alexander Memorial Coliseum was the crowd and the energy.
To their credit, the Hawks adapted and did a worthy amount of hustling and executing within the context of an otherwise meaningless game.
Preseason is wrapping up for the team’s fan base as well. It is time for this group of highly fluctuating membership to make its finals adjustments before the start of 2017-18. Dial down the thermostat on the excitement. Stretch your imagination to see years beyond the clutter of reconstruction. Redefine the meaning of success. Alter expectations from the 60-win, conference-final high of only three years ago.
There is much work to do. Those fans who don’t think they are up to the task may exit here, and no one will be faulted. All doubt and creeping apathy is understandable. You'll be welcomed back at the appropriate time.
In Dallas, the Hawks open for real next Wednesday. That begins what some are calling a five-game road trip. Others might consider it witness protection. You know, if they just keep moving from town to town, maybe the hard realities of a team in major transition can’t catch up to them.
Yeah, expectations are low. Their latest Las Vegas-generated over-under season win total sits at 27.5. Only Chicago and New Jersey has a lower floor. The prospect of playing for a lottery pick is in the air. In fact, that borders on a major priority.
For the coach who has been playoffs-bound the past 20 seasons as both the head man here and an assistant in San Antonio, these would seem to be the most unusual of times.
Yet, Mike Budenholzer does not let on to any feelings of dread or disorientation. His fifth preseason with the Hawks feels little different than the first, he maintains.
“Our training camp and our expectations have been very similar (to those in the past) in the focus and the effort and the desire to put in something that’s good for everybody,” he said Monday.
“How good can we be? How competitive can we be? Can we push our individual ceilings and our team ceilings? No matter what kind of team we’ve had or that I’ve been a part of, you’re always just trying to be the best you can be from day to day, from the start of the season to the end of the season.”
But that kind of approach is more suited to the coach than the paying customer. The fans are not part of “the process.” They want to be entertained, and I’m having a difficult time gauging their feelings about this version of the Hawks and its ability to hold interest.
Hello out there. Do you care about this season of lowered expectations? Is this team on your radar at all?
Here are a couple of dates on the calendar worth circling, even for the most fringe follower.
Conveniently, Paul Millsap will be at the home opener Oct. 27, but in the costume of a Denver Nugget. Time to celebrate a fond memory.
Boo Dwight Howard Night won’t come until Jan. 31 when Charlotte finally comes to town.