Hawks left facing post-break reality


This wasn’t the worst home loss of the season for the Hawks. Their 123-104 defeat to the Lakers on Monday night was their fourth-biggest losing margin at Philips Arena. 

But two of those big losses came against playoff-bound opponents. This was the Lakers, who are headed to the draft lottery along with the Hawks (albeit L.A. is loaded with the kind of young talent the Hawks hope to accumulate in the next two drafts). 

The Hawks (18-43) were buoyed by a stretch of improved results in the two months before the All-Star break. After their fourth straight loss and sixth in the past seven, the Hawks were left to look for silver linings in a resounding defeat by a middling opponent on their home floor. 

“Considering we got it kind of taken to us tonight, I thought the effort was pretty good and the spirit was good,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We will get better. I think individually guys have got to play a little bit better and collectively we’ve got to be a little bit better.” 

It’s folly to overreact to one bad loss in the NBA. The Hawks get a chance to put it behind them on Wednesday against the Pacers (34-26), the second of four straight games at home. They are 13-18 at Philips Arena with quality victories over the Wizards, Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz and Timberwolves. 

But the Hawks’ preseason hopes of beating expectations have faded and the franchise is aimed toward the draft. The Hawks waived key reserve Marco Belinelli before the All-Star break and starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova after it after buyouts. 

It had been a while since the Hawks looked this bad on their home floor, leaving the Hawks to look for positives in the big loss to the Lakers. 

“I think everybody competed tonight,” Hawks guard Dennis Schroder. “Coach told us to compete every game for 48 minutes, and I think we did that.” 

The NBA tends to make market corrections after the All-Star break. The reality is that the Hawks, who face a challenging schedule over the final 21 games, are more likely to finish at the bottom of the NBA standings than to make any significant movement up them. 

How does Budenholzer manage the team under the circumstances? 

“It’s tough,” he said. “You want to have team success. But I think we are growing. Really, even though tonight didn’t feel like it — again, the Lakers played well — I think some of our guys are getting better individually on some of the things we are wanting them to work on. Different guys are getting opportunities. Just continuing to grow and get better. 

“That’s what we’ve been preaching really from the very beginning. Does the message get old? Maybe. But I think these guys are professional and they want to get better and, to some degree, it’s good for them and their career. They put a lot of time and work in before practice, after practice and they get opportunities to go out and play in the game and that’s their lab. Sometimes it just gives you more evidence, more data on what you need to work on and how can you improve.” 

That message seemed to resonate with Hawks players, who seemed optimistic and positive after the loss to the Lakers. Many of them echoed Budenholzer by giving the Lakers credit for playing well and taking solace in what they considered a good effort in a bad loss. 

The exception may have been veteran wing Kent Bazemore, who appeared weary and downtrodden as he headed out of the locker room. 

“Make the right plays, man,” Bazemore said in response to a question about what he’d like to see from the team over the season’s final stretch. “I don’t know. I don’t really have much for y’all tonight.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Hawks

Jeremy Lin looking to stay healthy in first season with Hawks
Jeremy Lin looking to stay healthy in first season with Hawks

Stay healthy. It’s really that simple. After playing in just 37 games over the past two seasons, new Hawks guard Jeremy Lin isn’t setting any concrete goals for the 2018-19 NBA season except for the lone priority. Acquired in a trade from the Nets in July, Lin played 25 minutes and scored 18 points in last season’s opener when he...
Hawks (lengthy) draft pick summary
Hawks (lengthy) draft pick summary

As the Hawks continue their rebuild, general manager Travis Schlenk reminded again that the team could have as many as three first-round draft picks next season. The team added Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman in the 2018 draft and all could make an impact this season with the start of training camp on Tuesday. The Hawks could also have...
Hawks add Hamilton, Spellman to training camp injury list
Hawks add Hamilton, Spellman to training camp injury list

The Hawks added two more players to their injury list with Daniel Hamilton and Omari Spellman to miss the start of training camp. Hamilton, a guard/forward, injured his shoulder earlier this month. An MRI exam on Sept. 11 revealed a tear in his right rotator cuff. Hamilton will pursue an non-surgical treatment plan and has already begun an on-court...
No move from power forward for Hawks’ Collins
No move from power forward for Hawks’ Collins

John Collins has been a power forward much of his basketball career. It appears he will remain in the role as he begins his second NBA season with the Hawks. Under head coach Mike Budenholzer, the power forward and center were described as interchangeable positions as there was an emphasis on spacing and the 3-point shot. With new head coach Lloyd...
Lin progressing; Pierce won’t name starting point guard
Lin progressing; Pierce won’t name starting point guard

Lloyd Pierce smiled at the attempt to tip his hand. The Hawks coach is not saying who will be the team’s starting point guard when the 2018-19 NBA season begins. Or perhaps he doesn’t know yet. On the roster are veteran Jeremy Lin and first-round draft pick Trae Young. Lin is coming back from a ruptured patella tendon of the right knee...
More Stories