Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome Back to Relevance, Atlanta!

The whole reason why we started covering the Hawks from the beginning was that there was a dearth of any information about the team that wasn't emitted from Jeff Denberg's coverage at the AJC or the uninformative, banal, low hanging fruit comments that would come from the national "coverage" of the team.

An amazing thing happens when a team turns the corner and proves themselves as winners, even for a short period of time.

The comments change. The national template is switched to communicate something that is now positive about your team versus the claptrap most would spew without even lifting an eye or ear to see if what they were blurting was factual.

And so it has been with much anticipation that Hawks fans everywhere has waited, and waited, and waited for this to occur. Throughout the 90's the team was treated even as some kind of afterthought while winning, as if the way that Lenny Wilkens went about winning wasn't good enough for the media. Playoff games would be televised at the worst possible times, and on the worst possible stations. The team would be largely ignored until they had to pay attention, and then was quickly forgotten once out.

In fact, it has been since days of Dominique that the Hawks were more than just a place holder in the standings or nightly recaps. Almost 2 entire decades of existing in a sort of basketball purgatory, exposed only to be ridiculed and laughed at by an NBA Nation.

Not that bothered the Hawks faithful too much, but it has been a bore to hear the same stuff over and over again. It would be as if you had the last name "Butts" and you heard the same joke for the 1,278,497th time.

And then, late last season, the team traded for Mike Bibby. It was the kind of move that other teams in contention had wished they had made. Suddenly, it was the Hawks on a steal end of a deal that made complete sense. The playoffs looked real. The team was gaining identity.

The playoff run against the Celtics was more than anybody could have thought for the team. Naturally, as Boston more than held their own against the Hawks in games 1 and 2, the national pundits continued their tired oratory and stand up material about the Hawks. But, as games 3 and 4 showed, this team had some players who could go. But just as quickly as the Hawks had gained credibility with others, it amazingly evaporated with another lopsided defeat in Game 5. It was only after another huge game in Game 6 that people permanently noted this team and wanted to see what would happen to this upstart next season.

After an offseason of discontent, launching into this strong, character defining start has validated the team's growth and standing within the league. One need only look around the incredibly scientific Power Rankings around the league to understand where the Hawks have gone to on this incredible ride.

And the feeling we get as we check in to all these places that had long reserved a table at Derision Corner for the Birds? Some of it is pride, elation, and excitement. But mostly, it a nice feeling of relevance, a feeling long since absent from our hearts and minds, and a welcome change to the NBA season, for as long as it lasts.

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