By Matt Mataxas
Consider for a moment a tricycle.
A tricycle is reliable. It’s unlikely that someone will fall off of one. A tricycle is safe and dependable. However, they also aren’t very sexy.
And while you may enjoy having the dependable, safe tricycle, after awhile you realize that this mode of transportation isn’t sustainable. There are other cooler and faster two wheeled machines out there more capable of racing past your three-wheeled Fischer Price mobile.
The Atlanta Hawks are the tricycles of the NBA-adequate for the moment, but will eventually be overtaken by the star driven teams.
They are a dependable team, as evidenced by their 16-game win streak and overall 37-8 record. They’ve beaten the athletic, “Lob City” Clippers (twice), the Lillard-led Trail Blazers, and even the Lebron James and super friends squad from Cleveland.
The Hawks are unselfish, ranked second in the league in assists per game, which rates higher than the well-oiled machine that is the Golden State Warriors. Five players on the Hawks’ roster average double digit points per game and none of them make more than $12,000,000 a year. Their most lethal player, sharpshooter Kyle Korver, is getting paid a little over $6,000 for his services, which notably includes shooting 53.6 percent from behind the three-point line. That too, is tops in the Association.
Yet, despite all of this, I can’t force myself to believe in these Hawks. All of the evidence indicates that this tricycle will be in contention for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, yet I just can’t imagine them outdueling a Lebron-led team or a rugged Bulls squad in the second round of the playoffs.
We’ve seen this story before with Atlanta sports teams. The Braves won the National League East every year for 14 consecutive years, yet only appeared in two World Series, winning only one of those.
The 2010 Atlanta Falcons recorded their best regular season record since 1998 and were the number one seed in the NFC playoffs. However, despite the 13-3 record, despite the number one seed, and despite the euphoria, the Falcons found themselves on the wrong end of a 48-21 drubbing, courtesy of the Green Bay Packers.
Again, there is no statistical evidence whatsoever that the Hawks will suffer the same fate and perhaps I’m simply being cynical.
The Hawks are the best story of the NBA season thus far, but unfortunately I envision this story concluding in the same fashion that all Atlanta sports stories do. The Hawks could easily fall in a best-of-seven series against the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, or the Washington Wizards.
While Atlanta has decisively beaten each of these teams and each is struggling in their own way, they are stiff competition. Cleveland has struggled all year finding their groove, yet are now on a four game win streak and seem to be putting it together, Chicago’s sheer size in the front court is daunting, and Washington has one of the most potent backcourts in the entire league. These clubs don’t look as impressive night in and night out like the Hawks do, but that narrative could change drastically between now and April.
Enjoy the tricycling Hawks for now, because who knows when the Schwinns of the world will speed by them.