Lowe: Hawks Tanked by Attendance

Bo Churney —  July 15, 2014

Grantland’s Zach Lowe released his winners and losers from NBA free agency. Among the losers were the Atlanta Hawks, but not because of the deals of Thabo Sefelosha and Kent Bazemore. Instead, Lowe penned this on how the Hawks’ front office is having trouble even meeting with free agents:  

No one will take Atlanta’s money, despite a good core of players, a very good coaching staff, and an innovative style of play Mike Budenholzer has only just begun installing. Some stars won’t even meet with them. I almost wanted to hug Budenholzer when I saw him in Vegas. The most common theory among insiders for Atlanta’s lack of appeal is that players see the Hawks as a dull franchise with a dead crowd and a limited postseason history that almost always involves NBA TV.

That will turn around at some point, but just about everyone Atlanta has approached so far rebuffed the Hawks’ invitation to get in on the ground floor.

I have always been an ardent defender of the Hawks’ turnout for the other reason that Lowe mentions: the Atlanta version of the Hawks franchise has never really won anything of significance; no titles, no appearances in the Finals, hell, not even an appearance in the Conference Finals for the Atlanta faithful to hang their hats on.

The Hawks have four “championship” banners hanging up in Philips Arena. All four celebrate a division championship, which I don’t think is an accomplishment you should scoff at, as it is a nice accolade. It usually means that your team is in the top four in the conference and that they have some sort of chance of making it to the Conference Finals.

However… that’s it. The best thing the team can celebrate is winning their divison, and they have only done that four times in 45 years. Consider this: the most recent banner that they have put up for that type of success was in the 1993-94 season. I was one year old when the Hawks won that division title, meaning that a whole generation of Hawks fans have not even seen the team accomplish THAT.

So where are the Hawks at now? The team has made the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, which is the longest streak in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have never really had a great team in that span, but even after seven years of early playoffs exits, the fans of the team have entered a state of cautious optimism with regards to the future. Most of the fan base is pleased with the way general manager Danny Ferry and head coach Mike Budenholzer are running things.

Ferry and Budenholzer might not be enough for the Hawks to succeed without some help from the fans, though. I have always thought that if the team acquires a superstar player or gets into the title race, then the fans will start to show out, even when that period of higher success ends. However, with what Lowe is reporting, this school of thought might not work for the Hawks; they need the fans BEFORE the arrival of success.

The Hawks have the pieces in the front office. They have some great pieces on the court. But what they need to elevate to the next level, according to Lowe, is for the fans to bet on that cautious optimism.

The Hawks have been eliminated from the playoffs in consecutive seasons by the Indiana Pacers, who are not exactly the biggest draw in the NBA. Philips Arena was still packed and noisy — cheering for the Hawks! — for those two series. For the Hawks to shake that reputation of a “dead crowd”, the fans need to translate that noise to the regular season. They need to make it’s not a surprise when games are sold out.

So if Hawks fans want the team to finally reach that next level and if they want their attendance to cease being a joke to the average national media pundit, then they need to go all-in on Ferry, Budenholzer, and this team. The Hawks are currently in the middle-tier of the NBA and to improve, the fans need to take that risk.

Because when you’re in the middle, the path to prosperity can’t be ventured by standing pat.

Bo Churney

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9 responses to Lowe: Hawks Tanked by Attendance

  1. Very encouraging article!!! Blame the Hawks fans for lack of success, conference championships and NBA championships and then expect them to come to the games! Good luck with that!

    I thought the saying was, Build it and they will come.

    I guess it is we will show up to the games and then the Super Stars will come!

    Maybe Ownership and Management should sign a true center and a true wing all star, instead of always settling for a small but decent team that makes the playoffs every year and keeps enough money in their pockets.

    • Did you read the article? You can’t sign All-Stars if they will not even talk to you. Everything is always Somebody else’s fault.

  2. I read the article again. Thanks Bill.

    Seems like we had an All Star on the team and they traded him away for expiring contracts and draft picks that turned into basically nobody. It was just amnestying Joe. Surprisingly, Joe Johnson is still an All Star and our leader we are “pleased with” replaced him with Carroll and Korver. We also had a 6th man of the year in Jamal Crawford and he still is the best 6th man in basketball. Lou Williams turned out to be a great replacement for him though!! JK

    If we really had a “great” coaching staff then they would be able to coach Joe, Jamal and any other player to fit into the system. There has even been talk about how great Joe would have fit into Bud’s system.

    If we really had a “great” GM in Ferry then we would have “re-tooled” like he said, instead of rebuild. We had All Star Johnson, 6th man Crawford, 2 power forwards who could have been all stars each year and previous all star Bibby. The Hawks replaced Bibby with Teague. Then Ferry replaced an all star power forward in Josh Smith with an even smaller all star power forward in Paul Milsap who didnt even have as great a year as Smoove and Al did in previous years. Ferry replaced Johnson and Crawford with Korver and Lou which neither are really a perfect replacement for Crawford alone. Then after years of no true center, Ferry drafted one, sent him to Spain and then traded him before we ever got to see him play once!!!

    So POLL all of the Hawks fans who stopped showing up the last 2 years and you will see where the blame truely lies!!!! We had a solid team for 5 years and then we downgraded for the last 2 and even more for this 3rd season.

    Staying with the same exact team for 5 years and then downgrading the team for the next 3 after that is the reason fans are coming to less and less games. We are just good enough to make the playoffs and that is exciting in whichever state that you are from. BUT don’t expect fans to show up and sell out every game if we keep paying High Prices on tickets, parking, gas, souvenirs and food if it is to make Management and Ownership plenty of money and to settle for a decent playoff team every year. They need to build a solid, true championship contender and not blame the fans for not showing up and paying Management to actually do their jobs!!!

    • First of all, Josh Smith is not, has not ever been, and probably never will be an All-Star. I say this not because I dislike him (I don’t) but because it’s the truth. Overstating your point is a good way to get people like me who know you’re full of it to stop paying attention.

      Second of all, make fun all you want about replacing Joe Johnson with Kyle Korver, but if you take a break from the chuckles check their comparative numbers. Korver gives you similar performances (and often times BETTER performances) for like 25% the price tag. Sounds to me like a man who was actually doing his job.

  3. Hawks just need to build through the draft and make savvy trades.

    Too bad, so many of Ferry’s draftees in the 1st round have flamed out.

    We should have drafted Gorgui Dieng last draft.
    we should have traded up for Dario Saric this draft.

    Bebe and Adreian Payne are less than stellar selections.

  4. You are right that Josh Smith was never selected to an All Star team. Al Horford never was either. They played when there were actually good teams in the Eastern Conference! Lebron and the Cavs or Heat, The Big 3 of the Celtics and then the Heat, Dwight and the Magic. They played against 3 other great teams that had real All Star big men and Milsap only had the Heat and their big 3 and not much big man competition in the pathetic East.

    Paul Milsap posted career numbers this year of 17.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.1 Blocks, and 3.1 Assists against bad competition.

    Josh Smith posted career numbers of 18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 Blocks, and 3.9 Assists against great competition.

    Josh had better numbers in his best year and didn’t make the All Star game because of great competition and Milsap made it because there was no one else to put on the all star team at power forward. People remember Josh mainly because of his pathetic outside shooting and we always hoped ATL would trade him for a true center to pair with Al after 5 straight years of playoffs and 3 straight conference semi-finals. But Josh was an elite defender that could guard all power forwards, centers because of his shot blocking and elite wing players as well. Milsap can only guard big slow guys.

    The current GM, Coach and all star power forward have not led us back to the conference semi finals!!!

    Thought you would like some actual facts so it wouldn’t look like overstating.

    Korver did do his job! He is a very good player! Hopefully he makes team USA because of his 3pt shooting! He is about the best player the Hawks could find to replace Crawford off of the bench. BUT, Korver cannot defend anyone, he cannot create his own shot and so he is not as good as Joe or Jamal and cannot even be compared to those 2.

    Also, you are correct about the bad draft picks by Ferry in the 1st rounds. He also drafted John Jenkins in the first round that first year. Looks like our 1st rounders are all duds and our second round picks may all turn out to be quality selections. I can’t wait to see some savvy trades just like you!

  5. The Hawks situation is sort of a paradox. Nobody wants to watch them because they don’t have any superstars and the super stars don’t want to play with them because of the fan base but the hawks sold out every game this year in the playoffs and fans actually enjoy how the hawks played this year. I honestly feel that if any player declined to meet with the hawks because of there fan base than they aren’t the type of player the hawks need. The were number 2 in the league in assist and played a pass first unselfish game and needs a player that fits in that system.

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