When it comes to confidence, there’s an age-old saying in sports: “never get to high, never get too low.” That’s something Mike Scott talked to me about last year when he was going through a rough shooting spell in December. Just keep on pushing. With the Atlanta Hawks, there certainly haven’t been any dramatically high points this season. No big low points either (unless you want to say the outlier that was the Minnesota game). Coach Mike Budenholzer preaches patience on offense. Finding the best look possible. Giving up a good shot for a great shot. That’s the Atlanta Hawks basketball we’ve become accustomed to over the past few seasons.
So what’s with the recent struggle? Sure, every team faces rough patches in their season – especially early on, right Houston? – which lead fans and pundits alike to ask questions. Skeptics have taken a look at this Hawks team and asked:
“Do they have what it takes to replace DeMarre Carroll?”
“Can the Hawks get over the hump that was in their way last season?”
“Are they regressing to the mean?”
To be completely honest, the offense has been largely unimpressive at times. The Hawks have displayed a lack of ball movement, spacing, and just a bumbling collection of careless mistakes and typical early-season errors. Going into that would take a chapter-book that will have to be illustrated another time.
But wait. It’s not like the offense is bad. We’re in the top 10 in the league with an offensive rating of 103.2 and putting up 101.4 points per game. I’m sure a bunch of teams would be thrilled to produce like the Hawks offensively.
I get the feeling watching these guys that they’re close to reaching their peak. Close, but not there yet. The ideals are there, the Bud system is there, but there are moving parts coming in this season that have forced adjustments. We’re treated to vintage Hawks basketball for a few minutes each game, such as the electric 2nd half against Minnesota (which is something the Hawks are capable of producing against any opponent), but there’s a sloppiness and lack of execution showing through the cracks.
We came into this season thinking that the Hawks would seamlessly adjust to the new roster additions and returning injured players. But some parts of the personnel adjustments this year have been like putting a square peg in a round hole. Other parts have worked better than I thought. And some have the potential to grow into prospering offensive weapons. Some of these examples include Kent Bazemore’s rise as a starter, my affinity for Lamar Patterson as a playmaker and basketball player, and, especially, the adjustments the offense with the addition of Tiago Splitter.