If you play for the Atlanta Hawks you already know.
If you follow the Atlanta Hawks for any period of time, you know as well.
Nobody cares that you exist.
Nobody wants to see your team play.
This is the biggest challenge of the Danny Ferry era in Atlanta Hawks basketball: To build a team that is really championship caliber -- because then, and only then, will anybody change the way they view the Atlanta Hawks.
This is, from a franchise respective, self-inflicted. The team has never, since the days of Dominique Wilkins, had a player who is a top tier talent -- a player that by his mere presence on the team makes them a threat in the playoffs.
That doesn't mean they haven't had good players, even great. Steve Smith, Mookie Blaylock, Dikembe Mutombo, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith are some of the names that have come through the Atlanta Hawks realm -- but none of those teams ever had enough top end talent together to knock off a top tier club like the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, the Big Three with the Boston Celtics and the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade led Miami Heat.
This has led to a succession of playoff appearances over that time, and none of them ever ended up beyond the second round, leaving a nation of NBA watchers dull to the Hawks experience.
It's not that the nation is doing anything wrong. Even when they are on display for the world to watch, the Hawks don't come across with a positive transcendent experience for the viewer. They will show their inefficiencies, struggle with their own basketball demons and, often it seems, they get rolled.
Fast forward to Game 1 of this Pacers/Hawks series and the reaction that followed. The team came out and limped a little out of the gate, the Hawks collected themselves and made a spirited run and then, as we discussed exhaustively yesterday, Larry Drew pulled Al Horford and the Hawks never got closer to five points the rest of the way.
Along that path we saw the Josh Smith jump shots, a lot of bench players, a Paul George triple-double and nothing that would elicit any kind of sentiment that the Hawks could knock off the Pacers in this series. They lost by 17 points.
Looking at the reaction across the basketball universe we saw a collective yawn across the blogs and podcasts that reviewed the weekend games.
The BS Report, which featured Grantland's Bill Simmons and basketball specialist Zach Lowe, they specifically called out that they weren't talking about the Hawks and, as Lowe said, "That's life."
Over at The Basketball Jones, Skeets did a nice job of making some of the same points we did yesterday regarding the Horford Treatment (TM: Bret LaGree) and Tas Melas basically kept going back to the Pacers effort rather than discuss the Hawks at any length.
Finally, at CBS Sports, Zach Harper and Matt Moore actually spent two or three minutes talking about the game and said that it over delivered from their admittedly low expectations. Harper was puzzled at the Horford Treatment while Moore pushed the belief that this could be a good series and that those who only saw the final score, like the TNT guys, obviously think otherwise.
Coming into the series, every expert picked the Pacers. Heck, even a couple of Peachtree Hoops contributors felt the same way. So the Hawks and their coach rolled into Indianapolis and gave little reason the nation should change their minds.
So what? So what will they do?
Historically, as in the epic 2007-08 playoff series against the Celtics, the 2008-09 series against the Heat, the 2009-10 series against the Bucks and the 2010-11 series against the Magic, the team got themselves up off the deck and fought.
Last season, against the Celtics, the Hawks were down three big men, as Horford was just coming back (too early) from shoulder injury, Zaza Pachulia was out and Josh Smith was injured, but gamely playing through. They fought through to a spirited Game 6, where they got jobbed at the end and were ousted.
This franchise has the memory of an NFL cornerback -- no matter how badly they get beat and burned, they always line up for the next play - believing they will shut down their opposition and win the war.
Can this year's team do that? Can Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague play enough top-end basketball to make that happen? Will Larry Drew learn his lesson, as he did in 2011 when he poorly executed the Horford Treatment in Game 2 of that series but rebounded to pull off the upset of the defending Eastern Conference champs?
They certainly can -- but it remains to be seen if they are able to soak in all the dismissals, all the doubt, all the yawns and channel it into some fight -- a fight for their season and for their own pride.
We'll see if they can pull off the upset in Game 2. We'll see if they can steal home court advantage from the Pacers behind a renewed effort and resolve. That's the stuff that gets positive attention -- upsets and good basketball drives that -- and that's the type of attention that brings to mind upsetting the Magic in 2011 and the emergence of Jeff Teague in Game 1 of the Chicago series that year, where the Hawks beat the Bulls in Chicago. Teague is still pulling checks from that series when it comes to a national opinion about his game.
It's up to them, it's up to the Hawks to make that happen from themselves -- we'll see if they care and if they do, maybe everyone else will, too.