Over the last two years, the Hawks have beaten every team in the league but the San Antonio Spurs. Some of the losses mixed between those wins could be rationalized. A few were simply better teams. Injuries popped up. Back to backs happened. An opponents exceptional play sometimes could not be controlled. These were losses that were frustrating but expected. Even during the 6-0 run to start last season, no one believed 50 wins was possible, let alone some deal with the devil 60 plus season.
And the Hawks will not win them all this year either, but the difference this season unlike any other in recent memory, they can. And what I mean by that is the skill is in place, the depth is there, the match-up problems exist to go anywhere and against anyone and win. That is not to say the Hawks are the best team. Far from it. But on any given night, they can be. And they are at the point where they should expect to be.
You no longer need come to the Cavs game to see LeBron. You come to watch the Hawks beat LeBron. You no longer have to turn the game on late because you know it is the second of a back to back and you want to avoid what was probably a first half dismantling. Now, you get excited to watch your disadvantaged team take it to the other guys. It is not who is going to screw up tonight, but who is going to rise up. What I am saying is we no longer need worry about anything other than execution.
This reason may be small. It may even be obvious. And the large "if" that hovers over the whole idea might be a big one. But the Hawks have improved each of the last four years. They are a team that beats expectations, and the more they improve, the more beating expectations is less a nice story and more a tale of becoming a real factor. In some sense, Hawks fans are done living in a land of hope. They are in a land of execution. And every so often, a team and its fans can realize they have made that step and look back and still tap into the hope. For the rare team that combines the two, it will be exciting. And that could be the Hawks.