We knew that coming into a season that was condensed, with games practically every day, that there was going to be fallout, collateral damage from the stress that such a ridiculously compressed calendar would bring.
So, here we are, Atlanta Hawks fans -- a team that was built for such a season, with a core that has played together for many seasons, and yet they are not immune to such maladies as well.
A list? Sure:
Al Horford's Injury:
Otherwise known as a sign of a coming apocalypse - or at the very least that the Hawks wouldn't be ‘that team' that miraculously emerges the season unscathed. There is always one. Still, at the time we commented that the loss of Horford was kin to losing the team's glue - that for a while the team may be able to suck it up, but ultimately it hurts to lose this guy.
Kirk Hinrich's Return:
Ah, see what I did there. The team was moving along and Jeff Teague was moving right along with it, emerging in big games and improving and imposing his style of basketball on the game. Hinrich's return has done what was feared - given a reason to use the bench as a teaching tool for Larry Drew.
Hinrich is experiencing a natural deterioration in his production commensurate to a typical Age 31 point guard. As soon as Hinrich came back he didn't just take the minutes of Jannero Pargo, he grabbed some of Teague's minutes, too. Statistically this has proven to make the Hawks worse as Teague out produces Hinrich in almost every way and is a player who is improving. Even Hinrich's signature defense, which is presumably why he is more trusted that Jeff in certain situations, Teague has been better, at least in terms of defensive efficiency.
It started with the alleged desire to have a change of scenery. Then, he's upset he didn't make the All-Star team. Did all of it it make him play harder, worse, better or is it simply a distraction to him all the way around. The habits, good and bad, remain the same, so it's impossible to judge from the outside perspective. He makes his supporters cringe at times and his detractors looks silly at others - all of which has to drive his coach and team the same way.
Marvin Williams v. Tracy McGrady
Did it have to be this way? Are they both square pegs that can only fit in the same hole in the lineup? Larry Drew made it seem that way, producing a scenario that has driven both camps to declare they are unhappy.
Joe Johnson's injury:
Now Joe isn't even with the team for New York, will miss the next game as well and is in danger of having to miss the All-Star game in Orlando this weekend.
So with all of these items raining down on the already luxury tax touching roster, limiting the quality depth they can have, it looks like, as Bill Walton used to say, it's all coming unraveled.
I present hope.
Yes, I did say that the Hawks would struggle to reach the playoffs without Horford in the lineup for 3-4 months, and they probably will. But, I propose that the Hawks are hitting the nadir of their season as the right time.
Look, they are going through issues - all of them are, I would guess --- but in the middle of this crazy season is just the time to grouse, snipe and vent about the things that this insanity of a season has brought.
Time, and many games, will plow through the next few weeks, along with a much needed All-Star break. Issues will heal, coaches will figure out what they probably should have foreseen earlier on, but it's ok, because there is time. This isn't the end of the season where they peter out right when you want them playing at the top of their game. They can break, heal and then rise again to the top of their potential.
There is time for Drew to figure out how to use T-Mac and Marvin together. Heck, maybe even Joe's injury and missing a couple of games will help sort that out. There is time for Drew to see that the team is more effective with Teague running the point. Time will heal Al and Joe's injuries as well.
Shoot, there may even be time for Rick Sund to find an inspiring, if short of roster altering, deal that will give the team a boost headed into the postseason.
We knew this would come - every team is going to go through these pains - it's their turn, and it comes in enough time to come out the other side stronger, and better prepared to deal with the stresses that really challenge a basketball team -- +.500 teams in the playoffs.