Resilient. Confident. Consistent. What more can be said about the Atlanta Hawks who won again late Tuesday night dispatching the Los Angeles Clippers 107-98 to sweep a three-game western trip. We have seen good Hawks teams in the past but we haven't seen a team poised enough to consistently win on the road.
Monday's win was Atlanta seventh straight away from Philips Arena and improved their overall road record to 12-5 on the season. Good teams win at home, great teams win consistently at home and on the road. Western road trips are where good starts have usually gone to die for the Hawks so pardon any die hard fans' jubilation because something different is at work here.
Its not fair any longer to measure this Hawks team with those of the past. The metamorphosis is now complete. Some scoffed at the "culture" talk that was done by exiled general manager Danny Ferry and head coach Mike Budenholzer upon their arrival. However, changing the culture has had everything to do with their success. You see, the Atlanta Hawks are the definition of a team on and off the court. Individually they might not be as impressive but together, they have been able to do great things. They are the antithesis of the NBA's superstar model and they believe that there way is the path to future championships.
Perhaps this quote from Elton Brand best sums up this Hawks team the best.
"We have guys who don't play, who have guaranteed contracts beyond this year and they work their asses off because they want us to be better and want to contribute," veteran big man Elton Brand said.
ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz nails it with this description of what it takes to be successful with Atlanta's system.
One thing that often gets lost in the discussion about culture and chemistry -- the system installed in Atlanta by way of San Antonio demands a strict selflessness. Break off from the sequence of actions in the half court and the stuff falls apart. Everyone on the floor devotes himself to the idea that if you stay in motion, the ball will work its way to the logical recipient before the shot clock expires.
It's not as if the Hawks don't have a well-formed foundation -- just about every player in the league who has read a scouting report has been versed in the choreography of the Spurs-style motion deployed by Atlanta, but the system is predicated on intelligent players making intelligent decisions based largely on the behavior of the defense.
The Xs and Os of it is, there is a counter for every action the opposing defense makes. The requirement of the offense is to have a group of players that can see those actions and make the correct decisions from them. But, it goes well beyond the Xs and Os here. As Arnovitz points out, to be great in this system you must have an overwhelming commitment to the group. The Hawks have that. Its not about awards or All-Star appearances. Its all about winning in Atlanta.