If a seven-game losing streak wasn’t embarrassing enough for the Atlanta Hawks, then Sunday’s home loss to the last place Brooklyn Nets probably was. The Hawks have now dropped 10 of their last 13 games and are just 28-34 since their 9-2 start to the season.
That is the ugly truth for a group that has overachieved and outperformed it’s point differential for most of the season. Over achievement is usually followed by regression and this time it is coming like a freight train for this team.
While they may not be able to fall completely out of the playoff picture, they seem intent on making it interesting. Atlanta enters play on Monday with a 2.5 game lead over ninth place Chicago and a three game cushion on 10th place Detroit.
However, there is much more at stake for this group of Hawks. Over half of the roster can or will be free agents at the end of the season. Most notably among that group is Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Back in early January, it looked like the front office was ready to hit the reset button. They traded Kyle Korver to Cleveland for a first round pick and that felt like just the beginning. Rumors persisted that they were shopping everyone including Millsap, Hardaway and were even gauging the value of Dwight Howard. However, they stopped short of pulling the trigger.
We probably will never know how seriously they considered resetting the roster or why they didn’t go through with it. A seven-game winning streak and their position as one of the top teams in the East at the time likely played a factor. Several members of the team were also vocal in their desire to see the season to the end.
Whatever the reason, management and ownership doubled down on this group. They added Ersan Ilyasova at the trade deadline and later picked up Jose Calderon off the buyout market. They effectively went all-in and that at this point is looking like a disaster of a decision.
It is also worth mentioning that the Hawks have been without Paul Millsap for five games of their current losing streak. His absence was felt in close losses at Washington and Milwaukee. However, no one player should make this much difference and when you fall behind by more than 20 points to a team that came into Sunday with just five road wins on the season, it is time to look in the mirror.
Like it or not, it is gut check time for this group. It is about being accountable, being a leader and doing what it takes to get the job done. It is about being engaged for 48 minutes, not sporadically over four quarters of play. It is about being a professional.
This group has done a good job of talking the talk over the last week, but at this point in the season, talk is cheap and wins are really all that matter.
We will learn a lot about this group of players over the last nine games of the season. Fortunately, ownership and the front office will as well.