Walking into the locker room after the last game of the season had a different feel.
Moments before, the Atlanta Hawks were walking off the court to what should’ve been a win against the Indiana Pacers to end the season. With 1.1 seconds left, DeAndre’ Bembry fouled Edmond Sumner on the 3-point line (if you watched the Auburn/Virginia game, you know what I mean). He went to the line and sunk all three to hand the Hawks a 135-134 loss.
But no heads were hanging in the locker room after the game. In fact, you would’ve thought they won by their energy and demeanor.
Live by the motto
There’s a slogan that the Hawks have used this season. If you’ve been in the arena, you might see it posted on the walls as you walk by. They’ll show the statement on the jumbo screen during player introductions. In the Hawks television commercials, you see it advertised at the end of the segments.
When asked what statement the Hawks made this year to other teams around the league, John Collins made it clear what they had been preaching all year.
“Not to be corny, but our big statement is tomorrow starts today, and I feel like we’re pretty close to that statement”.
From game one to game 82, the Hawks have seen major progress across the board. Coming into the season, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Hawks and how they would perform. With a first-year head coach in Lloyd Pierce, he wanted to keep the same message from day one.
“I’m a new coach with a new staff in a new city with a lot of new players, and we wanted to figure out what this year was going to be like, and the most important thing was for us to figure out how we were going to do it together.”
The Hawks did struggle early in the year, but mid-season is where we saw the potential the team could bring. Collins became a double-double machine in almost every other game. Kevin Huerter began to show flashes of his game on both sides of the ball. And Trae Young was able to elevate his game to a whole new level and began to prove his early season doubters wrong.
“You come out of the summer league, you come out of the draft and everybody wants to question the pick, and they want to question can he (Trae) adjust to the NBA. I don’t think anybody is doubting that anymore.”
The play of those three and other young players on the Hawks have made the future bright. It looks like they may be ahead of schedule in their rebuilding process. So much ahead of schedule that they’re getting questions on how they’ll sell the teams to big free agents in the offseason.
“I got to keep that between me and the free agent,” Trae Young said with a smile. “Of course we’re going to continue to get better and add pieces. You’ll know whenever you see some names pop up.”
“I hope I don’t have to sell it,” coach Pierce said. “Everyone had us wherever they had us at the beginning of the year, and I get compliments from the coaches, the media, from friends. We’re way ahead of the curve and people are excited to see us play.”
A bright future ahead
Coming into the season, some didn’t even have the Hawks winning more than 20 games, but with the right development and leadership within the organization, this team was able to exceed those expectations with 29 wins.
Pierce didn’t want to put a grade on the season, but he knows there are things they did well and some things they could have improved on.
“If I say that they had an A that means there’s no room for improvement, and there’s a lot of room for improvement. If I say they’re a C, I don’t want to short, slight anything that they’ve accomplished.”
Everything the Hawks have done up to this point has put their motto into big focus. From their play on the court, to coaching, to the front office, they’ve set themselves up for a great future. One game to end the season wasn’t going to bother the Hawks at all, because they knew that didn’t define their season. They know what they have in front of them. And if everything goes to plan, they’ll definitely be competing as early as next season.
“Tomorrow starts today” wasn’t just a fancy quote that the Hawks made up, but it was something they tried to stand for all season.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.