Internal expectations for the Hawks this season couldn’t be higher.
From Mike Woodson's annual preseason goal, he won't reveal it, but if he picked his team to win 50 games last season you can imagine what's on his mind this time around, to Marvin Williams stating that the Hawks are hunting a "championship," there will be plenty of carrot-chasing going on at Philips Arena this season.
But if Woodson does need a little external motivational ploy to spark his team sometime, his old standby ("no one believes in us but us") is still available.
While the Hawks expect to achieve big things this season, plenty of the national pundits still need some convincing.
A quick glance at what some of the experts think about the Hawks:
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: "My feeling about the Hawks is that they're like a lot of teams in that their main worry is to keep costs down. However they did add Joe Smith and Jason Collins up front in addition to Jamal Crawford, which are all winning moves. So long as they're healthy, the only team that looks capable of moving up ahead of them to No. 4 in the East is the Wizards.
In terms of making a national impact, it's hard to imagine the Hawks creating a lot of buzz. There is a wide gulf separating them from the top three of Cleveland, Orlando and Boston -- all three are tax-paying teams -- and the owners in Atlanta do not look as if they can afford to be ambitious enough to challenge the top teams in the East. I imagine Atlanta will have another very good year, and that it will go unnoticed while everyone is focusing on the Lakers, Cavs, Magic, Celtics and Spurs."
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: "The NBA remains a league that belongs to the superstars, and unfortunately for [the Hawks] they have none. They have talent and now there's experience and cohesion to go with it, but they don't have that one guy who can single-handedly take over a playoff game on the road. Kobe, Shaq and Tim Duncan played on eight of the 10 championship teams this decade.
The Hawks don't have anyone of that caliber, not to mention the updated Eastern mix of LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Boston's Big 3. Because of the consistency the Hawks learned last year they could get to the second round -- if the Bulls don't beat them out for that final berth in the conference semis."
Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports: "I think the Hawks' situation is interesting because more is expected because they were able to take another step to the Eastern conference semifinals last year. But no one seems to be talking about them in that realm with the big three in the conference. Everybody is talking about Boston, Cleveland and Orlando in the East. So I still think they have a chip on their shoulder.
And if you think about it, this team is going to be better for a lot of reasons. First, they've got another year of experience and they're more playoff-tested. They were able to re-sign key players and didn’t lose anybody of importance. Their one major weakness, their bench, was aided in impressive fashion, with Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith and Jason Collins and the rookie Teague, all guys that can start if someone gets hurt.
So if you look at the Hawks, they're actually better than they were a year ago. I think what's hurt them is the fact that they didn’t finish strong in the playoffs, even with their injury problems. And that kept people from taking them seriously as a team that has a chance to move up into that top three. I do see this as a dangerous team with a chip on their shoulder. When it's all said and done, it'll be interesting to see if the Hawks take another step forward and live up to their expectations or everybody else's."
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