The Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 season, a season of few ups and plenty of downs, officially ended on Tuesday night with a loss to the playoff bound Philadelphia 76ers.
The Hawks are in what anyone with two eyes would call a rebuilding season after a decade of playoff basketball.
The losses of superstars like Al Horford (Boston), Paul Millsap (Denver) and Kyle Korver (Cleveland), not to mention Jeff Teague (Minnesota) and most recently Dwight Howard (traded to Charlotte before the start of this season for Marco Belinelli, now with the 76ers) and Miles Plumlee, have weakened what was once a team playing for the Eastern Conference title some three seasons ago.
Now the season is done and so is the playoff streak and I could not be more ready for the season to end. Here’s why:
1) I never got over the Dwight Howard trade. Never. The man answered all of the questions he faced coming home to Atlanta before last season: Can he still play? Does he still have the desire to compete? Can he still rebound at the elite level that he had during his all-star, Defensive Player of the Year seasons in Orlando? Yes, yes, yes and heck yes.
Howard averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and over a block per game for the Hawks and was still traded. In Charlotte this season all he has done is average 16.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while starting all 80 games so far this season.
2) The Hawks failed to sign Paul Millsap, despite his making four consecutive all-star games during his time in town. If that’s not enough reason to sign a veteran forward that has played at a high level then I don’t know what is. I just don’t. Despite getting hurt early in the season, Millsap is still scoring more than 14 points, six rebounds and nearly three assist per game for a Nuggets team (46-35 and in the playoff hunt) that is on the rise. The team he left, the Atlanta Hawks, lost 58 games this season.
3) I have a feeling the team cares more about the renovations to Philips Arena than they did about having a winning product on the floor this season. That was not easy for me to write and is even harder for me to say out loud but it’s really how I feel. What does Killer Mike’s Swag Shop, Top Golf and the Zach Brown suite have to do with winning basketball games?
4) Last but not least I feel like the management and ownership gave up on coach Mike Budenholzer. No he hasn’t been fired nor should he be, but he deserves to be coaching a team similar to the one he signed on to coach four seasons ago. This year’s team played hard, had some really cool moments and has some very young and talented players — Taurean Prince, John Collins, Dennis Schroder — but this isn’t the same product by far and that’s a shame.
After the loss to the 76ers, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was in relatively good spirits.
“I think the thing that stands out to me is how the guys competed,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud. Guys really understood that it was important to get better and it gives us a lot to look forward to going forward.”
On the 76ers being a playoff team after a decade-plus of losing, something the Hawks are now preparing to experience, Budenholzer said, “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned. The 76ers are a great example.”
I covered the team all season long and I’m more than ready to take the summer off.
Till next year folks.