Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Hawks are off to a very good start. They are currently in the second spot in the East with a 10-5 record. They won over the Pacers Wenesday night to rebound from their two recent losses against the Hornets and the Knicks. Those two setbacks were due to obvious reasons. Against the Hornets, Dwight Howard was ejected for a crazy flying elbow ( see? they're really flying) to the face of Cody Zeller. The Hornets quickly capitalized on that ejection, with no Howard manning the paint, and went on to win by 4 points. The Knicks loss was a combination of two things, Carmelo's 31 and Schröder's 1. It really is difficult to win a game when your opponent's star player explodes for thirtysomething while one of your gunners manage only one. Had Schröder scored at least six more points or issued two more assists ( he only had 3 ) , then that would have been another W for Atlanta. Things like that happen , you get complacent before tip off thinking "it's just the Knicks", then before you know it , KABOOM!!, the game is out of reach.
It is clear they have refocused after those two losses, and now are back on the winning track. We may start to wonder, are the Hawks really that good ? Can they stay in the top four in the East all the way to the playoffs? They could , actually, and they should. Considering how weak the East is with only a handful challengers to King James' throne, the Hawks should be able to give the Cavs some kind of trouble. Besides, they were the first to beat the Cavaliers this season. That's something Cleveland just can't ignore.
Dennis Schröder is now the starting point guard. He is doing a good job, but not as good as Hawks fans are hoping for. Maybe Schröder has gotten so used to playing second fiddle to Jeff Teague that he might still need more time to get accustomed to his new role. It remains to be seen if the Hawks can rely upon the German national player when the going gets rough. The strength of their starting unit will go to waste if Schröder fails to deliver. They have a solid starting five with Schröder, Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore, Kyle Korver, and Dwight Howard.
Speaking of Howard, the new Hawk has found a nesting ground in Atlanta. It's great to see the former Orlando Magic main man bounce back from his dismal stints with the Lakers and Rockets. Sometimes, an all star player gets reduced to a mediocre athlete because of a system that does not suit up with his style of playing, or a coach who cannot maximize his skills. If the latter is the case, then we can say Dwight is in good hands with coach Bud.
Coach Budenholzer, a long time disciple of Spurs coach Greg Popovich, is no stranger when it comes to molding championship teams. No doubt he has taken to heart Coach Pop's teachings. The Spurs blueprint is visible in the plays run by Atlanta. Their is neither one, nor a tandem that the team counts on to win games. It is always a total team effort. In his fourth season with Atlanta, Coach Bud may have finally cracked the winning formula that will allow the Hawks to soar to greater heights.