Turning Skeptics Into Believers

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
By Jon Newberry

NBA.com released their weekly “Power Rankings” on Monday morning, and the Atlanta Hawks made the biggest jump up the ladder by moving from 10th to fourth. The league goes out of its way to clarify that the rankings featured on their website is courtesy of John Schuhmann, and “are just one man’s opinion.” This was Shuhmann’s blurb about the Hawks this week:

Atlanta (15-6)
Pace: 93.0 (22), Off: 102.5 (9), Def: 95.6 (4)
Atlanta is mostly winning with defense, while getting just enough offense from Joe Johnson and a random teammate selected nightly. Marvin Williams has made 10 of his last 13 threes, and Johnson’s wild three at the end of regulation helped the Hawks pull a victory out of thin air in Detroit on Friday.

Two weeks earlier, Shuhmann did not seem convinced that the Hawks would be able to survive without Horford’s services and had them in the middle tier of the rankings at #13:

Atlanta (9-4)
Pace: 92.6 (23), Off: 103.3 (8), Def: 95.9 (5)
Eventually, the Hawks will probably struggle without Al Horford, but they’re 2-0 since he was ruled out for the next 3-4 months. Maybe Ivan Johnson, who won the game for them on Saturday, can keep them afloat.

Even last week, when the Hawks inched up to the tenth position in the rankings, you could read between the lines and hear Shuhmann (and others) saying, “Yeah, they are finding ways to win at home, but let’s see how they do on this road trip.”

Now that Atlanta has won three times in four games during their five-game trip that criss crosses the country, some of the skeptics are running out of reasons to doubt the Hawks.

I feel like we keep hitting repeat on the “Flying Under the Radar” track. The Hawks are now sitting at the #4 spot in the league-sponsored power rankings, but no one is really talking about them. Not to mention the fact that they have beaten the top-ranked team (Miami) on the road and dismantled the third-ranked team (Chicago) at the Highlight Factory.

It is fair to say that the Hawks players want respect and attention for their play on the court, but not in the form of rankings and 30-second features on SportsCenter. They might have even given up hope for that after years of being overlooked. They want their opponents to know that they are for real, and in that regard they are succeeding each time they step on the court.

Check Out the Full Rankings on NBA.com