Basketball season begins today for NBA Live and 2K fans.
Practice begins for the real guys tomorrow. I know this because they said so.
Monday, October 1 began the unofficial first day of the season for the Birds, and there was an aura of newness to the court. And it wasn't because of the seemingly never-ending offseason either. As Sekou Smith commented to me yesterday, when you don't make the playoffs, the few months of the off-season seems an eternity.
The Hawks, as we all know, come into the season with the longest playoff drought of any team in the Association. But you couldn't tell that from the ambiance at Phillips Arena.
Perhaps because this team know something that we don't know. Or the fact that the two newest additions to the team - the ones who are counted on to provide significant spark to this squad - come from winning programs (well I guess Marvin and Shelden did too).
They also care nothing about the playoff desert that plagues Hawks fans (their words). So that's who, in the humble opinion of this writer, were the subjects of prime interest on Media Day.
So let the world herald Joe Johnson's finesse and skill, Josh Smith's athleticism and potential (despite working with a Hall of Fame point guard and center on his offensive repertoire, his number one goal is to be on the All-Defensive team), and the fact that the Hawks have won 69 games in the last three years (only two less than Dallas last season).
I am focused on the mindset of the rookies. They are the most unaffected, which is perhaps what this team needs to obviate this thirst that Hawks fans want quenched in the worst way.
Horford spoke copiously of the minutiae that defined his championship run at Florida.
"Teamwork and sacrifice" were the hallmarks of those teams, he said. Horford comes to the team after having been apart of history, where many felt that he was held back statiscally for the betterment of the team (something he later confirmed). But there are others who feel that his numbers at Florida will not grow in the NBA. This, Horford claims, is "not how you should look at it." He stated that getting to the NBA by posting less numbers was a collective strategy by those Florida teams.
After the 2006 NCAA season, after winning the national championship, Noah could have left and become the number one pick in the NBA Draft. Horford wasn't going. Neither was Corey Brewer (now with Timberwolves). Neither was Taurean Green (Trailblazers). So Noah decided to stay.
A year later, all four left for the NBA. Horford, Noah, and Brewer set a NBA Draft record in the process by becoming the first college teammates to be drafted in the top 10. Noah sacrificed, and was last of the big three to be picked. Had he left in 2006, perhaps Horford would have had a great year, maybe not. But they knew that all of them together was better than all of them apart (pun).
This type of altruism in pro sports is rare. With bucks being thrown around to top picks like flyers at a protest site, it a wonder why any one of those players didn't go for numbers (the leading scorer on both championship squads was Noah and Green, who were the last two Gators drafted respectively).
This cannot be belabored enough.
"The way that we saw it was, if you look at our points per game, nobody scored more than 13 or 14 points on our team, Horford said. "So we knew that if we won, that would get us to the NBA. If we (the Hawks) can buy into something similar, then we would be good.
"I feel like anybody in our starting five from Florida, if Coach Donovan asked us to score 20, could have done it. If he wanted for me to average 20 and 10, I could have done it. But I don't know if we still would have won. So that's how you have to look at it."
This is what Horford spend the better part of 10 minutes explaining to this young writer.
He also went on to say:
-Joakim Noah was held back at Florida: "I feel like he would have scored a lot more if allowed to."
-His style of game is similar to Elton Brand and Tim Duncan...only from what people tell him: "I really didn't watch that much NBA basketball."
-His preferred position is power forward.
-There is not much difference between a power forward and center.
-Energy and physicality are the two components that Hawks fans should expect from him.