The NBA is back to an 82 game schedule and the Hawks usher in a new era without Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams while bringing aboard Danny Ferry to try to bring a championship to Atlanta. Johnson will return to Atlanta as a member of the Brooklyn Nets on January 16, and Williams as a member of the Jazz on January 11. You can check out the full schedule here, but I’ll highlight some of the key games and stretches before giving some predictions.
The season kicks of with Linsanity, the Houston version this time, at Phillips Arena on November 2. A quick trip to Oklahoma City 2 days later precedes a two game stretch at home playing last year’s #2 and #3 seed in the East, the Pacers and then the champion Miami Heat. The first nationally televised game for the Hawks is at Orlando on NBATV on the 19th. The longest homestand of the year spans across November and December for a 5 game run from November the 24th to December the 7th.
New Year’s brings a trip to Houston on the eve of the new year and then New Orleans to face off against the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Davis, on the first day of 2013. The Hawks get two national TV games in January, the first one at Chicago on the 14th on NBATV and the second on ESPN in Madison Square Gardens on the 27th. In the middle of that is the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game for the Hawks at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves on the 21st.
The All-Star Break for 2013 is in Houston on February 14-17. Soon after, the Hawks face the Miami Heat at Philips Arena on a Wednesday night ESPN game. The longest road trip of the year for the Hawks kicks off February 23, starting in Milwaukee and moving to Detroit, Utah, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and ending in Denver on March 4. In a seven game stretch in March, the Atlanta Hawks face off against the last 5 year’s worth of NBA Champions, the Celtics, Lakers, Mavericks and Heat, as well as a home and away against Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and the Nets from the 8th to the 18th. On March 25, the Hawks have another game on NBATV at Indiana.
The final national TV game is on ESPN at home against the New York Knicks on April 3 and the final game of the season is against the same team in New York this time on the 17th.
With such a roster turnover, the Hawks will need training camp and preseason games to mesh and form a cohesive group. There is talk of a more up-tempo style with two capable point guards in Jeff Teague and Devin Harris and a multitude of wing shooters. The East looks to contain lesser quality teams than their counterparts in the West, with only the Heat a lock to contend for the title. It doesn’t look to be a grueling schedule for the Hawks, with mostly a scattering of games of top-end teams.
However, it’s hard to think the Hawks can survive losing Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams and remain a top 4 seed in the East. Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, John Jenkins, and a sprinkle of Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson comes close, but with the Heat getting even better, Brooklyn vastly improving, the Celtics retooling, the Knicks presumably more focused and Chicago still centered around their stonewall defensive exploits, I don’t see the Hawks grabbing a a top 4 seed.
If Al Horford can comeback from his pectoral injury like he did in Games 5 and 6 against the Boston Celtics and Josh can be more efficient in his shot selection, a pipe dream, I know, then this team has a good chance to surprise many who figured they would take a large step backwards. It seems to be a fair schedule, and there don’t seem to be too many chances for long losing streaks.
As a wild guess, I’ll suggest a 47-35 record and a #5 seed in the East, setting up a matchup against the 4 -seeded Chicago Bulls. With a now healthy Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Hawks fall in seven to the tough Bulls defense.