Is there anything better than shamelessly discussing (sometimes in-depth) games that won’t happen for months?
Of course not!
In that vein, let’s take a look at the five most intriguing match-ups for the upcoming Atlanta Hawks campaign in chronological order:
- Sunday, November 4th – Atlanta @ Oklahoma City - After a season-opening home game against new-look Houston, this is the second game on the slate. There is no doubt that the Thunder are a better basketball team right now than the Hawks, but this could be an indication of the competitiveness level of this year’s group. The match-ups will be interesting with Teague, Harris, and Williams trying to deal with Westbrook while there is no real match for Durant on the Hawks roster short of lengthening the bench and going with Deshawn Stevenson. At any rate, playing the defending Western Conference champs this early should be fun to watch.
- Wednesday, January 16th – Brooklyn @ Atlanta – The return of Joe Johnson! This game won’t need any additional hype simply because the previous pillar of the Hawks franchise has moved to Brooklyn, and this is the first time he’ll set foot in Philips Arena after the trade this summer. It helps with intrigue that Brooklyn is a likely playoff team with Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace, but the biggest spotlight will be on Joe Johnson. How will the fans treat him? Will he go off for big numbers in his former stomping ground? All things to consider.
- Saturday, January 19th – San Antonio @ Atlanta - The Spurs will not die. I fully believe that Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Popovich will have this team firmly in the mix again and there’s nothing quite like watching their precision live. To add to the luster, the Spurs didn’t visit Atlanta last season at all due to the shortened schedule, so it will have been nearly 2 years since their last entrance into Philips Arena. This may not be Tim Duncan’s last season in the league, but it very well could be the last stand for this particular nucleus. Must-see.
- Wednesday, February 20th – Miami @ Atlanta - This game sells itself. It is one of only three nationally televised games for the entire campaign, and ESPN is carrying it. This is one of the few nights that Philips Arena will be assuredly packed, and that brings about a great atmosphere even if half of the building is cheering for the opposition. Oh, did I forget to mention that Miami is the defending champion and Lebron James is the best player that the league has seen in 14 years? That should just about do it.
- Sunday, March 3rd – Atlanta @ Los Angeles Lakers - I know full well that this game may not be crucial in the standings. The Lakers are one of the West favorites while the Hawks may be fringe contenders for a playoff spot by early March. That said, the opportunity to watch Steve Nash throw alley-oops to Dwight Howard? I’ll take that all day. Oh, and did I mention that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are still around? The nucleus for a year-in-year-out title contender in their own right? The Lakers may not have the depth or the youth needed to win the title (this could be a post in itself), but there’s no denying that they are a riveting story. One more note to watch for is that Dwight Howard has stated that he will not sign an extension, so the rumor mill could be in full force by March, and with Atlanta looming as his hometown with unlimited cap space, the whispers could become full-scale shouts.
Obviously, this is a tough exercise to perform months before the season tips off, and I’m fully aware that each of the 5 teams mentioned in this recap are squaring off with Atlanta on other nights besides these. In that spirit, however, a post like this can bring about some great discussion and new ideas so if you disagree and/or want to add something that I missed, be sure to comment!