The free agents have just about all been signed up. The NBA is down to a series of Instagram photos from moving yachts and crossed fingers from worried teams hoping their players stay safe in the summer off. There’s nothing going on, save for that clock on the wall that is ticking down to the 2013-14 season.
And it’s moving SO SLOWLY.
This is why we’ve decided to pick 26 things we’re looking forward to in 2013-14. Or, at the very least, 26 things that intrigue us as we wait out an offseason that feels like it has thousands of miles left to cross before we can get to Halloween and opening week. Because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – you guessed, NBA A-through-Z.
We start with the Atlanta Hawks.
The Atlanta Hawks whiffed on signing Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, two players with southern roots, and watched as their top free agent left for the Detroit Pistons for a massive contract. The team hired a coach in Mike Budenholzer that features a Q-rating of “Negative 900 Anson Williamses,” and signed a power forward in Paul Millsap that fair weather NBA fans kind of know. They’re leaning heavily on the return of hybrid guard Lou Williams, who tore the heck out of his knee midway through 2012-13.
So that’s … great? Yes. Yes it is. The Hawks will do absolutely nothing that trends anywhere close to a championship-level in 2013-14, but they will be fun. I promise. I think. Pretty sure.
Most of this guesswork has to do with the hiring of Budenholzer, the longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant. There’s a very good chance, with this small lineup and plethora of shooters, that the rookie coach could turn these Hawks into a dull-as-the-opposite-of-sin halfcourt outfit. Or, free from Smith’s ball-stopping, things could start moving. It’s up to Budenholzer.
He’s that one guy, Hawk fans should know. The one giving up his seat to Tony Parker or Tim Duncan and was seen doing most of the talking in the pre-pre timeout huddle that the coaches confer in before moving back toward the players to wrap up the eventual instructions. For years Budenholzer has watched as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has worked his way through disparate lineups and philosophies – from possession crushing slow-down kings during the Avery Johnson era to spaced out veteran-minders in the years that followed to the internationally-inspired efficiency hounds of the modern turn – all while staying competitive and interesting along the way.
Yes, Duncan was there for it all, but that’s also an organization that had to think on its feet, and for a massive chunk of that run Budenholzer was there as Popovich’s sounding board-in-chief. It’s true that some of the brighter top assistants in recent years haven’t exactly acquitted themselves well as head coaches, but for the first time since Mike Woodson and Larry Drew came into Atlanta nearly a decade ago, we’re going to see a change in the program. It could fall flat on its face, as was the case with John Kuester, it could thrive to spectacular ends, as Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra and the Van Gundys have shown, or it could rank somewhere in the middle, like Hawk general manager Danny Ferry’s only coaching hire in Cleveland, Mike Brown.
Either way, it’s something different. And although 80 percent of what Josh Smith gave the Hawks on the all-around tip kept them in games and made ATL a team worth watching, a new voice, playbook, and re-emergence of Lou Williams could make these Hawks something pleasing to the eye. Even if it results in 44 wins, all over again.
Paul Millsap. The loss of, Josh Smith, a sought-after free agent about to head into his prime. Re-signing Jeff Teague, who initially didn’t want to be a Hawk, and Kyle Korver. A guy returning from an ACL injury. A coach that nobody, outside of San Antonio huddles, has really ever heard speak. Elton Brand. It doesn’t seem like this should be exciting.
I think it will be. Looking forward to it.
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