Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said on MLK Day that the Atlanta Hawks deserved four All-Star berths — that’s four on an Eastern Conference roster of 12 — and he wasn’t alone in that sentiment. Turns out the local NBA franchise will be sending only three of their starting five to the game in Manhattan, and here we note the power of the word “only.”
Not so long ago, not many folks around here cared much about the Hawks. Today we care enough to express a smidgen of outrage over the omission of Kyle Korver. A month ago, how many among us could have named three, to say nothing of four, Atlanta Hawks?
But winning 17 games in succession and going 31-2 since Thanksgiving will catch people’s attention, and we Atlantans are in the process of being caught. We’re watching the Hawks in a way we haven’t since the ’80s. We’re getting to know these guys. Heck, we’re upset that only — that word again — 60 percent of the starting five has been named an All-Star. We wanted 80 percent!
For the record, I don’t get overly exercised over All-Star selections in any sport. (Life’s too short.) It would have been nice if the game’s greatest shooter could have participated in something beyond the 3-point contest, but still: When Korver arrived here in the summer of 2012, he hadn’t even been a starter for the Chicago Bulls, his most recent employer. Here he has become almost an All-Star.
We say again: The Hawks have taken a roster of good players and turned them into something better. As mentioned last night, I had no idea Paul Millsap was this good when the Hawks signed him away from Utah in July 2013, and now he’s a two-time All-Star. When Van Gundy was coaching Orlando, he believed Teague to be “a little-bit-better-than-average point guard,” but he’s an All-Star, too. (Player development — it’s a beautiful thing.)
Talking with Al Horford after Wednesday’s win, I went on at length about how much better Millsap is that I’d have believed — Horford, by way of contrast, thought Millsap was great when he was a Jazz man — and when finally I finished I felt moved to say something else.
“I’ve known you were this good for a while now,” I told Horfy. “Since 2006 in Indianapolis.”
That was the year and site of Florida’s first NCAA title. And the reason I’ve thought of him as “Horfy” is because that’s what Joakim Noah, his Gator roommate, used to call him. We can credit this administration for turning two and nearly three Hawks into All-Stars, but Alfred Joel Horford has been tremendous all along.