By Kevin Luo
The center of the sports world this week partially involved the Seattle Seahawks. However, I want to talk about another group of Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks. If you asked a group of casual sports fans what team is the best team in the NBA this season, how many of them would guess that it is, indeed, the Atlanta Hawks? But I don’t want to just talk about their success this season, I want to talk about how they’re winning and about my hopes that the rest of the league will play more like them.
You would think that the Hawks, who are now 40-8, would have multiple stars on their team, but how many casual sports fans could name multiple players on the Hawks roster? Although they have three All Stars (you could argue they should have four), they have no players averaging more than 35 minutes, 18 points, nine rebounds or eight assists per game.
So how have the Hawks been so successful this season? They have been so successful because they actually play team basketball, also known as “Spurs basketball.” Of course, the head coach of the Hawks is now Mike Budenholzer, who was an assistant under Gregg Poppovich in San Antonio for a while.
Usually when I watch the NBA, a large percentage of the half-court offense consists of one or two star players dribbling the air out of the basketball while the rest of the players stand around and watch. Most of the possessions end in tough jump shots or a one-on-one drive to the basket. Not only does this type of basketball lead to inefficiency on the offensive end, but it also leads to a lack of confidence and effort by all the players who are just standing around and watching. Along with being a bad brand of basketball, it’s really not that enjoyable to watch.
However, when the Hawks or the Spurs, — last year’s NBA champion — play basketball, there’s some symphony and harmony with the way they play. Everyone touches the ball. Everyone shoots. Everyone passes. It’s truly a pleasure to watch. This leads to more confidence for the whole roster so that starters get more rest. This also leads to the entire roster playing with more energy when it comes to defense, rebounding and fighting for loose balls. It sounds simple, but playing like a team rather than just five individuals is what sets these teams apart from the rest of the league.
Team basketball would be great to see more often, but one-on-one basketball has become a systematic flaw in how basketball is played and coached at every level. More and more colleges, high school and youth basketball teams are playing more like the pros because the stars on the team think they are the next Lebron James or Kevin Durant. I even see it when I play pick-up. Anyone who’s played pick-up basketball has experienced playing with a teammate that is a basketball black hole.
If they touch the ball, they’re going to dribble it around for at least 10 seconds, make a few moves and shoot the ball. I usually don’t want to play with this person, just like I’m starting to not like watching this type of play. Props to the Hawks and the Spurs. Hopefully, their successes will cause the rest of the league to play like them.