Well, if you are a casual fan of the National Basketball Association and only tune in for the playoffs, you might be confused by this headline.
If you didn't know any better, you may very well have thought the Atlanta Hawks were actually contenders for a title this year. After all, they did take the eventual champion Boston Celtics to a seventh game in their first round series.
However, the old adage that "winning cures all things" could never be further from the truth, especially regarding the Hawks.
The Hawks were once relevant in the basketball universe. But in case you forgot, they haven't had a winning season in this millennium. In fact, the last time they were in the postseason prior to this year was 1998-1999. And while the Hawks made the playoffs all but two seasons in the 90s, even with Dominique Wilkins they were eliminated early on each time.
The 1998-1999 Hawks were coached by Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens and had a roster of experienced veterans like Mookie Blaylock, Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Smith. Of course, this was when Mutombo was a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Blaylock was among the league leaders in steals and assists and Smith was a dynamic scorer who was a candidate for the league MVP each year.
They were a very good team, and by Atlanta sports standards they were remarkable. But the mismanagement since that time has been almost comedic. The team dealt Blaylock to Golden State for the 10th pick in the draft, which would be used to select Jason Terry. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention they also got a guy named Bimbo Coles, owner of one of the greatest names in league history.
As if that wasn't enough, then general manager Pete Babcock continued his brilliant streak, trading his leading scorer, Smith, for Jim Jackson and the only person who made Dennis Rodman look tame, J.R. Rider.
Rider was an incredible talent who managed to lead the team in scoring, minutes played and minutes spent in jail. Needless to say, he was gone within a year and the team has never recovered since.
Since then the Hawks continue to hit rock bottom. Fans have witnessed a failed playoff guarantee, four head coaching changes, an atrocious 13-62 season, the death of Jason Collier, a bitter ownership squabble, many failed draft picks and worst of all the unbearable sight of an old and overweight Glenn Robinson "trying" to play defense.
The conclusion of the 2007-2008 playoffs brought about hope for the future. The Hawks finally made the playoffs, and despite not prevailing they tested the Celtics. But the team's outstanding performance has everyone wondering if this was just another cruel joke by the basketball gods, giving Hawk fans false hope for next season.
Personally, I'm not getting my hopes up too high; however, next season will allow the Hawks a chance to succeed. They will have a whole training camp to get used to with Mike Bibby at the point, while Joe Johnson will undoubtedly continue his stellar play. The Hawks are deep at forward, that is assuming they re-sign Josh Smith and Josh Childress. Rookie phenomenon Al Horford played remarkable, almost like a seasoned veteran on the low blocks.
So, there are reasons for optimism, but the reasons for skepticism are also abundant.
To say the Hawks under coach Mike Woodson have been irrelevant would be a compliment, because that would imply nobody has paid attention to them.
In fact the opposite is true; the team has garnered national attention for being a perennial cellar dweller. After an impressive record of 106-222, Woodson was inexplicably given a two-year contract extension.
Why? Because the Atlanta Spirit ownership group refuses to spend the money necessary to hire a competent coach, hesitant to spend the money in order to bring in a proven winner.
Atlanta certainly has potential to end its string of losing seasons. The Hawks are in position to make a run if they can continue to build on the momentum from the Celtics' series.
In short, winning is more like a bandage for the Hawks; it might temporarily cover up the problem, but the organization will have to prove that its disease of futility is not chronic.