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Learning to fly

Mercurial Hawks keeping fans, opponents guessing

Posted: Thursday November 29, 2007 4:05PM; Updated: Friday November 30, 2007 2:50PM
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Josh Smith has blocked a career-high 3.8 shots per game while shooting a career-low 36.3 percent from the field this season.
Josh Smith has blocked a career-high 3.8 shots per game while shooting a career-low 36.3 percent from the field this season.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Is there a bigger tease in the NBA than the Atlanta Hawks?

Some nights they're good, like Wednesday night against the Bucks.

Other nights they're awful, like Tuesday night against the Bulls.

Up and down they go, like some kind of NBA roller coaster.

Earlier this season the Hawks opened eyes around the league by defeating the Mavs and Suns. Granted, Dallas was missing Josh Howard and Phoenix was without Amaré Stoudemire. But for a young Atlanta team striving to end the NBA's longest current playoff drought -- eight years and counting -- it seemed like a positive step.

Since then, however, the Hawks have dropped games to the Wizards (0-5 at the time), Sonics (0-10 at the time) and Bulls (2-10).

It's just impossible to get a read on Atlanta's pro hoops team.

The Hawks have talent for sure. Joe Johnson is a legit All-Star. Josh Smith is an amazing athlete, even if he still doesn't know how to play the game. Marvin Williams is starting to show signs.

Atlanta's two rookies -- Al Horford and Acie Law -- both look like keepers.

"They've got length, athleticism, they have more experience now," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Horford is helping. He's a guy who's going to be a double-double player probably in this league. He's close to it right now. It's a good club."

But while many around the league respect the Hawks' talent base, there is reason to doubt whether they will be able to break that playoff drought this season.

For one, they still have some glaring holes on the roster. They don't have a true center or a big man who can work the low post. Their point guards are always injured. They don't have enough 3-point shooters who can spread the floor.

Meanwhile, the business side has come into play. Smith and Josh Childress didn't get contract extensions this past summer and are now facing restricted free agency this summer. Coach Mike Woodson is also in the last year of his contract.

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