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A Franchise Rich With Tradition: From Pettit To "Pistol Pete" To The "Human Highlight Film"


1949-51: Tri-Cities Joins The NBA
1951-55: Hawks Take Act To The Big City
1955-56: So Long Milwaukee, Hello St. Louis
1956: The Day The Hawks Lost Bill Russell
1956-57: St. Louis Struggles In Regular Season, Then Shocks All In Playoffs
1957-59: Hawks Seek Revenge In Finals Rematch
1959-61: Dominant Front Line Leads St. Louis Back To Finals
1961-62: A Steep Decline
1962-65: Kerner Cleans House
1965-66: Pettit Calls It Quits
1966-68: "Sweet Lou" Makes His Debut
1968-72: Hawks Fly South To New Home
1972-74: Hawks Move To New Arena With A New Coach
1974-77: "Pistol Pete" Ends His Firing Act In Atlanta
1977-79: Turner Takes Over, But Hawks Stay Put
1979-82: Hawks Soar To First Division Title Since 1970
1982-86: "Human Highlight Film" Rated "R"-As In Regal
1986-88: Two-Year Run For NBA Title Comes Up Short Both Times
1988-90: Injury To Willis Leaves Hawks On The Short End Of The Stick
1990-91: Weiss Replaces Fratello
1991-92: A Changing Of The Guard
1992-93: Wilkins Becomes Hawks' All-Time Leading Scorer
1993-94: Wilkens Coaches Hawks To Division Title
1994-95: Wilkens Becomes Winningest Coach In NBA History
1995-96: Hawks Take Flight In Playoffs
1996-97: Mutombo Helps Hawks Fly High
1997-98: Hawks Overcome Obstacles
1998-99: Hawks Leave Nest; Defense Doesn't Rest
1999-2000: Memorable for the Wrong Reasons
2000-01: Kruger Takes Over, Rebuilding Begins
2001-02: Improvement Evident, Despite Rash of Injuries
2002-03: Coaching Change, But Strong Finish
2003-04: Change On And Off The Court
2004-05: A New Beginning
2005-06: Turning The Corner
2006-07: Injuries Derail Promising Start


NBA Titles:
1957-58

Retired Uniform Numbers:
(9) Bob Pettit
(21) Dominique Wilkins
(23) Lou Hudson
(owner) Ted Turner

Franchise History:
Tri-Cities Blackhawks 1949-51
Milwaukee Hawks 1951-55
St. Louis Hawks 1955-68
Atlanta Hawks 1968-

Season    W   L   %
2006-07  30  52 .366
2005-06  26  56 .317
2004-05  13  69 .188
2003-04  28  54 .341
2002-03  35  47 .427
2001-02  33  49 .402        
2000-01  25  57 .305         
1999-00  28  54 .341        
1998-99  31  19 .620         
1997-98  50  32 .610 
1996-97  56  26 .683
1995-96  46  36 .561
1994-95  42  40 .512    
1993-94  57  25 .695    
1992-93  43  39 .524    
1991-92  38  44 .463    
1990-91  43  39 .524    
1989-90  41  41 .500    
1988-89  52  30 .634    
1987-88  50  32 .610    
1986-87  57  25 .695    
1985-86  50  32 .610    
1984-85  34  48 .415    
1983-84  40  42 .488    
1982-83  43  39 .524    
1981-82  42  40 .512    
1980-81  31  51 .378    
1979-80  50  32 .610    
1978-79  46  36 .561    
1977-78  41  41 .500    
1976-77  31  51 .378    
1975-76  29  53 .354    
1974-75  31  51 .378    
1973-74  35  47 .427    
1972-73  46  36 .561    
1971-72  36  46 .439    
1970-71  36  46 .439    
1969-70  48  34 .585    
1968-69  48  34 .585    
1967-68  56  26 .683    
1966-67  39  42 .481    
1965-66  36  44 .450    
1964-65  45  35 .563    
1963-64  46  34 .575    
1962-63  48  32 .600    
1961-62  29  51 .363    
1960-61  51  28 .646    
1959-60  46  29 .613    
1958-59  49  23 .681    
1957-58  41  31 .569    
1956-57  34  38 .472    
1955-56  33  39 .458    
1954-55  26  46 .361    
1953-54  21  51 .292    
1952-53  27  44 .380    
1951-52  17  49 .258    
1950-51  25  43 .368    
1949-50  29  35 .453    

A Franchise Rich With Tradition: From Pettit To "Pistol Pete" To The "Human Highlight Film"

When the subject is NBA tradition, the Atlanta Hawks aren't the first team that comes to mind. However, the Hawks are as venerable a franchise as any. The team's history extends back to 1946, when the squad was known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. At that time the team was shared by three neighboring river cities (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa) that straddled the Mississippi River. In later years the team played in Milwaukee and St. Louis and enjoyed the services of a handful of the NBA's most memorable stars. In 1958, as the St. Louis Hawks, the club earned its only championship. The Tri-Cities Blackhawks joined the National Basketball League in the 1946-47 season, when the NBL included such teams as the Toledo Jeeps, the Youngstown Bears, the Oshkosh All-Stars, and the Sheboygan Redskins. That was the year that legendary center George Mikan played his first professional games, competing for the NBL's Chicago American Gears. The Blackhawks were owned by Ben Kerner and played in the 6,000-seat Wharton Field House. Tri-Cities finished out of the playoffs in 1946-47 but improved its record to .500 the following year and made it to the first round of the postseason. At the start of the 1948-49 season Mikan's Minneapolis Lakers and three other NBL teams jumped to the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which had teams in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The 1948-49 Blackhawks featured Don Otten, the NBL's only remaining 7-footer. He led the league in scoring with 14.0 points per game and powered Tri-Cities into the playoffs with a 36-28 record. The Blackhawks survived the first round but were felled by the Oshkosh All-Stars in the second.

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1949-51: Tri-Cities Joins The NBA

After three years of skirmishing, the NBL and the BAA joined forces for the 1949-50 campaign. Only half of the NBL's 10 franchises survived the merger. Tri-Cities was one of the 17 teams in the newly named National Basketball Association. In their first NBA contest the Blackhawks squared off against the Denver Nuggets (unrelated to the current franchise) and earned a 93-85 win. But after six straight losses Head Coach Roger Potter was fired and Arnold "Red" Auerbach was hired in his place. Auerbach posted a 28-29 record during his tenure at the helm-good enough to reach the playoffs, but the Blackhawks lost in the first round to the Anderson Packers. After the 1949-50 season Auerbach moved on to Boston. Auerbach wasn't the only future legend to escape Tri-Cities for Boston-Bob Cousy briefly belonged to the Blackhawks as well. But the club sent Cousy to the Chicago Stags in exchange for Gene Vance, who averaged only 8.3 points in five professional seasons. When the Stags folded before the 1950-51 season, Cousy was picked up by the Celtics. At the start of the 1950-51 season the NBA had been pared down from 17 teams to 11. The Blackhawks went through three coaches that year-Dave McMillan, John Logan, and Mike Todorovich (the latter two served as player-coaches)-and finished in last place in the Western Division with a 25-43 record.

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1951-55: Hawks Take Act To The Big City

Before the start of the 1951-52 season, owner Ben Kerner transferred the club from Tri-Cities to Milwaukee, where a brand-new 10,000-seat arena was waiting. That season the team-now called simply the Hawks-played fairly lackluster basketball. The only player to finish among the league leaders was 6-6 center-forward Mel Hutchins, who tied for second in rebounding with 13.3 boards per game. The team finished dead last in the Western Division with a 17-49 record, but Milwaukee fans, who had supported teams in Sheboygan and Oshkosh in the old NBL, still turned out to watch the Hawks play. The 1952-53 Hawks fared better, winning 27 games, but they were still the worst team in the Western Division and finished out of the playoffs once again. Milwaukee maintained occupancy of the division cellar in 1953-54 as well, winning 21 games and losing 51. With 26 games left to play in the season, Kerner brought in William "Red" Holzman as the new coach. During the offseason the Hawks added the cornerstone of their future success by drafting 6-9 Louisiana State forward Bob Pettit. The youngster had a spectacular rookie season in 1954-55, averaging 20.4 points (fourth in the NBA) and winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Milwaukee improved by a few games that season but remained the weakest team in the West at 26-46.
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1955-56: So Long Milwaukee, Hello St. Louis

Milwaukee sports fans had by now shifted their affections from basketball's Hawks to baseball's Braves. Shrewdly, owner Ben Kerner moved the club to St. Louis and the Hawks were an instant hit. Pettit was already well on his way to stardom, winning the 1955-56 NBA Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league in both scoring (25.7 ppg) and rebounding (16.2 rpg). Halfway through the season Kerner improved Pettit's supporting cast with the addition of 6-7 Jack Coleman and 6-1 Jack McMahon, who were both acquired from the Rochester Royals. After occupying the bottom rung of the Western Division for the previous four seasons, St. Louis climbed to a tie for second place with the Minneapolis Lakers at 33-39. The Lakers beat the Hawks in a one-game playoff and were officially awarded second place. The two teams then met in a best-of-three playoff series, and St. Louis won the first game by a single point. Minneapolis notched a 58-point blowout in Game 2, but the Hawks prevailed in Game 3 by a 116-115 tally to move on to the Western Division Finals. They pounced on the Fort Wayne Pistons in the first two games of the five-game series, but Fort Wayne bounced back to sweep the next three and move on to the NBA Finals.
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1956: The Day The Hawks Lost Bill Russell

The Hawks had the second pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. Before the draft began, the Boston Celtics forfeited their first-round pick by making Tom Heinsohn of Holy Cross a territorial selection. The territorial system allowed a team to claim a player who played college basketball in its immediate area, provided the team gave up its first-round draft position. But even after selecting Heinsohn, Boston Coach Red Auerbach coveted Bill Russell, who had just completed his final year at the University of San Francisco. Russell, with his unprecedented defensive ability, had enabled the Dons to go two seasons without a loss. The Rochester Royals selected Duquesne's Sihugo Green with the first overall pick, then St. Louis drafted Russell. But Auerbach wasted no time in getting his man, sending Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan to St. Louis for Russell. The deal was a good one for the Hawks. The 6-8 Macauley had been a popular player at St. Louis University and was coming off a season in which he had averaged 17.5 points. Hagan was a promising rookie who was returning from two years of military service.
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1956-57: St. Louis Struggles In Regular Season, Then Shocks All In Playoffs

Despite the new cast, St. Louis got off to a slow start in 1956-57. With the club at 14-19, Red Holzman was fired and Slater Martin, a guard who had come to the club earlier in the year from New York, took over as player-coach. The team went 5-3 under Martin, but he decided he'd rather remain solely a player, so reserve forward Alex Hannum was given the reins. Led by Pettit, who finished second in the league in scoring (24.7 ppg) despite having to play in a cast after breaking his wrist in mid-February, the Hawks shared first place in the Western Division with the Minneapolis Lakers and the Fort Wayne Pistons. That result wasn't quite as impressive as it seemed-the three teams were 34-38, and each would have finished in last place in the Eastern Division, where the Knicks occupied the cellar with a 36-36 mark. St. Louis beat Fort Wayne and Minneapolis in single-game playoffs to determine the division champion. That gave the Hawks a first-round bye in the 1957 NBA Playoffs, so the team sat back to wait for the winner of the Lakers-Pistons series. St. Louis then swept the Lakers in the Western Division Finals, taking the final game, 143-135, in double overtime. With that the Hawks earned the right to face Boston in the NBA Finals. The Finals were expected to be a Boston romp, but the Hawks surprised the Celtics in Game 1 with a 125-123 double-overtime win in Boston. The Celtics evened the series the following night, and the two teams split a pair of games in St. Louis. On April 9, Boston came out on top in Game 5, 124-109. Two nights later Cliff Hagan tipped in a Bob Pettit miss at the buzzer, and the Hawks edged the Celtics, 96-94, to force a seventh and deciding game. Game 7, which was played on Saturday, April 13, was one of the most memorable contests in the history of the NBA. The afternoon game was seen by a large national television audience. It was a closely played affair, with the Celtics taking command early and the Hawks fighting back. Pettit sank a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to send the game into overtime. With a few ticks left on the clock in the first extra period, a Jack Coleman basket forced the game into a second overtime. Boston forward Jim Loscutoff sank a free throw in the waning seconds, and when Pettit's buzzer-beater caromed off the rim the Celtics had a 125-123 win and the franchise's first championship.
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1957-59: Hawks Seek Revenge In Finals Rematch

Tempered by the heat of the previous season's playoffs, the 1957-58 Hawks cruised to the top of the Western Division, finishing eight games ahead of the second-place Detroit Pistons. Alex Hannum, who had retired as a player after the 1956-57 season, devoted his full attention to coaching in 1957-58, and it paid off. Pettit ranked third in the NBA in scoring (24.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (17.4 rpg). The team played a control game, pounding the ball inside to Pettit and forwards Cliff Hagan (19.9 ppg) and Ed Macauley (14.2 ppg). A rematch of the previous season's climactic Finals took shape after the Hawks eliminated the Pistons, four games to one, and the Celtics took out the Philadelphia Warriors in similar fashion. This time no one was predicting an easy go of it for Boston, and the Hawks reinforced this with a two-point win in the opening contest. The Celtics evened the series at one game apiece, but fortune turned in favor of St. Louis after Bill Russell suffered an ankle injury in Game 3. The Hawks took that encounter, lost Game 4, then squeezed by the Celtics, 102-100, in Game 5. Game 6 was played in St. Louis, and Russell did his best to compete with limited mobility, but after 20 ineffective minutes he was lifted. Pettit, meanwhile, was unstoppable, setting a new NBA playoff record by scoring 50 points. The Hawks won by a single point, 110-109, to dethrone the Celtics and claim the crown. Despite winning the title, owner Ben Kerner opted to change coaches for the 1958-59 campaign. His first appointee, Andy Phillip, lasted only 10 games before Ed Macauley, who was approaching the end of his playing career, took over. The Hawks also added center Clyde Lovellette, a 20-point scorer during the previous three seasons with Minneapolis and Cincinnati. Slater Martin and Jack McMahon continued to hold down the guard spots. The tough veteran team ran away with the Western Division. Pettit earned his second NBA Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league with 29.2 points per game and setting a new NBA record with 2,105 total points for the season. The Hawks, who finished with a 49-23 record and a 16-game lead over the second-place Lakers, were anticipating a third straight Finals matchup with the Celtics. But St. Louis was shocked in the Western Division Finals when Minneapolis, led by rookie Elgin Baylor, took the series, four games to two. The Hawks appeared to be in control after taking two of the first three contests, but the Lakers answered by winning three straight, including a one-point overtime win in Game 5 and a two-point victory in Game 6.
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1959-61: Dominant Front Line Leads St. Louis Back To Finals

In 1959-60 the Hawks ran away with the Western Division crown for the third consecutive season. Once again they did it with a defense that held opponents to a league-low average of 110.7 points per game. St. Louis's scoring, as usual, came almost entirely from the front line. Pettit led the charge with 26.1 points per game, followed closely by Hagan at 24.8 and Lovellette at 20.8. Fans who had been disappointed the previous season when the anticipated Celtics-Hawks matchup had failed to materialize were not let down in 1960. St. Louis dispatched Minneapolis in a seven-game Western Division Finals, while the Celtics rolled over Philadelphia. In the championship round the Celtics and Hawks traded victories, with Boston taking Games 1, 3, and 5, while the Hawks prevailed in Games 2, 4, and 6. Once again the two teams faced a decisive Game 7. But 1960 was not a repeat of 1957. Russell owned the boards, grabbing 35 rebounds, and the Celtics outscored the Hawks by 18 in the second period to break the game open. The final score was 122-103. Fickle owner Ben Kerner changed coaches again during the offseason, replacing Ed Macauley with Paul Seymour. The only other significant change was the addition of rookie Lenny Wilkens. The 6-1 guard averaged 11.7 points in his first year, but the bulk of the scoring once again came from the Hawks' front line of Pettit, Hagan, and Lovellette, who combined for 72.0 points per game. St. Louis took the Western Division title by a 15-game margin.
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1961-62: A Steep Decline

Although the 1961 NBA Finals featured the usual combatants-Boston and St. Louis-the real excitement came during the Western Division Finals between the Hawks and the Lakers.The Lakers now resided in Los Angeles and featured Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Los Angeles pushed St. Louis to seven games, but the Hawks made it to the Finals thanks to a one-point overtime win in Game 6 and a two-point victory in Game 7. Boston then made short work of the weary Hawks (the Finals started one day after the Hawks had eliminated the Lakers). Game 1 was a blowout, and the Celtics took Games 2, 4, and 5 in relatively easy fashion. Only a 124-120 St. Louis victory in Game 3 prevented a sweep. The following season was disastrous for St. Louis. In the wake of the Berlin crisis the country's military reserves were activated, and two NBA players, Baylor and Wilkens, were called to duty. Without Wilkens the Hawks struggled, and after Lovellette went down halfway through the 1961-62 season with a heel injury, the team collapsed. Kerner shuffled through three coaches, first firing Seymour after 14 games. His replacement, Andrew "Fuzzy" Levane, lasted 60 contests. Pettit was tapped to lead the club for the season's final six games. The Hawks finished with a dismal 29-51 record and fell to fourth place in the Western Division, ending a five-year reign at the top. The club also finished out of the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
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1962-65: Kerner Cleans House

After the disastrous 1961-62 season Kerner did some major housecleaning. He started at the top, bringing in Harry "the Horse" Gallatin as head coach. In a 10-year career spent mostly with the Knickerbockers, Gallatin had averaged 13.0 points and never missed a single contest after his rookie season. Gallatin kept Pettit, of course, and Hagan. After a one-year absence Wilkens was back from the Army. But Lovellette was gone. The American Basketball League, a rival circuit in its second year, was floundering, so the Hawks were able to add four ABL expatriates to the squad. Another key acquisition was draft pick Zelmo Beaty. The changes paid off. In 1962-63 St. Louis rebounded to post a 48-32 mark and finish second in the West behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Pettit continued his scoring and rebounding onslaught with 28.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game. Beaty was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team after averaging 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, and Gallatin won the first-ever NBA Coach of the Year Award. The Hawks eliminated Detroit in the Western Division Semifinals, then pushed the Lakers to seven games in the Western Division Finals before bowing out. Two games into the 1963-64 campaign the Hawks acquired seven-year veteran guard Richie Guerin from the Knicks. The 6-4 Guerin had averaged better than 20 points in each of the previous four seasons. St. Louis finished in second place in the West again, this time trailing the San Francisco Warriors by two games. The Hawks got by Los Angeles in the opening round of postseason play but were ousted by the Warriors in a seven-game Western Division Finals. The Hawks got off to a poor start the following year. Pettit missed 30 games with a knee injury, and Guerin was sidelined with a leg problem. Prior to midseason the Hawks' record stood at 17-16. Kerner switched coaches again; he fired Gallatin and replaced him with Guerin, who became player-coach. The team went 28-19 under Guerin to secure second place in the Western Division. But the Hawks were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Baltimore Bullets, three games to one.
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1965-66: Pettit Calls It Quits

Pettit retired after the 1964-65 season. He finished his 11-year career with averages of 26.4 points and an incredible 16.2 rebounds per game. He was an All-NBA First Team selection 10 times, the All-Star Game MVP four times, and NBA MVP twice. He was also the first NBA player to score 20,000 points. Entering the 1965-66 season, Cliff Hagan was the only remaining member of the Hawks' 1958 championship team. The team struggled with Pettit gone, although center Zelmo Beaty was beginning to come into his own, averaging 20.7 points and 13.6 rebounds. St. Louis finished in third place behind Baltimore, then avenged the previous season's playoff upset with a three-game sweep of the Bullets. The Hawks then surprised everyone by taking the Lakers to seven games in the Western Division Finals. Down three games to one, St. Louis came back to claim Game 5 and Game 6 before dropping the deciding contest.
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1966-68: "Sweet Lou" Makes His Debut

The Hawks selected 6-5 shooter Lou Hudson in the 1966 NBA Draft. Hagan moved on, joining the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA. The stars of the team were now Beaty, who averaged 17.8 points (despite missing 33 games with a knee injury), fifth-year forward Bill Bridges (17.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg), and Lenny Wilkens, who matched Bridges's scoring output and led the team with 5.7 assists per game. Hudson had a dazzling rookie season, leading the club with an average of 18.4 points per game. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team at season's end. St. Louis took second place in the Western Division despite finishing three games under .500. In the playoffs the Hawks swept the expansion Chicago Bulls before bowing to the San Francisco Warriors in the Western Division Finals, four games to two. During the offseason Hudson announced that he was jumping to the new ABA, but at the last minute he changed his mind and stayed with St. Louis. Ironically, he spent only half the season with the Hawks before being called to military service. The 1967-68 Hawks made do. Guerin, who had retired as a player, was still the coach. Beaty and Wilkens both averaged better than 20 points. On the boards Beaty received help from Paul Silas, who emerged as a starter after three years on the bench and averaged 11.7 rebounds and 13.4 points. The team breezed through the Western Division, taking the crown with a 56-26 record. However, the third-place Warriors surprised the Hawks in the playoffs by taking a first-round series in six games. On May 3, 1968, owner Ben Kerner shocked residents of both St. Louis and Atlanta when he announced that the Hawks had been sold to Georgia real estate developer Thomas Cousins and former Georgia Governor Carl Sanders. Kerner believed that a St. Louis franchise could no longer compete financially in the NBA; the league now consisted of 14 teams and had to compete with the ABA for supremacy.
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1968-72: Hawks Fly South To New Home

The new owners moved the franchise to Atlanta. The Atlanta Hawks retained Guerin as coach and welcomed Hudson back from his stint in the Army. But a contract dispute forced the new management to trade Lenny Wilkens to Seattle for Walt Hazzard. Hazzard was joined in the backcourt by Joe "Pogo" Caldwell, a solid fifth-year player who had averaged 16.4 points off the bench for the Hawks the previous season. In 1968-69 Atlanta finished seven games behind the Western Division-champion Los Angeles Lakers, then fell to the Lakers in the Western Division Finals, winning only one game. The Hawks were Western Division champions for the 1969-70 season, but they had to do it without Zelmo Beaty, who jumped to the ABA. The late-season addition of Detroit's Walt Bellamy helped, but another trade that sent Paul Silas to Phoenix for the little-remembered Gary Gregor was not as beneficial. Atlanta made short work of the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 1970 NBA Playoffs, then ran into Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor in the Western Division Finals. The Lakers dismantled the Hawks in four straight games. For the second consecutive year Atlanta was stung by the ABA when Joe Caldwell defected prior to the 1970-71 season. The addition of rookie scoring sensation Pete Maravich proved to be a mixed blessing. Although Maravich finished second on the team in scoring with 23.2 points per game (behind Lou Hudson's 26.8 ppg), the team often didn't know what to make of his fancy passing and showboat dribbling. For the first time since moving to Atlanta the Hawks fell below .500, finishing at 36-46. The team was no match for the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs and fell in five games. The 1971-72 season was a repeat performance. The Hawks finished 10 games below the .500 mark and were booted in the first round of the playoffs, falling to Boston in six games.
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1972-74: Hawks Move To New Arena With A New Coach

During the offseason the team underwent two important changes. After having shared Alexander Memorial Hall with the Georgia Tech basketball team for five years, the Hawks moved into the brand-new 16,500-seat Omni. The club also experienced the end of the Richie Guerin era. After 71/2 seasons at the helm Guerin stepped aside, leaving the team with a 327-291 career record. (Two decades later he still owned the club record for coaching victories.) To replace Guerin the Hawks hired Lowell "Cotton" Fitzsimmons, who came to Atlanta from Phoenix, where he had piloted the Suns to a 49-33 mark the season before. Propelled by the high-scoring duo of Hudson (27.1 ppg) and Maravich (26.1), Atlanta performed well under Fitzsimmons. The Hawks won in their debut at the Omni on October 15, 1972, downing New York, 109-101. After a 10-13 start the club went 12-4 in December. Playing slightly better than .500 ball the rest of the way, the Hawks finished at 46-36. But for the second year in a row Atlanta fell victim to Boston in the first round of the playoffs. This would prove to be the Hawks' best season under Fitzsimmons. During the 1973-74 season Maravich took more shots than anybody in the league and finished No. 2 in the circuit in scoring with 27.7 points per game. But the team finished 35-47 and out of the playoffs, ending an 11-year run of postseason appearances.
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1974-77: "Pistol Pete" Ends His Firing Act In Atlanta

The Hawks unloaded Maravich in the offseason, sending him to the expansion New Orleans Jazz for Dean Meminger, Bob Kauffman, 1974 and 1975 first-round draft choices, and 1975 and 1976 second-round draft picks. Things went from bad to worse. An elbow injury kept Hudson out of all but 11 contests during the 1974-75 season, and Atlanta won only 31 games, the team's lowest victory total since the 1961-62 season. Using their No. 1 and No. 3 picks in the following draft, the Hawks took David Thompson and Marvin Webster. Both stunned Atlanta by opting to sign with the Denver Nuggets of the ABA. The Hawks held together for the first three months of the 1975-76 campaign and reached February 1 with a 23-25 record. The emergence of second-year forward John Drew, who scored 21.6 points per game, helped. But the team collapsed during the second half, winning only 6 of its final 34 games. Fitzsimmons was released with eight games left in the season. Hubie Brown took over for the 1976-77 season. Two seasons earlier he had piloted the Kentucky Colonels to an ABA Championship. But Brown couldn't do much for the undermanned Hawks in his first season, and the team finished out of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, with a 31-51 record.
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1977-79: Turner Takes Over, But Hawks Stay Put

The big news that year occurred off the court. In January, Ted Turner (who owned the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta television station WTCG) announced that he had purchased the franchise. He also put an end to rumors that the Hawks would leave Atlanta by promising that the team would stay put. Atlanta traded Hudson at the end of the 1976-77 season, sending him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Ollie Johnson. In the 1977 NBA Draft the Hawks made two key acquisitions, picking up 7-1 center Wayne "Tree" Rollins and 6-2 guard Eddie Johnson. The team also added 5-8 Charlie Criss, a 28-year-old rookie who had been toiling for years in the netherworld of minor league basketball. Coach Brown somehow managed to coax 10 more wins out of his young squad, and the 1977-78 Hawks finished with a 41-41 record, earning the team a spot in the playoffs and Brown the NBA Coach of the Year Award. Atlanta continued its progress under Coach Brown. Dan Roundfield joined the team for the 1978-79 campaign after three years in Indiana. The Hawks improved to a 46-36 mark and took third place in the Central Division, only two games behind first-place San Antonio. In the playoffs Atlanta dismantled the Houston Rockets in a best-of-three first-round series, then stretched Washington to the limit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing in Game 7.
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1979-82: Hawks Soar To First Division Title Since 1970

The Hubie Brown-era Hawks came into their own in the 1979-80 season. A well-balanced team led by Drew, Roundfield, Rollins, and Johnson won 50 games and came out on top in the Central Division. It was the Hawks' first division title since 1970, and the first 50-win season for the franchise since 1967-68. Unfortunately, the club's solid regular-season play did not carry over into the playoffs. A strong Philadelphia team led by Julius Erving made short work of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, winning the series, four games to one. Inexplicably, the 1980-81 Hawks collapsed. The team finished 20 games under .500 and plummeted from first to fourth place in the Central Division. Brown's tenure ended after five seasons. Owner Ted Turner brought in Kevin Loughery as the new coach for the 1981-82 season. Loughery took the same crew and turned it into a tight defensive unit. After allowing 108.0 points per game the previous season, the team led the league in defense in 1981-82, holding opponents to only 100.5 points per contest. The Hawks improved to a 42-40 mark and made the playoffs, losing a first-round series to Philadelphia.
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1982-86: "Human Highlight Film" Rated "R"-As In Regal

On September 3, 1982, the Hawks made a move that would shape their identity for the next decade. They sent John Drew and Freeman Williams to the Utah Jazz for rookie Dominique Wilkins. The former University of Georgia star and future "Human Highlight Film" earned a spot on the 1982-83 NBA All-Rookie Team by averaging 17.5 points. Rollins led the league in blocked shots with 343. Roundfield led the team in scoring (19.0 ppg) and rebounding (11.4 rpg). But the Hawks won only one game more than in the previous season and were once again eliminated from postseason play in the first round. Mike Fratello replaced Loughery prior to the 1983-84 campaign. In his first year the club fell to two games below .500 but made it to the playoffs. For 1984-85 the Hawks embarked on a major rebuilding program. Roundfield was dealt to the Pistons for 6-8 Cliff Levingston, 6-9 Antoine Carr, and a couple of draft picks. Atlanta also picked up 7-footer Kevin Willis in the 1984 NBA Draft. Wilkins finished sixth in the league in scoring with 27.4 points per game, and the Hawks finished fifth in the Central Division with a 34-48 record. In the offseason Atlanta drafted Jon Koncak and then signed Anthony "Spud" Webb to a free-agent deal. The Hawks were the second-youngest team in the NBA heading into the 1985-86 season, and expectations were low. The club got off to a slow start, reaching the end of November with an 8-11 record and finishing December at 15-15. But with the new year the team hit its stride. Atlanta went 35-17 the rest of the way to nail down a 50-win season. Wilkins led the league in scoring with 30.3 points per game and made his first All-Star appearance. Fratello was named NBA Coach of the Year. Despite all that, the most impressive feat was performed by the 5-7 Webb, who thrilled sports fans and teammates alike by winning the NBA Slam-Dunk Championship on NBA All-Star Saturday. After a one-year absence, the Hawks returned to the playoffs in 1986. They got by the Pistons in the first round, thanks to a double-overtime win in Game 4. But Atlanta was no match for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Boston dispatched the Hawks in five games, routing the young team by 33 points in Game 5.
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1986-88: Two-Year Run For NBA Title Comes Up Short Both Times

One year later the Hawks joined the league's elite. The team jumped out to a 10-2 start as the 1986-87 season got underway, then strung together 11 straight victories at midseason and cruised to a Central Division title with a franchise-record 57 wins. The club was led by Dominique Wilkins, who finished second in the league to Michael Jordan in scoring with 29.0 points per game. Glenn "Doc" Rivers finished fourth in the circuit with 10.0 assists per contest. Tree Rollins moved into the No. 2 spot on the NBA's all-time blocked shots list. With high expectations the Hawks soared into the postseason and eliminated the Indiana Pacers, three games to one, in the opening round. But Atlanta fell in five games to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Hawks failed to repeat as Central Division champs in 1987-88 but managed to win 50 games behind Wilkins's 30.7 points per game. It marked the third straight season in which Atlanta had claimed at least 50 wins. They made a strong run in the playoffs, taking care of Milwaukee in five games and then pushing the Celtics to the limit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In a hard-fought series, Boston prevailed with two-point victories in Games 6 and 7. NBA fans will long remember the point-for-point, basket-for-basket duel between Wilkins and Larry Bird in the fourth quarter of Game 7.
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1988-90: Injury To Willis Leaves Hawks On The Short End Of The Stick

Having failed to get past the conference semifinals in each of the previous three seasons, the Hawks made some monumental deals prior to the 1988-89 campaign. On June 27 they picked up Reggie Theus from Sacramento. Six weeks later Atlanta signed 13-year veteran Moses Malone to a free-agent contract. The team seemed to be ready to challenge for a title, but prior to the season Kevin Willis fractured his left foot and was lost for the year. Even without Willis, the Hawks turned in another 50-win performance. But the club was stunned by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. The teams swapped close wins in the opening two games, then split a pair of overtime struggles. In Game 5 the Bucks finally eliminated the Hawks, 96-92. Atlanta's run of 50-win seasons ended at four as the Hawks fell to 41-41 in 1989-90. Injuries wiped out the backcourt and the bench, with starting guards John Battle and Doc Rivers and backups Cliff Levingston and Jon Koncak all spending time on the injured list. After a decent 13-6 start, Atlanta played .500 ball from early December to mid-January and then lost 17 of its next 22 games. Despite a late-season run that saw the club go 11-4 to end the year, a final record of 41-41 was not enough to earn the Hawks a playoff berth.
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1990-91: Weiss Replaces Fratello

After battling for the top spot in the Central Division for four straight seasons, Mike Fratello lost his coaching job because of his team's mediocre showing. He left the franchise in second place on the club's all-time win list with 324 victories, only 3 fewer than Richie Guerin. Atlanta courted former San Antonio Head Coach Bob Weiss and named him the new boss on May 22, 1990. The 1990-91 season was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Always a great scorer, Dominique Wilkins showed that he could contribute in other ways by setting career highs for rebounds and assists. But the once-ageless Moses Malone was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and his production dropped to 10.6 points per game. The Hawks started slowly, closing out November with a nine-game losing streak. During the next two months, however, the team looked like a potential 50-game winner, claiming 11 wins in December and 9 in January. Erratic over the final half of the campaign, Atlanta finished with a 43-39 record. Back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, the Hawks fell to the Pistons in a five-game first-round series.
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1991-92: A Changing Of The Guard

The offseason brought a true changing of the guard. The team sent Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers and received the No. 9 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft and two future second-round draft choices in return. Atlanta used the first-round pick to obtain Stacey Augmon, a 6-8 swingman and defensive specialist from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The Hawks also dealt Spud Webb to the Sacramento Kings and then turned the point guard position over to second-year player Rumeal Robinson. Despite its young backcourt, by late January Atlanta had fashioned a respectable 22-20 record. But in a January 28 game against Philadelphia, Dominique Wilkins ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season. The Hawks went 16-24 the rest of the way and finished the 1991-92 season with a 38-44 record. It might have been worse if Kevin Willis hadn't turned in the performance of his career-the 7-footer was second on the team in scoring (18.3 ppg) and second in the league in rebounding (15.5 rpg). Atlanta continued to tinker with the backcourt, trading Robinson to New Jersey for Mookie Blaylock. The trade gave the team a true point guard with solid ballhandling skills. It also gave the Hawks a potent defensive tandem at the guard positions in Blaylock and Augmon.
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1992-93: Wilkins Becomes Hawks' All-Time Leading Scorer

A mediocre team for the first four months of the 1992-93 season, the Hawks reached the end of February with a 26-29 record. The highlight of the season up to that point had come on February 2, when Wilkins scored 31 points against Seattle to pass Bob Pettit as the all-time leading scorer in franchise history. The Hawks surprised the league with a great run in March, posting a 12-3 record. The team then stumbled through April at 5-7 and entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. That meant a first-round appointment with the Chicago Bulls. The three-game series was a rout. A 10-point loss in Game 3 was the closest Atlanta could get to Chicago, which swept the series.
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1993-94: Wilkens Coaches Hawks To Division Title

Lenny Wilkens, who replaced Bob Weiss as head coach for the 1993-94 season, brought defense, winning, and excitement to Atlanta. The team went 57-25, tying the franchise record for victories in a season and capturing its first Central Division title since 1987. Although the Hawks were upset by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Wilkens was named NBA Coach of the Year. By season's end his 926 career coaching victories left him only 12 short of Red Auerbach's 938 for the top spot on the NBA's all-time list. Wilkens stressed defense with the Hawks, who responded by holding opponents to 96.2 points per game, fourth best in the league. Starting guards Mookie Blaylock and Stacey Augmon, both excellent defenders, improved on their performances of 1992-93. Blaylock ranked third in the league in steals (2.62 per game) and made the NBA All-Defensive First Team and the Eastern Conference All-Star Team, while Augmon and free-agent signee Craig Ehlo were also among the league leaders in thefts. In the frontcourt Kevin Willis registered a career-high 19.1 points per game. The Hawks changed their lineup significantly in February, trading their all-time scoring leader, Dominique Wilkins, to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Danny Manning. Wilkins left Atlanta having accumulated 23,292 points in 111/2 seasons with the team. The trade's effect on the Hawks was difficult to assess, but the team didn't play particularly well in the postseason. After needing five games to eliminate the Miami Heat in the first round, the Hawks were upended by the Pacers, who had won 10 fewer games than Atlanta during the regular season.
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1994-95: Wilkens Becomes Winningest Coach In NBA History

Danny Manning didn't stay with Atlanta for long, opting to accept a free-agency deal with the Phoenix Suns instead. The Hawks then made a significant trade as the 1994-95 season opened, sending Kevin Willis and a future draft pick to the Miami Heat for Steve Smith, Grant Long, and a future second-round draft selection. That trade and the loss of Danny Manning gave the team a decidedly different look. Instead of relying on a strong front line, the team depended on guards Mookie Blaylock and Smith. When those two were hot, the Hawks were a good team. Blaylock averaged 17.2 points and 7.7 assists and broke a team record for three-pointers made with 199, while Smith contributed 16.3 points per outing. In addition, Blaylock finished second in the league in steals (2.5 per game) and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team. On March 22 he recorded career steal No. 1,000, attaining that plateau faster than all but three players in NBA history. Stacey Augmon was moved to the small forward slot to start on the front line with Long and Andrew Lang. A career .717 free-throw shooter entering the season, Lang shot .809 from the line in 1994-95 to finish 40th in the NBA. Atlanta suffered from a lack of offense all season, scoring only 96.6 points per contest, the fourth-lowest mark in the NBA. In games in which the Hawks scored more than 100 points, they were 26-4. The team was strong on defense, however, allowing opponents an average of 95.3 points per contest, third best in the league. The Hawks nevertheless finished at 42-40 and were dispatched from the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers in three games. The big story for Atlanta in 1994-95 was Head Coach Lenny Wilkens, who became the NBA's all-time leader in coaching victories. In his 22nd season as an NBA coach, Wilkens passed Red Auerbach's 938 wins when the Hawks defeated the Washington Bullets on January 6.
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1995-96: Hawks Take Flight In Playoffs

Although Atlanta completed the 1995-96 season without a single player averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds or 10 assists, Lenny Wilkens had the Hawks fying high, and made some personal history along the way.

On March 1, Wilkens became the first coach in NBA history to post 1,000 wins, as Atlanta recorded a 74-68 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. More importantly, by achieving the milestone, he kept the Hawks on pace to make the playoffs.

The Hawks were led offensively by 18.1 points per game from Steve Smith and defensively by the 2.62 steals per game from Mookie Blaylock. The team was buoyed by a midseason trade for Christian Laettner, who averaged 14.2 points and solidified the team's center position.

Wilkens finished the regular season with 1,014 wins as Atlanta finished fourth in the Central Division with a 46-36 record. In the first round of the playoffs, Atlanta surprised the Indiana Pacers in five games, winning the decisive fifth game in Indiana. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Atlanta was eliminated, 4-1, by the Orlando Magic.

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1996-97: Mutombo Helps Hawks Fly High

Atlanta dipped into the free agent market during the 1996 offseason and came away with one of its biggest catches, both literally and figuratively. Dikembe Mutombo, the 7-2 center from Zaire, instantly transformed the Hawks into one of the finest defensive teams in the NBA.

Mutombo, one of eight new Hawks, led Atlanta to a 56-26 record and a berth in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third time in four years under Coach Lenny Wilkens. Mutombo finished second in the league in blocked shots (3.3 bpg) and in rebounding (11.6 rpg) on his way to winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award for the second time in his career. One of his closest competitors was teammate Mookie Blaylock, who led the league with 2.72 steals per game.

Defense was the Hawks' specialty, but Atlanta's offense was potent as well. Christian Laettner enjoyed his best pro season, averaging 18.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Laettner joined Mutombo on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The backcourt tandem of Steve Smith and Blaylock also provided spark. Smith scored a team-high 20.1 ppg, while Blaylock averaged 17.4 ppg and a team-high 5.9 assists.

On December 17, the Hawks set an NBA record with 19 three-point field goals in a 109-73 win over Dallas. In January, the team won 10 straight games and set a franchise record for most wins in any month (14) en route to the seventh 50-win season in Hawks history. In their last season at the Omni, the Hawks went 36-5, equaling the best home record in team history.

In a first-round playoff battle with Detroit, Atlanta won the decisive fifth game in front of the home crowd. Atlanta's second round opponent, the eventual champion Chicago Bulls, gave the Hawks a little more than they could handle even though in Game 2 Atlanta became the first team in 14 tries to beat the Bulls in Chicago. However, Atlanta's win seemed to rekindle the fire in the Bulls, who won the best-of-7 series 4-1.

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1997-98: Hawks Overcome Obstacles

The 1997-98 Atlanta Hawks dealt with more than their share of distracions. Atlanta was forced to split its home games between the Georgia Dome and Georgia Tech while their new arena was under construction. Despite the additional headache and a series of injuries, Atlanta finished with a record of 50-32.

The Hawks began the season on high note, going 11-0 to match the Lakers for the best start in the league before suffering a series of injures to key players, including Steve Smith, Alan Henderson, Mookie Blaylock and Christian Laettner.

Head Coach Lenny Wilkens further distinguished himself by reaching a pair of milestones in February. Wilkens won his 1,100th career game on February 10 at Milwaukee and coached his 2,000th career regular season NBA contest on February 18 against New Jersey.

Smith earned his first All-Star berth, joining teammate Dikembe Mutombo on the East squad. Smith led the Hawks in scoring at 20.1 ppg and was also the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in recognition of his outstanding community service and charitable work. Mutombo had another strong season in the middle, averaging 14.4 points, 11.4 rebounds (fourth in the NBA) and 3.38 blocks (second) per game. At season's end, he was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith and Mutombo weren't the only Hawks honored in the postseason. Alan Henderson was named the league's Most Improved Player, while Blaylock led the NBA in steals. Individual achievements didn't translate to team success in the postseason. A first round matchup with Charlotte went the Hornets' way in four games, leaving Atlanta looking forward to next year and another run at an NBA title in their brand-new state-of-the-art arena.

In the cavernous Georgia Dome, the Hawks broke the all-time NBA single-game attendance mark, drawing 62,046 fans against the Chicago Bulls. The Hawks also broke the franchise all-time single-season home attendance record, averaging 17,450.

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1998-99: Hawks Leave Nest; Defense Doesn't Rest

Despite being a team without a full-time home during the lockout-shortened season, the Atlanta Hawks finished with a winning record (31-19) for the seventh consecutive year and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Atlanta got the job done with defense, setting an NBA record by allowing only 83.4 points per game. Dikembe Mutombo and Mookie Blaylock led the way, with Mutombo averaging 2.94 blocks (fourth in NBA) and Blaylock notching 2.06 steals per game (10th).

In the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks beat Detroit in five games. New York eliminated Atlanta in four games in the next round. Starting forward Alan Henderson played only four minutes in the postseason because of an eye injury.

Three starters missed significant time during the regular season: LaPhonso Ellis sat out the final 30 games and all of the playoffs because of a sports hernia, leading scorer Steve Smith (18.7 ppg) missed 14 games with knee problems, and Henderson was out for 12 games with back, tailbone and eye injuries.

The Hawks played at Georgia Tech and in the Georgia Dome because The Omni, which opened in 1972, was demolished to make room for the team's new home, Philips Arena, which was scheduled to open for the 1999-2000 season.

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1999-2000: Memorable for the Wrong Reasons

The 1999-2000 season turned out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons. After pulling even to a 9-9 record in early December, the Hawks went just 19-45 the remainder of the season. The 28-54 record was the poorest in Atlanta history.

The season did see the opening of the state-of-the-art Philips Arena, in which the Hawks still managed to record a 21-20 mark for the season. Rookie Jason Terry brought hope for the future, as the 10th overall pick was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team.

Dikembe Mutombo was once again named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team and won the NBA rebounding title for the first time in his career. He also finished second in blocked shots and field goal percentage.

Following the season, head coach Lenny Wilkens elected to resign his position, setting the stage for the Lon Kruger era. Kruger, who spent 18 years as a college coach at Pan American, Kansas State, Florida and Illinois looked to duplicate his success on the pro level.

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2000-01: Kruger Takes Over, Rebuilding Begins

While 2000-01 was not a successful season from a won-loss standpoint, a strong foundation was laid, and the subsequent offseason provided an excitement level unmatched in recent years.

Despite being on the losing end of the most contests in franchise history (57), Lon Kruger’s group showed outstanding effort on a nightly basis and the team’s attitude did not go unnoticed.

Jason Terry avoided the sophomore jinx in a big way leading the team with 19.7 ppg, the highest by a Hawk since Steve Smith’s 20.1 output in 1997-98. A mid-season trade changed the look of the team’s future, as center Dikembe Mutombo was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for three talents - Theo Ratliff, Toni Kukoc and Nazr Mohammed.

Ratliff was named the Eastern Conference’s starting center in the 2001 NBA All-Star Game, but was unable to play due to a fractured wrist. That injury also pushed his Hawks debut back to the 2001-02 season.

Three-time NBA champ Kukoc and the unheralded Mohammed both made major contributions, with Mohammed playing so well he was re-signed in the offseason.

The draft day acquisition of the Grizzlies’ Shareef-Abdur Rahim provided a tremendous amount of buzz around the league, as the experienced, yet young 2000 U.S. Olympian will now lead his hometown team.

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2001-02: Improvement Evident, Despite Rash of Injuries

Unfortunately, injuries became the lead story of 2001-02, as the Hawks lost an NBA-high 319 games missed due to injury/illness.

While there were some terriffic individual performances - Shareef Abdur Rahim’s All-Star appearance, 50-point game and all-around consistent play - the loss of Theo Ratliff for 79 of the season’s 82 games proved too much to overcome in a 33-49 campaign.

Jason Terry also shined, averaging 19.3 ppg (his second straight season over 19 ppg), while the exciting DerMarr Johnson showed significant development over his rookie season.

The Hawks delivered a solid performance over the second half of the season, going 17-16 following the All-Star break (after a 16-33 first half).

Ira Newble, signed in mid-January, brought a toughness and defensive presence to the club, starting 35 of 42 games in which he played.

The summer of 2002 saw another draft night trade, as the Hawks acquired Gonzaga point guard Dan Dickau from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for a future first-round pick. In the second round, Atlanta selected Australian David Andersen (37th overall).

An early August trade added All-Star forward Glenn Robinson to the Hawks roster, bringing one of the league’s best mid-range shooters and scorers to the Atlanta roster.

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2002-03: Coaching Change, But Strong Finish

With very high expectations entering the 2002-03 season, it became one of disappointment and change.

After a 6-4 start through 10 games, the Hawks dropped 12 of 17, costing head coach Lon Kruger his job. Assistant coach Terry Stotts replaced Kruger and had a rough start as well, going 3-11.

But the Hawks showed signs of life in mid-January, and really began playing solidly following the All-Star break.

Speaking of All-Star, the 2003 classic, held at Philips Arena, was certainly a highlight for the franchise and the city, as the first-ever double overtime All-Star game ended with a 155-145 West win. Kevin Garnett (37 points) secured MVP honors in Michael Jordan’s final All-Star appearance.

Atlanta produced a 16-17 mark following the break, and posted a 6-2 mark in April. Glenn Robinson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jason Terry combined to average 57.9 ppg, becoming the highest-scoring trio in the league on the season. Additionally, center Theo Ratliff returned to All-Star form in the season’s second half.

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2003-04: Change On And Off The Court

After the first part of the 2003-04 season didn't go as planned, General Manager Billy Knight decided major changes had to be made for the franchise to move forward. Over a 10-day span in February, Knight pulled off three major trades, leaving the Hawks with massive salary cap room for the summer of 2004.

In another move that changed the shape of the franchise, the Hawks, along with the Atlanta Thrashers and the operating rights to Philips Arena, were sold to a nine-man ownership group called Atlanta Spirit LLC on March 31, 2004.

On the court, Stephen Jackson had a breakout season, while rookies Boris Diaw and Travis Hansen showed signs of things to come.

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2004-05: A New Beginning

Leading into 2004-05, the Hawks made several roster moves, including the acquisitions of veterans Al Harrington, Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Peja Drobnjak and Kenny Anderson, and the return of former Hawks Kevin Willis and Jon Barry.

Additionally, the team stocked up with four draft picks - Josh Childress (sixth overall), Josh Smith (17th), Donta Smith (34th) and Royal Ivey (37th).

By the time the smoke cleared, only two players remained on the roster (Chris Crawford and Boris Diaw) from the start of the previous season.

The season was a frustrating one in some ways (with a 13-69 finish), but also led to opportunities for the team’s young nucleus to get significant playing time as the season went along.

Childress and Smith especially made progress, with both earning NBA second-team All-Rookie honors after solid rookie campaigns.

The high-flying Smith captured the imagination of the entire league on All-Star Weekend in Denver, single-handedly rejuvenating the Slam Dunk Contest in the process. The 19-year-old rookie put together four devastating dunks (three earned perfect 50’s) en route to earning the title.

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2005-06: Starting to Turn the Corner

In the 2005-06 campaign, the young Hawks showed significant progress, both individually and team-wise. The addition of the multi-talented Joe Johnson was a huge step for the franchise, as was the drafting of Marvin Williams (2nd overall) and Salim Stoudamire (31st overall).

After a blockbuster trade to acquire him prior to the season, Johnson was everything the team expected and more, coming up with four 40+point games, the most since Dominique Wilkins’ eight in 1992-93, leading the team in several offensive categories, breaking the franchise’s single-season record for minutes played and earning a spot on the prestigious USA Senior National Team program.

Another offseason acquisition, restricted free agent signee Zaza Pachulia, proved to be a great find in the pivot. Second-year man Josh Smith came on especially strong after the All-Star break, and finished second in the NBA in total blocks. Williams and Stoudamire showed promise as well, the former improving his scoring and rebounding every month throughout the season.

The club went 26-56, doubling the previous season’s win total, improving more than all but two teams in the league. With the club believed to be the youngest in NBA history (avg age – 23), the sky seems to be the limit.

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2006-07: Injuries Derail Promising Start

The 2006-07 campaign saw continued growth of the team’s exciting young core, despite a devastating rash of injuries. Four of the team’s top seven players missed 20 or more games, and Atlanta only had six games with all top seven players healthy.

Joe Johnson stepped up as one of the elite players in the league, ranking ninth in the NBA in scoring (25.0), while earning the team’s first All-Star berth since 2002. Johnson missed the first games of his six-year career due to injury (missing 25 total), yet recorded 19 30-point games, and set a franchise record by beginning the season with seven consecutive games scoring 25-or-more.

Josh Smith was outstanding as well, placing second in the league in blocks (207), in the process of becoming the youngest player in NBA history (21 years, 88 days) to reach the 500-block milestone. But his all-around game began to catch up as well, as he was one of just three men in the league to rank in the top 20 in blocks, steals and rebounds.

Still the youngest team in the NBA, Atlanta saw its win total improve for the third straight season (Hawks finished 30-52), as all five of the team’s top players (Johnson, Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia) finished the season with career-high scoring averages.

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