The turnaround is complete now.From doormat to winning team and it only took 11 brutal years for the Hawks to complete it, the last five with Mike Woodson as coach. Only he, his staff and Josh Smith remain from the first training camp in 2004.
"This means so much," Josh Smith said after the Hawks clinched win No. 42 Monday night over Minnesota. "It shows the growth process this team has gone through. From a 13-win season that first year to a winning season now shows the dedication this team has put forth."
It took dedication, thick skin, hard hats and just about everything else the Hawks could muster since Woodson took over.
The roster has been turned over more than a rotisserie chicken. They dealt with the death of Jason Collier in training camp. Longtime general manager Billy Knight quit a day after last season's playoff run ended.
And their doubters have always outnumbered their supporters, locally and beyond.
They were beaming Monday as the reality of the franchise's first winning season since 1997-98 became a reality.
"It's a sign of a team that's improved," Woodson said. "Individual players have improved. A lot of it had to do with us pushing Boston to seven games last year. It gave us some momentum and pushed us in the right direction."
That direction went from 13 wins that first season to 26 the next and 30 and 37 after that, the last resulting in a playoff berth.
But to reach 42 wins with 11 games to play... the Hawks are moving into heady territory.
"When we first started, we had a bunch of young kids trying to learn to play NBA basketball," Woodson said. "And every year we've grown. It's been a rocky road. But we've gotten better. I tip my hat to our locker room. Those guys have worked on their individual games in the summer and they all bought in to what I was trying to do."
HAWKS 109, TIMBERWOLVES 97: Big men ruled the floor during the first seven games of the Hawks' March home-win streak.
Monday night, however, belonged to the guards, especially Flip Murray.
The Hawks' sixth man put on a show in a win over the Timberwolves before 13,425 at Philips Arena.
Murray scored a season-high 30 points to lead the Hawks in scoring. He was one of three Hawks guards to score 20 or more. Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson scored 20 as well.
"Flip was fantastic tonight," coach Mike Woodson said. "He's been great for us coming off the bench."
Murray torched the Timberwolves for 14 points before halftime and 15 more after the break, including four deep three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
"My teammates were finding me and we had some good mismatches," Murray said.
Nothing could slow Murray down Monday night. He made 12-of-18 shots and a wicked 5-for-8 from beyond the three-point line.
"Flip Murray came in and lit us up," Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale said.