Hawks rookie center Al Horford took the news of Kevin Durant winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year award in stride.His coaches and teammates, however, weren't nearly as understanding after hearing the news before Wednesday's Game 5 against Boston in their first round playoff series.
"It's a travesty and it's not right," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "He should have shared it if not gotten it outright. And I don't want to hear about us not being on TV or anything like that. It doesn't matter. It's what this kid has done for this team.
"We haven't had a power forward/center come in our league and do what he's done (average a near double-double) in I don't know how many years. I mean, come on, man."
Both Durant and Horford had standout rookie seasons and both had seasons, statistically, that stand up with the best of all time for first year players.
Durant had the highest scoring average (20.3) for a rookie since Denver's Carmelo Anthony averaged 21.0 during his first season and Durant also won Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors five times (out of six) this season.
Horford tied for 11th overall in the league in rebounds (9.7), averaged 10.1 points on a playoff team and was a three-time Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honoree.
"They both had great years," Marvin Williams said. "You can't walk away from 20 a night. But the difference to me is that you have one team in the playoffs and the other team watching the playoffs.
"We could have made sure Al got 20 and 10 every night and lost every game. But Al's a team player. And what he's done for our team, it's been unbelievable. We wouldn't be here without him."
Horford's frontcourt mate Josh Smith is convinced that hype won Durant the award.
"If a guy is the No. 1 pick (Durant was No. 2 and Horford No. 3) people automatically expect him to be Rookie of the Year," Smith said. "And since Greg Oden got hurt and wasn't out there, people just automatically put Durant in that spot.
"Like everybody else around here, I'm biased. I think Al should have won it. That guy's done a lot and meant a lot to this team this season. He's one of the main reasons we're in the position we are in right now. If people think hard on it, they would put more on the impact a player has on his team and how his team finishes the season. Granted, Durant had a pretty good season. But Al is doing things a rookie isn't supposed to do."
CELTICS 110, HAWKS 85: The chest-thumping swagger the Hawks rode to rousing victories before sellout home crowds in Atlanta over the weekend and earlier this week didn't clear security for their trip to Boston and Game 6 of their playoff series.
Neither did their shooting touch, defensive pressure nor anything else they needed to win their most important road game, to date, of the season.
Instead, the Hawks were run off the floor at TD Banknorth Garden for a third straight time in the series, losing 110-85 Wednesday night in blowout fashion to a Celtics team that appeared to regain a bit of the composure they seemed to lose in back-to-back losses in Atlanta.
The Hawks are still alive in this series, trailing 3-2. But Game 6 is set Friday night at Philips Arena. And it's a win-or-stay-home affair for the Hawks, who can force Game 7 in Boston Sunday with a win or start packing for summer vacation with a loss.
"This is it now," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said after scoring a team-high 21 points on 6-for-11 shooting. "It's win or go home. I'm sure it's going to be crazy and I'm looking forward to it. But we have to come out and take care of home court."
They'll have to use a strategy far different from the slow dance they used Wednesday. The Hawks managed just four fast break points to the Celtics' 10, a far cry from the up-tempo highlight shows that were Games 3 and 4 at Philips Arena.
"The bottom line is we're not going to beat the Boston Celtics playing half-court basketball," said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who finished his night with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and one block. "We're young and we're athletic and we have to use that to our advantage.
"Their advantage on the defensive end is for us to walk the ball across the half-court line and run half-court sets. And we're just not going to beat this team doing that. We have to push the ball and exploit transition points and then pull the ball back out if there's nothing there and run (our) offense.
"We never did that and we got out-toughed on the offensive boards early on by guys like Leon Powe and (Glen) 'Big Baby' (Davis)... those were key rebounds we needed when we got stops."