Now that the Hawks' magic carpet ride through the playoffs has ended, it's time for the real work to begin.Namely, getting back there again, and perhaps going a bit further in the postseason.
The only glitch is that several key contracts run out at the end of June. Coach Mike Woodson's contract expires and so do the rookie deals of forwards Josh Smith and Josh Childress, who will both be restricted free agents.
Hawks All-Star and captain Joe Johnson has made it clear that he wants to see Woodson and his staff return.
"He's done a great job this season," Johnson said. "I'd love for him and the coaching staff to come back. Hopefully we can really, really make that happen."
Johnson attributes the Hawks' playoff season and success against the Celtics to Woodson and his staff.
"They have done so many good things for us this season," Johnson said. "I've learned so much from him and he's the main reason that attracted me to come here. Hopefully, we'll keep him and all of the other guys around."
Smith, Childress become restricted free agents on July 1. Smith and Childress will both have several suitors.
The Hawks, who can match whatever offers Childress and Smith receive, will have to make a major financial commitment to keep them.
"I think everything will take care of itself," Smith said. "I don't think that anybody is worried about contracts or any things like that."
Childress would like to stay with the Hawks.
"We have to make sure that we all stick together," Childress said. "That is something that is going to come up this summer. So (that's) something that I think we all have to take a look at. If we are going to be good, we have to stay together."
Smith, an Atlanta native, would like to continue playing for his hometown team.
"Most definitely, we came a long way," Smith said. "I grew with this team."
Other than stating his desire to return, Smith didn't want to get into his contract situation.
"You have to ask the GM," Smith said. "I can't answer that for you. You have to ask the owners."
Now Smith has a taste of playoff competition.
"(After) four years being in this league, I was able to accomplish something that some people don't accomplish for their whole careers," Smith said. "I can definitely learn from this one playoff series that I played and apply it to my career."
Johnson is not sure if the Hawks will be able to sign both of the Joshes.
"I hope that we can," Johnson said. "We have to see what happens."
Some veteran help would be nice, too.
"We need more veteran leadership," Johnson said. "We've got a lot of young guys that are just running wild (on offense) and we need more veteran leadership. Hopefully, we can get that."
CELTICS 99, HAWKS 65: The Hawks showed up at TD Banknorth Garden Sunday with a chance to make history and did just that, but for all the wrong reasons.
An epic Game 7 battle with the Boston Celtics quickly turned into a rout of epic proportions and the Celtics ran away with a 99-65 win to clinch this first-round playoff series and end the Hawks' dream run and season.
The 34-point loss was the fourth biggest Game 7 loss in NBA playoff history and tied for the fourth worst playoff defeat in Hawks' history. The Hawks also set playoff futility marks for points in a quarter (10 in the second) and a half (26 in the first half).
The Celtics move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals while the Hawks will spend Monday moving out of their locker room for the summer.
"I thought we'd come into this game knowing what was at stake and knowing we had a chance to make history and move on to the next round," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "I thought we'd come out with a lot more enthusiasm and a lot more discipline and we didn't do any of that. We came out so lethargic. We had no continuity on offense. It was a joke, man."
Was it ever.
Any memory of the Hawks' hair-raising, come-from-behind Game 6 win Friday in Atlanta, or the other two home wins before raucous sellout crowds at Philips Arena, was erased by one of the most disastrous first-half performances in franchise history.
Offensively, the Hawks were a discombobulated mess, making just 10 of their 38 shots from the floor while also turning the ball over 10 times, which the Celtics turned into 15 points.
They weren't any better defensively, as the Celtics' Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins combined to outscore the Hawks' entire team at halftime, 28-26.
"We knew it was going to be tough to come up here and win a Game 7, but we didn't even give ourselves a chance," said Hawks forward Marvin Williams, who was ejected early in the third quarter for a flagrant-2 foul on Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. "Those dudes out-scrapped us, they outscored us and they out-defended us. Anything you can do in a basketball game from a player's perspective, they did it. You can take all the Xs and Os and coaching stuff out of it and the bottom line is this: their five (guys) killed our five guys, no matter who was on the court."