Barack Obama's supporters don't have anything on the crew pushing Hawks rookie center Al Horford for postseason honors.They're willing to cross party lines, friendship lines and whatever else it takes to make sure Horford gets a fair shot at the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
"It's all political," Hawks point guard Mike Bibby said. "It's been that way before I got here (to the NBA), since I've been here and will probably be that way long after I'm gone. But you've got to go with Al. He's been getting it done every night for a team that's fighting to make the playoffs."
Hawks rookie point guard Acie Law IV has ties to both candidates, giving him a unique perspective on the race.
"Listen, Kevin Durant's a good friend of mine and a great player," Law said, "but for what Al contributes to our team, what he means to this team and how important he is to the resurgence of this franchise, I don't see how anybody but Al could win this award.
"Durant is having a great scoring year. But as far as making his teammates better and his team better, you just don't see that. With Al in the game, he makes it easier on all of our players. I think it's his award, hands down. It shouldn't even be close."
Despite Law's insistence otherwise, Durant's going to be tough to beat. He leads all rookies in scoring (19.6) by a wide margin and he's had plenty of national television exposure, something Horford and the Hawks haven't had -- Horford's lone experience came during the Rookie Challenge during All-Star Weekend.
Horford does lead all rookies in rebounds in several categories, including rebounds (9.8), double-doubles (20) and efficiency rating (16.4). He also ranks second in minutes (31.5), third in blocks (1.0), fourth in scoring (9.8) and field goal percentage (.497) and is tied for sixth in steals (0.8) and assists (1.5).
Horford has 35 double-digit rebound games and has already been named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month twice (November and February).
"For me, and I know I'm a bit biased, but I've got to go with Big Al," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said after practice Monday with Marvin Williams screaming "no-brainer" repeatedly as he walked past. "He's been great for us, no question. He's certainly helped turn this program around. He's got my vote no doubt. He's done more than what anyone could have asked of him as a rookie."
BULLS 103, HAWKS 94: Tuesday's game against the Chicago Bulls was supposed to be one of those winnable road games the Hawks have fumbled all season, a contest against a team sitting lower than them in the standings.
But the Bulls didn't bother playing along with that script.
They outworked the Hawks early and certainly after halftime, handing their visitors a crucial 103-94 loss that had to sting the Hawks' psyche as much as it did their grasp on that eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff position they had before the game.
The Hawks (30-40) still have a half-game lead over New Jersey for that final spot with Milwaukee up next Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
But their grip slips with every setback like the one they had against the Bulls (28-42), who got a huge three-pointer from Ben Gordon with 91 seconds to play to seal the win.
"We had our chances but we just never could get it all together," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said after playing all 48 minutes against the Bulls. "And this is it; this is why we're professionals. We just have to put this one behind us and be ready to go against the Bucks."
Even after an absolutely dreadful third quarter in which they scored just 14 points and trailed by as many as 16 points, the Hawks found a way to claw their way into the game minutes into the fourth quarter.
Josh Childress helped the cause with a huge night off the bench; he led the Hawks with 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
But the Hawks never could get all the way back, coming as close as three points, 92-89, with just over three minutes to play. And they never could get things together, suffering costly turnovers and defensive lapses late that hastened their fall.
"We made some boneheaded plays coming down the stretch," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We had opportunities but fumbled balls away. We had our opportunities. I'm not going to take away anything from what Chicago did."
Luol Deng's steal and save on a Josh Smith fast break lay-up attempt ended with Deng missing a jumper, snagging his own rebound and tossing the ball to Drew Gooden for an uncontested lay-up for a 94-89 Bulls lead with 2:59 to play.
It was the story of the night for the Hawks, who got slaughtered by the Bulls 20-8 on second chance points.
"The little stuff killed us," Marvin Williams said. "We were down but we made that push. We didn't take care of the ball, though. And we didn't make plays offensively. We squandered too many chances. We let them get comfortable and they started hurting us with that pick and roll and it was just too much for us to overcome."