Talking the talk is what the Hawks have become experts at the last three-plus seasons.Talking about rebuilding a franchise, rebuilding a fan base and repairing an image stained by a NBA-worst eight-season playoff drought.
Sooner or later they've got to stop talking and start doing something, right?
"We've talked the talk for a long time now," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said. "Now we've got to put up or shut up. We've got what amounts to a (19-game) season facing us, and the bottom line is this: If we win more than we lose our chances of making the playoffs go up dramatically.
"If we can't find a way, somehow and some way, to get the job done, we can pack it up and head to the house."
The opportunistic and aggressive Hawks from earlier in the season -- there was a time in December when the Hawks were 15-12 and seemed like a lock for the postseason -- haven't been seen in recent months.
"Every game from now until April 16 is a big game for us," Johnson said. "That's just the way it is. That's our situation. And we have to know that going in every night and we have to play like that every night."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he's hammered home that message during every practice, pregame and halftime speech and every other chance he's had in recent weeks.
He won't know whether that message has taken hold with anyone other than Johnson, who has been a one-man wrecking crew the past week, until the games are played.
"Urgency has to be our rallying cry," Woodson said. "We've known for a long time what's out there for us if we were willing to step up to the challenge. So it's not like it's some mystery. How bad do we want it is the real question.
"That's the question that has to be answered right now. And the only place that's going to happen is on the court."
MAGIC 123, HAWKS 112: If the Hawks are indeed serious about making a late season push for that eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, they'll have to get much more serious about playing some defense.
They've given up 100 or more points in all but four of their 13 games since the All-Star break. Monday night's blowout loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena was their latest attempt to play a solid 48 minutes without any matador defense.
The Hawks (26-37) are piling up plenty of points of their own most nights, averaging more than 100 points per game during the same stretch.
The points just aren't coming nearly as fast as their opponents' most nights, an extreme occupational hazard for a team daydreaming about ending the NBA's longest playoff drought.
Allowing nearly 100 points (99-85) by the end of the third quarter to the Southeast Division leading Magic, though, isn't a good a step in that direction.
Monday's defensive effort was a far cry from the one the Hawks put forth the last time they were here. They smothered the Magic shooters on the perimeter and snatched an impressive 98-87 win Dec. 10. But this time they weren't even close to duplicating that performance.