--Don't count Hawks swingman Mo Evans among the people surprised to see both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James playing at near-supernatural levels so far this season. He saw it coming during the Olympics, when Wade and James helped the U.S. team to the gold medal.But he's also seen another development for the two sixth-year stars that has helped elevate their respective games to yet a new level.
"They're two of the true superstars that are capable of empowering their teammates to play at a higher level," Evans said of Wade, whom the Hawks faced Friday night in Miami and James, who the Hawks will see Saturday night at Philips Arena. "When one of their guys misses a shot, they don't jump them, they're the first ones over there encouraging them to shoot it again and hit the next one. They've got their other guys feeling like they need them.
"That kind of empowerment from your superstar goes a long way, man. I know from my time playing with (Los Angeles Lakers superstar) Kobe (Bryant). I used to feel 100 feet tall knocking down a shot or making a play because of the way he kept guys involved. That's what helps those guys take their games to another level, when they start empowering the guys around them to play with the kind of freedom that you always see on championship level teams."
--Friday night's game between the Hawks and Heat turned out to be for sole possession, temporarily at least, for second place in the Southeast Division behind Orlando. The added importance meant both teams, 12-9 before the game started, were keeping an eye on each other in anticipation of the matchup.
"We've looked at it," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We've been following them on their Texas swing. This is an important time for us. It's not the end-all, be-all obviously, but we wanted to really focus in on what we're doing and try to sharpen up some things.
"But naturally, this is a big game and it's an opportunity to take a step forward."
--The day between games allowed the Hawks to practice and "clean up" some things, Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. You couldn't tell by the way his team played early. The Heat opened the game with 11 unanswered points, continuing a three-game trend that began in Houston Tuesday. The Hawks faced double-digit deficits in the first quarter against the Rockets, Spurs and Heat. It didn't take the Hawks quite as long to dig out of the hole against the Heat; they tied the game at 32-32 with just under five minutes to play before halftime.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Unfortunately for us, we just haven't had a lot of practice time where we could get up and down the floor and really work on the things we need to work on with all the games we have coming at us." -- Hawks coach Mike Woodson, lamenting the lack of tune-up time his team has had early this season.