--How's this for a turnaround? In the last 11 seasons, the Hawks played just seven nationally televised games and went five straight seasons without a single appearance.They'll play seven in the 2009-10 season alone, news that floored Hawks coach Mike Woodson when the 2009-10 schedule was released.
"This is a testament to our players and the work they've put in," said Woodson, heading into his sixth season on the job. "When you turn things around and stick to your plan, good things happen. I think we're seeing the rewards of all our hard work."
The Hawks open the season at home Oct. 28 against Indiana, followed by an Oct. 30 home game against Washington. They'll hit the road for a Nov. 1 game against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, followed by road games at Portland (Nov. 3), Sacramento (Nov. 4) and Charlotte (Nov. 6) that week.
The Hawks will play six games on ESPN and one on TNT. The first nationally televised game is Nov. 13 in Boston, on ESPN. They'll be home against Southeast Division rival and Eastern Conference champion Orlando on TNT on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 26.
The other ESPN games include the Jan. 8 rematch against the Celtics at Philips Arena, a Feb. 5 home game against Chicago, a Feb. 21 game at Golden State, a Feb. 21 home game against Dallas and an April 2 game in Cleveland.
"The first four years we were here we couldn't have bought our way onto the air," Woodson said, then laughed. "But since we've made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, you could sense things were turning around for us. And this is huge. This is a huge turnaround and one that I think goes right along with all the strides we've made as a team and franchise."
--The Hawks were in hot pursuit of veteran power forward Joe Smith, the only player they have gone off the reservation to actively recruit this summer.
Smith, a 15-year veteran and former No. 1 overall pick in the draft, fits a particular need for the Hawks behind Josh Smith. He also provides the sort of veteran leadership the Hawks are lacking.
The fit is a perfect one. Convincing Smith of that and getting him to come for the right price remain the only hurdles. Two huge hurdles, of course.
The Hawks have already signed free agents Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia and Marvin Williams to new deals. They're also talking contract extension with Joe Johnson's camp.
"We've still got some work to do," Woodson said of the Hawks' need to add at least another veteran big man to their mix in time for training camp. "And we've got some time left to see what works best for us and what we're trying to do."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Marvin's been a big part of what we've done here, particularly these past two years, in terms of his development. He stretched his range to beyond the 3-point line and we missed that coming down the stretch run of the season, that last month and a half he was out with the back injury. The key to me is that Marvin's grown. His rookie year, I think, was an eye opener for him because, like all rookies, there's a major transition. But he continued to work. And I still think there's another step or two for Marvin. Not only is that something that he has to work to get to himself, we have to help put him in the best positions to make sure he gets there." -- Hawks coach Mike Woodson on the return of Marvin Williams after a summer of free agency.