MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Joe Johnson turned in one of his finest seasons yet in a Hawks uniform, leading the team to the playoffs and leading them in scoring the entire way. Whatever he lacks in verbal leadership abilities Johnson more than makes up for by leading this team by example. But those who questioned the Hawks' pursuit of him three years ago need not open wide to snack on the crow they so rightly deserve -- Johnson could care less.MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Speedy Claxton's tenure with the Hawks is quickly turning into another cautionary tale for teams strapped to fix their draft mistakes through free agency. He didn't play a single game this season because of a knee injury that could very well end his career. That $25 million the Hawks paid him to be the point guard of the future (instead of drafting Chris Paul or Deron Williams) looks even more ridiculous now than it did when they signed the career backup.
FREE AGENT FOCUS: Josh Smith and Josh Childress are the Hawks' most important players this summer. Both of the restricted free agents have to be signed to lucrative extensions for the Hawks to keep moving in the right direction. Smith will certainly cost more than $45 million that stalled talks before this season. Childress, who could have been signed for the mid-level before this season, will certainly demand more than that this summer. There is on easy way out of this, not even a sign-and-trade deal for one or the other. The Hawks have to make sure both of these guys are back on the roster next season or they risk alienating a significant portion of that fan base they recaptured during the playoffs.
--G Joe Johnson was highly critical of his younger teammates during the playoffs and made a loud call for some added veteran leadership.
"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," Johnson said after the Game 7 blowout loss. "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.
"We're so inexperienced, and we showed that every game in Boston. We had no chance of winning game here. None. I guess some of these guys thought we were just going to be able to come out and play hard and have fun. There's more to it than that.
"Four games here and we got run ragged all four times. You would think in Game 7 you would have a (expletive) clue. We didn't have a clue as to what was going on out there."
--F Josh Smith isn't worried about free agency. He knows he's done enough in four years to prove to anyone paying attention that he's a legitimate player in the NBA. But he can't help but feel a connection to his hometown organization, the one that bet on him and provided an opportunity for him to prove just how valuable he could be.
"You don't spend as much time in this organization as we have and not feel like there's work to be done," said Smith, who finished the regular season as the Hawks' second-leading scorer, rebounder and leader in blocks and steals and was sixth in the voting for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. "What we can't control is how things play out from here. All we can do is let the process work itself out."
--C Al Horford is still trying to figure out what to do with himself now that the season is over. He ended his last two college seasons with titles. So a deflating Game 7 loss to the Celtics was a bit more than he could handle.
"I don't know what to do with myself, man," Horford said Monday as he walked down a corridor to his car. "I know we lost, but I just don't know what to do with myself. You're just done.
"Obviously, you know the season is going to end at some point. But in school you kind of knew what you had going on next. Here you're done and you're just ... done."