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Original Issue


On a steamy Georgia morning in June, Hawk coach Lenny Wilkens
and players Steve Smith and Grant Long set out for a day of
excitement at Six Flags amusement park in Atlanta. There Wilkens
stepped onto a small stage, yanked on a curtain
and--voila!--revealed the Hawks' new logo. Smith and Long modeled
the home and away jerseys as a surprisingly large and vocal
crowd looked on and, for the first time in what seemed like
eons, cheered their team.

"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," Wilkens says of
the team's new threads. "I've had people come up to me in
restaurants, in stores, telling me how much they like them. It's
a start."

As silly as it may sound, it is a start for the Hawks, who were
42-40 last season and were swept from the first round of the
playoffs. They have been also-rans for so long that even their
own fans seem dubious that these birds will ever fly. As if to
help get the Hawks off the ground, the Atlanta brass, with
Wilkens's input, adopted a new uniform logo that features the
likeness of a hawk soaring across the front of the jersey.

Due to the NBA lockout, that day at Six Flags was the last time
Wilkens would see Smith and Long until the Hawks began informal
workouts at the team's practice facility in September. But the
NBA's alltime winningest coach (968 victories) had given a
warning to his starting shooting guard and power forward. "He
let us know in no uncertain terms that we still had to go and do
our workouts and keep in condition," says Long. Accordingly,
Smith stayed in Atlanta for the summer and hired a private
trainer to help him work out five days a week at a health club.
He was frequently joined for weightlifting and shootarounds by
Long and center Andrew Lang. Those were valuable minutes for
these Hawks, who played last season with five newcomers in their
regular rotation, three of whom arrived after the season began.
"It's the little things in basketball that give you an edge,"
says Smith, who shipped in with Long from Miami three days into
last season in exchange for power forward Kevin Willis. "From
being with the guys this summer, you pick things up. For
instance, I noticed Andrew likes the lob instead of me just
passing it in to him."

The Hawks improved as last season went on, going 19-24 from
opening night through January and 23-16 from February on. But
there is a low ceiling on their potential that can be explained
by a simple coaching axiom: You can't teach height. The Hawk
front line of 6'8" Stacey Augmon (who was moved to small forward
from guard to accommodate Smith), 6'9" Long and 6'11" Lang is
the smallest in the league. And unfortunately, even though the
Hawks will be approximately $5 million under the salary cap this
season--in part because third-string center Jon Koncak's
six-year, $13.1 million deal finally and mercifully ran out (as
did Koncak, to Orlando)--the team will have to wait for next
year's free-agent crop to get the help it needs. First-round
draft pick Alan Henderson of Indiana, slow and mechanical at
6'9", will at best be a solid backup.

At the opposite end of the height spectrum, 5'7" point guard
Spud Webb returns after four seasons with Sacramento to provide
some much-needed relief for starter Mookie Blaylock. Blaylock
hit a career high in scoring last year, averaging 17.2 points,
and earned first-team all-defensive honors. But in doing so, he
overextended himself. Trying to make up for Smith's
inconsistency, Blaylock took too many poor shots, making only
42.5% from the field, and his assist-to-turnover ratio dropped
from 4:1 in '93-94 to 2.5:1 last season.

Without enough size on the blocks, the Hawks' success will
depend largely on the heralded scoring ability of Smith. After
three years as a point guard in Miami, Smith was slow to adjust
to the 2-spot, and he was yanked from the starting lineup in
late December for 19 games. When he returned, on Jan. 30 against
his former team in Miami, he made sure it was to stay, scoring
19 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter of a 95-92 win.
Wilkens badgered Smith all season long to shoot more often, for
good reason: When he scored 20 or more points, the Hawks were

"We know we can play better than we did last year," Smith says.
"We think we can maybe get a four [playoff] seed, get a little
home court advantage." Maybe and little are the operative words
here. The NBA's 10th-ranked market was 25th in attendance last
season, hardly the support that could spark an undersized team
to greatness. Then again, that was before the new uniforms.


COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN With his crucial offensive role, the overworked Blaylock has to avoid burnout. [Mookie Blaylock]



PPG (Rank) FG% (Rank)
OFFENSE 96.6 (24) .447 (23)
DEFENSE 95.3 (3) .463 (15)


In each of the last two seasons, NBA coaches have voted
Atlanta's Mookie Blaylock to the all-defensive first team.
Blaylock, who holds the NCAA Division I record for steals in a
season (150, for Oklahoma in 1987-88), has amassed at least 200
steals in each of the last three years--a streak matched by only
five others since the league began officially recording steals
in the '73-74 season. The record for the most consecutive
seasons with 200 or more steals is shared by Michael Jordan and
John Stockton, each of whom has fashioned a five-year streak.
Jordan and Alvin Robertson share the record of six total seasons
with at least 200 steals.

Most consecutive seasons with 200 steals

Michael Jordan, Bulls 1986-91 5
John Stockton, Jazz 1987-92 5
Mookie Blaylock, Hawks 1992-95 3
Clyde Drexler, Blazers 1986-89 3
Alvin Robertson, Spurs 1985-88 3
Alvin Robertson, Bucks 1989-92 3

Most total seasons with 200 steals

Michael Jordan 6
Alvin Robertson 6
John Stockton 5
Micheal Ray Richardson 4


Growing up in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Donnie Boyce used
to play basketball every day in his neighbor Doc Rivers's
backyard. "He used to chase us home," Boyce says. Now Boyce, a
6'5" shooting guard, will be tramping in the former Hawk's
shadow again. He arrives in Atlanta as a second-round draft pick
from Colorado and is being touted by the Hawks as the steal of
the draft. Boyce was projected as a high first-round pick before
he shattered his left fibula and tibia in the Big Eight
tournament; he should be fully recovered by early December. His
injury is similar to the one outfielder Ron Gant, then an
Atlanta Brave, suffered in 1994. The Braves released Gant and
later regretted it, which is exactly what Stan Kasten, president
of the Braves and the Hawks, was thinking about when Atlanta
drafted Boyce.


STARTERS 1994-95 Key Statistics

SF Stacey Augmon 13.9 ppg 4.8 rpg 2.6 apg
PF Grant Long 11.6 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.35 spg
C Andrew Lang 9.7 ppg 5.6 rpg 80.9 FT%
PG Mookie Blaylock 17.2 ppg 7.7 apg 2.5 spg
SG Steve Smith 16.3 ppg 3.5 rpg 3.4 apg


G Spud Webb 11.6 ppg 6.2 apg 93.4 FT%
F Ken Norman 12.7 ppg 4.9 rpg 45.7 FT%
G Craig Ehlo 9.7 ppg 3.0 rpg 2.3 apg