If Arsenio Hall could start a crowdfunding campaign to buy the Clippers (even if a $1,100 donation from Katt Williams left him about $1.9999 billion short), who's to say Outkast can't wrangle up 2,000,000 of their closest friends and campaign to purchase their hometown Hawks?
Fan-owned teams are something of a reality in more enlightened parts of the world. And in spearheading such a movement the Stankonia duo would be actually be offering shares of the 2014-15 NBA Champions?
OK, both scenarios—the Hawks joining the 2003-04 Pistons as the only superstar-less team to win an NBA title since 1978-79's SuperSonics, or Andre 3000 and Big Boi reuniting (again) to absolve the ills of Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry—are (probably) not going to happen. Especially in a league where only eight franchises have won titles in the last 30 years, and during a time when the Hawks could fetch around $1 billion on the open market. Sorry, Ms. Jackson. (Maybe Madea is interested, though?)
Regardless, the Hawks are quietly dropping bombs (cue music). On November 26, they lost at home to Toronto 126-115, and dropped to 7-6. Since then, they've rattled off 18 wins in 20 games, beat three of four actual East contenders (Washington, Chicago, Cleveland twice), and Houston, Dallas, and Portland, all on the road, to rise atop the Eastern Conference.
Surprisingly, though, the Hawks are doing it with rock-solid defense, fifth in points allowed (97.5), and while not a total harbinger of success (the 13-21 Pacers at 95.9 are first), the underlying evidence behind Atlanta's stout D, in the suddenly three-ball hungry NBA, is curious.
With three-point shooting currently semi-unconscious (see: league-leading Houston's 34 attempts per game, 11 more than 2003-04 leader OKC), the Hawks are second-to-last in three-point attempts allowed (25.6) and 10th in three point percentage allowed (34.5). Meanwhile, they don't foul much, tied for second in opponent free throws made (15.4). Indeed, Atlanta's struck a fine defensive balance, allowing opponents to live and mostly die from three.
Offensively, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer's imported Spurs system showcases five starters in the All-Star conversation (yes, even DeMarre Carroll), even if none actually play at BKN-NYK 2015; Bud's balanced, ball-movement heavy-style offense ranks in the top five in assists (third, 25.3), assists per field goal made (first, 0.67), effective field goal percentage (fourth, 52.4), and true-shooting percentage (56.4).
And that offensive balance is where extremely anecdotal comparisons to the 2004 Pistons could take flight.
Each member of the Hawks' starting-five offer ample likeness to Detroit's nucleus, only on new-NBA steroids; Teague's Tony Parker-ish blend of herky-jerky scoring and passing (career-bests at 17.2 PPG, 48.4 FG%) reprises the role of Chauncey Billups. Teague's in his sixth year; Billups won his title in Year 8, shooting 39.4 percent from the field. Kyle Korver is Rip Hamilton without the mask, eternally racing around screens, with long-distance range (51.4% from 3, 67% of his total points); defense-first Carroll dictates the team's identity, a la Tayshaun; Paul Millsap (the league's best value at 2 years, $19 million) fills the Rasheed Wallace inside-out scoring vacuum, and Big Al Horford reprises the rim-protection, rebounding of Ben Wallace, minus cornrows and horrible free throw shooting, with an actual offensive arsenal and good health thus far.
Half-baked Pistons analogy or not, in a five-horse race East, with two largely-inexperienced contenders (Raptors, Wiz), two others staked to health (not you, Pau Gasol), controversy, or both (Anderson Varejao's busted knee matters more than David Blatt's busted respect), Atlanta is a legit challenger, especially given the West's 10-team battle-royale bloodbath.
The Hawks' biggest Achilles heel come playoff-time, though? Atlantan indifference, with their average home crowd barely above 16,000, good for 24th, on pace for a bottom-quarter finish in league-attendance, the fourth year running.
What, if anything, could remedy the ghastly gate-attendance in one fell swoop, you ask? Perhaps a Pistons-like title-run? Maybe. Then again, the Hawks' three appearances in the conference semi-finals in the last six seasons have not exactly sparked an upswell of ATL interest.
Well then, how about a six-time Grammy-winning duo, moonlighting as a newly-minted ownership group, on the backs of crowdfunding, on behalf of basketball fans everywhere? Most definitely.
Your move, ATLiens.