I recently caught up with Atlanta Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun. We discussed the Hawks’ playoff series against Indiana this year, free agency and what the team will look like in 2014-15.
Q. What do you think the perception of the Hawks was after their playoff series with the Pacers after being extremely competitive despite their myriad of injuries?
Rathbun: Most fans realize the Hawks did what they did without Al Horford. They overcame a lot of injuries and would’ve been a different story with Al in the second half of the season.
Q. What were some factors that played in to Lou Williams getting traded?
Rathbun: Lou never got back to form due to injuries. He was always limited and could not play back-to-back games. We will most likely see a new-look Lou Williams in Toronto.
Q. How dangerous is this Hawks team with a healthy Al Horford? Are they an Eastern Conference Finals contender?
Rathbun: Its definitely enough to win the division. Washington, Charlotte, Miami and Atlanta are all in the 45-50 win group. Having a healthy Al is a tremendous boost along with having Millsap and Korver. Teague is also a rising star.
Q. Do you think the Hawks will be able to increase their attendance at Philips Arena after their impressive first- round series this past season?
Rathbun: A major part of that will be new CEO Steve Koonin, he is bringing a fresh new look and approach to the Hawks. As the season gets closer, great adjustments in Philips Arena will attract fans. Game 6 was amazing and that should carry on to new business this year.
Q. Elton Brand was a great contributor when Horford went down. What are the chances that the Hawks bring him back?
Rathbun: I don’t know if he even wants to play. Brand was great in the locker room and always found a way to stay healthy. His minutes increased greatly when Al went down.
Q. It looked like the Hawks were close to landing Luol Deng in free agency. What fell apart at the end that helped sway Deng’s decision in Miami’s favor?
Rathbun: I don’t know, free agency is always a risky proposition. Look at the Lakers, they couldn’t crack flies in free agency. Building teams is a very fragile thing. Fans don’t realize that process.
Q. How can the Hawks take advantage of the underdog role that they’ve always been labeled under to take that next step in becoming one of the best teams in the East and in the entire league?
Rathbun: The Hawks are only underdogs to NBA fans. There’s great respect for the Hawks from coaches all around the league.When you go around and see coaches talk about the Hawks and our system, you’ve got their attention. I take this all from experience. The national media is always late to the party and last to figure it out. NBA fans are too. Real basketball fans respect the development of the team and how good they can be.