9 Atlanta Hawks With a new forward and a healthy center, the front line is packed with promise--but not enough to make good on the guarantee of a playoff berth

October 28, 2002

New forward Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson would like to make this
perfectly clear: When it comes to a certain former Bucks
teammate, bygones will not be bygones. "Ray Allen disappointed me
by talking about how I'm not a team player," says Robinson of the
All-Star shooting guard, who accused the Big Dog of never
passing. "That's a coward move. It's easy to talk about somebody
when you don't have to see them every day. Whatever I say, I can
say twice. Ray Allen never said that to me." He looks away for a
second, then says it again, more emphatically: "A coward move,
that's what it was."

If Robinson's feeling about his old team could inspire a series
called Everybody Hates Ray Allen, his sentiments about his new
one could make for a syrupy Disney flick. When he learned of his
August trade to the Hawks (in exchange for Toni Kukoc, Leon Smith
and a 2003 first-round pick), Robinson, 29, began rubbing his
palms together. "I was praying I would pass the physical and Toni
would too," he says. "I've always thought about living and
playing in Atlanta. I'm in my prime, and this is a new
beginning."

After the arrival of Georgia-born Shareef Abdur-Rahim from
Vancouver last off-season, Robinson becomes the second All-Star
forward in two years who's been overjoyed to come to Atlanta.
While this may say more about where the pair was coming from--and
Robinson's desire to put behind him charges made in July of
misdemeanor domestic battery, assault and possession of a firearm
(a court date is set for November in Chicago)--the Hawks will take
whatever they can get, mired as they are in a three-year
postseason drought, their longest since the mid-1970s. Confident
that better days are ahead, Atlanta is offering $125 back to each
of its season-ticket holders if the team doesn't make the
playoffs. If it does, those fans will get into the opener for
free. "I didn't want to do it if I didn't think we were going to
turn the corner," says coach Lon Kruger, who came up with the
idea last spring, then ran it by the Hawks' top players before
going public. "More importantly, though, I wanted our players to
know we had confidence in them."

Much of that confidence stems from the team's upgraded front line
of Abdur-Rahim, Robinson and center Theo Ratliff, the league's
top shot blocker in 2000-01, who missed all but three games last
season with a cartilage tear in his right hip. So far Ratliff has
looked sharp after eight months of what he calls "continuous
rehab," working to strengthen his back and abdomen, where most of
his muscle loss occurred. "He's the key," says Robinson. "It's
all about big Theo."

As for Big Dog, and his purported tendency to shoot first and
shoot second, Kruger is not worried. "He recognizes that he's got
some other guys around him who can score," he says. "I don't
think it will be a problem."

A guard in Milwaukee might be inclined to disagree. --C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES PARTING SHOT Firing not-so-kind words back at one of his old Milwaukee mates, Robinson is happy to be in Atlanta.

FAST FACT
In two seasons Lon Kruger has failed to make the playoffs. No
Hawks coach has gone three years and not reached the postseason.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Hawks

"They're going to make a run at the playoffs, even though the
backcourt is thin and highly questionable. They want Jason Terry
to play the point, but it's complicated: They need his scoring,
because they're pretty weak at shooting guard, but how is he
going to fit himself into the offense while he's trying to
organize the front line?... I doubt whether Dan Dickau is going
to give them anything at the point as a rookie. He's not quick
enough to beat defenders with his dribble, and in preseason he
was late with his passes. He's going to have to prove he's a
deadly three-point shooter if he wants to make it.... The
strength of the team is going to be the front line, where they
have three guys with All-Star experience and an excellent backup
in Nazr Mohammed. Shareef Abdur-Rahim has averaged 21 points and
eight rebounds over his career, but it's easier to do that on a
losing team. If the opponents know they're going to beat you,
they won't worry about letting you get your numbers. Abdur-Rahim
seems to play hard all the time, but now he has to show that he
can do the things that win games. Theo Ratliff looks like he's
back to where he was a couple of years ago before all of his
injuries--fresh legs, active on the boards, and he's got his quick
little post-up game back on track. His shot blocking will allow
their other guys to play more aggressively on defense, though I
doubt they'll become a good defensive team. And Glenn Robinson
has averaged at least 20 points in seven of his eight seasons....
Still, I think the Bucks may have dealt Robinson at just the
right time. He was beginning to show decline the last couple of
years, and his attitude seemed to be getting worse. He also made
some big baskets for them. So who's going to take those shots for
Atlanta--Robinson or Abdur-Rahim? That's something they'll have to
work out."

DEFENSIVE RATINGS

Tough D
NEWBLE
RATLIFF

Fair D
ABDUR-RAHIM

No D
ROBINSON
TERRY

PROJECTED LINEUP
2001-02 record: 33-49 (sixth in Central)
Points scored: 94.0 (19th) Points allowed: 98.3 (25th)
Coach: Lon Kruger (third season with Hawks)

STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

SF Glenn
Robinson[1] 34 20.7 ppg 6.2 rpg 2.5 apg 1.47 spg 46.7 FG%
PF Shareef
Abdur-Rahim 13 21.2 ppg 9.0 rpg 3.1 apg 1.27 spg 46.1 FG%
C Theo Ratliff 86 8.7 ppg 5.3 rpg 2.67 bpg 50.0 FG% 54.5 FT%
SG Ira Newble 209 8.0 ppg 5.3 rpg 1.1 apg 0.90 spg 49.8 FG%
PG Jason Terry 55 19.3 ppg 3.5 rpg 5.7 apg 1.85 spg 43.0 FG%

BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

G Dion Glover 200 8.9 ppg 3.1 rpg 1.5 apg 0.82 spg 42.1 FG%
C Nazr Mohammed 202 9.7 ppg 7.9 rpg 0.74 bpg 0.77 spg 46.1 FG%
F Alan Henderson 230 5.5 ppg 3.7 rpg 0.58 bpg 50.9 FG% 53.3 FT%
G Emanual Davis 269 6.6 ppg 2.6 rpg 2.4 apg 0.96 spg 35.4 FG%
F Darvin Ham[1] 292 4.3 ppg 2.9 rpg 1.0 apg 0.53 bpg 56.9 FG%

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

ABDUR-RAHIM PLAYS HARD; NOW HE HAS TO SHOW HE CAN DO THE THINGS
THAT WIN GAMES.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)