Either the Atlanta Hawks are holding a crystal ball that peers into an alternate universe where terrible-to-mediocre basketball teams are really good, or they're just stupid ambitious.
Immediately following Connecticut's victory over Kentucky in the 2014 NCAA championship game, the Hawks' official Twitter account trolled—er, I mean, congratulated—both teams, all while relating their title-seeking exploits to themselves:
Congrats to both UConn and Kentucky on a great game! Proof that 7 and 8 seeds can go all the way in basketball playoffs...— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) April 8, 2014
On second thought, "trolled" seems appropriate.
To be honest, I expected to see an ensuing tweet that read "Just kidding," "See y'all, Atlanta has jokes too" or something along those lines. There was nothing.
Taken literally, the Hawks are right. UConn and Kentucky were No. 7 and 8 seeds, respectively, that contended for—and in UConn's case, won—a championship.
Taken with a hefty dose of context, though, the Hawks must be kidding.
Four regions of 16 teams make up (always busted) March Madness brackets. Being a No. 7 or 8 seed means you're valued more than at least half your region. Nothing could be further from true of the NBA playoffs.
Seventh- and eighth-place teams are essentially fringe-playoff squads that came within games of missing the postseason altogether. Maybe that's all fine and dandy in the Western Conference, where an elite team like the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks or Phoenix Suns could miss the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference? Not so much.
Nabbing eighth place isn't the path to success in the NBA—especially for these Hawks. Assuming they scrape into the playoffs, they'll earn a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers. Despite the Pacers resembling a contingent forced to play on roller blades of late, the Hawks aren't making it out of the first round no matter who they face.
Then again, who are we to throw fusty cheese on the Hawks' pizza? It's like Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk says: "I don’t want to rain on the Hawks’ parade, though. They do that well enough themselves."
Indeed, they do. We're not even sure they want to make the playoffs. General manager Danny Ferry made some questionable comments to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt that left us unsure of Atlanta's motives:
Throughout the year, I felt we've been on a good path. When healthy, we've been a very good team. I like the way we play. It's system-based. I like our players. There's some substance to them. With the way we're set-up from a salary cap standpoint and a roster standpoint that good things can continue to unfold.
We're not focused on trying to be the eighth seed in the playoffs because that's not our goal. We're trying to build something that's good, sustainable and the components are in place for us to do so.
Pick one, Atlanta.
Secretly hope you miss the playoffs, strike lottery gold and inevitably watch Pero Antic develop into the love child of Kevin Love's and Dirk Nowitzki's basketball talents, or foolishly dream of the day when you, like UConn and Kentucky, turn No. 7 or 8 seeds into something other than early exits and recurring mediocrity. You can't do both.