The formula behind a winning NBA franchise is well established—shower millions on a superstar, add a worthy sidekick in his prime, throw in a fading great, and fill the bench with role players and specialists. The Atlanta Hawks have triumphed with an altogether different strategy: simply running other teams ragged. While opponents may boast the names, talent, and raw athleticism, the Hawks have created a singular, terrifying force out of many moving parts, all under the banner of teamwork and grit.
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It begins with the nightmare matchup of center Al Horford with forward Paul Millsap, whose game is flourishing in a way it never could in the wastelands of Salt Lake City. Up top is Jeff Teague, a hungry young point guard whose insane speed, cuts, and dishes leave defenders nursing broken ankles. And in the corner waits the cagey veteran Kyle Korver, a sharpshooter who’s been sinking three-pointers this year with supernatural precision. Add the young talents of German point guard of Dennis Schroder and forward DeMarre Carroll, and you're looking at possibly the most complete team in the association.
With the second-best record in the NBA and an almost-inevitable date with LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the conference finals, the Hawks have a chance to prove, like the Spurs before them, that when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it's not the best players that win titles, but the best team.
“Hustle is everything in basketball,” Horford says. “Whether it’s diving on the floor for the loose ball or making an extra rotation to help your teammate, whatever it takes to win—that’s hustle. We play that.”
Check back shortly for a behind-the-scenes look at how photographer Pelle Cass created a court filled with Hawks.
Photos by Pelle Cass