Hawks Paint The Town Red

True Colors
The Atlanta Hawks went out of their way to "Paint the Town Red."

By Jon Cooper

Head Coach Mike Woodson wants the Atlanta Hawks be among the hardest working teams in the League. But he also leaves room for his players to have some fun.

Last Sunday Woodson and his Hawks combined work with pleasure as they traded in -- or at least covered up -- their white home jerseys for aprons and uniforms of different Atlantic Station businesses as part of a promotion called "Paint the Town Red."

The promotion gave Atlantans a unique opportunity to rub elbows with Hawks' players and staff in four locations: Fox Sports Grill, Cold Stone Creamery, Regal Cinemas and Publix.

"It's been great," said Woodson, who was among the baggers at Publix. "I haven't been to the other spots but here it's been great."

In case you couldn't make it to Atlantic Station, here is a brief recap of Hawks Paint the Town Red day.

Thrill At the Grill
As the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers were battling in their epic at the Georgia Dome, at the Fox Sports Grill, Hawks players Joe Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Josh Smith, Andreas Glyniadakis, assistant coaches Bob Bender and Greg Ballard as well as members of the A-Town Dancers were making the rounds, meeting and greeting and walking patrons to tables.

"They were great," said Kenny Torres, part of the Grill's wait staff. "They were going around, talking with everyone and everyone was taking pictures."

According to Torres, a New York City native, who now calls Buckhead home, Glyniadakis was the most noticeable.

"It was fun meeting some fans," said the 7-1 native of Hania, Greece, who said that the question most frequently asked of him was how tall he is. "We enjoyed it. It's something we could do for our fans and was a good chance to meet a lot of them."

I Scream, You Scream...
Sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures made a visit to Cold Stone Creamery a nice idea. The line stretching out the door echoed that sentiment.

Behind the counter there was the trio of Marvin Williams, Salim Stoudamire and Andre Brown, their white Hawks uniforms covered by black aprons. They busily met fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos -- when they weren't serving ice cream, that is.

"I love ice cream so finally working behind a counter is kind of fun," said Williams, who added with a laugh, "I'm trying not to eat too much ice cream."

"I've learned that it's not easy," added the smiling Stoudamire, who packed the ice cream into cups with the same intensity, precision and attention to detail that he displays at the free throw line. "You get real messy, so don't wear good clothes when you come here."

Showing similar intensity to the left of the group was Batista, who was deftly handling the duties of the cone maker, a smaller version of a waffle iron. His dedication earned Stoudamire's respect.

"Esteban's been doing a pretty good job with the cones," he said. "He actually found something he likes so he might have a career after basketball."

Just being in the store earned the admiration of fan Koketa Cato, who drove from LaGrange with her sons, Trey and Chase, just to meet the team.

"It was worth the drive," she said. "This is my first time seeing them in person."

They're Gonna Put Me In the Movies...
Upon entering the main floor of the Regal Cinemas the air is filled with the enticing scent of hot-buttered popcorn and the haunting piano chops of the theme to the Halloween slasher series. Suddenly a booming voice breaks through.

"We have combos over here!" bellows the hawker from behind the concession counter.

That hawker is none other than Josh Childress.

"I'm having a lot of fun," said Childress. "It's good to sit here and talk to people. The best part is the reaction of people's faces and actually living a day in the life of someone who works here. Everybody's been pretty nice, all the customers. They've been pretty cooperative. I offer a combo up for them and nine times out of ten they bought it. So, that's pretty exciting."

But is that smooth talker really "J-Chills" or just a Hollywood special effect? Childress said at least one fan wasn't sure.

"There was one person who thought that I was just wearing a Josh Childress jersey for no reason," he said and smiled. "I told him I was a Josh Childress fan, that he was the sweetest player, he has all the moves, and everything. I've got to hype myself up a little bit."

On either side of the theaters were Hawks players and coaches, including Zaza Pachulia, Royal Ivey, Cedric Bozeman and assistant coaches Larry Drew and David Fizdale to take tickets.

For Pachulia, who makes his living keeping people out of areas, simply letting people in required something of an adjustment.

"They gave me their tickets and I dropped them, so you can tell I'm not so good at this," he said with a laugh. "I'm still having a good time. It's very important for our team to meet the fans."

Atlanta native David Stewart took Sunday afternoon to bring his wife, Susan, and their three children to the theater to see "Flicka." He was surprised and impressed by the team's showing.

"I am a big Hawks fan," he said. " They have a good young team. They have a lot to build around. I actually will go to more games this year."

Publix Image Limited
The checkout area at the Publix on Atlantic Drive and State Street isn't much wider than the lane on the floor of Philips Arena. Naturally that was where several Hawks big men were working.

Rookie power forwards Shelden Williams and Solomon Jones were working side-by-side with veteran big Lorenzen Wright in the two end checkout aisles. Coach Woodson was handling bagging duty on the aisle at the far left, while Matt Freije handled the customer service area.

"This is the tallest group of baggers I've ever seen," said Publix employee Shanikia Graves.

"I'm keeping them on their toes. I've been bossy, very bossy," she added with a laugh. "But we've been learning together. We're having a good time."

The group didn't include the team's veteran bagger, Marvin Williams, who worked bagging groceries throughout high school, but they did just fine.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to Marvin," said Shelden Williams, who celebrated his 23rd birthday the day before. "But it's pretty clear, just hard stuff at the bottom, lighter stuff at the top."

It wasn't all fun and games, however, as Jones learned about paying your dues as an NBA rookie, courtesy of Wright.

"Rook," shouted the 10-year NBA veteran at Jones, "we need a basket over here."

Fans also got a look at the teamwork of the two of the newest Hawks, as Wright, acting as cashier, handed off to Speedy Claxton, who deftly put items in plastic bags before dishing to the customers.

"I don't think too many people knew we were going to be here but they seem excited to have NBA players bag their groceries," said Claxton. "I definitely think this is a little different. I never had an NBA player bag groceries for me.

"If I had to give myself a nickname for the way I bag, it would probably be "Quickie," he added with a laugh.

While Claxton earned a new nickname, the entire squad earned praise from J. Dale Ledford, Publix's customer service manager.

"They learned bagging quickly and they've just done a good job," he said. "It's been exciting for the children, especially, to see them as they come through."

He added that he would certainly welcome them back.

"I need fun service people so that would be great," he said. "They probably charge a little more than I could pay them, though."

Following their day in the service industry, the Hawks met the fans in the more traditional way, sitting in the middle of Central Park, signing autographs posing for pictures.

"I think this is excellent to get out in the community and not only give back, but we're looking for support," said Woodson. "This is a wonderful way of doing it by getting out and mingling with people and letting them know that we want to be a part of the community and we want them to be a part of what we're trying to do as well."

(photos courtesy of Colby Kidd)