The Last Word With Lang Whitaker - Oct. 31, 2007

Lang Whitaker is many things - executive editor of Slam Magazine, a
columnist for, and most importantly, a die-hard Hawks fan. For 2007-08 ,
Lang will be sharing his thoughts on the team in an exclusive column for Check back every Wednesday throughout the season to read his latest
musings, and read him every day at

I'm Here Because I'm A Hawks Fan
by Lang Whitaker

may be asking yourself: Hey, how did he get in here? This is, where
the information is supposed to come straight from the Hawks, vetted to stay on
message, combed through as thoroughly as Billy Knight's...whoops, better not go
there, not yet anyway. But basically, you're wondering how a writer outside The
Highlight Factory got a spot here on The same dude who has publicly
criticized everyone from Mike Woodson to Shelden Williams is now sharing a
cyberspace home with them?

Yes, yes I am. And I'm glad to be here.

As for why I'm here, there's two answers, really.

1. The Hawks came to me and asked me to write here, which I think is rather
admirable. They weren't afraid to embrace me, even though I've had issues with
them in the past, mostly related to their inability to win more games than
they've lost in recent years. They asked me to give you my feelings on the Hawks
this season, and I promise to do exactly that. Once the season starts, of
course. Hopefully it'll be entertaining, especially if I can score a night out
with the
. You know, for research.

2. Above all else, I am a Hawks fan. I own two seats from The Omni that I bought
at the auction a few days before The Omni was imploded. At that same auction I
paid $10 for an oversized, framed portrait of Ken "Snake" Norman that formerly
hung in The Omni media room. (It now hangs over my desk in my office at SLAM.)

When the Hawks signed Moses Malone and traded for Reggie Theus in 1988, I saved
my own money for the entire summer and purchased a single Hawks season ticket
way up in the Omni rafters, which I paid $205 for. It still breaks my heart to
think about the promise that team squandered.

I currently own six Hawks t-shirts. I have a Pete Maravich jersey, a Lou Hudson
jersey, an '80s Dominique jersey, a late-90s Shareef Abdur-Rahim jersey, a
throwback Josh Smith jersey.

My favorite player in the mid-'80s was Spud Webb, just because he was
and fast and could dunk
. I remember when Stan Kasten appealed to the NBA
office that Spud should be allowed to wear number 0.4. (Thankfully, the League
saw things differently.) I remember Jon Koncak before his reconstructive jaw
surgery. I remember when Mark Bradley had an afro and a mustache. I remember
when I thought

the Hawks logo was Pac-Man
. I remember Kasten drafting tons of foreign
players who never made it to the NBA. I remember Cliff Levingston, Antoine Carr,
Mike McGee, John Battle. I remember Scott Hastings establishing himself as the
premiere inbounds passer in the NBA. I remember Bill Needle and Joe O'Toole. I
remember The Wittman Sampler. I remember sitting on the floor of my parent's
living room and watching

Game Seven of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semis
, and thinking that I'd
never seen a basketball player as good as Dominique.

I remember hearing that Dominique had been traded. I remember hearing that Kevin
Willis had been traded. I remember JR Rider nearly making Lenny Wilkens' head
explode. I remember Dikembe's finger wag taking over the city. I remember

Steve Smith on the cover of Sports Illustrated
for having to guard
Michael Jordan. I remember Ed Gray. I remember the first time Anthony Johnson
was on the Hawks. I remember Cal Bowdler, Eldridge Recasner, Chris Crawford.

I miss the thinly-veiled cynicism of Jeffrey Denberg, though my main man Sekou
"Tubby" Smith is plenty cynical himself. I miss Jason Collier. I miss Mike
Fratello and his tight perm, and I miss Lon Kruger's unibrow.

I could go on, but you get my point: Things done changed. And as lovely as it is
to sit here and reminisce about the past, I'm going to look forward. I have no
choice. We have no choice.

Instead of looking back, I'm thinking forward: I want to see Billy Knight's 6-8
Mafia figure it all out and make the Playoffs this season. I want Joe Johnson to
make the All-Star team without someone else getting injured to free up a spot. I
want to see Josh Smith consistently knock down that jumper from the wing. I want
to see Zaza Pachulia throw some muscle around in the paint. I want to see Marvin
Williams continue to improve. I want to see Josh Childress get some love as a
viable Sixth Man Of The Year candidate. I want Acie Law in the starting lineup
and I want Al Horford to win Rookie of the Year.

More than anything, I want to see the Hawks make the Playoffs this season. So
let's end the column this way: With a guarantee. I haven't cleared this with any
of the 843 surviving members of Atlanta Spirit, but I'm going to put it out
there regardless. If the Hawks don't make the Playoffs this season, we'll refund
your subscription price to I know, I know, I'm going out on a limb
here, but someone needs to throw down the gauntlet, to show the Hawks players
that all of us here at believe in them and think they're ready to
climb from the basement to the penthouse. Rise up, peoples.

(And if the Hawks don't make the Playoffs, Steve Holman will be in charge of
handing out the refunds. Keep an eye out for him around town.)

Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at