by Lang Whitaker

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Atlanta Hawks. There have been dalliances with other players and other franchises, but it always comes back to the Hawks. For better or worse. Mostly for worse.

A couple of months ago, the Hawks approached me and said they wanted to sign me to a one-year deal. They were looking for a fan to write a column for their official website, Hawks.com, and I was the only fan they could find.

OK, so it wasn’t quite like that. They wanted someone to write a weekly column for their official site, and, seeing as how I’m a Hawks fan and I’m a writer, they contacted me.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I should do it or not. I am, after all, supposed to be impartial at some level (a level deep down in the dark corners of my soul). But then I started thinking more about it, and I realized there’s never been any pretense with me where the Hawks (and a lot of other teams and players) are concerned. That’s one of the reasons I got into the game to begin with. I’d read newspaper stories by various writers and could easily find thinly-veiled references for and against teams and players, and it bothered me that these writers would hide behind a cloak of supposed impartiality. I didn’t want to be one of those writers, and hopefully I haven’t been.

I talked about it with Ben and we agreed that me writing for Hawks.com was probably a good look for SLAM, to get us more eyes and ears than we currently have. So I went back to the Hawks and told them I was in…on one condition: They had to fire Billy Knight.

No, really, I told them I just wanted to be honest. If I didn’t like the way a player was playing or how Mike Woodson was coaching, I wanted to be allowed to say so, right there on their official website. I figured that might be the deal-breaker, but to my surprise the Hawks said, Sure. They said that they wanted it to be real and authentic, which is what I wanted it to be, too.

So it’s on — I signed a contract and everything. Since number 21 is retired, I’ll take number 7, please, in honor of my second-favorite player, Kevin Johnson. And please give me the locker next to my man Josh Childress.

We announced all this yesterday on Hawks.com, where I was the guest on the Hawks BasketBlog Podcast (you can find it here). And every Wednesday, now through the end of the season, I’ll be writing something about the Hawks over at Hawks.com. Of course, I’m sure we’ll link to it from here, too.

Finally, and I pointed this out on the Podcast as well, but since I agreed to do this with the Hawks, the Hawks have the best record in the NBA (a 7-1 preseason record).

Could I have been the missing ingredient all along?