by Lang Whitaker

The funny thing is, over the last few days, ever since the Hawks knocked out the Bucks, I’ve found myself suspecting that the Hawks might do OK against the Magic. I knew what was what. The Hawks beat Orlando the last time they played, in Atlanta, on a last-second dunk from Josh Smith. But every other time they played, the Magic drilled the Hawks, winning by an average of something like 25 points.

But these Hawks are a confusing bunch. Just when you think they’re done, they roar back and bash Milwaukee two games in a row.

So the obvious thing to do in this Orlando/Atlanta series was pick Orlando, right? That’s why I was thinking the Hawks might at least throw a wrench into things. I didn’t want to jinx anything, so I only told two people that I was feeling this way. (Granted, one of those people was the terrific radio host Bob Haynie in Baltimore while I was on his show, so I guess some people might have heard that.)

And then the Hawks came out tonight and just got their butts handed to them. Orlando was awesome, running their pick and rolls, making the extra passes, rotating on defense, finding Dwight, etc. I’ve been watching them a lot the last three years, and this was as good as I’ve ever seen Orlando play. At the same time, it was as bad as I’ve seen these Hawks play. As a Hawks fan, good god was it painful to watch. Everything that could have gone wrong for Atlanta did. As I said earlier, the Hawks are the masters of doing what you don’t expect. I definitely didn’t expect that.

Frankly, it was embarrassing. The Hawks lost by 40. Forty! And we’re supposed to be a contender. Ugh.

Now watch the Hawks come back and win Game 2.

• Speaking of Milwaukee, as I was earlier, did you guys see this video? Some fans in Milwaukee were in a bar watching Game 7 of the Hawks/Bucks series, and two actual bucks crashed through the glass doors of the bar.

What’s even more incredible to me is that once the deer were in the bar, they were wrestled to the floor by patrons. People in Milwaukee are gangsta.

• About that Kobe photo shoot. We here at SLAM are constantly trying to come up with ways to present athletes in different ways. But this recent Kobe photo shoot was really, really, really, really over the top. To that point that it became a talking point in a negative way. I’d never heard of the LA Times Magazine before this shoot, and as a magazine editor myself, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way you’d like people to first hear about your publication. TNT did an entire segment with fake photoshopped images from that shoot.

And then this interview with the stylist they hired is even funnier, because the stylist says he was trying to invoke Tupac. Wait, was there someone named Tupac in “The Crucible”?

“I wanted to give a modern approach. I was thinking of [rapper] Tupac [Shakur] where I put a band underneath in the hat to make it look hip-hop, but … it translates in a surreal look where it creates a strong image. It was something that hasn’t been done before. It’s mixing the inspiration of Tupac and a gentleman with a white hat … a mix of a hip-hop and a conservative look.”

First of all, nothing in this photo shoot is hip-hop whatsoever. And a conservative look? By making Kobe look as though he was one of the settlers at Jamestown? Or as if he were a droog from “A Clockwork Orange”?

You know what? Honestly, it’s just a bad photo shoot. Hey, it happens. As a magazine staff, you’re just not supposed to let it happen when you have access to one of the most famous athletes of all time. I understand you want to make a splash, to do something that brings attention to your publication. But by attention I don’t mean peals of laughter and scorn and ridicule. And tonight after the Lakers game they asked Kobe about the shoot, and he said, “It wasn’t what it was supposed to be.” Which doesn’t strike me as a ringing endorsement for his future collaboration with that magazine.

I also understand some athletes or celebrities want to do things outside the box occasionally, things that make them look different and could make the public reconsider the way they view that athlete. (Credit, or discredit, to Bomani Jones for finding that cover.) But if anything, looking at this shoot made me thankful that we have a such a good team here at SLAM. I remember when I first started at SLAM, trying to brainstorm a photo shoot concept. I threw out some crazy idea, and our creative director at the time explained to me that these guys have fans who want to see them. As a result, you should make them look like them, maybe with some sort of minimal twist to make it relevant or interesting. But at the end of the day, Kobe should look like Kobe.

And I thinkwe’reprettygood at that.

• Also, Lakers > Jazz.