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Are the Atlanta Hawks for real?

"The dishes are done." "Did you just quote Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead?Getty Images

It's well-known fact that hawks have a visual acuity that is several times superior than any human being. Nevertheless, it's doubtful anyone saw this 6-0 start coming, even if you fully believed in them after they took the Celtics to seven games in the first round last year.

Are the Hawks for real? Or, is their early success a random fluke of circumstance?

The Hawks were 12-29 on the road last season, but have beaten two playoff teams from last season (the Magic and Hornets) on the road already.

Such a successful launch to a season has not been seen in Atlanta since the beginning of the Hawks '97-'98 campaign, where they won 11 straight. Like any good coach though, Mike Woodson's "don't be satisfied" attitude puts a wrench into any rash celebration.

"There's a long way to go," Woodson said. "But we're growing as a team, as a unit, every time out. And that's what you want to see."

For a team whose roster looks remarkably similar to several months ago, the youthful Hawks are playing with a fervor that was only apparent at the tail end of last season when they competed for the eighth playoff spot with a sub-.500 record. Fomer sixth-man Josh Childress fled to Greece for more money and more playing time, while management tactfully picked up Maurice Evans to provide more depth on the perimeter.

There are 76 games on the horizon and the Hawks have quite a few strong points to leverage and plenty of room to grow in order to achieve Woodson's goal of home court advantage in 2009.

Looking on the bright side:

(1) The Hawks are playing solid defense thanks to Coach Woodson's particular emphasis in this area.

(2) All-Star Joe Johnson is scoring in bundles (23.8 ppg) and has hopefully quelled the anonymous NBA Scout that declared "he's a good third player on a contending team. But he's not the guy you build around."

(3) The Hawks have shown signs that they could win on the road and come from behind at home (they erased a 23-point deficit against Philly in the home opener).

(4) Josh Smith has been aggressively blocking shots (his 2.5 bpg is currently leading the league) and snagging rebounds in droves (8 per).

(5) Al Horford was runner-up for Rookie of the Year last season and has looked even better as a sophomore, including 27 points and 17 boards against the Bulls on November 11.

(6) Mike Bibby is in a contract year.

Margins for improvement:

(1) The Hawks got off to slow starts against Philadelphia and New Orleans and need to be careful about falling behind early on.

(2) Offensively, the Hawks have to be more consistent and put more points on the board as a team.

(3) Lack of experience and the absence of a winning culture may ultimately impede upon the Hawks' success on the road and in their quest to make the playoffs again.

(4) Marvin Williams needs to fulfill his potential to take the Hawks to the next level.

(5) Hawks management needs to tighten up its handling of negotiating contracts so that they don't lose anymore key talent. Josh Smith was almost a goner this summer.

(6) Corporate distractions about fire-selling the franchise cannot infiltrate the organization.