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Atlanta Hawks look to build on momentum from last season’s long playoff run

An Atlanta Hawks pre-season scrimmage drew 7,000 fans Saturday at State Farm Arena.
An Atlanta Hawks pre-season scrimmage drew 7,000 fans Saturday at State Farm Arena.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE

Taquila Collins couldn’t wait for the season to start, so last Saturday she came to watch the Hawks practice at State Farm Arena. She isn’t related to the team’s star forward John Collins, but he is one of her favorite players.

“Just coming today to support and show that we are behind them 100%,” Collins said. “Just enjoying practice today and we look forward to the season.”

And she had plenty of company. Seven thousand fans were on hand to watch the Hawks’ red versus white scrimmage.

“Which is mind-boggling because when we’ve done this in the past, we’ve had 2-3,000 people come out,” said Hawks CEO Steve Koonin.

The Hawks play their first home pre-season game Wednesday night as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta opens the regular season October 21st against the Dallas Mavericks.

Atlanta-based Sharecare sponsored Saturday’s open practice, allowing the team to donate the $5 admission charge to the Hawks Foundation. Sharecare also has its logo on the team’s jersey, a recent NBA innovation.

“As media has become more fractured, sponsorships become more sophisticated,” said Koonin. “It used to be, put up a sign with someone’s logo and that was good for awareness.”

Koonin says the team saw TV ratings soar during the playoff over the summer. He also says there’s been an increase in merchandise sales, especially Trae Young jerseys, which are now the 11th most popular in the league.

“I think the emergence of Trae as a superstar has captivated a lot of people,” Koonin said.

Last season, Young and the Hawks came within two wins of making the NBA Finals, the farthest any team has gotten since the franchise moved to Atlanta.

“Even when we don’t win, we certainly put up a helluva fight,” said Koonin.

Koonin knows the Hawks will spend the first part of the season fighting for sports fans’ attention with college football, Braves’ playoff baseball, Atlanta United and the Falcons all happening too.

But the Hawks are banking on the enthusiasm and confidence of fans like Roger House, to help them stand out in a competitive Atlanta sports market.

“We’re definitely going to go back to the playoffs, without a doubt,” said House. “And I look for us to win the whole thing.”