Thirteen years ago, the Atlanta Hawks had one heck of a start to a season. They won 11 straight to start the year en route to a 50-32 finish under coach Lenny Wilkens. That was good enough to get them a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference and an early playoff exit courtesy of the then Charlotte Hornets.
But a lot was different then. Bill Clinton "was not having sexual relations with that woman." Osama bin Laden was a little known terrorist who was hatching an evil plan to take down two of the United States' tallest buildings and the Hawks were splitting playing time between the Georgia Dome and Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum while Philips Arena was rising from the old Omni's ashes.
The upstart Hawks will look to party like it's 1997 when they take on the Phoenix Suns at Philips Arena (5:00 p.m., SportSouth, 97.9 FM). It will be the first real test for Atlanta, which won its first six games against teams with a combined 10-26 this season.
Phoenix (2-3) has had a rough go of it early, but is coming off of a 123-118 double-overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Jason Richardson had 38 points in that one, including the bucket to tie it and send it into overtime.
The Hawks are coming off of a 113-103 win over the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Jamal Crawford had 22 points and Josh Smith added 20 points, eight boards, six assists and five blocked shots in the effort. The Hawks did it all without much from Joe Johnson, who has been missing in action in November. Atlanta's four-time All Star is averaging just 13.3 points per game this month on 30.6-percent shooting from the field.
Sunday marks the return of former swingman Josh Childress to Atlanta. J-Chill and his trademark afro was traded to the Suns after spending two seasons in Greece. He will return to Philips Arena for the first time since Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Celtics.
Childress, who had dinner with former teammate Zaza Pachulia on Saturday, spent his first four NBA seasons with Atlanta, averaging 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He has struggled thus far with Phoenix, posting averages of 4.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest off the bench for the Suns.
The Hawks split the season series with the Suns last year. Atlanta won at Philips Arena, while Phoenix took care of business on their home court.