Stretching the Field: Hawks making a difference by sharing

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( - We're taught at a young age to share.

Whether it's with your brother, sister, cousin, friend or teammate, sharing brings out the best in everyone and opens avenues to success.

Introverts may not grasp the concept of sharing, which is why selfish or egotistical behavior lends itself to failure.

In the NBA, it's a necessity a team has more than one option. LeBron James couldn't do it alone in Cleveland and we all know what happened after that. Heck, even Michael Jordan needed to crack the whip to get his teammates more involved en route to six NBA titles. (A good coach helped.)

Teams need more than one component to achieve ultimate glory and having more hands on the ball creates more opportunities. Take a look at the New York Knicks and how Carmelo Anthony is carrying them on a nightly basis. It's not Anthony's fault the Knicks are banged up. Those are just the breaks.

The Knicks were supposed to be in the mix for Eastern Conference supremacy in 2013-14, but they're not even in the first 10. Indiana and Miami are living up to lofty expectations and Atlanta now rounds out the top three in the East.

Atlanta is not making waves by any stretch of the imagination because they're good to begin with. The Hawks have been to the playoffs in each of the past six seasons and are just one of three teams (Pacers, Heat) in the conference with a record above .500. Why have the Hawks been so successful? Sharing.

It all starts with the head coach.

Mike Budenholzer may not be a household name yet and is gradually becoming a popular figure to Hawks fans. A longtime assistant under the great Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs, Budenholzer was a part of four NBA championships under Pop, arguably one of the greatest and most successful coaches in basketball lore.

Budenholzer saw first-hand how sharing and unselfish play lead to success and a piece of the proverbial pie. Yes, the Spurs lucked out in landing Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and all three believed they would achieve more together. The bling on their fingers proves that.

The Hawks want to earn a championship pedigree and have the roster to do it, especially with how disappointing the East has been. They probably couldn't match up with any of the top five in the West and will just have to settle on working their way up the East standings over the next few years.

Atlanta has four major pieces in Al Horford, Paul Millsap, who's in his first season with the Hawks, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, who's known for taking passes and burying 3-pointers. Teague is averaging a team-leading 8.0 assists per game and the Hawks are first in the NBA with 25.3 apg. They added to that impressive stat with a season-high 38 assists against Sacramento on Wednesday and set a Philips Arena record.

Teague had 15 assists versus the Kings. He has no less than five assists in 16 straight games and has handed out 10 or more on nine separate occasions this season. The ball movement impressed Budenholzer after the 124-107 win over the Kings.

"I think the ball movement and the shooting are both to be commended," Budenholzer said. "The shooters can't make shots unless the ball gets to them on time - on target."

The Hawks have handed out 30 or more assists five times this season (4-1) and 20-plus assists 24 times. They're also averaging 114.7 points per game in the last three and have scored 100-plus points in four straight games. Horford is posting an average of 23.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in that stretch, and is one of the beneficiaries of precise passing inside.

Korver, meanwhile, extended his NBA-record for a 3-pointer made in consecutive games to 95 and talked about the charitable play.

"That's a product of a lot of things. It's unselfishness. It's good spacing. It's a lot of guys in rhythm. It's everyone being dangerous," said Korver, who's knocked down 19 3-pointers over the last four games. "It's a product of Jeff putting pressure on them. When Jeff's attacking like that and going to the basket, it just opens up a lot of opportunities for us."

Atlanta is recording assists on a remarkable 66.2 percent of made baskets, which is the best in the league. The Heat and Pacers aren't having as much success on that front and will still probably occupy the top two seeds come playoff time. Atlanta should only have to worry about Boston and Detroit taking the third spot.

If the Hawks, who are no longer playing in anonymity, continue to share both the ball and spotlight each night, they'll be hosting a playoff series, too.