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Bogdanovic says Hawks still believe they are underdogs this season

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The Atlanta Hawks were the surprise team and fan favorite of the playoffs last season. They were a good team as the five seed, and the first-round “upset” of the Knicks was arguably the most entertaining series of the postseason as Trae Young took on the honorary Reggie Miller “Most Hated Man in the Garden” mantle. But the Hawks beating the 76ers in the second round was a genuine upset, then the Hawks pushed the eventual champion Bucks to six games.

Atlanta isn’t sneaking up on anyone this season, but Bogdan Bogdanovic says they still see themselves as underdogs, as he told Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

Oh yeah. People still don’t believe in us, and that’s normal. To prove someone wrong, you have to do it multiple times. You can’t just do it once because once means nothing today. Whatever you do, you have to keep being on top. It can’t just be one season of success. You have to continuously be successful over many years. That’s what builds respect in the league because we’re not going to gain respect from other people in the league over one season.

Atlanta took a step forward last postseason and brings back the same roster but with more confidence. However, in a deeper East, will they improve on their fifth seed from a season ago? Can they take a step forward? The oddsmakers at our partner Points Bet still have them as the fifth most likely to come out of the East, behind the 76ers they beat a year ago plus an improved Heat team (and the Nets and Bucks). The Hawks bring great depth to the table, an advantage in the regular season, but how much does it help them in a playoff series?

Bogdanovic said there will be more pressure on the Hawks after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, and they have to adjust to having a target on their backs.

We need to be able to handle the pressure this year because whenever teams play us this season, they’re going to have that urgency. Atlanta isn’t a place anymore where you come here, take the easy win and leave. It wasn’t like that this past season. Maybe in years before. Teams are going to take us seriously. We have to take care of home court.”

For his part, Bogdanovic was battling a knee issue through the playoffs — he averaged 14.1 points a game in the postseason but shot 32.9% from 3 (after hitting 43.8% in the regular season) — but says he is fully healthy now; he didn’t need surgery, just treatment and some rest.

Health will matter, but Atlanta is on everyone’s radar this season — they will have to be better just to repeat what they did a season ago. Whether or not they live up to that, there may be no more entertaining team than the Hawks this season.

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