Before traveling to Philips Arena Wednesday night, I had not seen the Atlanta Hawks play in person in more than a year. The last time was Michael Jordan's last game as a Washington Wizard in Atlanta.

Since then the Hawks have undergone drastic changes. The only Hawk still on the roster since my last visit is Chris Crawford, who is out for this season with a knee injury.

With no one on the current roster having played in my last Hawks' game less than two years ago, there were a lot of new faces for me to see Wednesday when Atlanta faced the Dallas Mavericks.

I wanted to see this game for various reasons.

If you know me well at all, you know I have a friend in Dallas that loves the Mavericks. Besides that, members of the Tift County Blue Devils and Lady Devils basketball teams were in attendance Wednesday night. They were playing in Dalton in a tournament and came down to take in the game.

Since my last visit, the Hawks had been sold by Time-Warner/AOL to a group of Atlanta businessmen, who dubbed themselves the Atlanta Spirit.

With many of those men having had ties in the past to the Hawks, you could tell immediately there were positive changes.

The last time I went to a game there was a picture of then-Hawk Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the media room. But, the picture was of Abdur-Rahim in a Grizzlies' uniform being guarded by Toni Kukoc, who had not been with the Hawks in a couple of years.

This time there was a picture of Boris Diaw, who is actually on the current Hawks' roster. While that change was subtle, it made me realize that there were people that actually noticed such things.

There were other changes in the arena.

More seats had been added behind both backboards. There were also what I would call "Jack Nicholson" seats between the team benches and the scorer's table. You know, seats like Nicholson has for the Lakers' games in Los Angeles.

And while the Hawks are still not drawing well, I did notice that there were people in those seats, as well as the nose-bleed seats.

Those fans were in the game and were actually pulling for the Hawks. That included my new friends (yeah, right) Jermaine Dupri and Bow Wow, who were both sitting in the front row directly across from the Atlanta bench.

(For those of you who don't know those two names, ask your children. Bow Wow is a rapper and if you have been to Atlanta and seen the So So Def Records billboards, Dupri owns that record company. However, he is probably better known now as the significant other of Janet Jackson.)

Anyway, the team rewarded the fans in the second half with strong play, including several fan-pleasing dunks.

Among the standout players in that dunk run were rookies Josh Childress and Josh Smith, who both appear to be the real deal. They may struggle, but they could be a strong foundation.

From this one trip, it seems like to me that Atlanta basketball fans would love to see the Hawks do well. Support is there, if the Hawks want to work for it.

I know most of the Blue Devil players would want to go back to see a game. Even if they don't get their picture made with a member of the Hawks' dance team.

Anyway, my headline for this column asks, "Is there hope for the Atlanta Hawks?". Mind you, it is just one game, but I would say yes.

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