Well, HS8T fans, I have really hit a crossroads this offseason. I used every bit of my vocal chords to share with my 10 people strong fan base that I'm extremely displeased with the moves being made by the Atlanta Hawks..going on 3 years now. It's hard to be excited about a roster that has 3 cogs that you could conceivably consider future pieces of a championship team (Josh, Al, & Joe - in that order), 1 possible one (Jeff), and a bunch of other parts (yes, I did leave Jamal off the list and it'll remain that way until some semblance of defense finds our backcourt). The roster also only has 2 contracts worthy of touting for a cash-strapped franchise (Josh and Al - neither of which were negotiated by the Atlanta Hawks).
It's this mis-management that isn't being punished harshly enough via the media, fan base, and even the players that keeps us in the position we're in right now, which is slightly above average, but not really good or great. With this in mind, I'm reminded of the last time I determined that I didn't want to follow a team any longer. I grew up cheering for the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins. Obviously, one team for the hometown flavor, the other because they won. But it didn't take me long to determine that ownership was the reason the Atlanta Falcons would never win anything (with Deion Sanders being let go for nothing as a restricted free agent being the final confirmation) and a true, hardcore Miami Dolphin fan from that point forward was born.
I never thought that as a grown man - I'd ever be presented with this question again of who is your team? And certainly not from my only true hometown love - the Atlanta Hawks, but we've reached that stage...a stage where I keep watching the Oklahoma City Thunder (I just can't pick a conventional winner and jump on board...doesn't seem right to do that) and saying - I wish that was my team. Cap room, young players, competent ownership and GM, Coach of the Year.
I see the cash strapped, salary cap constrained Atlanta Hawks sign 29 yr old Joe Johnson to a 6 yr, $120M and then, I see the Oklahoma City Thunder sign a not yet 22 yr old Kevin Durant to a 5 year, $86M contract and I say...why again am I cheering for the Hawks? A team that will make that signing and then reportedly make a claim that they will put pieces around Joe to make a title push...the cash strapped, cheap at every turn save when it comes to Joe Johnson is going to do what again? The team that has NEVER spent money on anything that helps get those pieces (D League, scouting, coaching, game operations) to come to Atlanta is now suddenly going to change stripes. Really???
Of course, there's more here, but I haven't figured out why people aren't raging in the streets over what has transpired lately. It's not really the Atlanta way to get their panties in a wad over anything that isn't college football. So, I accept that it's really only going to be me that's going to say loudly that Jamal Crawford was a great pickup (despite my admission that he was better than I could have conceived) or the Bibby signing or the Williams signing or letting Childress feel unloved or re-signing Mario West or signing Jason Collins. While I didn't mind Joe Smith and I liked Zaza Pachulia, people are still missing the point about all of those deals - THERE IS YOUR D WADE, LEBRON JAMES, CHRIS BOSH $$$$. It's all sitting right there. Competent management would have long ago said - hey, we can re-sign Joe Johnson and go over the cap if we want to, but we need to have enough to get another guy in here to win a title. If we have to make tough decisions like - Mike Bibby (NO!), Marvin Williams (NO!), Zaza (NO! followed by a sniff, sniff) - you can't get this money because we're doing to do whatever we can do to win a title, then that works for me. It hurts short term, but it works overall and if you say and do that with consistency, the people understand. Did you see anyone go to any lengths to say stay Joe? Anyone? Right, you didn't..not because we don't think he can be valuable to us - I'd be a fool to say otherwise, but I'd also be a fool if I said - he's worth the max, he's worth more than a great point guard or a big man or anything that may help us win a title. We've done the 'hitch our wagon' to Joe thing, so doing something else that allows for a change to the matrix gives me hope.
So, yes, it distresses me when anyone with a platform tries to come up with a perspective that makes re-signing Joe Johnson for $120M right or even tolerable or a lose-lose proposition (I'm speaking to you, Lang Whitaker and Mark Bradley) Seriously!!! No, it was bad management that goes us into that position and it was terrible that we BID AGAINST OURSELVES to sign Joe now. I could be swayed to believe that did what was best for our long term prospects by keeping Joe (read: I don't buy the argument that Joe can't be traded when he becomes worse), but I still haven't been able to shake the fact that I am not convinced he was going to get a 5yr max deal from anyone and even if he did - you mean to tell me you couldn't offer him 6, $110 then or even the max to the point that you know how many teams actually want him to establish a market for who you may actually end up trading him to in the future. I'm also unable to shake the fact that I don't have faith that we'll make a smart trade when faced with the opportunity to do so.
I actually think we have enough pieces to make lemonade out of this entire situation, but NOT under this ownership. I don't believe in ASG, Rick Sund, or Larry Drew. Period. Not a lick...you can spin this however you want, but ASG has made a mess of this franchise since they purchased it. They didn't let Billy Knight be his own man (and yes, he made mistakes, but he also tore down and re-built this team to playoff status). They aren't letting Rick Sund be his own man (and even if they were - I'm still not too impressed with anything he's done to date including getting Jamal Crawford when we had more pressing needs).
So, it's my belief that we are just doing things to do things. Signing Shaq - that's the first piece of rumored buzz since Amare Stoudamire that I've heard around this franchise and it's a bad one. You never hear this franchise's name connected to GOOD rumors....like hey, we want to get Chris Paul after we messed it up the first time. Like, hey - we are going to shed salary too to get in on this LeBron sweepstakes. Like hey, there are some young point guards and centers that we would love to get in exchange for Joe Johnson on the sign and trade if he doesn't want our money. Basically, making hard, prudent decisions...
No, it's not easy to say - Marvin Williams we have to let you go...or Mike Bibby, we can't do another contract no matter whether Joe Johnson likes you or not. OR Joe, we love you, but all we got for you is about 6 yrs, $75M (and we know that you aren't going for that), so unless you want that and an opp for us to get OTHER non-Shaq like players here to help you, so you can show your loyalty to the organization, then sorry - we'll do a sign and trade wherever you like. You then tell the public - this is what we had to do. Just like the Knicks...after all of their extremely horrendous management, Donnie Walsh came in and just started shredding that team and said - we're going to start with superstars and then, we'll fill in the blanks. Why is it that my team decides that it will try to do it another way? All the other teams did it the other way and have models to follow that prove it a plausible path to a title...LA, Boston, Miami, San Antonio can all attest to this.
Nowhere does the plausible path include - pay a 2nd tier star 1st tier money, have no cap room for re-signing your 3rd best player without letting your 6th man walk for nothing, and then have no role players, no defensive help, none of the things that championship teams need outside of talent, and still hope you can win a title. It's just not how it's done and I blame the city, fans, media outlets, and players for all standing around and watching it happen. We can put pressure on this situation, but not without a unified voice - not with people who think there's a way this works out in the direction of winning titles. You can't convince me that every other team that was BETTER than us is trying to get pieces to get better and for the 3rd straight offseason our answer is - re-sign the same guys and hope they get better OR worst yet, sign a coach on the cheap and tell me the coach who has never coached before and was on the bench when all this mess was happening is the elixir that we didn't see before.
The more I write - the more I feel like I'd be a fool to not cut my losses and take the huge amount of criticism for doing what I've dished out to those who've switched their allegiance. But right now, the Hawks are doing NOTHING I can consider setting themselves up for success. It's truly a heartbreaking moment for me. One I never thought I'd have to contemplate, but this offseason is it - I won't put hard earned dollar, emotion, and energy into an inept operation. That's not an option..I put a lot of people on the clock (ASG, Rick Sund, etc) and now, I'm putting it on me - how much more can I take? Not sure, but I'm pretty sure the answer will be reached by the training camp when I unveil where my allegiance lies. No need for a hour long special about it.
That said, HawkStr8Talk will live on...either as the fan blog it was intended to be or as the ex-fan who is still giving you straight talk about what he sees. It's really come to that...best wishes, my sweet Hawks! Comment away and possibly talk me off the ledge...
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