Thursday, July 31, 2008

Childress Disrespected by Teammates?

As Josh Childress adjusts to being a trailblazer (but not an NBA TrailBlazer) and deals with the fallout from Atlanta fans and potentially NBA fans, his people have decided that they should get Josh out there to talk about why he left and the whole process.

Yesterday, he spoke with PTI, who likely would have NEVER had him as a Five Good Minutes guest had not been "the first" to dump the NBA for Greece in his prime and as a starter caliber player in the league.

He then went on Atlanta's 790 the Zone to talk more specifically about the Hawks and the negotiations.

***UPDATE*** The interview is up on the Zone webpage.

Talking with the "Mayhem in the AM" crew, Childress talked about the slow negotiations, below MLE offers from the team, and sign and trades that the Hawks weren't interested in that would have paid Childress what he needed.

In the end, he had the well reported 5 yr, 33 million dollar offer and accepted it, only to be told to hold on. For a player that had already held on for too long (in his mind---and perception is reality), it was too much and he took his game overseas.

During the conversation with the Zone, Childress also discussed a point that THHB brought up last year during our interview with Childress---the lack of being a starter and the playing time that went with it.

This was CLEARLY something that Josh was interested in and was not afforded. Despite injuries on the team last season to other players, Childress started zero games for the Hawks. He was never allowed to earn the role, no matter how hard he played, and this bothered him as he talked to us last season.

But the headline of the call, the one thing we hadn't heard is that this lack of starting also led to a disrepctful attitude toward him by his own teammates.

He felt cut by the labels that was placed on him. "The Energy Guy", the "Rebound Guy", and so on. It was clear he felt he had already been pigeonhold and that bothered him as well, and likely made it eaiser for him to take the money and run.

Which players dissed him? Which players wouldn't throw him the ball if he was open? Is he talking about Johnson, Bibby, or even Josh Smith?

Along with what trade offers might have been turned down by the Hawks, this is the missing information most enquiring minds are eager to know.

On the PTI interview, maybe it was the newness of the whole thing, buit Childress did not seem invested in the decision. He admitted to being an NBA dreamer, but that he is on that team now and thier goal is the Euro Championship, so he is too.

He is definately still down with the NBA.

But what neither the PTI guys nor the Zone guys asked Chill was if he saw this as a 3 year commitment, or will his representation continue to keep their legs in the NBA waters, feeling out a scenario that will bring Chilldress back to the NBA next season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bird Seed: Kwame Signs--But Not as a Hawk and RFA Signings (and Tradings?)

So how's everybody's offseason? Good?


Mine either--but let's get to it.

Kwame Brown signs with the Pistons

Ever notice how some organizations always seem to do the right thing?

OK, so signing Kwame Brown isn't the equivalent of drafting Joe Dumars over Jon Koncak, but signing the big guy to a 2 year, 8 million dollar deal would sure have looked sweet if it had the Hawks logo associated with it.

Instead, the home team will have to settle for the likes of Randolph Morris, who has not shown any athleticism or defense in his time at Kentucky or with the Knicks. His college/pro career to date makes Kwame Brown's seem accomplished.

Personally, I would have rather seen the Hawks save the money they spent on Mo Evans, and up the ante to sign Kwame, who still has the potential to be effective inside, if only on defense, blocking shots, and putbacks.

To be honest, this offseason so far has had the HHB wondering about the approach the team is taking to their payroll and acquiring talent.

The Cincinnati Reds, before the 2005 season, had some money to spend for free agency. They looked about at the high priced players available and decided that they couldn't spend "that kind of money" on a front line player. After the free agent season had subsided, they bragged about how they spent about 20 million dollars in free agency that offseason, but instead of purchasing one player, they were able to acquire 5 or 6 players. Much better, they said.

Eric Milton, Joe Randa, Ramon Ortiz, Ben Weber, Rich Aurilia, Kent Mercker, and David Weathers.

The Reds--not much better.

So, instead of getting an impact player, they wasted their money on 6 players who had little overall effect on the team, except for negative: glorified replacement level players whose main talent was that they were average for other teams at some point in their career.

So it is with held breath that we watch the Hawks attack this offseason with the same approach---taking the discount route, but still spending more than they should on replacement level players.

We will see if the Hawks do indeed sign Morris, if it's more than the 800K or so he earned with the Knicks last season. If it is, they likely will have overpaid, just like they did for Evans.

Personally, we would rather overpay big for a player that will make a positive difference on the team (Childress, Smith), than for a collection of replacement level players at a cheaper, yet more than replacement level pay.

Some teams don't go that route---we call them winners. Some teams, like the aforementioned Reds, keep on trucking down the same path---we don't call them winners.

Warriors are scared Childress; Sign RFAs Ellis, Biedrins

Count the Warriors as a team that blinked and quickly put away their two RFA's, guard Monta Ellis and center Andres Biedrins, in light of the departure of Josh Childress to the land of Far, Far Away.

Oakland obviously considered the pair to be productive and thus important to lock them down, and they were right.

Ellis put points on the board last year (over 20 ppg), but he was also efficient while doing so, scoring a 19 PER, according to, and taking down 21.3 offensive win shares to boot.

Biedrins was equally productive, putting a 19+ PER on the board as well.

Oakland paid about 21 million for the pair annually, a high price, but at least they paid folks who were making a seriously positive impact on the team.

So now the attention turns to someone who put up about the same level of productivity as Ellis and Biedrins---Josh Smith.

Will the Hawks sign their RFA to a similar 6 year 60-66 million dollar deal or attempt to go the Reds route, crying poor and dealing for a gaggle of less productive, yet still somewhat highly paid talent?

Sekou Smith of the AJC teased us over the weekend by running a blind item about a powerhouse Western team and a big team in the East having significant enough interest to have a couple of powerhouse deals out there to the Hawks in a potential Sign And Trade for Smith.

One name that has been floated out often enough is that of Mavericks forward Josh Howard. Two years ago, Howard's star was on the rise after his year 25 season, but now two years later, and one year into a 4-yr, 40 million dollar extension, he is on the block.

It would be an interesting economic move; acquire someone with 3 years left on their deal instead of having to be on the hook for 6 more years at the same prices.

Howard put up a similarly productive season as Smith, with an 18.2 PER and similar amount of win shares for the season. But looking closer one sees that Howard is 5 years older than Smith and two inches shorter to boot. Losing the flexibility that Smith provides on the court matchup wise by losing that height and the potential for growth that Smith still holds looks to be too much to lose for the Hawks.

It may surprise you that the Lakers' Lamar Odom is only a year older than Howard. But he has maintained a level of productivity that, while being helpful to the Lakers, is less than what Smith already provides for the Hawks.

Truth is, if the Hawks are indeed entertaining trading a 22 year old, already highly productive player, it had better be for something that the team really needs: A center or a point guard.

The Hawks can ill afford to make a deal involving a valuable asset such as Smith for 75 cents on the dollar, for older players that Smith has already matched in terms of production, and at positions that the Hawks really don't need (read: swingmen).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Losing Josh Childress, Gaining Maurice Evans

Aside from that, how was the play?

So now we move on.

Separating the basketball part of Losing Josh Childress from the infrastructural part is both easy and hard.

You can justify the millions of reasons why it made sense to let Chill ride off into the Grecian sunset, but you can't divorce the way the Hawks seemed to have handled the whole thing.

But---since we spent yesterday mourning and promised to move on to the hardcourt part of the equation, we will.

But we can't forget---and something tells us we won't be allowed to, either.

So, what does Losing Josh Childress mean for the Hawks in terms of wins and losses? How does a player who this writer always considered to be a role player (albeit a good and productive role player) have a significant impact on the team's fortunes for next season?

For those who want to wax rhapsodic about the emotional part of looking over and not seeing #1's trademark afro I say that will not carry over at all next season. As soon as the ball is tossed up in the first game, that part of Losing Josh Childress will cease to exist.

The on the court game, however, will be noticed.

At 6'8, Childress provided a very long defense along the perimeter and excellent rebounding from the 2/3 position that he was asked to man coming off the bench. He scored without needing a play run for him through his hustle and excellent length and athleticism. He even ran the point a bit for the team after the Bibby deal and Mike's subsequent injury.

Statistically, according to ESPN's John Hollinger's PER system, Childress ranked 9th among all small forwards last season (17.84), between Josh Howard and a resurgent Hedo Turkoglu and ahead of such names as Gerald Wallace, Andrei Kirilenko, Luol Deng, Kevin Durant, and Tayshaun Prince.

Although he averaged 29.9 mpg (a major thorn in his paw, by the way), and having to adjust to the uncertainty of coming off the bench, he managed to be very productive and efficient in his time on the floor.

He was one of a few players in the backcourt area that could average 50% FG and 80% FT shooting, and given the grief he took about his shooting style, them's some good numbers. Good things happened when Chill was on the floor, as his Roland Rating was one of only three Hawks with a positive rating (Johnson, Smith).

He was/is a glue guy, a player who supplements the contributions of the core players. The best do this efficiently and consistently, just like Childress.

Now, how much to pay a glue guy has been defined by deals to Shane Battier (6/36, 11.69 PER), and most recently James Posey (4/25, 12.08 PER), so one could say that Childress' supersized Euro offer was more than the Hawks should have paid, but one look at the numbers he put up and the numbers of his supposed contemporaries and maybe we labeled the guy too fast.

At any rate, Losing Josh Childress will be felt---but it will mostly on the court as the Hawks will scramble to replace that key production off the bench.

Hawks Sign Mo Evans

Billed as the replacement for Josh Childress at a bargain price (3 years and 7.5 million), Evans is a considerably less productive player than the man he replaces.

Shorter (6'5 to Childress' 6'8), and older (30 to 25) Evans must now try to fill the shoes of the ultra-efficient sixth man. To compare, Evans had a 13.96 PER according to Hollinger and that was close to his previous season high two years prior.

His shooting is considerably worse than Childress. His career high of .481 was 90 points less than Childress. 90 points. Wow.

Across the board, Evans' rate numbers are worse than Childress. He is said to be a tenacious defender, thereby making up for some offensive shortcomings but his Roland Rating was -3.8.

Color us unimpressed with the signing, as it looks like the Hawks replaced a thriving, growing, productive player who could start on many teams with a firmly entrenched bench player, who shouldn't start anywhere.

Realistically, I don't think we can expect Evans to get better with age, and certainly not taller/longer--and his spike last year might have been his last.

To put the next three years of Evans at age 30, 31, and 32 against what might have been the prime of Childress (25, 26, and 27) is to say that the Hawks have some more to do to replace Childress, but if signing less productive guys at a discount prices to fill the minutes is how they plan to do it, it sure won't make people forget about Losing Josh Childress.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Moment of Silence

Tomorrow, we will take a closer look at the basketball ramifications of Josh Childress leaving for Greece, but for today, we take pause to reflect and a moment of silence for the good feeling and momentum lost yesterday when the organization lost more than just a player.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Well. Okay then.

It what has to be the most celebrated negotiating tactic ever, Josh Childress has told the Hawks to stick it and has taken the Greek offer to leave the NBA behind.

It's jaw-dropping to imagine that this has occured--but to the scarred faithful that are the Hawks fans, it's another punch in the stomach to a fan base that had just started to feel better about itself.

Now, regardless of what you think about the basketball impact of this move, there is a somber mood among the masses---with anger surely to follow.

My heart goes out to the dutiful Hawks staffers that have to try and peddle tickets and make their number---events that unfold like this surely does not drive people to open the wallet.

As we discussed in the last entry, this has an impact beyond the court and beyond the fans ire. What message does this send to the rest of the roster, and to free agents in general, that one of their favorite players, a player whose image was everything you could want and whose skills were widely recognized, has chosen to leave the league rather than accept your contract offers?

More details will surely come out about what Childress can do next year, and the year after, etc. And the Hawks will surely have rights to him, blah, blah, blah.

But, in a Athens minute, the legs have been cut out from the momentum that had been building over the last few seasons. The team has let this happen and must now face the consequences to come, and there will surely be many.

The team has to focus on getting Josh Smith signed to begin to stem the emotional damages on the franchise and to build back a reputation for taking care of their players. It must be a message to the other players that this was isolated and the team does care about keeping this growing core together.

We wrote a year ago that the team was likely unwilling to go far beyond the MLE to keep Childress and that he would be the next good Ex-Hawk. That was with a different GM and before the playoff run, but I suppose the sentiment hadn't changed where it mattered--in the pocketbook.

We just couldn't have dreamed it would be to Greece. αντίο!

Uncle Mercy!

Well, either the Childress Money Making Foundation are the best actors in the world (not a high bar set there in Hollywood, by the way) or the family of Josh Childress may be making more international calls over the next three years.

I have to say---it's stunning---and they have things serious enough to where even I, one of the most cynical, suspicious minds there might be, am starting to believe that Josh Childress may indeed take off for Greece instead of chasing down the NBA dream.

Hey, Rick Sund, how do you like the new job?

If you believe every item in Sekou Smith's latest blog (part of our Bird Feeds on the sidelines there), then you have to think that the Hawks tried to play it dirty and now risk losing their top 2004 pick for just about nothing.

We have seen, in the last 24 hours, everything the HHB told you was coming. Spin from both sides, escalating threats, and now an apparent checkmate.

Smith says that the Hawks risk losing credibility if they cave to Childress, but I am not sure about that. This situation is unique, though not that unique that other won't definately try it.

Sidebar: It will be interesting to see the NBA reaction to such a move, though the Commish is likely to chalk it up to the Hawks simply "being the Hawks".

If the Hawks decide to stare down the young 6th man, it could mean a decision as early as today. Hawks fans would have to hope for no news, which could mean that the team is hustling to make things right.

One of the interesting things about this development is that it was the free agency of Josh Smith who grabbed all the headlines, but that has been completely eclipsed by this circus. Of course, we here at the HHB saw the Childress FA as the most interesting, but certainly not this interesting, if you can call your stomach wrenching interesting.

On the issue on whether Childress is worth the money that it might likely take to bring him back, consider that this signing is likely not in a vacuum, meaning that if the team fails to bring in Childress, it could have a domino effect on the psyche of the rest of the team, and their current and impending free agency.

It is especially critical if the team played it as dirty as Sekou reports, pulling a more lucrative deal off the table because he didn't jump when they laid it down. Um, I don't know too many employees that like that tactic (myself very much included).

If that part of the negotiation is true, that's bogus. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, everybody. Once you put a deal on the table and then pull it back, no matter what phony deadlines you put on the offer, you are telling your guy that now you have to take a lesser or deal or take it elsewhere.

Elsewhere = Greece.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Josh Childress---Greece is Not the Word

OK---Now that the Red (Hawks) Storm has died down a little today and the other side of the story has started to trickle out, we can see a little clearer now than the through the fury that engulfed the tiny but proud Nation of Hawk earlier today when the news of Childress heading over to Greece started to emerge.

Now, as we discussed earlier, and earlier, and really every offseason when free agents are concerned, information that emerges during this money making period is 1 part truth, 1 million parts self-serving---and often is just a ploy to move either the player's or the team's marker closer to their respective goals.

Restricted free agency heightens the hysteria a bit in that the team that holds rights holds all the leverage and likes to wait for the market to determine value so that the team doesn't end up bidding against itself (Helloooo Allan Houston and the Knicks), no matter what ultimate value they place on the player.

Players want to see the money and the love (and that means money, too) as soon as possible, so waiting for other players to sign or teams to make offers to them to determine their market value doesn't really work for them.

Therefore, teams and players set against each other in this financial chess match, where the club tries to dissuade suitors for their RFA's talents and plays the waiting game, while the players and their representation does everything in it's power to overcome the leverage the team has against them.

So HUGE ups to Lon Babby and Jim Tanner for completely flipping the Hawks (and believe me, the NBA) by taking a thousand dollar trip to Greece to talk to the rich Olympiakos franchise and this raise the stakes with the Hawks.

Anyone think I'll see Josh Smith and the Restricted Free Agent All-Stars at Hartsfield-Jackson tomorrow?

This is a stroke of bargaining genius. Oh, don't think we have leverage? Well, we won't even play in the NBA next year and STILL make the dollars.

It sure threw the fans for a loop---leading some to wail so loud I heard 'em in Orlando, I am sure.

I think the Hawks have to show some hand now. In fact, it comes as no surprise that GM Rick Sund opened the kimono for Sekou Smith tonight, allowing that the Hawks have indeed negotiated "every day since free agency started" and someone else fed Sekou that the opening offer was over the MLE and could include bonuses.

Now, see there Hawks fans, is it all better?

Nope--guess again.

You really can't believe the team's rap either, but it is nice to see some propaganda from the other side, isn't it?

No, the proof will be when both sides are putting out vibes that indicate that fences are being mended and all is well (read: money getting closer) between both parties.

These sides know what they are doing, despite the venom that oozed all over the place throughout the day, with some fans wondering if the Hawks brass even knew what city the Hawks play in. It is awfully unnerving to see two key pieces to the Hawks playoff run seemingly unhappy. And fans want to be assured that their guys will be in place---and as soon as possible.

Remember, it was SEPTEMBER 11, 2003 when Jason Terry finally found a team to make him an offer that was worth signing.

I am sure the players are frustrated---not many players like to have this kind of stuff out there---they want to leave the money and the drama to the guys they pay to handle the money and the drama and they want to be sure they are not underpaid, but mostly---they just want to play basketball.

It's this last point that's interesting about Childress---It doesn't really ring true that he would be willing to defer his NBA career--and his basketball goals---to go overseas when he can get comparable money in the NBA, even if he has to wait or get it elsewhere. Yup-he wants to play big minutes as we recall from last December's free agent conversation, but that's not something that happens a lot in Europe anyway.

Also, I can't believe he'll leave the league he has grown up watching and dreaming about to play with a closer 3-pt line and wider lanes. It doesn't fit.

But it doesn't mean it isn't a brilliant negotiation tactic. And it even had me doing the head scratching thing and starting to visualize a headline that would surely throw the NBA and it's system into a David Stern tizzy.

It definitely got the Hawks talking about the process, which indicates it's effectiveness. So maybe things will speed up, but I am not counting on it.

Now--How many tickets for Athens, Mr. Iguodala?

Childress to Greece? Get Outta Here!


There is too much to cover in the very little time I have, so we'll delve deeper later, but let me make things clear.

These players' representation is playing you against the team.

The Hawks representation should call this bluff quickly because, as expressed in the blogs prior to this one, all they are doing is trying to gin up a sense of urgency against the franchise that doesn't have to do anything quickly.

The agents have their agenda, and everything that is being said and written plays right along with that. They have to come up with leverage somehow, someway, to force the Hawks hands into setting their own market for their players. They (the agents) don't want their guys playing out any option year and risking it all. Let's not forget that a year is a long time and, should neither Smith or Childress get an long term deal before the season starts, neither agent may be around next year to "cash in" on the inevitable extension they do sign.

So, with the pressure squarely on to get these guys sign, and soon, the agents are doing what they should be doing----trying to create straw men (or teams, in this case) to play against the Hawks and use the one arrow in the quiver, the fact that the team is believed to be incompetent and the lack of any kind of excitement prior to this past season----in other words, public opinion, against the team to try and pressure a resolution (read: MONEY) sooner rather than letting the market establish themselves.

More later----probably after Josh Smith declares he's thinking about playing for the Braves next season.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Don't Be Scared, Sign Kwame Brown!

As we painfully attempted to watch the Rocky Mountain Revue on the official league site (available through the NBA website), there are few weekend items that jogged the HHB into sharing over the next couple of days.

First thought: Why not Kwame Brown?

Alright, assuming the money ideas are in the right place, why not bring the big fella onto the Hawks roster?

You have a solid group of guys that aren't going to put up with someone who sulks---the energy that guys like Smith, Childress, and Horford provide, along with Johnson's solid leadership is actually infectious, and could bring Kwame around, especially playing at home.

As Bill Shanks can attest (Shanks' "The Hawks Show covered this workout, at the point before the draft (remember, the Hawks had the 3rd pick that year) Kwame Brown was overly excited at the prospect of landing on the hometown team. It was exciting to think that someone who was so widely regarded would actually be excited about playing for the Hawks. Shanks reported that Kwame's workout was jaw-droppingly good and the kid seemed to have his head on straight.

As for his career, don't discount the BRUTAL abuse that Kwame took in Washington impacting everything else moving forward. During his rookie season, Michael Jordan and Doug Collins took turns berating the kid until he really believed he could do nothing right, by most accounts at the time. Jordan, who is known for his unbelievable ability to get in people's heads, was shooting fish in a barrel with the young Brown, who was easily squashed by His Mentally Toughness. As for Collins, teaching apparently was not on the menu in Washington, but plenty of tounguelashings and abuse was served in many courses.

They simply expected that Brown would come in a know how to play basketball from Day One. And when apparently that didn't work, plan B was ready, aim, and fire.

Was that fair? Was that a good recipe for a high school player?

Can you imagine Josh Smith in such a scenario? THHB has speculated many times since his selection about the other places that Smith might have gone in the 2004 draft. Can you imagine him in 2004 Portland? How about Utah? None of these places or staffs would have been able to nurture and develop Smith like Atlanta and the combination of Mike Woodson and Billy Knight.

So assuming that Kwame, still a young 26, can "fresh start" things in Atlanta and put the previous experiences behind him, why wouldn't the Hawks roll the dice on the big guy?

He is precisely what the Hawks need up front, a legit big man to play next to Horford, freeing the ROY runner up to play power forward on both ends, a huge upgrade for the Hawks. He can play the post, but with Horford, Kwame would be counted on for this, which will aid the development and re-programming.

As for cost, I would suspect that Brown would play on the Stephen Jackson Plan, which is a 1-year, prove yourself now and cash in later contract. Jackson played his year in Atlanta on a Million Dollar Contract, but I don't think the Hawks would be able to lull Brown in for that number no matter the situation, but something along the lines of 2-3 million should get him in for the year.

When you consider that DeSegana Diop is pulling down the coin he is pulling from Dallas and the dearth of talented big men around the league, the relationship here makes plently of sense for both parties and ought to be consummated before camp opens in October.

Free Throws:

If you are missing it, and you shouldn't be, the Hawks VP of Public Relations, Arthur Triche, is blogging the RMR games from his usual best seat in the house location wherever he goes. Nobody blogging has seen more and has the historical context of the players, coaches, and referees in the league than Triche, who is turning in witty, insightful blogs from the games and being presented on the Hawks BasketBlog on the team's website.

The HHB has long had fun discussing the team and goings on around the league with Triche, and now everyone is getting to check in with the longtime Hawk watcher. So don't miss out--check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Horford Stands Out; Chosen for USA Select Team

“I would like to express my appreciation to the USA Basketball committee for selecting me to the Select Team, as we (Team USA) do our best to win the gold this summer in Beijing. It is a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to competing against Team USA next week in Las Vegas.”

These are the words of Al Horford, who was chosen Wednesday by USA Basketball to the 2008 USA Basketball Men's Select Team that has been chosen to help prepare the 2008 USA Senior National Team for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, scheduled to take place Aug. 10-24 in Beijing, China.

He will join LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City NBA), Jeff Green (Oklahoma City NBA), Luther Head, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Martin, O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose, and Rodney Stuckey in training and scrimmaging against the USA Senior National Team from July 21-24.

It's an interesting mix of players, of which Horford and Aldridge are the only big men on the team, a situation that Al is particularly familiar with. Horford will bang with someone he is sometimes compared to (Carlos Boozer) and someone with whom Hawks fans are hoping will be an annual rival within the division (Dwight Howard).

As a Hawks follower, it gave me great pride in seeing Joe Johnson surprise people on the Varsity team (the Senior Team) the last time and it is even more so with Horford, who emerged onto the NBA picture with his performance in the Rookie/Soph Game on All-Star weekend (with a powerful endorsement from Charles Barkley, and then through the Hawks spirited seven game tussle with the Celtics.

Sidebar: The release, made possible by the Atlanta Hawks and USA Basketball, was also interesting because it listed Durant and Green as "Oklahoma City NBA" instead of the team name. It's the first time we've seen that in print, though the outcome of the sad Seattle story has been entirely known for so long.

That Horford has been included here is an indication of the solid work and abilities that he provides on a daily basis for the Hawks. The proven young players on the team (Iguodala, Martin, Head) all have the same reputation, and it's good to see a Hawk, especially one that was drafted by the team, stand out in this manner so soon.

Reading his words, you real feel as if Horford is so connected to the process and the honor/challenge, he will feel as though he contributed to any medal the Varsity team earns in Beijing.

It makes a Hawk fan proud---something not easily said over the past decade.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Josh Smith Clipped by Camby

Marcus Camby looks to be going to the LA Clippers to replace Elton Brand. Despite the fact that Camby isn't making Brand money or even the money that was being tossed around while the Clips looked at restricted free agents, it does take a significant enough chunk of that dough (about 10 million next year, including bonuses, etc.), enough to impact the ability for the Clippers to make a serious offer to Josh Smith.

So what does that mean for Smith?

Well, for one, you can expect whoever has money left (Oakland, Memphis) will suddenly become top suitors for all the RFAs out there (Smith, Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor). Whether it will fact or fiction, we won't know for sure. But we sure can see the new headlines already being drawn up as the principals (player, agent, etc.) begin their Plan B (or is it C or D at this point?).

It might be, however, that those teams may opt to look for a deal that the Clippers just made for Camby---a trade for a seasoned player that they can contractually control for a couple of years from a team that is desperately close to paying some major bills. In the Camby deal, the Clippers get a proven player at a decent salary for only a couple of seasons, while waiting for until the big free agency frenzy, instead of paying second tier players top dollar, hoping their existing teams don't match, for a second round pick to boot.

It's a nice deal.

So again, what about Smith and, excruciatingly, the Hawks fans anxious to know the fate of their young, blossoming star?

Well--the answer is---you're likely to wait----and wait.

With so many players out there and big money destinations being crossed off the list, players can certainly get nervous. In this case, the cap slots are getting filled without any of them (the RFA) taking those seats. You can sense that the agents can hear the music dying down and will be in a hurry to find their guy a lucrative seat before the music stops completely and they have to (wince) consider playing out the option year (qualifying offer) or risk taking what they might consider to be a less than free market value contract.

There is also the avenue of sign and trade, but it doesn't seem such a ripe market for these particular free agents. It doesn't seem likely that a team will be willing to pay a king's ransom for any of these players as the Hawks did when they did the SNT with the Suns for Joe Johnson.

They are going to need one of these guys to re-sign with their club (Iguodala, maybe?) to set a benchmark for the other RFA. They could, and probably should, use Andrew Bogut's generous extension (5 years, 60 million--with thresholds that could take it as high as 72 million) as a benchmark, considering his less than all-star numerics compared to those on the market now, but we're likely to endure a wait and see game among these similarly situationed contract seekers.

And for Hawks fans who can't stand the wait with both Smith and Childress being restricted free agents, remember this: September 11, 2003 is when Jason Terry finally found his market value and signed a 3 year, 22.5 million dollar offer sheet with the Jazz. It goes to show that it can take an entire offseason for this process to be settled.

And any ray of hope for a quick signing for Smith just dimmed a little, courtesy of the LA Clippers and the deal for Marcus Camby.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Free Agent Rumor Mill---Who To Believe?

During my time covering the Hawks, I was stunned at how little the national media knew about the Hawks---the players, the coaches, etc. The information that came from their mouths or keyboard would be one of two things, either the most common of basic opinions about the team or an easy to reach, low hanging fruit punchline.

I also learned that a lot of these so-called experts got a lot of their information from agents and other people with an agenda regarding the latest "news" to report. Guys with draft agendas, coaching agends, and the like would feed these "experts" information to further their own prospects.

I mention this as we get into the free agent period that there could be a lot of "information" that comes out that's just garbage, nothing more than a movement of the cursor for one side of a discussion.

For example, we are hearing from ESPN that Josh Smith wants out of Atlanta.

Now, this could be true---and it could be that Smith's representation understands that the Hawks have put the restricted free agent's bargaining position in an unfavorable position by saying that they will match any offer they get for Smith.

The Hawks did this so publicly because when teams are looking at pursuing restricted free agents, they consider very heavily if the other team will match the offer. After all, an offer sheet ties that money up for seven days. If a team is sure to match, that's an entire week that they can't sign other free agents, virtually removing that team from the free agent process for a week.

Therefore, a player like Smith could be looking at fewer potential suitors (and less money) if teams are convinced there is no chance for that player leaving their team.

So, let's play this out.

That Hawks have said that they will match any offer for Smith.

So if Josh Smith and his representation goes around the country saying how much Josh loves playing in Atlanta, and how much he loved being a part of the playoff run with the guys that he came up with on the team, how much do you think that would tell a team courting Smith that he is likely to leave Atlanta?

Now what would you do if you were Smith's representation?

You would try to inject doubt into the system.

You would focus on the team's ownership issues---could they or would they match an extravagant offer?

You would leak out some dissatisfaction about relationships, particularly coaching.

You would gin up as much possibility for your client being able to sign and leave as a restricted free agent that teams would take the bait, and maybe one will make an offer.

Now choose a channel for this "information". Who would you leak that to? Perhaps the biggest sports information distributor in the land?

All of this because the end game is to get your client the best deal possible---not next year, THIS year. And as a RFA that is tough to get done, so you have to do everything you can to make that happen.

So while everything we hear could very well be true, don't get wrapped around the so-called scoop of others, because it's a coin flip whether the info is right or not.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Should the Hawks Keep Josh Smith?

Do you want to keep Josh Smith or don't ya?

Throughout the last season and during the playoff run for the home team, it was clear the overriding discussion was whether to deal Josh Smith or build with him.

Smith brings a unique skill set to the table--consider:

He's has PF size, but not power forward game. He isn't a post player, but nobody wants him shooting either. He's too thin to play inside defensively, save for his epic shot blocking timing, but he takes too many passing lane chances to guard the perimeter.

His ability to rebound, run the floor, and finish are all unquestioned. He isn't all dunks either, showing a knack for getting to the cup from many angles, at least getting to the line. He also has better passing skills than he gets credit for, able to use his long frame to deliver quality feeds, especially around the basket.

He has shown a willingness to improve, and even though he isn't a finished product and still makes some mind boggling choices on the floor, he is only 22 and that improvement must be noted and can be understood if team want to forecast based on that.

So, with all of that, do you want to keep him?

He is too talented to walk away for nothing, most fans agree with that. Whether you believe he is next Darius Miles or a new sensation all to himself, you don't let a player with that much value go away for nothing.

The thing with younger players is that you want them to blossom and check all the boxes on the production checklist. You want him to check scoring, rebounding, defense, teamwork, chemistry, enthusiasm, passing, turnovers, basketball IQ, and everything else and if the players doesn't do it, you want to cast him off to take a chance on the next young player to score on your scorecard.

Smith is still undisciplined in some areas, shot selection being the most glaring in some games, but he has come a long way and checks quite a few more boxes than most 22 year olds, heck, even 32 year olds have ever done.

Can he continue to improve after he gets his big payday? Of course he can, but will he? This is something that should have been determined over the time since they drafted him in 2004. If they have determined that the work will stop as soon as the checks explode, then they need to find a trading partner that will send over a center to play alongside Al Horford at PF and be done with it.

If they are convinced that Josh will continue to work and improve, then they can hang on to a player that is unlike anyone else in the league, capable of being a major distraction of defense, a more than capable offensive player when going to the basket, and a true roof raiser for the people who foot some of the bill for it all, the fans.

Financially, the Sixers helped out by showing how much money Smith won't be getting. The Clippers are assisting by balking at Smith being their #2 (Baron being #1, of course) target and perhaps wanting to go a little cheaper. Smith himself has alleged reservations that the situation over there is any better than in Atlanta.

Sidebar: This really says something about Smith's maturity. You would expect the grass would always be greener (literally) on the other side, but for Smith to make an observation about that situation and have the presence of mind to understand that it may not be better than what he has is wisdom for his 22 year old mind.

It also says something about the Clippers if they are that obviously messed up that a guy who has seen such public dysfunction in ownership raises his eyebrow at them. Yikes.

All of this plays into the Hawks hand, perhaps enabling them to use Andrew Bogut's 5 and 60 contract extension with the Bucks earlier this week as a discussion point, considerably less than Smith's stock might have been a week before.

As the price comes down, the choice is obvious, don't get distracted by what sometimes doesn't get done by Smith. The Hawks must retain him, and if they have decided that he isn't the type that will work beyond his payday, then quickly find a partner that will trade another building piece equally as valuable as Smith's skill set has been.

You can't let him walk over a perception in salary numbers--a million here, a million there. Save your money on the replacement level players and skill sets and spend it on valuable properties you can't find elsewhere, which is exactly what Josh Smith is.

Josh Childress Free Agency

People that have read my stuff over the years know that I feel two things about the Hawks' restricted free agent, Josh Childress:

1. That he is a Shane Battier type glue guy who does many things very efficiently and is present/needed on any kind of winning team.

2. That he probably does not warrant a starting SG spot on a team.

I think that, over the last 3 seasons, Chilldress has proven that a starting spot on a team isn't above him, but it has to be a team that regards Childress as a supplementary player on that end, loose balls and spot up 3's type roles.

It is in that role that Josh excels and that's why teams have been interested in him for the past couple of seasons (especially that he has established himself as a high percentage/efficiency player).

I have felt that his pending free agency has always been the more interesting one of the two Joshes (Josh Smith being the other) this postseason for another couple of reasons.

1. Because of his price point (considerably less than Smith's), more teams would be interested, thereby increasing the intrigue.

2. I never felt that the Hawks really understood his value throughout the league and would let him go, even at the exception level (which most team would offer).

This is why I wanted to talk to him during my only trip into Philips this year. The conversation did not surprise me, as he is such a solid guy and very honest about what he wants.

He wants to play. Not just play 37 minutes one night, and then 17 the next. He wants a solid role on a team that includes consistent starters minutes.


“To be honest, the opportunity to play will be important,” says Childress about what he would be looking for as a free agent. “That’s something that will be my main factor—where I can play the most.”

While it would be a risk, unless Childress finds a place where he can feel like he is getting his number one priority, consistent starter's minutes, I don't know if he'll sign any tender or sign and trade. If he plays out his option, he finds himself free to choose wherever he wants to play, but it means that he risks injury AND maybe not finding any place that will offer what he wants (apart from money).

The Hawks seem intent now on signing him (amazing how that coin in your pocket gets a little shinier when others are interested in taking it off your hands), which is good, because I believe the Hawks are better with Childress on the floor, but would the Hawks hold the line if, say, a legitimate center were offered as part of a S-N-T?

All of which makes the Childress RFA very interesting and considerably more unpredictable than the market setting FA tour that the "other" Josh has embarked on.