Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THHB Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade: And More Edition

First we tackled the Top 20 Events of the previous decade for the Atlanta Hawks.

Then we broke down Top Hawks by Statistical Category which sorted through the advanced stats (and some traditional) to look at the top Hawks in each category.

Now we begin our trek through THHB Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade--an superiorly imperfect, non-scientific rundown of who we thought were the top Hawks of the Aughts.

Today, we begin with those who didn't make the Top 10, but were notable in ways that warranted a Jason Terry Memorial Tip-of-the-Cap and an anecdote or two.

The One-Year "Wonders":

When Pete Babcock decided to rebuild, he did so by trying to infuse veteran talent to support the youth that he was drafting. Unfortunately, he often dealt the youth (in the form of draft picks) to grab onto a player on the back end of his prime or in other ways that the team never really worked. Other "wonders" were brought in via deals that sent expiring contracts out and talent in.

Jim Jackson and Isaiah Rider were brought in when Steve Smith was sent off to Portland to play out his contract. Early on the move looked great, as both Jackson and Rider were scoring and using a ton of plays in doing so. In fact, Jackson and Rider in '99-'00 had the highest teammate combined Usage % in the decade for the Hawks (53 percent). Of course, it didn't last as Rider flamed out famously towards the end of his only season in Atlanta and Jackson was sent packing early the next year to Cleveland for Brevin Knight.

Toni Kukoc and Theo Ratliff came over in a 2001 deal with PHL that sent Dikembe to Larry Brown's world. Ratliff missed almost his entire first year with the Hawks with a bad hip, but came back strong the next year to lead the league in blocks and blocks per game. Ratliff was sent packing in 2004 to Portland in the Rasheed Wallace deal. At the time of Ratliff's hip injury, folks thought it might be a Bo Jackson situation, but he bounced back the next season as noted and in 2004 led the league in games played with (85) and is still blocking shots in the L--now with the Spurs.

Kukoc made an impact immediately in the first (17) games as a Hawks---beginning a trend in which the Hawks would kick butt in April and consequently negatively impact their lottery chances. In the 2001-2002 season, however, Kukoc looked  a very old (33) years old and suffered the worst of any of his NBA seasons to date.

Kukoc was dealt in the 2002 offseason to Milwaukee in order to bring in Glenn Robinson. Robinson played one unspectacular season with the Hawks (it was their ill fated "playoff guarantee" season) and then got shipped off to PHL in return for the insurance covered contract of Terrell Brandon.

When Robinson came on board, he famously boasted to THHB that he would have us wearing his jersey by mid-season rather than the JT version sported at the time. He offered to hook us up with some swag to help the deal. Being good company men, we said we would welcome it. Soon after his boasting, we noted in our RealGM space that Robinson had a peculiar tendency to lose the ball after his third dribble, something also noted by then-assistant coach Alex English. English told us that they were coaching Robinson to only dribble twice and then make a move. While Robinson never changed his approach with us or turned us aside when we asked questions, the offer of swag never came up again.

Antoine Walker came over when JT was sent out to Dallas and didn't even make it a full season with the Birds before he was traded at the deadline for a first round pick from the Celtics. Walker was a great quote and understood the game of basketball but needed a ton of volume (minutes and possessions) to get his stats to a "star" level and shot threes about as good as Josh Smith does while taking (5) a game.

And the 2006 pick the Hawks got for Walker? Well, it was sent to Phoenix in the Joe Johnson deal and was later sold back to Boston in time to make Rajon Rondo their selection.

Alan Henderson:

Henderson's main value came prior to the decade and was more known for his contract in the aughts (he signed a 6 year, 45.5 million dollar deal prior to the 1999 season) than for what he did on the court. Henderson was an excellent offensive rebounder (4th in the decade for the Hawks in OREB%), but not much else. He was a below-the-rim player after injuries took away a season or two and the Hawks couldn't come close to unloading his deal until the last season, when he was traded with JT in the Walker deal.

Stephen Jackson:

Billy Knight brought Jackson in for a million dollars in 2003, which was odd in that Jackson was coming off a season with the San Antonio Spurs in which he played a key role (58 starts, 28 mpg) in winning a championship (foreshadowing his personality conflicts down the road?). Still, Jackson started (78) games for the Hawks in '03-'04 and showed he could be a major scorer in the league. Jackson's (42) points in April against WAS represents the 6th highest scoring Hawk game of the decade. Jackson famously stopped talking to the media during a long losing streak in which he felt he was misquoted (not by us) and intended to parlay his counting stats coming out party into an long term deal.

Jackson broke his media silence to us after the last game of the season, but not before making us wait (45) minutes after the game was over. He thanked us for our patience and vowed to answer any question we wanted to ask. From that interview, we learned that he was looking for a 6 year, 42 million dollar or so deal, which he would later get when the Hawks signed and traded him to IND for Al Harrington. It was a fitting end to a season where Jackson showed considerably different sides of his personality.

The Others:

There were a number of Hawks who were memorable over the course of the decade for reasons other than their importance or production on the court. We list because we care:
  • Ronald "RFM" Murray: 
We always abbreviated RFM's name in honor of every publication, broadcast team, and print media always taking great pleasure in saying his name all the way through---"Ronald "Flip" Murray". Murray inspired the Peachtree Hoops led phenomenon known as "Hot Flip" where Murray could suddenly and without warning begin to score out of his mind. Murray was known for being extremely and maddeningly inconsistent throughout his career, but his season with the Hawks was arguably his best as a pro. His role and its value proved to be important enough for the Hawks to spend a good amount of money in the deal that brought Jamal Crawford to Atlanta to upgrade RFM's position this offseason.
  • Ira Newble: 
Never did hustle lead to so much playing time--Newble actually averaged around (30) minutes per game for the '01-'02 and '02-'03 campaign despite being little more than a small forward type who specialized in setting screens and putbacks. Newble did hustle, however, and THHB joked with Newble about his pending free agency and if he could top the 6 year, 18 million dollar deal that Greg Buckner had received from PHL before the '02-'03 season. He ended up settling for a 4 year, 11 million dollar deal from Cleveland. Upon coming back to Philips Arena with his new team, Newble was chased by a furious then-coach Paul Silas out of the locker room and down the hallway for an unspecified comment that was made towards the coach by Newble.
  • Tyronn Lue, Tony Delk, Kenny Anderson, Anthony Johnson, Emanual Davis, Brevin Knight, Bimbo Coles, Matt Maloney, Jacque Vaughn, Dan Dickau
These were the point guards prior to Mike Bibby's arrival--The Hawks never trusted Jason Terry to run the team full time and almost immediately after drafting him started to pair him with replacement level floor generals with Lue being the best of the bunch.  We don't include Speedy Claxton on here for the same reason we don't include Terrell Brandon and Gary Payton--you have to actually play to get mentioned (ooooh---Burn!).
  • Dion Glover and DerMarr Johnson
In other words, your Shaw Summer League Hall of Famers!  Glover and Johnson represented two more young pieces that were going to team with JT and Shareef to lead the Hawks back into the playoffs. Johnson's car crash in 2002 left him lucky to walk and breathe, much less play the game again.
  • Chris Crawford
Crawford was infamous for throwing his considerable athleticism around the court to his fragile body;s detriment. Almost as infamous was the long, but fairly small contact given him by Pete Babcock after the 1999 playoffs. Crawford was as determined off the court as he was on it, always pushing extra hard to get rehabbed and back on the court. Crawford was coming off his best season as a Hawk ('03-'04) when just before the '04-'05 season opened, in an exhibition game in Birmingham, Crawford suffered another knee injury, this one costing him his career.
  • Hanno Mottola and Cal Bowdler
Bowdler was never liked by the fan base because he was part of an immediately disappointing 1999 draft. Cal could shoot it just fine, and was a great guy, but he had the knees of an 80 year old man and was slower than rush hour traffic. We would have loved to have watched a foot race between Bowdler and Gheorghe Muresan.

Mottola was a role player for Lon Kruger, but his greatest contribution had nothing to do with himself, rather, his persona was the focal point of Atlanta's 790 the Zone personality Mike Bell's greatest bits on the air---"Cooking with Hanno". High comedy, especially the one where he invites Mookie Blaylock in for some hints on baking "brownies."
  • Peja Drobnjak
Worst. BO. Ever.
  • Lee Nailon
  The only player in the decade we covered the team to intentionally play his music so loud you could hardly hear your audio after the fact. Thanks, Lee!
  • Mikki Moore and Jon Barry
After an Emory student radio personality called out Barry during a question session with Mike Woodson, Barry challenged the kid on it, wondering why he went to the coach instead of asking Jon directly. The mild confrontation occurred while we were talking to Moore and when Barry began to confront, Mikki started yelling "Fight! Fight!"  

Ah, the lottery years.

Next: THHB Top 10 Hawks of the Decade (#10)

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