Hawks finally get the point
Sekou Smith - Staff
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Al Harrington's tenure with the Atlanta Hawks is apparently over, and Speedy Claxton's is set to begin.
While Harrington and the Hawks are in the midst of parting ways --- a sign-and-trade deal could be consummated any day --- Claxton joins the fold to end the Hawks' nearly two-season search for a point guard.
Claxton verbally agreed on Monday afternoon to sign with the Hawks, said his agent, Bill Duffy. The contract, a reported four-year deal worth an estimated $25 million, can't be signed until July 12, the first day offseason transactions can be made official.
Hawks general manager Billy Knight could not be reached to comment on Harrington, and per league rules cannot comment on Claxton until July 12.
"I think it's a good fit," Duffy said. "Speedy likes the fact you have a bunch of young legs and they need leadership. This is a team that's definitely on the rise."
The Hawks offered Clippers free-agent point guard Sam Cassell a two-year deal worth a reported $7.5 million per season, an offer the Clippers matched to keep him.
Atlanta turned its attention to Claxton and locked up the 28-year-old, five-year veteran with a deal that will pay him about $6.2 million per season.
Claxton's addition solves a glaring deficiency for the Hawks, who used inexperienced players (Royal Ivey) or others, namely leading scorer Joe Johnson, out of position to get by at point guard.
Claxton averaged 12.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds this past season in New Orleans playing behind and often alongside NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Paul. Claxton will be the starter for the Hawks, allowing Johnson to slide over to shooting guard on a full-time basis.
With Claxton and veteran backup Tyronn Lue, the Hawks have floor leaders with championship experience. Claxton played on San Antonio's 2003 NBA championship team, and Lue won two titles with the Lakers at the start of the decade. Ivey will enter training camp as the third point guard on the roster.
It is a roster that will be without Harrington for the first time in two years. The Hawks' second-leading scorer and rebounder this past season, Harrington served as a team captain in each of his two seasons with the franchise.
But Harrington said the Hawks have made it clear to him that they are going in a different direction, particularly with younger players already on the roster. Josh Smith's emergence after the February All-Star break might have had more than anything to do with the Hawks' decision to move on without Harrington.
"As of right now it's pretty clear to me that I won't be back in a Hawks uniform next year," Harrington said by phone Monday afternoon from his offseason home in Los Angeles. "It's pretty much a wrap for me there."
The Hawks have been in discussions with several teams, most prominently Indiana and Golden State, about a potential sign-and-trade deal involving Harrington, an eight-year veteran who is only 26 and one of the top 30 scorers (18.6 points per game) in the league.
"I have a genuine interest in both of those teams," he said. "My only focus is getting back to the playoffs and eventually competing for a championship. I thought we were getting better and heading in that direction [in Atlanta], but sometimes it's time to move on."
The Hawks could continue upgrading their roster with more big men and possibly another young point guard by consummating a deal with either the Pacers or the Warriors.