Deal delay drags on
By Sekou Smith | Sunday, July 30, 2006, 08:24 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Patience is a virtue all you Hawks fans must have in surplus. Because here we are, nearly a month after the free agent negotiation period began, and there is still no completed sign-and-trade deal for Al Harrington and most of you are still here. Your perseverance in this matter is admirable. This is the second straight summer you’ve all had to wait like this (like I wrote last week, Joe Johnson wasn’t officially a Hawk until Aug. 19 last summer).
For certain, it’s beyond maddening for all involved. Well, almost all involved. But this second straight summer of seeming uncertainty will take a toll elsewhere. And follow me here, but I believe that the Hawks are treading into dangerously deep waters this summer by not consummating this Harrington deal sooner.
Because while players will always’come when their bottom line is money, and sometimes the dollars are so overwhelming a player can’t deny them. When building a team, though, a quality, playoff-hungry team, you need seasoned role players. And those role players are usually acquired during these dog days of summer. And while the Hawks spend months every summer to finish their major transaction, other teams are doing business at a pace much more conducive to an immediate transformation of both their roster and culture.
The rebuilding the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets embarked upon is already weeks into the making because they didn’t hesitate to make moves. They consummated them as soon as legally possible and began the transition process as soon as it was feasible.
Say what you will about the Pacers and this Harrington deal, the rest of their summer makeover hasn’t slowed down because this main affair has taken longer than they might have liked. The Milwaukee Bucks have quietly reshaped their roster with a series of shrewd moves (the latest reportedly the move of Jamaal Magloire to Portland for Steve Blake, Brian Skinner and Ha Seung Jin).
If the Hawks were a team in need of less tinkering - a playoff team already and one that needs only mild tweaking and not a drastic overhaul - I might not be as concerned. But after speaking with players, agents, team officials and people in general from other NBA teams, the one question they all have is what’s going on with the Hawks?
That’s code for what’s the deal with the ownership situation and what are they doing down there to fix that team? (And while few people are speaking about any of this and so much more on the record, rest assured that plenty is being said off the record.)
The ownership situation is what it is, which is a process that promises to carry on for the foreseeable future without a promising ending for all involved. But the fixing of the team, that’s something that can’t be disputed. That’s something that should have tangible results after an offseason of working the phones and studying every possible avenue for curing your own ills. Speedy Claxton was a huge step in that direction, whether you want to believe it or not. And that leaves the Hawks’ search for another big man as the last major move they need to make before moving on to seeing how their roster shapes up with training camp in sight. The remaining candidates are few - former Hawk Lorenzen Wright is the most attractive and sensible option out there and is very much a possibility.
But much like everything else about this Hawks offseason, patience is the word that you need to repeat 100 times per hour, per day, while watching these things play out.