HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The NBA’s twisted Indian Summer just keeps on rolling along.
It stops for no man, no event or any other force of nature (the FIBA World Championships in Turkey is by far the best diversion from the craziness we’ve had since summer league, but even those games don’t overshadow the league’s drama parade that began with the start of the free agent frenzy) foolish enough to get in the way of the storm that is and has been the Summer of 2010.
You can hide out for two weeks, shunning all things basketball during that time (as I did the past two weeks), and when you return there is still the rumble of players wanting to be traded (Carmelo Anthony and Jamal Crawford) swirling in the air.
Anthony’s situation has been well documented by my main man Art Garcia, so there’s no need for me to dive in there. But Crawford’s situation appears to be a bit murkier than many expected — keep reading, we have solutions for all involved on the way (below).
The winner of the Sixth-Man Award for his performance last season with the Hawks, Crawford is entering the final year of his contract and his camp has indicated he wants either an extension from the Hawks or to be traded if they are not interested in continuing the working relationship.
Sounds like a reasonable request in a summer when other players and teams (Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Richard Jefferson) worked things out to the benefit of both sides, particularly with the great unknown that is the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is not expected to be as favorable to the players.
But the difference is there was free agency involved in all three of those other cases. Crawford did not have the option of opting out of the final year of his deal to negotiate a new one, so his demand takes on a different tone. And even with all that he did for the Hawks last season — he was the team’s second leading scorer to four-time All-Star Joe Johnson in the regular season (18.0) and in the playoffs (16.3) –it was still his first with the club.
Muddying matters even more for the Hawks is the status of All-Star center Al Horford, who is eligible for an extension of his rookie deal (and according to HT sources will receive a near-max extension offer before the Oct. 31 deadline).
If the Hawks are forced to choose between Crawford and Horford, Crawford might as well pack his bags and be prepared to move on for the fourth time in four years (and there is no indication that the Hawks intend to hand out lucrative extensions to both players, especially after they spent $124 million to keep Johnson this summer).
No one can dispute the impact he had on the Hawks and the fact that with him they remain a dangerous team in a stacked Eastern Conference playoff chase. But making extension/trade demands surely won’t endear him to the fans or to an organization that is extremely sensitive about its already fragile public image. It’d also be a terrible welcome-to-the-job gift for Hawks coach Larry Drew, whose relationship with Crawford was rock solid last season.
But the first sign that his idea of his value and the Hawks’ perception of his value didn’t jive is when second-year point guard Jeff Teague became the first option to replace Mike Bibby as the starting point guard instead of Crawford.
If Crawford backs down from his stance and shows up to training camp with the Hawks, he’s tossed whatever leverage he might have had in the trash can and basically accepted the fact that he’s the most expendable person in the organization. Truth be told, the Hawks already have his replacement under contract. Rookie guard Jordan Crawford would just have to be rushed into duty a little sooner than perhaps expected.
Either way, this is drama the Hawks don’t need with the start of training camp on the horizon. And even with a scheduled meeting between Jamal Crawford’s camp and the Hawks on tap, there are only two options to consider: they either give him an extension or explore their trade opportunities.
HT’s solution for all involved:
These players want out and we’re here to give it to them. And this is where ‘Melo and the Nuggets come into the equation.
The Nuggets can send Anthony and J.R. Smith to the Hawks for Josh Smith and Crawford (the money works, but you can check it yourself on ESPN’s Trade Machine).
Both teams maintain their current status as playoff squads, making this one of those rare “everybody wins” trades. The Nuggets will have to forge ahead building around Chauncey Billups now, who even at this late stage of his career is still one of the league’s best. The Hawks would have three All-Stars in Anthony, Johnson and Horford, their own version of the “Big Three” that has become so popular the past few years.
The Nuggets grant ‘Melo’s wishes (I’ve seen the New York rumors, but the Hawks are better right now) and send J.R. Smith to a new destination while the Hawks grant Crawford’s wish and give up on the-cusp-of-his-prime Josh Smith (a deal I’d be willing to do to get Anthony, who is a better player than anyone on the Hawks’ roster right now and in the past decade).
Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and Hawks GM Rick Sund are welcome to steal whatever they need here that helps put this thing into motion before we get to training camp, because we’d like to focus our energies on several other things, particularly in Miami, Los Angeles and Boston.