Posts Tagged ‘Shelden Williams’

Hawks Will Rebuild From Scratch





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The locals will talk about it forever.

What would the Hawks have been like with Chris Paul or Deron Williams instead of Marvin Williams? Or Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy instead of Shelden Williams or basically anyone other than Speedy Claxton?

Conference finals appearances instead of first round exits? Global recognition of a basketball brand reborn with superstar talent instead of a league laughingstock (after a 13-win season in 2004-05) and the team that can always be counted on not to come through when they should?

Hypothetical questions with no clear-cut answers make the Hawks’ past every bit as murky as their immediate future. They enter free agency this summer with only six players under contract, four Draft picks (two in each round) and approximately $33.1 million in cap space for their GM, Danny Ferry, to work with in rebuilding the roster.

The Hawks choices in the Draft and free agency have come to define the franchise over the past eight years more so than anything they have actually done on the court. They ended an eight-year playoff drought after the 2007-08 season with a core group of Joe JohnsonJosh SmithAl HorfordMike BibbyJosh ChildressMarvin WilliamsZaza PachuliaShelden Williams and Acie Law. That group kicked off a run of six straight playoff appearance that came crashing to an ugly end Friday night at Philips Arena in a Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers in their first round series.

It was the official end to not only their season but also an era for the Hawks, who have just three players — Horford, Lou Williams and rookie John Jenkins — under guaranteed contacts for next season. Even Hawks coach Larry Drew, who has been on staff (the last three as head coach) throughout this entire era, does not have a contract for next season.

We’ve seen the last of these Hawks as we know them, Drew acknowledged as much after the Game 6 loss.

“Even with the injuries to Zaza and Lou, we were able to juggle some things around, move people around,” Drew said. “And we stayed together. We did not fragment. We stayed together even when it got tough. A lot of people didn’t predict us to make the playoffs. No one gave us a chance, but this group hung in there. They persevered and I’m really proud of them.”

It was an honorable finish to a tumultuous season for all involved. A team loaded with three times as many pending free agents as players under guaranteed contracts, has issues that go above and beyond the professionalism required to do the job under those circumstances.

That said, Ferry is sticking to his plan. He’s going to be rebuilding basically from scratch, with nine players heading into free agency July 1.

Smith, one of the only remaining building blocks from the franchise’s last rebuild and a long-time source of division within the franchise (some folks loved the hometown kid who flashed signs of being an All-Star caliber player over the years while others loathed the enigmatic performer who clashed with his coaches and drove fans nuts with his play), going into the summer as one of the marquee names on the market.

It’s time for Smith and the Hawks to go their separate ways, amicably, of course. Everyone involved knows that it’s time for a mutual parting of the ways for the good of all involved.

Point guard Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent and while he’s shown loads of improvement since Drew took over for Woodson, there remain questions about whether or not he is best suited as the starting point guard for this team.

Ferry can make a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, from all of the second-guessing, head-scratching and eye-rolling that has surrounded the Hawks for years. No one will vilify him for cleaning up the mess made before he arrived last summer, the one he started clean up himself by moving both Johnson and Marvin Williams in trades last summer.

It’s the uncertainty of what’s to come, however, that makes skeptical Hawks fans nervous. There will be big fish on the free agent market, guys like Los Angeles Lakers’ big man and Atlanta native Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul, stars capable of turning an uncertain situation around by signing their names on the dotted line.

The Hawks have the necessary resources to pursue those two, who will be first and second, in whatever order, on every free agent wish list of a team with money to spend this summer.

The summer of 2013 is the Hawks’ biggest since the summer of 2005, when Johnson (sign-and-trade) and Marvin Williams (No. 2 pick overall in the Draft) were added to the mix. That was the beginning of a painstaking rebuilding process that ultimately led to six straight playoff appearances, the second-best stretch of its kind in the Hawks’ Atlanta history.

For a franchise that has endured a recent stretch of complete insignificance during that playoff drought, followed by the past six postseason runs, a return to the non-playoff abyss is a bit frightening.

That’s what made the end of Friday night so bittersweet for Horford, who has only known the playoffs during his time with the Hawks and in the league.

“I feel for our fans,” he said. “I know they wanted us to do better. I felt like, as a team, we did about as much as we could. We had some adversity and we handled it well. We had a good season, looking at the big picture. One thing I appreciate about these guys was how they competed. Even tonight, we could’ve gone the other way. That is something I’m proud of the guys for.”

The “guys” will look a lot different next season.

In fact, Horford might be one of the only truly familiar faces around if Ferry carries out his master plan.

Hawks’ Smith Headlines Trade Deadline Rumblings





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Josh Smith‘s days of playing before an ambivalent crowd at Philips Arena are numbered. If we’re reading the trade deadline tea leaves correctly, he might even be down to his final 48 minutes there on Wednesday night when the Hawks host the Heat.

The Hawks’ attempts to convince Smith to stick around until the summer, when he’d be a free agent, have not slowed a number of teams pursuing the versatile power forward.

In fact, the list of teams with reported interest in Smith seems to grow with every tick of the trade deadline clock. The Hawks have let it be known that they are willing to move the Atlanta native by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. And a player with his unique arsenal of skills can fit in any system.

The Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers are all either in full-blown pursuit or monitoring the situation closely in the hopes of landing Smith via trade … or perhaps later via free agency. That leaves the Hawks in the position of being very selective with their decision, while also needing to act now. There will be fewer potential trade partners to work with in July, courtesy of the particulars of the new collective bargaining agreement.

The max-deal conversation that has raged for weeks was, like many things in the Twitter era, not fully understood by most of the people. They were simply repeating the stories of Smith and the Hawks agreeing to disagree about his value to the team that drafted him with the 17th pick overall in the 2004 Draft.

Smith never said he demanded a max deal or else from the Hawks. A source close to Smith confirmed that the conversation between the two sides never ventured into that realm. Smith simply answered a question the way you’d expect any competitive NBA player to answer it when presented with the premise of “Do you think you are worth max money?”

The funny thing is the Hawks, spanning two different front office regimes, have never really made clear what monetary value they have assigned to Smith. His current deal — he’s in the final year of a five-year, $58 million contract — was one the Hawks had to match after the Memphis Grizzlies made a play for him as a restricted free agent in 2008. It’s a bargain for a player who has been as productive as he has during that time.

Since basically his first season, Smith has been on the proverbial trade market every February. And the Hawks have drafted player after player (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Al Horford) who were supposed to supplant Smith as the team’s best option at his position. Yet Smith has been steady. For every knock on his game — the ill-advised jump shots no one wants him to take, the spotty decision-making and the well-publicized dust-ups with coaches Mike Woodson and Larry Drew — there are things Smith and only a handful of other players can do on a given night.

Two players in the entire league average better than 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Reigning league MVP LeBron James is one of them and Smith is the other. Smith is the only player averaging better than 17, 8, 4 and one block (he actually averages 2.1).

When the Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to the Nets last summer, the playoff forecast for the franchise changed dramatically. Smith and Horford were left to lead a team of good role players that few people expected to be among the Eastern Conference’s best teams early this season.

There is a high probability that Hawks fans who have grown disenchanted with Smith’s game over the nearly nine years he’s played before hometown crowds. That throng will get their wish and see him move on. It’s up to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry to sort through the mess and find the right deal (with the most assets — players, draft picks, etc. — they can get for their best player).

And all indications are that’s exactly what he’ll do by Thursday’s deadline. (more…)

Dwight Update: Clippers In the Mix As Fourth Team In Trade Talks




Amid several reports that a deal to send Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets is close, a source directly involved in the discussions said Monday that the Nets are exploring offers from other teams that want to get involved in the Howard talks besides the Cleveland Cavaliers — the third team that is reportedly the conduit to take on players and Draft picks to enable Brooklyn to get Howard while sending players and picks to the Magic.

While the structure of a deal involving the Nets, Magic, Cavaliers and at least one other team is in place, involving numerous players, the moving parts involved in that scenario are a long way from being resolved. For example, Brooklyn created the structure of the deal, which would include sending forward Kris Humphries to the Cavaliers as part of the trade. However, Humphries, being a free agent, would have to agree to the terms of a sign-and-trade deal first.

And since Humphries played on a one-year deal for the Nets last season, he’s reluctant to do it again, looking for a multi-year deal. Under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Humphries could only sign up to a four-year deal if he was part of a sign-and-trade. But the Cavaliers are reluctant to sign Humphries to a long-term deal, preferring to use him as a trade chip to amass additional assets or to only take up cap space for a year. (Being well under the salary cap, Cleveland could just sign Humphries using its room if it was interested in him, and wouldn’t have to give up anything.)

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Dwight Update: Many Bodies Involved





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Any trade involving Dwight Howard is a big trade. But if the Brooklyn Nets acquire the three-time DPOY in the next couple of days, it will be a big trade in more ways than one.

As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! writes, this may end up being a four-team trade involving 10 players, four first-round draft picks and $3 million in cash…

In the proposed deal, Howard, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark would be sent to Brooklyn, and the Magic would receive the Nets’ Brook Lopez, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Cleveland’s Luke Walton and three future first-round picks, sources said. Cleveland would receive Orlando’s Quentin Richardson, Brooklyn’s Sundiata Gaines, Kris Humphries (on a one-year guaranteed deal), a first-round pick and $3 million from the Nets. Brooklyn also would send [MarShon] Brooks to a fourth team to get them an additional first-round pick to send to the Magic.

Trades that big aren’t easy to put together. And to further complicate things, five of the six guys that that Nets would be sending out have to agree to new contracts and new locations.

James, Williams and Gaines might be happy to just have another year in the league, but Humphries and Lopez will surely have some say in whether or not this trade goes down. Humphries’ willingness to sign a deal with just one guaranteed season is reportedly a potential hang-up, so stay tuned…

Lopez Injury Hurts Nets On Two Fronts

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – The compressed NBA schedule has claimed another victim before the season even gets started, and the victim was one of the more durable players in the league.

The New Jersey Nets took one on the chin Wednesday when Brook Lopez suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in the first half of the team’s final preseason game. Lopez will have surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal on Friday.

The potential effects of Lopez’s injury are two-fold.

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More Mixed Signals On ‘Melo Front

LOS ANGELES – Anyone thinking there would be a resolution in the Carmelo Anthony saga during All-Star Weekend obviously hasn’t paid attention to the last six months of this drama.

We are, however, inching closer to Thursday’s trade deadline. And that in turn means that the stakes have been raised for all involved — Anthony, the Nuggets, Knicks, Nets and anyone else interesting in entering these sweepstakes.

Mostly there are mixed signals about Anthony’s ultimate destination. Anthony hasn’t tipped his hand either way while facing a daily barrage of questions about his plans here during All-Star Weekend.

The Knicks reportedly have offered Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler in exchange for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter. But they’re done toying around with that package and will go no further, according reports out of New York.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Anthony Saturday and spoke with CNBC’s Darren Rovell Sunday in an exclusive interview and made clear his intentions to either bring Anthony to New Jersey or make the Knicks pay dearly to do so.

“I think we made a very good tactical decision to force (the) Knicks to pay as much as they can,” Prokhorov said. “So it’s very good, it’s very interesting, it’s very competitive.”

It’s also going to continue to be the hottest topic in the league until Anthony makes a decision or until the trade deadline passes, whichever comes first.

One thing is clear, though, Anthony has not shut the door on any of his options yet. Why else would Prokhorov meet with him after making it clear that he would not?

Nets, Nuggets Will Never Be The Same

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So all we need now is for someone in Denver to press the button on this three-team, mega-deal that will change franchises forever.

Our main man David Aldridge of TNT said it, and his word is bond around here.

Go ahead and do it already. Please rescue us all from another six weeks of speculation before the trade deadline.

But be warned Nuggets fans, things will never be the same again. You might climb out of this in a year or two and be a playoff team again. You might even be a legitimate contender some day. You just won’t have a charismatic star like Carmelo Anthony leading the charge anymore.

For franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, there is always life after a big star departs or fades from the scene. When you are in the championship business for years and years, there is an in-house blueprint for moving on from one era to the next.

In Denver, there is only the great unknown that awaits.

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Rondo’s Ridiculous Roll

Posted by Sekou Smith

SALT LAKE CITY – Just because we packed up all our goods from the hideout and headed to see the Western Conference semifinals doesn’t mean we’re ignoring what’s going on in the East.

And how could anyone miss what Rajon Rondo did to the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon in Boston?

Rondo’s 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists was a singularly amazing performance in itself (in case you haven’t heard, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only other players that have put up numbers like that in a playoff game), but it brought up and interesting topic for a small group of us that huddled up for a later dinner after the game.

And no, we didn’t dive back into the who’s-the-best-point-guard-in-the-league discussion, because we could pick a different one for each round of these playoffs and still be right.

Instead, we were trying to come up with a logical explanation for 20 teams passing on him in the 2006 draft. Of course, we could not come up with anything.

I remember watching Rondo go through a workout in Atlanta and everyone raving about his athleticism, defensive skills and just about everything about him, save for the often-used and totally ridiculous claim that “well, he can’t make a shot.”

Rondo still isn’t a great shooter and perhaps he never will be, but he does everything else well on both ends of the floor.

He’s easily the best defensive point guard in the league. And on a team that feeds off of its prowess and effort on the defensive end, Rondo’s contributions are crucial, as my main man and NBA.com colleague John Schuhmann pointed out:

For the most part, the Celtics’ break was fueled by their defense. Their intensity on that end returned after a one-game hiatus, again keeping James out of the paint. And with the game on the line early in the fourth quarter, that vaunted Celtics defense was the deciding factor.

They held the Cavs scoreless on the first nine possessions of the fourth, turning a two-point lead into a 12-point cushion. They forced four Cleveland turnovers in that stretch, three long jumpers, and a pair of rushed drives.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave Rondo extra credit for keeping the Cavs uncomfortable offensively.

“The stat that doesn’t show … was his ball pressure,” Rivers said. “I thought that was the biggest difference, because they didn’t get into their stuff as quickly as they did in Game 3.

“To me, that might have been the hardest thing he had to do tonight. And we were concerned about that robbing him of his energy. And then to go out and do the rebounding and the passing and the scoring, it was just an amazing effort.”

Amazing indeed!

I just wonder if anyone will ever say similar things about Adam Morrison, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Cedric Simmons, Shawne Williams, Oleksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby or Renaldo Balkman — who were all drafted ahead of Rondo?

I’m going to take a stab here and guess no.

And I guarantee you LeBron James won’t be concerned with trying to guard any of those guys anytime soon.

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