Posts Tagged ‘Steve Belkin’

The latest gut-punch for the Hawks

VIDEO: Hawks owner Levenson to sell team

BARCELONA — You have to wonder how much more can one franchise and its fragile fan base take? How many more gut-punches do the fine folks in the city of Atlanta, always a punch line for jokes naming the worst sports cities, have to endure?

The news of Hawks part-owner Bruce Levenson selling his stake in the franchise amid an investigation by the NBA into comments he made in a 2012 email is the latest blow for a franchise that has had to endure decades of dysfunction.

Where does it end?

Levenson’s apology, however sincere, doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s now lumped his family’s name and the Hawks into the mix with the disgraced former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. This is no doubt a part of the fallout that NBA insiders were worried about when the Sterling mess turned into global news seemingly overnight.

Remember that “slippery slope” that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked about when he wondered how the league would handle other owners who were found to have said or done something to upset the sensibilities of a league that has championed inclusion, tolerance and acceptance?

Well, this is it.

Levenson was quick to speak out against Sterling when that news broke, only to have those words come back and bite him now that he’s the one in the crosshairs.

The truth is, there are people working at the highest levels in teams around the league who need to think long and hard about the way they have conducted their business before uttering a single word about any of the things that have gone on with the Clippers and now the Hawks. That’s not an accusation. It’s merely a fact for anyone trying to do business in Silver’s NBA.

Levenson throwing himself on the mercy of the fans with his statement — released by the Hawks today — comes with financial undertones as well. While his stake in the team won’t fetch anything like the record $2 billion that Steve Ballmer paid to free the Clippers from Sterling — Levenson is said to own less than half the team — he’ll walk away with a hefty sum despite the damage that his e-mail has done.

With the sale, Levenson will end his decade-long tenure as a part-owner of a franchise that has suffered one dysfunctional turn after another, something that he and his partners appeared to clean up recently with the second-longest playoff streak in the league (behind the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs) and the addition of marketing wiz and new part owner/CEO Steve Koonin, who knows Atlanta and the market as well as anyone.

The task for Koonin and the Hawks now is reassuring an already skeptical fan base that the franchise does not operate from the perspective Levenson expressed in that email.

It won’t be easy.

Hawks fans have had to suffer through a lot. The former owners, the Atlanta Spirit partners, took their internal battles to court, suing each other after the Joe Johnson sign-and-trade deal. From former part-owner Steve Belkin to Billy Knight, from Johnson and Josh Smith to Mike Woodson and Larry Drew, someone always has been a scapegoat in Atlanta. The Hawks even fired their longtime vice president of public relations, Arthur Triche, in a failed effort to improve their image. Meanwhile, despite regularly making it into the playoffs, the Hawks have gone through years and years of postseason irrelevance.

Levenson and his original partners got off to a rocky start. It was no secret. There were trust issues, inside and outside of the franchise, from the start.

In the end, that ownership group, or at least a major member of that original group, will exit the premises having breached the public trust. Which leaves the fans, once again, looking for someone that can truly represent the good people of Atlanta.

Silence Is Golden For Johnson


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — While the rest of the free agent frenzy spins like crazy around him, we’re getting the usual silence out of Joe Johnson.

He received a $119 million, maximum contract offer from the Hawks Thursday and has yet to publicly accept it, leading to speculation that he is still pondering his options, per ESPN’s Chris Sheridan.

After speaking with someone in Johnson’s camp late Friday, it’s clear that he’s in the final stages of completing an agreement with the Hawks and not checking out other options. Any delay is simply posturing. The prospect of walking away from an extra $30 million (in the sixth year of the deal he can only get from the Hawks without a sign-and-trade agreement) is simply not a n option, according to the person in Johnson’s camp.

Expect a Monday announcement from Johnson, who according to the AJC’s Mark Bradley remains the Hawks’ enigma:

Five years a Hawk, Johnson has scored a lot of points — and taken a lot of shots — without winning a lot of friends. He has become the centerpiece of a team without quite becoming its leader. If Johnson had the personality of Josh Smith or Al Horford, he’d have owned Atlanta by now. Alas, he has always been a fairly dour presence, even in the good times.

In the final analysis, Steve Belkin was wrong for trying to flout the wishes of his co-owners and his general manager back in 2005: Joe Johnson was worth the outlay. The Hawks might never have broken .500 had he not agreed to come here. That said, growing evidence suggests the Hawks with J.J. have gone as far as they’re apt to go, and spending $119 million to keep him all but ensures they won’t be able to add much else.

If LeBron James re-signs with the Cavaliers, there will be celebration in Cleveland. If/when Joe Johnson commits to remain a Hawk, some Atlantans will grumble and others will shrug, and that will be the extent of the reaction. Because we in this city have watched him for five years, and we’re not yet sure what to make of him.