Hmm, where to start? Well, let’s stay true to the title and just ramble on. In no order of perceived importance:
-Miami Heat- During the lengthy, pre-season disagreements about where the Hawks would finish this year, the Heat were one of the teams I defended, in crafting an apparently inaccurate prediction for the Hawks (along with the Sixers and a couple of other underwhelming Eastern conference foes). There wasn’t much support for the idea that the Heat would rebound from last years’ worst NBA record, to a challenge for this years’ Hawks. But one of the primary points I made was that Riley never stands pat. So with the Heat a mere 3.5 games behind the Hawks, the Heat have acquired a big man that, if healthy, could make a tremendous impact the rest of the way (I know, big if). But the point is that the Heat knew they could not compete for the Eastern crown without the “potential” that O’Neal represents.
Ray makes a very interesting point when he says, “We’re not competing for a championship this year. Unless somebody can show me different, that is. If you’re going to go for a one-year, one-shot deal….it better be for a championship, not a 4th best seeding in the playoffs. But hey, that’s just MY opinion…”
Yet the Heat have seemingly found the soft spot in that argument. They’ve traded an expiring contract, for a potential difference maker, in O’Neal, without mortgaging their immediate future. Is Bibby not our Marion? Is it not clear that this Hawks team, as you point out, is no more than a fourth seed, left unimproved?
If you believe that this team will re-sign both Bibby and Marvin, and that this roster, unchanged, WILL compete for championships, in the next few years, then it’s reasonable that you believe the Hawks shouldn’t make a major deal. But if you don’t, where does that leave the Hawks, in YOUR (not just Ray, but anyone who feels that way) opinion?
In MY opinion, the Heat were a team we didn’t want to see in the playoffs, BEFORE this trade. Now, if O’Neal can stay healthy (I know, a big “if”, but Marion was leaving either way, so how much did they risk), and throwing the defensive value of Moon into the mix, I don’t think the Hawks, as they are currently constructed, want any part of the Heat come playoffs.
So, are we to be happy with this years’ Hawks, no matter how things turn out, with the assumption that this will be the best Hawks team in a decade, no matter what? Or do we look at the roster, project some tough choices that may have to be made this summer, and seek a move or two that optimize THIS years’ team, AND look towards the coming years as well? I guess I’m saying that Ray’s points seemed to suggest an either/or scenario. I think the Heat’s move highlights that you can take a shot at maximizing this years’ team, while still planning for the future (or at least not mortgaging the next few years).
The truth is that Bibby is unrestricted, and Marvin is restricted, this summer (Zaza is unrestricted, as well, a point that seems to be flying under the radar). And JJ has one more year after this one, with no literal control over what he will do. Folks around here spend 90% of their time discussing who the Hawks should keep, long-term, but the 10% spent considering whether all of these players INTEND to stay here is likely inadequate, relative to the question.
So, to counter what I think was Ray’s position, I don’t believe a serious effort to make this years’ Hawks team a legitimate contender for the Eastern crown has to come at the cost of future potential. And I think the Heat’s trade underscores that opinion. It’s not likely that the Hawks can make a trade that thrusts them into the mix of the Eastern elite. But I guarantee you that neither the Celtics, Cavs or Magic want to take on the Heat, come playoff time, if Wade, O’Neal, Beasley (who will now blow up with the exodus of Marion, who plays the same position as the rook), and the versatile Moon, are all healthy in April.
With one week left before the trade deadline, my stubborn position that the Hawks would be financially compelled to move Bibby is down to the wire. If they don’t, then I will be left to scratch my head (and chow down on some crow). I can only assume that the organizations’ commitment to pay out the full, projected $68 million payroll, despite some well-reported information that points towards even greater losses this season, and with the upcoming resolution of the Belkin buy out, is part of an overall end-game that will all make sense in the future.
The truth is we’re the 4th seed, with 3 legitimate threats to that slot: Philly, Miami and Detroit. Based on injuries and ineptitude, there doesn’t appear to be any remaining Eastern teams that can expect to make a run on us, or the other three. So it’s hard to imagine anything worse than a 7-seed. That’s a great season for a team that has floundered for over a decade. And if that’s enough for you, or the organization, for THIS season, it’s hard to argue with your position. But Ray previously mentioned a high-flying Bulls team, which came crashing to earth, in a mere year.
And while I have been largely absent from the never-ending Woody assessments, you can’t have this discussion, without articulating how much his coaching has, and will for the remainder of his tenure, has either optimized, or limited, the fortunes of this Atlanta Hawks team.
I’ll end with the opinion that there are a handful of plausible, deadline trades that could not only improve the possibilities of this years team, but strengthen the franchise for the coming years. And most of those deals would likely include Bibby, who’s massive and expiring contract, combined with my belief that he’ll never play better than he has this year, make him the obvious chip to make both a run at maximizing this season, while solidifying the structure of the coming versions of the Atlanta Hawks.
I had a lot of other things I wanted to discuss, but I’m over a thousand words, and most of you know that I’m all about being concise and succinct……..
Be sweet to your girls this weekend!