HAWKSVILLE - Hawks coach Mike Woodson is not going anywhere.
Hawks general manager Rick Sund made that clear on at least three different occasions Tuesday, on two different sports talk radio shows in the morning and later to me in his office.
Not that it was an issue or anything (laugh track goes here).
Woodson has one year remaining on his contract and Sund, while not confirming or denying any details pertaining to said contract, insisted that the Hawks would indeed “honor Woodson’s contract.”
(Last summer there was a legitimate question about Woodson’s future since his contract had expired. But when a coach signs a two-year deal, wins 47 games, a top four seed, and guides his team to the Eastern Conference semifinals in the first, questions about his job security, no matter what any of us here think of his performance, don’t register with the folks in charge of hiring and firing).
Read into that what you will. But it should be noted that several times throughout the nearly 60 minutes we spent talking, Sund praised Woodson and his staff numerous times for the job they did this season.
Sund’s making all the right moves leading up to the July 1 free agent frenzy. He hasn’t closed the door on anything (more below) and hasn’t thrown anyone or anything under the bus heading into the draft and what looks like it might be yet another long summer for the Hawks.
Those of you interested in continuing the debate about Woodson’s future are welcome to do so, but anyone else interested in moving off that topic and onto a few others, the rest of this blog is for you:
AFTER ALL, IT IS DRAFT LOTTERY NIGHT around the rest of the NBA.
And after years of being a major player in the lottery, the Hawks are on the outside looking in for the second straight year (which is a good thing if you’ve also made the playoffs for the second straight year).
The Blake Griffin sweepstakes (win at your own peril) are almost over for those lonely teams like Sacramento, Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers – the three teams with best statistical odds of snagging the top pick in what doesn’t have the makings of anything other than a mediocre (at best) draft.
There’s no doubt Griffin is the big prize. But outside of the Oklahoma superstar power forward (and Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio and Smyrna native and Arizona star big man Jordan Hill), there’s a consensus that teams will do a whole lot of reaching for impact players in this draft.
“This is basically a two-man draft and Rubio,” a wise Eastern Conference executive told me today. “It’s Griffin and Thabeet and you have to figure out where Rubio fits in there, too.”
So where does that leave a team like the Hawks with the 19th pick (in a draft that is already light on big men and point guards)?
Basically in limbo.
Because if they hold on to their pick and wait and see what shakes out of the lottery and down into their hands, the best they can hope for is the proposition of choosing between the best player available and and someone who strictly fills a need (as opposed to an elite talent at a position that fills a need).
That’s if they hold on to the pick and don’t package it with another asset and move them for something they need more than a rookie swingman (again, you have to figure the best point guards and big men will be gone by 19) or project at another position.
“What they’ve got to do is find a player at 19 that makes the coaching staff play him every night,” that wise Eastern Conference exec told me.
I couldn’t agree more.
The last three players chosen at 19 in the draft:
Cleveland (and Marietta’s own) J.J. Hickson in 2008, Washington and (Atlanta’s own) Javaris Crittenton in 2007 and Toronto’s Quincy Douby in 2006.
Not one of them started a single game during his rookie season.
So if we go on recent history alone, the chances of the Hawks finding anything more than a rotation player at 19 are pretty slim. And in a weak draft, even that might be a stretch.
THAT’S WHY I CAN’T IMAGINE THE HAWKS ARE BANKING ON THEIR DRAFT PICK MAKING – OR BREAKING – THEIR SUMMER, as has been the case in years past.
You can’t with that sort of empirical data as your guide.
Besides, the Hawks have far more pressing issues in free agency, where they’ll have to deal with what Sund referred to as “moving pieces.”
The Hawks have more of those free agent pieces – Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia, Flip Murray, Solomon Jones and Marvin Williams (the only one of the bunch that’s restricted, as is Josh Childress, whose rights the Hawks still retain while he is living and working in Greece) – than any team likes.
Tough choices will have to be made. And anyone not invested for the long run (don’t expect this process to be resolved quickly) is probably in for a tough summer.
I don’t suspect that Sund will be rushed into any deals. What with the tightening of belts all around the league, teams won’t be so quick to spend as freely as they have been in the past.
The free agent marketplace is sure to be constipated, just like all the other markets have been since the global recession began (no, the NBA is not immune).
That might actually work out well for the Hawks, if their quest is to keep the core of this season’s roster together as best they can. And from all indications, that’s exactly what their aim is this summer.
IN TODAY’S FINALE ODE TO THE NBA SUMMER, it seemed only fitting that I pass along yet another pertinent link to a home run story from my main man Steve Aschburner of si.com.
For all the bellyaching folks do about coaches and players (and officials, and beat writers and just about everything else), you at least know when you’ve got a good or a bad one.
But as the elder statesman points out, a good GM is really hard to find.
Here’s a taste:
“Hiring an NBA coach is like hiring a tax accountant: By the middle of April each year, you know exactly where you stand. Hiring an NBA general manager is more like hiring a financial advisor: He takes control of your entire portfolio, makes decisions for some distant horizon and assures you during the bumpy times that the plan is sound, that time and patience are your friends and, by the way, that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
And every once in a while, a franchise ends up flipping its keys to the basketball equivalent of Bernie Madoff.”
Make sure you read the rest!