HAWKSVILLE - One by one the texts and phone calls started coming in late Wednesday afternoon.
Hawks players wanted to know if what they were hearing was true. So did other team’s players, scouts, coaches and an assortment of other people.
“Are we really going to get Jamal Crawford?” one player asked via text. “Is this serious?”
“You really think this is going to happen?” another asked. “Man, he gets buckets. Major buckets. We could be explosive with him and all our other cats coming back.”
“This is a crucial move for them,” a Western Conference scout told me, “because it was obvious in the playoffs that they needed another scorer with some size that could create a shot.”
Not a single player, coach or executive from anywhere that I communicated with Wednesday objected to the move for the Hawks. Not one person.
Truth be told, they were going crazy about it, with one guy calling is a “master stroke” since the Hawks moved two for one without sacrificing draft picks now or in the future.
For years folks have complained around here about the Hawks not being active enough during trade season (the time before the draft through the start of training camp when all the league’s best wheeling and dealing is done). Well, you’ve got your wish.
And you can dissect it every which way now that it appears that Crawford will join the Hawks in exchange for Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton being sent to Golden State (the only detail left is for Crawford to sign an agreement saying he won’t exercise the opt-out clause in his contract).
Of course, the Hawks aren’t the only team working the trade season to their advantage. Deals are to be had for teams looking to add and subtract players and salaries in an effort to retool for the coming season. LeBron James and Shaq appear to be headed for a whirlwind season in Cleveland. Mike Miller and Randy Foye will bolster the playing rotation for Flip Saunders in Washington after the Wizards pawned off a lottery pick and some spare parts for real players in a deal with Minnesota. And Richard Jefferson’s arrival from Milwaukee (for scraps) breathes new life into a San Antonio team that seemed headed for an eternal ice bath in the playoffs.
There will surely be more craziness to come, perhaps even during tonight’s draft. But make no mistake about it, the teams moving and shaking now are the ones positioning themselves for the future (immediately for teams like the Hawks, Spurs, Wizards and Cavaliers and not-so-immediately for the Timberwolves and Warriors).
I’m an advocate of bold moves. I’m a fan of bold moves that produce immediate results. And for a franchise that for the longest time was immune to them, the Hawks have a decent track record on their most recent deals of that nature.
In the summer of 2005 they went after Joe Johnson, then a restricted free agent in Phoenix, and immediately changed their fortunes (it didn’t happen overnight but going from 13 wins to 47 in four years started with that bold stroke). 1-for-1.
They swung for the warning track with Claxton the following summer, hoping like crazy that he could solve their point guard quagmire and deliver them to playoff contention faster than a rookie or youngster only to have that plan blow up in their face after Claxton’s knee’s gave out. 1-for-2.
They gambled on Mike Bibby being able to get them over the proverbial hump and into the playoffs at the trade deadline two years ago and cashed in with back-to-back trips to the playoffs, including home court advantage this season en route to a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals. 2-for-3.
The played roulette last summer with their own free agents, Josh Smith and Josh Childress, allowing the market to set the price on what they should be paid and lost one (Childress to Greece) and hung on to the other one (Smith, who signed an offer sheet from Memphis that the Hawks matched before the ink dried), and then followed that up by adding veterans Flip Murray and Mo Evans to help fill the void. Murray finished in the same spot in the Sixth-Man voting that Childress did the year before and Evans stabilize things late in the year when Marvin Williams went down with a severe back injury for the final month and half of the regular season. 3-for-4.
This deal for Crawford makes sense for so many reasons, as the digital tag-team duo of Mark Bradley and Jeff Schultz have already pointed out in separate takes on this latest roll of the red, white and blue dice.
Crawford certainly sounds like he’s pleased with the move, especially when you consider the situation he’s coming from in Golden State. And just like when the Hawks acquired Bibby and the skeptics wondered how he’d fit, things worked out because Bibby was a seasoned pro that knew what was expected of him when he came here and he delivered. I suspect Crawford’s situation will be similar in that he’ll come here realizing that this is his chance to shut up his doubters and prove that he can be a part of a winning operation.
Much like Bibby was when he arrived, Crawford might be a short term solution to a problem in need of a long-term answer. There’s no doubt the Hawks are still in need of their “point guard of the future.” And that’s where the true beauty of this deal for Crawford has been a bit overlooked. The Hawks didn’t have to include the 19th pick in the draft to get the backcourt insurance needed if unrestricted free agents Bibby and Murray aren’t re-signed this summer (and Crawford’s arrival doesn’t necessarily signal the departure of either guy. In fact, the Hawks would be best suited to find a way to keep them all in the fold if they want to solidify their ranks).
They still have that draft chip to snag the guy they want and need. They have studied all their point guard options up close and personal the past two months. They’ve seen Jeff Teague, Ty Lawson, Toney Douglas and Eric Maynor in person, had them all in for workouts at Philips Arena and had a chance to ponder what each one would look like alongside Johnson, Smith, Al Horford and the rest of the gang.
Whatever happens, they won’t go into next week’s open of free agency from a position of weakness where Bibby and Murray are concerned. They’ll operate from a position of strength with a chance to nail down the present and future at the position all at once.