HAWKSVILLE - It’s 12:01 a.m., do you know where your No. 1 free agent target is.
And No. 2, and No. 3 and on and on.
The Hawks do.
The Hawks’ front office staff was still working late Tuesday night in anticipation of the midnight start to the NBA’s free agent negotiating period.
Everyone knows about the Hawks’ (quasi-internal) targets – Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia and Flip Murray are all unrestricted free agents while Marvin Williams, Solomon Jones and Mario West are all restricted free agents, as is Josh Childress (who remains under contract with Greek power Olympiakos, though he has an opt out that he must exercise by July 15) . But there’s more going on that just that.
After year’s of failing to grab the attention of the league’s best free agents on the market, the Hawks are suddenly in the mix for some of the most coveted players on the market, per several of my most well placed sources around the league.
“The only thing missing all these years was a winning team,” a former Western Conference executive told me Tuesday night. “And now that they’ve got that. So they’re going to be in the mix for guys if they want to be in the mix. Half the league lives in Atlanta [during the offseason] anyway.”
I remember a couple of years ago when Gary Payton was traded to the Hawks in a package deal and he wouldn’t even set foot in the city, apparently a 26 or 30 win team didn’t appeal to a veteran player hunting a title.
Jamal Crawford’s reaction to coming here in a trade last week was complete 180 from Payton’s thanks-but-no-thanks stance.
I have a feeling that the Hawks’ pursuit of the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Marcin Gortat, all big men my sources tell me the Hawks will have made contact with by the time you finish breakfast.
It’s the kind of free agent busy work that I never heard about in previous summers. Times have changed. And clearly for the better if you’re a Hawks fan.
Still, there’s so much work to be done this summer. Presumably, the opinions around here on what the Hawks should do with Bibby, Zaza and Flip have ranged from the semi-reasonable to the absolutely preposterous.
It seems clear that in a free agent climate that will be short on monster deals and full of teams looking to stretch their available dollars, the Hawks will have an extremely hard time retaining all of their guys. Tough choices will have to be made, as will alternate plans.
Maybe Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson knew a little more than he let on last week when he ended our conversation with this, “Whatever we do this summer, we have to do it right,” he said. “We have to do it big and we have to do it right. Because we’re not going back to those losing seasons and watching the playoffs. We’re not going back there.”