HAWKSVILLE - NBA free agents can put pen to paper Wednesday, consummating deals that have been in the works for days (and perhaps even longer for some).
The heavy lifting for the Hawks, however, comes a day early.
Hawks general manager Rick Sund is on his way to Washington D.C., where he will sit down with the representatives for three of the Hawks’ key free agents (Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Josh Childress) to hammer out the details of at least a couple of potential deals.
With Mike Bibby’s new deal needing only signatures, the Hawks can devote all the attention and resources necessary to the aforementioned players, and yes, that includes Childress (whose saga might not play out until after the July 15 deadline he has to either opt out of his contract with Olympiakos to return home and to the NBA. David Andersen, another player on the Hawks’ shopping list, has the same clause in his Spanish contract).
Folks keep asking what’s the latest on (All THE HAWKS’ SUMMER TARGETS)? So here’s a rundown, early on a day I’m dubbing Super Tuesday, of where things stand with the key players (and for a sobering look at just how crazy free agency is working this summer, check out this dagger from ESPN Insider and Alpharetta’s own John Hollinger):
MARVIN WILLIAMS: Using Charlie Villanueva’s deal in Detroit (5 years, $40 million-range) as your guide, things should get much easier to decipher in the curious case of Marvin Williams. With a qualifying offer of $7.5 million, we’re not talking about anything out of the ordinary her for a guy that’s proved to be a valuable starter the past three years. Finding another 6-9 starting small forward that fits the way he does on this team will not be easy, despite all of the suggestions around here to the contrary. Respected and prolific colleague Mark Bradley has suggested many times that if any of the Hawks’ remaining building blocks was expendable it was Marvin. But as I look across the free agent landscape, I cannot co-sign that theory. Not with the free agent moves/trades that have gone on in the Eastern Conference since draft night. Not with Hedo Turkoglu in Toronto now and Vince Carter in his old spot in Orlando. And not with Villanueva in Detroit and the addition of Rasheed Wallace in Boston. The length the Hawks used to their advantage across the frontline with Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford is more critical than ever. Even in one of the many proposed sign-and-trade deals offered up around these parts, I don’t see the Hawks adding the piece that could take Marvin’s place on this roster (in fit, size and temperament … three crucial factors that Marvin brings that go largely unnoticed by the public). The Hawks have made clear their preference for Marvin to remain a part of the core of this team and I see no reason why that shouldn’t happen. I can’t see any scenario where he is not a part of this team in the future.
ZAZA PACHULIA: Much has been made in the past 72 hours about Zaza’s impending departure and his being replaced by Andersen, or a combination of players that includes the Australian big man. Slow down with that one. Sources tell me that while initially things didn’t look too good with the offer that was presented to him by the Hawks, the sides are working their way toward more agreeable terms (we’re talking slightly north of the $16 million over four years he signed for the last time he was a free agent but decidedly south of the $33 million over five years Marcin Gortat is expected to receive from Dallas). And in an Eastern Conference littered with bigs like Dwight Howard in Orlando, Shaquille O’Neal in Cleveland and now Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins in Boston (and that’s just on the teams that finished ahead of the Hawks in the standings last season), that’s a good thing. Because the Hawks can ill-afford to lose a player like Zaza. He’s the only real bruiser on the roster. He’ll set a hard pick and has shown he’s not afraid to mix it up with the likes of Garnett and Howard. And while I’m not heavy into the stats that seem to guide so many people’s opinions about players, I do believe that some numbers tell a far different story than what the heart and mind can. There were six regular season games and three playoff games during the 2008-2009 season where Zaza played 30-plus minutes. He averaged 9.8 points, 10.1 rebounds (and 4.1 offensive rebounds) in those games. That means when he was needed to play above and beyond his pay grade, Pachulia delivered.
JOSH CHILDRESS: Like Andersen, Childress would do better financially (at least in the next year or two) by returning to Greece for another season with Olympiakos. But if he’s intent on returning to the NBA this summer, and there are indications that he would indeed love to return, things could get tricky. Childress has already visited Milwaukee. And the Bucks could present him with an offer sheet and gamble that the Hawks might not match it (fat chance). The obvious solution for both sides would be a sign-and-trade deal (the starting salary for Childress wouldn’t even be the full mid-level of $5.6 million, though the total contract would be nearly $31 million over five years). The Bucks have all the necessary tools to make something like that happen. Whatever happens, the Hawks need to close the door on the Childress saga that began last summer during his first round of restricted free agency. His jersey number was given away last summer (to Mo Evans) in a way that should have signaled the end of his time with the Hawks to all of us. I know I’ve spent much of the last year plotting hypothetical scenarios in which he could return to the Hawks. I realize now, finally, it’s just not going to happen. So if there is any way to salvage a player (Bruce Bowen has been mentioned) and a possible second-round draft pick out of the deal, the Hawks could finally walk away from the entire mess with some measure of satisfaction.
Resolve two of the three issues above by July 15 and the Hawks will have made some serious headway into a summer that’s long from over. The roster still needs filling out. And that might not come until much later in the summer and possibly even training camp, where a hungry free agent pickup like Mario West won roster spots in each of the past two camps.
The Hawks will still have the resources to chase down another big man (or possibly two) to fill out the rotation, which is still in need of fortification. But the heavy lifting starts today in D.C.