HAWKSVILLE - One by one, the big names have come off the board.
And each time they’ve chosen some place other than the friendly confines of Hawksville to pursue their big man endeavors.
From Rasheed Wallace (Boston) and Marcin Gortat (back to Orlando) to Brandon Bass (also to Southeast Division rival Orlando), Antonio McDyess (San Antonio), Chris Wilcox (Detroit) and just about anyone else you can think of, most all of this summer’s coveted free agent big men have found homes outside of the metro area.
The Hawks have flirted with all of them and more, but outside of the return of Zaza Pachulia, the importance of which should not be ignored, the Hawks have been unable to secure a commitment from another big man, thus far.
With the start of mini-camp today and with guys like Earl Barron, Chris Taft and rookie Garret Siler all set to attend, the Hawks have a chance to evaluate three guys that could possibly help solve their issues in the frontcourt. But none of the three offers the sort of psychological security you get with the aforementioned bigs that have gone elsewhere.
We’re not the only ones that have noticed. People everywhere have taken up the cause of asking, “Where’s the beef?” on the Hawks’ roster.
During what I called “Tech-Free” weekend (no blog, no twitter, no computer or blackberry or anything at all for one weekend this year, all done in an effort to keep from getting tossed out of my house by the boss lady) I assumed I could get away from it. But I was wrong.
So I’m sitting down with my cousin Big Chet (in town from D.C. visiting) and his buddy Ted, a local limo driver that’s lived here in Atlanta much longer than I have, and eventually the conversation turns to sports. Now keep in mind, Ted has no idea that I have anything to do with the Hawks. And he just blurt it out.
“Man, the Hawks got to get a big man if they ever want to do anything,” he said. “I’m telling you, they need a big man. You can’t keep [Al] Horford out there every night trying to deal with Dwight Howard and Shaq and all them big dudes. They got to get a big man.”
Chet tries to turn the conversation elsewhere. “You can’t say that about the Hawks, Ted,” Chet told him, hoping to turn the eye on his beloved Wizards, whose problems he went on to run down for us without missing a beat. “This man covers the Hawks. He doesn’t need you telling him what’s wrong with the Hawks.”
But Ted wasn’t hearing it. Like most of us, he had his own ideas about what the Hawks needed to do. “They need a big man and that way they can move Horford to power forward, move Josh Smith to small forward and bring [Marvin] Williams off the bench,” Ted said as he continued his rant. “They could even start Pachulia. He plays within himself when he’s starting and he’s the big body that we’ve got to have out there. Everybody I know can see it. Why can’t the Hawks see that we’ve got to go that route?”
When Ted finished, they both looked at me and asked if he was wrong, and Ted gave me that look I get from most folks around town when they speak their truth about the Hawks. I told them I agreed that another big man was needed, and that indeed, everyone that pays close attention to these Hawks knows that another big man is needed (I even suggested they check out the daily jabs back and forth around here if they needed confirmation). I don’t know that I care how you concoct things in terms of who starts and comes off the bench, it’s just clear that more beef is needed in the Hawks’ rotation.
Where that beef comes from remains the only mystery of this summer. There was a time, earlier this summer, when I thought the Hawks might be close to pulling off a trade for a big man like Marcus Camby, who might not have the beef but certainly has the big man game the Hawks currently lack. But that was before the Los Angeles Clippers moved Zach Randolph to Memphis and cleared room for rookie sensation Blake Griffin to go to work this year. In the weeks since then, the focus has shifted from big name free agents to fringe bigs (Channing Frye opted for Phoenix, and he was my sleeper pick for the Hawks) and now to mini-camp and training camp invitees like Barron, Taft and Siler.
That doesn’t mean the Hawks have given up on the idea that Randolph Morris (who is under contract and according to most folks I’ve spoken to, is working harder than he ever has to fight his way out of Mike Woodson’s outhouse and back into contention for playing time) could be a factor. And Solomon Jones is a restricted free agent the Hawks have have for three years. He could also become an option. Still, there’s a need for more. A new body or two, preferably bigger bodies than those two guys, could add the physical edge the Hawks have been missing the past two years. I date it back to the time the Hawks traded for Mike Bibby and had to send both Shelden Williams and Lorenzen Wright to Sacramento in that deal. It wasn’t that Williams and Wright were necessarily the ultimate solutions to the Hawks’ problems, but they certainly provided a frontcourt depth that has been non-existent since they were jettisoned.
Think about it, the frontcourt burden since that trade was shifted to basically three guys – Smith, Horford and Pachulia, in a reserve role. That’s quite a bit to ask of three guys, two of them slightly undersized for the task they’re being asked to perform most nights.
So in the end, it might turn out that Ted was spot on in his evaluation of the Hawks. He and the little old lady from those Wendy’s commercials that use to make me laugh when I was a kid every time she said “Where’s the beef?” had it right.