HAWKSVILLE - You disappear for 10 days (or at least try), and you expect things to change a little bit.
And they did, in many places.
Lamar Odom finally rejoined the Los Angeles Lakers, making them the odds on favorite to defend their title with both he and Ron Artest in the mix with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Tyson Chandler (Charlotte) and Emeka Okafor (New Orleans) traded places, each giving their new teams an interesting jolt as well as some financial flexibility (now for the luxury tax-strapped Hornets and in two years for the on-the-market Bobcats). It’s hard to tell who made out better, though pundits from both cities – John DeShazier in the Big Easy and Scott Fowler in Charlotte – are claiming victory, proof that there bi-partisan punditry extends all the way to the NBA.
Hakim Warrick was tossed aside by Memphis and picked up by Milwaukee in a matter of days, and in a somewhat similar move (both players had their qualifying offers rescinded, allowing them to become unrestricted free agents immediately) Solomon Jones left the nest for a two-year deal with the Indiana Pacers.
About the only place where things have stayed the same is here, in the ‘Ville.
Marvin Williams still hasn’t signed a new deal (though, I suspect that will be rectified before week’s end). Joe Smith is still a free agent (the longer he stays that way, the tougher it will be for the Hawks to land him because the competition will grow). There is still so much time for things to take shape between now and training camp, so I’m sensitive about sounding the panic alarm too soon. But if Josh Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia put a help wanted sign between now and then, it should be understood. They need some help (for the millionth time this summer). And they need it as soon as possible. Horford and I had a conversation about that a few weeks back on the practice court at Philips Arena, our gabbing interrupting his workout with Hawks assistant coach Ty Hill. Horford knows that the more help they have the better chance they have of being fresh and injury free come playoff time, and I’m sure you remember what the Hawks looked like last year on wounded knee, ankle and hamstring and back and everything else in that Cleveland series.
A simple but sobering two-line email from my main man Stoned Mountain this morning reminded me that I was officially back on the clock:
What have we done to shore up the frontcourt? We figure to get shoved around by everybody but Miami.
That’s probably a tad harsh. By keeping everyone but Flip Murray (and Solo) from the main playing rotation last year while also adding Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague, certainly keeps the Hawks among the Eastern Conference’s playoff crew. Holding down that fourth spot, however, would appear to be a tougher call. With Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Washington and Charlotte all gunning for the Hawks’ spot, things could get sticky.
My main man DH, a Sixers loyalist, think I’m being a bit presumptuous to assume that the pack has caught up to the Hawks:
Who do you think they’ll be fighting with for that 4th spot? Philly didn’t get better. Chicago didn’t get better. Miami didn’t get better. Toronto got a little better, but still isn’t as good as the Hawks … remember we’re talking about them holding onto the 4th spot, not challenging for the No. 1 spot. The additions of Crawford and Teague and the re-signings of Bibby, Marvin and yes, Zaza, are better than what any of the teams you mention (above) did. So yes, I see the Hawks as better than all of those teams, just as they were last year.
Really? Does it look that good to you? The cynic in me (yeah, Blog Z is preparing for a pre-training camp return, once the Hawks finalize the roster) doesn’t allow for that sort of positive rhetoric this time of year. I see the Hawks’ road to maintaining being much tougher than it appears to some. What say you (and I’ll try my best to answer any lingering questions you’ve had since we last went at it)?