HAWKSVILLE – One last time, Flip Murray is gone.
It’s over. And it’s official.
Take one last good look at him in his Hawks uniform (above next to Hawks coach Mike Woodson) and then move on.
Charlotte’s gain is the Hawks’ loss, until you scan the recently released training camp roster and realize that guys that the man replacing Flip as the Hawks’ third guard is a player that by any measure is a far better player. Whether or not he’s a better fit on this team remains to be seen. But anyone making the argument for Flip over Jamal Crawford needs to clean the lenses on their BlueBlockers.
And don’t get me wrong, I think was extremely valuable to the Hawks’ cause last season. He was a great fit at the perfect time for a team that desperately needed a tough guy with a no-nonsense attitude coming off the bench to help energize their second unit. But this idea that Flip won games for the Hawks last season is make believe.
It never happened.
Would I have love to see Flip remain in a Hawks uniform? Sure. That would have been ideal. But him moving on to a one-year deal with the Bobcats doesn’t shift the balance of power in the Southeast Division either.
Now there are plenty of people within the Hawks organization that disagree with me. They’ve been arguing me down all summer about Flip. They contend he was far more valuable than anyone realized, that he was a stabilizing locker room presence and the unsung guts of the team. Could be. But I never witnessed that sort of impact on or off the floor.
In fact, I’d argue that Mo Evans was every bit as crucial to the Hawks’ 47-win season of a year ago. He was actually pressed into service as a starter (for an injured Marvin Williams (and the Hawks won roughly 67 percent of the games in which Evans started). Flip was never called upon to shoulder the load of say a Mike Bibby or Joe Johnson for an extended stretch of the season.
I suspect Flip’s loss will have the same impact the loss of the man he replaced (Josh Childress) had on this team the year before …
The training camp roster stands at 20 players, right at the number expected. Can’t say that there are any surprise names on the list either. You know the regulars, the guys already under guaranteed contracts for this season. What deserves further scrutiny is the eight players on the training camp roster that are looking for work. A brief breakdown of each guy and the initial outlook of his chances of securing that 13th roster spot (and perhaps the 14th if someone makes a definitive case for sticking around):
JUAN DIXON – The internal concerns about the Hawks’ point guard depth is reflected in the number of veteran guards on the camp roster, highlighted by this veteran guard. Dixon has never carved a niche for himself as a starting point guard but he’s been a factor on several teams as a situational combo guard. He’ll need a huge showing in camp to snag a roster spot.
OTHELLO HUNTER — Having already made the team this way a year ago, Hunter knows the odds are stacked against him sticking this year. The Hawks are deeper in the frontcourt and they’re not as likely to keep a developmental player on the roster if they’re only going to keep 13 players. Still, Hunter has improved as much anyone on the roster from this time a year ago. And with a strong camp, he could force the Hawks to consider keeping him.
AARON MILES – Miles made an appearance on the Hawks’ practice court during the workout season before the 2005 draft but has been basically a pro basketball journeyman since then. He’s a competitor and the kind of guy that always raises the meter defensively but he would appear to be an extreme long-shot to be here beyond the end of camp.
FRANK ROBINSON – One of the more intriguing players you’ll see in camp, Robinson continues to impress with his all-around skill (think a more skilled offensive player with Mario West-like energy). If you see him in action on a daily basis you keep asking yourself, “why isn’t this guy on someone’s roster?” Then you remember his problem is like most guys his size that play his position, they’d have to face the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson on a nightly basis in the league. But keep an eye on Mr. Robinson. He’ll turn some heads.
GARRET SILER – Augusta’s Finest is looking svelte these days, somewhere in the neighborhood of 280 pounds or so, per one of my spies. He’s going to make you take notice because he’s usually going to be the biggest man in the room or on the floor. That doesn’t mean he’s not skilled, because he is. And that doesn’t mean the Hawks aren’t serious about gauging his long-term potential, because they are. Training camp and the preseason schedule will be the true test for Siler. If he proves he can hold up against top-flight competition over the course of the next month it’ll be hard to send him packing.
COURTNEY SIMS – I’m giving Sims the early nod as the favorite for the MOST SURPRISING CAMPER award. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he spent undergrad in Ann Arbor toiling for the Michigan basketball program. Sims was the D-League MVP last season and has matured tremendously since college. His frame (6-11 and 240 pounds) is much sturdier now and he has a face-up game that stretches beyond the 3-point line (if needed). I want to see how he deals with Al Horford and Josh Smith on a daily basis in camp.
MARIO WEST – If folks thought West was fighting for his life to make the roster the last two years, you’d be wise to pop some popcorn for the show I expect him to put on this time around. No one outworks the maniacal former Georgia Tech standout. While he’s been nursing some nagging injuries in recent weeks, there’s no doubt he’ll crank up the energy next week. The sticking point for West, however, is his salary number. As a rookie and second year player, with a salary under $1 million, West was a fantastic investment. Three years in, though, and his roughly $1 million price tag seems a bit high (to some) for a player that you know probably won’t play much unless there are injury catastrophes in the backcourt.
MIKE WILKS – Like Dixon, Wilks looks more like veteran point guard insurance. And he’s had stints with several teams that proved he could be a legitimate NBA contributor. But the idea of another 6-foot (or thereabouts) point guard on a team that already boasts Bibby and promising rookie Jeff Teague just doesn’t add up. Barring an absolutely stunning performance in camp, I have a hard time justifying a spot for Wilks or any other undersized point guard.