Phoenix– The Hawks didn’t make any trades at today’s deadline, no surprise since GM Rick Sund had said all along he wouldn’t break up the team’s core with a deal.
“We like our core guys,” Sund said today. “I think we are positioned pretty well. We will learn some more (about the team) going forward in the last month-and-a-half and the playoffs.”
The Hawks also were unable to find any trade proposals that made sense. However, sources said the Hawks have reversed their stance on keeping their roster at the league minimum of 13 and will consider signing veterans who are bought out of their contracts by the end of this month.
The Hawks are expected to be among the suitors for veteran center Zydrunas Ilgauskas if he receives a buyout from the Wizards, sources said today. Ilgauskas was traded from Cleveland to Washington on Tuesday in a three-team deal but he’s seeking a buyout of the prorated portion of his $11.5 million expiring contract. The Wizards are cutting salary as they look to rebuild and Ilgauskas’ agent, Herb Rudoy, said his client wants to play for a contender.
Among the Hawks’ Eastern Conference rivals, only Cleveland made a major trade. The Cavaliers got forward Antawn Jamison from Washington as part of the three-team trade involving Ilgauskas.
Otherwise, the trade deadline passed relatively quietly in the East.
The Magic stood pat. The Celtics reportedly were waiting on league approval to complete a trade with the Knicks for reserve guard Nate Robinson. The Bobcats could be tougher first-round opponents for one of the top East teams after they acquired Tyrus Thomas from Chicago and Theo Ratliff from San Antonio.
The Hawks, who continue a four-game road trip Friday night at Phoenix, are 34-18 and trail Orlando by 1.5 games in the Southeast Division. The Celtics were a half game behind the Hawks before playing at the Lakers late Thursday.
“Until the end of the season I don’t look at the win column, I look at the loss column,” Sund said. “Here the trade deadline has passed and, after Cleveland, you have three teams (Magic, Hawks and Celtics) with 18 losses jockeying for position.
“I think we are pointed in the right direction. As long as we stay healthy, and that’s an important key, we can compete for these playoff spots going down the stretch.”
Ilgauskas could help the Hawks in the playoffs. Rudoy said today he hadn’t spoken to the Wizards yet about a buyout. Ilgauskas, 34, is taking a few days to think about his future, and Rudoy said the Hawks would fit Ilgauskas’ criteria for a new team if he doesn’t re-sign with the Cavs.
“If he decides to leave Cleveland, once he gets the buyout–and we hope we will have several options–he will only go to a team that can win a championship, period,” Rudoy said. “He will not be on a team that has no chance. He wants to play for one of the top teams, and Atlanta certainly is one of those teams.”
Rudoy said “a lot of teams are very interested in” Ilgauskas but declined to name them. In addition to the Cavs and Hawks, the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets are also reported to be interested in Ilgauskas.
Under league rules the Cavaliers would have to wait 30 days after Ilgauskas is waived to re-sign him, while another team could sign him immediately. Ilgauskas would have to be waived by March 1 to be eligible for a playoff roster.
Sund, citing league tampering rules, declined to comment on Ilgauskas.
Ilgauskas, at 7 feet 3 and 260 pounds, would satisfy the Hawks’ desire for a beefy center in the post to deal with Eastern Conference rivals Orlando (Dwight Howard) and Cleveland (Shaquille O’Neal). Ilgauskas could backup Al Horford at center and the two also could play together in a lineup with Horford at power forward.
The Hawks’ other options at center are Zaza Pachulia, Jason Collins and Randolph Morris.
Ilgauskas, a 12-year NBA veteran from Lithuania, was averaging career lows of 20.5 minutes, 7.5 points, and 5.3 rebounds for the Cavs. He once was an offensive threat in the post but has become more of a jumpshooter late in his career. Ilgauskas has slipped to 38 percent shooting on jumpers this season, according to 82games.com.