Just two weeks until training camp, blog people, and all is quiet on the Hawks front. And under the circumstances, “quiet” really means: “Jamal Crawford and the Hawks might be headed for a showdown.”
As everyone knows, Crawford wants a contract extension for what he believes to be his market value or, failing that, a trade. He’s pushing for an extension both because of the past (his Sixth Man of the Year season) and the future (the looming specter of a new CBA).
The Hawks have contemplated Crawford’s request for going on two months now. But they seem reluctant to offer him a long-term contract because of the past (long-term deals for Bibby and Marvin last summer and J.J. this summer) and the future (possible contract extension for Al).
That brings us to the present. The best-case scenario for the Hawks would be for Crawford to report to camp and put the extension talk on the backburner with promises to take care of him later, no hard feelings. That way Atlanta gets Crawford doing his thing off the bench for another season and doesn’t have to add him now to its growing list of long-term financial obligations.
But you have to wonder how that would sit with Crawford. In his only public comments since word leaked of his pay-me-or-trade-me request, Crawford didn’t shoot down the stories and instead pointedly declined to even talk about playing for the Hawks in 2010-11.
That doesn’t sound like a guy who has any intention of backing off his request. Crawford would report to camp without the promise of an extension since there’s no real advantage for NBA players to hold out. He also would have incentive to put in another good year with a good team and hit free agency next summer with his value still high.
But Crawford also would see that he’s the only member of Atlanta’s proverbial “core” who isn’t under contract beyond 2010-11. Whether you think the Hawks should extend Jamal or not, we’ve all seen situations where players (or people, really) who don’t feel appreciated or respected by their organizations also aren’t as productive.
The fact that Crawford apparently is willing to play out the final year of his deal elsewhere suggests he fits into that category. Crawford’s “nice guy” public demeanor is what you get in private, too, but this, as they say, is business.
So this is the dilemma faced by the Hawks. They have the most leverage because they have Crawford under contract and are under no obligation to offer him an extension or trade him. The Hawks could tell Crawford they aren’t in position to meet his contract demands and don’t intend to trade him, and then hope Crawford’s desire to showcase for his next deal while playing for a winning team eventually will trump any hurt feelings.
But taking that stance could threaten the team’s chemistry and cohesion before the season even gets started. I don’t need to remind you that both of those things unraveled for the Hawks by the end of last season. L.D. already has a lot on his plate before adding a disgruntled sixth man to the list.
That’s not to say the Hawks will give in to keep Crawford happy but they obviously have to consider how not doing so could affect chemistry. You can see where both sides are coming from in this. Harder to see is the room for compromise if Crawford sticks with his demands and the Hawks stick with their fiscal plan.
The Hawks probably anticipated Crawford would seek an extension after he slid seamlessly into the sixth man role and turned in his best season. What they may not have foreseen was that the request would come with a “or trade me” addendum, which has led to this delicate dance as camp approaches.
Things are quiet for the Hawks right now but a storm could be brewing.