Almost every player on the Hawks’ roster is either at the end of a contract, or near the end of a contract, or on somebody’s, “Let’s drop-kick this guy out of town,” list.
Josh Smith doesn’t have a contract issue. That tells you what category he fits in.
But if you really believe the Hawks need to shake things up this off-season and possibly trade one of their starters, don’t look at Josh Smith. Look at Joe Johnson.
People, this isn’t even close.
This week’s Countdown . . .
Joe Johnson is a three-time All-Star. I felt I needed to get that out there right away because it seems like any time somebody criticizes Joe Johnson, one of his defenders screams, “He’s a three-time All-Star!” But this is business and these are the facts: Joe has one year left on his contract. He just completed an awful post-season, during which he played one good game and 10 generally crummy ones. In last year’s playoffs, he went 1-for-7 against Boston. This is not what you want from a guy who’s supposed to be your best player, especially when the game’s matter most. It’s certainly not what you want from a player who should be your leader but seldom acts like one. Or acts like he wants to be one. Joe’s one of those quiet guys who just wants to do his thing, whatever his thing is. But that’s not good enough here.
General manager Rick Sund just completed his first season. I’m not suggesting that his first makeover would be a failure if he doesn’t trade Joe Johnson. But it’s something he should look at. Just tweaking this roster may not be enough to get this team to the next level. With Johnson turning 28, chances are we’ve seen the best he has to offer. His skill set would be valuable on the trade market to elite teams that are looking for a complimentary player to round out their roster. He potentially could fetch a lot in trade. It’s worth exploring. Here’s why:
I hear a lot about the Hawks’ having a great core of players. Don’t know about that. But if that’s true, here’s how I would list the guys to build around: 1) Al Horford (absolute); 2) Josh Smith (probably); 3) Marvin Williams (maybe). Johnson is not a core piece. Chances are, he’s out the door next year. Mike Bibby might be gone already. Yes, Smith is maddening. But he remains by far the most talented player on the roster with the most upside. The Hawks’ greatest nightmare would be dealing him and then seeing him turn into a human wrecking machine with another team and under another coach. He scored 26 points in Game 4 against Cleveland. He certainly outplayed and outscored Johnson in these playoffs. You don’t trade Josh Smith. He’s a difference maker. Even if sometimes the difference is for the other team.
It sounds like a set-up line. “So there’s this heavyweight fight in Ethiopia . . .” But it could be true. Spoke to Evander Holyfield and there’s a chance his next fight could be against some guy named Sammy Retta July 25 in Ethiopia. The bout would be part of a celebrity fundraiser for AIDS research and would pay Holyfield $1 million, which is about $1 million more than anybody else is offering him to fight. Manager Ken Sanders said officials from the potential event have been phoning him for several weeks and seem serious about it but he still puts the chances of it coming as “50-50.” Holyfield and Sanders are going to Ethiopia Saturday for four days on a promoter’s tab to check it out. Meanwhile, Holyfield is still upset that, “They keep making me get back in line.” We explain . . .
Holyfield is 46. I don’t even ask him about retirement any more. But he probably was robbed in his last bout for the WBA title against Nikolai Valuev, losing a disputed majority decision in Zurich. Holyfield filed a protest. With boxing sanctioning bodies, this generally is as successful as the mafia’s court of appeals. Holyfield: “They said they had 10 judges look at tape. Six voted for Valuev and four voted for me, and that was it. They said, ‘Well, we looked at it.’” But Holyfield said the WBA all but assured him he can fight the winner of the Valuev-Ruslan Chagaev fight, which is May 30. The potential fight in Ethiopia shouldn’t be an issue. The opponent, Retta, is listed as a 35-year-old cruiserweight with a record of 18-3.
The Knoxville News ran a story on the Kiffin family, but I’m pretty sure it was just to provide slobbering male SEC football fans with a photo gallery that includes several pictures of coach Lane Kiffin’s wife, Layla. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. By the way, did you know that there’s now a Facebook group that’s called, “Our Coach’s Wife is Hotter Than Your Coach’s Wife”? It already has 5,790 members. If you’re a Facebook member, here’s the link.
Not really. But he says he is. Again. There’s a new book out, “American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens And the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime,” and Clemens felt the need to go on the radio again and claim that everybody is lying and he’s innocent, and that he wouldn’t think of taking drugs because his father and brother died young of heart attacks, and, “It would be suicidal for me to take any kind of dangerous drug.” Several syringes are expected to offer rebuttal testimony in the coming weeks.
I realize this covers a lot of judicial proceedings, but Tony Cole might be the worst human being ever given an athletic scholarship at Georgia. If you missed the latest, Cole, who lit the grease fire that helped eventually bring down Jim Harrick and the Georgia basketball program in one of the most embarrassing scandals in NCAA history, is in Cook County (Ill.) jail and just got into a fight with another inmate. The Chicago Sun Times reported that Cole told a corrections officer: “This is how you run this jail? I am going to call my people and I am going to call the press.” Hah! Wait. Is this where Jeremy Schaap comes in?
Cole is in prison (lately) for violating terms of his parole. Something about a protection order of a former girlfriend whom he is accused of punching. He also is being blamed for the forced resignation of the Chief Financial Officer in Cook County, which the more I read about it makes Clayton County government look like nirvana. The CFO, a woman, hired Cole for a $61,000 a year government job despite his past criminal convictions and twice bailed him out of jail without telling anybody. During one recent court appearance, Cole, according to the Sun Times, said, “My whole case needs to be looked at,” and then turned to a reporter asked that they summon the Rev. Jesse Jackson to help him. Yeah. That’ll happen. If you want to get caught up on the miserable life and times of Tony Cole, here’s a helpful link.
If Holyfield’s fight in Ethiopia falls through, I believe Somalia and Yemen have recently built casinos and are looking for a draw.