When the Miami Heat went shopping in this NBA offseason, they chose to bypass the markdowns at the strip malls, the polo shirts from Old Navy that morph into dust rags after two washings and the lime green shorts with a broken zipper from the $1 table at the neighborhood yard sale . They cruised Rodeo Drive. Why? Because they could. Maybe they also have some strange desire to win.
The Hawks are still in the midst of their shopping this offseason. It has been quiet, even as they roam the aisles of Value City. There’s still a chance they will come home with something other than used Play-Doh and a bag of defective socks. But don’t count on it. They have made it clear that their heads are bumping up against the ceiling of their budget. They won’t add a player if it means having to pay a luxury tax. They won’t add a player if it means trading a perceived player of significance. It doesn’t matter if the new player can actually make them better, or if he would ignite a fan base that’s just looking for a reason to walk through a turnstile.
Maybe this passive approach works. There was that whole tortoise-and-the-hare thing. Maybe drafting Jordan Crawford, giving more playing time to Jeff Teague and getting Joe Johnson to share the ball will make a difference. But after going 0-8 in the second in the last two years, is this the mindset an NBA franchise should have?
General manager Rick Sund said what he often says: “I like our team.”
He is hesitant to trade a perceived core player, disrupt chemistry or blow the budget. Let’s put aside for a moment that the organization recently overpaid to keep Johnson, who has fizzled in the postseason and doesn’t quite unite the fan base. Sund still sees the Hawks are trending upward.
He states his case: “Our goal is to continue to put an elite caliber ballclub on the floor and stay within the model [owner] Bill Davidson had when the Pistons were winning championships and what San Antonio did with their spending and the way they stayed under the luxury tax.”
Not every team can sign Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Most can’t even sign one. But sorry. The idea should be to aim higher. Bringing back Jason Collins, just because he lost weight in Europe and comes cheap, doesn’t cut it.
Replacing Solomon Jones and Randolph Morris with Solomon Jones and Randolph Morris clones is not what aggressive teams do. It’s like painting over a water stain on the ceiling without fixing the leak.
Strange. Sund’s analysis of the roster actually jibes with everybody else’s.
“We need two bigs – a center and a power forward,” he said.
But after some negotiations, the Hawks bailed on signing free agent center Brad Miller because he got too expensive. (Miller ultimately signed with Houston.) They’ve played footsy with Shaquille O’Neal, but they believe the would-be Big Peach’s asking price is too high (for now) and he seems unwilling to take a bench role (for now).
The problem: Shaq is the best player left in the depleted free agent market. It’s not even close.
Here’s the question Sund and ownership should be asking themselves: Who makes us better? They’ve convinced themselves that a center-by-committee (Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, Collins and maybe you if can get a resume in) will be enough to challenge Orlando, Boston and Miami in the Eastern Conference.
Maybe Sund really believes this. Maybe his hands are tied. Maybe he just likes playing it safe, and if it doesn’t work out, well, he’s near retirement anyway. But can you feel comfortable with the status quo?
Sund again: “I think we’re pointed in the right direction. I’m hopeful we’ll improve with some changes to our offense and our young players getting older, and we can stay among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.”
It doesn’t make much of a rallying cry.
Better than a DVR! (last 3 posts)