Rick Sund shouldn’t be making decisions for Hawks

Rick Sund will decide on his future soon, but Hawks should be hiring another decision-maker. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Rick Sund will decide on his future soon, but Hawks should be hiring another decision-maker. (Jason Getz/AJC)

As early as next week, the Hawks will make an announcement on the status of Rick Sund. Maybe he comes back as general manager. Maybe he comes back as team president. Maybe he comes back as consultant, spiritual adviser, GM Emeritus and VP of Deflecting Blame for the Joe Johnson Contract.

Doesn’t really matter what he decides. It’s a problem.

Sund is considering retirement. Do you know what some say when an athlete is considering retirement? He already has checked out. The same belief should apply to coaches and team executives.

In all likelihood, no matter what Sund chooses to do, he will remain with the Hawks through the draft. He still has the downtown office on Marietta Street. He will attend an NBA draft combine this weekend. He will be the Hawks’ executive talking to other general managers about players who potentially might be available in trade.

Sund goes into this Hawks’ offseason as both a possible lame duck and their primary makeover artist — a bad combination.

This is not a bash Rick Sund column. To the contrary, given the budget constraints he works with — granted, constraints created by the Johnson contract that he endorsed — and the knucklehead ownership group that he works for, I actually think Sund did a pretty good job this season, particularly in the area of building the Hawks’ bench.

Is Sund a bold, think-outside-the-box kind of executive? No. But it’s not like every young, edgy, risk-taking GM hasn’t had things blow up in his face, too. Sund is solid, even if unspectacular.

But this is an important offseason for the Hawks. I know. They all are. But the thought of this team coming back with the same core again doesn’t excite the masses, and the most plausible high-level trade subject is Josh Smith. He has one year left on his contract, and he would prefer to be elsewhere.

Sund generally isn’t swayed by a player (or coach) having an expiring contract, but it doesn’t make sense to risk losing a player of Smith’s caliber for nothing on the free-agent market next summer.

The point is that Sund isn’t the one who should make the decision on trading Smith – or any decision. If he wants to return as a consultant/adviser, that’s fine. But the decisions over the next several weeks will shape the Hawks’ future, and it isn’t logical that the team would have Sund – who already has at least his toes into retirement – would be doing the shaping.

“I don’t even want to go there,” Sund said Wednesday when asked if he was coming back. “Going forward, I’ll take some time, talking to my wife, talking to the owners, and in time there will be resolution.”

Think about this: The Atlanta Spirit owners, visionaries that they are, have known about this since at least December. They approached Sund following the lockout about a contract extension. He put them on hold. A smart owner at that point might have started doing his homework on young executives around the league and made a move right after the season.

It has been three weeks since the Hawks played their final game. The draft lottery was Thursday night. Trade rumors have started. The draft is June 28. Trades involving veterans shift into high gear thereafter. Free agency begins July 11. How long before we know who’s pulling the strings? And shouldn’t that have been decided already?

For what it’s worth, Sund likes Smith. He likes this team. He believes that if Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia stayed healthy, “We would’ve gotten to that elite level,” which he defines as one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

He wouldn’t directly answer questions about Smith or potential trades, but said, “To get to [number] one or two in the East, I think we have to explore possible ways to get there, and hopefully not take a step back.”

It all sounds fine. But I don’t want a realtor who is moving several states away trying to convince me what neighborhood to build a house in. The Hawks need someone new calling the shots.

By Jeff Schultz

154 comments Add your comment


May 31st, 2012
2:48 pm

Bring back Billy Knight!


May 31st, 2012
2:50 pm

new leadership wouldn’t hurt, but it may be too late for this group of hawks.


May 31st, 2012
3:05 pm

Good post, Jeff. Still can’t believe that Sund thinks the Hawks were close to being a top-two team in the East. He and the rest of the front office are deluding themselves if they think that is the case.


May 31st, 2012
3:07 pm

Are there any “young whiz kid” assistant GMs that would be good replacement candidates in case Rick decides that he would rather be fishin’?


May 31st, 2012
3:08 pm

We need a time machine so we can go back and have Billy Knight draft Rondo over Sheldon Williams in 2006. (It looks more and more like this was a worse pick than Marvin or Deron Williams over Paul.) Fix that problem and we are a winner.


May 31st, 2012
3:10 pm

I love Ricky Sund, and I believe the Hawks will win a championship next season with him in charge.


May 31st, 2012
3:19 pm

Jeff do you ever post anything positive?


May 31st, 2012
3:26 pm

Trade Josh and im boy- cotting!!!! no one in the draft is as talented or bring his type of production. honestly the only player who stuffs the stat sheet is lebron…. oops and rondo. Josh wants to stay but Josh wants to be a star and rightfully so. MAKE HIM THE FOCAL POINT AND VIOLA… HE STAYS. Al could bring a significant piece to the city without taking a step back. Ownership needs to be ttreating Josh like D.Howard and roll out the red carpet. but i agree Sund shouldnt be making these decisions


May 31st, 2012
3:27 pm

disregard the hyphen

JF McNamara

May 31st, 2012
3:29 pm

Trade Josh Smith for Amare Stoudemire. Amare can be the lead player here putting Joe in second where he should be. He’s the odd man in New York now. Josh Smith would fit with Carmelo since he doesn’t really dominate the ball.

I don’t know about the money or if Mike Woodson would ever want to Coach Josh Smith again, but it makes both teams better by slotting the roles on the teams correctly.

rollo lawson

May 31st, 2012
3:33 pm

They messed up when they offered Larry Drew an extension. Let Sund ride off into the sunset and hire the 2nd in command from either San Antonio or Oklahoma City and let him handle the draft and free agency. If the teams makes a real effort to win by drafting smart and spending money in free agency, maybe Josh will stay after next season.

The Real HAwk

May 31st, 2012
3:35 pm

The owners will keep him because it’s cheap. And who else would take the job? Ouch, they may make Drew the GM/Coach!


May 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

Andy, I hope your “bring back Billy Knight” comment was sarcastic, he’s the one who stunted this roster by drafting M. Williams instead of C. Paul or D. Williams, he also drafted S. Williams high ion the 1st round when I believe he could have had M. Conely JR, PG is and has been a major weakness of the Hawks along w/ Center for years now thanks to B. Knight.


May 31st, 2012
3:48 pm

Michael Gearon shouldn’t be making decisions for the Hawks either. Life is a cruel mistress.

Grandmaster JeJe

May 31st, 2012
3:50 pm

The Q&A is about as bad as the one with Gearon Jr. MC asked great questions.

My only takeaway is that the players think they should still be playing. So does every other team in the league. STFU and be real. You are the worst GM. You talk about being a final 2 team in the conference. Have you EVER accomplished this in your 32 years?

If Hinrich had played in that Chicago series, Teague wouldn’t have played at all. Last time I checked, Teague had a coming out party in that series – no homo. We would’ve gotten murdered with or without Hinrich. SMH

I’m surprised Sund didn’t just say:

“The goal is to win 50 games. Because if you win 50 games, you are most likely going to make the playoffs. If you make the playoffs, you have a chance of winning round 1. If you win round 1, you have a chance of going to round 2. If you win round 2, you have a chance of going to the ECF. If you win the ECF, you have a chance of going to the Finals.”

In my mock offseason, I had Gearon answering that question about Smoove and said Gearon would circumvent it. Just as Sund does here:

MC: Is it your perception Josh is still happy being here with the Hawks?
Sund: I’m going to have his exit interview sometime this week. But, yeah, when you read the things of him saying . . . He’s such a competitor. I was talking to his dad the other day, and he mentioned we all think we should be playing, and that’s great. And [Josh] is one of them.

Does Sund even answer the question MC asked? No.


May 31st, 2012
3:55 pm

lol Amare for Josh lol u have to be kiddin me. There the same offensively and defensively there is no comparison lol and Josh is Healthy (most of time) while Amare is never healthy and costs twice as much


May 31st, 2012
3:55 pm

When Horford and Zaza were healthy, we weren’t elite. The Hawks ownership and Sund need a reality check and should put down the koolaid.


May 31st, 2012
3:56 pm

I agree, trade Josh Smith straight up for Amare Stoudamire, then I would find a way to bring Dwight Howard here to Atlanta, Heck give Orlando, Joe Johnson,Marvin Williams,T-Mac and 2 first round picks to get him. Keep Teague and Hinrich for the backcourt, cause our front line with Stoudamire at the 3, Horford moves to the 4, and Howard at the 5, it would be one of the most dominant frontlines in the NBA. Keep the bench about the same, cause it was pretty deep. Will this happen? of course not cause of our cheap ownership group. ASG blows!


May 31st, 2012
3:56 pm


May 31st, 2012
4:00 pm

Solid as in super hard, or dumb as a rock? I would not call anyone who signed off on the Johnson contract as solid. Jeff, your low expectations of this organization are making even folks like Sund sound…. well, solid.


May 31st, 2012
4:04 pm

Knuckleheaded owners? Very funny indeed, but true. Sad, sad, sad. Warren Buffet would be a better owner than what we have now.

JF McNamara

May 31st, 2012
4:09 pm


Amare averages 6 more PPG over his career, 1 more rebound. Amare is also two inches taller and has a legitimate post up game that allows you to run plays through him. Josh is a great athlete, but his game is nowhere near as refined. You definitely can’t run an offense through him, can you?

Bottom line. Amare is a lead dog. Josh is a secondary piece part. A very, very good piece part, but a piece part none the less…

…and before I get jumped on, Josh is a piece part because he chose not to improve his game the way he should have early in his career. He should be scoring 25 a game with his ability, but he’s not…and its his fault.


May 31st, 2012
4:11 pm

Everybody who keeps pointing back to the the M. Williams pick over Paul and Williams I have one question. Do you think they would still be with the Hawks now? Paul left the Hornets and Williams left the Jazz, you know the teams that drafted them. The Hawks at that time were worse than those two teams to tell you the truth. Also if we get Paul or Williams chances are we don’t get Joe Johnson and that means that we don’t get Al Horford because the pick we traded to the Suns was conditional on us not getting in the lottery. Paul had West and Williams had Boozer. Who would they had the Hawks drafted them? Childress? Al Harrington? Tom Gugliotta? A young and immature Josh Smith?

Najeh Davenpoop

May 31st, 2012
4:16 pm

“Jeff do you ever post anything positive?”

Do Atlanta sports teams give him anything positive to post about?


May 31st, 2012
4:21 pm

A’mare has uninsurable knees. He is hurt every year. He wants “bright lights, and big city” and would be a disastor here. Also, Woody would never take Smith back. The Hawks are gonna have to trade with a team also on the periphery of success, like the Grizzlies, Jazz, Bucks, etc. I personally think that our best case is Josh for Marc Gasol or Zach Richardson if Memphis would fall for that.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 31st, 2012
4:23 pm

“Everybody who keeps pointing back to the the M. Williams pick over Paul and Williams I have one question. Do you think they would still be with the Hawks now?”

Not really relevant to draft strategy. Gotta pick the best player available. This isn’t MLB where you make your draft decisions based on signability.

I think there’s a good chance CP3 or Deron Williams would still be here, because they would have had Joe and Josh as teammates their entire careers.

“Also if we get Paul or Williams chances are we don’t get Joe Johnson and that means that we don’t get Al Horford because the pick we traded to the Suns was conditional on us not getting in the lottery.”

The Joe trade had nothing to do with the 2005 draft pick. If the Hawks had played their cards right, they would have had Josh and Iguodala from the 2004 draft, CP3 from the 2005 draft, and Joe via the sign-and-trade. You’re right that they wouldn’t have had Horford, but so what? As good as Horford is, I’d gladly trade him for CP3.

CP3-Joe-Iguodala-Josh-Zaza might have been the greatest team in Hawks history, and it was eminently doable. For that matter, they could have conceivably fielded a team of Rondo-Joe-Danny Granger-Josh-Al Jefferson or Rondo-Joe-Iguodala-Josh-Andrew Bynum, too, if they had played their cards right. Pick Jefferson #6 in ‘04 instead of Childress, Granger in ‘05 (would have been a reach at #2 but not nearly as bad a pick as Marvin), and Rondo in ‘06, or Iguodala at #6 in ‘04, Bynum at #2 in ‘05, and Rondo in ‘06.


May 31st, 2012
4:26 pm

Let’s be realistic here, Sund is a moron if he thinks the Hawks will ever be a threat in the East with this roster. Honestly, I think they are just holding out until these contracts expire so they can get salary cap relief and go the route of the Bobcats.

Who on this blog actually thinks that the Hawks have the “it” ability to win a title with this crew? Trade Smith/Williams to LA for Gasol and at worst you go into next year with two guys who can play in the paint, a decent PG in Teague and an average SG in Johnson. That is a four man group that could actually challenge Miami, Chicago and Indiana.


May 31st, 2012
4:29 pm

Don’t you dare, Poop!

Listening to you the last few months, you act like the Hawks are the best team here or anywhere! What a laugh!


May 31st, 2012
4:29 pm

There is some serious delusional people on this blog. I just can’t understand the loyalty to this group of players or anyone in charge of it. Sure, I can understand backing Horford. He is the only player that cares about winning. But everyone else is completely dispensable. You can forget about Joe going anywhere. If we luck up and Chicago loses their mind and takes him off our hand, I would be the happiest man this side of Peachtree. Teague is lost and waiting on him to “turn the page” is three years too late. Its not going to happen. Marvin who?? When you are a top five pick in the draft and no other team would trade their developmental players for your services should be reason enough to realize his talents are less than sub par. He should be ashamed to call himself a NBA player. Now to Josh. Sure, I recognize the skills Josh possess. I was like many of you, I wanted the hometown boy to stay. But unfortunately Josh has mentally checked out. When a player asks to be traded and wishes he was somewhere else, what can you do? He will not sign an extension so the obvious choice is to trade him. Some say he wants to be the focal point on the team. That maybe so, but Horford is the star. Not Joe, not Josh. Horford completely plays out of position and yet holds his own. Put him in the correct spot and move Josh to another team so we dont have to worry about rain maker jumpers from a 6′10 guy that barely hits rim. This team was built to fail and the “owners” dont have any respect around the league and continuously make horrible basketball decisions. In this town we celebrate mediocrity. To win it takes guts and people with a low tolerance for straddling the line of “were almost there”. The wait and see approach has not and will not work. Yet, many of you are comfortable with losing and not being competitive. I had season tickets until two years ago because I realized that paying to watch this team is like putting that money in a barrel and setting it on fire.

Highlight GM

May 31st, 2012
4:29 pm

I can do this job. Where do I apply? This job is not as hard as it’s made out to be. According to this information regarding salaries from draftexpress.com:


I would GET RID OF EVERYONE EXCEPT TEAGUE, JOE AND AL. Make a run at D. Howard and Bynum. Try to trade Josh Smith and Marvin Williams or buy some 2nd rd. picks for the next 2 years and sign vets for 1 year at the minimum, a la McGrady and Stackhouse. Put Larry Drew on death watch and get Ewing or some former player as coach that will get respect in the locker room. Plus, with the new makeup of this team, no young players will challenge him. My starters would be:

PG Teague
SG Joe Johnson
SF Rookie FA or defensive stopper (don’t need scoring, just a tough player to bang w/ Lebron)
PF Horford
C Howard/Bynum or another banger for Bosh

bench can be made up of 1 year vets at PG and SG and undrafted SF and PF but all high energy guys that board and defend.


May 31st, 2012
4:30 pm

The Hawks will make their decisions in the traditional manner. A young administrative assistant will be blindfolded and given a pole. She will swing until she hits the pinata filled with solutions not used last year. Upon the striking of the coup de grace, the staff will scramble to open a solution. First solution open wins. Opa!

JF McNamara

May 31st, 2012
4:31 pm

Amare is here all the time, and he wants his own team more than he wants bright lights, big city.

Marc Gasol makes them worse because he has the same vanilla personality. He’s not leading a team anywhere. Zach Randolph is not realistic.

Unless they get another player who commands a double team, they are going to be out of the first round every year. The blueprint to beat the Hawks is easy. Double Joe and he will get passive, and let everyone else try to beat you. If you have to double Amare, it frees up Joe. Worse case scenario is you get a player who won’t become completely passive and useless when they get double teamed which gives you a fighting chance.

I’d gamble on the bad knees, because this group is what it is. A fringe contender.

Herschel Talker

May 31st, 2012
4:33 pm

JF McNamara:

You are a clown.


Big Crimson 75

May 31st, 2012
4:33 pm

Why not give it 1 more shot??
Blowing the Team up is not the answer.
If Al hits 2 FT’s – We are in the Conference Finals.
Joe – Josh – Marvin – Al & Teague are guaranteed to get us 40+ wins & a position in the Playoffs.
Relax everyone — tearing up the Team is not the answer & neither is trading Smooth for the WRONG Gasol brother.


May 31st, 2012
4:40 pm

I actually think Sund has good a good job (except picking up Dampier). Mcgrady, Vlad Rad (his confidence was hurt because he was underused if u ask me), Pargo, Green, Ivan… all were great assets not only to the bench but the team.
The real problem is the lack of $$ for a top coach. Drew isnt bad, but someone like Jeff Van Gundy would of brought fire to the sideline, and make Josh smith a smarter player.

Highlight GM

May 31st, 2012
4:45 pm

Big Crimson,

The objective for this team is competing with the Heat, Bulls, etc. A complete blow up is not necessary, but a serious makeover is needed. Marvin and Josh don’t have the ballz to win titles, plain and simple. They hamper the starters with inefficiencies that make Joe, Jeff, and Al look worse than they are. Josh needs to go to a team where he can come off the bench and contribute, or let loose. Denver, Houston or Minnesota seems like a good fit for him. Marvin can go to Phoenix, Portland, or any team with high picks annually, so that we can get some value for him.


May 31st, 2012
4:59 pm

Hawks ownership is of the Rankin Smith family / Jed and Jethro Clampette variety

And where is Billy Knight today? Did his contract run out yet? Marvin and Shellhead and Chills, On my!

On another note, nice to see the Celtics get jobbed by the officiating last night like the Hawks were against them. Was there ever any doubt the League wants Miami in the finals, just as they wanted a Miami Boston eastern conference final.

Another GM

May 31st, 2012
5:09 pm

Jeff you are aware that Gearon is the GM correct?


May 31st, 2012
5:12 pm

I think we should keep Rick,Drew,Josh,Al, I do believe we could have advance to the 2nd tier and bear my home team Boston.however it is what it is..,The draft ,free agents this is going to be a game of scrabble..I would hold my hand and ride the wave under the SUND.


May 31st, 2012
5:19 pm

So in other words, you want the Hawks to keep Smith, even know that he is not going to resigned here. We will be in the same situation as Orlando is with Dwight and yall know that headache they went through.

Jeff, I have to agreed, if he isnt coming back or even staying one more year, then bring somebody new (no holdover from here) to learn from him or just over his duties until Sund leaves.

Mike S.

May 31st, 2012
5:32 pm

Hawks biggest issue is they cant improve the team. Whether Sund is GM or not, they still have to pay JJ a max contract which has crippled what they can do as far as roster adjustments.

Jay Dubu

May 31st, 2012
5:34 pm

The Hawks need a coach that will get the best of of the players. Right now, I don’t think that Josh Smith has fulfilled his potential. If he played in a structured offense, and was not allowed to camp out around the 3-point arc, he would be so much more effective.

Woody tried to push him to greatness, and he rebuffed, and stayed at odds with Woody. That’s the thing that a coach brings…he can see not only the player you are, but the player that you can become, and should put a plan in action to get you there.

That is not happening with Josh. He’s probably the nbest athelete, and most talented player on the Hawks team, but he needs structure to get to the next level.


May 31st, 2012
5:40 pm

Durrtydogg, Couldn’t have said it better myself. Wish that I could find Knight and sat his ass on fire in Downtown ATL. Fans need to show that until it place a championship caliber team on the floor they will play before half empty crowds.

Ted Striker

May 31st, 2012
5:49 pm

Disaffected Hawks Fan

May 31st, 2012
5:52 pm

Schultz (or one of the AJC writers) mentioned that Sund was considering retirement at least two years ago, and I’ve wanted him out ever since then. I’m sure he does more work behind the scenes then we see, but he sure gives the impression that he’s not real invested in this job. Since the Jamal Crawford acquistiion in the summer of ‘09, he has not made a single signifcant move in free agency or on the trade market. He seems hellbent on maintaining the status quo. There might have been some merit to that at one time when this was a young roster on the rise, but that time has long since passed.

This may all just be my perception, but I want a GM who is actively working to try to improve the team, not one who is seemingly going through the motions while eyeing retirement.

cory dillinger

May 31st, 2012
6:01 pm

Ok let’s look to next year obviously the Celtics big three will be gone with only Rondo and Pierce remaining Rose will not be back for the Bulls until after the All star break and who is to say he will have the same explosion as before the injury that leaves the Heat, Pacers, and the 76ers(who will probably lose Iguodala) to contend with. If they move Al to the 4 and let zaza start at the 5 they are in the ECF where anything can happen


May 31st, 2012
6:12 pm

The two most, problematic issue’s facing the Hawks is, JJ’s contact and of course the ownership. I would love to see a Derrick Lowe type trade of JJ, and even the Cali-pizza guy looks better than these clowns. I know this is the NBA, and a dump JJ and assume part of the contract, dose not fly, { except, when your team is owned by King David Stern and you also own all the ping pong balls }.
We true Atl, fans, that date back to the days of sweet Lou and Richie G., know that we are DOOMED for several years, and our only chance to watch great basketball, is to enjoy the Spurs right now, or the up coming OK’s.

Atlanta Thrashers Season Ticket Holder

May 31st, 2012
6:21 pm

Hell is Not Hot Enough for Gearon, Levenson and the rest of YOUR Atlanta Spirit Group.


May 31st, 2012
6:24 pm

The NBA is a total joke. Its one of the few “pro” sports leagues that you can virtually pick who will be in the finals every single year during training camp. The commissioner is an arrogant prick who thinks we should bow down because he uses a few big words and flashes a car dealers smile. Majority of the teams are lackluster at best with overblown, crybaby prima donas who care more about the placement of their tattoos than actually making a lay up. Majority of the league is focused on where to get high than working on their game. I mean lets be honest here. The NBA is the worst and the Hawks are irrelevant. I was born and raised here. I was at the Omni when it was jumping. I know what this sports town can bring when the players provide something to root for. Being happy to make it to the second round may be ok for many of you, but to towns like Boston, Miami, LA and such, its not going to fly. You are suppose to want to win Championships not watch bottom lines. Our “owners” have shown that they didnt want this team anymore when they tried to sell it to the first guy with cash money in the back of an alley. Its ok to support the home team. Its not ok to let someone pee in your face and tell you its raining.


May 31st, 2012
6:26 pm

@cory dilinger

Nice try but remember the Bulls had the best record in the East and was 1 or 2 overall in NBA without Rose there. C’s will retool, no matter what, if the Magic doesnt trade D12 this year then you have deal with them and if they trade him to Nets, you have to deal with Nets. 76ers has Doug Collins and he is doing wonder with that young team, Pacers too. Plus you got borderline teams like Knicks, Bucks and even younger teams like Cavs and Pistons is on the rise.

I dont this team can get to the ECF at all, I think they need to start looking into the future not the past experiences.