The Hawks’ secret weapon: Shelden the sleeper is a Celtic

Only now have I discovered what Billy Knight was doing that June night in 2006. Only now have I grasped the brilliance of his grand design. He drafted Shelden Williams not to bolster the Hawks but, years down the road, to sink the Boston Celtics.

Those of us who read spy novels — and I once took a college class in the history of the spy novel — know all about “moles” and “sleepers,” agents recruited young to infiltrate the enemy’s intelligence service and wreak havoc from within. But only now have I applied my college learnin’ to basketball. And now (and only now) it makes perfect sense.

The Landlord is a mole.

Knight took him with the fifth overall pick in Round 1 not because he’d turn out to be a good player but because the mysterious GM saw the big board and sensed, years ahead of time, that the barrier to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals would run through Boston. So he trained the Landlord, which is Williams’ code name, in the dark art of counterespionage. And then in February 2008 he gave him a cover story so convincing that even the late Red Auerbach wouldn’t have smelled a rat/mole.

“Landlord, we’re trading you to Sacramento,” Knight said, “and we want you to spend the next couple of years working your way back East. Try to wind up in Minnesota in 2009, and then we’ll fix it — Doc Rivers is an old Hawk, and we brainwashed him back in the ’80s — so you land with the Celtics. And then you’ll be in place.”

It will work like this: Game 7, Eastern semis, TD Banknorth Garden. Big Baby Davis pulls a hamstring and Rasheed Wallace gets ejected for griping and Kevin Garnett gets ejected for screaming and Kendrick Perkins fouls out and Paul Pierce has been suspended for more “menacing gestures,” and the C’s have nowhere to turn but to the Landlord.

Who, on cue, trots on the floor, yields the deciding three-point play to Al Horford — Agent Horfy was Part 2 of Knight’s grand scheme — and then slips away on the first train to Alewife. And the NBA has no cause to suspect anything because everybody knows the Landlord isn’t an NBA player. And the Hawks are in the Eastern Conference finals, where they’ve never been, and Billy Knight stands revealed as the greatest spymaster since George Smiley unhorsed Karla.

I know, I know. It’s far-fetched. That’s the beauty therein. And sometimes sleeper schemes even outlast their creators. (Knight, as we know, was so secretive he chose to resign last summer rather than reveal the rationale behind Operation Landlord.) But how else to explain this stunning news item?

From Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe: “[Celtics GM Danny] spoke yesterday after announcing the signings of forwards Glen Davis and Shelden Williams.”

And somewhere Billy Knight took a sip of brandy, stroked the Persian cat on his lap and chortled, “Soon the world will be mine. All mine.

97 comments Add your comment

S.L.

August 11th, 2009
7:17 am

That’s cold!

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

August 11th, 2009
7:34 am

I was wondering why we drafted that stiff. Billy should have been fired on the spot. This pick was so differen’t than all the other bad picks the Hawks have made because the other picks had some potential. This guy you knew was not going to be worth a crap. I imagine when that pick came in at least 95% of the Hawks fans said WHATTT!!!

Theo

August 11th, 2009
7:35 am

Wow – eye-popping stuff, Mark. Now, please explain the Spymaster’s rationale for not drafting Chris Paul. I assume it has something to do with making the Western Conference weaker by providing the Hornets with a killer PG.

Verbal Kent

August 11th, 2009
7:57 am

LMAO!!! WTF?

SimpleDawg

August 11th, 2009
8:05 am

All verbiage is annoying….why don’t you just say, “Knight is a dumba$$ and Sheldon is a stiff.”

honest_abe

August 11th, 2009
8:13 am

so cold…. but too funny. heh

MightyQuinn

August 11th, 2009
8:18 am

Like the guys on the beer commercial said, “BRILLIANT!”

MannyT

August 11th, 2009
8:21 am

Sounds like Bradley is code for Brill (enemy of the State)…hmmm

mountain_jim

August 11th, 2009
8:22 am

Well I enjoyed it Mark. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying, what with Billy and the Hawks drafting this stiff instead of Roy, when this stiff could have been had 5 or 6 picks further down the draft at least. ‘The promise’ leaked, and the whole NBA laughed at Billy and this franchise over this pick and the ham-handed way it was done.

greg

August 11th, 2009
8:23 am

My son went to Duke. Saw about 70 Duke games with Sheldon playing. Great kid, very good college player but you just knew he was not going to be a good pro.Knight was an idiot.

Herschel Talker

August 11th, 2009
8:28 am

greg – your son isn’t smart enough to get into Duke. You are a liar.

Billy Knight likes men.

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
8:37 am

The weird part was that Billy Knight said before that draft the Hawks weren’t in position to pick for a specific need and then turned around and took Shelden Williams because the Hawks needed defense and rebounding.

And Shelden was indeed a fine college player. But so was J.J. Redick.

Bubba

August 11th, 2009
8:42 am

What’s going to throw this scenario out of whack will be when Sleeper actually plays like he should because he was actually mentored by a coach who can do more than wear a suit.

Daniel

August 11th, 2009
8:46 am

Wow Mark- I am not sure who takes it worse Shelden or Billy. Neither one is part of the orginization now (thank goodness). J.J. is a better pro than Shelden.
Oh, btw I would still rather have Shelden than Randolph Morris.

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
8:46 am

I don’t know, Bubba. I haven’t seen much upside with the Landlord.

Jamaaliver

August 11th, 2009
8:47 am

I still think JJ Redick AND Shelden Williams will both turn out to be All Stars!!!

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
8:47 am

Yeah, but the Hawks didn’t burn the No. 5 pick in the 2006 draft on Randolph Morris. They signed him as a FA.

Daniel

August 11th, 2009
8:51 am

Yes, Mark but remember the Hawks eventually turned Shelden into Bibby. Not horrible really.

Daniel

August 11th, 2009
8:52 am

Both are making roughly the same salary this year as well.

Atl Fan

August 11th, 2009
8:53 am

Would have been nice to see Candice around the arena. Guy is undersized but so is Davis and Powe and they have been coached up in Boston. He is a role player who will work okay for Boston. Woody is a lot to blame for the young guys developing or lack there of. People point to Josh Smith and Marvin though they are good players, its been slowly coming. Should get rid of him before he destroys Horford’s development. Hawks should be blasting teams in the East with this sleeper roster.

Jack

August 11th, 2009
8:54 am

Mark, if you look back to Shelden’s rookie season, he actually played pretty well. Then, he got hurt and like so others, fell out of Mike Woodson’s playing rotation. Hopefully Jeff Teague won’t follow that path.

Try to remember things like that before lumping on to a player — it’s the lazy, easy way out which isn’t what a columnist given this forum is supposed to do.

Todd

August 11th, 2009
8:58 am

Great reference to George Smiley. I don’t know many others who are a fan of the Smiley Trilogy and other Le Carre novels. I’m on “The Honourable Schoolboy” now, which is holding its own with “Tinker, Tailor.” Good work, again, Mr. Bradley.

JR

August 11th, 2009
8:59 am

OK, Shelden Williams is not even the best player in his own family (Candace), but he is a lot better than any of the stiffs the Hawks have (Morris) or are left on the market. He can play a little defense and get a rebound or two. It must just be embarrassing to bring a reminder of Billly Knight’s incompetence back to Atlanta. If the Celtics see some value in him, I would trust their judgement over ours.

Skinnyj

August 11th, 2009
9:02 am

The problem with drafting sheldon wasnt drafting him at all, it was doing so above 17. The Hawks could have traded down to any number of teams looking to make a sensible pick in Roy for at least one more draft pick. Granted it was a pretty weak draft, but we could use another 1st round body right about now.

Miles Messervy

August 11th, 2009
9:09 am

So we brainwashed Doc in the ’80’s, and we STILL lose Game 7?

Doc’s been compromised…time to off him.

PMC

August 11th, 2009
9:10 am

It’s just too bad he couldn’t be Carlos Boozer or Elton Brand instead of Shelden Williams.

Westurd

August 11th, 2009
9:15 am

Can I get some clarification here…..Isn’t S. Williams the “Slumlord?”

The Dogfighter Returns

August 11th, 2009
9:39 am

Sheldon Williams or as I prefer to call Him Mr. Parker. Findinga wife ws more important than playing pro ball once that check was signed.

Hugo

August 11th, 2009
9:40 am

Great story Mark. I still think that Knight should have been given at least ten yrs hard labor for that pick. Wms is laughing all the way to the bank with that beautiful wife Candice. Now that’s a good pick. Too bad she wasn’t available for the draft that year.

JDK

August 11th, 2009
9:40 am

Mark – how do you think Shelden would feel if he read this article? Would you say these things if you came face-to-face?

Hugo

August 11th, 2009
9:44 am

JDK I would. The truth shall set you free.

JDK

August 11th, 2009
10:00 am

So Hugo, if someone wrote an entire piece mocking you mercilessly, you’d be cool with it?

Steve

August 11th, 2009
10:10 am

JDK- They are proffessional athletes, the landlord would brush this article off just like any other piece of rubbish Bradley writes.

The prior statement wasn’t in anyway supporting the landlord…

The Truth

August 11th, 2009
10:43 am

Mark

As much as I enjoyed reading the humor, this story may have a bit of irony to it. I’m thinking when we play Boston this upcoming season and we get spanked by 30 points when Doc puts Sheldon in the game to punctuate the ending. Knowing Doc, he would do it too. Your article may not be so funny then. Would it?

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
10:50 am

Oh, yes. It’d be funny then, too.

The Truth

August 11th, 2009
10:55 am

Wes

August 11th, 2009
10:55 am

I love it Mark. Seriously, best blog on the site in a while.

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
10:56 am

Why, thanks, Wes.

The Truth

August 11th, 2009
11:00 am

Enter your comments here

The Truth

August 11th, 2009
11:00 am

PS: OK Let’s remember this exchange

David

August 11th, 2009
11:06 am

good blog MB, we need thrasher blogs soon!

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
11:08 am

Thanks, David. Good idea.

chas

August 11th, 2009
11:12 am

Excellent work! It is tragic how the armchair quarterback fans feared this debacle pick, but the GM didn’t. Beware of the college overachiever ACC picks who can’t compete in the Nba (i.e. Tyler H.).

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
11:15 am

I’ve said it before, but even the Hawks insiders who will defend the Marvin Williams choice to this day admit they had no clue as to why Billy Knight took the Landlord.

Kevin M

August 11th, 2009
11:18 am

Mark, tell us where Billy is today watching his sinister plan come together? What, he won’t take any interviews? What a surprise!
Also, tell us how many draft picks we have wasted during his years of being the ‘basketball expert’.
I look at 3-4 names that have been successful in the NBA after the landlord was selected: Roy, Gay, Ronnie Brewer and Rondo. What a bad draft class overall.

We actually brought in Rajon Rondo, Foye and Marcus Williams for a big workout. How did Shelden come into the picture after not even working him out?
I see why we are mediocre as a franchise.

Dell

August 11th, 2009
11:19 am

Face it fellas, da Hawks will neva advance to a higher level, til they git a coach dat knows how to lead young men!

Mark Bradley

August 11th, 2009
11:20 am

Billy essentially stopped doing interviews when he was the general manager, and he hasn’t given one since he stepped down.

Chris

August 11th, 2009
11:20 am

This is stupid

pd

August 11th, 2009
11:20 am

The Hawks secret weapon is their personal chef, Bradley Rouse. Take a look at how their record has improved every year since he was hired.

Dell

August 11th, 2009
11:25 am

I’ll tell u y BK took da LANDLARD! He knew his daze wit da Hawks were numbered,so he got dem b4 they got him!