Big game tonight. Fourth-best team in the West against the team tied for third in the East. ESPN on hand. Nice little midseason test for the Hawks. And we’ll get around to it momentarily. But first …
A few words about Big Z.
Michael Gearon Jr. admitted to Charles Odum of the Associated Press that the Hawks are “definitely interested” in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and plan to be “very competitive” in the pursuit. But Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News wrote yesterday that “almost everyone in the league expects [Big Z] to return to Cleveland.” (The Mavericks likewise have an interest.)
Having spoken with some folks in the Hawks’ locker room, there’s no question the team would welcome the Z-man. “I hope we get him,” Josh Smith said. And there’s even a thought the addition of Ilgauskas might — I said “might” — lead Mike Woodson to change his longstanding starting five to make Big Z the center, Al Horford the power forward and Smith the 3-man.
Me, I wouldn’t. Ilgauskas is basically a jump shooter, and if you move Horford farther from the goal you lessen your post presence. And if you deploy Smith on the perimeter, you halve his value. (I do think, however, that Marvin Williams would best be used as a sub. He’d get more shots with the second unit.)
The trouble with such speculation, alas, is that it’s probably moot. A Cleveland radio station reported Friday that Ilgauskas will re-up with Cleveland after he sits out his mandated 30 days. (Big Z was traded from Cleveland to Washington but bought out his contract this week.) It’s silly the NBA allows such a trade-and-return, but it does.
So, long story short, this whole Hawks’ flirtation with Big Z could wind up being just a big zzzzzzz. (Sort of like the Braves’ not-very-assertive move to land Johnny Damon.) And with that, we turn to tonight’s titanic tilt.
The Hawks have a nice starting lineup. But check out the Mavs’: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler. (Not to mention Jason Terry as the sixth man.) I must confess that I proposed a deal — a sign-and-trade with Washington that would have sent Marvin there and brought Butler here — last summer, and I submit that with Butler at small forward the Hawks wouldn’t be tied for third in the East. They’d be second to the Cavs, and not a distant second.
But Dallas did the deal at the trade deadline — it also included Haywood, not to be confused with Jason Heyward — and many now regard the Mavs as the only real challenger to the Lakers in the West. I’m looking forward to seeing this team tonight, and I’m looking forward to your company as I watch, report and attempt to crack wise. Join me, won’t you?