Believe it or not, I do read your comments. Regarding the Hawks, your prevailing sentiment — after the one that goes, “Fire Woody” — is that the team should let Joe Johnson leave and sign Dwyane Wade (or Chris Bosh, or somebody) to replace him. Sounds easy, I admit. But it wouldn’t be. Here’s why.
Wade works for the Miami Heat, which is owned by Micky Arison, who could buy and sell all the Atlanta Spirit partners put together. (Arison owns Carnival Cruise Lines.) The team is run by Pat Riley, who has won five NBA titles and who’s thinking about coaching again. Together, Arison and Riley and Wade won the 2006 NBA title, so they know it can be done there.
If you’re D-Wade, why take a flier on the Hawks, who haven’t reached the conference finals since 1970 and who had the lowest payroll of any of the 16 playoff teams this season? Why come where there’s no assurance the owners will ever spend big enough to assemble a deep enough supporting cast?
And there’s this: Wade is undergoing a messy divorce that will surely turn expensive. There’s no state income tax in Florida. (There is here, as we know.) That mightn’t sound like a big deal to a man who’ll be making nearly $20 million per season for playing basketball, but hey … every little bit helps, especially at alimony time.
There’s also this: If Wade leaves, Arison’s team collapses. The Heat cannot afford to lose him, and when you’ve got a man as loaded as Arison paying the bills and a man as driven as Riley running the operation … well, such men tend to get what they want. It’s hard to imagine that crew being outflanked by the Spirit, an outfit that couldn’t even keep Josh Childress.
OK, you’re saying, but what about Bosh? He’s obviously interested in leaving Canada — last week he changed his Twitter location from “Toronto” to “everywhere” — but is he what the Hawks need? He’s a power forward, same as Josh Smith, same as some people (I’m not one) claim Al Horford is. Would you want a front line of three 4’s and no 5’s or 3’s? Who would play on the perimeter? Smith? Given that folks groan whenever he rises to take a jump shot, is that advisable?
And if you let Johnson leave, who’s the default shooter with five seconds left on the shot clock? Smith? Horford? Jamal Crawford? Say what you will about Joe — and most of you have — but he welcomes those moments and has proved himself capable, though not this spring, of making such shots.
Johnson averaged 21.1 points this season, 11th-best in the league. If he leaves, those points would have to be made up somewhere. Who’s going to do it? Neither Horford nor Smith is a pure scorer — good players, yes, but not pure scorers. Is Marvin Williams apt to double his average? (We pause now to laugh really hard.) Is Mike Bibby capable of averaging even 10 points a game?
I say again: You might not like the way Johnson plays — I myself soured on Iso-Joe last season — but you can’t deny he puts up big numbers. He’s not Kobe or D-Wade, but he’s the third-best shooting guard in the league. Unless the Hawks can find someone better, they’re better off sticking with Joe. And they won’t find anyone better.