Another Hawks dilemma: Pay Jamal Crawford or dump him?

Jamal Crawford in a moment of exultation. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here we see Jamal Crawford in a moment of exultation. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

An unsatisfying offseason has the potential to turn unsavory. In the same summer the Hawks made Joe Johnson the priciest free-agent signing and Larry Drew the cheapest head-coaching hire, they must now deal with Jamal Crawford. This isn’t what any doctor — from Dr. J to Dr. Jack Ramsey — would have ordered.

According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Crawford and his agent are expected to meet with general manager Rick Sund this week. Crawford is thought to want one of two things: To sign a contract extension before the new season commences or to be traded forthwith. Given that his was the happiest Hawks story of a season that ended unhappily, Crawford must be taken seriously. Given that these are the Hawks, who are so cheap they haven’t yet fleshed out their roster, he shouldn’t hold his breath.

Yes, cheap. Even after sinking $120 million into Joe Johnson, the Hawks keep giving us reason to doubt their long-avowed Commitment To Excellence. They could have hired an established NBA head coach to replace Mike Woodson and wound up promoting Drew, who’d been Woodson’s assistant all along. They could have spent significant money to find another big man, and instead they’ve attempted to  make do with Josh Powell and another episode of the Jason Collins Saga. (For late tuners-in, Collins was on the Hawks’ roster all last season, though not so you noticed.)

It’s unclear what Crawford really thinks is apt to happen if he does deliver a pay-me-more-or-trade-me-now demand. Because the Hawks aren’t apt to pay anyone more. Public statements notwithstanding, the Atlanta Spirit seems uninterested in paying one in-the-red cent of luxury tax. Beyond that, there’s a more pressing matter: What to do with Al Horford, who means even more to this franchise?

Horford can become a restricted free agent at season’s end. The Hawks would prefer he not test the market because they know full well he’d be coveted from sea to shining sea. If any Hawk is apt to receive a contract extension before Halloween, it’s Horfy. There’s almost no chance two Hawks will be offered preseason extensions at this late date.

So, if Sund doesn’t hand Crawford a new contract, what does the GM do? Trade him? Even though any attempt to shed a disgruntled player creates a buyer’s market? Even though the Hawks would be pressed to get anything comparable to Crawford in return? Even though the strength of this team headed into 2010-11 figured to be its continuity?

What should the Hawks do with Crawford?

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On the other hand … do you want a disgruntled player in a locker room not overrun with vocal leaders? (Horford is the Hawk most apt to speak, and if he chooses not to accept an extension he’ll be facing contractual issues of his own.) The issue of Johnson’s impending free agency became a major story last season, and Crawford is 10 times more talkative than J.J.

Yes, the Hawks did draft a shooting guard in Jordan Crawford, but 26 players were taken ahead of him and there’s no assurance he’s not the 21st Century Roy Marble. This rookie cannot be seen as rotation-ready, meaning the Hawks can’t just trade one J. Crawford and hand his workload — the NBA’s sixth man of the year averaged 31 minutes a night — to another J. Crawford.

There was a time when the Hawks seemed a rousing success story: A team of young guys growing up together and learning to win. What we’re seeing is that NBA success carries a higher and higher price. A franchise cannot hold its core together for years on end without paying dearly, and paying dearly essentially means overpaying. The Hawks overpaid Johnson because they had no real alternative: To lose him would have meant losing much of the credibility they’ve spent the past decade trying to re-establish.

The price for credibility, alas, was flexibility. The Hawks have almost none. To give Jamal Crawford what he wants would be throwing more big money at a shooting guard already past 30 in the same offseason that has seen them lavish a six-year contract on a 29-year-old who plays the same position. To trade Crawford would be to weaken the team he helped lift from 47 victories to 53. There might be a happy ending to this latest Hawks tempest, but I’ll be darned if I see it.

172 comments Add your comment

Khao$

August 30th, 2010
7:57 am

This has been a lackluster offseason if I’ve ever seen one. We overpaid for a guy he told the fans “screw you.” We fire a coach we deemed inept and we promote his assistant. We make no additions to a team that has been blown out of the 2nd round two years in a row, the latter by historic proportions. And now, Jamal says ink me or trade me. At the core, the ASG is the source of all of these problems. Until they commit to winning, we’ll have more summers like this.

dap01

August 30th, 2010
7:57 am

This what happens when there is no leadership, no sense of direction.

Jamal needs to realize that who ever wants him in a trade would want him because he is an expiring contract. No team wants a long committment.

Pay me or trade me tells me a lot about who Jamal is.

Just Play

August 30th, 2010
8:01 am

No reason to sign Crawford ahead of time. He may be miffed, but with a free agent contract on the line, he isn’t going to tank it.

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
8:03 am

A weird summer for sure, Khao$. They kept Joe Johnson and still nobody seems thrilled about it.

dap01

August 30th, 2010
8:03 am

Just Play: You are right. He may be mad all year but he will play hard for the contract.

tom

August 30th, 2010
8:11 am

Dump him. Hawks have no one on the roster worth paying big bucks for. Including Joe Johnson who was a big mistake.

jfreak

August 30th, 2010
8:15 am

The real issue is Joe Johnson not Jamal Crawford. If the Hawks would have simply said NO to Johson they would have more room to deal with Crawford. Either way the Hawks would not have been as good a team but they would have more flexibility in the years to come. They damned themselves with Johnson.

jim

August 30th, 2010
8:18 am

keep him — then see where we are at the trade deadline. Otherwise, this man really has no future with us beyond this year. Maybe we can s&T him for another j’chill garbage trade.

Manny

August 30th, 2010
8:20 am

Neither. He can demand a trade all he wants, but he’s still under contract. So play him.

mountain_jim

August 30th, 2010
8:21 am

With football season cranking up, with a well-financed and well-managed and well-coached team, I confess I really don’t care much after this off-season what the Hawks do or don’t do. Selling the draft pick and doing nothing with the 3 millions gained was the last straw for my being concerned with the Hawks. (and I am a fan and former season ticket holder of some 35 years.)

Go Falcons! Rise Up!

sleeze

August 30th, 2010
8:29 am

Mountain Jim summed it up. Who cares about the Hawks and go Flacons!

sleeze

August 30th, 2010
8:29 am

And yeah.. and go Falcons too!

SWAT Native

August 30th, 2010
8:39 am

Roy Marble? Boy, there’s a blast from the past…

I hate this. I don’t blame Jamal given that the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after this year, and who knows what his options will be after that. It just seems that after being traded from team to team and getting a bad rep, he was a perfect fit for the Hawks, and he got to live in the same town as his son. I think he realizes that the Hawks probably won’t resign him at the end of the year and may try and trade him at the trade deadline. He’s just bringing the issue to a head.

LIke some others said, I guess the good news is that the Hawks don’t have to do anything at this point, but it can’t be good to have a disgruntled player on your team.

Paddy

August 30th, 2010
8:40 am

It is the ASG. Need you ask! They will trade him!

Fresh

August 30th, 2010
8:41 am

From Realgm.com:

Crawford’s Agent, Hawks To Meet This Week
Aug 29, 2010 8:06 PM EST

The agent for Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, Aaron Goodwin, is set to meet with Atlanta general manager Rick Sund this week to discuss a contract extension, according to sources.

Crawford is entering the final year of his contract and there have been reports that he’ll request a trade if he’s not given a long-term deal.

He is the only player among Atlanta’s core that isn’t signed for the next few years.

http://realgm.com/src_wiretap_archives/68899/20100829/crawfords_agent_hawks_to_meet_this_week/

GT Alum

August 30th, 2010
8:44 am

Sund is going to have to pull of some magic to make many people feel good about the Hawks’ prospects for next season. If they do sign Crawford to an extension but not Horford, then everyone will be worried that re-signing Crawford will cost us Horford. Of course, as long as they don’t radically overpay him, signing him to an extension doesn’t mean he’ll be here long term, unless he demands a no-trade clause. Otherwise, they could extend him to keep him happy, then, if JC2 develops, they could trade him next offseason.

However, maybe this could be the kick in the butt Sund and ASG needed to do something radical and shake up their core. The only problem I have with it is timing. We’re about 2 months away from the beginning of the season. I don’t know how strongly JC had expressed his desire for an extension to the Hawks before, but the Hawks would’ve been much better off if this ultimatum had come earlier.

GT Alum

August 30th, 2010
8:52 am

Oh, Mark, you forgot to mention that the Hawks’ flexibility is also limited by the fact that the Hawks overpaid Bibby, Marvin and ZaZa. Marvin’s never produced up to expectations, but seemed to take a step back last year, and Bibby’s and ZaZa’s production last season was not to the levels that earned them their contracts.

truthspitter

August 30th, 2010
8:54 am

He should have already been traded

Herschel Talker

August 30th, 2010
8:55 am

MB:

The Hawks stink. Let’s not dampen the enthusiasm of the Braves and the upcoming enthusiasm of the Falcons with some nonsense about this terrible team.

HT

Delbert D.

August 30th, 2010
8:59 am

Disgruntle him even more. I don’t like disgruntled anybody.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:05 am

Crawford is the best 6th man nio doubt but there’s a reason he’s never been a starter. I believe he can’t physically handle playing a full game and put up the scoring numbers he has off the bench. So you are basically talking about trading a disgruntled 6th man not a starter. Save the money for Horford and other younger free agents next year. Trade him to the Wizards or Raptors. See how he would like those Marbles (pun intended Mark).

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:07 am

So if Crawford gets an extension he’s happy and will play well but if he doesn’t then he will quit on the team ? That’s basically what he’s saying if you read between the lines. Why would you want a player on your team that puts your team in that position over money anyway ? Trade him now.

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
9:10 am

I can’t envision Jamal Crawford not giving a professional effort, robdawg04. I can envision his contract becoming a distraction.

Oh, and Jamal had always been a starter until he came here.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:12 am

Hey Hawks management, why did you give JJ about twice as much as any other team offered plus the extra year ? He’s not Wade,Lebron,Kobe,or Durant. He’s Joe Johnson the 22 point then 8 point per game Jekkyl & Hyde show. He will lead your team to the playoffs then promptly disappear in those playoffs. You tied up too much money so now you are faced with the Crawford situation. Crawford’s likely thinking ‘JJ scores 22 points in 40 minutes and I can score 18 in 20 minutes so I’m worth at least 3/4 what JJ is worth”…

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 30th, 2010
9:12 am

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Hawks! I agree, hold him to the contract and like was mentioned earlier in a pending FA year no way does he go into the tank.

Prime example in football is the Jets. Revis disgruntled holds out still doesn’t have a new deal. Mangold shows up, does run his mouth to the media outlets and gets the deal done. Alot of professional athletes could learn a lesson here in how to conduct themselves.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:13 am

I thought he was a sixth man in New York ?

tommy wright 3rd

August 30th, 2010
9:13 am

mark,

you should have said Ed Gray!

Whopper Dawg

August 30th, 2010
9:14 am

Khao$ – right on the mark.

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
9:17 am

He did both as a Knick, robdawg08 — started some, came off the bench some. So I guess I wasn’t fully accurate in saying he’d always been a starter. But last season was the first since his early NBA years that he was a sixth man full-time.

newkid

August 30th, 2010
9:17 am

Ditto mountain_jim

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:17 am

Well spoken Khao$ ! I totally agree.

Dawg Reflections

August 30th, 2010
9:18 am

Just let the guy walk. I like JC and the team needs consistent scoring, but there is no sense putting this team further behind the financial 8-ball. They JJ deal was bad enough, but the team was backed into a corner on that one. They are not a championship team with or without J. Crawford. Just trade him for what you can settle for and let the rookies play for cheap. You have to have room to keep Horford no matter what.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:19 am

Mark, what is Hawks ownership’s explanation of signing Joe Johnson to a max contract of LeBron proportions when he’s closer to a Stephon Marbury ?

[...] Horford can become a restricted free agent at season’s end. The Hawks would prefer he not test the market because they know full well he’d be coveted from sea to shining sea. If any Hawk is apt to [...]

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
9:21 am

The Hawks’ explanation: Joe Johnson is their best player and they were committed to keeping him.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:22 am

I agree DR. They would need someone like Carmelo Anthony to compete with the Miami Heat. It is almost unfair that 3 ofvthe best 20 (and 2 of the best 5 in LeBron & Wade) are on the same team. People say this all-star team won’t work but it worked with Houston (Hakeem,Barkley,Drexler) and in Boston (Garnett,Allen,& Pierce). Damn, I see Miami winning 70+ games.

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:23 am

Mark, Horford is the Hawks best player.

RambleOn84

August 30th, 2010
9:26 am

I hate being so negative, but I have to echo what many others have said:

I could not care less. I am a huge basketball fan and have held season tickets for 15 years, through good times and bad times (mostly bad times), but I canceled them after we gave a $120 million contract to that guy who doesn’t care whether or not I show up.

Too bad, because I really like most of the players on this team. But when management time and time again indicate how little they care for their fanbase, you eventually need to let them know how little you care for them.

Olik

August 30th, 2010
9:27 am

carmelo anthony wants out of denver. josh smith and jamal crawford together make a little more than carmelo, so let’s take carmelo and some leftovers for josh and jamal. denver would get a young rising star, immediate points off the bench, and cap flexibility when jamal’s contract expires. we’d get star power and a “fresh” team. of course, people will say carmelo wouldn’t ever want to play in atlanta, but wouldn’t a trifecta of jj/carmelo/horford be pretty interesting to him? and financially, this isn’t really much of a hardship for the atlanta spirit vs current situation. why is this not a good idea?

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:28 am

What about trading Crawford,Mo Evans,next years #2 pick to Denver for Carmelo ?

Road Scholar

August 30th, 2010
9:30 am

They should have promoted Crawford and let Joe Johnson go!

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

JJ,Melo,& Horford is a bonafide team. Melo would add 25 to 30 points a game and defense.

WHO CARE'S

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

UNTIL THE(I USE THIS WORD TONGUE IN CHEEK) OWNER’S? GET SERIOUS ABOUT THIER PRODUCT DOES IT REALLY MATTER??!! I FOR ONE WILL NOT WASTE ANOTHER MINUTE ON THE ASG B/C THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND THEY DO NOT CARE!!!

Mark Bradley

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

Not sure Barkley played with Olajuwon and Drexler when they were winning titles.

King Teezo

August 30th, 2010
9:31 am

Dude earlier said it best…I don’t think the JJ contract is the problem b/c he was gonna get his regardless…It was overpaying Zaza, Bibby, and Marvin…They are stuck with 3 players that no other team would have paid that much for…Now they are in a position where they have to deal with Crawford and Horford, and in my opinion ATL will be worse off without Horford than Crawford…Let Crawford moan n groan, they have no obligation to trade him or extend his contract…He is the same Crawford that has been 4 teams in 10 years, that really says a lot about him…Peace…

Olik

August 30th, 2010
9:33 am

or Marvin, Jamal, and next year’s #1 pick for Carmelo? that’s about an even salary trade, with relief for Denver in year 2, and it’s a small forward for small forward….we don’t want the draft pick anyway

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:34 am

If JJ’s a team player let him give Crawford 6 of those 10 extra millions he beat the Hawks out of for an extension next year to keep him as a teammate. Just sayin’…

PD

August 30th, 2010
9:35 am

What have the Falcons really done other than pump up people’s hopes? The Hawks have been to the playoffs the past 3 post-seasons. The Hawks are 1 or 2 pieces coach or player from making the Conference Finals. Don’t bag the Hawks because your Falcons are marginal at best. Besides, if you love football so much go Ledbetter’s blog.

balismith

August 30th, 2010
9:36 am

seems to me the hawks are getting what they deserve I thought the new general manager was the guy to take then over the top cant wait for the start of the new season

robdawg08

August 30th, 2010
9:37 am

Mark, you get my point though. 3 stars on a team can work. Barkley might have came on a year later. It evens works many times with two stars : Shaq & Penny,Shaq & Kobe,Magic & Kareem,Pippen & Jordan. Three should be even better. More scoring options.