Live from Philips Arena: Should the Hawks try a Magic trick?

Joe Johnson: Still a Hawk. Vince Carter: No longer Magic. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Vince Carter: No longer Magic. Joe Johnson: Still a Hawk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Hawks spent the past two seasons trying to get past Orlando, trying and failing. A check of the standings shows that Atlanta is again gazing up at the Magic, though the Magic team that will appear tonight at Philips Arena has been rendered unrecognizable. Because we saw over the weekend how much the Magic valued simply finishing ahead of the Hawks.

With two trades, the Magic dumped everyone of note except Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. Vince Carter, gone. Rashard Lewis, gone. Mickael Pietrus, gone. Marcin Gortat, gone. For those keeping score at home, that marks an offloading of two starters and two rotational subs.

The Magic wound up with Hedo Turkoglu, who used to play for Orlando but left as a free agent, plus Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. That’s a major December overhaul for any team, especially one that holds fourth place in the NBA East. (The Hawks are fifth.) And there’s no guarantee it will work. But functionality isn’t the issue today; ambition is.

The Magic reached the NBA finals in 2009 and looked primed to do it again last season, but they were bounced in the Eastern Conference finals by Boston, which entered the playoffs as the East’s No. 4 seed. Orlando had just obliterated the No. 3 seed — your Atlanta Hawks — by the record aggregate of 101 points in four numbing Round 2 games.

Then LeBron James made his Decision and the NBA Southeast — heck, the whole NBA — changed. The Magic entered the season having chosen to combat the star-spangled Miami Heat with good ol’ continuity. That worked for a while: Orlando won 15 of its first 19 games. Then it hit a rough patch. (How rough? Well, the Magic lost at home to the Hawks.) Meanwhile, the Heat embarked on a winning streak that has reached 12 games and lifted LeBron’s crew to the top of the division.

And Orlando, depending on your slant, either recognized reality or panicked big-time. His team having lost four times in five games, Magic general manager Otis Smith deep-sixed a blueprint that won 59 games last season to bet on the likes of Arenas, who was suspended by NBA last season for celebrating Bring Your Firearm To Work Day, and Turkoglu, who isn’t as good now as he was when he left Orlando 18 months ago.

Which brings us, however circuitously, to the Hawks. They’ve had the same starting lineup since Mike Bibby arrived in February 2008. They’ve had success — taking the champs-to-be Celtics to Game 7 in 2008; winning a playoff series in 2009 and 2010; going 100-64 over the past two regular seasons — but they’ve exited the same way two springs running: Getting swept in Round 2. Yet these Hawks are essentially the same as last season’s, the only difference being the head coach.

The Hawks won their first six games under Larry Drew, who was promoted when management, such as it is, decided Mike Woodson’s longtime assistant was just the man to take them where Woodson could not. They’ve since gone 11-12, losing to every opponent of note save Orlando. Joe Johnson missed 2 1/2 weeks, which didn’t seem to matter one way or another, which doesn’t say much for the Hawks’ decision to keep him at the staggering cost of $120 million.

And now we ask: The Hawks have changed coaches and re-upped Johnson, and they’re on pace to win 48 games, down from the 53 of last season. They’ve done little to suggest they’d have a postseason prayer against the Celtics or the Heat  — the Magic’s status is in definite flux — and by shedding Woodson the Hawks essentially said, “We want to do better.”

The Magic saw themselves as not being quite good enough and took a flier. Should the Hawks, who weren’t as good as the Magic, do the same? Should they break up their longstanding Core Four? If so, who’d leave? (By process of elimination, it would have to be Josh Smith. Al Horford’s too good, and nobody would take Johnson’s salary and nobody wants Marvin Williams.) Do they cut ties with Jamal Crawford, who’s seeking a new contract?

Or do they stay the course, even if the course isn’t apt to take them anywhere they haven’t already been? The Magic weren’t satisfied with what they’d done and what they had. Are the Hawks?

By Mark Bradley

About here, we move to the snappy discourse part of our program. I’m at the arena and will be happy to chat with one and all about the Hawks, the Magic and the world in general. And you should know that the Magic are starting a team — Turkoglu and J. Richardson are in the lineup — that hasn’t yet practiced. Said Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando coach: “The Hawks have been together six years; we haven’t been together six hours.”

Please join me for a fun-filled and frolicsome evening. To borrow from James Brown: Please, please, please. As ever, I thank you in advance.

209 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

December 20th, 2010
1:25 pm

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:26 pm

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:27 pm

but they don’t need to blow the whole thing up.

Mark Bradley

December 20th, 2010
1:28 pm

rawdawg on an awesome streak — six firsts in eight days. Kudos sextupled.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:28 pm

Is Joe Johnson untradeable because of his contract?

The Real Hawk

December 20th, 2010
1:29 pm

WE are know that’s is NOT going to happen.
Even though it should.
You have to have brains and balls.
We have neither…

WOW

December 20th, 2010
1:31 pm

TRADE EVERYONE…except Horford!

WOW

December 20th, 2010
1:32 pm

Also…go outside the box on a head coach…Drew is not the answer. If he was, then he could have done something under Woodson. MAKE A STATEMENT WITH THE TEAM AND COACH

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:33 pm

The Hawks need to do something, they can’t compete in playoffs as constructed.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:36 pm

I read all the stuff about how the Hawks had no choice but to sign JJ to a max contract. It was crap…it would have only been a short term PR hit to dump him provided he wouldn’t have accepted a fair contract.

Mark Bradley

December 20th, 2010
1:36 pm

Yes, Ted M. Nobody has that much space on their roster.

three jack

December 20th, 2010
1:36 pm

i say give it a while longer, let the team have a chance to run drew’s offense. it would be a huge mistake to trade josh.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:38 pm

I missed last nights game.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:43 pm

yeah I guess. At least we only have 1 more year of McLouth. I know JJ has skills and McLouth doesn’t.The hawks can’t compete in playoffs as constructed and my first reaction was to suggest trade everyone except Smith and Horford but that means trade no one.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:45 pm

Sund screwed up big time w/that contract.

No Woody

December 20th, 2010
1:48 pm

Al Horford for Chris Paul in sign and trade. I like Al, but this team isn’t going anywhere. Put Chris Paul with JJ and Josh and who knows?

On another note, Mark do you ever get Arthur Blank’s ear? If so, can you ask him if during the next collective bargaining meetings, if he could let everyone know that people in Atlanta do not care about the Colts or Jaguars! The NFL needs to get rid of its regional programming paradigm. If we have to watch the AFC, give us the Jets, Patriots, Steelers or Ravens, not the frigging Colts and Jags!

Ayhan

December 20th, 2010
1:50 pm

Who is Heko Turkoglu?How did you come up with that name?

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
1:50 pm

The Orlando moves were so surprising and bold. It will be quite interesting to find out if they were wise.

Nathan Darling

December 20th, 2010
2:03 pm

The real thing is the “CORE” does not work. The main thing is I hate to say it, but trade J-Smoove. Trade Jamal and Josh smith for CARMELO ANTHONY. Joe Johnson would be a great sidekick for Carmelo.

Line up for this year
1. Mike Bibby
2. Joe Johnson
3. Carmelo Anthony
4. Marvin Willams
5. Al Horford

Next year get a big man and Play Al at the 4.

Nathan Darling

December 20th, 2010
2:04 pm

and I love Carmelo what do you think about that Mark Bradley.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
2:06 pm

The Hawks need to be bold but I have no idea of what they could or should do.

So Mark get to work throw some plausible scenarios out there.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
2:10 pm

Nathan Darling that couldn’t be worse, if its possible. I’d have Marvin come off the bench and start Josh Powell.

sleeze

December 20th, 2010
2:13 pm

Funny how the Hawks didn’t miss a beat when Johnson was out. Kinda like how the AJC rolls on just fine even when you and Schultz are out.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
2:15 pm

It could be a long long time before the Hawks via for a championship.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
2:17 pm

Mark what would Sund say if you asked him if he thinks the Hawks could win it all this year?

Whopper Dawg

December 20th, 2010
2:19 pm

Depends on what you want, I think a poster to another Hawks column summed it up well as follows:

They are good to not make the lottery but not good enough to be relevant in the playoffs.

And with the actions and the apparent length of vision of the current management, I don’t see them moving up from this position. A downward move over time seems like the likely outcome.

Astro Joe

December 20th, 2010
2:22 pm

How many owners would need to agree to make a trade happen? Based on that answer alone, is there any need to speculate further?

Jinx Master

December 20th, 2010
2:26 pm

Are you kidding me Bradley, this Hawks organization is not committed to winning the only free agents we went after was Joe J. & Shaq. There is somthing way deeper to what is going on behind closed doors with the front office that is making us look unattractive to players on the move. CP3 & Melo even mentioned teams like Portland & New Jersey on their wish list. What the !!!!!

Sorry but Sund is not even in the same league as Otis Smith. Orlando’s GM can get players to come play for him even it doesn’t always work out, but Sund has no pull around the league. Liberty Media can only finance whatever Sund puts before them. Hate to say it but there probably won’t change at the top until this team starts to decline then, Liberty Media will be looking for the next Ainge way too late.

Really?

December 20th, 2010
2:30 pm

Joe is untradeable? The Magic just traded for Arenas. If *he* can get traded, then anyone can.

Mike

December 20th, 2010
2:37 pm

Good question, Mark. The first problem I see is Drew as head coach. The Hawks should have gone outside the organization to find a coach. Secondly, they do have to upgrade their roster. Unfortunately, the ownership has shown no desire to spend with the other teams in the league. The Hawks were the only playoff team not over the cap last year.

I think they need to try to trade for a legitimate center. They need to trade Smith and a couple of good young players for some better inside presence. Horford is too small. The Hawks interior is not able to police the paint properly against slashing guards and big men like Howard, Bosh, or Garnett and Shaq.

jay

December 20th, 2010
2:37 pm

Orlando just made one of the worst trades ever. The best player they got was Jason Richardson who is only a slight improvement over Vince. If Arenas can still play he’s only a slight upgrade to Pietrus, but Pietrus is a proven ROLE player who can fit in multiple schemes where as Arenas has only shown one type of style. They have gotten smaller with Gortart(sp) gone. Please, whatever we do we don’t need to make any deal that even slightly resembles that mess of a trade.

tremaine

December 20th, 2010
2:38 pm

Time to get rid of Marvin.

PaulieOldSchool

December 20th, 2010
2:40 pm

Ambition costs money. Ownership won’t spend any money. Ergo, the Hawks have no ambition. The JJ decision was the worst possible move in that it handcuffed the team where they live–the wallet. Oh, yeah, and he isn’t worth the money. There’s that, too.

jay

December 20th, 2010
2:40 pm

Everyone wants to get rid of Smoove. WIthout a real damn center our ‘in the paint’ defense would prolly rank at the lowest in the league. Smoove is the only person on our team that defends the basket and that includes Horford.

jay

December 20th, 2010
2:43 pm

@Paulie – The spirit have spent the money. Every player that has become a FA has been paid. The real question is who are you trading and what are you getting back, because in the NBA you’re trading contract value for like contract value. The only difference would be the years. If the trade doesn’t involve a top line center or a top line point guard, we need to just roll with what we got.

seminoles

December 20th, 2010
2:43 pm

We need to make some changes. How about JJ, Bibby and Jamal Crawford for Carmelo and Billups?

hbcuclassics

December 20th, 2010
2:44 pm

Hawks have pieces:

Bibby
Evans
Pachulia
Teague
Crawford

Identifying the fix is the problem, this team lacks chemistry despite keeping the core together. They still cannot get easy buckets down low or defend the bigger teams. Lately, they cant even defend the perimeter.

They have to be honest with themselves, to date, they have not.

Teague was another mistake.
Jordan Crawford was not, it’s time to groom him, not Teague.
Bibby is yesterday’s news.
Marvin is on the upswing, a team will take him.
Smoove is limited offensively, but has uber-athleticism that will always allow him to make plays.
JJ is inconsistent to say the least.
ZaZa is decent, needs to play more.
Evans is history.
Horford’s offensive emergence has hurt the overall chemistry.
Jamal Crawford ain’t playing no more without an extension.

Hawks failed to sign Shaq, which was a huge mistake. Losing Jamal now, really let’s the air out the tire. JJ is a nice piece, but no Atlas. Crawford can simply get his, JJ cannot. Smoove and Horford are nice young studs that you dare not part with. Marvin is another complimentary guy.

Hawks must trade complimentary guys for aggressive playmakers. If this were Duke or UNC, those guys would be more valuable, but its the NBA and stars win games!

Go get some unabashed STARS!

Paul

December 20th, 2010
2:45 pm

Bottom line is that we have to face what we don’t want to hear, Joe Johnson is stuck with us because of his contract so we have to make the best of it. We can’t afford Marvin Williams or Jamal Crawford so we should trade them both for a decent supporting player, or put Marvin Williams on the bench as a backup PF and start Zaza who averaged a double double for us before as a starter. We should also trade Mike Bibby we can do so much better…Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford can be apart of this core in the future as they are both full of potential but we need to make a trade now, Josh Smith or Al Horford may have to go sadly……

Yellow is VERY, VERY ugly

December 20th, 2010
2:48 pm

Atlanta has a NBA team??

What did we do wrong??

How do we get rid of it??

moboman

December 20th, 2010
2:49 pm

The Magic trade is a flop. They will miss Gortat and Vince more than they will benefit from what they got. Trading bravado doesnt guarantee success. I see no chemistry in roles for this trade. Wont be long before the grousing begins. I agree with Jay.

OBX Dawg

December 20th, 2010
2:52 pm

Somebody has already said it. “If Arenas can be traded, then so can Joe”. Trade JJ to Denver for Carmelo. They WILL do it. They are facing the prospects of getting NOTHING for him by not trading for him during the next 6 weeks.
Me, I’d be happy just getting rid of JJ and that albetross of a contract. I’d rather make a 3 month run with Melo and lose him to FA than to have to endure 5 more years of the overated JJ. Keep Josh. He is capable of still developing. Trade JJ and Jamal. i like Jamal but there’s no way he’s coming back next year.

ryan

December 20th, 2010
2:55 pm

We should go after Steve Nash reunite him with Joe because JJ played better with Nash and also the Suns are looking for expiring contracts also hear J Chill is on the block Trail Blazers to are putting players on the block .

oldmike

December 20th, 2010
3:00 pm

I don’t see this team competing for anything beyond a first round exit from the playoffs. They are no better than a 5th seed this year and can’t beat even the bad teams like the Nets and Pistons. They look lost for LONG stretches. They look worse than they did under Woodson. Can’t believe I said that.
Their games are mostly unwatchable. No identity. Maybe it’s early but it is strating to get late. Plus this ownership group will never do anything out of the box. Our only hope as Hawks fans is for the ASG to sell the team.
Thank God for the Falcons. Sadly even the Thrashers are playing inspired Hockey in the 11th year of Don Waddells’ 5 year plan.

moboman

December 20th, 2010
3:01 pm

Any trade that doesnt bring a legitimate center is a waste of time. As much as I like Horford, I would trade him for a REAL center (only if the right deal could be done), and go with the Josh’s at the 4.

Unless Teague develops a real jumper, his was a wasted pick. Would rather see Bibby in there and develop Jordan C.

Ted Striker

December 20th, 2010
3:02 pm

Arenas was the catalyst, everything else was a domino. Unless there is a similar catalyst for Atlanta, stand pat.

Your friendly poker player,

Ted Striker

moboman

December 20th, 2010
3:03 pm

Jchill is on the block because Phoenix has now realized what we already knew. No thanks.

moboman

December 20th, 2010
3:06 pm

Imagine where we would be if we had drafted an NBA player in addition to Smoove the year we wasted a pick on chills.

Ted M

December 20th, 2010
3:07 pm

I believe Sund and the owners know the Hawks can’t vie for a championship this year or any time soon and they admit as much between themselves. Which makes that contract for JJ all the more perplexing. People complain about the Braves owners but they are like George Steinbrenner compared to the Hawks owners.

I’m starting to think the Hawks have no chance EVER of winning a championship.

yodaddy

December 20th, 2010
3:14 pm

Jeff Van Gundy…get him in here…pry him away from ESPN

He’s been to the Finals with less than what the Hawks have now….and he got there by teaching defense.

Chris Childs, Sprewell, Houston, LJ, and Camby.

Next, make a trade involving Bibby, Mo Evans, and Marvin Williams

moboman

December 20th, 2010
3:15 pm

If you think about it, the Hawks win in Orlando may have been a part of the impetus for the trade. That win may have been the win of the season in that it dismantled a competitor.