Where do the Hawks go from here?

After a pretty nice show of backbone in Game 6 and Game 7 of Atlanta’s first round series against the less talented but far gritter Bucks, the Hawks were absolutely drilled by the Magic. The Hawks lost the four games by an average of 25 points, including a 43-point loss in Game 1 and a 30-point loss (at home) in Game 3.

Why am I dwelling on the series? Because it’s a good indicator of just how far the Hawks still have to go to be true contenders in the East.

While it’s true that the franchise has increased its win total in each of the last six seasons, it just doesn’t seem like this team is anywhere near contention. Complicating matters, the Hawks’ most steady player, Joe Johnson, is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Complicating matters further, Johnson has not endeared himself to Hawks fans over the past week or two. After a pretty nice first round (21-5-6) against Milwaukee, Johnson posted just 13-5-4 and shot under 30% against the Magic. That’s not the kind of performance that will convince a team to sign him to a max contract. Moreover, he’ll be 29 at the start of free agency, so one wonders if his best years are already behind him. He was outplayed by a 33-year-old Vince Carter, if that’s any indication.

Johnson is one of those players, not unlike Michael Redd a few years ago with the Bucks, who is not a “max” guy yet will command a maximum contract. I’ve said this over and over — just because a player is the best that a franchise has, it does not make him a franchise player.

The problem the Hawks face is that Johnson will be able to walk this summer with no compensation. He maybe willing to work out a sign-and-trade with his new team, but just like Chris Bosh, why would he agree to lower the talent level of his new team when he can sign with several teams outright?

Either way, between his performance against the Magic and his recently sour relationship with the fans, it does not seem like Johnson is long for Atlanta. Another issue is what to do with Mike Woodson, who has guided the team during its ascension.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Joe Johnson leaving if Hawks lose?

In a recent chat, John Hollinger had this to say about the chances of Johnson returning to Atlanta if the Hawks were to lose the series to the Bucks.

Is Joe Johnson gone if the Hawks lose?
John Hollinger: I suspect so, just because it makes it so much harder for Atlanta to sell its management on operating at the tax line when the club is losing so much dough.

The series is a long way from over, but it’s an interesting question to ponder. Hollinger takes it from the angle of ownership not wanting to pony up for Johnson when the Hawks can’t even beat a Milwaukee Bucks team that is missing its best player.

That’s a legitimate question, but Johnson is a top five free agent this summer, do the Hawks really just let him walk? He was outplayed by John Salmons in Game 5, so he may need to come up big in Game 6 and lead the Hawks to a series win if he hopes to get a max offer from Atlanta.

The other perspective on this question is from Johnson’s point of view. Would he want to stay with a team that couldn’t get out of the first round despite suspect opposition? He may be ready for a fresh start after a semi-frustrating few years in Atlanta.

If the Hawks do indeed lose the series, it will be a big disappointment for a franchise and a fan base that was expecting at least an appearance in the Eastern Conference semis, maybe even an upset of the Magic an appearance in the conference finals. Given the turmoil surrounding the franchise’s ownership in recent seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s a serious shakeup in the roster if the Hawks do exit the postseason in the first round.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Joe Johnson already headed to the Knicks?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News thinks that there is already a deal in place that will bring Joe Johnson to New York.

There is a growing sentiment among opposing team executives that at the very least the Knicks will sign Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, whose agent, Arn Tellem, orchestrated the Tracy McGrady trade to the Knicks and has been friends with Walsh for 20 years. It’s called a “wink-wink deal,” and even though it is against NBA rules, the practice does exist and is nearly impossible to police.

“I think that’s a done deal,” said one Eastern Conference GM.

Both Isola’s words and the unnamed GM’s quote sound like speculation, but as always, when there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Johnson has talked openly about what the future may hold, and while I still don’t believe that he’s a “max” player, it’s a natural fit given the Johnson-D’Antoni relationship and the Knicks’ up-tempo system.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Knicks preparing for Plan B?

The title of Marc Berman’s New York Post piece — “LeBron-to-Knicks hope fading” — says it all.

With each passing day, as the Knicks disgrace themselves and the Cavaliers march to their potential first NBA championship, the Knicks’ chances of free-agent glory in landing LeBron James this summer gets more remote.

A bit dramatic, don’t you think? What if the Cavs lose in the Eastern Semifinals — wouldn’t all this talk just start back up again?

James clung to his mid-November policy of not talking about his free-agent options, but he has left enough hints to New York fans that the Knicks’ bid is a longshot.

In his lone appearance at the Garden, Nov. 6, James said in strong terms the only factor is whether he can win at his new destination. At All-Star weekend, he reiterated, “It’s all about winning.”

Well, it’s not all about winning, is it? I thought LeBron’s #1 goal was to become a “global icon.” But there’s a strong argument that says that to truly become a global icon, LeBron needs an NBA championship.

As bad as the Knicks may be, if LeBron sees a scenario where he and, say, Chris Bosh can play in New York (or even the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio) then it’s hard not to think that the Knicks would be vastly improved in just one season. Throw in a few savvy vets willing to play for the minimum for a shot at the ring and suddenly the Knicks are an Eastern Conference power.

Team sources indicated D’Antoni would be very pleased to add overshadowed free agent Joe Johnson as a fallback. D’Antoni thinks Johnson is a great piece to build around.

But Johnson, the potential re-signing of David Lee and another mid-level free agent, does not put the Knicks in position to compete for a championship.

No, it doesn’t. I like Joe Johnson, but he’s turning 29 this June and Basketball Prospectus predicts Johnson’s three-year value to be the least amongst this summer’s big-name free agents.

It sounds like the Knicks are already doing some damage control in case the Cavs win a title this summer and LeBron stays put. In that case, I suspect Chris Bosh would join Dwyane Wade in Miami and the Knicks would be looking at the likes of Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, David Lee and Rudy Gay. Two of those players would probably get the Knicks to the playoffs, but they aren’t going to win a title anytime soon.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Joe Johnson to the Nets? Not so fast.

First things first: Joe Johnson will become a free agent this summer and there’s a decent chance he’ll re-sign with the Hawks.

But he was asked (in an interview with FanHouse) about joining the Nets, and this is what he had to say:

The Atlanta star guard, bound to be a free agent next summer, was asked in an interview with FanHouse before Wednesday’s game against New Jersey if it would be more difficult to sign with a team like the 3-32 Nets due to their record. Johnson agreed it would.

“It matters, man,” Johnson said before facing a New Jersey outfit that will have more than $20 million of salary-cap room next summer. “It matters. A lot comes into play. Nobody wants to go to a tough team. But you’ve got to keep everybody in consideration.”

Johnson might be the forgotten man in a 2010 free agent class that features bigger names like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh and Amare. While he hasn’t said that he’s leaving Atlanta, he’s talking openly about potentially signing elsewhere, so he may very well be on the move.

As for the Nets, he’d be a great fit with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. But all stars of his caliber want to contend, and the Nets are struggling now more than they probably should. Ideally, he’d like to be the missing piece to a team that would contend for a championship, not just make the postseason.

Of course, a lot can change over the next few months. The Nets could start playing .500 ball or they could end up with the #1 pick in the draft and the rights to John Wall. That would change everything.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Related Posts