Danny Ferry blows up the Hawks

The local media seems pretty happy with Ferry’s demolition act in Atlanta as he dumped Joe Johnson and his monster salary on the Brooklyn Nets.

It took Danny Ferry a week to turn a franchise going nowhere into one with room again to grow. It took him a week to reach an agreement to send Joe Johnson to the Nets for a bunch of guys whose principal value rests in the expiration dates on their contracts. It took this general manager a week to ship Marvin Williams, enduring symbol of opportunity squandered, to Utah.

To follow the Hawks is to expect the worst, which means the initial response to this watershed Johnson deal was to figure it would be overturned on some technicality. Maybe we shouldn’t be fatalistic. At the rate Ferry is moving, he might be able to convince the NBA to replay the final seconds of Game 6 against Boston from 1988, and make it so that Dominique Wilkins (and not Cliff Levingston) takes the last shot this time.

A week ago we wondered if/when Ferry would dare to tamper with the Core Four. On Day 1 of Week 2, we got our answer. Ferry gored the Core without having to deal either Josh Smith or Al Horford, and by offloading Johnson he turned this capped-out club into one with a hangar’s worth of financial headroom.

Shedding Johnson’s contract was the only way the Hawks could get better. He makes $20 million per season, which is roughly one-third of what the NBA allows to fund an entire roster. It’s one thing if your $20-million-man is Kobe Bryant, but Johnson, over the two years since he re-upped, has sunk to being third-best among Hawks.

This looks like a great move by Ferry, but then he needs to show that he can build a team back up. Ferry did a decent job in Cleveland, and it’s hard to blame him for Lebron’s emotional breakdowns that did in the Cavs in the playoffs after they won 66 and then 60 games in the regular season.

That said, he made some big blunders in Cleveland as well (Larry Hughes). So here he has to show he can do more than wield a sledgehammer to a bloated roster.

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NBA free agency, in haiku!

You know you’re burned out on NBA news and rumors when you decide to write 10 haiku to summarize the NBA Summer of 2010. Off we go (in the English 5-7-5 syllable format)…

Atlanta spends big
to keep twenty-eight year-old
Here comes the remorse

Wade, Bosh, then LeBron
Super Friends in Miami
Much to Dan’s chagrin

No doubt cathartic
Dan Gilbert’s manifesto
only hurts the Cavs

Pat Riley, the pimp
But they have to play the games
There’s still work to do

Read the rest of this entry »

Revisiting my NBA free agency predictions

Now that the top 10 NBA free agents have made up their minds, let’s check in with my list of ‘sure-to-be-wrong’ predictions and see how I fared.

1. Dwyane Wade will re-sign with the Heat.

2. Chris Bosh will also sign with Miami.

3. LeBron and Carlos Boozer will sign with Chicago.
I didn’t think that LeBron would join what many consider to be ‘Wade’s Team’ and the Bulls gave him the next-best chance to win a championship, especially if Boozer landed there as well. The Bulls were wise to grab Boozer, who is a very nice fit alongside Joakim Noah.

4. Joe Johnson will sign with the Clippers.
I bought into the report that Johnson was in L.A. leading up to free agency and that he had a good relationship with the Clippers’ GM. The Hawks shocked the league when they offered him a six-year max contract and methinks they’ll be regretting it in 2-3 years. Who would have thought that when everything was said and done, that Joe Johnson would get the biggest contract of this free agent class?

5. Stoudemire will land in the Big Apple.
…”the Knicks will be sure to throw gobs of money to save face after pretty much striking out on the other top free agents.” Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened, though the Knicks were proactive and signed Stoudemire before being shunned by LeBron and Wade. And Amare was happy to lap up the dough after the Suns wanted to negotiate a deal that included incentives related to his health.

6. The Knicks will re-sign David Lee.
Donnie Walsh elected to conserve most of his cap space so that the Knicks can be a player in next summer’s free agency, plus the Lee-for-Randolph trade gives the Knicks a good (and cheap) up-and-coming power forward to replace Lee.

7. The Knicks will trade Eddy Curry for Gilbert Arenas.
This could still happen, but it looks like it won’t, at least not now. The Lee trade signals that the Knicks are going to be careful with their cap space, and trading for Arenas would be a huge risk.

8. The Grizzlies will match a max offer for Rudy Gay.
Technically, this prediction wasn’t correct. The Grizzlies once again raised eyebrows around the league by signing Gay to a max contract without letting the market set his price.

9. Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce re-sign with the Mavs and C’s, respectively.
There were pundits out there that actually thought that Pierce could land with the Nets and that Nowitzki would join LeBron in Chicago, but Boston and Dallas made sure these players stayed put.

Overall, I didn’t do too badly, did I?

Joe Johnson will stay in Atlanta

April 26, 2010 Milwaukee, WI. Bradley Center..Atlanta Hawks Joe Johnson drives to the hoop, Johnson had 29 points and 9 assists against the Bucks tonight..Milwaukee Bucks won over the Atlanta Hawks 111-104, in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Series is now tied at 2-2. Mike McGinnis/CSM.

There were some rumblings that Johnson might take some time to weigh his options, and possibly take less money to play with a better player, but he has instead decided to take the Hawks’ max offer.

Arn Tellem, Johnson’s agent, said that Johnson was impressed with the team’s commitment to him and agreed to accept the club’s six-year contract offer. He confirmed the post to The Associated Press.

Atlanta offered Johnson, a four-time All-Star, approximately $119 million over six years — nearly $27 million more than any other team could offer.

This reminds me of the Michael Redd signing from a few years back. They knew they were overpaying him at the time, but they still made the deal. A few knee injuries later and the Bucks are biding their time, waiting for the deal to expire.

Johnson is a nice player, but he’s not worth a ‘max’ contract — just look at the way he played against the Magic in the playoffs. He’s 28, so he will be 33 when he enters the final year of this deal. Shooting guards are notorious for aging poorly, so we’ll see how long it takes for the Hawks to regret this contract.

This re-signing is a bit of a surprise. It seemed like Johnson and the Hawks were on the outs, and that the Hawks would be unwilling to overpay him to stay. But that’s exactly what they did in the end.

Joe Johnson may wait to make final decision

Joe Johnson gets it. He has a max offer from the Hawks on the table, but hasn’t agreed to sign it just yet. He wants to see which big-name free agents land where, to see if there’s a secondary or tertiary role for him on a championship contender.

Sources said Johnson was still considering whether it would be a better career move to play in New York or Chicago, and his ultimate decision would hinge upon which of the top free agents make commitments to those teams.

Johnson’s decision is this — would he rather be the best player on a good-but-not-great Atlanta team or the second- or third-best player on a Finals-caliber team?

Maybe he’s reading the LeBron/Wade tea leaves and realizes that LeBron’s ego may not accept the perception that he needed Wade to win a title. Johnson is the next-best shooting guard on the market, and would be a decent fit alongside LeBron in New York, New Jersey or Chicago.

Writers like to throw around the phrase “leaving $30 million on the table” when referring to home/away max contracts, but that number is misleading. Through the first five years of the deal, the difference is ‘only’ $4 million. It’s that (extra) sixth year that makes up most of the difference in the total value of the contract, but players would presumably still be able to re-sign for a good amount of money. So really, the difference in the home/away contracts is this:

Diff = $4 million + $25.3 million – E


E = expected value of first year of next contract

For a player like Johnson, who would be 33 after the final year of a five-year contract, the value of E would be quite a bit less than someone like LeBron, who would be 30 after the final year of a five-year deal. Assuming both players stay healthy, Johnson would be leaving more money on the table than LeBron would by signing a max deal with an away team.

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