2010 Hawks = 2006 Wizards
Because losing in the first round is good enough for some teams.
by Eddie Maisonet III / @edthesportsfan
This past Monday, the Atlanta Hawks held a press conference to celebrate a joyous occasion. Most people assumed that this joyous occasion was focused on one Alfred Joel Horford Reynoso, who was rewarded for his three-plus years of tenured service with the Hawks with a five-year, $60 million contract. For most organizations, signing an All-Star big man to a long-term extension is cause for celebration; however, the real celebration should be a guarantee that is a tad less distinguished.
The Hawks have guaranteed themselves a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for the next couple of years. The Hawks have also guaranteed themselves that they will never make it past the first round of the Playoffs as well.
You see, this started back in 2008. The Memphis Grizzlies were willing to take the uber-talented and often inconsistent forward Josh Smith off the Hawks hands for a king’s ransom. The Hawks decided to match. No big deal.
Then the summer of 2010 occurred. Every free-agent worth a damn was available for acquisition. This is the time to upgrade the squad! What do the Hawks do? Before the free agent open season paint can even begin to dry, Atlanta offers the mercurial and maligned Joe Johnson the richest contract this offseason. They gave the man max money before the market had been set, and Johnson even knew that no one in their right mind was going to offer him a similar deal. He HAD to sign that deal. OK fine, I’m willing to live with this as well.
So now it’s November, the season is officially underway. The Hawks, who desire to lock up their “core three” for their organization’s future, lock up Horford to that $60 million deal that we mentioned earlier.
Did I miss something, or has this team, as currently constructed, done absolutely nothing over the last three years other than scare the living bejesus out of the Boston Celtics back in 2008 and get mollywhopped in the second round in the Playoffs via sweep by the Cavaliers (’09) and Magic (’10)?
Now doesn’t this sound somewhat familiar? Of course it does — there was a team in the Hawks’ division that had a mercurial and maligned group of “star” players who were signed to long-term deals that ultimately meant as much to the NBA landscape as the NBA banning players wearing their headbands upside down.
The 2006 Washington Wizards.
You remember this vast assortment of characters. Lead by Agent Zero a.k.a. Hibachi a.k.a. One of the Greatest Athlete Bloggers of All Time a.k.a. Gilbert Arenas, (if you missed out on the Agent Zero blog, well…I just feel bad for you). They had the ultimate tweener of our generation in Antawn Jamison. And they had the man who was most notably known as “Tuff Juice” in Caron Butler. They paid these guys means gobs of cash, hoping that this “Big 3″ would be able to turn things around for Chocolate City. As we all found out over the next couple of seasons, the Wizards’ season never seemed to end well. Injuries, erratic play, shaky coaching, and a lack of depth ultimately led to the Wizards’ downfall.
Here’s the problem with that Wizards team — when Washington had the opportunity in 2008 to rebuild a team in a new light, they decided to offer MAX money to Arenas, who then was able to offer the Wizards “The Great Discount” of 2008 by not accepting the MAX deal but only taking six-years, $111 million instead. On top of that, the Wizards also gave Jamison four-years, $50 million to stay with the organization as well. This is a team that like the Hawks, that put a scare in the basketball world by making the second round in the Playoffs three seasons prior, but then took the graceful bow out in the first round the next two seasons. And you give the same three players who led you to the FIRST ROUND in the Playoffs exorbitant contracts to basically do the same thing for your team?
This isn’t going to end well for the Hawks, a trade will be in order. The Hawks haven’t had a legitimate point guard since the great days of Mookie Blaylock. The Hawks have too many players who just roam around on the wing, and they’ve got to hope that they could possibly trade a Josh Smith to open up some cap space and bring some players who could actually play point guard to have any shot at taking this team past the first round. Good luck with that.
It sucked to be a Washington Wizards fan back then, and it’s going to suck being an Hawks fan for the next couple of seasons. It’s definitely not going down in the A, sorry folks.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as his blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.