Atlanta’s management felt the Hawks got pushed around by the Orlando Magic when they were swept out of the playoffs last year. Because they were.
So what did they do about it?
Nothing, really. I like Josh Powell, he is a better player than he gets credit for (he’s solid as a role player off the bench) and he has maybe the best iPod playlist in the league. Powell now has a couple of rings. But that experience and playlist are not bringing rings to Atlanta.
The Hawks did go after Shaquille O’Neal, but the ownership — a consortium of investors GM Rick Sund has to get on the same page for major decisions — would not make the serious commitment, according to Jeff Schultz at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Boston had the more title ready team — they have just been to the finals — so Atlanta needed to make a bigger financial commitment.
The Hawks can be an entertaining team. But they’re also a flawed one. Signing Josh Powell and Jason Collins doesn’t cure their size problem in the post. Al Horford is playing out of position. This decision more likely ensures that they again will be the No. 4 playoff seed in the East and exit in the second round.
How much of this is the result of money? A lot. Ownership and general manager Rick Sund did not want to go into a tax situation with the salary cap. That meant not doing anything of significance to improve the team in free agency this offseason (other than overpaying to keep Joe Johnson).
The Hawks have $67 million in committed salary for 12 players right now (via Sham Sports). Throw in the cap holds and they are at the tax line of $70 million. By the time the Hawks sign a couple more minimum salary guys to round out the roster, they will be flirting with the tax line.
Shaq could have put them over that line. And what he has left as a player may not have taken the Hawks any farther in the playoffs.
But the fact is the East got better. Orlando, Miami and Boston are contenders. Chicago is nipping at their heels. Milwaukee is going to be right there, maybe just a step back. Atlanta may well be the four or five seed going into the playoffs again, but then what?
Then they get what they paid for.