Kevin Price commentary: New GM Danny Ferry changes perception of Atlanta Hawks with pair of major trades

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 3, 2012 

The Atlanta Hawks aren’t supposed to be one of the NBA teams that have a good day like they did Monday.

Those kind of days are supposed to belong to the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, etc.

The Hawks are supposed to be bit players in the drama that is the NBA offseason.

Danny Ferry changed the public's perception of the Hawks in a matter of just a few hours.

Ferry, who has been the Hawks' general manager for less than two weeks, pulled off a pair of major trades Monday night.

First, he sent Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets. More importantly, the remainder of Johnson's contract goes with him. That deal still has four years and $90 million on it.

The Hawks didn't get a lot of talent back. Former Georgia Tech player Anthony Morrow might be the best player they got in return. He is a pretty good outside shooter.

But it doesn't matter whom the Hawks got in return. Finding a team willing to eat Johnson's contract is enough. Another key component to the deal is that the players the Hawks got in return are entering the final year of their contracts.

Ferry's predecessor, Rick Sund, was the one to sign Johnson to that ridiculous deal. The only other deal in NBA history that might be worse is the one given to Jon Koncak by, yes, you guessed it, the Hawks.

The Johnson deal would have been enough to earn Ferry a statue outside Philips Arena, but the former Duke star was not done.

Ferry also traded Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz. As with Johnson, Williams' contract goes with him. He is still owed about $15.8 million over the next two years.

Williams was a horrible draft pick. Point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams were still on the board in 2005 when the Hawks took Williams.

It was obvious to anyone who cared to watch -- and there were not many -- that the Johnson-led Hawks had gone as far as they could in the playoffs, the second round. With the team saddled with the contracts of Johnson and Williams, there was no room to add quality pieces.

The NBA teams of today can be helped in two ways: through the lottery or through clearing enough cap space to go after the really big free agents.

The Hawks were not bad enough to find themselves in the lottery, so the only other option is to clear cap space.

Two potential free agents after next season are Orlando center Dwight Howard and Paul, who is the Los Angeles Clippers' point guard.

Howard is from Atlanta, having played at Southwest Atlanta Christian. And it's widely known that Paul wanted the Hawks to draft him seven years ago.

Even if Howard is traded to Brooklyn or any other team, unless he signs a new contract, he still will be a free agent after the 2012-13 season.

Imagine Howard and Paul in Hawks uniforms. Those Hawks might be worth watching.

Kevin Price, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-320-4493.

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