Atlanta plays in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes

July 2, 2013 

You may have caught wind of this bit of news that has leaked out: Dwight Howard is a free agent.

Tune into ESPN for the latest update. You might have to wait 10 minutes, but only if they're in commercial break.

We're weighing in here only because it involves -- or at least supposedly involves -- our local fringe connection to the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are in play for Howard's services primarily, or maybe solely, because Atlanta is his hometown. some of his family still live there.

Otherwise, Atlanta is considered a longshot, kind of like it was to host the 1996 Olympics. Only Billy Payne isn't leading recruiting efforts. Yet. I still love Payne's answer to concerns by members of the International Olympic Committee about the summer heat in Georgia. He pointed out that the average temperature in late July was about 72 degrees. No mention of the fact that that was two hours before dawn.

The Hawks could use Payne's powers of persuasion. I won't attempt to assess the odds of all the other suitors, which are said to be the Lakers, Houston, Dallas and Golden State. For that, you can tune into ESPN, TV or radio. You just might have to wait 10 minutes for the commercials to end.

Clearly, though, Danny Ferry faces quite a challenge. After being hired as general manager right before last year's draft, Ferry initially focused on assessing the organization and dumping the heavy contracts of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. Now Ferry can go to work rebuilding the Hawks and, even more challenging, rekindling basketball interest in Atlanta.

Ferry and new head coach Mike Budenholzer, just hired from the San Antonio Spurs, met with Howard on Monday in Los Angeles.

The other teams will certainly make the case that Atlanta is not right for Howard. The city is indifferent toward the Hawks. The roster is comprised of journeymen. If he goes to Atlanta, he runs a risk of realizing his greatest fear -- becoming invisible.

Nonsense, I say. If anything, just the opposite is the case. If Hawks gas out in the first round as always, so what? Nothing new. This is not another LeBron and Miami situation, where the Heat HAD to win it all for THE DECISION -- or, more importantly, THE DECIDER -- not to be considered an epic failure.

Even if Howard signs with the Hawks, no one is going to pick them to win the NBA title.

Or Eastern Conference.

Or Southeast Division.

So, no pressure. Nothing to lose and everything to gain. Early elimination, and five million Atlantans shrug their shoulders. Few people will blame Howard because the Hawks patented mediocrity long ago.

But let the Hawks go deep in the playoffs, and everyone will make Dwight a hero. Win it all, and he rides down Peachtree Street in a parade and waves to Kobe into the TV cameras.

Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers general manag

er, said he envisions building a statue for Howard when his career is over. Why wait? Atlanta will do that right now. What's one more any way?

Atlanta has other selling points. Such as:

• The Varsity. They might even name a hot dog after you. Not sure what would be on it, but I'm sure it would be made to please everyone.

ITALICS

"What'll ya have, what'll ya have?"

"Well, I'm not really sure …

"Two Dwights, walkin'! Next"

ENDITAL

• The Hawks will not fire Budenholzer and hire Mike D'Antoni or Stan Van Gundy.

• There's nobody on the team named Kobe.

• Did we mention The Varsity?

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com. Foillow him on Twitter @guerryclegg

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