Wednesday , Jul , 15 , 2009 Oly Sandor

No laughingstock: Bibby, Crawford, and Johnson make Atlanta Hawks a contender

Most basketball fans think of the Atlanta Hawks as a running joke. This oddball, outpost franchise has always struggled on and off-court; with little direction from front office and ownership they’ve made poor personnel decisions and played in front of few fans at home. After years of disappointment, heartbreak, and incompetence, the Atlanta Hawks are becoming respectable and then some. No more being the NBA’s Siberia. No more TMZ style squabbles amongst ownership and management. And no more ridiculous contracts like the Enron-inflated pact given to journeyman Jon Koncak …


No laughingstock: Bibby, Crawford, and Johnson make Atlanta Hawks a contender


The league’s laughingstock could soon get a laugh in.

Most basketball fans think of the Atlanta Hawks as a running joke. This oddball, outpost franchise has always struggled on and off-court; with little direction from front office and ownership they’ve made poor personnel decisions and played in front of few fans at home.

After years of disappointment, heartbreak, and incompetence, the Atlanta Hawks are becoming respectable and then some. No more being the NBA’s Siberia. No more TMZ style squabbles amongst ownership and management. And no more ridiculous contracts like the Enron-inflated pact given to journeyman Jon Koncak.

The days of being a punch line on late-night television are over. These Hawks are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and seem poised to take the next step in 2010.

Truth be told, the turnaround almost never happened. In the summer of 2005, some of the club’s former owners didn’t believe Joe Johnson was a franchise player and weren’t interested in signing the restricted free agent from Phoenix to a frontloaded, five-year contract worth $70 million.

In fact, the Atlanta Spirit LLC partnership went to court over Johnson and control of the club. Some owners wanted Johnson. Others did not. Thankfully, the 6-8 combo guard stayed in the ATL, regardless of what a few suits and their lawyers thought.

 He’s Atlanta’s first franchise player since Dominique Wilkins. Unlike ‘The Human Highlight Film’, Johnson can do it all: score, rebound, pass, play and defend multiple positions. Best of all, he brought much-needed professionalism and a quiet confidence to the club.

Johnson leads an impressive backcourt. Somehow, the Hawks re-signed Mike Bibby for a very reasonable 3 years and $18 million. The veteran is the NBA’s best shooting point guard and is deadly on either pick-and-rolls and when moving off the ball.

When Johnson or Bibby need a rest, newly acquired Jamal Crawford will pull his Vinnie Johnson impression. Expect Crawford to make like ‘The Microwave’ and provide instant scoring off the bench. And Coach Mike Woodson now has the option to go small with Bibby, Crawford, and Johnson playing together.

This trio complements a young, talented front-court. Hopefully, Josh Smith’s attitude comes somewhat closer to matching his immense talent, while Al Horford is a specimen, capable of posting strong numbers and dominating both ends of the court.

Of course, there are questions. Will restricted free agent Marvin Williams re-sign and continue developing into a solid pro? Can Smith and Woodson’s relationship stand another dust up? Is there the depth to challenge Eastern powers like Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando? If not, will ownership spend enough to win? What about Johnson’s pending free agency in 2010?

Currently, there are no answers. One thing is certain: these Hawks seem better equipped to handle the future then those laughingstocks of years past.

How will Atlanta do in 2010? Get at us in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe The Blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of KU’s online portfolio.