Friday , Aug , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Hawks ownership feud coming to an end

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – The Atlanta Hawks will have a new ownership
structure by the end of the year and the team will also have a new big-name
free agent on Friday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that a buyout deal has been
worked out between Steve Belkin and the other partners in the Atlanta Spirit
ownership group.

Belkin will reportedly sell his 30 percent share of the group that owns the
Hawks and NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.

“We have agreed to purchase Steve Belkin’s interest in Atlanta Spirit,” co-
owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the paper on Friday.

Belkin and the other partners had been at odds recently, and the problems came
to a head earlier this month when Belkin — acting in his role as governor of
the NBA franchise — blocked a deal that will send restricted free agent Joe
Johnson from Phoenix to Atlanta in a sign-and-trade.

The other eight owners in the group, as well as Hawks general manager Billy
Knight, wanted to make the deal. Now that the ownership problems are resolved,
the deal, which will reportedly pay Johnson $70 million over five years, is
expected to be announced Friday afternoon.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the trade would send guard Boris
Diaw, a pair of first-round picks and a nearly $5 million trade exception to
Phoenix in exchange for Johnson.

Johnson averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 82 regular-
season games last year. In nine playoff games, he averaged 18.8 points, 4.3
boards and 3.3 assists. Johnson also missed time in the postseason with a
displaced fracture of his left orbital bone and needed surgery to repair the
damage. The Suns lost to eventual-champion San Antonio in the Western
Conference Finals.