Hawks wait in limbo this offseason
Larry Drew is coming back. The Hawks picked up the third-year option on their head coach's contract before Memorial Day.
But Rick Sund's fate has yet to be determined. The Hawks' general manager is contemplating retirement, coming back, a consultant's role and just about any other avenue for staying connected to the organization without fully committing himself to returning for yet another season.
With a first-round draft pick in the low 20s, no big salaries coming off of the books this summer and the bulk of their salary structure tied up in four players -- Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams -- the Hawks don't have many options for improving their lot this season other than a change at the very top of their basketball operation.
Since they've already decided to roll with Drew for another year, Sund's chair was the only viable option for some structural change.
And now that's not even guaranteed to happen.
Sund is a good man, a solid executive and a reliable facilitator of things but hardly a cutting-edge decision-maker known for doing big things in the draft and free agency.
If Sund does decide to ride into the sunset, the Hawks don't have an internal candidate with any recognizable skills prepared to take over and move this team to the next level. There have been names mentioned as potential replacements for Sund (Oklahoma City's Troy Weaver and San Antonio's Dennis Lindsey), but they are also the hot names every other organization looking for a new general manager have at the top of their wish lists.
By the time Sund makes up his mind, the best candidates to replace him could be on their way elsewhere, leaving the Hawks to spend yet another summer in middle-of-the-road limbo.
--Josh Smith hasn't come out and said anything regarding his future since the end of the Hawks' season. But everyone is expecting his name to surface in trade rumors as free agency approaches.
Smith's already made his intentions known to the organization and doesn't plan on vacating his request to be moved. He knows that ownership would prefer to have him remain with the organization going forward.
He also knows that he's got just one year left on his current contract and is eligible for a contract extension, though those conversations have not been approached by either side just yet.
--For whatever it's worth to Hawks fans, GM Rick Sund believes the 2011-12 version of this team was destined for the Eastern Conference final if injuries hadn't sacked the Hawks before they could get there.
Sund claims to have liked his team much more than the Hawks' critics did.
He's convinced that if Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia had stayed healthy his Hawks would have played for a chance to win the East instead of Boston.
"We would've gotten to that elite level," Sund said, the power of hindsight being his lone tool for that theory.
The only problem with that is the Hawks weren't able to reach that level at any other time when this team was on the rise. In fact, the team has regressed in each of the two seasons since Mike Woodson, the new coach of the Knicks, was fired.
So for Sund or anyone else to assume that this team was ready to make some quantum leap into the conference finals this year is beyond disingenuous.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Going forward, I'll take some time, talking to my wife, talking to the owners, and in time there will be resolution." -- GM Rick Sund on his future with the franchise.