Marc Stein reports that the Hawks are:
[T]he only team with a confirmed "live" interest in O’Neal. There are limitations to that interest.Stein, again:
Shaq, at last report, still wants assurances of a healthy slice of playing time as well as a salary that starts above the $5.8 million mid-level exception, which can be achieved through a sign-and-trade with Cleveland. No team out there, including Atlanta, is known to be willing to pay Shaq more than $2 million for next season.Shaq for $2 million next season makes far more sense than spending the MLE for X number of years on Shaq. Not that it's any more realistic than Joe Johnson agreeing to a 4-year, $60 million extension last Summer, but, hey, it's worth a shot. Presumably, were this highly unlikely agreement to come to pass, the Hawks would increase their collection of valuable trade chits from 0 to 1 (Zaza Pachulia) were they willing to risk using Jason Collins or similar dreck the 20-odd nights Shaq doesn't dress.
It shouldn't be a surprise that retaining Jason Collins is the sum total of reported free agent activity by the Hawks following the signing of Joe Johnson to a max contract. Even someone with a terrible record for prognostication could see it coming:
Signing Joe Johnson to a max deal will necessitate making future decisions based on finances rather than basketball...The upshot, of course, is that the Hawks probably don't need Shaq or any other famous, aged center. And not just in the "they need a backup* for Marvin Williams, a point guard** in whom we can be confident, and a capable perimeter defender*** more" sense. The up-post Zaza Pachulia reference is likely one of the few**** you'll have noticed this Summer. Odd considering the number of centers who have been speculated about. So I offer this reminder from Zaza's season review:
[T]he Hawks [are] +5.3 per 100 possessions (Off Eff: 104.7 Def Eff: 99.4) over the last two seasons (totaling 963 offensive and 960 defensive possessions) with Horford and Pachulia playing alongside each other.Sure it would be fun if the Hawks had the financial flexibility so as to speculate about them getting involved in the fire sales of Ramon Sessions or Brandon Bass but it's also important to keep in mind what the team has. Or, to quote from my (overly pessimistic, it turned out) preview of last season:
It’s tempting, in the transactional flurry of the off-season, to assume that if a team’s not busy getting better, it’s getting worse. When all that exists is potential, reward can overshadow risk and the act of reconstituting a 47-win team fails to capture the imagination.Locking in the core of a 53-win team in such as way as to limit its chances of someday winning a championship isn't appealing but the 8- or 10-win player the team presumably needs to compete for a top-4 seed in the East in 2010-11 doesn't appear to be available right now. Throwing more money at non-existent roster problems for PR purposes isn't going to create many future opportunities to marshal what few resources the team currently possesses in service of real improvement.
*A job which should be easily filled on the cheap.
**Could be Jeff Teague.
***Could also be Jeff Teague.
****I blame Drew's absence.