Michael Cunningham responded to my recap of Sunday's Hawks/Cavs game on his blog at AJC.com:
Of course all of this assumes the Hawks would have a) received some useful players/assets in a sign-and-trade for J.J. and/or wisely used the cap space left over after his departure; b) done the same with Jamal; and c) used whatever assets the team acquired in such a way as to build a team that provided fans real hope for the future. Considering the team’s recent history of drafting, player evaluation, and resource allocation (both in terms of money and player roles), there would be some understandable skepticism about the prospects for such a scenario bearing fruit.Kris Willis did likewise at Peachtree Hoops while passing along word that Joe Johnson plans to play tomorrow night against the Orlando Magic:
Still, I do think it’s a vision ASG could have sold to fans without much trouble. Normally teams that let their best player walk face a potential backlash. But J.J. (or really any of the current “core” outside of Al) wasn’t popular after last spring’s surrender to Orlando. The Hawks could have leveled with their fans and told them while the team may not have been as good this season without J.J. it still could make the playoffs (and, if not, get a lottery pick).
Then the Hawks could have gone about the process of turning J.J., Jamal, and any of their beloved “core” into a group that plausibly would be better next season than in 2010-11. All the while the Hawks could have whispered that they plan to make an all-out run at Dwight or CP3 in the summer of 2012 because ASG knows you need a top 5-10 player to win a title and will pay the tax for that chance. Failing that, the Hawks could have built a team that truly follows the Detroit model and includes tough-minded, defensive-focused players while still looking for opportunities to acquire a top 5 player or luck up into drafting one.
Instead, ASG found itself in the curious position of giving J.J. the richest contract in the league, in direct contradiction to its (unfair) cheap image, and getting ripped for it. The criticism increased when they failed to follow that bold move with others and settled into a familiar stasis. Now the Hawks are a mess with the playoffs to begin soon.
Their attendance has sagged. As LaGree points out, their esteem in the eyes of fans has declined both among those who are casual and not interested in the Hawks as entertainment, and those who are serious and stay loyal to the team but are dismayed because they saw this coming and now have little hope for future improvement.
So, even if you are skeptical that the Hawks could have competently embraced LaGree’s J.J.-less “alternative present” and then made smart moves for the future I’m sure they could have sold the plan. It turns out that would have been better than what they are selling right now.
I wasn't opposed to bringing back Johnson given that I had no confidence that this team could take a step back and come out ahead in the long run. I wasn't the only one that thought Atlanta had to keep Johnson. Former Hawks beat writer Sekou Smith told us that the Hawks had to keep him and couldn't afford to let him walk without getting anything in return. If I was critical of anything, it was that they didn't follow that Johnson signing up with any other significant moves and basically brought back the same roster with a much higher payroll.Irregular or new readers should be advised that the key element of my recap is likely the line:
While I will offer that hindsight is 20/20, many of you like Bret voiced your displeasure with the signing loudly. Now that the Hawks have given Johnson his money and they have taken a step backwards anyway the situation doesn't look near as promising as it once did. I will close with something I wrote shortly after the contract was signed:No matter if the Atlanta Hawks bring in more players that are capable, this signing cements the fact that the face of the franchise is Joe Johnson. Joe has to be ready to meet the challenge head on. Much of the criticism surrounding his contract was made because of statistics showing that perimeter players tend to drop off in production in their early thirties. Joe is 29 years old and has to make sure that he is the exception to that rule.So far Joe hasn't been the exception to the rule however he still remains a now very expensive face of the franchise. There is still time but now there is even more doubts.
"Last night's Hawks game doesn't prove anything about anything..."If I may engage in some friendly speculation, I suspect that this particular recap caught the attention of Messrs. Cunningham and Willis because they share* the struggle to write something of (one hopes) value about this team on a daily basis.
*Though they both get to share their share of that struggle.
I'm more than 300 game recaps into this project. Personally, the most interesting thing about Sunday's game was how it reminded me of two near-forgotten games from more than two years ago. That oblique perspective provided me with entry point from which to write recap No. 3XX. It wasn't a manifesto or an argument any more than Some Things That Need to Be Said About Joe Johnson, the Atlanta Hawks Organization, the Summer of 2005, and the Impact of Context on Our Perceptions of Professional Basketball Players in the 21st Century was a summation of Joe Johnson's time in Atlanta.
Again, Sunday's game didn't prove anything. Much as those were some things I felt needed to be said about Joe Johnson, etc.