Atlanta Spirit Ownership Lawsuit Settled: No Likely Changes With Hawks

It was merely coincidence that Atlanta Hawks SG Joe Johnson, the original reason for the rift between Steve Belkin and the Atlanta Spirit, went off on the night that the long and tedious ownership drama in Atlanta finally came to a close.

Ironically, the Hawks, who appeared destined for a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers perked up and went on a run as word of the confidential settlement started percolating through Philips Arena.  Johnson lead the way with 23 points in the 98-84 win.

Contrary to common lore, while the ownership dispute was definitely messy and while the ownership dispute was definitely public, it really never affected the quality of players on the Hawks roster or unnecessarily tied the hands of former GM Billy Knight and current GM Rick Sund.

The Spirit after all really likes its basketball team and had no problem throwing money at players once they had an established core.  Winning allowed the Hawks to raise their payroll to nearly $70 million this year, sign Al Horford and Josh Smith to long-term extensions and give Johnson that max-contract in the off-season.

And while the bank vault hasn't been emptied for Jamal Crawford just yet, ownership conceivably could sign him to an extension and go into the luxury tax next year if they believe they have a legitimate shot at the NBA crown or an Eastern Conference title.  That's always been the mantra of the Spirit in all of its years of owning the team.

Unfortunately, the Hawks as presently constituted are unlikely to contend for an Eastern Conference title or an NBA crown with teams with the talent of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat or Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics in the highly-competitive East.

However, keep in mind that it was a rift between Belkin and the other seven owners of the Hawks over whether to boost the payroll of a then-struggling Hawks team by adding Johnson that caused all of this.  The seven guys who still own the team some five-and-a-half years later are the ones who wanted to invest the money to make the team better.  That other guy is gone for good.

All that the settlement may do is allow the Spirit to finally find more investors.  Uncertainty is bad for business -- especially uncertainty about what could be a court judgment that ultimately could end up with eight zeros attached to it.  

With the legal case finally over, investing in the Spirit becomes more tenable.  Perhaps the Hawks and their hockey equivalent the Atlanta Thrashers, are ready to rise from the ashes to new heights now that this mess is behind the organization.

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