The notorious tightwads at the Atlanta Spirit opened up the Brinks truck and handed over a tidy sum to C/F Al Horford ahead of the league's midnight deadline on Monday. Life is good for the former Gator, who inked a six-year, $60 million extension. But can the Hawks afford to keep their nucleus together?
ESPN.com's Chad Ford claims that a number of NBA GMs do not think so.
One things for sure, unless the Spirit decides that the team is profitable enough to go into the luxury tax zone, changes are happening for the Hawks next season. Atlanta will have $56.1 million tied up in the starting five of G Joe Johnson ($18 million), G Mike Bibby ($6.2 million), Horford ($12 million), F Josh Smith ($12.4 million) and F Marvin Williams ($7.5 million) and must negotiate a new contract with sixth man Jamal Crawford, who wants a raise from his $10M salary.
Assuming that the luxury tax threshold remains around $68 million and it doesn't take a MIT grad to realize that David Stern's tax man will be coming to take some extra cash from Atlanta's coffers. Let's just say, Atlanta doesn't exactly have ownership that is willing to fork over more revenue to the NBA.
So what are the Hawks to do?
Ford thinks that Atlanta will try to move J-Smoove elsewhere. GM Rick Sund tried to trade Williams to another team in the offseason. There weren't many takers on the guy who may always be remembered around the ATL as the guy who was selected instead of Chris Paul. Atlanta also couldn't get as good of a haul back at the deadline for Crawford, who is an unrestricted free agent after the year.
The Hawks wouldn't have made those long term commitments to Johnson and Horford unless they wanted to keep them around for a while. By nothing other than process of elimination, it's Smith. He's got skills and has turned into one of the more electric players in the NBA.
Ford claims that the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets, the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns could come calling to take Smith away from his hometown. Hopefully, it doesn't come down to that. But in a league that is desperately looking to reduce salaries amidst a global recession, it may be dollars and cents instead of common sense that forces Atlanta's hand.