The latest disaster from the Belkin v. Rest of the World imbroglio:
the Hawks and Thrashers cannot sign any players to contracts longer than one year. While this isn't quite as disastrous at it might appear, since the inept Judge Eric Johnson carved out an exception for negotations already commenced (and thus the signing of Speedy Claxton can proceed, as well as the signing of the Hawks' draft picks), it does severely complicate the Al Harrington sign-and-trade, since the Hawks will only be able to trade him for players with one year remaining on their contracts or for players for whom trade discussions have already commenced. It also makes the Thrashers' efforts to bolster their defense and sign a center to replace Marc Savard extremely difficult.
The decision by Judge Johnson is favorable in the sense that it allows Atlanta Spirit LLC to continue operating the teams pending their appeal of the decision giving Belkin the right to buy the teams out. It's also favorable because Judge Johnson didn't require the posting of a massive bond, which would have severely hamstrung the efforts of the owners to operate the teams. However, the fact that the Judge would initially suggest that the teams not be able to sign any free agents demonstrates that he has no idea how professional sports teams operate (and more generally, that litigation is often completely at odds with the business objectives of both parties in a given case). The fact that both parties had to step in and stop him from doing so demonstrates that they both understand that such a decision would damage the teams' ability to compete and therefore reduce the value of the assets over which the parties are fighting. The fact that the parties then couldn't reach an agreement as to parameters for trades and free agent signings, thus leaving Judge Johnson to employ the absurd one year or less restriction, shows that their acrimony is getting in the way of what should be a common goal. The one positive spin I can put on Judge Johnson's decision limiting signings is that he knows that it will put significant pressure on the two parties to settle, as he has put them on the road to mutually assured destruction. However, his original decision in favor of Belkin has given Belkin no incentive to settle, because he knows that if he prevails at the appellate stage, then he gets both teams and Philips Arena for a relatively reasonable sum.
Schmuck...with good lawyers.