Thursday, April 21, 2005

If you're going to rip on the Hawks, then at least be funny, Jeff

Jeff Schultz's columns occasionally contain some solid analysis, but most of the time, he comes off as a second-rate Bill Scheft (and I usually skip over Scheft's tepid jokes in Sports Illustrated.) Not surprisingly, he has some glib things to say about the Hawks upon the conclusion of their miserable season. Aside from the fact that Jeff is picking on the lowest of low hanging fruit, his arguments are just weak:

"I know. Cap space means flexibility, which means maneuverability, which means possibilities, which means . . . bupkus."

No shit, Sherlock, but do you have any better ideas on how to get better? The NBA rewards teams for solid drafting and player development to a greater degree than the NFL, which forces teams to give up some of their best players, or MLB, which allows teams to use naked economic power in the place of shrewd management. As a result, it's hard to build quickly because teams that have built properly have an advantage in retaining their players. The system hurts the Hawks now, but it will help them down the road IF they build right.

Free agents are not interested in the team now, unless the Hawks significantly overpay for them. However, if the team drafts properly, as the Bulls have done over the past several years, or if they make smart trades/free agent signings, as the Wizards did in acquiring their nucleus of Larry Hughes, Antawn Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas, then they will suddenly become a more attractive place to play. The Hawks seem to be using the former route. As I said yesterday, the team isn't attractive to free agents right now, but add a Chris Paul into the mix? Hmmm...

"The only problem is that sports executives don't make their mark by obliterating things. They make their mark by building. And so far, Knight has built one of the worst franchises in NBA history."

This is almost willfully ignorant. Knight hasn't built anything yet because he hasn't had time. He blew the foundation up, which everyone agreed was the right thing to do, and now he's building it back up. To criticize him for the current state of the team fundamentally misunderstands what rebuilding looks like and how long it takes in the NBA. Maybe Schultz should have taken a tour of the Ted this summer after the Braves dismantled their old Jumbotron and ripped the team for destroying Turner Field.

"Knight traded Antoine Walker to Boston for a package including a first-round draft pick that the Celtics had obtained from the Lakers. But the pick was lottery-protected and, well, the Lakers missed the playoffs."

Way to sound like a five-year old, Jeff. "If I don't get my popsicle now, then I'm going to be sad! I don't wanna wait until dinner!"

The bottom line is that Schultz offers absolutely no constructive ideas on another way to build the team. His impatient attitude is exactly what led the Hawks to build the horribly flawed Terry/Rahim/Robinson/Ratliff team that set the team back several years. If you squander high draft picks and cap space on second-tier players because they're available and because you want to build swiftly, then you end up where Pete Babcock is right now.

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