Atlanta Hawks' Ownership Has Dropped the Ball

Bo Churney@@bochurneyContributor IMarch 9, 2011

The Atlanta Spirit is a group of 8 (was 9) who have the mistaken belief that they know how to run a sports franchise.
The Atlanta Spirit is a group of 8 (was 9) who have the mistaken belief that they know how to run a sports franchise.

When the Atlanta Hawks decided to re-sign Joe Johnson in the offseason, I was skeptical that the now five time All-Star was worth $119 million.

I thought the move would handicap the team in the future and leave it with few options to become a contender. But, despite all of that, I was finally pleased that management was willing to spend some money.

So what did the Atlanta Spirit, the ownership group of the Hawks and Thrashers, then decide to do? They, of course, decided to go for the cheap coaching option and replace Mike Woodson with long-time assistant, Larry Drew.

At the time, I actually somewhat approved of the deal. Coach Drew explained the problems the team had and specifically addressed how he would fix those problems.

However, 64 games into the season, I am still watching Joe Johnson dribbling the ball for 20 seconds, followed by either a contested fade away or a pass that leaves a teammate with only three seconds to make a play. I'm still watching Jeff Teague rot away on the bench despite proof that he can give 15-20 solid minutes of play. I'm still watching Al Horford practically beg for the ball in the post, but come away empty handed.

Simply put: I am still watching the same team as last year, only with a coach that doesn't look willing to battle emotionally with the team.

But why is this? Why do I still see the player who said, "I don't care if the fans show up" playing in a Hawks uniform with a $119 million paycheck? Why do I still see the same isolation sets over and over again? And more importantly, why do I see Kobe Bryant shirts in the ATLANTA team gear store?

It's all about the money.

After watching what this ownership has done to the Thrashers, it's not hard to see that they don't care about the fans. (The fact that they have been trying to sell the hockey team since they bought it is beside the point.)

The fact of the matter is, after the Hawks failed to make the playoffs for nine straight years, the ownership was practically giddy at the chance to secure a bid in the postseason for the next few years (even if it is a terrible seed) and they willingly sacrificed any energy left in the fan base to do so.

Remember the 2008 playoffs where the Hawks pushed the juggernaut known as the Celtics to seven games?

Did you see the energy that filled the arena, cheering and hoping for the HAWKS to pull off a miraculous upset? Now? The energy might still be there, but it is too busy cheering for the OPPOSING teams. And instead of trying to find a way to fire up the Hawks fans, management decides it can make more money appealing to the opposing fans.

That is the last straw; the final nail in the coffin.

Even through rough times, you are supposed to stick by your team. But showcasing the opposing teams merchandise when your team has the fifth best record in the conference is not acceptable.

Do they think Boston sells Kobe shirts? Or that the Mavericks sell San Antonio or Dwyane Wade merchandise?

What is going to happen in the playoffs? Is the team going to open it's own Chicago or Orlando team gear store? Are they going to put giant posters of Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose on the arena walls?

To wrap up this rant, I will use a quote. At the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this past week, Mark Cuban said, "The worst position in the NBA is to be a .500 team."

Well, Mark, I think I have found a worse position to be in: You could be a team that has a travesty of an ownership group that only cares about the money it is making and doesn't give a damn about how they do it.