For the past seven years, the Atlanta Hawks have been virtually oppressed and maltreated under the iron fist of the Atlanta Spirit Group (ASG). No, fortunately not literally, but really, the ownership has been more than subpar, and news that a sale of the Atlanta Hawks is imminent leaves Hawks fans abroad with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Not only did they practically run their Philips Arena partners, the Atlanta Thrashers, out of town with complete and utter poor ownership, but they also dug the Hawks into a huge financial hole that will take another few years to dig out of.
They gave Joe Johnson a max contract when everyone knew it would have been better to let him walk and rebuild accordingly. They refused to hire an experienced coach for the right amount of coin, and chose the easy way out, hiring the cheap Larry Drew who stemmed directly from the Mike Woodson coaching tree.
Considering the Woodson era was filled with stall ball and isolation sets, hiring someone who has been under that regime for the past few years seems like it could only lead to more of the same, despite promises of installing a motion offense. With the ASG disrespecting Woodson by firing him, how are the players supposed to respect someone who was groomed under the man the ownership clearly thought wasn't good enough to take Atlanta to the next level?
As a result of these decisions, the entire city of Atlanta abhors the ASG (mainly because of the mishandling of the Thrashers sale) and the Hawks are stuck with an aging shooting guard who has become accustomed to the stall ball and iso tactics that were installed and fostered by Woodson and a coach who has instilled nothing but confusion in what was an already unreliable offensive system.
Granted, it would be difficult for anyone to break years of what became the terrible habit of isolation basketball, Drew's inexperience couldn't have helped any.
However, years of poor draft choices and terrible management might be coming to an end. With the ASG apparently close to selling the Hawks and GM Rick Sund stuck with one year on his contract, a new era might be right around the corner. The combination of a new owner and GM will hopefully have the cajones to make serious changes with trades in order to free up space financially and find ways to make the Hawks more appealing to the city.
Luckily, the hometown hero Dwight Howard hits free agency just in time for the Hawks to strike if they don't already lay a trade on the table. What would spice up the franchise more than reeling in the high school stud that shook up the nation as a prospect?
While that is most likely shooting for the moon, the Hawks can at least look to dump off Johnson's contract on a team looking for a scoring punch (if Arenas's contract is dumpable, Johnson's is too), and maybe acquire a high draft pick or two while working towards getting rid of either Al Horford or Josh Smith.
With that draft pick and newly acquired depth from any new trade, the Hawks can look to rebuild with the remaining Smith or Horford (which ever one isn't traded), Jeff Teague, the new high draft pick, and more importantly the new management and owner.
While the dark days may be coming to an end soon, it's important not to expect what I just described, and view those as best case scenarios. Realistically, it could take a few years for the Hawks to recover from the Johnson contract along with Marvin Williams' raise from last offseason. Expectations should be low (in terms of extreme improvement) until the Hawks have recovered from the previous era.
While the ASG era may not have been filled with losing, it was filled with mishandling and forced a team filled with potential to middle out. All us Hawks fans can do is hope the next era is filled with good ownership, a city behind it's team, and most importantly, a little luck.