Hawks general manager Rick Sund has always operated by the theory that teams should keep their core together so long as they are on the rise. Only when a groups has plateaued, according to Sund, do wholesale or at least significant changes become necessary.
So what does Sund do with a Hawks team that seemed to regress during the regular season, winning nine fewer games than a year ago, only to shock the world during the playoffs, knocking off favored the Orlando Magic in the first round and then stretching the No. 1 overall seed Chicago Bulls to six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals?
Now that it's been confirmed that Sund will return for another year, there's at least no mystery regarding who will be charged with making the necessary adjustments to the Hawks' makeup. There is an ownership issue, though (surprise, surprise). The Atlanta Spirit group is currently locked into an exclusive negotiating period regarding the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights with outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores.
A deal is not close, but just being in talks is enough to worry Hawks fans. The current owners have assured insiders that the Hawks will not be moved, but this adds yet another layer of spice to an already hot summer, which could include a work stoppage of some sorts and some serious upheaval on the Atlanta roster.
Taking the tools to that roster is Sund's first and only order of business. And his options are limited, due to the Hawks' high payroll and the uncertainty of the parameters of the next collective bargaining agreement.
Someone in the core group will have to be sacrificed. Josh Smith has the best trade value. Marvin Williams is the most expendable. And yet there is no guarantee that the Hawks will be able to move either one of them.
Whatever happens with the ownership situation and the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, Sund will have his hands full this summer. So he better have gotten everything he wanted in that extension of his contract, because he's going to have to earn it if the Hawks have any chance of keeping up with the improving pack in the Eastern Conference next season.
The first-round exorcism of the Magic in the playoffs serves as the Hawks' season highlight for this year and the past two seasons as well. Atlanta finally squashed Orlando, only to face an even better foe in the conference semifinals for the third straight season. But the Hawks' impressive showing against the Bulls leaves a much different taste heading into the offseason than those back-to-back sweeps in Round 2 to the Cavaliers and Magic did in the two seasons prior.
The Hawks' Game 1 win over the Magic in that first-round series was the first sign that the Hawks weren't headed for an early playoff exit. They didn't exhibit anything resembling that sort of fire prior to the start of the playoffs. In fact, the Hawks were the only folks anywhere who thought they had a chance to knock off the Magic.
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