Atlanta Hawks 2001 Season:
Key personnel losses: Dikembe
Mutumbo, (traded in-season to Philadelphia) and
Jimmy Jackson, (traded in-season to Cleveland)
Key personnel gains: Theo Ratliff ,
Toni Kukoc, and
Nazr Mohamed (acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for Dikembe Mutumbo and Roshown McLeod), and Brevin Knight (acquired for Jimmy Jackson)
Record: 25-57, 7th Place Central Division, 13th Place Eastern Conference
Success for Atlanta Hawk basketball would not determined on the court during the 2000-2001 season. It was clear that not only Atlanta's season, but future, hung on the front-office's solution to the question; 'What to do with Dikembe Mutumbo?'
It must have been a miserable summer of 2000 for Hawk management. You see Mutumbo was in the last year of his contract. Management had to make a decision rather to re-sign Deke or not. Mutumbo, there 'franchise player', had stated publicly during the off-season of wanting a viable plan for playing with a play-off contender in the near future before re-signing to a max contract with the Hawks. What was management to do? They, and everybody else, knew they had no plan. There re-tooling plan had already been executed in 1999 and kicked-to-the-side as a failure a year later.
Ah, the 1999 Plan. Let's see, Part 1. Mookie Blaylock and the #21 1999 pick traded for Jason Terry. Entering this season the move was looking questionable. Part 2; Steve Smith for Isiah Rider and Jimmy Jackson was an unequivical bust. A cancer called J.R. Rider had struck. Plan B was now in affect and it was called Mutumbo. (During the 2000 off-season management must have been playing the infamous game of 'What plan? You got a plan?' behind closed doors.)
Entering the 2000/01 pre-season management seemed brain-locked on what to do with Mutumbo. There young squad's foreseeable future looked bleak for making the playoffs. There was no way to truthfully tell Dikembe the Hawks would be a winner anytime soon. Trading Deke seemed the obvious choice. But a fear seemed to set-in on a trade due to management's past trade failures. So management did what management does best when in a quandary. They waited. They waited and played the two-faced game of saying, 'We want you Deke' while realizing that signing the elderly and questionable 'franchise player' to a lengthy and expensive contract would hurt the team long-term.
As pre-season began bad news hit. Mutumbo was stricken with a disease and was out indefinitely. Trade value for Mutumbo sunk. Management could only wait and hope that Deke would return and play to all-star caliber before the trade-deadline.
During pre-season Hawk management balked at trade opportunities. Management held steadfast to the hope that the squad would contend. It was a shallow hope. The front office was under fire and ridicule by the few faithful fans who knew better.
The season started worse than expected. Not only did losses pile-up but the group of young veterens in which the Hawks hung there hopes were performing below expectations. This group constisted of Alan Henderson, Chris Crawford, Dion Glover, Roshown McLeod, Lorenzen Wright, and Jason Terry.
In November Mutumbo returned and played himself into shape. As the first half of the season closed some hope presented itself on the court. The mistake-prone point-guard Jason Terry was moved to off-guard and his game developed. But NBA eyes were on the Hawks not for their play but; 'What would happen with Mutumbo? Contending teams (Toronto, New York, Portland, Phoenix and Philadelphia) silivated at the idea of obtaining the NBA's foremost defensive and rebounding center from a front office known for trade blunders. Names were bantied about of who the Hawks would receive for Deke (Charles Oakley, Antonio Davis, Cliff Robinson, Alan Houston, Marcus Camby, Glen Rice, Bonzi Wells, Rodney Rodgers, Cliff Robinson). Hawk fans waited for another front office snafu.
Then at the NBA All-Star game Mutumbo produced big numbers. His trade value increased. Days went by. But no trade? The trade deadline approached. What the was going on? No trade? Were the Hawks going to let Mutumbo leave in the off-season for nothing?
Then it happened. On Feburary 22nd Mutumbo was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ratliff, Kukoc, Mohammad and Pepe Sanchez. A collective sigh of relief could almost be heard from Hawk fans. The trade did not look that bad. Theo Ratliff was an all-star after all. Thou Kukoc was viewed at the time as on the downside of his career he did fill a need at small-forward. Mohammad and Sanchez were viewed as 'throw-ins'.
But surprise! As the Hawks played out the season Kukoc produced in a huge way. He showed the on-court talent of past glory and became the team leader. Double bonus! Given playing time Mohammad proved to be a quality big-man showing talent, hustle and desire.
Post-season hindsight of the trade is very favorable for Atlanta. The 2000/01 season should be viewed as a success by Hawk fans due solely to the Mutumbo trade.
- Stacey Augmon (9th)
- Rodney Monroe (30th)
- Adam Keefe (10th)
- Elmer Bennett (38th)
- Doug Edawrds (15th)
- Richard Manning (40th)
- Alan Henderson (16th)
- Donnie Boyce (42nd)
- Troy Brown (45th)
- Cuonzo Martin (57th)
- Ed Gray (22nd)
- Chris Crawford (51st)
- Roshown McLeoad (20th)
- Corey Carr (49th)
- Jason Terry (10th)
- Cal Bowdler (17th)
- Dion Glover (20th)
- Jermaine Jones (27th)
- Roberto Bergensen (52nd)
- DerMarr Johnson (6th)
- Hanno Mottola (40th)
Looking back over Atlanta's draft for the past 10 years one word comes to mind; Terrible! I challenge any NBA franchise to display a worst bunch of draft picks then the Hawks over the past decade.
Management and Coaching
After years on living by free-agents acquistions and a few good trades Hawk management is paying the price for the lack of judging talent in the draft.
General Manager: Pete
Babcock; One thought. Must know where Ted Turner buried the bodies.
Kruger; The 2000-01 season marked the debut of Lon Kruger as the eighth full-time head coach of the Atlanta Hawks. Kruger replaces Lenny Wilkens, who resigned from the position on April 24, 2000. While this is his first NBA coaching position, he has previous ties to the franchise after being selected by the Hawks in the ninth round of the 1974 NBA Draft.
Kruger, 47, comes to Atlanta from the University of Illinois, where he coached the Fighting Illini to a 22-10 overall record last season, an 11-5 Big Ten Conference mark, and the third NCAA Tournament appearance during his tenure. Illinois wrapped up their season with a 93-76 loss to Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In four years at Illinois, he finished with an 81-48 record (.628), and a 38-26 conference mark (.576). Kruger was appointed the 14th basketball coach at the university on March 21, 1996.
Before joining the Illini program, he spent six seasons at the University of Florida, transforming the Gators from a team that was not a factor in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) race into a team that posted a school record 29 wins and went to postseason play four times.
Rebuilding a program that finished 7-21 the year before he took over (1989-90), Kruger led the Gators to postseason competition in four of his six seasons. With two NIT berths and two NCAA appearances, his finest four came in 1994 when he directed the Gators to a school-record 29-8 mark and a NCAA Final Four appearance. Kruger earned SEC Coach of the Year honors on two occasions - 1992 and 1994.
Viewed as one of the nation's best young coaches early in his career, he gained his first coaching job in 1982-83 when he rebuilt a Pan American program that had won only five games the season before. After a first-season, seven-win year, the Broncs posted double-digit wins the next three years, highlighted by a 20-8 mark in his final season, 1985-86.
Capitalizing on his success his alma mater, Kansas State, truly believed he was the only individual who could lead the program after the departure of his former coach, Jack Hartman. In four years at KSU (1986-90), Kruger led the Wildcats to a school-record, four-consecutive NCAA tournament berths and an 81-46 record.
His 1988 team, led by All-American and current Washington Wizards guard Mitch Richmond, ranks as one of the school's all-time best squads. That unit finished with a 25-9 slate, tying the school record for wins in a season, and coming one game short of reaching the Final Four.
A talented athlete at KSU, Kruger helped the Wildcats to back-to-back Big Eight Conference titles in 1972 and 1973. The league's sophomore of the year in 1972, he earned Big Eight Player of the Year accolades in 1973 and 1974. He concluded his career with 1,063 points, the 14th best total in K-State history, and as a senior he scored 17.6 points per game.
In addition to his standout basketball days at KSU, Kruger also played baseball for the Wildcats, playing three positions (second base, third base and pitcher) during his career. His best season was in 1971 when he posted a 4-3 record and aneared-run average of 3.33, and prior to that season (1970), he was drafted by the Houston Astros.
An all-around athlete, Kruger also received some interest from the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys extended him an invitation to attend their 1972 rookie camp as a quarterback.
He played and lettered in three sports (basketball, baseball and football) at Silver Lake (Kansas) High School. As a senior, he averaged 23 points per game in leading his team to the state basketball tournament, passed for 2,079 yards and scored 23 touchdowns in nine football games, and led the baseball team to the state tournament as a pitcher-infielder.
Off the court, Kruger has been a frequent public spokesman for various nonprofit organizations throughout his career.
Theo Ratliff (6'11", 250 lbs, dob: 4/17/73, years NBA: 5, Wyoming '88): Theo was the key player for Atlanta in the Mutumbo trade. Ratliff's game has developed to point where he was picked for the 2001 NBA All-Star Game. A shot-blocker deluxe Theo has been labeled by some as a 'young Mutumbo'. Ratliff's game may actually be better suited for the power forward position. Lacks bulk, relying on leaping ability and quickness. Offense is minimal. Viewed as a building block type player that a team can build a winner around.
Nazr Mohammed (7'0", 248 lbs, dob: 9/5/77, years NBA: 3, Kentucky): Yow-za. We have a winner! Nazr came out of nowhere to show the NBA that he is a player. Is a free-agent this year so not sure of his situation with the Hawks (believe he is restricted so Hawks have signing rights). Seems to be set for bigger and better things as a player.
Toni Kukoc (6'11", 220 lbs, Croatia): Kukoc really proved himself to the Atlanta faithful as a player. Seen by many as salary-dump by Philly to complete the Mutumbo trade. Wow! What a pickup. This guy nearly averaged a double-double until his sore back shut him down for the season. Might be the solution to the point-guard issue. A fine ball-handler, let Toni play the point-forward position. Just a good fit in Atlanta right now. Seems to be taking on the leadership role of the team. Supposedly a well-sought after commodity by other teams. I say keep him.
Lorenzen Wright (6'10", 225 lbs, Memphis): A mistake by Babcock who had some cash to blow in 99'. Big salary for several more years. They bet on the come when they signed Wright. So far....blah. A franchise anchor. Weighs a team down with his contract so they can't make moves to improve. Still has some hope. Believe he still has some trade value. I say dump him.
Alan Henderson (6'9", 225 lbs, Indiana): Yikes. What happened to this guy? My call, it was an aberration. That really wasn't Henderson playing the year before his contract expired was it? Who was it then? That guy showed hops, quickness and desire. The only way to dispose of Alan's fat contract is to package him with a wanted commodity to some unsuspecting team.
Chris Crawford (6'10", 225 lbs, Marquette): Christ-on-a-pogo-stick! It keeps getting worse. Wright, then Henderson; now Crawford. All under-achievers. To say Crawford's fat contract signing was a slight oversight by the front-office would be a understatement. When did Crawford ever show anything to warrant the multi-year deal he got? Playoffs of 1999? Guess one can't blame the guy for signing the mega-buck deal. Another dead-weight franchise anchor. Again...the only way to dispose of Crawford's fat contract is to package him with a wanted commodity to some unsuspecting team.
Hanno Mottola (6'10", 225 lbs, BYU): Believe Kruger is excited about Hanno's potential. Nice 2nd round draft choice here. Could be the first Hawk second rounder to become a player since I care to remember. Has a nice inside-out game. Seems to be the kind of guy who will improve every year. Should become a valuable reserve for years to come.
Jason Terry (6'1", 173 lbs, Arizona): Sorry. Not buying it. Jason is a point guard. If he is not playing that position he is hurting the team. As mentioned below, Hawks need to pick up a tall point guard if they stay with Jason at 2. And how many of those tall point-guards are around? Not many. Might be time for Atlanta to re-think Terry playing the off-guard. Electric speed but lacks point-guard mentality. Hopefully that will change and will be moved back to the 1 position.
Brevin Knight (5'10", 175 lbs, Stanford): It was worth a try. The Hawks needed a point guard so they traded for him. Unfortunately it didn't workout. Brevin is just to small to play with Jason Terry even when they had Deke's inside presence. Not much of a shooter Brevin will make a fine backup point guard.
DerMarr Johnson (6'9", 205 lbs, Cincinnati): This guy has that ugly word written all over him; POTENTIAL. Means you have the talent but have not realized it. Johnson was that way in college also. A bit scary for the Hawks but there in for the ride. Say, is DerMarr an off-guard or small-forward? What concerns me is, a) the Hawks are talking they need a off-guard to start next to Terry; b) Hawks are talking as though they will take Battier as there SF of the future. If a) and b) are true where does that leave DerMarr Johnson?
Dion Glover (6'5", 225 lbs, Georgia Tech): When they drafted Dion I thought the Hawks knew something. Turns out it was just another bad draft pick.
Team Needs and Possible Offseason Moves
With the current set of players going into the 2001/02 season the Atlanta Hawks first priority is to obtain a seasoned, tall-guard who can a) handle the point duties on offense; and b) defend the off-guard. Due to Jason Terry playing the 2 position height is needed at the other guard slot. Looking at the rosters throughout the NBA obtaining this type of player will be very difficult.
Recommendation. Trade Jason Terry. Package him with one of the over-paid forwards. Dump salary. Go to the conventional small guard as the ball-handler, tall-guard as the shooter/scorer. Trade Terry with anyone (except Theo Ratliff) for the right deal.
Players Hawks should investigate acquiring via trade:
- Mike Bibby
- Sharif Abdur-Rahim
- Lamar Odom
- Jason Kidd
- Jamal Crawford
Kwame Brown, 6-11, 235lbs. PF, High Schooler
Atlanta desperately needs a marquee player to draw fans. A home state product Brown should fit the bill. Likened to Kevin Garnett in abilities the high-schooler could be a stud by his 3rd year as a pro (2004 season). Rumored to still have a few inches of growth left in him Kwame could top out over 7 feet in height. A front line of Theo Ratliff and Kwame Brown would make quite a board-sweeping, shot-snuffing combo. The kid is not a banger, but a 10-15ft jump-shooter with finesse and fine ball-handling abilities. Big bonus seems to be his 'head-on-right' attitude. As we know, the dreaded 'head-case' is the curse-of-death for today's NBA GMs. Brown seems to be a reasonable, coachable sort (ie. initially shied away from the draft because he felt he was not ready [seems to have ego in check]).
Other Players Considered
Eddie Curry, 6-10" 300lbs. Center, High Schooler
The tandem of Ratliff and Curry would be a nice fit. Grace/quickness (Ratliff) paired with bulk and muscle (Curry). The two would be
interchangeable between the center and power forward positions. Curry is said to lack 100% effort. I think that will change once he starts playing with the NBA 'big-boys'. As the case with Kwame Brown, Curry is worth the risk due to his immense potential.
Rodney White, 6-9" 230lbs. SF/PF, Charlotte
This guy has been the 'riser' in the draft. White is a PF with the abilitites of a 3. Have even read Rodney is capable of playing the 2. Wow. Not bad. Was a highly
recruited kid 2 years ago out of high school. I wouldn't be surprised to see White go early. I mean really early.
Shane Battier, 6-8" 220lbs. SF, Duke
Anyone who followed the NCAA over the past 2 years knows what this guys about. A winner. Nice player but not worthy of a number 3 pick in the NBA draft. Don't understand the talk of him going to Atlanta at 3. Smoke-screen I would hope. Listening to some GM's he's the next Larry Bird or Magic when it comes to basketball intelligence. Hello! Sorry. Thou Battier is a better player than Ricky Fox who he has been compared (chuckles).
Griffen, 6-9" 210lbs. SF, Seton Hall
This guy scares me. Rumored to be a head-case with all the talent in the world. Boom or bust type. Am hoping he goes number 1 or 2 so the Hawks will not be tempted to take him. Have a ever-so slight inclination that he might be a 'tweener'.
Likely Hawk Selection
Atlanta is reportedly hot on Shane Battier (shake head in disgust). Now mind you I think Shane is a fine player and person but come on! At the 3 spot in the draft teams seek franchise players. Battier is NOT a franchise player. Who will the Hawks select? Your guess is as good as mine.