When the clock struck midnight on Sunday/Monday, the frenzy that is NBA free agency began in full force. While the players can’t actually sign until July 10th due to the league’s moratorium, the player movement has very much begun, and with the Hawks as a “major player” this summer, there is a lot of news to cover from the first few hours. Let’s go.
Chris Paul/Dwight Howard
The first domino fell early this morning, when it was widely reported that Chris Paul verbally agreed to a 5-year, $107 million contract to stay in Los Angeles with the Clippers. This is certainly not a shock by any means, but Paul was either 1-A or 1-B as far as free agents go (along with Dwight Howard), and he would’ve been my personal #1 choice for the Hawks.
Atlanta was never considered a legitimate favorite to land Paul, and as soon as the Clippers made the move (at Chris’s behest) to bring in Doc Rivers, the writing was on the wall. Now, we can move on.
The “other” major player in free agency, Dwight Howard, reportedly met with the Houston Rockets for several hours beginning at 9:01 pm pacific time. He did not commit to the Rockets, and it is now being reported (first by Sam Amick) that Howard will meet with the Hawks and Warriors during the day on Monday. There’s nothing to “report” here, but Howard is the lone remaining target who would be a no-brainer signing for the Hawks, and as such, he’s the first domino to fall in either direction.
As of 12:01 am, Josh Smith is no longer an Atlanta Hawk… technically. The Hawks still own his “bird rights”, giving them to ability to give him an extra/5th year on a contract, etc. but the long-time Hawk is firmly on the market. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Smith had a five-hour meeting with the Detroit Pistons early Monday morning, but that no offer was formally made. I would assume that Detroit would be interested in giving Smith the four-year max, and while we could debate whether he fits there next Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the interest is real.
In addition, Spears is also reporting that Smith will meet with both the Hawks and Rockets on Monday. This is obviously bigger news for Atlanta, and while I’ve long since believed that Smith will be gone (and I’m praying as such), it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could come back if Danny Ferry wanted to pony up the cash. The Houston angle is also extremely interesting, as they are now the “favorite” to land Dwight Howard, and the two former AAU teammates could want to reunite in Houston.
This could also bring about a sign-and-trade possibility, as Houston would need to acquire one of them via trade in order to make the combination work, and they have some interesting players (Omer Asik among them) that could interest Danny Ferry. Stay tuned.
This one hurts. ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that he was told by a source that it is “in the bag” that Korver will be heading to Brooklyn to join the Nets. Korver had an incredible year with Atlanta last season, shooting 46% from three-point land and really excelling in Larry Drew’s motion offense. It would be very tough to see him walk away, as it was long believed that he had a big possibility of returning, but sometimes, money and the “rumored” possibility of a title run can be a big lure.
For Korver, I don’t really understand the move. Brooklyn couldn’t be a worse situation for a player who loves to come off of motion and screens, and the wing is jammed up with Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Alas, if Korver surfaces there, I’d wish him nothing but the best.
Jeff Teague/Ivan Johnson
Lastly, the team’s two “restricted free agent” candidates have taken very different paths. First, the Hawks elected to offer Teague a qualifying offer (making him a restricted FA), but failed to do so for Ivan Johnson in an apparent attempt to avoid a cap hold. This move makes Ivan Johnson unrestricted, and he is now free to search for employment with no hold by Atlanta.
As far as Teague is concerned, a leader has emerged for his services, and it is none other than former Head Coach Larry Drew and the Milwaukee Bucks. It shouldn’t be a shock to see Drew reach out to Teague, as Brandon Jennings is likely gone from Milwaukee, and the two have a relationship, but that’s something to watch.
Atlanta has the right to match any offer sheet extended by Milwaukee, and automatically bring Teague back at that price, but with a first-round point guard in the mix in Dennis Schroeder, Danny Ferry could be hesitant to match a big offer for Teague. Stay tuned.
Things are just beginning, and the rumors will be flying more and more in the coming days. Stay tuned for minute-by-minute, day-by-day accounts of what’s happening with the Hawks during this franchise-changing time!