If The Hawks Want To Return To Legitimacy, Brown and Jeri Are The Key

By Gregory Moore
Updated: July 12, 2005

SAN ANTONIO TX.–The good folks in Atlanta, Georgia deserve some good news and maybe by the July 22nd deadline Billy Knight can deliver the news they are hoping for. What news is that? The Hawks need to do well in the free agency shopping boon but what they need is a little bit of youth and a little bit of experience. Well that quest can be answered in this franchise actually acquiring two players this season: Came Brown and Marko Jeri. As hard as it may seem, these two players could help this young nucleus. The question to be asked is whether Jeri and Brown feel that they can thrive on a team that is truly at the doldrums of NBA competitiveness.

SHORING UP THE POINT GUARD POSITION IS VITAL I’m going to be critical of Billy Knight’s moves because he is running a franchise that has a very tattered ego right now. Out of thirty clubs, the Hawks are the worst team in the league. They have a roster full of talent but they also have a roster that is about to be decimated by free agents leaving for greener pastures. One of the key areas where this team needs help is at the point guard position. Both Tyronn Lue and Tony Delk are free agents. If there was a decision as to which one to keep, Knight needs to convince Lue that he is integral to this team’s nucleus. Yet that doesn’t mean that Jeri wouldn’t be a perfect fit for this team because he could actually help Lue lead this team out of the catacombs of mediocrity.

When it comes to the point guards available, Jeri would be the most logical choice for this Hawks team. One of the things that Knight will have to get under control is the spending of the general store’s till. As much as I would like to see someone like a Chris Duhon, Antonio Daniels or Jeff McGinnis coming the team are very minute to say the least. Is it impossible for such a player of that caliber to come to the team? It’s not impossible but it isn’t just probable. Yet Jeri could be the bargain for Knight for a player of that caliber. He is also the type of player that the Hawks might truly like. Jeri is a 6’7″ guard that would fit into the Hawks’ plans quiet nicely. He’s a tad bit suspect from the outside but he is big enough to post up smaller guards and could become a threat on defenses that would simply try to shy away from him. He’s got enough savvy as a ball player to actually find the open man.

GIVING BROWN A SECOND CHANCE AT BECOMING GREAT At 23 years old, this should be the time when Came Brown is just living it up as an NBA superstar but he has faltered in his first three seasons as a pro. Brown’s immaturity has been marked as the epitome of why the NBA went to the lengths it did in protecting teams from getting high school players. However for the Hawks, Brown’s inability to be a grown up in Washington might actually be beneficial to a team that is trying to rebuild through a youth movement. Brown has plenty of ‘upside’ left but the question is whether he really wants to be all that he could be in this league and that leaves question marks for many general managers, Knight included.

So why should the Hawks take a risk on Brown when all signs are pointing to a kid who simply isn’t going to get it? Because financially he is a ‘low’ risk and for the Hawks that would be perfect. Brown may never see a big ass contract because he has squandered his opportunities in Washington but that doesn’t mean that he cannot be a serviceable veteran who lasts another twelve seasons or so. Why am I so certain that maybe a new place to lay his head could work for Brown when even I have been very critical of his professional and personal habits? Because he will be closer to home. Charleston, South Carolina is only 320 miles or so. That’s a mere five-hour car ride for Brown’s family to come and help him adjust to his new surroundings; something that may have been difficult for them to do early in his career.

You also have to look to the future and realize that Al Harrington may or may not be there after this season. The Hawks have to shore up their interior defense because they are very vulnerable to teams exploiting how ‘soft’ they are in the paint. Now I’m not saying that Brown is a physical force because he isn’t. One of the biggest knocks on his game is the fact that he is not a very physical when it comes to handling players in the lane. His footwork is still very suspect for a four year player and it would seem that if the Hawks were to convince him to come south, they would have to help him revamp his game to the point where he is not only a back up but become a starter.

OTHER PLAYERS HAWKS’ FANS MAY WANT TO CONSIDER So let’s say that Knight isn’t able to get Jeri or Brown and he is now scrambling to put a team together that would be competitive. Just whom would the team need to go after in a pinch? Well for starters if I were in Knight’s shoes, I’d go after Jay Williams, the former Duke standout who played for the Chicago Bulls prior to the motorcycle accident. Williams would come at a cheap price, between $1 million to about $1.75 million a season. If Williams’ knee has healed enough to where he is playing injury free in pick up games, then it might be time to give the former Duke star a chance.

Another player who I think they should take a look at is Jason Conley. Of course many may not know who Conley is but he is a national name from the college ranks. As a freshman at VMI five years ago, Conley led the nation in scoring. He transferred over to Missouri to play for Quinn Snyder. Up under Snyder’s guidance it is where his game sort of died. However he can be the type of player that the Hawks would need a player like him, who could shoot, dribble and drive from the win position. At 6’5″ can he become a wing player? Under the right system that could be a distinct possibility.

If Jeri, Delk and/or Lue are not available for Knight to sign, the team could look at a former first rounder that the San Antonio Spurs had a few years back; Cory Alexander. Alexander was drafted in 1995 by the Spurs and he spent three seasons with them as the under study to Avery Johnson. Now that may not mean too much but he is indeed a good enough player to help lead a young team like the Hawks. Others out there for the Hawks to look at include Kareem Rush and Stromile Swift. Even a return visit by Shareef Abdul Rahim may not be a bad idea if the timing is right.

HAWKS’ OUTLOOK FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON AND BEYOND It’s hard to predict whether the Atlanta Hawks will continue to be the laughing stock of the league next season. Billy Knight has his work cut out for him in trying to bring a little unity and professionalism to a franchise that has been decimated for the past ten years or so of playing in mediocrity. Will this team return to the days of the Omni? In Phillips Arena, probably not. What has to happen is for the franchise to create a buzz that will bring people out and feel up the seats. Marketing gimmicks aside. If the franchise is truly serious about being competitive, then they need to go about the task in a business type fashion; no holds barred and at 200%.

Coach Mike Woodson and his staff have to prepare for the inevitable chance that this team will be horrific for a couple of seasons and ownership will have to realize that this isn’t going to be an easy task. Having Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Al Harrington could be the start of something great but ultimately winning games will bring people out. That is going to take some time to develop and management can’t be quick to fire people because they have a window of opportunity. For Hawks’ fans let’s hope that their franchise has the patience necessary to wait out a turbulent situation but more importantly let’s see if the fans themselves can exercise the same restraint they want from their team.