If any NBA general manager out there wants to re-create the magic that was the former Atlanta Hawks, now is the opportunity.
The Detroit Pistons were so fed up with the enormously talented but unfortunately pig-headed Josh Smith that they released the former Hawks' forward Monday with nearly $40 million left on his contract. Detroit, one of the few teams interested in Smith after the Hawks chose not to re-sign him, gave the power forward a four-year, $54 million contract in 2013. So they're still obligated to the remainder of his annual $13.5 million salary this season, as well as two more.
The Pistons can blame Joe Dumars, their former president of basketball operations, for this mess. His replacement, coach and relative general manager Stan Van Gundy, clashed with Smith immediately. But the team's decision to eat the contract is stunning.
Van Gundy said, "In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person."
Of course he respects Josh. That's why he dumped him.
I guess honesty was out of the question.
Smith is a wonderfully talented player who had the ability to dominate at both ends of the court. It was a bonus for the Hawks that Smith was from Atlanta. So they put up with him for nine seasons, waiting and hoping he would change.
The Pistons couldn't make it through two, realizing he wouldn't.
Before you ask: No, the Hawks will not be interested.
Who would take Smith? The talent-starved Los Angeles Lakers would seem like a possibility. Possibly so would the New York Knicks because, well, they're the New York Knicks.
How about Brooklyn? Oh wait, they've already got problems. The Nets have the league's highest payroll at more than $91.2 million but a record of only 11-18 to show for it. (Comparison: The 19-7 Hawks are at about $59.9 million) Brooklyn reportedly is looking to clean house and have made Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez available in trade.
Johnson remains a solid player, even if he's on the backside of his career, and leads Brooklyn in scoring at 16.3 points per game. But he's absurdly overpaid, the result of the decision by Hawks' ownership and former general manager Rick Sund to give him a max contract. Johnson is the NBA's third highest paid player this season at $23.18 million and he's due $24,894 million next season.
So how about it, Hawks' fans? Ready for Joe and Josh show again?