The longstanding lawsuit that has brought much embarrassment to the Atlanta Hawks franchise finally reached a settlement that was announced on December 22nd just three days before Christmas. What exactly does this mean for the Atlanta Hawks
Full Press Release:
The ownership dispute famously began over the sign and trade deal that sent Boris Diaw and two first round picks to Phoenix in exchange for Joe Johnson. Disgruntled Atlanta Spirit member Steve Belkin attempted to block the move which ultimately led to various courtroom battles and ultimately led to much embarrassment for the franchise. Rather than take a look back at all of the events that happened on the way to the settlement. This much we know. Going forward Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson will be the managing partners.
Some Reaction from around the Atlanta Sports Community:
The AJC's Jeff Schultz on the criticism that the Atlanta Spirit has endured:
The Spirit owners could never understand — or at least would never admit publicly — why they’ve been subjected to so much criticism over the past six and a half years. The reason is simple: Fans want their sports teams’ owners who are passionate and want to win as much as they do, and who give the impression that they know what they’re doing.
However, keep in mind that it was a rift between Belkin and the other seven owners of the Hawks over whether to boost the payroll of a then-struggling Hawks team by adding Johnson that caused all of this. The seven guys who still own the team some five-and-a-half years later are the ones who wanted to invest the money to make the team better. That other guy is gone for good.
While Bret at Hoopinion isn't impressed, I have to think Belkin's ouster from the Spirit group is a good thing for the franchise going forward. Number one the search for new investors in the group can proceed at full force now. No investor is seriously going to consider coming on board in a situation when the first thing they might be asked to do is pay off a settlement to a disgruntled ex-partner. This in reality is probably priority one as the Spirit had to go into their bank accounts to pay some sort of settlement to Belkin so I wouldn't expect the Hawks to run out and make a trade that takes them into luxury tax territory just yet.
No one other than those on the inside really know the constraints that the lawsuit had on the day to day operations of the club. There have been times where we have raised the question that perhaps Rick Sund has to jump through a few more hoops than a lot of GM's do such as the coaching search this past off season. If anything this should clearly define the roles of those in charge going forward.
Time will tell whether or not this settlement has any lasting effect. The Atlanta Spirit group has often said that they would be willing to go into the luxury tax for the "right" player. The "right" player to this point has remained nameless but I have to feel that the statement is much closer to being true now than it ever was before. If nothing else as fans we can feel that right or wrong the decisions being made by those in charge are being done in an effort to improve the franchise.