The Josh Childress/Atlanta Hawks Situation


My favorite swingman is in the news again. 

About this time last season, we hoped, nay, longed for our Lost Son, Josh Childress, to come back into the fold as a Hawk.

We spoke to Childress in his last season as a Hawk, and he spoke of the wanting of being important, a feeling he did not get from the current coaching staff or some of his teammates, whom he said considered him a bench player and energy guy. 

Childress famously left the Hawks two summers ago to head to Greece, where he has experienced some renown for his play over there. Last summer, the Hawks did what they had to do contractually to retain his rights by offering a restricted free agent qualifying offer.

However, things transpired that kept Childress from coming back to the Hawks, and now, some of those restrictions have been removed, and one wonders, could the last of those be the departure of Joe Johnson?

More after the poll and the jump:

Josh Childress' statistics

From this writer's (obviously) limited opinion, Childress originally left for these reasons:

1. Money

2. An unhappy work environment

3. No other NBA offers that the Hawks couldn't match.

Childress knew that the Hawks, if presented with an affordable deal to match, would do just that, match it. He did not want to do this given what was an unhappy work environment. From my conversation with him in 2008 the opportunity to play was paramount in where he would sign his next contract. Given that Mike Woodson had slotted him into the bench role and that, in a 790 the Zone interview in 2008, he felt some of his teammates held him in lesser standing due to that role, it was obvious to me even in November 2007 that the Hawks would need to change these things to keep Childress in Atlanta. 

So, with Woodson still in place, a lack of an overwhelming contract to stay in Atlanta and accept the role he had there, and that no team was in position to give him a deal that the Hawks would not match, Childress evacuated the NBA to both escape his lot in his NBA life and get paid by Olympiakos.

The Hawks maintained rights to Childress and, when last summer came around, they kept those rights by submitting the same qualifying offer from the summer before. This time, like the last, Childress again failed to find a contact situation that would free him from the Hawks, though he did visit Milwaukee this time around. Faced with the options of coming back and playing out the qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent this summer or going back to Greece, Josh went back across the ocean and ended up playing for (and winning) a Greek Cup championship.

Now, Greece is financially strug-a-ling, so now might be the time for Josh to come back, but where and how might this take place?

We know that the Hawks are going to submit another qualifying offer to Childress, putting him back into the same position he was in the previous two summers.  So what will Josh do?

If he wants to play in the NBA, he's going to have to go through the Hawks to do so, be it playing out a single season, sign an extension, or through the restricted free agent process (offer sheet/sign-trade). 

It doesn't seem like the Hawks have been or currently interested in signing Childress to a long term deal, unless it's matching a market value offer for Josh from another team via the offer sheet process. But Woodson is gone, a presumed hindrance to Josh even playing a single season more in Atlanta. 

But the other elements of the unhappy work environment perhaps still remain---the specter of teammates who held Childress in lower standing and may still be in place.

One of these pieces was Marvin Williams, who was thrust ahead in the rotation at Childress' expense per Woodson's desires. Another, maybe more importantly, is Joe Johnson, whose usage rates portent to accuse Joe of keeping the ball away from more than just Childress. 

However, with Johnson's free agency pending, it could impact Josh in two ways. One, if Joe stays, it soaks up a lot of dollars, and Cunningham's piece hypothesizes that given the Hawks aversion to luxury taxes, a Joe contract in Atlanta would exclude a match for an offer to Childress.

This may not be the case. There are no guarantees that Josh will get a sizeable offer from another team....nothing has changed to indicate that Childress was anymore starter worthy than when he left the league in 2008. Whether I believe him to be is irrelevant (totally)---Josh has been unable to convince any team in the last two seasons to go beyond the mid-level exception to get him, if he even received that kind of offer. Even more plain, there is no guarantee of starters minutes/importance/playing time that Childress has been able to secure as well.

So the fact that Johnson, or if he does indeed, remain in Atlanta, may still not seal Josh's perceived desire to depart the Hawks. 

If Johnson does leave, does this create a vacuum from which Childress can step in and obtain the satisfaction he desires on the court? Maybe not when you consider that:

1. Jamal Crawford is still on the roster

2. Marvin Williams is still on the roster.

3. If Joe does leave, it's likely a backcourt player or small forward will be coming back in a sign/trade.

The issue of Crawford is an interesting one. At first blush, it seems like Crawford is happy with his sixth man role considering being recognized for it as well as well as the significant success he had in the role. But was this acceptance of the role simply born from the desperation for playing on a winning team and being behind an all-star such as Johnson? With Joe gone, and a new head coach, would Crawford still be asked to come off the bench---and would he want to if he is?

The Hawks last season signed Williams to the extension the Childress might have/should have received. His financial presence on the roster, as much as physical, looms over the situation. 

There is no great scenario for Childress to choose from---no guarantees of freedom or meeting his goals. If there was some feeling in 2008 that his situation would change, that feeling has gone unreconciled. Perhaps that's why he chose to change representation---because he's still in the same pickle, NBA-wise, as he was when he left.

The best bet for Childress is as it was three seasons ago. Play out the qualifier, and be free to select any team to play for, and get on with his pro career...at least this time it would also include the NBA.

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