What a different offseason this has become.
Danny Ferry's arrival, surprising in and of itself, was just the beginning. Ferry dove into the collective psyche of the native Bird Watcher and dispensed of the biggest wet blanket over the fanbase, the cap-constricting contract of Joe Johnson. Then he dealt Marvin Williams to further the cap loosening and suddenly the Hawks, who had been looking at being capped out with a virtual ceiling of the second round of the playoffs, were free to hope about rebuilding around the younger frontcourt of Al Horford and Josh Smith.
Other amazing things occurred: The Hawks were now a player for Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, tasty rumors that had always skipped over the city of Atlanta since Dikembe Mutombo made a surprise selection back in 1996. Then Ferry used the Mid-Level Exception, something that had been collecting dust on the Hawks GM shelf since it's inception, and didn't just use it to overpay someone out of desperation, rather, got Louis Williams for less than market value to replace some of the offense lost with Johnson.
Next, Ferry did another unnatural act to Hawks fans, using the trade exception from the Johnson deal almost immediately rather than tacitly letting it expire by dealing for another straight shooter, still-effective sniper Kyle Korver, without tacking on any future draining draft picks thrown in.
Oh, and about those draft picks, Ferry oversaw the selection of John Jenkins, touted as the best shooter in the draft, who to this point hasn't disappointed in his display of his offensive acumen in the summer league.
So now the Atlanta Hawks, formerly a stagnant, forgotten franchise with little hope of getting anything other than a participation ribbon in the playoffs, whose management has always been associated with less than savvy dealings with an approach that can be best described as "safe", has a new look.
Bold. Risky. Going for it. And the fans have gobbled it up, but they aren't the only ones.
Says Sam Amico of SI.com, the formerly frustrated Josh Smith, he of the strong season in stepping up with Al Horford out, getting back to his 20+ PER efficiency and filling a team leader role befitting a captain, has taken notice and no longer wants out of the ATL.
"It's interesting," Smith said this week in an interview with SI.com. "I think we have a great GM in Danny Ferry, and he has a plan that he's putting together. It looks good. I really am just trying to get to know these guys, to build a relationship and see where the team is going to end up closer to veterans' camp. I'm just excited. We have a lot of elite shooters, and I can see us being a run-and-gun shooting team."
Asked if he still wants to be traded, Smith promptly responded, "No."
It would be easy to associate Josh's change of heart with the departure of long-time teammate Johnson, but look deeper than that.
Josh's frustration has been centered on the same things as the fan base, the lack of championship vision in regards to the future of the Hawks. Josh wants to win and he wants to see aggressiveness in the front office to get them there. Of course, he also wants to feel appreciated by the only team he has known, a sore spot when looking at Smith's tenure in Atlanta. Ferry has come in and addressed that and continues to show Josh the love.
Again, from Amick:
That mentality was in full effect in Las Vegas, where Smith visited with new assistant general manager Wes Wilcox near the top of the stands at Cox Pavilion. The two had never met before they sat down together on Sunday. They spoke about everything from the franchise's future to Smith's young daughter, Genesis, and son, Josh, during a friendly chat that lasted longer than half an hour.
The next step for Smith would be to work out another long term deal with the Hawks, but in my estimation it makes no good business sense for Smith or the Hawks to do an extension at this time. Smith can make more money as an unrestricted free agent and the team needs to maintain that flexibility to make a run at the aforementioned superstars to play with Horford and Smith.
Amick goes on to query Smith on Howard and then Smith talks about his relationship with Johnson, so click on the Amick link and go check it out.
Bottom line is this: Things have changed, finally, in the Hawks front office, and the Hawks have an aggressive, bold, confident GM who has started down the path of reshaping the company vision towards championships, not participation ribbons, getting buy in from the fans and now, also the previously out-of-here Josh Smith.