With Jason's recent posts waxing nostalgic about various aspects of the Atlanta Hawks' history, I started remembering Duff_Man's previous post about the Hawks All-Time 'Cup of Coffee' players, and seeing how the Hawks have shown a habit to get quality players onto the team in the twilight of their careers, and it got me thinking about the quality players (well, quality in their prime at least) who donned the Hawks uniform for a brief period in their careers.
Now, I must state that the majority of these players were on the Hawks rosters well before my time of being a fan, and some even beofe being alive, so my recollections of their play is based on their whole career performance, rather than just their Hawks performance. Heck, it's near impossible to find photos of some of these players in red, white, blue, green, gold or whatever the team colours were at time of each individuals tenure with the Hawks. I have kept the period of review in the Atlanta era, mainly because it'd be too much work (or more I'm too lazy) to look back to the early days of when the Hawks were known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.The criteria will follow similar to Duff_Man's previous entries.
- The player must have been a serviceable NBA player at one point in their career.
- They must not have played for the Hawks for more than one full season.
- They have to be a recognizable name to fans other than Hawks fans.
Let's have a look at some of the players (Stats are Points/Rebounds/Assists)...
Kenny Smith (89-90) - 33 games
Peak stats: 17.7/2.2/7.7
Hawks stats: 7.7/1.1/4.3
Most Hawks fans would know 'The Jet' for his work on TNT's NBA coverage, but for less than half a season he was a member of the Hawks. Traded to the Hawks just 3 days after being beaten by Dominique Wilkins in the 1990 slam dunk contest at the all-star weekend (which even as a Nique fan I thought he might've been a bit hard done by), Smith struggled to break into the starting line-up with the incumbents Doc Rivers and Spud Webb ahead of him. Smith was traded away to Houston during the 1990 off-season (for Tim MCCormick, adding to the Hawks collection tall, white centers in the early 90's) where he helped contribue to the Rockets' back-to-back championships in the mid 90's.
John Long (89-90) - 48 games
Peak stats: 21.9/4.9/3.2
Hawks stats: 8.4/1.7/1.8
An uncle of another former Hawk and Detroit Piston in Grant Long (as well as Terry Mills), John Long's best days came as a swingman for the Pistons in the early 80's, teaming with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and Kelly Tripucka in the Detroit back-court before Joe Dumars established himself at the 2 guard slot during the Bad-Boy era. Signed with the Hawks after being waived by the Mavs in the pre-season, unfortunately his veteran presence couldn't help the Hawks to the playoffs in Mike Fratello's final season as coach of the Hawks.
Reggie Theus (88-89) - 82 games
Peak stats: 23.8/4.0/6.3
Hawks stats: 15.8/3.0/15.8
After Atlanta's loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference Semis the previous season, the Hawks looked to add big names to the roster in order to finally push past the Celtics. Two time all-star Theus was traded for defensive minded shooting guard Randy Wittman (along with the free agent signing of Moses Malone). However, Theus' game didn't fit into the Hawks team chemistry that season, and they ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Bucks. Theus was left unprotected in the expansion draft, where Orlando snapped him up. After his '89 season with the Hawks Theus played a couple more seasons in the NBA, then went on to play overseas and star in rubbish TV shows like 'Hang Time' and 'Pacific Blue'.
Gus Williams (86-87) - 33 games
Peak stats: 23.4/3.4/8.4
Hawks stats: 4.2/1.0/4.2
'The Wizard' was a two time all-star with the Supersonics back in the early 80's, and was signed to the Hawks as a veteran free agent early in '87. He was a point guard with a quick first step quick hands, perneially amongst the top 10 in steals per game between 1978 and 1985, and seemed to step up his play come playoff time. Unfortunately his stint with the Hawks was less productive, with his FG% down to 36% as his lack of athleticism hindered his game at 33 years old.
Ray Williams (85-86) - 19 games
Peak stats: 20.4/3.3/7.9
Hawks stats: 8.4/2.4/3.5
The younger brother of the aforementioned Gus Williams, Ray's most productive NBA seasons were withe the Knicks and Nets in the early 80's. A combo guard who could fill both backcourt spots, Ray signed as a free agent with the Hawks but was waived after just over a month when struggling to get his shooting above 40%. Sadly, due to poor investments during his playting days Ray Williams was living on the streets until recently, and has been instrumental in the push for better retirement compensation for past NBA players.
George Johnson (82-83) - 37 games
Peak stats: 8.7/10.3/2.1
Hawks stats: 1.7/3.2/0.5
Johnson, much like Mark Eaton, Manute Bol and Charles Jones only had one particular skill that kept him in the NBA, but when that skill is the ability to block and alter opponents shots then it is a skill looked upon highly. Between 1978 and 1982 Johnson either led the league or finished second in blocks per game average, and currently sits 10th on the career bpg average list. My thought is that in backing up Tree Rollins, he didn't get the game time (12.5 mpg with the Hawks) to be as effective as in seasons previous.
Randy Smith (82-83) - 15 games
Peak stats: 24.6/5.6/6.5
Hawks stats: 4.7/0.5/0.9
The late Randy Smith in his prime was one of the most electrifying players in tthe league. His elite athleticism allowed him to play all the positions from the 1 to the 3 at just 6'3". A two time all-star (of which he was the all-star game MVP in 1978) and all NBA 2nd teamer in 1976 with the Buffalo Braves, Smith signed as a free agent in '83 after being waived by the San Diego Clippers earlier in the season. Well past his prime at this point, Smith averaged less than 10 mpg in his regular seson stint with the Hawks and finished his NBA career at the end of the season.
Truck Robinson (76-77) - 36 games
Peak stats: 24.2/15.7/2.7
Hawks stats: 22.4/12.8/2.7
One of the few 'Cup of Coffee' players the Hawks had playing for them during the peak of their powers. Was a two time all-star with New Orleans (when the Jazz were located there) and Phoenix. Was traded from the Bullets to the Hawks with the pick that became Tree Rollins. After the Hawks let him go to the Jazz in free agency, he led the league in rebounding and made the All-NBA 1st team in 1978.
Connie Hawkins (75-76) - 74 games
Peak stats (NBA): 24.6/10.4/5.3
Hawks stats: 8.2/6.0/2.9
One of the most graceful players and best dunkers the NBA has seen and a New York playground legend, Hawkins was a 4-time NBA and 1-time ABA all-star, two time All-ABA 1st team, one time NBA All-1st team and 1968 ABA MVP. He came to the Hawks in a trade with the Lakers for a 3rd round pick, and like many of the players on this list rounded out his career after his season with the Hawks.
Julius Erving (72-73) - 3 exhibition games
Peak stats (NBA): 26.9/8.5/4.6
Hawks stats: Unknown
Now this one may be argued by many, but as PointGuardSlim's profile photo shows, 'Dr J' did in fact suit up for the Hawks in 3 exhibition games in 1972. he Doctor's personal achievemnts are too much to list - 16-time ABA/NBA all-star, 11-time all ABA/NBA and voted one of the greatest 50 players in NBA history. At the time, Dr J was playing in the ABA with the Virginia Squires. The fact that his cousin (Jeff Haliburton) was playing with the Hawks at the time may have convinced Erving to go to training camp with Atlanta in the NBA. Due to issues with the Milwaukee Bucks holding his NBA draft rights and his agent (who was a Virginia Squires employee) coercing him to sign for less money than he was offered in the NBA, the Hawks were fined $25k for each pre-season game he played. Eventually a court injunction stated he had to fulfill his contract with the Squires, thus ending The Doctor's brief tenure in Atlanta.