Some lingering thoughts on Al Horford's departure, Dwight Howard's arrival and how things set up for the Hawks moving forward.
If you missed coverage of Horford's free agent signing with Boston on Saturday night, here's a link to my column on the risks coach and team president Mike Budenholzer is taking, and here's a link to Chris Vivlamore's signing story.
Some leftover thoughts:
The Hawks will tell you Horford left $23 million on the table. That may be true. But it's spread over a longer term so it's kind of apples and oranges.
There's also this: Horford is going to a more storied franchise with a deeper well of passionate fans and with championship banners hanging from the arena rafters. He's also going to a team that clearly is headed in the right direction under coach Brad Stevens and general manager Danny Ainge. Horford had an excellent relationship with Budenholzer. But given the roster changes, I'm not sure which direction the Hawks are headed. Also, Kevin Durant is giving serious consideration to signing with the Celtics, whereas he wouldn't even meet with the Hawks.
When rumors of a Howard signing circulated last week, I contacted somebody familiar with the personalities involved and was immediately told that Horford did not like Howard and questioned whether that pairing could work. Horford obviously was willing to make the best of it if he had re-signed with the Hawks, but there's no question that was a lingering issue.
As for Millsap, it will be interesting to see how he responds to being mentioned in trade rumors during the Horford negotiations. Like Horford, he's a classy professional and understands how the NBA business works. But he has the option to opt out of his contract after next season, and it would be surprising if he didn't do so, whether the Hawks have a good year or a bad year. Even with an average season, Millsap will be in a good bargaining position after the year, given his overall game and the respect he has earned around the league. Will the Hawks holding trade talks be on his mind? Maybe a little. But overall, his decision will be based on the same things that led Horford to Boston: money and franchise direction.
The roster has major issues. In order of concern: 1) There currently is no backup point guard (former Georgia Tech start Jarrett Jack, released from Brooklyn, is among the available free agents); 2) The Hawks need more offense in general, but certainly at the wing positions. If they don't make a major move, they will be relying on three things: Bazemore developing his offensive game; Korver squeezing a stronger season out of his 35-year-old legs; Hardaway starting strong and playing with confidence, now that he's fully implemented in Budenholzer's system; 3) Schroder is going to have to mature and develop quickly as the starting point guard, because for as much as Jeff Teague was inconsistent, he played more under control than Schroder.
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