One of the Hawks' biggest weaknesses from the past few seasons is quickly becoming a strength.
Now that they've come to an agreement with veteran point guard Mike Bibby on a three-year deal for an estimated $18 million, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Bibby's Washington-based agent David Falk told the Associated Press on Tuesday that "we've reached an agreement in principle that hopefully will be announced very soon." Today is the first day free agents, such as Bibby, are allowed to sign contracts.
The Hawks added veteran guard Jamal Crawford and rookie Jeff Teague on draft day last month, solidifying a position that had plagued them for years. The Hawks sent point guards Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton to Golden State in a predraft trade for Crawford.
With Bibby returning as the starter after guiding the Hawks to back-to-back playoff berths since coming to the team in a February 2008 trade, the Hawks have plenty of options in the backcourt.
On draft night both Hawks general manager Rick Sund and coach Mike Woodson maintained that Bibby was a priority in free agency, even with the additions at the position.
"All I can tell you is to look at our team before he came here and then look at our team after we had him," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said last week when asked to explain Bibby's importance to his team. "This guy changed our team. His teammates love playing with him, and he's great for me, too. He made a huge difference for me from a coaching standpoint. I can't overstate his importance to what we're doing here."
Falk said that Bibby's relationship with Woodson was one of the major factors in his staying with the Hawks.
"It has been a very good environment for Mike," Falk said. "He enjoys playing for Coach Woodson, who has allowed him to be a coach on the floor."
An 11-year veteran, Bibby averaged 14.9 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 last season for the Hawks, who won 47 games during the regular season and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Still, his is just the first deal in a huge free-agent summer for the Hawks, who also have to try to re-sign forward Marvin Williams, a restricted free agent, and center Zaza Pachulia, an unrestricted free agent. In addition, they are trying to figure out the future of swingman Josh Childress, a restricted free agent who played last season in Greece. The Hawks hold his NBA rights.
Having taken care of things with Bibby, 31, the Hawks can move on from their misadventures at point guard.
The Hawks passed on point guards in draft after draft before taking Law with the 11th pick two years ago. But he never found a permanent home in Woodson's playing rotation.
The most notable misses came in 2005, when former Hawks general manager Billy Knight chose Marvin Williams with the No. 2 pick in the draft ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Both Williams and Paul were on the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team and rank as two of the top point guards in the NBA.
Bibby's arrival, however, punctuated the Hawks' rise from league doormat five years ago, when they finished with a league-worst 13-69 record in Woodson's first season, to their second-round appearance in the playoffs this season.
"Mike was the main difference for us," said Hawks forward Josh Smith, the only player still on the Hawks roster from that 13-win season. "We had some good guys, some vets and young guys over the years, that came in and held it down for us at point guard, but things changed for the better when Mike Bibby showed up. And nobody can argue that."
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