Hawks starting from scratch

Originally Published: May 6, 2004
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
It's taken me months to muster up the wherewithal to write a Hawks blueprint. Like almost everyone else in Atlanta and around the league, I've lost interest over the last several years in one of the most bland, winless franchises in the NBA.

What a difference a few years make. Two summers ago, the Hawks looked destined to be a real contender in the East. In fact, they guaranteed it. With Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, Glenn Robinson and Jason Terry playing together, the team had plenty of offensive firepower.

The playoff guarantee was the stuff of marketing genius and, for the first time in a long time, there was actually a buzz about the Hawks. Of course, a month into the season, we all recognized that GM Pete Babcock hadn't built a contender; he'd built a shanty town based on fragile knees and inflated egos.

No one played defense. No one shared the ball. The coach lost his job. Then the GM lost his job. Then the team started trading guys away. Before we knew it a For Sale sign hung outside the Philips Arena. All was lost.

This past season was a disaster. The Hawks' sale started with one owner, then mysteriously turned to another group of owners, led by Boston's Steve Belkin, at the last minute. In the meantime, the franchise was left in limbo. GM Billy Knight, determined to get cap space for the upcoming offseason, began trading away the entire team. Before it was over, Robinson, Ratliff, Abdur-Rahim and Nazr Mohammed would all be wearing different uniforms. Guys with names like Sura, Rebraca, Person and Przybilla were replacing former all-stars.

But the killer was Knight's decision at the trade deadline to send Rasheed Wallace to Detroit for a host of expiring contracts and the No. 17 pick in the 2004 draft. With that one swift move, the Hawks turned the Pistons into a powerhouse and completely left the cupboards bare in Atlanta.

When the new ownership finally took control (ironically called Atlanta Spirit) it inherited the shell of basketball team, a flawed arena, six season ticket holders, five angry players and warehouse full of Big Dog jerseys. $250 million sure doesn't buy what it used to.

How long will it take for the Hawks to rebuild from scratch? Here's a look at what to expect as Insider continues its summer blueprint series.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer