Adam\’s Stream of Consciousness

If you blog it, they will come

The (Not-So) Fab Five

Posted by Adam on July 9, 2006

Its bad enough that neither the Hawks or Thrashers have made the playoffs in their respective leagues since 1999 (which in the case of the Thrashers is their entire existence). Its bad enough that it hasn’t seemed like management was doing enough to make the teams competitive. Its bad enough that the ownership group that bought the teams prior to last season, Atlanta Spirit, decided they couldn’t get along and have taken matters to court. Things may have been bad enough for Atlanta sports fans, but now things are worse.

Thanks to large pockets, and even larger egos, Steve Belkin became estranged from the rest of the Atlanta Spirit group. They went to court and a Maryland (yes, Maryland) court ruled that Belkin could buy out his four co-owners and become sole owner of the teams. Of course there was an appeal (there are always appeals), and the judge granted a stay. But things couldn’t be that cut and dry. As part of the ruling Hawks and Thrashers management are now unable to enter into contract agreements with terms longer than one year (there is a draft pick exception, so the likes of Sheldon Williams, et al, are allowed to sign multi-year deals). Congratulations Atlanta Spirit, in your quest to see who has the biggest cojones, you have failed in the one obligation you hold as an owner – striving to make your teams competitive and ultimately successful.

Not only can the Hawks and Thrashers not sign free agents to multi-year deals. Not only can the Hawks and Thrashers not re-sign their own players to multi-year extensions. The Hawks and Thrashers can not even trade for players with multiple years left on their contracts. There are four ways to improve/change your roster: re-signing talent, signing free agents, making trades, and drafting new players in entry drafts. The Atlanta Spirit teams now have a distinct and definitive competitive disadvantage in three of those four outlets. One of the cornerstone players for the Thrashers, goalie phenom Kari Lehtonen, is a restricted free agent that needs to be re-signed this offseason. An integral part of the Hawks off-season plan was to move Al Harrington for new talent in a sign-and-trade deal. Now there are questions as to whether these moves, and others, will even be allowed to happen.

I had painted Steve Belkin as the sole bad guy in the Atlanta Spirit debacle. He was the lone wolf who was against the Joe Johnson deal. Did the Hawks over pay for Johnson? Probably, but I think they needed to in order to get a player of his talent level to play for them. It may not have been a great deal, but it was a necessary one. Belkin’s adimant stance against the move led to the demise of the ownership group. However, by allowing the court proceedings to turn into a spectacle, and allowing their teams to cease being competitive, Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr., and Rutherford Seydel have proven themselves no better than their nemesis.

As Weezer so eloquently put it, “If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this string as I walk away.” Thank you Steve Belkin for wearing your instigator sweater. Thank you Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon Jr., and Rutherford Seydel for not buying out your estranged partner and thus holding onto his proverbial string as he walked away. Atlanta may not be the best market in terms of supporting their sports franchises through thick and thin, but they will get behind a winner. This is evident by the fact that the city was a top 10 market for viewship during the NBA playoffs (playoffs that did not include the Hawks). Thank you Atlanta Spirit for digging your own grave. Because of your actions, these teams will not be competitve any time soon. At this point in time I don’t care who comes out on top in the legal battle. As far as I’m concerned this fight is the equivalent of last nights UFC title match between Sylvia and Arlovski – nobody deserves to be called the winner.

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