Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 7/11/12
ATLANTA Sometimes it takes a new set of eyes to arrive at the hard conclusions. When the Atlanta Hawks were eliminated in six games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by Boston this past season, most of those associated with the team refused to say that the core group, with five consecutive postseasons under its belt, had hit its ceiling. Six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson, for one, thought the Hawks, as constituted, just need need more "time and maturity." "We've got a lot of great pieces here," Johnson said as the team packed up its things back on May 11. "I would like to see us come back and give it another go." Alas, Johnson will not get that chance. On Wednesday, the nine-day old agreement to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets became official, as that new set of eyes, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who took over just a few days before last month's draft, cemented the most important part of his rebuild. With the league's new collective bargaining agreement, ratified back in December, Ferry believed that Johnson's contract he was owed 90 million -- would have hamstrung the Hawks going forward and that the team had reached its peak. "We, going forward, we wanted to be in a situation where we could be opportunistic," Ferry told FoxSportsSouth.com. "As we stood now, we were a good team, a very good team, but not a championship-level team and even that wasn't going to be sustainable, possibly, so we now established ourselves within the new CBA to be both strategic and assertive to build a team that can sustain success and ultimately play at a championship caliber." That will not happen immediately. The Hawks had reached the second round for three straight seasons until 2011-12. Some might say they have taken a step backwards by trading Johnson but with the idea of taking two steps forward. In exchange for Johnson, they received guards Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar and DeShawn Stevenson, and forwards Johan Petro and Jordan Williams, all of whom have expiring contracts; while also receiving a first-round pick in 2013 (from Houston) and a second-round pick in 2017. Also official on Wednesday was the trade of forward Marvin Williams, the second overall pick in 2005, to Utah for guard Devin Harris. The Hawks also have agreed to a contract with guard Lou Williams, the runner-up for the NBA's Sixth Man award last season, though Ferry could not comment on that, as the deal had yet to be made official. Asked if he could put a percentage on how close he was to completing the roster for the 2012-13 season, Ferry chuckled and said he had "no idea." "We'll continue to look at all of our options and opportunities, but, certainly, we put ourselves in a position today to look at -- I have possibly more options to look at this year, but also for the future," he said. One thing that Ferry's moves make clear is that the Hawks will necessarily change their style of play. The team's previous architect Billy Knight brought in all of the current core players even though outgoing GM Rick Sund presided over the team for the last four seasons believed in length and versatility. Johnson was a 6-foot-7 shooting guard and Williams a 6-9 small forward. With Jeff Teague (6-2), Williams (6-1), Harris (6-3), first-round draft pick John Jenkins (6-4) and Morrow (6-5), the Hawks will by no means have a big backcourt, especially since Ferry expects Teague and Harris to be on the court at the same time. (At this point, Farmar looks expendable and it could be an upset if he is on the team.) "I think that good players play," Ferry said. "I think Jeff and Devin will each take turns leading the team, but I think they'll also play together a lot. They'll be able to facilitate for themselves and for others on the court." In addition, Ferry seems to want to open up opposing defenses with his three-point shooters. Morrow is a career 42.6 percent three-point shooter and Jenkins was picked for the same reason. Ferry does not see an issue with those two coexisting. "I think shooting's a great thing to have on a team," he said. "It'll space and open the court for our playmakers, those being Al (Horford), Josh (Smith) and our guards." As for Smith, who was arguably the Hawks' best player last season, Ferry will have difficult decisions ahead. The forward reportedly has asked to be traded and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Ferry did not reveal much when asked what Smith's thoughts were on his recent moves. The two recently had a meeting. Smith, a metro Atlanta native, and Dwight Howard, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next season, are childhood friends and landing Howard in his hometown could rocket the Hawks among the NBA's elite. "I had a good meeting with Josh," Ferry said. "I enjoyed talking with him and enjoyed starting to get to know him." Ferry said the team's ownership was supportive of his moves and said, as he did when he was introduced, that he did not seek permission for the drastic step of trading Johnson before accepting the job. He never discussed personnel before taking the job, he said of negotiations that took three months, only how to build an organization. Ferry certainly is making his mark in that department. Only the long-term will determine if they become a championship-level team. As for the short-term, will the Hawks be a playoff team again next season? "I believe," Ferry said, "that we'll be competitive."
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