The Hawks wanted to shake things up after getting swept in the NBA playoffs. Instead, they managed to completely transform their roster.
During a furious offseason, Atlanta has traded away its longtime starting backcourt, Mookie Blaylock and Steve Smith; acquired Isaiah Rider, Jim Jackson and Bimbo Coles; and picked up three more players in the first round of the college draft.
On Sunday, the Hawks pulled off another major move by landing center-forward Lorenzen Wright from the Los Angeles Clippers.
"The transformation of our team in the last six weeks is really interesting because it is not what we sat out to do," team president Stan Kasten said at a news conference announcing the acquisition of Wright for two first-round draft picks. "We're closer than we've ever been to accomplishing our goals."
The shakeup began after Atlanta was swept by the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs.
The day before the draft, the Hawks traded Blaylock to Golden State for Coles and the 10th pick, using it to select Arizona point guard Jason Terry. Atlanta had three more picks in the first round, keeping forward Cal Bowlder and guard Dion Glover and trading Jumaine Jones for a future first-rounder.
The Hawks didn't keep that pick for long, using it Sunday along with their own first-round selection in 2000 in a sign-and-trade deal for the 6-foot-11 Wright, who adds much-needed depth and security to the frontline.
In between, the Hawks traded Smith, their leading scorer the last four seasons, to the Portland Trail Blazers for Rider and Jackson.
"We knew that we had to supplement further," Kasten said. "We did not know we would be able to trade Mookie for something terrific. We didn't know we could trade Steve Smith. We didn't know that we could go young."
Virtually overnight, the Hawks have changed the look of their roster from aging, slow and thin to young, quick and deep. Smith and Blaylock are both in their 30s; Rider, Jackson and Wright are in their 20s.
On the other hand, the Hawks are taking some major gambles. They hope the 21-year-old Terry can run the offense right away and are crossing their fingers with Rider, whose career has been overshadowed by numerous run-ins with the league and the law.
The Hawks and Clippers had discussed a Jackson-for-Wright deal early last week, but Atlanta decided against it because "that would trade one shortcoming for another," Kasten said, helping the frontline while hurting depth in the backcourt.
"I was kind of down a little because I thought the trade might not happen," the 23-year-old Wright said.
Then, when he contemplated a one-year, $2 million offer from the Lakers, the Clippers agreed to trade Wright to the Hawks for two draft picks. In addition to Atlanta's pick, Los Angeles gets a lottery-protected selection that originally belonged to Toronto, meaning it doesn't kck in until the Raptors make the playoffs.
"I just wanted to get to a winning situation, get to an established team that's already winning so I can win," said Wright, who agreed to a seven-year contract worth about $42 million after turning down a six-year, $30 million offer from the Clippers.
Wright, who was the No. 7 pick in the 1997 draft, averaged 6.6 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, splitting time at center with rookie Michael Olowokandi and at forward with Maurice Taylor. With the Hawks, he should fill a similar role behind Dikembe Mutombo and Alan Henderson.
Atlanta is over the salary cap but took advantage of a trade exception worth $4.4 million this season.
"Getting another big, young, strong, athletic, quick big man ... was kind of a wish list item of ours," Kasten said. "We feel sensational about this. We have added a real important piece."
The Clippers have already lost free agents Rodney Rogers and Darrick Martin without getting anything in return, although they did pull off a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland in which they received Derek Anderson and Johnny Newman in exchange for Lamond Murray.
"We're very, very pleased with the outcome of this trade," said Elgin Baylor, the Clippers vice president of basketball operations. "The two first-round picks give us more flexibility down the road. First-round picks always help."
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