Originally created 01/12/00

Hawks president promises changes



ATLANTA -- Atlanta Hawks president Stan Kasten was willing to give his new young roster some slack early in the season. That patience appears to be gone.

Kasten said Tuesday he is looking at unspecified possible changes in the organization if the Hawks, 12-21, don't turn things around by the All-Star break.

"I'm certainly not satisfied with how we've been doing, and I expected things to be a lot better," he said in an interview. "We like our roster a lot ... but we just aren't getting it done."

The Hawks are off to their worst start since the 1976-77 season, losing eight of their last 10 games. They are second from the bottom in the Central Division after undergoing massive roster changes in the offseason.

"We were right there in the middle of December, so I know it's there," Kasten said. "If it doesn't happen by the All-Star break, we will think about doing anything we can to turn it around."

The All-Star game is Feb. 13 and the Hawks have 14 games left until the break.

The trades that sent All-Star and model citizen Steve Smith and point guard Mookie Blaylock packing and brought in controversial guard Isaiah Rider and swingman Jim Jackson were designed to create a younger, more athletic team that could draw fans to the Hawks' new home at Philips Arena. Yet Atlanta is 10-7 at home and 2-14 on the road.

Coach Lenny Wilkens, who has missed the last four games with the flu, would not comment on possible changes, but had one idea why the Hawks have struggled.

"We can get it back by playing good defense," Wilkens said. "It hasn't been as sound as I'd like it to be."

Rider said he hoped Kasten's comments would light a spark under the team.

"Hopefully now people will get mad," said Rider, who leads the Hawks in scoring at 23.1 points a game and in suspensions with two. "People hear trade and get a sense of urgency. ... More people need to get upset and more passionate about wins and losses."

Kasten said he realized team chemistry would be hard to find early in the season -- especially since only five players came back from last year's squad.

"I figured on a slow start because, A, we had a new team and, B, we had a young team," Kasten said. "And when you have a new, young team, it's the worst of all.

"But it's the middle of January already and we are way past the time for excuses," Kasten said. "We should playing up to our ability. On some nights, we are the most underachieving team in the league."

Kasten would not pin the team's problems on the continued distractions created by Rider's absences. Rider has failed to show up for several practices and shootarounds, leading to his two suspensions. He also has blasted his teammates publicly.

Rider said Tuesday he doesn't think he will be traded and he doesn't think he is the problem.

"I think the bottom line is that I'm getting 23 a night," he said. "I don't have a problem saying people need to step up, or that we need some help because it's getting rough out there on the floor."

In their last three games, the Hawks have blown leads of seven, 10 and eight points in the second half.

This week's break -- the Hawks don't play again until Friday -- could help turn things around. Atlanta then plays six games in nine days, including four against teams with better records.

"I think by Friday when we come out of this break, we will be ready to start winning again," Kasten said.

Notes: Coach Lenny Wilkens returned from his sick bed Monday and led the team through a scrimmage Tuesday. ... Roshown McLeod, who has been on the injured list since Dec. 8 with a strained groin, took part in his first scrimmage Tuesday. He likely will be activated for Friday's game. ... Chris Crawford, who bruised his tailbone and left elbow against Toronto on Jan. 7, will likely be placed on the injured list. He is expected to be out at least two weeks.