Originally created 10/31/04

Hawks hoping to begin anew



ATLANTA - New owners. A new coach. An almost entirely new group of players.

Yep, the Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding again.

They can only hope this overhaul goes better than the last one.

After getting swept in the second round of the 1999 playoffs, the Hawks decided they needed to get younger, quicker, more athletic. What they became was a laughingstock.

They traded for Isaiah Rider. Groan. They hired Lon Kruger as coach. Ouch. They even tried a playoff guarantee. Uh, not a good idea.

So, while en route to missing the playoffs for the fifth year in a row, Atlanta decided on another do-over.

"We actually put down in writing a championship plan," said Steve Belkin, a Boston businessman who leads the new ownership group. "We're following that plan. You can never tell if it's going to take two years or three years. Maybe if we're lucky, it will only be one year."

Not likely. But at least give the Hawks an A for effort.

With the blessing of the new owners, general manager Billy Knight tried to dump anyone with a pulse at last season's trade deadline. He cleaned out the rest of the garage over the summer, leaving Boris Diaw as the only player who was with the team at this time last year.

Knight's goal: A more athletic and versatile team, comprised of players who don't necessarily fit the mold at one position but work well together. Essentially, the model used by the Detroit Pistons to win the NBA championship.

Underscoring that direction, the Hawks hired Detroit assistant Mike Woodson as their new coach.

"We want high character. We want great athleticism. We want guys who can play multiple positions," Belkin said.

Bold words for a team that hasn't gotten past the second round of the playoffs since moving to Atlanta in 1968.

Numerous NBA players live in Atlanta, though most of them never had any desire to play for the local team. If the Hawks ever get their act together, they'll probably have a line outside the door looking for work.

For now, the Hawks are closer to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats than they are to winning a championship.

Antoine Walker and Al Harrington, both acquired in offseason trades, give the team a couple of accomplished scorers. That's about it.

At center is Jason Collier, whose last team was Fayetteville of the NBDL.

The new point guard is Kenny Anderson, a third-stringer in Indiana.

The shooting guard is likely to be Diaw, who would rather pass than shoot.

The growing pains were obvious in the preseason. The Hawks won their first game, then lost seven in a row. Atlanta, 28-54 last season, hasn't made the playoffs since 1999, and Woodson knows it will take time.

"When I took this job, I knew it was a challenge," he said. "I'm up for the challenge. Sure, I could have stayed in Detroit, but that's the easy way out. I think this is a wonderful opportunity."