ATLANTA — Not content to stand pat after a fifth-place finish and first-round playoff exit, the Atlanta Hawks went through a wholesale makeover in the offseason. Danny Ferry was hired as the new president and general manager in June, after spending five seasons as the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and last season as president of the San Antonio Spurs.
Ferry cleaned house, keeping just five players from last season — center Al Horford, guard Jeff Teague and forwards Ivan Johnson, ZaZa Pachulia and Josh Smith. He jettisoned Jannero Pargo, who lasted less than a month with the Wizards this year, and veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich, who played for the Wizards in 2010-11. Former All-Star Tracy McGrady, who signed a one-year deal last season, is now playing in China.
But his biggest move was trading six-time All-Star swingman Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for five players, including former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson, and a first-round pick. Johnson had been the team’s cornerstone for eight seasons.
“With Joe gone, the dynamic of our team is naturally going to change,” Ferry said in an interview with Grantland.com as he began his rebuild. “There’s going to be more touches and more possessions that other people are gonna be a part of. Change can be a good thing. We’re going to play a little differently.”
Ferry’s rebuild is somewhat similar to what Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld did in the offseason — both executives flipped approximately half their rosters. The Hawks have nine new players, the Wizards have seven. So far, the Hawks have had far better results, with a record of 5-4, while the Wizards have gotten off to a franchise-worst 0-9 start.
Atlanta has managed to find a workable chemistry with its new crop of new players, while the Wizards are on their third starting lineup just ten games into the season and have a bench rotation that relies on a haphazard plan of waiting to see who has the hot hand on any given night.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman still continues to search for answers and juggle his lineups, but he is frustrated with the lack of consistency from his players. Although the team is without its two best players, Nene and John Wall, the rest of the team wasn’t expected to be this dreadful.
At times, even Wittman doesn’t understand why his players seem so confused.
“When I’m a shooter and I got an open shot, you shoot the ball,” Wittman said. “If I’m a non-shooter, I pass the ball. We pass up shots to take worse shots. I’m trying to figure that out.”
The one bright spot on the Wizards’ bleak horizon is that Nene has returned to practice. The 6-foot-11 center participated in his first full practice on Tuesday. Reports surfaced that Nene might make his debut in Atlanta, but the said that Saturday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats was a more likely return date.
He’s looking forward to being back on the court, but he advises fans to take a cautious approach if they’re expecting the team to make a miraculous turnaround.
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