ATLANTA - Estranged Hawks owner Steve Belkin may soon own the team again.
Too bad he can't assume control before Wednesday's NBA draft.
According to a lawsuit filed by his former partners, Belkin will put many of the Hawks' current front-office people out of work. That is assuming a recent ruling awarding Belkin the right to buy out the Atlanta Spirit ownership group stands up on appeal.
A Belkin-autographed pink slip landing on general manager Billy Knight's desk is reason enough to root for the domineering owner. His hard-line stance against the Joe Johnson trade last year led to his split with Atlanta Spirit, but Hawks fans might very well support Stalin as owner if it meant getting rid of Knight.
The lame duck GM will get one more draft to further humiliate the franchise, however. Now Knight at least has an excuse for making a bad pick: He can simply say he wanted to stick it to Belkin.
The so-called insiders predict Knight will take a Williams in the first round. Unfortunately, it's Duke's Shelden Williams, an undersized center, not Connecticut's Marcus Williams, the best point guard in the draft.
Knight's infatuation with Duke's Williams is little more than a rumor, of course. Were someone else the Hawks' GM, the gossip could be discounted. What personnel director would ignore his company's biggest weakness and hire someone whose skill set is thinner than his struggling employer's bottom line?
Billy Knight, that's who.
Shelden Williams is a strong, tough interior defender. The Hawks need that. Yet unless coach Mike Woodson can figure out a way to substitute for Williams every offensive possession, he will be a liability on that end of the floor.
Williams is 6-foot-9, not particularly agile and his repertoire of outside shots begins and ends with free throws. Sure, he averaged 19 points throughout his college career, but that was with shooting guard J.J. Redick attracting more defenders than Michael Jackson.
The Hawks need somebody to distribute the ball. If Knight doesn't like Marcus Williams or any of his other choices in this draft or can't package the pick with a current Hawk to trade for a veteran point guard, he should forfeit the pick. Just save this supposed NBA town the embarrassment.
Try as he might, Belkin can't help with this draft. All he can do is sharpen his axe. The legal wrangling in the ownership case will drag on a few more months, then he has to come to a financial agreement with Atlanta Spirit on the buyout.
Even so, one has to wonder: What would a Belkin-led franchise do this week? Draft Marcus Williams? Trade down for a future pick(s) and take UCLA's Jordan Farmar late in the first round? Do a sign-and-trade with the Clippers (Al Harrington and the draft pick for Sam Cassell)?
Maybe Belkin's Hawks would do none of the above. But at least they'd give the fans something the Atlanta Spirit and Billy Knight can't: Hope.
Adam Van Brimmer is an Atlanta-based writer for Morris News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.