Now Officially Head Coach, Woodson Woos Grand Kenyon

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Hawks officially and formally introduced Mike Woodson to the press yesterday, naming him the new head coach, and he didn't waste any time getting down to business. He, his longtime friend and Atlanta GM Billy Knight, and Atlanta's most famous player Dominique Wilkins took Kenyon Martin out to dinner last night and reportedly offered him the $85 million, six-year maximum deal he has been longing for. Martin cancelled his Utah trip after the Jazz made an offer on Cleveland's Carlos Boozer. Will the Nets match Martin to a max deal?

Martin would be a tremendous pickup for the Hawks. He is a natural power forward but has been used at center at times when deciding to go small. While you wouldn't want to play him at center too often, he is a versatile enough player that he can handle any challenge. He rouses crowds and is one of the best finishers of the fast break since Karl Malone. His defensive intensity is tremendous. Best of all, he turns 27 at the end of December, so his contract would run through until he is 33, still near his prime. He is an All-Star. He is a former #1 draft pick. He would be a great Hawk.

The Hawks may not be a bad fit for Martin, either. He has said that winning is a priority, but if the Hawks could win even one game with the roster changes they lived through last year, they should be able to do very well indeed with an upgrade in talent. Jason Terry is not Jason Kidd, but he is more than happy to lead breaks were available. Boris Diaw is not a spot-up shooter like Kerry Kittles but he can penetrate and dish and he can hit the jump shot when called upon. Josh Childress is no Richard Jefferson, but he could grow into a similar role. This does not seem on paper to be a playoff team, but with excellent coaching, it is not impossible. Finally, many players have said that Atlanta's arena is their favorite; why not make it your home.

Of course Martin's preference would be to remain a Net so he can play with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson and have a chance to make it to the Finals yet again. But will new owner Bruce Ratner agree to match a maximum contract extension? If it puts him over the luxury tax limit, he would probably be reluctant to be paying extra cash for nothing.

Utah has made its decision to go after Boozer, so the choices for Martin appear to be narrowing. He is meeting with Atlanta today, and would be wise to accept their offer and let the Nets either match or wave goodbye.

The Hawks will participate in the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City, Utah from July 16-24. Their first game will be versus the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, Friday July 16th at 4:00 p.m. EDT/2:00 p.m. MDT. Other teams participating in the RMR include the Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Seattle Sonics, and host Utah Jazz. The remainder of their RMR schedule is as follows:

*Friday, July 16th - Charlotte - 4:00 p.m. EDT
*Saturday, July 17th - Seattle - 6:00 p.m. EDT
*Sunday, July 18th - Bye
*Monday, July 19th - Phoenix - 4:00 p.m. EDT
*Tuesday, July 20th - Dallas - 6:00 p.m. EDT
*Wednesday, July 21st - Bye
*Thursday, July 22nd - Utah - 10:00 p.m. EDT
*Friday, July 23rd - Bye
*Saturday, July 24th - Portland - 4:00 p.m. EDT

Read a transcriptof the press conference announcing Mike Woodson as head coach.


Marc J. Spears and Adam Thompson ofThe Denver Postwrite: The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks offered Martin a six-year deal Thursday paying the maximum of $85 million, but he has said winning is a priority to him.Atlanta's offer could give the Nuggets pressure to offer Martin a similar deal. While there has been talk that the Nuggets plan to offer Martin a deal close to the maximum, the league source said that talk was premature. The Nets could offer a seven-year, $100 million deal, but new ownership hasn't committed to that.

Brad Parks ofThe Newark Star-Ledgerwrites: Kenyon Martin's cross-country recruiting trip hit its first bit of turbulence yesterday when his visit with the Utah Jazz was abruptly canceled by mutual consent.Martin's tour is scheduled to continue today with a visit to the Atlanta Hawks, and his agent, Brian Dyke, has not ruled out other visits.

Michael Lee ofThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites: Only a few hours after he was announced as the 10th head coach in Atlanta Hawks history, Mike Woodson was hard at work on the first task of his tenure: Trying to recruit New Jersey Nets restricted free agent Kenyon Martin. Woodson, general manager Billy Knight and vice president Dominique Wilkins dined with the All-Star forward Thursday night at an area restaurant as the team began its push for the biggest free agent catch not named Kobe Bryant available.

The Associated Press writes inThe Ledger: Before Mike Woodson would agree to coach the Atlanta Hawks, he had to know that Billy Knight, his longtime friend, would stick around as general manager."Billy Knight was really the big reason for me being here," Woodson said Thursday when he was introduced as the Hawks new coach. "I really stressed in my interview the importance that if I took this job he would be around to see me through it, because I have a great deal of respect for Billy and I have known him for 25 years."

Mark Montieth ofThe Indianapolis Starwrites: "I had to wait my turn," Woodson recalled. "Then when I got my chance, I had to make the best of it or I wouldn't get an opportunity to play again." Woodson has come full circle with Thursday's introduction as coach of the Atlanta Hawks.Woodson, who received a four-year contract, waited his turn to coach, too.

Mark Canrobert ofThe Charlotte Observerwrites: Cox also has sketched characters for other teams: Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, and Orlando Magic."I did make one for the Detroit Pistons. If you saw it you would think Ed Roth did it himself. It's a devil who pierced his horns with auto pistons."

BBC Sport writes: Woodson, 46, was part of the Pistons' championship run this season that saw them upset the LA Lakers in the final. "Mike has all of the qualities I was looking for in a head coach as we went through this process," said Knight. "He possesses a tremendous work ethic and he's an excellent motivator."