Hawks Passing on Dampier?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Erick Dampier met with Atlanta GM Bobby Knight, the man who helped draft him tenth overall in 1996, as the two mutually considered whether Atlanta would like to offer, and whether Dampier would like to accept, a six-year contract starting at more than the $9 million that the Knicks can offer in a sign-and-trade with Golden State. It appears as if the Hawks will pass on making a mighty offer to the mighty center. The next target for Atlanta's $12 million free agent war chest seems to be Memphis's Stromile Swift, a restricted free agent for whom Jerry West has promised to match any offer. The Hawks sure do like a challenge.

Dampier and Knight, along with Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson, met last night in Salt Lake City after the Hawks dropped their first game of the Reebok Rocky Mountain Review, falling 74-71to the Phoenix Suns. Josh Smith played particularly well in the losing effort, garnering 12 points, two steals, two blocks, two assists, and two rebounds in just 19 minutes. That was apparently enough to earn a handshake from Larry Legend. Indiana's Bird reportedly complimented the young guy as well. Coach Woodson says Smith needs to work on his defense and his offense away from the ball, though he emphasized that physically, Smith is ready for the big league.

Atlanta is likely passing on Dampier because they don't see him as a player that they can build around for the next half-decade. Dampier has been this year's poster boy for contract years, as he bumped both his scoring and rebounding averages up 50% over his career averages, and became a consistent double-double threat. What appears most likely is that he will join the ranks of overpaid Knicks players. New York is looking to trade Nazr Mohammed and Othella Harrington to Golden State for a re-signed Dampier.

The Hawks' pursuit of restricted free agent Stromile Swift will end one of three ways: the Hawks will make an offer so large even Memphis will be forced to let him go, the Hawks will make a reasonable offer that the Grizzlies will match, or the Hawks will not make an offer at all once they realize that Memphis is likely to match. So the best case scenario is a waste of time; the worst case is a potentially overpaid player.

The Hawks look to improve on their 2-1 record in the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue today when they take on the Dallas Mavericks at 6:00 p.m. EDT/4:00 p.m. MDT. The remainder of their RMR schedule is as follows:

*ATLANTA 87, Charlotte 62 
*ATLANTA 83, Seattle 61
*Atlanta 71, PHOENIX 74
*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

Phoenix's Leandro Barbos dished out an amazing 16 assists against Atlanta last night, though the Hawks did damage on the boards, with Cory Violette (10), Casey Jacobsen (6), and Derrick Dial (6) all hitting the glass. Violette and Josh Childress led the Hawks in scoring with 14 apiece. Read more in this reviewof the game.


Michael Lee ofThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites: In an attempt to show Erick Dampier how much they "need him desperately," Hawks officials met with the unrestricted free agent center here Monday night... As with the Hawks' most recent addition, Al Harrington, Knight has a personal connection to Dampier. He was senior vice president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers when they drafted Dampier with the 10th pick in 1996... The Hawks are currently about $12 million under the cap, but Knight isn't expected to use the whole stash on Dampier. If something cannot be worked out with Dampier, the Hawks are expected to pursue Memphis Grizzlies restricted free agent Stromile Swift, another former Knight draft pick.

Michael Lee ofThe Atlanta Hournal-Constitutionwrites: Josh Smith hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter of the Hawks' 74-71 loss against the Phoenix Suns on Monday and a fan at Salt Lake City Community College turned to his friend and said, "I don't know how you spell rookie of the year, but I'm spelling it J-O-S-H S-M-I-T-H." That fan should temper the praise, although the former McEachern star played well enough to get a compliment and a handshake from Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird after scoring 12 points with two blocks in just 19 minutes.

Michael Lee ofThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites: With Herb Brown in place from the beginning, Woodson has rounded out his coaching staff with assistants Larry Drew, Bob Bender and Greg Ballard.The coaches are expected to sign contracts soon and are already working with the players this week. Drew, an assistant with the New Jersey Nets last season, was Woodson's teammate in Kansas City. Bender came from Philadelphia, where he sat on the same bench as Woodson under Larry Brown. Ballard spent the past eight seasons on the coaching staff of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Greg Logan ofNewsdaywrites: Although Atlanta officials met yesterday with Golden State center Erick Dampier, a knowledgeable NBA source said the Hawks are expected to pass on the unrestricted free agent in favor of making a major offer to Memphis forward Stromile Swift.In that case, it's likely agent Dan Fegan will push Warriors general manager Chris Mullin to trade Dampier to the Knicks.

Dave D'Alessandro ofThe Newark Star-Ledgerwrites: The final barrier preventing the Knicks from acquiring Golden State's Erick Dampier could be lifted today, as Atlanta is expected to pass on making a substantial offer to the free-agent center -- or any offer at all, according to an Eastern Conference executive familiar with the Hawks' game plan.The Hawks, the only team with abundant cap space left in this free-agent market, can offer Dampier more money than any other team, but they don't regard the 7-footer as a reliable building block, and are more likely to invest their bankroll in Memphis forward Stromile Swift.

Paul Coro ofThe Arizona Republicwrites: The way the Suns beat Atlanta 74-71 Monday in the Rocky Mountain Revue made it more meaningful than a pickup game.Leandro Barbosa, seeking to improve at the point, was a creator with six assists and scored 16 points. Maciej Lampe showed a more physical streak. Jackson Vroman scored 11 points for the second straight game and lived up to his active reputation, taking three charges. The capper came from Casey Jacobsen, who berated teammates for blowing an 11-point, third-quarter lead. With less than a minute to go and the score tied, Vroman tapped a Lampe miss to Jacobsen, who canned a three-pointer.