Grizzlies to send Abdur-Rahim to Hawks
Updated: Wednesday June 27, 2001 11:52 PM
ATLANTA (AP) -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim is coming home.
The Atlanta Hawks worked out a trade on the eve of Wednesday's NBA draft, acquiring Abdur-Rahim from the Vancouver Grizzlies for the No. 3 overall selection, 7-footer Pau Gasol of F.C. Barcelona in Spain.
The Hawks also gave up forward-center Lorenzen Wright and point guard Brevin Knight and received the next-to-last pick in the first round, though the trade won't be formally completed until July 18 because of complicated NBA cap rules governing base salaries.
"We wanted to acquire talent with this draft pick that would make us the best we could be over the next five-plus years," Hawks general manager Pete Babcock said. "We don't have to wait for Shareef to develop, and he has a big upside because he's only 24."
The 6-foot-9 forward was born and raised in suburban Marietta, starring at Wheeler High School, and he kept his home in Atlanta even while playing for the Grizzlies.
"He's excited about it," said Aaron Goodwin, Abdur-Rahim's agent. "Atlanta is one of the teams he had requested a trade to. He's glad it worked out."
Abdur-Rahim still has four years left on a $71 million contract extension he signed in 1999, which includes an $11.25 million salary for next season. He will start on a revamped front line for the Hawks, joining Theo Ratliff and Toni Kukoc.
Babcock called it another step in a two-year rebuilding process that saw the Hawks slump to 25-57 last season, the worst record since the team moved to Atlanta in 1968.
"We intentionally tore our team apart," he said. "It was painful to go through, but we were very methodical and stayed with our plan."
Aging point guard Mookie Blaylock was traded to Golden State for budding star Jason Terry. Dikembe Mutombo was dealt to Philadelphia at last season's trade deadline for Ratliff, Kukoc and Nazr Mohammed. Steve Smith also was traded in an ill-fated deal for Isaiah Rider.
The Hawks were busy on draft night, as well. With the 27th overall pick acquired from the Grizzlies, Atlanta took Iowa State guard Jamaal Tinsley and immediately traded him to Indiana for a future first-rounder.
The Hawks passed up their highest draft pick since 1975, instead seizing the chance to acquire the leading scorer in Grizzlies' history. Last year, Abdur-Rahim averaged 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as the Grizzlies struggled to a 23-59 record.
"We could have taken one of those other guys and waited for him to become Shareef," Babcock said. "But we thought, 'Why not take Shareef now?' "
Abdur-Rahim was on a flight from New York to Atlanta and could not be reached for comment.
The Hawks went through the formality of picking Gasol for the Grizzlies with the No. 3 pick since teams are prohibited from giving up their first-round pick two years in a row. Atlanta traded its No. 1 pick in 2002 to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the deal that brought Wright to Atlanta two years ago.
The Grizzlies, who already have shifted their basketball operations to Memphis in anticipation of relocating to Tennessee, hoped to make a big impact in a draft that was deep in talent but short on experience.
Billy Knight, the Grizzlies' general manager, said Gasol and Battier will help the team develop a more up-tempo style of play.
"Sometimes these decisions are made in sports," Knight said. "We got three players back, three good players who we think can contribute to this team for a long time."
Babcock made it clear all along that he preferred to trade the No. 3 choice rather than spend several seasons developing another young player. The Hawks already have Terry, Dion Glover, Cal Bowdler and DerMarr Johnson -- all drafted in the first round over the last two years.
The trade still leaves the Hawks with a big hole to fill at point guard. Terry originally played the position but blossomed into the team's top scorer after shifting to off guard.
Babcock said he has no plans to move Terry back to the point, other than perhaps 10-12 minutes a night in a relief role.
"Right now, we don't have one," the GM said. "We need a proven point guard, and we'll be focused on that between now and training camp. A trade is the most likely arena."
The 25-year-old Wright moved into the Hawks starting lineup last season, averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. Brevin Knight, 25, was acquired from Cleveland in a January trade; he averaged 6.3 points and 5.9 assists during his brief tenure with the Hawks.
Wright also will be going home, assuming the NBA approves the move to Memphis for next season as expected. He was born in that city and played at the University of Memphis.
Abdur-Rahim led Marietta's Wheeler High School to a state title as a junior in 1994. After one college season at California, he was the No. 3 selection in the 1996 draft and moved straight into the lineup for the woeful Grizzlies, averaging 18.7 points as a rookie.
Abdur-Rahim's younger brother, Mohammad Abdur-Rahim, will be a senior on Wheeler's basketball team next season.