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Holding steady

Hawks shop around but fail to work out trade deal

Posted: Thursday February 20, 2003 4:56 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks kept their underachieving roster intact Thursday, unable to find a deal to their liking as the NBA trade deadline came and went.

General manager Pete Babcock talked with other teams until about 1 p.m. EST -- two hours before the deadline -- but couldn't put anything together. With the luxury tax scheduled to kick in next summer, most teams were worried about adding payroll.

"Quite frankly, I'm surprised any deals were made," Babcock said.

There were only two trades in the hours leading up to the deadline: Boston got center Mark Blount and forward Mark Bryant from Denver in exchange for guard Shammond Williams, and Orlando sent Mike Miller and Ryan Humphrey to Memphis for rookies Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek.

"The tax has added another layer of issues you have to work through," Babcock said. "You rarely see a trade just talent-for-talent."

The NBA's agreement with the players creates a tax on team payroll over a certain amount, which is expected to be between $51 million and $54 million when it is calculated this summer. Anything over that threshold will be taxed dollar-per-dollar.

"Most teams have been told by ownership to make basketball deals that bring talent with a shorter contract and less money," Babcock said. "The climate is so difficult."

The Hawks still have playoff hopes, despite a 20-34 record and losses in five of their past six games. With six games left on their longest road trip of the season, they're 5 1/2 games behind Orlando and Washington for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We've been as aggressive, if not more aggressive, in trade talks in the past two months than we've been in the past," he said. "It's just nothing came together at this time."

So Jason Terry, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff -- all rumored to be headed elsewhere in the past week -- still will be with the Hawks for their game Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

"That's the hardest part about this business, you never know who's going to be here," Abdur-Rahim said. "You developing relationships with people, and then all of the sudden, they're not on the team anymore."

Terry was thought to be the most likely to be traded, since he's in the fourth and final year of his contract. He holds a player option for next season, but likely would forego that to become an unrestricted free agent.

At 6-foot-2, he's a bit undersized for his natural position of shooting guard, and he's struggled at times adjusting to playing point guard. This season, Terry's scoring average is down about two points to 17 a game, but he's averaging seven assists, a career high.

"I'm not really worrying about playing anywhere else," Terry said. "I'm just worried about these next games. These are our playoff games.

"It's be nice to walk into the playoffs this year when nobody expects it."

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