Sekou Smith recently interviewed Josh Childress about his time in Greece. Childress is back in Atlanta to undergo sports hernia surgery. While the lanky former 6th man may have been gone, he certainly was not forgotten in Atlanta. Hawks fans made sure management knew of their displeasure after the team failed to sign Childress in the offseason, being outbid by the Greek franchise Olympiakos. The Hawks called Childress’ bluff and they called wrong – he was serious in his intent to sign in Europe, and perhaps Sund and company underestimated the thirst for culture of a young Stanford grad.
6 months later, however, the landscape has changed a little, and we are left with the following questions: Will Childress return to the NBA? If so, will it be with the Hawks? and if not, what can the Hawks get for him? I personally have no doubt that Childress will return to the NBA. While he may be enjoying his time in Greece, it’s not home and it’s not the NBA. The Europeans may be equally passionate about basketball, but the NBA is still the premier league in the world and every athlete who can play in it tends to do so. (There are exceptions obviously – Spanish shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro could have stayed with the Grizzlies, but instead he opted to go back to his home country to play; but then again, he was in Memphis where the Spanish population is not the highest.) Look no further than Serbian power forward Nenad Krstic, who was a solid role player on the Nets before bolting to play for the Russian league team Triumph. But after only less than a half a season, Krstic returned to the NBA, inking a three deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Perhaps I’m reading between the lines, but not only has Childress opened the door to a return to the NBA, but there’s still a slight crack open for a return to the Hawks. Childress loves Atlanta and for good reason. It’s a larger city with a high African-American population. It’s the epicenter of hip-hop culture and fans are starting to care again about its professional basketball team. Throw on the fact that Childress’ mother lived ten minutes away from him and cooked all his meals and you have to think Atlanta is at least a possibility. And boy, could Atlanta use him. While the Hawks have survived with a less than average bench through 42 games this season, it will catch up to them at some point. Childress brings a slashing and offensive rebounding skill set which the Hawks lack off the bench, and if they could somehow find a way to bring him back, the pine would be much approved.
In the event my optimistic predictions prove less than prophetic, then the Hawks are looking at potentially trading the rights to Childress to another team. There will be a number of takers. The Spurs (and others), for one, were interested in signing Childress in the offseason but could not offer him more than the mid-level exception. The Hawks figured NBA teams were the only ones they were bidding against, and thus they told Childress to go seek a better offer. Unfortunately, they never thought “outside the box” like Childress to realistically consider a European team swooping in for his services. The Hawks could likely steal a first round draft pick for the swingman, or possibly pull the trigger on a player for player deal. Regardless, unless the Hawks decide in the coming months to relinquish Childress’ rights – a move I would beg the Hawks to not even consider – we could be looking at some interesting trade scenarios down the road.