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Crawford signing gives Hawks free agent options

POSTED: June 30, 2009 12:02 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Jamal Crawford, who signed with the Atlanta Hawks last week, was introduced by the team Monday.

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ATLANTA — The Hawks are counting on versatile guard Jamal Crawford to give Atlanta more options on the court and additional flexibility during free agency.

The signing gave Hawks coach Mike Woodson a 29-year-old veteran scorer who can play the point or shooting guard position and small forward. Hawks general manager Rick Sund, who has decisions to make on five unrestricted free agents, got a player under contract.

The free agency signing period begins Wednesday.

Crawford, who was introduced on Monday, happily joined the Hawks after just one season with Golden State.

"They could have sent me anywhere," said Crawford, who did not opt out of his contract, which pays him about $18 million over the next two seasons.

"But to come to an up-and-coming team, a team that went to the second round of the playoffs. They were fun to watch, to watch the crowd get into it, to watch the city come to life again. I’m happy to be here and be a part of that."

But adding Crawford means Mike Bibby or Flip Murray probably will not return to Atlanta next season.

Atlanta’s free agents include Bibby, Murray, Zaza Pachulia, Solomon Jones and Mario West. Bibby, Murray and Pachulia were significant contributors to Atlanta’s playoff push.

"This helps us in that we’ve got some options in either way we go," said Sund, who wouldn’t say if there are more moves planned. "If we get Bibby, fine, that’s great. We’d like him back. If we don’t get Mike and he goes elsewhere, we’re covered. We got a guy who can play with Joe (Johnson.)"

"If we get Flip back then he can come off the bench, or vice versa. (Crawford) made it perfectly clear today at the press conference and also to me, ‘I want to win. I’ve reach a point in my career I want to be on a winning team. ... I’ll come off the bench, I’ll do what it takes."’

Crawford has been labeled a "tweener," not really a point guard and not really a shooting guard. Once that was considered a liability, not anymore — not with the Hawks’ uncertain future.

"I think it’s a great thing," said Crawford, who played one year at Michigan.

"When you have a guy who can do two things really good people didn’t know how to label that in past. If you have a guy who can score and really handle the ball and pass, I’d like to have him on my team."

Woodson certainly wants him.

He doesn’t see a problem with what appears to be a glut of backcourt players, not after watching three starters go down with injuries during the playoffs.

"When you have an abundance of talent, that’s a good thing," Woodson said. "I look at our team last year when the injuries occurred we didn’t have a lot of places to go. We were eight or nine deep. We were thin. Adding a piece like Jamal, a guy who has proven he can score in this league and can be a second or third option on our team offensively helps our team."

Woodson said Crawford’s presence also will give him another option late in games so he doesn’t always have to go to Johnson, his All-Star guard. The move also will help Atlanta keep pace with the better Eastern Conference teams — Cleveland acquired Shaquille O’Neal and Orlando picked up Vince Carter.

The Hawks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs after getting ousted in the first round in 2008.

"You got to think about the next step," Woodson said.

"And when you think about the next step you got to add players, you got to add pieces. The East is tough, man. Teams are loading up. I look at what Orlando has done, what Cleveland has done. And the summer is just getting started."



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