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Fate of Atlanta Hawks still unclear with new team ownership

Original Story on WABE By MARIA SAPORTA

Atlanta Hawks' Dennis Schroder, of Germany, practices on the court before the start of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Atlanta.

It would be ideal if the lead owner of the Hawks called Atlanta home. An owner who has deep roots in a community is less likely to move the team somewhere else. Tony Ressler, the new principal owner of the Hawks, is a Los Angeles businessman. Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

The new principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Tony Ressler, closed the deal on the city’s professional basketball team on June 24. At his first press conference, 24 hours later, the Los Angeles businessman said the team would now speak with one voice … a marked contrast to the past owners, the Atlanta Spirit Group.

Atlanta has welcomed Ressler with open arms. He enters the scene as the new lead owner of the Hawks, without baggage and with great hopes.

Maybe now we can get an NBA championship. Maybe now we can have a unified ownership group. Maybe now we can have a leadership group with no trace of tension or racism. With former NBA player Grant Hill by Ressler’s side, the leadership duo reflects the diversity in Atlanta — and the entire country.

So far, so good.

But there are a couple of yellow flags.

Ideally, the lead owner of the Hawks would call Atlanta home. An owner who has deep roots in our community is less likely to move the team to another city.

Living in Los Angeles and going to basketball games in Atlanta is less than ideal for Ressler and his family, although they have bought a residence in Buckhead.

When asked if he would commit to keeping the team in Atlanta forever, Ressler wiggled his way out of a straight answer. Maybe it’s just a negotiating ploy.

But Ressler is on record saying that Philips Arena will either need to be remodeled or replaced, that doing nothing is not an option. Will he commit to keeping the Hawks downtown? Ressler said he is not ruling out anything.

This is beginning to sound like an expensive proposition for Atlanta.

Perhaps Ressler is not aware that Philips Arena is one of the most successful entertainment venues in the country. It has consistently ranked in the top five arenas in the nation, only surpassed by Madison Square Garden over the years.

What a shame it would be if it gets caught up in the frenzy of discarding our relatively new facilities for even newer and more expensive venues for pro sports.

Let us hope Ressler comes to fully appreciate our downtown and our arena … that he doesn’t get us into a bidding war with a western city like Las Vegas, or that he doesn’t uproot the Hawks from the heart of Atlanta, next to MARTA, for the suburbs.

The symbol for Atlanta is the phoenix rising from the ashes, an apt metaphor for the Atlanta Hawks. Last season started in a firestorm and ended with the team having its best record ever.

A new owner gives us hope the magic will continue.

Please Tony Ressler – don’t let Atlanta down.


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  1. Reinvent_ED July 7, 2015 2:18 pm

    Lets not get ahead of ourselves here.   You can’t just pick up the team and move it, Maria.   The NBA would have to approve it, and I see absolutely no possibility at this time of Atlanta losing the Hawks.   Lets not create fear and concern where none is needed.  I think you mislead your readers by not mentioning this one very important point.

    Of course we’d like the owner to live here, but go find a billionaire owner in Atlanta to do that.  Few and far between.  Both Marcus and Blank are strapped.  At least you have very solid Atlanta representation in ownership, including billionaire Sara Blakely and her husband.  My only concern is that they let Seydel and Gearon Jr. maintain small ownership stakes.  They should be flushed out ASAP.  And of course while I understood the decision, I was nonetheless disappointed that Ferry was let go.  Now he’ll build another franchise elsewhere and we’ll see if his absence adversely impacts our competitiveness over time.

    But right now, there’s nothing to be concerned about other than to to maintain a winning team and strong roster.  By the time the Falcons have their new stadium the city can focus on how to maintain the integrity of Philips Arena.   At some point, we will have to figure that out, but by then, all parties should be in a stronger position economically.

    So again, there is no reason to be concerned about anything with this ownership until we see things fall off the rails.  Don’t think there’s evidence of that happening just yet.   Ask me again 20 games into the 2015/2016 season.Report

  2. PollyannaAtlanta July 7, 2015 2:31 pm

    Reinvent_ED  All good points. Why Ressler allowed Gearon to remain is a mystery. We can expect Gearon to do something to try to meddle at the earliest opportunity. The Ferry decision will haunt the Hawks. But at least Maria got her wish.Report

  3. PollyannaAtlanta July 7, 2015 3:03 pm

    Reinvent_ED  I hope someone has mentioned to Ressler that Gearon carries a hidden tape recorder. Maria will have the inside track with the goings on now that Gearon stays. And what ever happened to our pal Dortch?Report

  4. Reinvent_ED July 7, 2015 3:04 pm

    PollyannaAtlanta Reinvent_ED LOL.  Good points.   Dortch has gone silent, hasn’t he?  Gearon is poison and should be banned from ever owning another professional team of any kind.  A slimy weasel who uses unethical business practices.Report

  5. PollyannaAtlanta July 7, 2015 3:24 pm

    Reinvent_ED PollyannaAtlanta  Maybe Dortch can come up with something as novel as the ill-fated Fanplex. Tthat may have been the worst idea ever.Report


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