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Executive Vice President and General Manager
Determined more than ever to create a winning attitude in Atlanta, Executive Vice President and General Manager Billy Knight has total faith in his transformation of the Hawks following four seasons of significant changes at the helm.
Ultimately, he knows the wins will come, and with last year’s team showing 100% improvement in victories from the year before, Knight has patiently crafted a young and up-and-coming team that is seeking to reverse the results of the past seven seasons and challenge for a positive finish in 2006-07.
Knight understood change would not happen overnight. By removing underachieving players from the roster and avoiding the desire to take on potentially inflated salaries that affects a franchise’s ability to maintain flexibility, he has stayed the course and is committed more than ever to see his plan through. That’s a credit to Knight’s fundamental belief of developing one’s own talent and maintaining enough financial room to acquire the best talent mix without handicapping the future of the franchise.
A tough, yet confident player as a professional in 11 ABA/NBA seasons, Knight has taken those same qualities to the front office, as he coordinates all aspects of the team’s basketball operations, including coaching, player personnel, contract negotiations and salary cap management, and the re-organization of the basketball operations department.
This offseason, Knight has continued to reshape the look and future of the Hawks. He selected Duke's Shelden Williams with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 Draft and added agile center Solomon Jones in the second round, and acquired free agents Craig "Speedy" Claxton and Lorenzen Wright to fill necessary positions on the Atlanta roster. Claxton gives the Hawks the quality point guard the club has lacked, and by returning Wright to the roster and complementing last year's free agent surprise Zaza Pachulia at center, he brings the tough, inside presence Mike Woodson has desired since becoming the Hawks head coach.
By drafting outstanding talents in Marvin Williams and Salim Stoudamire a year ago, and obtaining the franchise's biggest free agent acquisition in recent memory in Joe Johnson, the primary core of this team is believed to be ready to reach its potential. In Johnson, the Hawks have one of the best unknown talents in the league, and he is poised to capitalize on his international success and lead the Hawks back to prominence. Williams became the third Atlanta player in successive seasons to earn league All-Rookie (second team) honors, and the second overall pick in last year's Draft continued his improved play this offseason by capturing MVP honors this summer in the Rocky Mountain Revue. Stoudamire, a second-round selection, gave Atlanta fans chills with his long-range bombs and instant offense off the bench.
Knight has transformed the Hawks by building through the draft and complementing the lineup through free agency and trades. While the end-of-season record in 2004 left Atlanta towards the bottom of the league, Knight’s ensuing draft picks yielded second-team NBA all-rookie selections in Josh Childress and Josh Smith, and Knight also gave former Indiana Pacer Al Harrington the opportunity to showcase his talents as a starter for the first time in his career. During the latter part of the season, Knight bolstered the team by acquiring veteran Tyronn Lue, who provided stability and championship experience to the backcourt.
Knight’s desire to create financial flexibility on the Hawks’ roster led to a complete restructuring of the 2003-04 team when he traded Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau to the Portland Trail Blazers prior to the February trade deadline. By dismantling that high-priced unit, Knight believed it was more important to give the franchise a better opportunity to become a major player in the league by building the foundation through the draft and free agency.
A former Indiana Pacer executive, Knight prefers to build a roster of long and athletic players, similar to what the Pacers enjoyed during the mid-to-late ‘90s when they won three division championships and ultimately reached the 2000 NBA Finals, featuring frontline players like Antonio and Dale Davis, Derrick McKey and Rik Smits.
Originally the team’s Director of Basketball Operations when he was hired by then-GM Pete Babcock prior to the 2002-03 season, Knight replaced him on April 2, 2003 when Babcock was relieved of his duties. During that offseason, Knight’s rebuilding plan started with the selection of Boris Diaw and Travis Hansen in the 2003 Draft, and his impressive changes continued when he obtained the $12 million contract of Terrell Brandon from Minnesota in a four-team trade that sent Glenn Robinson to Philadelphia and included a future first round draft pick. Brandon’s contract came off the Hawks’ books when the team released him on February 19, 2004.
In another clever move, Knight’s trade of Rasheed Wallace to the Detroit Pistons (also on Feb. 19) provided Atlanta with a second first round pick in the 2004 draft, which resulted in the selection of local prep star Josh Smith, who was an early-entry candidate from Oak Hill Academy and played his high school ball at Powder Springs (GA) High.
The 54-year-old Knight came to the Hawks after a successful stint as the General Manager of the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. His background as a proven talent evaluator led to a number of key acquisitions in his two years with the Grizzlies, one of which ironically, involved the Hawks. On June 27, 2001, Knight — then with Memphis — sent Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Atlanta for Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight and the draft rights of Pau Gasol. Gasol’s outstanding rookie season culminated in the first-year sensation winning the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. That same draft, the Grizzlies selected former Duke standout and National College Player of the Year Shane Battier with the sixth overall pick.
In his first season in Vancouver (2000-01), the team recorded 23 victories, which at that time was the most in franchise history. Prior to his stint with the Grizzlies, Knight spent several productive seasons as a player and front office executive with the Indiana Pacers. A former player dating back to their days in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the NBA, he ended his eight-year career as the Pacers’ all-time leading scorer with 10,780 points. Currently the franchise’s third all-time leading scorer, Knight’s contributions to the Pacers have him listed among the team’s top five lists in five statistical groups, and ranking in the top 10 in 14 different categories.
Named an NBA All-Star in the Pacers’ inaugural season in the league (1976-77), Knight finished that year as the league’s second-leading scorer (behind Pete Maravich) with an average of 26.6 points per game. Over his 11 pro seasons he averaged 16.9 ppg as a player with Boston, Buffalo (Braves), Kansas City (Kings) and San Antonio, as well as Indiana. He earned two other berths on the NBA All-Star team and one appearance in the ABA All-Star game. In 1975, Knight was selected to the ABA’s All-Rookie team.
A five-year executive with the Pacers, he spent the last two years as the team’s Senior Vice President for Basketball Operations in charge of pro, college and international scouting, a well as all daily operations within the basketball department, under the direction of President Donnie Walsh. An All-American at the University of Pittsburgh, Knight was the seventh overall pick in the 1974 ABA Draft. The Pittsburgh native attended Braddock High School. He has previously competed as a state-ranked tennis player.
Knight, born June 9, 1952, is married. He and his wife Danita have two daughters, Olivia and Erika.