Abdur-Rahim Heading Home

Abdur-Rahim received his Hawks jersey July 3.
AP Photos
ATLANTA (AP) - Shareef Abdur-Rahim is coming home, which takes care of the frontcourt for the Atlanta Hawks. There's still some work to do in the backcourt.

The rebuilding Hawks moved a step closer to respectability when they used the No. 3 pick in Wednesday's NBA draft to acquire Abdur-Rahim from the Vancouver Grizzlies.

"If we had taken someone with that pick, we would have hoped he could become a player like Shareef in three years," Atlanta general manager Pete Babcock said. "Why wait for that when we can get him now?"

Abdur-Rahim, a 6-foot-9 forward, is a native of suburban Marietta and still has a home in the Atlanta area. The leading scorer in Grizzlies' history, he averaged 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season.

Abdur-Rahim, 24, will play power forward for the Hawks, joining center Theo Ratliff and small forward Toni Kukoc. Those two players were both acquired last season in a trade-deadline deal that sent Dikembe Mutombo to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"We now have a pretty good front line," Babcock said. There's a major hole at point guard, however. In the deal with the Grizzlies, the Hawks also gave up Brevin Knight, last year's starter, and forward-center Lorenzen Wright.

Atlanta acquired the No. 27 pick in the first round, taking Iowa State guard Jamaal Tinsley, but immediately sending him to Indiana for a future first-rounder.

The Hawks weren't through dealing. They acquired another future first-rounder from Houston in exchange for Maryland forward Terence Morris, taken in the second round.

"We acquired two first-round picks and Shareef out of this draft," Babcock said. "We feel pretty good about it."

Babcock said his next priority is landing a point guard with some size, probably through another trade. The Hawks have plenty of big men to offer up in a deal, including Alan Henderson, Chris Crawford, Cal Bowdler and Hanno Mottola.

The Hawks have no intention of returning former first-rounder Jason Terry to the point. He struggled until a move to shooting guard, where he blossomed into the team's top scorer at 19.7 points.

The Hawks are coming off their two worst seasons since moving to Atlanta in 1968, a heavy price to pay for restructuring an aging, slowing team. Now, Babcock can see signs of hope.

"We intentionally tore our team apart," he said. "It was painful to go through, but we were very methodical and stayed with our plan."

The trade won't be formally completed until July 18 because of complicated NBA cap rules governing base salaries. The Hawks picked for Vancouver with the No. 3 choice, selecting 7-footer Pau Gasol of F.C. Barcelona in Spain.

Gasol was handed a Hawks hat to wear for the cameras in New York, but it was merely a souvenir.

Abdur-Rahim still has four years left on a $71 million contract extension he signed in 1999, which includes an $11.25 million salary for next season. He had asked to be traded by the woeful Grizzlies, who are expected to move to Memphis next season.

Billy Knight, the Grizzlies' general manager, said Gasol and Battier will help the team develop a more up-tempo style of play. The deal with the Hawks wasn't the last one for the Grizzlies, either.

Late Wednesday, they acquired point guard Jason Williams and guard Nick Anderson for guards Mike Bibby and Brent Price.

"Sometimes these decisions are made in sports," Knight said.

The 25-year-old Wright moved into the Hawks starting lineup last season, averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. Knight was acquired from Cleveland in a January trade; he averaged 6.3 points and 5.9 assists during his brief tenure with the Hawks.