Hawks unable to sign or trade for players for more than 1 year
udge slows potential sale to Belkin
But also limits Spitit owners to one-year deals
By TIM TUCKER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/06/06
Rockville, Md. — Steve Belkin won't be taking over the Hawks and Thrashers anytime soon, but the other owners will be operating at an apparent competitive disadvantage against the rest of their leagues.
The Maryland judge who last month ruled that Belkin is entitled to buy out the other Hawks and Thrashers owners at cost issued a stay of the ruling Thursday, but attached a significant condition.
He ordered that the other owners are to "not initiate the purchase, sale, trade or negotiation of any NBA or NHL player contract ... excluding contracts involving present or future draft picks and contracts for any other player with a contract duration of one year or less."
That means that, during an appeal process likely to last a year, the Hawks and Thrashers will not be able to sign free agents to contracts of longer than one year or to make trades for players with more than one year on their contracts.
Such a handcuff seemingly will put the Atlanta Spirit ownership group at a competitive disadvantage against other clubs in the trade and free-agent markets.
Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court Judge Eric Johnson said in court Thursday that the order would not apply to players with whom negotiations already have been initiated, meaning, for example, that the Hawks apparently are free to complete their planned signing of free agent point guard Speedy Claxton to a multi-year contract.
As another condition of the stay, the judge ordered the owners to post an appeal bond of $11.4 million – a small fraction of the bond amounts of $120 million to $450 million suggested by Belkin to protect him against any drop in the value of the franchises during appeal.
The judge also ordered that during the appeal process the other owners can make no changes to the teams' current management without the consent of Belkin.
Judge Johnson ruled last month that the owners breached the terms of their agreement to buy out Belkin, triggering Belkin's right to buy them out at cost instead by July 13. Thursday's stay means last month's ruling is on hold until the appeal of the ruling is decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals."
Allowing a team to basically make no moves for possibly a year... Yeah, Belkin
has the Hawks best interest at heart. I may not like the other owners, but this is pretty crappy and lowdown.
I really dislike that honky m*therf*cker.