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Can the Atlanta Hawks afford to revamp and remodel?

May 10, 2010, 11:11 AM EDT

After a pathetic game three performance by the Atlanta Hawks — one that followed two other ugly losses to the Orlando Magic, which followed them getting pushed seven games by the Milwaukee Bucks — there are calls to break up the Hawks.

There are calls to fire Mike Woodson (that one we’re down with). There are calls to let Joe Johnson go. There is a desire to shake up the under-achieving roster and rebuild.

But it’s not that simple. The Hawks are not the Lakers or the Celtics or even the Bulls — this is not a rich franchise. Their arena revenues do not print money. They cannot go sky high over the luxury tax.

All of which makes rebuilding a challenge.

According to Forbes, the Atlanta Hawks lost $2 million last season. This season their attendance was down (by just 203 people a game, but that is down). They did not have any more home playoff games. They still have the reputation of papering the house — giving away or deeply discounting — a lot of tickets.

This may be the best Hawks team in a while, but it didn’t make more money.

That leaves the Hawks in a bind compared to their competitors, with some hard decisions ahead. Woodson gets that, as he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Hawks’ $66 million payroll ranked last among Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs. It’s $15 million shy of Orlando and $8 million behind the lowest payroll among the other seven teams still playing.

“They’ve all gone out and they’ve spent money,” Woodson said. “Not that our owners haven’t. They’ve done it gradually and we’ve grown gradually as a basketball team for that. Do we go to the next step? I don’t know where we go.”

The Hawks are stuck — they are no longer a young team getting better, but they don’t have a clear path to improvement. New coach next year, Johnson will be gone and maybe Josh Childress returns from Greece.

But then what? There are no easy answers.

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