By Bomani Jones
Special to Page 2

For some reason, Stan Kasten (the former president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers) and Pete Babcock (former Hawks GM) thought it would be a good idea to trade for J.R. Rider in 1999. Sure, the Hawks didn't have an explosive scorer and were still trying to find a way past the second round of the playoffs, something they couldn't do even with Dominique Wilkins.

But J.R. Rider, an obvious cancer? Wouldn't it be cheaper to keep cartons in the training room?

Instead of transforming the Hawks from a ho-hum playoff qualifier to a major player in the East, acquiring Rider sent them straight to jail (FYI, he didn't get arrested while with the Hawks). No passing Go. No $200.

And hardly any fans have been bored enough even just to visit since.

Even with a gorgeous arena, the Hawks finished last in the league in attendance two seasons ago. Only Charlotte and New Orleans drew fewer fans than the Hawks last season, and neither of those markets is close to being as large as Atlanta.

This year? Dead last, so far.

Hawks: Past Five Years
Year Record Pct.
2006 25-55 .313
2005 13-69 .159
2004 28-54 .341
2003 35-47 .427
2002 33-49 .402
Last winning season: '98-'99
Last playoff season: '98-'99

It can get quiet enough in Philips Arena to spend a romantic evening with your lady. That's experience talking, not humor.

Since cutting Rider March 17, 2000 -- he couldn't even last one friggin' season -- the Hawks have been trying to recover from that trade. They haven't made the playoffs since. No player Atlanta has drafted since 2000 has made an impact with the Hawks.

But Hawks picks Pau Gasol -- who was only drafted to trade to the Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim -- and Boris Diaw have done good things for other teams.

Recent picks Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Josh Childress have shown some promise. That would be helpful if they weren't all small forwards. Apparently, GM Billy Knight got so caught up in that poker craze that he convinced himself three 3s works as well in basketball as it does in hold'em.

And the nominees are ...
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And even if Williams becomes a star, fans will be stuck wondering what would have happened had the Hawks drafted Chris Paul instead of the former Tar Heel. With Paul this year, Atlanta might have made the playoffs in the East.

But the Hawks didn't. So they won't. And at this point, it's doubtful they ever will again.

The saddest thing about the Hawks? They're unremarkably bad.

Oh, it's remarkable that they've lost 50 games -- five of the last seven seasons. But if a team is going to be that sorry, the least it could do is be comical. Throw out a few guys who foul out in less than six minutes. Get dunked on a lot and throw every other pass into the eighth row. Hell, maybe even a guy whose shoe keeps coming untied.

Be the Washington Generals. Laughter's the best cure for crying, after all.

But that's not the Hawks. They're boring; just regular, plain ol' bad. They're not even bad enough to make lifelong fans mad.

And, in a strange way, that makes it clear how bad they really are.

Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at