Just about every scenario Hawks management is planning for next season involves re-signing Pero Antic, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Antic has made it clear he wants to remain with the team, as he told Vivlamore. The Hawks can match offers for the 32-year-old big man if they tender a qualifying offer of nearly $1.563MM when his contract expires this summer.
“He’s a good part of our core, our substance, our locker room,” said Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta’s coach and acting GM, according to Vivlamore. “Then, the way he plays on the court, I think he’s done a ton to be somebody you want to be a part of your team going forward. The summer and free agency is a ways off but we love him.”
Vivlamore wrote last month that the Hawks had given indications that they’d like to try to re-sign him in the offseason, but it seems like the team’s interest in a continued relationship, and Antic’s shared desire for that, are becoming more clear. Antic, a native of Macedonia who played for many years overseas before finally making his NBA debut at age 31 last season, told Vivlamore that his experience with the Hawks has been the best of his career.
“From your mouth to God’s ears, we say,” Antic said in response to a question about whether he’d like to re-sign. “I love it. I love the guys. I love everything. I couldn’t be happier to come. The coaching staff, to be so similar to Europe, to be so understanding of the players, rarely you can find that.”
Hawks GM Danny Ferry, now on indefinite leave of absence, signed Antic in 2013 to a two-year, $2.45MM contract with non-guaranteed salary for the second season that would become fully guaranteed if he remained on the deal through mid-July 2014. The Hawks indeed kept him after a season in which he started 26 regular season games and all seven of the team’s playoff games amid a rash of injuries to the team’s frontcourt. His numbers are down this year, and he’s started only twice with Al Horford back healthy. Antic’s shot is off and he’s dealt with an ankle injury this year, but Budenholzer is enamored with the Misko Raznatovic client‘s defense, leadership and on-court intelligence, Vivlamore writes.
Atlanta already has more than $39MM in guaranteed salary for next season. They’ll have Antic’s Early Bird Rights, meaning they can exceed the cap to sign him to a starting salary of 104.5% of the average salary for this season. That would likely come close to $6MM, so Atlanta should have no trouble within those bounds, though that’s just my speculation.