- By Ed Latham, Day 1, 2021
While the administrative team controlling the Atlanta Devils has been mostly quiet with the press, we at the Atlanta Tribune were able to catch GM Ed Latham for a nice afternoon lunch and interview session.
"Ed, there are many fans that have been concerned about some of your personal moves going all the way back to the trade deadline last season in which you traded away SF Swayda to the Lightning. I might add that the Lightning seemed to really flourish with that new addition while the Devils record remained mostly the same. Do you have any comment about that?"
"Our job is to put the most successful team on the floor every year. Swayda was a great player for us and it was really a business decision to move him. See, we have many young players that have started to show their talents and will want to get paid in the next season. The way the league is structured, it is very difficult to field much of a team if 2 to 4 of your guys are sucking up almost 20 million each. Add in our prediction that the expansion teams would vastly bump up the going price of any player able to stand and chew gum at the same time, and it was a simple decision that we had to become financial secure in this upcoming year. The move of Swayda gained us some future draft picks, which we have not used yet, and we have tons of cap space sign our players and maybe acquire any pieces we might need for this year's run. It sucks to loose great talent, but it is even worse to loose talent when you are not able to get something for it. Our next two drafts will determine if we made the right move or not. I look at us as a 50% team before that trade and we mostly stayed that way after trading away one of the best players in the league. Not bad in my book."
"How about your draft? Many look at the flashy moves made by other teams and wonder why Atlanta was not part of all those trades."
"Oh we had tons of trade talks, believe me! We had at least 4 offers on the table that would move us up into the top 10 to get a guy many in our staff were keen on. In the end, the cost of moving up for an unknown quantity convinced us all to stick with pick 15 and we were very fortunate to land one of the guys at the top of our draft board (Javion Edwards SF/SG)!"
I continued our conversation as Ed took a moment to shove a fist full of fries in his mouth. "Can you talk a little about your thoughts on the expansion draft?"
After almost spitting out some of the fries at me, he coughed out, "Ugg, I dislike it. I mean, it's great for the league to grow and spread, but just look around at how diluted any talent is going to be for awhile. Oh, and that whole expansion draft thing! No one likes to loose their players, especially with no compensation. Thank goodness we can only loose two! The whole thing throws a monkey wrench into things. One minute you think you have your roster all set and then, POOF, suddenly you have two holes to fill and the only dirt you are given to fill those holes is free agency? That is, if you can call it free agency? If you ask me, this year's free agency was simply an endurance test for all the teams to grab at the small handful of talented players available (almost all of whom were maxed for many years in just the first few days of the free agency period). I mean, look at LTrain! The dude is 39 and was just asking for a league minimum salary to sit around and mentor some of the young kids coming in. The dude ended up with what, 20 million? What the heck is up with that! I tell ya it gets my goat and that ain't just because we put in over 7 bids for that guy either! Uggg!" Ed stops and takes a deep breath, calmly reaches over to his handy bottle of antacid and pops some into his mouth and starts chewing. After a quick slug of some water sitting on his desk, he continued.
"At least we survived that travesty called the coaching poaching! I was so worried that we might loose one of our fine coaches with the many teams out there needing to fill their coaching staff. As you may remember, the Devils were the only team in the league last year that went through a complete coaching transition. Every coach we have has only been here a year and after finishing around 50% last year, I think things are looking up now that the staff has had a chance to get to know each other and our players." Picking up the last bit of what looks like a pastrami on rye, Ed slouched back into his chair with his jaws happily chomping away as he finished our time with the following.
"This expansion thing, it ain't all bad y'know. The teams are getting shuffled around, more teams are going to make the playoffs, should be exciting for our fans! Our core group is all there for the most part and we got some new kids coming in to hopefully help us out. Probably one of the biggest assets going into the season is that we have much cap space to make moves and get our players signed that are coming up on contracts. Not many teams are as financially as flexible or as secure in this crazy post expansion league."
His phone started ringing at that point and with some rather abrupt hand gestures he indicated our time together was up and he needed to take the call.
We can't help but wonder how the team will shake out position wise. Our best guess is that Thomas will still man the point, with Slattery and Spencer either sharing time at PF and C or maybe they may each just stay a fixture at one position. Some say Slattery makes a better center right now, but it is not clear if Spencer is adapt, or willing, to put in lots of time at PF.
The SG and SF slots seem to be an open camp. One assistant told us that Westley, Russell, Edwards, Bowen and even Peter Williams (second round pick #50 in this year's draft) will all be given some time at wing. Our staff is leaning on Westley filling SG while the rookie Edwards will eventually get the nod at SF. One guy in our office even floated the idea of Roy Ellington possibly being given a shot to play SF this year, but that seems impractical given Ellington's size and inconsistency.
What questions do fans still have of their beloved Atlanta Devils? We here a the tribune will work to dive in deeper to get the answers the fans want to know. Be sure to catch our season outlook after training camp and into preseason activities.