The Atlanta Hawks finally landed the center they had been seeking by signing free-agent Moses Malone to a three-year contract that is fueling dreams of an NBA championship.
Despite his age - 33 - Malone made the All-Star squad for the 11th consecutive year last season, averaging 20.3 points and 11.2 rebounds.The Hawks declined to release details of the agreement during a news conference Tuesday, but the 6-foot-10 Malone reportedly signed a deal worth a minimum of $4.67 million over the three years.
"People look at my age. But I feel like I'm 18," Malone said as he unveiled a Hawks jersey with his name and the No. 2 on the back. "I work hard and prepare myself to be in shape. People don't understand.
"But I think the Lord is taking care of me. . . . My name is Moses, isn't it?
"I may be in my 30s, but I still will get my 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. People just don't realize I can still do it," he said, after 14 years of professional basketball. In 12 NBA seasons, he has been selected Most Valuable Player three times.
"My goal is to win, to bring a championship to Atlanta," Malone said. "I'm not a superstar. I'm just a player, but I'm a better player with a good team and the Hawks are a good team. Now that I'm here, they (other teams) will have to pay attention to me and the other players. It will create problems for other teams."
"He's a winner. Moses is a guy that burns to win games. All he's talked about since getting here is about winning a championship in Atlanta," said Hawks president Stan Kasten, who negotiated the deal with Malone's agent, Lee Fentress.
"It will be a difficult job for the coaches because we've got a lot of talent and egos to mesh," he said. "But every great team has had that problem. We're taking a gamble with talent. Without talent, you have no chance. We think we have that talent now."
Coach Mike Fratello said the addition of Malone and an earlier deal that brought high-scoring guard Reggie Theus to the Hawks makes his club a legitimate title threat.
"Los Angeles and Detroit, the two teams that met in the NBA finals, have to be considered the favorites," Fratello said. "But we like to look at it that we have two new starting pieces and hopefully we'll be stronger."
"I know that one player guarantees nothing and that to win a championship you need a lot of luck and everything has to mesh," team owner Ted Turner said. "This was the piece of the puzzle we all felt we needed to give us our best chance at a championship."
Atlanta has never won a championship since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1968. The Hawks last won a title in 1958.
The Hawks have won at least 50 games the last three seasons, but each year were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
"This is a great situation for me," said Malone, who played the last two seasons at Washington.
Noting that he has won only one NBA championship in his career - in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers - Malone said, "I need some rings. I've got five fingers and only one ring, and I think we've got the team to do it."
The Hawks first expressed interest in Malone last month, but efforts to confirm negotiations between Atlanta and the 6-foot-10 center were met with a firm "no comment" from Kasten. He admitted Tuesday that an agreement was reached with Malone Aug. 5, but was kept quiet because Malone was overseas on a tour and Fentress was vacationing in Europe.