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NBA Free Agency: The Big Peach? Hawks Reportedly Interested In Shaquille O'Neal

Considering the fact that the Hawks just gave Joe Johnson a huge contract, I think it's pretty safe to say the time for them to win is right now. That's about the only explanation I can come up with for the news that they're pursuing Shaquille O'Neal. 

Tim Potvak of Fanhouse is reporting that Shaq is weighing a two-year contract offer from the Hawks for the full mid-level exception. Yup, that's right.

Free-agent center Shaquille O'Neal is seriously considering a two-year deal with the Hawks that starts at the mid-level exception of $5.8 million, according to NBA sources close to both the team and the future Hall of Fame player.    

The idea, Potvak writes, is to slide Al Horford over to power forward to make room for Shaq. The Hawks would then entertain offers to trade talented, but enigmatic forward Josh Smith. In other words, to make room for a 40-year old, over-the-hill center, the Hawks would trade arguably their most valuable player last season. I know Smith is a bit of a headcase, but that's just dumb.

Several other writers (Michael CunninghamChris BroussardDavid Aldridge) have confirmed Shaq's interest in Atlanta. However, Shaq's agent, Perry Rodgers, told Broussard that the Hawks haven't made his client a formal offer. In addition, Aldridge reports that the Hawks aren't planning on trading Smith unless it's for a "major, star player at power forward." So maybe this won't go anywhere in the end.

I hope it doesn't for Atlanta's sake. We learned last season that Shaq doesn't have much left, and while the Hawks do have a need for a true center, they can fill that hole with their mid-level exception much more wisely. 

For more, check out SB Nation's Hawks blog Peachtree Hoops.