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Atlanta Hawks GM Billy Knight to step down in July
By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
May 7, 2008 - 12:21:38 PM

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ATLANTA -- Billy Knight will resign as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks in July, despite leading the team to its first playoff appearance in nine years.

Knight said Wednesday it was time to "take a break" following a season when his authority appeared to be weakened by unsuccessful lobbying with owners to fire coach Mike Woodson.

Knight will step down July 1.

The Hawks, absent the playoffs since 1999, lost in the first round to the heavily favored Boston Celtics in seven games. Over six years, Knight played the lead role in rebuilding the Hawks and ended the NBA's longest playoff drought.

One of the team's owners, Michael Gearon Jr., said Knight's resignation did not affect Woodson's status.

"You cannot tie the two together," Gearon told The Associated Press. "Frankly, this was not a decision by us, it was a decision by Billy."

Gearon said he had no list of candidates to replace Knight "because this was unexpected."

Knight, 55, rebuilt the roster with younger players. The Hawks were 37-45 in the regular season to earn the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

"I am tremendously pleased with what we were able to accomplish this season in reaching the postseason, as the Hawks' return to the playoffs energized the city and our franchise," Knight said in a statement Wednesday. "My passion for the franchise has never wavered."

Knight's best draft pick, rookie of the year runner-up Al Horford, provided much-needed inside toughness as a starting center. But he'll also will be remembered for drafting Marvin Williams instead of Chris Paul, the point guard the team lacked, with the No. 2 overall pick in 2005.

Williams was a steady starter this season but Paul emerged as an All-Star and MVP runner-up for New Orleans.

Another low point for Knight was selecting forward Shelden Williams with the fifth pick in the 2006 draft.

Knight finally acquired a point guard this season, trading Shelden Williams as part of a package of players for Mike Bibby, who provided leadership for younger players Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Marvin Williams.

Knight went to ownership to discuss a coaching change after acquiring Bibby. Gearon and the ownership group stuck with Woodson.

Woodson said he learned of Knight's resignation "when I walked in my office" on Wednesday morning.

"That's all I know right now," Woodson said. "I'm trying to get some details on what's going on and what happened. They just told me and I'm trying to reach ownership group to see what's going on."

Knight said Woodson and the coaching staff "are most deserving of the praise and accolades they earned during a tough, seven-game series against the Eastern Conference's top team entering the playoffs, and I wish them and the Hawks organization the very best in the future."

Knight was the general manager of the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies before he was hired as Hawks' director of basketball operations before the 2002-03 season. Knight was promoted to general manager after Pete Babcock was fired in 2003.

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