SOOOOO, LaMelo Ball's time in the NBL is done and dusted. Surprised? No me either.
His exit has been widely accepted as a forgone conclusion since he was first struck down with that "sore foot." For some it's been even longer.
Coach Matt Flinn has been cagey whenever the question over Ball's availability was asked, prefacing most answers with "I'm led to believe that..."
Truth is Ball spent less and less time with the team as it dragged on, with the club largely in the dark over what his next move would be. Reports are his efforts in the rehab room did not resemble a player desperate to get back on the court.
The fact final confirmation came through the media via Ball's camp before the Hawks could get ahead of it is a pretty decent indication of the dynamic through his whole stay.
In the club's defence, just about any attempt to get ahead of anything when it came to LaMelo were hamstrung by NBL interference. There was no question as to who was calling the shots.
Now the conversation turns to the whole experiment - who won, who lost, was it worth it?
Game On's thoughts turned to the time we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was cool for a moment, exhilarating even, but there was no desire to do it again.
Hopefully the Hawks arrive at the same conclusion because, when it comes to the winners, the Hawks are way down the list. They weren't win-less by any stretch, but the greater spoils lay elsewhere.
Of course the biggest winner is LaMelo himself.
As an NBL 'Next Star' league power brokers were always going to ensure he had his way with the perennial battlers. How many 18-year-olds get to bypass college to play in a professional league with an entire franchise framed around their personal objectives?
As stated back when he first arrived, he never needed the Hawks to win to achieve those objectives. It would have helped, but it wasn't essential. All he needed were the numbers, and boy he got 'em.
It's not to put the boot in. You can't knock him or his camp. They made the best decisions to achieve their goals and pretty much nailed it.
He averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists in 12 games. He had two triple-doubles. Comparing the two illustrates that all triple-doubles are not created equal, but hey, he got 'em.
His Draft stock was arguably as high as it would get and he hasn't played since. The Russell Westbrook-like pursuit of numbers also papered over some of his deficiencies, like the 37 per cent he shot from the field, or the 25 per cent he shot from deep.
Still, there were plenty skeptical of his claims being a No.1 Draft pick. He's far from certainty for that distinction now, but he's a whole lot closer than when he arrived. He definitely won.
The other big winner? The NBL.
Right from the moment Ball declared he would be heading down under - on ESPN no less - they had their global headlines. Like Ball himself, the NBL also had no interest in whether the Hawks won games.
What they could do was place their biggest walking and (rarely) talking advertisement at a club where they could call all the shots. There was nothing in the Next Stars contract that obligated him to see out the deal. But don't worry, there was the "expectation" that he would.
The league used their biggest name to promote his games in every city but Wollongong. Five teams had their highest home crowd figures in games LaMelo played.
His first appearance in Wollongong was scheduled the same day as the NRL grand final. Would the NBL do that to Sydney or Melbourne? His other appearances came mostly on Monday nights given the rubbish draw the Hawks were dealt.
As far as its objectives though, Ball's stint was an unmitigated success for the league. In the end that is, and should be, the NBL's No. 1 priority. It's on clubs themselves to realise when they're being used up.
Hopefully its something the Hawks have learned. It has no doubt provided lessons that will make Flinn a much better coach in future, but his organisation needs to make good use of the broader lessons.
One of them has to be self-regard. Is the club willing to be used as a vehicle in such a way in the future? It can't afford to. Starting so far behind in the financial stakes, all cogs must be geared to team success and nothing else.
It's what's let the club so often punch above its weight in the past. No one knows that better than current GM and club beacon Mat Campbell.
Paul Gallen once said the Cronulla Sharks were the most resilient brand in Australian sport... yeah, nah. The Hawks have been battlers since day one in 1979 but haven't missed a single season.
They're the only club to hold that distinction. It's so often disregarded in board rooms, but the Hawks club is a genuine sporting gem in this country.
The flip side of that status is for the constant fear of its demise to tempt the organisation, and to a lesser extent its fans, to gratefully accept any bone they're thrown. It's a view plenty of other NBL observers and commentators seem to hold.
Hawks fans aren't silly though. It's no coincidence that the biggest crowds have come to see their side's other young stars - the ones who might be around more than half a season - go around.
Ball's injury has let Flinn focus on that crop. Had it not occurred, and the likes of Naar, Dech, Glover, Grida - to a different extent Blanchfield - continued to be drip-fed on-court action, they could well have headed for the exit door.
Ball's absence has seen the Hawks return to the ethos that has kept it around so long ; paying no attention to hype or big names and leaving it all out on the floor. Their New Year's Eve victory over Sydney epitomised it.
It's the major victory because Ball's stint won't leave a bunch of tangible things behind for Illawarra. If social media likes and follows paid the bills they'd be rolling in it but they don't.
It didn't win them a whole lot of games, or get them within a bull's roar of the playoffs. In a rare media interview, owner Simon Stratford made the stunning - if honest - admission it had done next to nothing to boost the club's coffers.
Simply put the club's victories in the whole saga - like those they've managed on the floor this season - are small in number but memorable nonetheless. That's effectively what the club will be left with. Memories.
Fans will fondly remember Ball's generosity in donating a month's pay to fire relief efforts on the South Coast. The school kids that got to shoot around with him will certainly never forget it.
When he inevitably becomes a star in the NBA those Hawks singlets with 'Ball' on the back will become a more highly sought collectors item.
Memories are fine. Most who encountered Ball personally will have fond ones, but clubs don't run on memories. Those that try to inevitably become one.
That's ultimately the point. Godspeed LaMelo, all of Wollongong - this columnist included - will be rooting for you to go No. 1. Thanks for the memories. Like climbing the harbour bridge, it was pretty cool.
But forgive us for not wanting to do it again.