A report from Sam Amick of The Athletic last month indicated that the Hawks intend to be aggressive in free agency this summer, pursuing meetings with “everyone from Kevin Durant on down.” However, head coach Lloyd Pierce and general manager Travis Schlenk tell Robby Kalland of Dime Magazine that the team has no plans to force the issue or spend its cap room irresponsibly.
“I think what’s really important is a lot of times mistakes are made when teams go, ‘We have this cap space, we need to use it,'” Schlenk said. “You can’t spend it on the wrong guy. Right? I say all the time, if you make a mistake in a draft, it doesn’t kill your franchise. Obviously you don’t want to make mistakes, but you’re talking about a two-year guaranteed contract with a small dollar amount. You make mistakes and free agents, and now you’re talking, to today’s world, a four-year contract at $25-30MM. Those can be [killers].”
Schlenk suggested that the Hawks will most likely target players who slip through the cracks and are available on shorter-term or team-friendly deals. A one- or two-year big-money contract – like what the Sixers did with J.J. Redick – could make sense for Atlanta, Kalland notes. Pierce believes the Hawks have taken the steps necessary to receive serious consideration from that sort of veteran free agent.
“We feel like we’re in a position now where we feel like people are going to look at the Atlanta Hawks and say, ‘They’re onto something,'” Pierce said. “Young guys that are really good. Young culture that they’ve established that everyone loves, and that’s what we’re talking about. The arena, ownership, GM, coach are all aligned. They came in at the same time, they’re on the same page, year after year after year. They turned it around, they added these three young guys to it, they’re headed in the right direction. But we can’t skip that step either. I don’t know what the next step is, if there’s a perfect free agent or the perfect locker room guy that can come in and help us, that’s great. But if there isn’t, we can’t force it.”
Here’s more on the Hawks from Kalland’s deep dive:
- Hawks minority owner Grant Hill and young big man John Collins both spoke to Kalland about being encouraged by the progression of the team’s rebuilding process. “How we approach the game is different from other teams I feel like who are sort of in similar (rebuilding) situations,” Collins said. “And I feel like our situation is we’re light years ahead of where we’re supposed to be and where people think we are regardless of our record. I feel like when you watch us play and you see how we play offensively, defensively, the way we move a ball, the way we run the floor. It paints a pretty bright future. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
- Although he’s not a long-term building block like Collins or Trae Young, Vince Carter has been an important part of this season’s Hawks team, according to Pierce, who tells Kalland that the 42-year-old swingman has created “a different atmosphere” in Atlanta’s locker room.
- For his part, Carter says he has tried to impart the lessons he has learned over the course of his career on the Hawks’ young players. “For Trae, he’s one of the faces of this franchise along with John Collins, so there’s more responsibility,” Carter told Kalland. “… There’s a lot of things that come with wanting to be ‘The Man’ of a franchise. I’ve been there for a lot of years, so I’ve seen a lot. So I’m just trying to share my wisdom, both in conversation and on the court, because I feel like in the world today you have to do a little more than just have a conversation. I like to lead by example and by showing the young guys the way.”
- Speaking about the decision to hire Pierce as Atlanta’s new head coach last year, Schlenk tells Kalland that the former Sixers assistant has “exceeded our expectations.”