Hawks Rumors

Hawks GM Talks Draft Prep, Finishing The Season

The NBA handed out revised guidelines for teams during the pre-draft process last month, as they are unable to meet with prospects in person. Clubs are allowed to meet with potential draftees for up to two hours in any meeting and a maximum of four hours per week with any one player. GM Travis Schlenk explains to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic how the Hawks have navigated those waters.

“I feel like we’ve talked to every player in college basketball,” Schlenk said. “Our (meetings) usually last between 30 to 45 minutes. We haven’t interviewed any player twice up until this point. We have set up as many interviews as we can. We probably do 12 a week or so. Usually, we do four days a week. So about 16 guys, but we probably average around 12 or 13.”

Atlanta has averaged 18 executives on each of the Zoom calls, according to Schlenk. While it may seem like a lot of people for a video conference, it allows the Hawks to get various opinions on each prospect as they determine rankings.

Schlenk also touched on the NBA returning this year. He said the Hawks are preparing as if the 2019/20 season will resume at some point — and as if they’ll be part of it.

“My message has been that it feels like we’re gaining positive momentum,” Schlenk said. “So it’s time to start changing our mental mindset from hiatus status to we’re coming back and to also start ramping up our workouts because we don’t want to be in a situation where we come back and we have a bunch of soft-tissue injuries because guys are out of shape.

“… We would play our guys,” Schlenk added when asked how the Hawks would handle a return. “The more time we can play our guys together, the better it is for us. To be able to see guys we made trades for play with our guys — those would be valuable minutes for us.”

Latest On Potential Resumption Of NBA Season

The NBA has a number of important conference calls scheduled for this week as it continues to discuss the possible resumption of the 2019/20 season.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the league’s advisory/finance committee will have a call on Wednesday to talk about potential plans. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says a call with the league’s general managers will take place on Thursday. A Board of Governors call is scheduled for Friday, as previously reported.

According to Wojnarowski, the NBA may present a recommendation to its team owners on Friday, but that’s not guaranteed, since the league believes it still has some time to further deliberate. Sources tell ESPN that the possibility of games resuming in August – rather than July – remains a possibility for the NBA.

As the NBA continues to preach patience, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has started to push for a resolution to the league’s deliberations. Roberts, who plans to speak with players from all 30 teams over the next week to determine how they feel about the NBA’s reopening plans, tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that players overwhelmingly want to play, but need details on what it will look like.

“It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts said. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”

Roberts added that she doesn’t think the players’ union would necessarily need to conduct a formal vote on an NBA proposal when it arrives, since the NBPA has stayed in constant communication with the league, which has a pretty good sense of how its players are feeling.

“If we thought we needed a vote, we would. If we’re ratifying a CBA, we need a vote,” Roberts told Shelburne. “But our preferred method is talking to people or just having them talk to us. Then if we get a sense of what the sentiment is then we can move forward. We talk to our players and figure it out.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s plans:

  • There’s no strong consensus among NBA teams and executives about what the league’s return to play should look like, according to Wojnarowski. For instance, the idea of all 30 teams participating has “lost momentum,” but “still has a significant lobby.” Teams like the Hawks, Cavaliers, and Pistons are interested in resuming play, per Woj, who notes that some young, rebuilding squads are wary of taking the summer off and having a nine-month layoff before the start of next season.
  • On the other hand, there’s some ambivalence among lottery-bound teams about returning, particularly if they have no path to the postseason, Woj writes. Damian Lillard has publicly expressed this sentiment, as we relayed this morning. Commissioner Adam Silver is also prioritizing player safety and is wary of the possibility of subpar basketball if all 30 teams are brought back — the combination of the long layoff and stars on lottery teams sitting out could create a “bad television spectacle,” notes Woj.
  • Some agents are also hinting to GMs that their free-agent-to-be clients may not want to jeopardize their stock by playing poorly in a brief return this summer if there’s no path to the playoffs for their teams, according to ESPN’s report.
  • One starting player on a lottery team offered the following assessment, according to Woj: “If we don’t show up, we lose more money. We are already in the hole. And what message does it send to the public, the teams, the players that we are OK with 10-to-14 teams not playing. We already have a competition problem in the league. … My thing is: Play 30 teams for as many games as possible for the money, or go straight to the playoffs.”
  • According to O’Connor, Silver is interested in trying something different with this year’s playoffs because he wants to boost interest and appeal to casual fans at a time when all eyes will be on the NBA’s return. O’Connor lays out, in detail, the possibility of turning the first round of the postseason into a World Cup-esque “group stage,” which is something the NBA has discussed — we’ll have much more on that concept in a story coming later this afternoon.

Southeast Notes: Jordan, Bamba, Hawks, Draft

While Michael Jordan was no longer the dominant MVP that he was in Chicago days, his stint with the Wizards showcased that he still had game, as I detailed on Heavy.com. Jordan became the oldest player (38) to score over 50 points in a game during year one in Washington and became the only player 40 or older to score over 40 in a game during his final season in the league.

Jordan made the All-Star Game during each of his two seasons in Washington but his individual success didn’t translate to the win column, as the club missed the playoffs on both occasions.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Mohamed Bamba has been in the league for two years and the jury remains out on him. One scout tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic that the Magic center’s effort remains a concern. “But the question with Mo, and I think there’s no secret, is there are games when he plays with very low energy,” the scout said. “He just doesn’t seem to be able to turn it up to the level that he needs to consistently and play with a certain amount of energy for a sustained amount of time.”
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines the best draft strategy for the Hawks. The club has been aggressive over the past two drafts, moving around in the top 10 during each event. If Atlanta lands in the top five, as the team is currently projected to do, it may be best served staying put.
  • In a separate piece, Kirschner examines Atlanta’s salary cap situation. The Hawks are expected to have the most salary cap room in the NBA when the offseason arrives.

Examining Which Players Might Return For Next Season

Alpha Kaba Signs With Nanterre 92

  • Alpha Kaba, whose NBA rights are held by the Hawks, is joining French team Nanterre 92, according to a report from BeBasket (French link). A 24-year-old forward/center, Kaba was selected by Atlanta with the No. 60 pick in the 2017 draft, but has continued to play in France since then.
  • Spanish team FC Barcelona has parted ways with veteran guard Malcolm Delaney, per a team press release (h/t to Sportando). A standout EuroLeague contributor who spent two seasons with the Hawks from 2016-18, Delanyed is in talks with Italian club Olimpia Milano and has drawn interest from Olympiacos in Greece, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

John Collins Talks Capela, Contract, Hawks’ Potential

A dark-horse playoff sleeper entering the 2019/20 season, the Hawks failed to take a step forward, entering the NBA’s hiatus with a 20-47 record. A 25-game drug-related suspension for big man John Collins early in the season contributed to Atlanta digging an early hole for itself, which it couldn’t climb out of after Collins’ return.

With an eye toward the 2020/21 campaign, however, Collins tells Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Hawks aren’t “as far away as you think” from turning the corner, expressing optimism about the team’s short- and long-term potential.

“This is just to me, with the roster moves, with the experience that we have gained and are going to gain over the summer, and chemistry,” Collins said. “I keep on hearing us being talked about as a fringe playoff team (for next season), and I just want to start pushing our team and our discussion in the mental spaces of people as a playoff contender every year.”

By the time the ’20/21 season gets underway, the Hawks are hoping to have a healthy Clint Capela in their lineup. They’re also on track to add another top-eight draft pick to their roster and will have plenty of flexibility to add veteran talent this offseason — no NBA team projects to have more cap room than Atlanta. Throw in the fact that Collins, Trae Young, and the rest of the Hawks’ youngsters will be another year older, and some optimism is justified.

During his conversation with Spencer, which is worth checking out in full, Collins addressed several other topics, including his new frontcourt partner and his contract situation. Here are some highlights:

On his fit with Capela:

“I’m pretty versatile, so I feel (like) for the people who don’t watch, when they do watch, it’s like ‘OK, John can stretch the floor. Oh wow, John and Clint can play well (together).’ Clint’s still doing his thing rolling and playing above the rim, and I’m still playing above the rim, because we have elite play-makers out there on the court… Clint fits right in to what we do, so it’s not like he comes in and messes anything up on my end.”

On Collins’ next contract (he’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason):

“When we’re talking max numbers and money, I feel like I definitely (am in) the conversation to have earned that money with the Hawks specifically, but obviously I know there’s business and we don’t always get exactly what we want. But I want to be a Hawk, I want to stay with the Hawks.”

On whether it’s important that he signs an extension this year rather than waiting until restricted free agency in 2021 to get a new deal:

“I feel like we’ve both invested ourselves in each other… I feel like we both want to see our investments in each other pay off. In that sense, I just want to know where I am. I want to know I’m locked in as soon as I can rather than having to wait, which I know happens. But when you do wait, a lot of other stuff mentally creeps in during the season while I’m tired, while I’m playing, ups and downs, injuries, but that’s also a part of just being a pro athlete.”

Southeast Notes: Magic, Hawks, Heat, Jones

After initially targeting Tuesday as the date for the potential reopening of their practice facility, the Magic delayed that target date to Wednesday, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

While there’s a chance that the team hits that target date and opens its facility today, Orlando is still waiting on coronavirus test results for some of its asymptomatic players and staffers, according to Robbins, who tweets that the Magic are in a “holding pattern” for the time being.

Although their plans remain fluid, the Magic appear likely to allow players to conduct individual workouts at their facility soon, something the Hawks did earlier this week.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has questioned the need to reopen his team’s facility, since his players have their own workout equipment and hoops, and the NBA is limiting players to an hour at a time at practice facilities. But Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk sees value in making his team’s facility available to players, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes.

“You can certainly get a lot out of this,” Schlenk said. “You can get individual skill work, form stuff. For us, the focus this week is to really just get the guys back in the building and be able to get out of the house. It’s more the mental side than the physical side of things that we can get out of this. I’ve told the coaches that this isn’t the week to prove you’re the best individual coach in the league. This week is about getting the guys in here, getting their bodies moving.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

Hawks Reopen Practice Facility

The Hawks formally reopened their practice facility in Brookhaven’s Executive Park on Monday for individual workouts, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While many NBA teams play in states where stay-at-home orders are still in effect, that’s not the case for the Hawks — Georgia was one of the first states to lift many of those restrictions. Although the Hawks didn’t immediately reopen their facility when the NBA allowed teams to do so on Friday, they’ve now become one of the first clubs to reopen their building to allow voluntary workouts for players.

The Trail Blazers and Cavaliers reopened their facilities on Friday. Besides Atlanta, the Raptors, Nuggets, and Kings are also expected to reopen their respective buildings today, with a number of restrictions in place.

The NBA informed teams last week that they’ll now be permitted to test asymptomatic players for COVID-19 before they enter their facilities, as long as they’re in areas where testing is readily available to at-risk health care workers and receive written authorization from local health authorities. Having not received that authorization, the Hawks will just perform health and temperature checks on anyone entering their building, as Spencer tweets.

New York Notes: Knicks, Perry, Nets, Levy

A report last month indicated that Knicks management believes the team is well positioned to trade for a disgruntled star if one becomes available, given its surplus of first-round picks and cap flexibility going forward. However, even if the Knicks are right, it’s not clear which star player may be the next to push for a trade — or when that will happen.

Looking to identify a possible target to monitor, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News zeroes in on second-year Hawks guard Trae Young as one option. As Bondy explains, Atlanta has a 49-100 (.329) record since Young entered the league and at least one report has suggested the young star hasn’t always been on the same page as head coach Lloyd Pierce. Bondy also points to some positive comments Young made about the Knicks before the 2018 draft, when the youngster said it would be a “blessing” to be selected by New York.

While Knicks fans may enjoy dreaming about Young lighting up Madison Square Garden, Bondy’s proposal – which earned an “LOL” from Hawks beat writer Chris Kirschner of The Athletic – seems far-fetched at this point.

Young is under contract through at least 2022 and young stars rarely leave their teams at the end of their four-year rookie contracts, since they can’t reach unrestricted free agency unless they’re willing to accept a modest fifth-year qualifying offer instead of a lucrative long-term deal. That’s such a rarity that few teams even take the threat seriously — the Knicks, who dealt Kristaps Porzingis before he reached restricted free agency, are one of the only teams in recent history to trade a fourth-year star amidst rumors he’d sign his QO, and that deal hasn’t worked out especially well for them.

There’s nothing wrong with the Knicks keeping an eye on Young, but I imagine they’ll have to look elsewhere if they want to acquire a star in a trade during the next year or two.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Having received a one-year extension from the Knicks, GM Scott Perry may only be a short-term solution for the team under new president of basketball operations Leon Rose. Danny Leroux of The Athletic takes a look at how that decision to retain Perry for a bridge year could backfire.
  • The Nets parted ways with former CEO David Levy back in November, just two months after hiring him. As Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News reports, Levy’s stint with the franchise was short-lived because his contract stated he’d have some influence in the basketball operations department and that didn’t sit well with members of the team’s front office. According to Bondy, the “pushback” Levy received led to the Nets essentially buying him out.
  • Neither the Knicks nor Nets will open their practice facilities on Friday, and neither team has specified a target date for when that may happen, per Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina of USA Today.

Hawks Notes: Carter, Huerter, Practice Facility

With his retirement right around the corner, Hawks forward Vince Carter hopes to stay connected to the NBA even once he’s no involved in the action on the court, as he told T.I. this week on the rapper’s expediTIously Podcast (video link).

Asked about what’s next for him once he officially hangs up his sneakers, Carter pointed to broadcasting and team ownership as two areas he’s interested in, though he admitted he doesn’t have the kind of net worth to become the majority owner of an NBA franchise like Michael Jordan.

“I want to do some broadcasting. I want to stay around the game,” Carter said, per Paul Kasabian of Bleacher Report. “I want to continue to be a mentor in some capacity. I have aspirations of being a part of an ownership group. I don’t make that kind of money to own a team outright like MJ … but at some point, I want to be a part of an ownership group where I can still be that mentor that (players) need, and I want to be the middle man to bridge the gap for the ownership/executive side.”

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Second-year Hawks guard Kevin Huerter, who was sidelined for 10 games in the fall with a shoulder injury, tells Chris Kirschner of The Athletic that he played through some “nagging” issues the rest of the year and was proud not to miss any more time. “One thing that bothered me, I would go on Twitter, and you get tagged in every little thing. Everyone’s always like, ‘Kevin is always hurt,'” Huerter said. “From December until when our season stopped, I didn’t miss a single game. I was still getting tagged with always being hurt. I just played 40 or 50 games in a row. What do you mean I’m always hurt? That was a big thing for me. I played through a lot to just be on the court.”
  • Huerter, who told Kirschner that he’s “so sick of losing,” believes the Hawks’ young core players complement one another and is excited to see what they’re capable of as they continue to grow and commit to improving on defense.Trae (Young) is a dynamic scorer,” Huerter said. “I think I’m a facilitator, shot-maker and spacer. Cam (Reddish) can do it all on both ends. De’Andre Hunter is a bigger small forward who can move up position-wise on defense. John (Collins) can shoot and rebound and do everything. I think all of our pieces fit.”
  • The Hawks have yet to announce a specific target date for when they’ll attempt to reopen their practice facility, and it won’t happen on Friday. However, GM Travis Schlenk said the club is looking at the possibility of moving forward with reopening as early as next week, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.