Lloyd Pierce

Hawks Frustrated But Pierce Not On Hot Seat

The Hawks have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season, with Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Knicks dropping them to the very bottom of the Eastern Conference at 6-22. League sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that frustration has been building within Atlanta’s locker room during the team’s first-half slump.

As Haynes details, teammates have complained to one another about selfishness, accountability, and not putting in the necessary work to turn the Hawks’ season around. Sources tell Haynes that the roster is missing a “true vocal leader who command the respect of his peers” and that the club needs to put in work to “strengthen the connection with a few significant players.”

Despite a dismal couple months, head coach Lloyd Pierce is not on the hot seat in Atlanta, according to Haynes, who notes that the organization is remaining patient with Pierce in part because the team has been without big man John Collins since early November. Collins was suspended for 25 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program and will be eligible to return next Monday.

If the Hawks’ struggles and locker-room issues continue after Collins’ return, Pierce’s seat may begin to heat up, Haynes writes. Atlanta’s head coach has a guaranteed contract through the 2020/21 season, with a team option for ’21/22.

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Turner, Jones, Wizards

James Johnson‘s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client has been absent from the Heat’s training camp because of his weight rather than his conditioning, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp until he reaches that weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley. Bartelstein said Johnson passed the team’s conditioning test and will return to the team “shortly,” Jackson adds. Johnson has a $15.3MM salary this season with a $16MM player option next season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wants to take advantage Evan Turner‘s versatility, Kevin Chouinard of the team’s website tweets. Turner will serve as the backup point guard and will also be employed as a small-ball power forward along with playing the wing. Turner was acquired from the Blazers for Kent Bazemore.
  • Forward Jemerrio Jones is trying to gain a role with the Wizards via his rebounding and hustle, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details.  Jones, who played six games with the Lakers last season as a rookie, has a $1,416,852 salary, but less than $200K is guaranteed. “I go hard in the paint,” he said. “[Fans] are going to like the hustle in me. You gotta pay people to play hard now, but it’s in me.” Jones was acquired in the three-team blockbuster that brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
  • Thomas Bryant inspires his other young Wizards teammates to exceed expectations, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Bryant, who was cut loose by the Lakers, earned a three-year, $25MM contract after replacing injured Dwight Howard as the starting center last season. “The opportunity that he got, making the best of getting cut, it’s incredible for me to observe,” second-year center Moritz Wagner said. “I’m very happy to do this with him together.”

Hawks Notes: Draft, No. 8, Reddish, Fernando

The Mavericks agreed to send their top-5 protected 2019 first-rounder to the Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic draft night trade last June. Entering the NBA draft lottery, Dallas had hoped to keep this year’s pick and delay conveying the selection.

Assistant GM Keith Grant told Chris Kirschner of the Athletic that the Mavs would have liked to add another young piece to the Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis nucleus. Still, the team views last year’s trade as a win for both parties.

“We actually do believe that,” Grant said about both teams getting the guy they wanted. “We evaluated every player and thought Luka was our guy. Atlanta obviously had Trae as theirs, and so we had a deal.”

The trade between Dallas and Atlanta had been agreed to prior to the actual draft but was contingent on both Doncic and Trae Young being available at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

The Hawks are armed with two top-10 draft selections in this year’s draft and Kirschner passes along more from Atlanta:

  • It would be surprising if the Hawks didn’t pick a wing, assuming they stay at the No. 8 spot, Kirschner hears from sources within the organization. Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver has been linked to Atlanta but it’s hard to envision him falling out of the top seven.
  • Zion Williamson and Ja Morant are widely expected to be the top two picks in the draft. One Hawks executive told Kirschner that he expects three other players—R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, and Coby White—to be unavailable when Atlanta makes its first selection at No. 8. The Suns and Bulls both covet upgrades at the point guard spot and Garland and White are the best available after Morant.
  • The Hawks have interest in Cam Reddish. While he failed to live up to lofty expectations at Duke, there’s “not much doubt” within Atlanta’s organization that playing alongside Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter would allow him to reach his potential, Kirschner adds.
  • Coach Lloyd Pierce prefers a center who can stretch the floor but that wouldn’t stop the team from selecting Jaxson Hayes if he’s the best player on the board at No. 10. “Roster building isn’t always about trying to perfectly pair up guys,” a source tells Kirschner.
  • Multiple sources tell Kirschner that the team likes Bruno Fernando out of Maryland. The big man likely isn’t in play with one of the Hawks‘ two top-10 selections, but the franchise holds three second-round picks (No. 35, No. 41, No. 44).

And-Ones: Early Entrants, Ball, Pierce, Diaw

After releasing a 233-player list of early entrants for the 2019 NBA draft on Tuesday, the league followed up today by adding a few more names to that list. According to an announcement from the league, “timely letters” were received from three more prospects who declared for the draft. Those players are as follows:

Leading up to the early entry deadline, there were reports that Cham, Lamb, and Sneed all intended to enter the draft, so it was a little surprising not to see them on the NBA’s official list this week. They’re on there now though, and the additions of those three names mean that this year’s early entrant total is up to 236 players, matching a record set in 2018.

As we noted on Tuesday, there were still several players who reportedly intended to declare for the draft as early entrants and aren’t on the NBA’s list, so they either had second thoughts or missed the deadline. The next deadline will arrive on May 29, when NCAA prospects will have to either withdraw from this year’s draft pool or officially forfeit their remaining college eligibility.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Alan Foster, a former associate of Lonzo Ball and the Ball family, is under FBI investigation, according to a report from Tania Ganguli and Richard Winton of The Los Angeles Times. The Bureau is looking into whether Foster defrauded the Ball family out of millions of dollars, according to Ganguli and Winton, who say the investigation has been going on for more than two months. Foster was already facing a lawsuit accusing him of embezzling over $2MM from Big Baller Brand for his personal use.
  • Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce has taken the place of Pacers head coach Nate McMillan as an assistant on Team USA’s coaching staff for 2019/20, according to a press release. McMillan withdrew due to scheduling conflicts, opening the door for Pierce to claim a spot on Gregg Popovich’s staff for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.
  • Longtime NBA forward Boris Diaw is reportedly poised to take over as the president of French team Levallois Metropolitans. The news was reported by Le Parisien, and relayed by Sportando and Eurohoops. Assuming it becomes official, Diaw will become the second notable NBA player to assume the role of team president for a French club, joining former teammate Tony Parker, who runs ASVEL Villeurbanne.

Hawks Notes: Free Agency, Carter, Pierce

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.”

Hawks Notes: No. 3, Bagley, Bamba, Allen

The Hawks own the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft and figuring out who they’ll select is no easy feat. Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com has the team selecting Jaren Jackson Jr. out of Michigan State. The big man, who won’t turn 19 until mid-September, has a high ceiling and would be an ideal partner in the frontcourt alongside John Collins, Givony contends.

Both Jackson and Marvin Bagley III, a projected top-3 pick, will work out for the team next week, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Five Key Offseason Questions: Atlanta Hawks]

Luka Doncic won’t work out for the Hawks, as he’s not holding any individual workouts for teams ahead of the draft. Heading into lottery night, he appeared to be a lock to be selected in the top-2. However, the 19-year-old will likely be available when Atlanta picks based on the Kings’ reported disinterest in the Slovenian wing. It’s been reported that the Hawks are likely to pass on him as well.

Whoever is selected with the No. 3 pick is projected to make a starting salary of approximately $6.5MM. While we wait to see what the Hawks do with their selection, check out some notes from Atlanta:

  • Mohamed Bamba is tentatively scheduled to work out for the Hawks on June 14, Cunningham tweets. Grayson Allen and Trae Young are also expected to workout for the team next week.
  • The Hawks will have several prospects come into town on Wednesday, according to a team press release. Alize Johnson (Missouri State), George King (Colorado), Billy Preston (Bosnia), Omari Spellman (Villanova), Jared Terrell (Rhode Island) and Thomas Welsh (UCLA) will all visit Atlanta.
  • Atlanta has hired Nate Babcock to be a special assistant on coach Lloyd Pierce’s staff, Cunningham reports (via Twitter). The Hawks’ coaching staff is now complete.

Chris Jent To Remain With Hawks As Assistant Coach

Hawks assistant coach Chris Jent will remain with the team in that capacity as part of new head coach Lloyd Pierce‘s staff, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Jent joined Atlanta’s coaching staff last season after spending the previous season as an assistant at Ohio State.

Jent, 48, has a history with Pierce as both men were part of former head coach Mike Brown’s staff with the Cavaliers. Jent also served as an assistant coach for the Sixers, Magic, and Kings. Jent was an interim head coach for the Magic for the last 18 games of the 2004/05 season. As a player, Jent played in six NBA games, three with the 1994 NBA championship-winning Rockets and three with the Knicks.

It makes sense for Pierce to retain someone with both a wealth of coaching experience and familiarity with the Hawks as he prepares for his first head coaching job. We passed along earlier this week that Melvin Hunt will join the Hawks as Pierce’s lead assistant, while former Suns assistant Marlon Garnett will also be part of the team’s staff.

Hawks Notes: Pierce, Defense, Schroder

During his introductory press conference on Monday, new Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce talked about his passion for defense, and indicated that he’ll be looking for defensive-minded assistants as he starts putting together his staff in Atlanta, as Charles Odum of The Associated Press writes.

“If we weren’t doing this press conference right now, I’d probably have these guys doing some defensive drills,” Pierce said, referring to the Hawks players who attended the presser. “That’s who I am.”

In addition to the four Hawks who were in attendance on Monday, Sixers forward Robert Covington – who was in Atlanta visiting a family member – showed up to support the former Philadelphia assistant. Covington had nothing but praise for Pierce, calling him a “great coach” who is “absolutely” ready for his first head coaching job.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • During Monday’s presser, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk said that he and Mike Budenholzer remain on good terms, despite the former head coach’s departure from Atlanta. “I talked with [Budenholzer] a couple days ago,” Schlenk said, per Odum. “No hard feelings at all.”
  • In a Q&A with Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pierce spoke at length about the defensive strategies he employed in Philadelphia, which he’ll bring to the Hawks.
  • Dennis Schroder, who led the Hawks in points (19.4 PPG) and assists (6.2 APG) last season, made comments this week at a press conference in Germany that made it sound like he wouldn’t mind moving on from Atlanta. Schroder said he could imagine playing for teams like the Bucks and Pacers (Twitter link via David Hein), adding that he doesn’t want to keep finishing “second-to-last in the Eastern Conference” (link via Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net). Schroder is under contract for three more years at $15.5MM annually, but wasn’t drafted or extended by the current management group, so he could emerge as a trade candidate for the Hawks.

Hawks To Hire Lloyd Pierce As Head Coach

6:10 pm: Pierce has reached an agreement with Atlanta to become the team’s next head coach, the Hawks announce via press release.

“As we set out to find a new head coach for our team, it was critically important to find a dynamic teacher who could connect with and develop our young core while instilling the culture and high standards we feel are necessary in a successful program,” said Hawks GM Travis Schlenk. “Lloyd Pierce checks every box, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him leading the Atlanta Hawks into the future.”

Pierce said that he’s been working toward this moment for a long time, adding that it’s an honor to become the Hawks’ new head coach.

“I have great respect for [Schlenk] and strong belief in his plan to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta. After spending time with ownership, it’s clear they have a deep investment in and commitment to making this a model organization. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me, and I’m eager to get started,” he said.

5:49 pm: The Hawks are closing in on a deal with Lloyd Pierce to make the Sixers’ assistant their new head coach, Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter link) and Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com tweets that the Atlanta will announce Pierce as its head coach on Monday.

The contract will contain three guaranteed years with a team option for the fourth, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Pierce had his third meeting with the club today.

Earlier today, we heard that Atlanta was likely to present Pierce a contract offer and on the surface, the pairing makes sense. Pierce has been with the Sixers organization since the 2013/14 campaign, spending several seasons on the sideline as the team went through their long rebuild. The Hawks are in the midst of a similar situation, though it’s unlikely Atlanta’s rebuild carries on for as many seasons as Sam Hinkie’s Process did.

The Hawks mutually parted ways with Mike Budenholzer late last month and we heard rumblings that it had to do with the direction of the franchise. Budenholzer reportedly wants to be with an organization that’s committed to winning and Atlanta appears to be more focused on talent development.

Pierce is open to the challenge of building a team from the ground up and he believes his time in Philadelphia will help him with the Hawks.

“The main reason is just looking at their young players,” Pierce said earlier in the week. “They got four guys in the draft. They got a couple of young players that are on their roster. So what’s most important when you are dealing with young players and young talent, it’s the development and relational side of that. It’s kind of my track record. It’s anybody’s track record of how do you communicate, how do you work with players, how do you develop, what does that mean?”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks Likely To Offer Head Coaching Job To Lloyd Pierce

Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce has emerged as the primary focus of the Hawks’ search for a new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, with the 76ers now eliminated from the postseason, Pierce traveled to Atlanta today for a third meeting with Hawks officials. The club is expected to make a formal offer to Pierce soon, Woj adds.

Wojnarowski reported last week that Pierce would meet with Hawks ownership during his second interview with the team. At the time, Woj suggested that there was a “strong chance” Pierce would become Atlanta’s new head coach if that meeting went well.

However, a subsequent report indicated that Pierce was simply one of four finalists for the position, and that it would be premature to elevate him over the other candidates. Those other finalists are Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga. Based on Wojnarowski’s latest report though, it sounds like Pierce is the strong frontrunner.

Pierce, whose NBA coaching career began with roles in Cleveland, Golden State, and Memphis, has been an assistant on Brett Brown‘s staff in Philadelphia since 2013. Pierce’s time the Warriors – while brief – overlapped with Travis Schlenk‘s tenure in Golden State’s front office. Schlenk currently serves as the Hawks’ general manager.

Pierce said earlier this week that he felt optimistic about his chances to replace Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, as we relayed on Wednesday.

“The main reason is just looking at [the Hawks’] young players,” Pierce said. “They got four guys in the draft. They got a couple of young players that are on their roster. So what’s most important when you are dealing with young players and young talent, it’s the development and relational side of that. It’s kind of my track record.”