Nate McMillan

Hawks Owner Ressler Promises Roster Changes

The Hawks plan to shake things up this offseason after standing relatively pat last summer. That’s what owner Tony Ressler told the media, including The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, on Thursday.

Ressler felt the team’s brass may have read too much into the surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, which is why the roster looked much the same this season.

“I think we should have tried to get better rather than bring back what we had,” Ressler said. “That won’t happen again. It was a mistake, in my opinion at least.”

President of basketball operations Travis Schlenk made similar comments during a radio interview earlier this week.

Here are few more notable points from Ressler’s press conference:

  • The Hawks’ roster moves will be made with an eye toward finding more creators on offense and better defenders, particularly on the perimeter. “Getting more folks who could handle the ball, create and more defensive-oriented players — or both — that’s an obvious answer,” Ressler said. “When I talk to Travis and (assistant GM) Landry (Fields) about this very subject, which you could imagine happens frequently, I think their view is the league is complicated. You have to use the free-agent view, you have to use the draft, you have to use the development of the players — and, frankly, the availability of what’s out there will determine the decisions we make.”
  • Ressler is willing to make the Hawks a taxpaying team, as long as it makes sense to spend for a perennial contender. Ressler has told Schlenk he’s willing to go over the luxury tax threshold as early as next season. “We’re going to pay what we have to pay,” he said. “Sometimes owners set a tone — and I’m trying to set a very clear tone — sometimes we say some things one season that may not pertain to the next. Going into the tax doesn’t scare us. … Our job is to go into the tax when it’s good business, to position ourselves for greatness.”
  • Ressler isn’t thinking about a coaching or front office change. “Between Travis, Landry and Nate (McMillan), we have a hell of a team in our front office and coaching staff,” Ressler said. “I have enormous confidence in all of those folks.” However, he felt complacency seeped in throughout the roster and organization. “That’s what this season told me,” he said. “The idea that you have complacency before you win a championship — maybe after we win a championship, I’ll take a breath. We’re not going to have complacency again at any level.”

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Wizards, McMillan, Hawks

Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, who spent much of the 2021/22 season recovering from a torn ACL, only ended up appearing in 18 games for the Magic and found himself playing alongside mostly new teammates, given that the roster has been overhauled since he suffered that ACL tear.

However, as Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel writes, Fultz acquitted himself well in his limited action this season, shooting a career-high 47.4% from the field and averaging a career-best 5.5 APG despite logging only 20.0 minutes per contest.

According to Price, in a recent appearance on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike with Mike Bianchi, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman described Fultz as “exquisitely talented in creating offense for others” and said the team believes he has a “crazy physical package of size and skills and vision.” It sounds like Orlando has big plans going forward for Fultz, who – for his part – was thrilled to feel fully healthy and comfortable during the final couple months of the season.

“I’m honestly the most excited I’ve ever been just to have a summer where I’m not really focused on rehab or recovery and I can really attack my summer head-on,” Fultz said. “I know I have a few goals I want to hit, but this is the summer I can really focus on my summer and enjoy the process.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Wizards will have a lottery pick this June, but they’re unlikely to use the draft to add a starting point guard, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who says the team figures to turn to free agency or the trade market to find that player.
  • After making the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, the Hawks were one of the first teams eliminated from this year’s playoffs. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic takes a look at what went wrong in 2021/22 for Atlanta and says that Nate McMillan‘s job security wasn’t a question as of a few days ago — it’s unclear if the way the Hawks’ season ended could change the equation at all, Kirschner writes.
  • In his offseason preview for the Hawks, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) outlines how team ownership’s willingness to pay the luxury tax could impact Danilo Gallinari‘s future and examines the case for extending forward De’Andre Hunter before he reaches restricted free agency in 2023.

Southeast Notes: Oladipo, Bam, Collins, Bridges

Heat guard Victor Oladipo, who continues to work his way back from quadriceps tendon surgery, has played in just four games since returning to the hardwood for Miami on March 7, averaging 5.5 points on .450/.222/.667 shooting across 16.3 MPG. Oladipo has also struggled with lower back spasms in recent days.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes that the Heat were never anticipating that Oladipo could be a starter this season playing major minutes. Winderman notes that the 6’4″ guard, a former two-time All-Star with the Pacers before being beset by injuries, could still be a valuable contributor for the East’s top-seeded club in spot minutes during the playoffs. The play of fellow reserve guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent has made any help Oladipo provides a bit of a bonus.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat center Bam Adebayo believes he deserves to be named Defensive Player of the Year this season, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Adebayo has been the anchor for one of the league’s staunchest defenses this year. As of this writing, the Heat rank fifth in defensive rating and fourth in points allowed per game. The 6’9″ big man has been no slouch when it comes to counting stats, either, averaging 19.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 3.5 APG this season for Miami.  Though Adebayo has missed 25 games this season due to injury, missing some contests does not necessarily preclude a player from DPOY consideration. In the 2017/18 season, Jazz center Rudy Gobert won his first Defensive Player of the Year award after playing only 56 of 82 games for Utah.
  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan sounds fairly skeptical that starting power forward John Collins will be available to return to the floor for Atlanta within the 10-to-14-day timeline initially provided by the team, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). “That’s when they will talk about his injury again,” McMillan said. “I don’t think we’re saying in two weeks he’ll be back. We will re-evaluate him in two weeks.”
  • Hornets power forward Miles Bridges, who should at least be a finalist for the 2022 Most Improved Player award thanks to his excellent play this year, is focused on reaching the playoffs with Charlotte following several past disappointments, per Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve been here before and all three years when we could’ve made the playoffs we didn’t finish like we wanted to,” Bridges said. “So I just want this year to be different.” Bridges is averaging 20.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 3.8 APG for the 36-35 Hornets, current occupants of the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte – currently 5.5 games ahead of the No. 11 Wizards with just 11 games left in its season – seems like a safe bet to at least qualify for the 2022 play-in tournament. Last year, the Hornets finished as the tenth seed with a 33-39 record, but lost to the Pacers in their first play-in game.

Southeast Notes: Collins, Wright, Bamba, Thomas

Hawks power forward John Collins has continued to play for Atlanta even as he deals with lingering foot pain and now sports a protective wrap around his finger, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Collins recently returned to Atlanta’s active roster following a seven-game absence as he dealt with his strained right foot.

“I’m not going to tell you everything,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said regarding the health of Collins. “I just respect him for his effort and he does have some things that are going on that he’s trying to play through.”

Through 54 games for the 32-34 Hawks, the 6’9″ big man is averaging 16.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.8 APG and boasts shooting splits of .526/.364/.793. Atlanta is currently the tenth seed in the Eastern Conference, mere percentage points behind the ninth-seeded Hornets, who sport a 32-34 record. An extended absence for the Hawks’ second-leading scorer in Collins could spell trouble for the Hawks’ play-in chances.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks reserve combo guard Delon Wright, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is currently out of Atlanta’s rotation. Hawks head coach Nate McMillan explained his thinking behind Wright’s exclusion from the present lineup, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He’s been playing well,” McMillan said. “It’s nothing he’s done. He’s been playing well. It’s really difficult to play a 10-man rotation because everyone gets squeezed. What I did was went to Lou [Williams] at that backup [point guard spot] — the rotation we had last year.” The 6’5″ veteran is in his seventh NBA season.
  • Hornets backup point guard Isaiah Thomas discussed his fight for an NBA future with Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Currently on his third NBA club this season, following prior 10-day contracts with the Lakers and Mavericks, Thomas is excited for his opportunity with Charlotte, with whom he recently signed a second 10-day deal. “It’s just a blessing for me to be able to be where I’m at today with how bad my hip was, because I never thought I would be in this space again where I have no pain and I can play free and I can just live free,” Thomas said. “Not just play, like, I don’t have no pain on a daily basis.” Thomas has had multiple surgeries on his troublesome hip, but says he has been pain-free since a 2020 operation. The 5’9″ veteran is averaging 9.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.0 SPG in just 13.7 MPG over the course of his three games with Charlotte. “I don’t ice my hip, I don’t do any pre-workout for it. I don’t do anything,” he said. “It’s the same as before I got hurt. I know I can do those things again, but I’m not chasing those moments.”
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba has an interesting summer ahead of him. Orlando will have to tender the former No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA draft a $10.1MM one-year qualifying offer this summer for him to reach restricted free agency — otherwise he will become an unrestricted free agent. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) expects the qualifying offer to be a foregone conclusion. Given Bamba’s uneven play during his first NBA seasons, it seemed possible that he could reach unrestricted free agency, hoping to catch on with a club in a reserve role at a rate below the qualifying offer. However, Bamba is enjoying by far the best statistical season of his NBA career thus far, averaging 10.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.7 BPG across 57 games for Orlando, including 55 starts.

Southeast Notes: Morris, McMillan, Hunter, Magic

Heat power forward Markieff Morris, who has been sidelined since suffering a neck injury thanks to a hard foul from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on November 8, will have to fight to gain back rotational time he has lost, opines writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Winderman notes that Miami opted to bring in Morris as the first backup power forward behind starter P.J. Tucker in the 10 games this season when Morris was healthy, but that the team may consider small-ball lineups with versatile reserve wings Caleb Martin or Max Strus playing nominal power forward minutes for the Heat.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan reflected on his time in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and away from his players, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McMillan recently cleared protocols and has returned to coaching the team. “I’ve never had to go through anything like that,” McMillan said. “To coach during this time with COVID, some of my guys, it’s been close to a month since I’ve seen them.” The Hawks, who had 13 players in the protocols at one point in late December, are currently 17-22, the No. 12 seed in the East.
  • Hawks small forward De’Andre Hunter is nearing his return to the team, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Hunter played in a full five-on-five team practice today. Trainers must green-light Hunter’s return to game action, which could happen as soon as tomorrow against the Heat, per head coach Nate McMillan. Hunter underwent surgery on his right wrist in mid-November. In 11 contests with Atlanta this season, he averaged 10.8 PPG on .450/.395/.400 shooting, along with 2.7 RPG and 0.6 SPG.
  • Young Magic point guards Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz have resumed practicing with the team, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. Power forward Jonathan Isaac, who has been absent since tearing his ACL in August 2020, is inching towards a return of his own, though Suggs and Fultz appear closer to rejoining their Orlando teammates on the hardwood. Fultz tore his left ACL early in the 2020/21 NBA season and has been absent ever since. Suggs continues to wear a splint for the fractured thumb on his right hand. Exact return timelines for Suggs and Fultz have not been determined.

COVID-19 Updates: McMillan, Casey, Dieng, Suns, Holmes, More

Two NBA head coaches have exited the health and safety protocols today. Hawks coach Nate McMillan was back at practice with the team on Tuesday, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). McMillan should be ready to return to Atlanta’s bench on Wednesday night when the team hosts Miami.

Additionally, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is no longer in the protocols after having entered them on Monday. In a press release confirming Casey’s status, the club stated that Casey registered two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests following what was believed to be a false positive. Casey will coach Detroit on Tuesday night against Chicago.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates from around the league:

  • Hawks big man Gorgui Dieng has cleared the health and safety protocols, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta had one of the league’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks this season, with a staggering 13 players in the protocols at one point in late December. However, the team doesn’t have any players left in the protocols now.
  • The Suns got guard Landry Shamet out of the COVID-19 protocols on Monday, but saw two-way forward Ish Wainright enter them, as Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports tweets. Wainright is currently the only Sun affected.
  • Richaun Holmes has cleared the protocols and is headed to the Kings‘ G League affiliate in Stockton for some reconditioning work, says James Ham of ESPN 1320 (Twitter links).
  • The Thunder placed forward Kenrich Williams in the protocols on Monday and ruled him out for Tuesday’s game vs. Washington, tweets Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic.
  • The Grizzlies are once again listing Yves Pons as being in the health and safety protocols (Twitter link). Pons initially entered the protocols on Saturday and exited them on Sunday. It’s unclear whether that status update on Sunday was a mistake or if his test results have been inconsistent in recent days, but Pons is once again listed in our health and safety protocols tracker.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

Eastern Notes: McMillan, Harden, Irving, Rozier, Washington Jr.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan believes enough is enough and that the NBA should pause the season, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. The Hawks are one of several teams dealing with major COVID-19 issues. “Of course I think that way, but it’s not up to me,” McMillan said. “The league is trying to keep this season going. Of course, it’s really frustrating for us and a lot of other teams.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • James Harden is looking forward to getting Kyrie Irving back in the Nets lineup, even on a limited basis, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Irving is expected to see action in some road games sometime next month. “Obviously, we all know how special of a talent Kyrie is and what he means to this organization and our team. So just to be around him, even if it’s only for road games, will be huge for us,” Harden said. “He obviously makes all our jobs a lot easier.”
  • Hornets guard Terry Rozier admits he needs to step it up on the defensive end, as he told Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). “To be honest, my defense all year just hasn’t been there all year as far as effort,” he said. “I’ll be the first to say it.” Rozier was re-signed to a four-year, $96.26MM extension this summer.
  • Two-way player Duane Washington Jr. got a chance to play 11 minutes on Sunday due to Pacers backcourt injuries. He contributed two points, two rebounds and two assists. Washington, who has been averaging 19.5 PPG in the G League, took a three-hour bus from Indianapolis to Chicago to play in the game, according to James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star. “He did a nice job for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He played with high energy, he moved the ball, he scrambled around defensively, and offensively you’ve got to guard him. He’s a guy that can shoot and make shots. It’s really a great opportunity for him.”

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Kuzma, McMillan, Reddish

Markelle Fultz took another step toward making his season debut, as he joined his Magic teammates in Los Angeles and practiced with the squad, according to Dan Savage of the team’s website.

Fultz, who has been rehabbing from an ACL injury to his left knee suffered early last season, called the practice a “great experience.” He participated in five-on-five and three-on-three scrimmages and shooting drills.

There’s still no timetable for Fultz’s return. He has practiced with the team’s G League affiliate in Lakeland and could spend more time with Lakeland, depending on the Magic’s practice, travel and game schedule.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and won’t play on Saturday, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. Additionally, Kuzma been fined $15K by the league for making an obscene gesture to a fan, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Kuzma made the gesture in Detroit on Wednesday.  He scored 26 points that night and made the game-winning shot.
  • Head coach Nate McMillan drew interest from two other teams after the Hawks’ surprising playoff run but was only interested in signing an extension with Atlanta, he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated“The Hawks really started talking to us probably during the Eastern Conference Finals,” McMillan said. “They were like, ‘Look, we want you to come back.’ My thing was just to stay focused on the playoffs. And at the end of the season, the conversation was had.”
  • Cam Reddish returned to action on Friday, though the Hawks forward went 0-for-6 from the field and didn’t grab a rebound in 17 minutes. Reddish hadn’t played since November 27 due to a left wrist sprain.

Southeast Notes: Reddish, Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Hornets, Sabonis, Martin

Hawks forward Cam Reddish, who is recovering from a wrist injury, went through a full practice on Thursday, according to coach Nate McMillan. Reddish did some shooting and participated in drills at 75% speed. He’s listed as probable to play on Friday.

Bogdan Bogdanovic still needs more time to return from his ankle injury, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports in a series of tweets. “Bogi’s not doing anything other than shooting. He looks better,” McMillan said. “He’s up on his feet and he’s moving around.”

Second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu is continuing his rehab assignment from shoulder surgery. He’s with the G League College Park Skyhawks and is expected to play on Thursday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • There’s been no change regarding the Hornets‘ COVID-19 issues. LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier and Ish Smith are all listed as out for Friday’s game against Sacramento due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. Charlotte’s depleted roster has managed to beat Atlanta and lose two close games to Philadelphia since those players were sidelined over the weekend.
  • With a recent report claiming that the Pacers may shake up their roster, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether Domantas Sabonis should be a trade target for the Wizards. Hughes notes that Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are expected to return soon and the front office would like to see how they fit with their revamped roster. Hughes adds that the club already has the look of a playoff team and the addition of Sabonis may not move the needle all that much.
  • Caleb Martin may eventually have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal by the Heat but there are luxury tax concerns, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Martin has been active for 24 of the Heat’s 26 games and can only be active for 50 games under two-way rules. If he remained on the active roster for every game, he’d be able to play until nearly the end of January. But the Heat would have to wait a couple of weeks after that to convert his contract in order to avoid surpassing the tax threshold.