Dotun Akinwale Jr.

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Porzingis, Hawks, Fernando, Sixers

Nets guard Ben Simmons will not partake in this year’s World Cup, Basketball Australia has announced in an official statement (Twitter link).

According to Basketball Australia, Brooklyn and Simmons have opted to withhold the former No. 1 overall pick so that he can continue to rehabilitate his ailing back ahead of the 2023/24 NBA season. Net Income of Nets Daily writes that the club is hopeful Simmons will be recovered by the start of September, just in time for training camp.

The former All-Star appeared in just 42 games for Brooklyn in 2022/23 after returning from back surgery, averaging 6.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.6 BPG in 26.3 MPG.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • New Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis is excited about his new opportunity to play for a perennial Eastern Conference contender, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Porzingis explained his decision to opt into his $36MM option for next season, which helped enable his trade from the Wizards. “[It was] an opportunity to play for a really good team already and be able to add to that,” Porzingis said. “And hopefully to help these guys, make their life easier, and being on a high-level organization like Boston, historic franchise, iconic franchise, it made it extremely easy for me to make that decision.”
  • The Hawks have made some changes to their front office personnel, Atlanta has announced in a press release. Longtime league agent Chris Emens is joining the team as an executive advisor. The Hawks are also adding Blake Johnson as the club’s director of player engagement. Atlanta also revealed that a variety of executives have been promoted to new positions: vice president of player personnel Dotun Akinwale Jr.; senior vice president of salary cap administration Michelle Leftwich; vice president of basketball operations Grant Liffmann; senior vice president of team operations Dan Martinez; vice president of player personnel and basketball intelligence Tori Miller; principal advisor to the governor Nick Ressler; and vice president of cap strategy/player personnel Ryan Silverstein.
  • The Hawks have pushed back reserve center Bruno Fernando‘s salary guarantee deadline from June 29 to July 10, reports Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). Upon being shipped to Atlanta in February from Houston, the 6’9″ big man appeared in just eight contests for the team, averaging 3.4 PPG and 1.9 RPG in 5.1 MPG. Fernando will receive his full $2.58MM salary for 2023/24 if he remains under contract through July 10.
  • Assistant coaches Fabulous Flournoy and Toure’ Murry are joining new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse‘s bench, a team source has informed Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The addition of another assistant, Doug West, had previously been reported.

Hawks Extend, Promote Travis Schlenk

3:39pm: The Hawks have formally issued a press release announcing that they’ve promoted Schlenk to president of basketball operations. The announcement doesn’t mention an extension, but it seems safe to assume that it’s official now too.

The Hawks also announced many more promotions and hires, including (but not limited to):

  • Dan Martinez to VP of team operations
  • Derek Pierce to VP of player personnel
  • Dotun Akinwale Jr. to director of scouting
  • Mike McNeive to director of player personnel
  • Daniel Starkman to senior manager of basketball operations
  • Nick Ressler to manager of basketball operations

“We are extremely pleased with the direction that Travis and our entire basketball operations team has us heading as a franchise,” Hawks owner Tony Ressler said in a statement. “He has used the draft to build an impressive young core, hired one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Lloyd Pierce and positioned us to have the cap space, draft picks and financial flexibility needed to have long-term success in the NBA.”

2:39pm: The Hawks have reached a deal with general manager Travis Schlenk on a new multiyear contract extension, reports Zach Klein of WSB-TV (Twitter link). Confirming Klein’s report, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that an official announcement from the team will likely come within the next day or so.

Schlenk took over as Atlanta’s head of basketball operations during the spring of 2017 after the team re-assigned GM Wes Wilcox and removed Mike Budenholzer‘s president of basketball operations title.

Since joining the Hawks, Schlenk has launched a full-fledged rebuild, accumulating draft assets and making strong use of his own first-round picks, having selected John Collins in 2017 and Trae Young and Kevin Huerter in 2018.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s lottery picks (De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish) will look as promising as Collins, Young, and Huerter have, and Schlenk faced some criticism for trading the pick that became Luka Doncic. Still, the former Warriors executive has the Hawks pointed in the right direction as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming teams.

After going 24-58 during Schlenk’s first year running the show, the team won 29 games last season and will look to improve upon that number in 2019/20.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.