Tony Ressler

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Ressler, Wagner, Martin, Heat

As we outlined on Friday, Hawks owner Tony Ressler conducted a series of media interviews this week to discuss the team’s recent front office and head coaching changes. We passed along a few highlights from his discussions with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but Ressler also spoke on Friday to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, who pushed him a little harder on the role that his son Nick Ressler has within the Hawks’ front office.

Reporting from The Athletic earlier this year suggested that Nick Ressler – Atlanta’s director of business and basketball operations – had gained “increasing influence” in the Hawks’ front office and that not everyone was comfortable with that. Pressed on the issue by Schultz, Tony Ressler pushed back on the notion that his son has an outsized voice in decision-making and that other executives aren’t happy with Nick’s role.

“Who? Do they still work here?” the Hawks’ owner responded when Schultz said The Athletic had spoken to people who were uncomfortable with his son’s level of influence. “Look, the idea that you’re using former employees for a narrative that is untrue. The simple answer is we have a front office today that works beautifully, where Nick is one of many voices and frankly an unbelievably positive and supportive voice. And if you ask anyone who works here they would tell you yes.

“… We have a fairly large basketball ops that values a whole bunch of voices and Nick’s one of them. … What he is is a great kid who works his ass off and is one of the many voices that feed into (assistant GM) Kyle (Korver) and (GM) Landry (Fields).

“Am I partial? Maybe. But if I didn’t think he was a positive influence to this franchise, he wouldn’t be here. … It’s very important to me that perception is similar to reality. When you say I give a disproportionate amount of influence to my son, that’s just a f—ing lie, because I would be running a lesser business than I’m capable of.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Magic lost their second-leading scorer on Friday, as Franz Wagner left the game in Charlotte early due to a left ankle sprain. According to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel, X-rays on the ankle were negative, which is good news, but Wagner still may have to miss some time as a result of the injury.
  • Kevin Love has started all five games since he arrived in Miami, but the Heat have lost four of those games and the new starting five of Love, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Gabe Vincent has a net rating of minus-9.4 so far. As Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes, that same group with former starter Caleb Martin in Love’s place has a plus-18.6 net rating this season. For his part, Martin is still getting used to his new bench role. “It’s a little different, man,” he said on Friday. “… It’s just adjusting to whatever is going on. It’s also more of a role of gassing yourself out, being that spark coming off the bench as opposed to maintaining.”
  • The much-vaunted Heat culture is being tested by the team’s inconsistent performances as of late, with Butler suggesting after Friday’s loss to New York that Miami needs to play with more urgency. “We really get bored with the process and I can’t tell you why. We play hard and sometimes we get back in the game like we did tonight and sometimes we don’t,” Butler said, according to Chiang. “But either way it goes, if we just play basketball the right way the entire game, I don’t think we’re in this situation more often than not. But for some odd reason, we think it’s going to be easy so we just go out there and go through the motions.”

Hawks Notes: Resslers, Front Office, Snyder, Young, Bogdanovic

Hawks owner Tony Ressler believes his team has underachieved this season, which is why he decided to overhaul the front office and signed off on the new group’s plan to replace head coach Nate McMillan with Quin Snyder, he tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Ressler, he’s staying out of basketball decisions and has given new general manager Landry Fields the autonomy to make those calls. The Hawks’ owner said he removed Travis Schlenk from his role as the team’s head of basketball operations because he wasn’t happy with the front office’s level of “collaboration and communication,” per Wojnarowski.

“I can tell you this: Landry and (assistant GM) Kyle (Korver) are running a much better, much more collaborative front office,” Ressler said. “That’s of huge importance to me because I think that’s how you get better. Having ownership, a front office, a coaching staff and the right roster — when all of those folks work well together, I think results improve. That was the objective and that’s why I made the change that I did.”

There has been some skepticism about the new-look Hawks’ front office due to the relatively inexperienced nature of the head executives, along with the reported empowerment of Tony’s son Nick Ressler. However, the elder Ressler expressed full confidence in the new group.

“What I’ve always done is rely on people who know more than I do to run a business better than I could,” Ressler said to ESPN. “Who makes the decisions (now), it’s undoubtedly Landry with Kyle — with (head coach) Quin (Snyder). (They) are going to work beautifully together from what I can tell. I do believe we will make better decisions going forward than we have done in the past.”

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • In a separate interview with Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ressler insisted that his son Nick’s influence in the basketball operations department has been overstated. “Nick works in the organization, helps me in both the business and basketball operations, helps me understand the goings-on of the organization, if you will, helps me evaluate what we’re doing,” Tony said. “But he sits in the same role (I do). He’s in ownership, but is full time to the organization. So the simple answer, is ‘No, he’s not in charge of any (basketball) decision-making.'”
  • Although the Hawks have made some roster moves this year that seemed aimed at avoiding the luxury tax, Ressler insists those moves weren’t driven by him. “We’re not worried about the luxury tax,” he told Williams. “… Do I think it’s a good idea to be incredibly average (and) in the luxury tax? I’d rather not. I’d rather be contending in the luxury tax or being a great team in the luxury tax. But at the end of the day, I’ve never suggested a trade to get out of the luxury tax ever. Whoever said that will be giving you an untruth, directly, indirectly, intentionally, unintentionally. Never said it. Never will.”
  • Rival executives lauded the Hawks for the hiring of Snyder, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who spoke to Williams for the latest HoopsHype podcast. There have been suggestions that Snyder may have taken the job in part to have a bigger say in roster changes — when Williams spoke to Snyder she got the impression that while Fields and Korver will “weigh his opinion pretty heavily,” but she doesn’t believe Snyder’s voice will be the “end all and be all.”
  • Williams also touched on the slow-developing chemistry of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, saying “they’re still learning from each other” and suggesting that the two guards may not have a close relationship. Williams is surprised by that because Young was eager to team up with Murray in the offseason. Williams says Young “is a nice guy,” but has heard “sometimes he has some trouble endearing himself to his teammates off the court,” though she says people like playing with him.
  • Veteran wing Bogdan Bogdanovic is expected to decline his $18MM player option for 2023/24 and enter unrestricted free agency, says Scotto. Williams is a little skeptical Bogdanovic will exceed $18MM per year on his next contract due to his injury history, but Scotto believes he could at least equal, if not exceed, that total on annual basis, noting that the salary cap is expected to go up each year for the foreseeable future. It could be tricky for Atlanta to re-sign Bogdanovic, Scotto adds, citing luxury tax concerns.

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Southeast Notes: Martin, Hunter, Wembanyama, Ross

Caleb Martin will serve his one-game suspension on Monday and the Heat forward expressed regret for the incident that led to that one-game ban, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

“I definitely expected something like that to that degree,” Martin said of the suspension. “I knew they were going to look through something and find out the proper consequences, and I definitely don’t disagree with it.”

Martin was deemed the instigator in an on-court altercation with the Raptors’ Christian Koloko on Saturday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • It’s questionable whether Hawks owner Tony Ressler would actually be willing to pay a luxury tax unless the Hawks have 60-win potential, which is why De’Andre Hunter‘s extension could become an issue in the near future, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hunter’s extension of four years and up to $95MM puts the Hawks in a bind as early as next summer if Bogdan Bogdanović picks up his $18MM option for 2023/24, Hollinger notes. They’ll also have to shell out big bucks to re-sign Dejounte Murray in 2024, so unless they clear cap space, the Hawks could be limited to using the taxpayer mid-level exception and still ending up paying the tax in ’23/24, then go even deeper into tax territory the following season.
  • The Hornets shouldn’t go into tank mode to land projected top pick Victor Wembanyama, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer opines. They haven’t enjoyed lottery luck throughout their history, Boone notes. It would also leave their current franchise player, LaMelo Ball, without any postseason experience and would risk alienating season ticket holders.
  • Magic wing Terrence Ross sees a silver lining in the team’s 0-3 start, as he told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel“It’s great, as much as it hurts to lose a game,” he said. “The learning experience is amazing. We’ve played some really good teams. All in all, it’s going to give us confidence and let us know we can compete with anybody.”

Hawks’ Owner Ressler Talks Murray, Hunter, Expectations

After acquiring Dejounte Murray from San Antonio in a blockbuster trade that saw them give up three first-round picks (two unprotected) and a pick swap, the Hawks expect to be a playoff team and not just a play-in club in 2022/23, team owner Tony Ressler tells Jeff Schultz of The Athletic.

Ressler conducted separate one-on-one interviews with Schultz and Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss the Murray trade, his expectations for the team, and a handful of other topics.

The Hawks’ owner stressed in both conversations that the team will have to wait to get to the 20- or 30-game mark to get a real sense of where it stands in the Eastern Conference, but Atlanta got off to a solid start on Wednesday with a 117-107 victory over Houston.

Here are a few of the more notable comments from Ressler’s two interviews, which overlap a little but are worth checking out in full:

On whether there was much internal debate over making the Murray trade:

“Yes, there was a lot of debate. Dejounte is a great player, and we gave up a lot to get him. There wasn’t debate about the quality of Dejounte and what he would bring to the Hawks. And now, our starting five, I think we have a good team. (Wednesday) was only one game, but it did say, ‘Hey, we have four guys who can give you 20 points any night.’ And if that’s an aberration, then we screwed up, but we don’t think it’s an aberration. We’re deeper and better than we were last year.”

On whether the Hawks felt like they were mortgaging their future and opening up a win-now window with the Murray deal:

“I try not to speak that way. That’s not good business talk. Good business talk is, ‘Is this a good trade for us now?’ Not, ‘We have to win now.’ As you point out, that’s a lot for any player, and it’s worthy of evaluation and discussion. After losing in the first round of the playoffs, we saw a lot of things we can do better, and we thought Dejounte would help us do many of those things. And we do still have some picks for the future, so we can still draft young players for the future. We’re not out of that part of the business.”

On why the Hawks felt comfortable signing De’Andre Hunter to a four-year extension worth at least $90MM:

“De’Andre has done everything well. He’s had some bad luck in his first three seasons, health-wise, whatnot, injury wise, but you know what, he’s a kid that can do everything. And he’s a great kid, he’s a great player, wants to get better. And for whatever it’s worth, we believe he’s getting better, continuing to get better and off a pretty high bar. So that’s a kid that you’re thrilled to have here. I actually think he complements the rest of our guys beautifully.”

On the desire to bring an NBA championship to Atlanta:

“Franchises that have won a championship or multiple championships I have grown to respect even more. This is my eighth season, and we still haven’t won a championship. I’m proud of the direction we’re moving in. But to be a great, top-tier NBA franchise, you must win a championship. Some people in our franchise are, ‘We won one in St. Louis.’ I don’t count that. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t born. I don’t give a f–k. Our job is to win a championship or multiple championships, and we’re not there, yet.”

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.”

Ressler Wants Hawks To Be Top-Tier Free Agent Destination

Although Atlanta is one of the NBA’s largest markets, the Hawks haven’t typically been the sort of franchise stars flock to, like those based in Los Angles, New York, and Miami. Team owner Tony Ressler is hoping to change that, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes.

Since assuming control of the team, Ressler has renovated State Farm Arena, built a state-of-the-art practice facility, purchased a G League franchise, and – most recently – invested huge money in several important members of the team that made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals earlier this year.

Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, and Kevin Huerter have all received lucrative long-term deals in the last three months, and Ressler says he’ll have no issue with paying the luxury tax going forward as long as Atlanta continues to contend.

“How could we not be a true free agent destination?” Ressler rhetorically asked Kirschner. “We think, I would argue, our facilities are as good as any, our city is as good as any, our roster is as good as any, our investment, our dollars, our commitment to spend is as good as any. It makes no sense that historically this team has not been a top-tier free agent destination. And I think you have to earn that, and make clear that it’s a franchise committed to winning in every sense of the way.

“… One of the true objectives or genuine objectives of this ownership is to make sure that we win on a tie for great players, if we have to. That we attract great players, that we keep great players, and that players, frankly, look at Atlanta as a really great place to play. I think that takes a lot of work. Hopefully we’re pretty close.”

The Hawks operated as an over-the-cap team this offseason, but had significant cap space available for a few summers before that. In most cases, Atlanta opted to use that space to accommodate salary dumps and accumulate assets, but the club forayed into free agency in 2020, signing veterans like Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rajon Rondo. Those players aren’t superstars, but Gallinari and Bogdanovic especially were a couple of the top available players on the open market.

The Hawks don’t project to have cap space again anytime soon, but if Ressler’s plan is successful, a higher caliber of player may be interested in joining the team on mid-level or minimum-salary money. That could be a factor in helping to push Atlanta over the top, though Ressler told Kirschner he believes that – even without further upgrades – the current roster is capable of winning a title.

“We expect to be contenders, man,” Ressler said. “We expect to be really good. We hope to be really good, and we’re going to see how it plays out.”

GM Believes Hawks Have Become Free Agent Destination

President of basketball operations Travis Schlenk believes the Hawks are now a destination for top free agents and All-Star level players seeking a trade, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes.

“I think last year kind of put us back on the NBA map as far as a destination,” he said. “Those who want to get traded, they want to go somewhere they think they can win. And I think now that perception of us is out there, because we do have a young core that did show success in the playoffs. So the hope would be when a star player does ask to be traded, we’ll be one of the destinations he’ll be open to coming to.”

Acquiring a second star to pair with Trae Young could be somewhat difficult, though Schlenk sees it as a possibility.

“I still think when you look at the depth of our roster and the young talent that we have, we don’t have draft assets like we have in the past anymore, but we now have guys under contract that you could match some of the bigger salaries,” he said.

The Hawks have one spot open on the 15-man roster, but Schlenk doesn’t plan to fill it right away. The team is close to the luxury tax, so when a 15th player is added, it will likely be on a non-guaranteed deal.

However, if Atlanta is in title contention again, owner Tony Ressler won’t mind paying the tax, according to Schlenk.

“Certainly, Tony is willing to pay the tax if we are going to be a contender,” Schlenk said. “I’m probably more conscious of it than Tony is, to be honest with you. It’s my job to manage his money. He’s got a lot more of it than I do, so I worry about it more than he does.”

Another order of business that the Hawks would like to take care of before the start of next season is reaching an extension agreement with Kevin Huerter, according to Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He’s one of the NBA players eligible for a rookie scale extension.

The talks should heat up next week, Spencer adds.

Tony Ressler: Hawks Hoping For “Fair Agreement” With John Collins

Following a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the Hawks face a few financial decisions that will shape the future of the franchise. Team owner Tony Ressler provided some insight into Atlanta’s mindset during an end-of-season news conference, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

Trae Young appears to be a lock for a full max extension that will pay him at least $168MM over five years, beginning with the 2022/23 season. Kirschner notes that Young’s contract will likely include language that would increase the value if he earns All-NBA or MVP honors.

The more difficult decision involves John Collins, a restricted free agent who turned down a $90MM extension last offseason. Kirschner identifies the Spurs as a “perfect fit” for Collins and points to the Heat and Mavericks as other potential suitors, which could result in a contract that will be difficult for Atlanta to match.

“Our job is to come to a fair agreement with John. That’s our objective. There should be no question,” Ressler said. “He’s a really good player and maybe more importantly, a really good person. So the idea of having both is important to this franchise. That’s my view. The idea of being smart for both of us, to come to a reasonable place, that’s the objective, and there should be no confusion. I think as (general manager) Travis (Schlenk) said, which I think is amazing, a lot of players that don’t agree to a contract going into this season, play in a certain way. John played as an amazing teammate trying to win games and doing whatever he could do to win games. John’s a really good guy and a really good teammate. I hope he is an Atlanta Hawk.”

Ressler touched on a few other subjects during the session with the media:

On whether the Hawks should now be considered title contenders:

“I personally think if we were completely healthy, I think we could have done more. I’m just going to say that. Come on, (Bogdan Bogdanovic) for a good chunk of the series was on one leg. Trae could not walk. … These are young men in their early 20s that could barely walk and were asked to play on one of the most difficult stages in the NBA. That’s pretty remarkable. Some of them had terrible injuries and they still tried to play, and some still played. … I think we have enough. I think we have some extraordinary talent that could be even better with each season. I absolutely believe we have enough to win a championship is the simple answer. But, hey, our job is to always try to be better.”

On his willingness to pay the luxury tax:

“What we are trying to achieve is literally keeping our best players, as you could imagine, trying to make clear that we’re going to have to spend a lot more than we have this season. We fully expect that. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep every single player that we want to keep. Pretty good bet, pretty good assumption we will not. But I do think we have several years that we should be able to build some real stability. If the question is are we scared of the tax, are we scared of going into the tax? I’m scared of paying the tax and not being a good team, yes, that I’m scared of, but if we have to go into the tax to be a great team for a period of time, so be it.”

On Atlanta’s fans embracing the team:

“I don’t want to make jokes about this, but four or five years ago, you could come to a playoff game and you could see more jerseys of a visiting player. Those days are over. When you see our fan base, when you see the jerseys they’re wearing, when you see the cheering going on, it’s very clear it’s for this team, this city and this franchise. We couldn’t be more proud of that.”

Multiple Hawks Players Reportedly Wanted Coaching Change

There was hope entering the season in Atlanta that the previously-existent friction between Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and star guard Trae Young would be a thing of the past, but it reemerged as the season progressed, according to Chris Kirschner, Sam Amick, and David Aldridge of The Athletic. And the Athletic trio suggests that Young wasn’t the only Hawks player frustrated by Pierce’s coaching style.

Sources tell The Athletic that several members of the Hawks were “eager to hear a new voice,” and that multiple players recently shared their desire for a change with team management. By the time Pierce was let go on Monday, player support for him was dwindling, per Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge.

As the trio details, there wasn’t a single moment this season that resulted in Pierce losing the locker room, but it happened over time due to a number of small moments that added up.

“There’s no telling when he lost it,” a source close to the team told The Athletic. “He didn’t have support from many people. It came down to him not being able to manage egos. That’s what did him in, especially these young guys. It’s tough.”

The Athletic’s report, which is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber, includes many other interesting tidbits on the Hawks’ coaching change. Here are a few highlights:

  • Pierce’s job security was already tenuous by the end of the 2019/20 season, but a number of factors – including the abrupt hiatus and Pierce’s strong voice during the social justice movement – helped save his job for the time being, according to The Athletic’s report.
  • Multiple Hawks players felt last season as if they weren’t having their concerns heard when they approached Pierce about them, and started going to assistant coach Chris Jent with those concerns instead, per The Athletic. Players once again felt unheard this season when they asked Pierce about adjusting the late-game offense to make it more free-flowing.
  • Sources tell The Athletic that Cam Reddish was among the players who bristled at Pierce’s coaching style and felt as if he was being “picked on” behind the scenes. According to Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge, some Hawks players believe Reddish’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s on the roster and thought Pierce’s approach was stunting his development.
  • The Hawks’ fourth-quarter struggles this season bothered team owner Tony Ressler, who “grew incensed” when the club kept losing winnable games by blowing late leads, per The Athletic’s trio. GM Travis Schlenk has said the decision to fire Pierce was his and his front office’s, but at the very least, Ressler had to sign off on it.

Hawks Notes: Pierce, McMillan, Schlenk, Bogdanovic

Addressing reporters on Monday night following the announcement of Lloyd Pierce‘s dismissal, general manager Travis Schlenk didn’t offer a ton of specific details for why the Hawks made a head coaching change, simply stating that the team was underachieving relative to its expectations, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution writes.

“As we said at the beginning of the season, our goal was to have progress this year, to move forward,” Schlenk said. “And we just felt like that wasn’t happening as quickly as we wanted it to. … We felt like for the organization, it was the best thing for us to do moving forward.”

Hawks owner Tony Ressler has admitted to pressing for the team’s big spending spree during 2020’s free agency period and badly wants to get back to the postseason. However, Schlenk said that he and his basketball operations staff made the decision to move on from Pierce, with Ressler’s approval.

“Certainly Tony signs off on all major moves we make on the basketball side or on the business side, as far as that goes, but this wasn’t a decision that Tony made,” Schlenk said, according to Spencer. “… I don’t think it’s any secret that Tony is very passionate and wants the organization to be successful. He’s willing to give us all the resources that we need to be able to do that. Up to this point in my tenure here, he’s been extremely supportive of any decision I feel like we needed to make, and this was the same situation here.”

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Nate McMillan will be the Hawks’ interim head coach and is the first candidate named by Chris Kirschner of The Athletic in his list of possible permanent coaching options for Atlanta. Schlenk was noncommittal on Monday when asked about the possibility of McMillan holding the job permanently, stating that the Hawks will cross that bridge when they get there, per Spencer.
  • Pierce’s firing raises some bigger questions about the Hawks’ decision-making, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who suggests the clock has begun ticking on Schlenk and the front office, especially if the team’s 2020 free agent additions don’t start providing more value soon. While injuries to Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn, and De’Andre Hunter this season have been unlucky, the signings of Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo look like “clear failures,” Hollinger contends.
  • Schlenk shared some good news during his Tuesday morning appearance on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, announcing that Bogdanovic will play on Tuesday on a minutes restriction (Twitter link via Mike Conti). Bogdanovic has been out since January 9 due to a knee injury.
  • A pair of veteran NBA coaches – Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich – expressed disappointment in the Hawks’ decision to fire Pierce, as Dwain Price of and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relay.