Travis Schlenk

Hawks’ GM Schlenk Talks McMillan, Trade Market, Collins

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who spoke today to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic and Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, acknowledged that a number of the team’s free agent additions “haven’t performed as well as they wanted to.”

However, Schlenk said that veterans like Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo have had an impact on the team off the court and expressed confidence that they can turn things around on the court. He also reiterated that the Hawks’ goal is still to have a winning season and to make the playoffs.

New head coach Nate McMillan will be tasked with getting the squad – which currently has a 16-20 record, back into the postseason mix. And while leading the team to a second-half surge might improve McMillan’s chances of getting his interim tag removed at season’s end, Schlenk insists that the veteran head coach has nothing to prove and is already assured of receiving consideration for the permanent job.

“He’s certainly going to have the opportunity to be the permanent head coach,” Schlenk said, per Kirschner. “No doubt about it. You can certainly argue that he’s got the best chance because he’s here right now, and we’ll have the ability to work with him for the next three months. He’s going to have the opportunity to coach games. I don’t know that there’s necessarily anything that I need to see. He’s got a proven track record. He doesn’t need to prove to me that he can coach NBA basketball. I know that.”

Schlenk also addressed a handful of other topics today, confirming that the Hawks hope Kris Dunn can make his debut with the team at some point later this month and discussing Atlanta’s approach to the trade deadline. Here, via Kirschner and Spencer, are a few of the highlights from the Hawks’ GM:

On whether the Hawks are actively exploring trade scenarios:

“Right now, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything on the horizon, but that can change. You rarely get teams’ best offers. Nobody gets real serious until you get down to the last week or two. It’s hard to gauge. We certainly will look to do anything we can to do anything we can that feels like, is going to make us a better team in the short-term and the long-term. Those sometimes don’t go hand-in-hand, but we’ll look at any situation we think that will help us.”

On the team’s plan for John Collins:

“John’s a big part of our team… He’s made the decision this fall to go to restricted free agency, and that was his choice and obviously we respect it. But we’re going to have the opportunity to match any offer he gets. We’ll certainly make him an offer in free agency as well, and he’ll have the ability to see if he can get an offer from another team. But at the end of the day, we view him as part of our team, and I don’t see a restricted free agency situation where we would just let him walk for nothing.”

On whether Collins could be moved before the trade deadline:

“We listen about all our guys, that’s our job, to see what the value of all our guys are. John is a good young player, and teams have interest in him, no question about it. But we listen on all our guys, I guess is the short answer.”

Southeast Notes: Nunn, McMillan, Butler, Hornets

Kendrick Nunn has reestablished himself as a starter and that’s a big reason for the Heat‘s resurgence, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. During the Heat’s 10-3 stretch, Nunn has averaged 17.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.3 SPG. Nunn will be headed to restricted free agency after the season.

“Defensively, he has really helped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This has been a year and a half process of really learning our system, being held accountable to that, growing comfortable and being able to defend different ways.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Nate McMillan, who was named interim head coach of the Hawks on Monday, confirmed that Lloyd Pierce talked him into being his replacement, according to Charles Odum of The Associated Press. McMillan initially rebuffed GM Travis Schlenk’s offer to take the reins. “We had a conversation about the team and the move … and he just felt he didn’t think this would happen but he felt I could step in and do a good job with the team,” McMillan said. “He basically felt I should take this opportunity.”
  • Heat swingman Jimmy Butler will miss his second straight game on Tuesday due to right knee inflammation, Chiang tweets. Miami has one more game remaining prior to the All-Star break — a road matchup with the Pelicans on Thursday.
  • The Hornets are the latest team to receive approval to have fans in the stands. According to a team press release, they will host crowds at 15% capacity, or approximately 3,000 fans, beginning on March 13.

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 Mavs.com and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relay.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Vincent, Monk, Pierce

Earlier this week, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk updated Mike Conti of Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (Twitter link) on the health and availability status of a handful of Atlanta players. Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and center Onyeka Okongwu could be available later this week. Sharpshooting forward Danilo Gallinari, a pricey offseason acquisition, will not be traveling with the club on the road this week but is nearing his own return.

Hawks shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, however, will miss “several weeks” as he continues to rehabilitate from the avulsion fracture in his right knee. JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets that later examinations did not reveal further ligament damage.

Meanwhile, after requiring a walking boot following a December 29 right ankle surgery, Hawks reserve guard Kris Dunn had the boot removed today, Sarah K. Spence of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Twitter link). He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • With the Heat lineup limited by coronavirus health and safety protocols and injuries, sharpshooting guard Gabe Vincent showcased his ability to perform at the NBA level, scoring a career-best 24 points in a 137-134 Tuesday overtime defeat to the Sixers. Vincent, signed to a two-way contract this season, could warrant a look even when all of Miami’s players return, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “He is a very good basketball player,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That extends far beyond spot-up shooting … Can guard multiple positions, competes, good team defender. Rebounds at his position. Offensively, you can play him like we did last night as our point guard.”
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer posits that shooting guard Malik Monk might be just what the doctor ordered as the Hornets struggle on offense. Monk not been a part of the Charlotte rotation yet this season. The 22-year-old has appeared in just two games for Charlotte this season, averaging 5.5 MPG. Across his four-year career, he is averaging 8.5 PPG, 1.9 APG and 1.7 APG.
  • In a roundtable of NBA writers for The Athletic, Chris Kirschner opines that Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce will be on the figurative “hot seat” this season. After a blistering 4-1 start, the Hawks went 1-4 in their subsequent five games. Several of those defeats came at the hands of the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Hornets, hardly Eastern Conference powerhouses. The Hawks are currently hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the East, having lavished significant offseason money on veteran depth.

Southeast Notes: Schlenk, Wizards, Collins, Bogdanovic

In a revealing media conversation on Wednesday, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk suggested that he does not intend to add any more players to Atlanta’s roster ahead of training camp, according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The team currently has 17 players on its roster, including its two-way players.

Although Schlenk does not anticipating trading the club’s new depth yet, he does think that the Hawks have enough players to package in a deal if needed.

“One of the things I really like about where we are is with the veteran guys, with the young guys we have, we have a lot of guys on our roster that other teams value,” Schlenk said of the Hawks’ new-look squad. “So we always try to keep ourselves in a position, if there is a star player that becomes available, we’re in a position to try to go acquire those.”

There’s more out of the league’s Southeast Division:

  • Fred Katz of The Athletic recaps an interesting offseason for the Wizards, including the re-signing of $80MM man Davis Bertans, the addition of backup center Robin Lopez, and the drafting of forward Deni Avdija and his positional fit on the roster. Additionally, Katz reports that forward Anthony Gill, another new addition, received “significant offers” to return to the EuroLeague for the 2020/21 season. The 28-year-old sharpshooter connected on 44 percent of his long-range looks for Khimki in Russia during the 2019/20 season.
  • Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk indicated that Atlanta would like to work out a contract extension with power forward John Collins, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. Though the club added forward Danilo Gallinari to the tune of a lucrative three-year, $60MM contract in free agency this offseason, Collins is expected to remain the starting four.
  • New Hawks shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic is among the top offseason additions who seem primed to push the Hawks into the playoff mix, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic opines.

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.”

Hawks’ Schlenk Talks Free Agency, Draft, Teague, More

After waiting out the first few days of free agency and then making modest moves in each of the last couple summers, the Hawks are in position to be more aggressive during 2020’s free agent period, general manager Travis Schlenk said on Monday, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta may have the most cap room of any NBA team this offseason, though Schlenk cautioned that that doesn’t mean the Hawks will spend wildly when the new league year begins.

“If there are guys that we think are good fits, we might be out of the gates a little bit sooner,” Schlenk said. “I think the thing I’m always hesitant of is a lot of the times the first couple of contracts handed out might not be the best ones that look the best on paper.

“I think it’s conceivable that we might make some offers (well) before we have in the past, but whether or not agents or players jump at the offers we make right away or see if there’s something better out there might prevent us from signing someone right away. I do anticipate us being a little more assertive in free agency, but it all depends on the cap and if it shrinks.”

According to Kirschner, the Hawks have a Zoom meeting scheduled for Tuesday in which they plan to examine all 29 other NBA teams, determining which cap exceptions they’ll have and how they might use them. That will give Atlanta a better idea of which of its own targets might be available and how might those players might cost.

As Kirschner details, Schlenk and the Hawks would ideally like to add younger players who can grow along with the current core — Clint Capela, who turns 26 next month, was a player who fit that bill. Schlenk also won’t hesitate to create competition on the roster for young players by adding veterans who can help the team win, since he’d rather have too much depth than not enough.

Schlenk offered up several more interesting tidbits on Monday. Let’s round up a few…

  • The Hawks plan to keep their lottery pick unless “some great offer came our way and it’s something we couldn’t turn down,” according to Schlenk. As Kirschner relays, Atlanta also plans to take the best player available rather than focusing on a specific position. “We’re not in a position when you start picking (for need) that high in the draft,” Schlenk said. “I think it’s a mistake to draft on need unless the talent is equal, but you look for the best talent when you draft that high.”
  • When the Hawks acquired Jeff Teague earlier in the season, they reportedly envisioned him as a player who could re-sign with the team and serve as Trae Young‘s backup beyond this season. It’s unclear how seriously Atlanta is still mulling that possibility. According to Kirschner, Schlenk thought the veteran point guard “struggled getting comfortable” with the Hawks. “I think he was still trying to feel out the situation,” Schlenk said. “I don’t think we saw what Jeff Teague has left in those 25 games that he was here with us. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and obviously backup point guard is going to be a position (of need) for us. And we’ll have that dialogue with he and his agent at the proper time.”
  • Asked to evaluate the Hawks’ performance in 2019/20, Schlenk gave the team an incomplete grade, pointing to John Collins‘ 25-game suspension, Capela’s inability to suit up due to injury, and – of course – the NBA’s hiatus as roadblocks that prevented the team from making a complete assessment. “I think the positives are after we got healthy, our most productive group was our draft picks on the floor,” the Hawks’ GM said, per Kirschner. “That’s obviously the exciting and positive part of it all.”

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.

Hawks Notes: Jones, Roster, Parker, Minutes

Former first-round pick and newly-acquired Hawks big man Damian Jones is looking to show off his talent in a way he wasn’t able to on a loaded Warriors’ roster, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jones, who says he is 100 percent recovered from last season’s injury, sees himself being able to provide Atlanta with rim protection, defense and a lob option around the basket.

“I haven’t really gotten a chance to show what I can do,” Jones said Friday at his introductory news conference. “… I still have more to prove.”

There’s more news out of Atlanta this afternoon from Vivlamore:

  • After waiving point guard Jaylen Adams, the Hawks now have a roster of 13 players and will look to sign another veteran to the roster and a second two-way player alongside Charlie Brown, per Vivlamore (link). Because Trae Young is now the lone point guard on the team, one of those signings will almost certainly be a point guard. As for the final standard roster spot, Atlanta plans to leave that vacant for the start of the season.
  • One of those 13 players is former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker. Parker, who saw his $20MM team option declined by the Wizards earlier this summer before signing with the Hawks on a two-year, $13MM deal earlier this week, says one the reasons he signed with Atlanta is because of the team’s medical staff and Parker’s confidence in them working with his twice surgically repaired left knee (Twitter link from Vivlamore).
  • As we relayed earlier this weekend, Young, big man John Collins , and rookie lottery selections De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will all see “a lot” of playing time during the 2019/20 season, per general manager Travis Schlenk.

Eastern Notes: Young, Westbrook, Siakam, Hawks

Thaddeus Young gives the Bulls a much-needed glue guy, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. Not only does Young fill the stat sheet but he also provides other valuable assets, such as contesting shots, staying in front of his man and forcing opponents to pass late in the shot clock, Smith adds. Young signed a three-year contract with Chicago that could be worth up to $43.6MM. Young will embrace a leadership role, as Sean Highkin of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I know the task is very, very hard,” the former Pacers big man said. “I carry that weight each and every day. I know I can help these young guys get better, I know I can push them over the hump.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Adding Russell Westbrook would have made the Pistons better in the short term but it wasn’t worth the long-term risk, Keith Langlois of the team’s website opines. The Pistons couldn’t afford to give up future first-rounders and agree to pick swaps as Houston did to acquire Westbrook from Oklahoma City. With Blake Griffin‘s big contract and Andre Drummond holding an option to become a free agent next summer, the Pistons would not have been able to make any more notable future upgrades if they took on Westbrook’s huge contract, Langlois adds.
  • The Raptors might as well offer Pascal Siakam a max four- or five-year extension this summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca argues. Ben Simmons has reportedly received a similar offer from the Sixers, while Jamal Murray has already signed an extension with the Nuggets. Siakam has outperformed both of his peers in many categories, Grange notes. The Raptors also don’t have any salary-cap restraints in future seasons that would prevent them from maxing out Siakam, Grange adds.
  • Rookie of the Year finalist Trae Young and young big John Collins will see an increase in playing time, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will also get thrown into the fire for the rebuilding Hawks. “Last year, Trae and John played about 30 minutes. They are probably going to play 35 minutes this year as they continue to grow,” Schlenk said. “De’Andre is obviously going to play a lot of minutes. Cam, we are going to play a lot.”