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At 20-40, the Atlanta Hawks resumed the regular season after a must needed break from All-Star Weekend. There has been much talk about where they stand, did they make the right trade for Trae Young, should they tank and all of everything else that comes along with a losing record.
When the Hawks decided to go with a unknown (to the average basketball fan) assistant coach, there seemed to be mixed emotions. Lloyd Pierce, coming from the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff, was looked upon to bring an innovative, new millennium type vibe.
He has been more than that. Yes, he started off being the nice guy and more like a player’s coach. Once he started to show more emotion and actually challenged players, you saw the team raise their play.
The most underrated quality of Pierce is his ability to gain their trust although he’s very blunt with them. It’s pretty much known that it takes a season or two for a new coach to instill his logic and philosophies to a young rebuilding team, yet the improvement that is shown each month signifies that coach Pierce and the Hawks are headed in the right direction.
Let’s face it, the Hawks hadn’t been great at finding talent in the draft to propel the team in the right direction in the last six-to-seven years. The past two years, it seems like the Hawks might be on to something.
Last year, we saw potential in John Collins as a rookie. His athleticism and determination (10.5 ppg. and 7.3 rbg) to get better made fans excited about his future. Year two, we’ve seen the maturation process begin as he boosted his stats to 19.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg behind 23 double-doubles.
Although he’s still learning, his skills are getting better and once he develops that 10-12 foot jumper, the sky is the limit for him.
In the beginning of the year, the Hawks took a gamble in trading their No. 5 pick Luka Doncic for Young and a first-round pick (protected top five pick). Young, who has literally gotten better each month as far as the eye test has started to make general manager Travis Schlenk look like a genius.
Young has averaged 20.4 ppg and 9.1 apg in his last 10 games before the break. You can sense he’s starting to know his spots on the floor. The young kid (no pun intended) from Oklahoma University has given the team a sense of confidence in that they have a floor general they can trust to lead them in the future.
The most underrated player on the team is Kevin Huerter. The rookie out of Maryland got out to a slow start but has lately been stuffing the stat sheets. A jack of all trades, his ability to shoot, pass, rebound, play defense and be able to determine what the team needs at that point makes him more valuable than any other player on the court.
The Hawks young players look bright including Omari Spellman, Jaylen Admas and the rest of the young guns.
Schlenk has come in here and stuck to his game plan. The results in the wins and loss column might not display the importance of what he has done. To inherit possibly the Rookie of the Year with two more rookies who both can affect the game and also gain extra draft picks for next year makes him look like a genius.
The most important part is he doesn’t let the naysayers affect his decisions. And what most might not know is he’s always available to media and even eats with the media before games.
State Farm arena was maybe the best move for the Hawks during this rebuilding process. It’s vital to have an arena that gives an experience beyond basketball. It’s affordable to consumers which will bring out fans whether win or lose.
Lately, there have been games such as the one against the Phoenix Suns where there was a great turnout by the fans which helped the Hawks with the win.
Seeing the stars come out and support such as Quavo from the rap group, Amigos, Two Chains, Chris Tucker and more creates a buzz around the city which might make it more marketable. This will eventually draw big time free agents to Atlanta.
The Buy In Process
During a rebuilding process, everyone has to buy in. It’s easy for young players to accept this but what has been the biggest surprise has been the veterans being equally invested into this.
Kent Bazemore was one of the players who looked as if he was on the outside looking in. He has been one of the most vocal players in the locker room teaching and molding the young thundercats.
Not only him but to bring in an all-time great in Vince Carter who hasn’t won a championship and be just as eager to be on this team now as he was when he first signed is a sign that this franchise is in a good place.
Brotherhood is the key word and when brotherhood is in the equation of teamwork, the future will be bright.
It is interesting to see what is in store for the future but one thing for sure, this will be nothing like the Hawks’ fans have ever seen. Instead of criticizing, let’s just enjoy this ride.