Hawks assess their season after first-round exit

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

After reaching the conference finals in June, the Hawks battled injuries, COVID-19 and feelings of complacency to open the 2021-22 season.

The Hawks improved over the course of the season, winning 26 of their last 40 regular-season games and both of their single-elimination play-in games, against the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers. But against the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round, the Hawks struggled against Miami’s defensive pressure and lost the series, 4-1.

A day after a season-ending 97-94 loss in Game 5, members of the Hawks met with the media to discuss their perspectives on the season and the team’s direction heading into the summer. Here are some of the things said:

  • Forward Onyeka Okongwu on how he hopes to develop his game: “Next time you see me, I will have a jump shot. It’s a successful season for me, you saw my progress from last year to this year. I’m trying to take another leap next year.”
  • Guard Skylar Mays on dealing with a hand contracture: “I’ve got to get a surgery done on my hand. ... The procedure I’m going to get done isn’t going to get too invasive, but I need to get something done. It’s on my shooting hand, so I’m dealing with it. I’ve been all right.”
  • Forward De’Andre Hunter on his health: “My back was actually hurting me for a while. I was playing through it, but my knee and my wrist, it’s fine. It was tough, but I was just trying to play.”
  • Hunter on overcoming a team like the Heat next year: “We’ve got to play more physical. They out-hustled us, they were more physical than us. That’s probably where we lost most of the games this series.”
  • Forward Danilo Gallinari on the regular season: “You cannot relax. You cannot expect to win games just because last year you had an amazing season.”
  • Center Clint Capela on leaving Game 5 with a knee injury: “It was hurting, I felt limited. I couldn’t really be myself. I was fortunate that it didn’t get worse, and I didn’t want to be out there and hurt myself again.”
  • Capela on the season: “I felt that it was a struggle from the beginning. It’s hard to find your rhythm without guys healthy. A lot of people thought we wouldn’t make the playoff; we still fought through until the end to make it. We want to finish top-five, top-six for sure.”
  • Guard Trae Young on Game 5: “I already watched the game. I’m very motivated right now.”
  • Young on areas he wants to work on this summer: “Seeing this series and how it played, me being able to come off screens and double screens and catch-and-shoot opportunities could have helped and is definitely something I’ll go into the offseason to work on.”
  • Forward John Collins on his finger cast: “I put the cast on the other day just to try to switch it up. Cast, splint, wraps, I have a lot of stuff for this guy. I’m trying to keep him straight. It’s hard to keep a straight finger and play basketball.”
  • Collins on how the Hawks can build from the first-round exit: “Step No. 1 is avoid the play-in. Those two games that we won, those are in a sense Game 7s. Two must-win games, then we traveled to Miami to play the No. 1-seeded Heat.”
  • Guard Delon Wright on carving out a role: “That’s why I was so frustrated in the beginning of the year. I felt like I could have brought more to the team, but we obviously had a logjam at the wing position and backing up Trae. They told me to be patient, and toward the end of the year I was able to carve out a role that would be impactful.”
  • Guard Kevin Huerter on playing the Heat: “We had trouble breaking down their initial defense really all series, and we found success when we were able to get in the paint and kick out and make them scramble a little bit. We weren’t able to do that consistently enough.”
  • Huerter on Game 5: “Miami, they had injuries just like we had injuries. Even last night, with arguably their best two players out, it didn’t feel like they missed a step. That’s where we have to get to as an entire organization.”