Hawks’ loss serves as important lesson in young players’ development

The Hawks’ start to this year’s NBA Summer League may have left much to be desired. But it might have shone a light on where they may need to shift their focus in developing the young players on their roster.

On Saturday, the Hawks struggled on offense - only scoring 44 points in the first three quarters - in their 72-66 loss to the Jazz. But their fourth quarter indicated that they could find something of a spark as they scored 22 points - half of what they scored in the first three quarters combined.

“Yeah, so basically, the NBA, like I told the guys, there’s a bunch of redding (switching),” Hawks Summer League coach Nick Van Exel said. “And a lot of these guys hadn’t seen redding because they, you know, come from college.

“But, we just tried to put some concepts in to help them they visualize it. Now, when they get into the game, they’ve seen it. Now, hopefully, they can execute it. But it’s tough. You know, redding is tough, especially when you have good defenders in front of you. So, you have to be consistent at doing the same things over and over. And that takes energy.”

Handling the switching in the NBA was not the only thing that the Hawks need to improve following their first Summer League game. They’ll also need to find some consistency with knocking shots down not only from outside but also inside after the Jazz held them to 25-of-76 shooting from the floor.

Much of that came from Chaundee Brown and Justin Tillman, who ended the night with 15 points and 12 points respectively.

Things seemed to click for the two quickly and they ended the day on a combined 12-of-21 shooting from the floor. They powered the Hawks’ fourth quarter offense that helped close a 17-point deficit and pull the team within six points.

Brown has already secured a two-way deal with the Hawks and will try to make a case for a standard deal. Of course, all of the other players on the Hawks’ Summer League roster are looking to make their cases.

The Hawks have already tendered a qualifying offer to Sharife Cooper and have yet to sign Tyrese Martin to a deal. The team, of course, is interested in both players but this is their chance to solidify more of a role on the main roster.

The two though did not have the best Summer League opening.

Martin ended the day 1-of-9 from the floor but played as advertised defensively. So, Van Exel urged him to keep leaning into his strength. He had two steals and one blocked shot by the end of the night, as well as helped to force 18 Jazz turnovers.

Van Exel related to Martin and shared a story of his own experience at his first Summer League. The 50-year-old coach said he played “like trash” and worried that he would be cut after receiving a call from his team’s equipment manager that they needed to return to Los Angeles.

“I was so nervous on that drive back,” Van Exel said. “So, it’s just the first game, Summer League game. He’s got a long career ahead of him. So, you know, just let him know that you know, don’t be in the moment. And just stay focused on the next day, the next shot and next play.”

Van Exel echoed a similar sentiment to Sharife Cooper, who also had trouble finding his rhythm. Cooper has been dealing with some thumb soreness and said it bother him throughout the game. He added that he was unwilling to accept that as an excuse, though.

“I’ll be ready for the next game,” Cooper said.

The Hawks play the Pelicans on Monday at 6 p.m. and will look to execute the lessons they learned following Saturday’s loss. Those lessons will only go on to serve them well as they carve out careers in the NBA.

“Yeah, it’s the NBA,” Van Exel said. “You got 82 games (a season). Some nights you get your butts kicked and how do you respond? And so hopefully, they got the right mindset to where when you respond, it’s in a positive way, not just about myself. And, you know, hopefully, if they have that mindset, you know, they’ll be fine.”