To celebrate his contract extension with the Hawks, Kevin Huerter kept it simple — he went to dinner and had a glass of wine Monday night.
He heard plenty of jokes from teammates Tuesday at practice, after agreeing to a four-year, $65 million deal a few days ahead of his fourth season in Atlanta. Huerter is the fourth Hawk from last season’s roster, which revitalized the franchise with a thrilling playoff run, to ink an extension or deal this offseason.
“I had to remind a lot of people in the building they’ve got a lot more money than I do. ... Everybody’s obviously happy,” Huerter said. “We’ve got a good group here.”
The Hawks ownership and front office extending Huerter, plus locking in Trae Young, John Collins and Clint Capela for years to come is an expression of confidence in this group, which blossomed once coach Nate McMillan took over in March. They took the leap from rebuilding to winning, and are aiming to carry that success over to this season, which begins Thursday when they host the Mavericks.
“We signed a lot of people to a lot of money this offseason. … As players, it speaks a lot,” Huerter said. “They kind of put their money where their mouth was. We think we have a good group here, whether we make the run we did last year or not, we felt we had a really good group, and they want to keep us together, obviously. I think that’s a big part of it. There’s a lot of guys locked in for a couple years now as we try to make some noise.”
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Huerter’s versatility was key for the Hawks last season, as he could plug in at multiple positions and provide some consistency, playmaking and scoring as injuries piled up. That combined with his notable growth on defense made Huerter a valuable piece for the Hawks to keep around.
He was prepared to enter restricted free agency if necessary, but thankfully can cross these negotiations (which began in August) off his list. The deadline to sign rookie extensions was 6 p.m. Monday, and talks ramped up around 4 p.m., Huerter said. He signed around 5:30, so it went down to the wire, but staying in Atlanta always was the goal for him and eventually the deal was done.
Roster continuity from last season to this season is a huge help, Huerter thinks.
“This is something obviously I wanted to do the whole time, I wanted to be here to run it back with this group,” Huerter said. “... It’s huge, that carry-over, that chemistry. Obviously we got hot at the right time last year, got a lot of bodies back at the right time, and starting hopefully that way Thursday (when the Hawks begin their season against the Mavericks), having a lot of bodies that are healthy and ready to go, the same group that we played in big moments just a couple short months ago. That’s huge. It’s hard to bring a team together in one year and win. You’ve seen that across the NBA, the teams that stay together for the most part and have a couple years to build are the teams that win, and that’s the way we’re trying to do it here.”
For McMillan, the Hawks committing to players long-term provides some stability for the team.
Hawks 2020-21 team leaders
“Just what the organization has done this offseason with getting everybody signed for the future, and we complete that last night with Kevin, as far as the future, the core is in place. ... This organization is committed to this roster and now we can focus on playing basketball,” McMillan said. “Excited for Kevin. Deserved it. Now the organization has put us in position where we can build off this.”
Because they’ve had big roles from the get-go, it’s sometimes easy to forget the Hawks’ young core players are still quite young: Huerter is 23, Young is 23, Collins is 24, De’Andre Hunter is 23 and Cam Reddish is 22.
In addition to Huerter’s extension reflecting what he’s already accomplished, it’s also a sign the Hawks are confident in how he can grow and what he will deliver in the future.
“I think this contract is a reflection of some of what I’ve done so far, and obviously how they believe in me moving forward,” Huerter said. “I’m going to keep working hard to try and fulfill it.”
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