With the Hawks’ early exit from the postseason, all eyes have turned to the future. The team had plenty of upheaval over the course of the season, but now they look to the stability they hope to gain with new coach Quin Snyder set to embark on his first full season.
The Hawks brought in Snyder with 22 games remaining in the regular season to try to light a fire under the roster.
Despite their elimination from the postseason Thursday at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the Hawks came away from the experience feeling rejuvenated and excited about what the future holds. They’ve already felt the culture of the team shift, and that has ignited their need to come back next season better, stronger and more connected.
“I think we came a long way this season from start to finish,” Hawks guard Trae Young said Friday in his end-of-season media availability. “Obviously, when you make a coaching change in the midway, it’s tough, and it’s not easy for anybody. And so I think we handled it the right way. We still finished and made it to the playoffs, and we played a really good team. So it’s tough. You want to win it all, but you got to appreciate the moments and the growth and steps it takes to get to the top. So, I feel like this is part of our growth and our steps to get there.”
The Hawks lost to the Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, forcing the NBA Finals favorite to six games. Ahead of the series and even before the play-in tournament, many expected the Hawks to underperform.
But at each stop, the Hawks looked to prove themselves right.
Now, they look to take themselves to the next level, armed with a coach who has shown confidence in them each step of the way. In each of the end-of-season interviews with 13 players made available by the team, they all spoke of the encouragement they received from Snyder from the moment he took over the team.
“It’s different,” Hawks wing Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “He is a different coach and probably he couldn’t, like, implement all the stuff that he does. But we could see the changes. He wasn’t also like pressuring us with his stuff like he was trying to also glue with a team and try to be a part of already what we have a little bit and try to tweak it a little bit with the time he had left. But it was good experience.”
Often throughout games and practices, Snyder worked with players one-on-one. He talked to them about how to approach the game, how to attack and make different reads. It’s instilled confidence in the Hawks roster, starting with Young all the way down to two-way player Donovan Williams.
“The focus that they have on the development, especially for the young guys, like, every team doesn’t have what we call, like, the ‘breakfast club,’” Williams said. “So the guys that really don’t do a lot of minutes in the game, we come in before everybody we worked out before games. We play five-on-five with the coaches, like every team doesn’t do that.”
Snyder for his part said that’s how he can draw the best out of the team. In individualizing how he coaches, he can tap into the strengths that his players have. So, as the Hawks head into the offseason, Snyder and the Hawks’ front office will continue to have conversations with players. They’ll strategize how best to continue drawing the best from their players as they continue to focus on how to be the best versions of themselves.
In building this team into a perennial contender, the Hawks understand that good things take time. But in Snyder, they trust that with additional time, he’ll help them get there.
“I think, No. 1 is, Quin coming in, and giving his message, building what he’s building here but being able to do it for a whole year,” Hawks guard Dejounte Murray said. “So actually meeting with each other in the summer and going to open gym to training camp, and not just doing it in February.
“So, I think it’s in the right direction. But it’s a long ways away, but we’re on the right road to that. And, you know, I definitely see, like I said, the best days are ahead. Not just for the Atlanta Hawks but for the whole Atlanta, Georgia, that supports the Hawks.”