‘It’s time to win,’ Bogdanovic says of Hawks’ progression

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Bogdan Bogdanovic had forgotten Clint Capela was on the Hawks’ roster, he admitted Wednesday with a laugh.

It’s understandable, given that Capela was injured last season and wasn’t able to make his debut, and all the roster turnover the Hawks have experienced this offseason.

Bogdanovic is part of that, becoming one of nine players new to the Hawks after they made a four-year, $72 million offer for the 28-year-old restricted free agent, which the Kings eventually declined to match. Now in Atlanta after three seasons with Sacramento, Bogdanovic thinks the Hawks have the right combination of talented young players and experienced veterans to take a big leap and make the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“I told Clint, this team was really good,” Bogdanovic said. “This team is really nice. They signed (Danilo Gallinari), Solomon (Hill), Kris Dunn, (Rajon) Rondo. Bringing in a guy from a championship team, it’s really important, and it’s going to be really important for young guys. … Our team is a really, really good team, and we will make sure to show out every single night and to be 100 (percent) every night. Really, that’s what I know the fans are expecting from us, and I think we are all hungry.”

Free agency was stressful and exciting for the shooting guard, who feels he can help the Hawks in several ways. Although he’s known as a shooter, Bogdanovic is a good creator and ballhandler, too. Last season, he averaged 15.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 29 minutes per game, starting 28 of 61 games played.

With the deep team the Hawks have assembled, they’ve set themselves up for success, he thinks. They certainly added more talent and shooting, which was necessary on a team that finished last in 3-point percentage last season (33.3%).

“Maybe a lot of you guys, you think I’m just a shooter, but I know that I can make the other guys better,” Bogdanovic. “What the Hawks have right now, we’re both experienced, guys that are new right now on the team, and they’ve been in the league, around for a while, and young guys that are really, really talented, first year or this is going to be the second or third year for them. So that’s the perfect group for success. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I can see only (a) bright future.”

The Hawks haven’t made the playoffs since the 2016-17 season and have combined for 73 wins the past three years. They may have gone 20-47 last season, in a season truncated because of the coronavirus, but to Bogdanovic, they’ve made enough moves to ensure losing days are behind them, though we’ll have to wait until the team starts playing games to see how all the new pieces of this roster fit together.

“I know they went through the rebuilding, but as far as I know right now, this is the reason why they brought me here,” Bogdanovic said. “We are all about winning right now. That’s why they’re all in this year, and they brought other players next to me that are really experienced in the league. We know why we are here, you know? It’s time to win, really.”

Right now, only individual workouts are permitted, so Bogdanovic hasn’t gotten to spend much time with his new teammates. The Hawks will get a few days of team workouts/practices before the preseason begins Dec. 11, and the season begins Dec. 22. It’s an extremely compressed preseason that won’t allow much time for team-building or chemistry building, but that’s where veteran leadership and experience can help, Bogdanovic said, pointing out other teams are in the same boat.

As far as personal goals, Bogdanovic wants to stay healthy and play all 72 games (last season, he struggled with a left hamstring injury, and tweaked his right knee and right ankle, as well). He wants to improve as a pull-up shooter and be able to make quicker decisions on offense, and wants to improve his defense, too.

He’s excited to play with Trae Young, and thinks they’ll pair well together in the backcourt (having another ballhandler could free Young to occasionally play off the ball). Bogdanovic is not the strongest defensive player as of now, and Young is a weakness on defense, so it’ll be interesting to see how coach Lloyd Pierce structures lineups to maximize the offense while still being stout enough on defense.

Young, too, has said it’s time for the Hawks to find success, and wants to prove the narrative wrong that he can’t win.

“I think we’re going to mesh perfectly, especially offensively,” Bogdanovic said of Young. “He’s an unbelievable shooter, I’m an unbelievable shooter, we can both handle the ball. He’s better on drives into the paint, and he can get lots of open shots for us, and I think that teams are going to be really in trouble guarding us together.”

When he was playing the waiting game, Bogdanovic said he didn’t know if the Kings would match the Hawks’ offer. After Sacramento didn’t make many moves in the offseason, though, he was ready to go. The Kings have not had a winning season or been in the playoffs since 2005.

“Since SAC didn’t do any moves in (the) offseason, I was like, OK, I’m ready to leave,” Bogdanovic said. “And I was really excited about Atlanta. As I said, there is a lot of guys that are new here and a lot of talented guys that were already here for a while. So I’m really excited about this group. Really.”