Q&A: Moe Harkless eager to bring defensive mentality to the Hawks

Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless (8) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless (8) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Credit: AP

The Hawks are eager to improve their defense and they made moves to try and make it happen.

The big acquisition was acquiring Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. But the team bolstered that by signing Aaron Holiday to a one-year deal, as well as acquiring Justin Holiday and Moe Harkless from the Kings.

ExploreThe AJC's complete coverage on the Hawks

Harkless adds another presence to the Hawks’ front court. The 6-foot-7, 220 pound forward has built a reputation as a strong defender with some solid performances against the league’s top scorers. But Harkless fell out of the Kings’ rotation last season as the team made coaching changes midseason.

Now, he hopes to bounce back and earn some minutes in the Hawks’ rotation while imparting his knowledge onto the young roster.

The Hawks introduced Harkless to local media last Friday, and here are some of the highlights from that Q&A period. Some of the questions and answers were edited for clarity.

Q: What was your overall reaction to being traded to Atlanta?

A: Initially, I was surprised when I heard the news. I mean, I wasn’t really expecting to be traded, but obviously anything can happen. But when I did hear it, it was an exciting feeling, to come be a part of a playoff team who is trying to make improvements and get back into the playoffs. That a couple of years ago (they were) in the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s exciting for someone like me.

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter, right, fouled by Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless late in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. The Hawks won 108-102. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter, right, fouled by Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless late in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. The Hawks won 108-102. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter, right, fouled by Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless late in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. The Hawks won 108-102. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Q: You came in this league, a teenager, you were 19. You’re a grizzled veteran now. This time of year, these young fellas are just getting started out in Vegas. What would the 29-year-old Mo Harkless tell the 19-year-old Mo Harkless about what he’s getting into?

A: Just to enjoy every moment, take it one day at a time. And try and just make the most out of every day, put your work in and enjoy it because it goes fast. I mean, that seems like it was yesterday.

Q: Where do you see yourself fitting in with the Hawks?

A: Obviously, providing some help on the defensive end. Right away, I mean, I think I can definitely help on that side. And then, also veteran leadership. And then with a dynamic backcourt, they are adding Dejounte (Murray) to that with Trae Young and then (Bogdan) Bogdanovic, I mean, I think I can help those guys a lot by creating some easy buckets for myself for them playing around them, getting them open and stuff like that, and defensively, help them pick up some of the slack for them as well.

Q: What conversations have you had with the front office about how they see you fitting in with this Hawks team?

A: So far, it’s just, I honestly haven’t even seen anyone in person yet. It’s all been over the phone. And so far, I haven’t really talked too much about that stuff yet, in depth. Everyone’s just excited to have me obviously, they know what I bring to the table. So, they’re excited for me to bring some leadership to help on the defensive end. And just to get in with the guys. I mean, I think as we go, we’ll kind of figure out how I fit in best with the team. But right now, I think it’s really just we’re still in the introductory phases.

Combined ShapeCaption
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, battles Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless, right, for space during the first half of a NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Credit: AP

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, battles Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless, right, for space during the first half of a NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, battles Sacramento Kings forward Maurice Harkless, right, for space during the first half of a NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Q: When you talk about the leadership that you can give this team on defense, what would you emphasize to this young roster?

A: I think for me, personally, I mean, I feel like defense is a mindset. Like, we’re all athletic. We’re all very talented in this league. And I think defense is hard to do every night because it’s mentally tough. And I think you’ve got to build that habit from day one of training camp. And just kind of implement that, because at the end of the day, I feel like that’s what wins games. When your offense isn’t clicking, you gotta win those grinded-out games, and defense is how you do it. So, I think just bringing that mindset into this team from day one, trying to have it rub off on some guys, I think it’d be helpful.

Q: You have a long track record of community activism and leveraging your platform for good. Do you have any plans on how you’re going to implement that now in Atlanta since you’ve obviously been in other locations previously?

A: Yeah, I mean, I think ... here in Atlanta, I feel like that’s a focal point. So, I’m excited to dive more into that. Obviously, I have to do my own homework and research about what’s going on in the communities around here and stuff like that. But I’m definitely excited to get involved with the community. And that’s something that I’m very passionate about. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about experiencing Atlanta as a city?

A: The people, man. I have heard nothing but good things about the people here. So, I’m excited to embrace the community and be a part of it. Like I said, I’ve heard nothing but good things from my family, friends, colleagues around the league. Everybody loves it here. So I’m excited to kind of immerse myself into the community.