Watch parties, testing and 5-on-5: Hawks mini-bubble begins

Hawks team core members Kevin Huerter (from left), Trae Young and John Collins pose for a team portrait during media day Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, at the Hawks training facility, the Emory Sports Medicine Complex, in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Hawks general manager and president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk usually can’t make it all the way through late games.

But he’ll have to push past that if he wants to watch the NBA playoffs with the team as they enter their mini-bubble, which will emphasize team bonding and building chemistry.

“We’re going to have watch parties, so we’ll be able to watch the games with our guys and point stuff out and talk about stuff, so again that’s just another one of the things that we’ll do over the next two weeks, watch these games together, which I guess I’ll have to stay up past 10:30 p.m. if it’s a late game,” Schlenk joked.

The Hawks will stay in a hotel for these next two weeks and go back and forth from their practice facility. For the next two days, players (who can opt out, if they so choose, since participation is voluntary) and staff will be quarantining in their hotel rooms and receiving coronavirus testing, and after two negative tests, can participate in group workouts (which includes one hour of 5-on-5 per day) as of Wednesday. When inside, players and staff must wear masks when not actively eating/drinking or engaging in physical activity, and there will be daily coronavirus testing and strict hygiene guidelines.

As one of eight teams excluded from the Orlando restart, the Hawks were hoping much more team activity would be allowed, but no such luck. Because their time together as a team is so limited, focusing too heavily on X’s and O’s would be fruitless, especially considering players have to ease into more strenuous scrimmaging to avoid injury.

So the Hawks will use this time to incorporate a healthy Clint Capela into the mix, enjoy some team-bonding and socializing and just simply get up and down the court together as a team for the first time since March (the NBA season originally halted March 11 due to the coronavirus). Extra practice and chemistry would help pretty much any team, but especially one as young as the Hawks, whose five core players are all 22 or younger.

“I think the biggest thig that we want to accomplish out of this is just get our group together and build some more camaraderie,” Schlenk said. “This is the first time Clint’s going to have the opportunity to play with our group; that’s going to be big for us. But it’s also the first time for our young guys, that they’ve been able to play, since March. So it’s just getting everyone back together and working on a lot of bonding and chemistry stuff.”

There will be plenty of places inside the bubble that allows for players to hang out and bond in a socially-distanced manner, per Schlenk.

The hardest part of this bizarre offseason, Schlenk said, has been the lack of a concrete calendar. Since early May, for the most part, the Hawks have been stuck on the conveyor belt of individual workouts, without really knowing what comes next.

Now, at least, they know they’ve got two weeks in this mini-bubble, then two weeks of off time afterward — then it’s back to individual workouts. According to the league, the draft will take place Nov. 18, but that’s subject to change, and the 2020-2021 season will likely be pushed back from its projected Dec. 1 start date.

When taking questions from the media Monday, Schlenk also gave his thoughts on:

Free agency: “There’s good players out there. We’ll go and try to get guys we think are going to fit well with our guys, for sure. If we can find a guy that fits from an age perspective, we won’t be scared to give out maybe a longer contract than we have in the past. But if it’s an older guy, maybe we’ll look to do a shorter contract. But we will have cap space and we’ll look to use it this year, as well.”

John Collin’s contract, which can’t be negotiated until free agency begins: “When that window does open up, we’ll certainly have conversations with John’s representatives.”

If there are any positives to the draft and 2020 season getting pushed back: “The advantage, that’s tough, because if we’re in a normal offseason where we’re able to get guys on the floor and have them playing against each other, but we’re not, as I mentioned, after we get through this two-week period, we’ll be right back to the 1-on-0 (referring to individual workouts). From an individual skills perspective, that’s great, but a lot of our guys, they just need to play, they need the experience of playing. And this is unfortunately an offseason where we’re not getting that. We’re not getting Summer League, at last right now… I wish I could tell you there’s a bunch of positives, but it’s really hard to see them, and the fact that we were unable to go to Orlando, that hurts. Those teams in Orlando got 11 games.”

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