Bazemore looking to grow from hardship of inconsistent season

Kent Bazemore is somewhat of a philosopher.

Sometimes he expounds the words of others and sometimes his own. The Hawks guard used an old standby last week when describing an up-and-down season for him and for the team.

“Life throws you lemons, make lemonade right?” Bazemore said following the Hawks’ first-round elimination from tje playoffs.

Much was made of the four-year, $70 million contract Bazemore signed last summer to remain with the Hawks. He endured an inconsistent year while dealing with a knee issue that slowed him during the summer and into the season. He missed two games in early December with a sore right knee.

He eventually took some time off in late March, missing five games, for a right knee bone bruise. When he returned, Bazemore was out of the starting lineup in favor of Tim Hardaway Jr. for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

“I had an up-and-down year but I showed up every day, continued to work hard regardless of what was going on,” Bazemore said. “It was a big year for me in general. I’m getting married, signing a contract, foundation taking off. I probably have got too much on my plate at times but you live and you learn.

“If I could do some things over, I’d definitely do some things different. I’m a very ambitious person. Sometimes that gets in the way of things I try to accomplish. This year, it was tough to focus at times. My body wasn’t always feeling great. There was a ton of hardship but you grow from it. Despite all of that, I think I’ve gotten better upstairs between the ears. I think that will take me farther than anything else.”

While Bazemore is signed for three more years, the Hawks may have a decision to make. Hardaway is a restricted free agent and depending on his offers, the team may have to choose between the two.

Bazemore averaged 11 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.9 minutes this season. His point total, field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage were all down slightly from the previous season.

On several occasions, he took on the role of backup point guard when Dennis Schroder rested. He appeared in all six playoff games and averaged 9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 25 minutes. He made 16 turnovers, including seven in the Game 6 series-ending loss to the Wizards.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the pressure Bazemore put on himself was born of his personality.

“I think it’s more about Kent’s caring and Kent’s competitiveness (than his new contract),” Budenholzer said. “There are times when I try to put my arm around Kent and say ‘Just relax.’ But I did it to him two years ago. I did it to him his first year here. Having said all that, I do think that he got healthy.

“… He got into a good place. We got his loads and his minutes into a good place. I thought he got into a good rhythm at the end of the year. I still think he’d like to be more consistent. I’d like him to be more consistent. But I think there was mentally a little bit settling in later in the year.”

Bazemore said he intends to spend a healthy summer continuing to work in the weight room and on his game. He wants to progress on his jump shot, something he and the team completely rebuilt when he first arrived from Old Dominion three years ago. He also intends to work on his ball-handling, should he be called upon again to run the point against the bigger guards in the league.

Budenholzer said he believes a summer of work will get Bazemore back in a place of confidence. And Bazemore said he fully intends to “come back ready to wear this Atlanta across my chest next year.”