Hawks’ Brandon Goodwin motivated by earning NBA contract

Hawks forward John Collins (20) and guard Brandon Goodwin (0) celebrate after a  victory. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)
Hawks forward John Collins (20) and guard Brandon Goodwin (0) celebrate after a victory. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

Credit: Brett Davis

Credit: Brett Davis

On his two-way contract, Brandon Goodwin had six days remaining with the Hawks, entering Wednesday.

Two-way players get 45 days to spend with their NBA teams, once G League training camp begins in October. That countdown may have been on Goodwin’s mind a little bit, but he didn’t let it bother him as he focused on his time with the Hawks.

“I knew with every opportunity that I had, I thought that I gave it my all,” Goodwin said. “I can only pride myself (on that), I can only rely on that. If I didn’t go hard, or something, and they counted on me, and I thought back like ‘Damn, I didn’t go hard,’ then I would be upset. Like ‘I’ve only got (six) days left, I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ ”

His philosophy paid off⁠ — Wednesday afternoon, with the Hawks set to face the Cavaliers in Cleveland, Goodwin officially signed a two-year NBA contract with Atlanta (the Hawks had an open roster spot after their trade deadline moves). The past few months, he used his time in the league wisely, supplying a few breakout performances, a spark off the bench and a point guard presence when Trae Young missed three games (Dec. 30, Jan. 22 and Feb. 7) with injuries.

It’s both a satisfying and motivating feeling for Goodwin, who played at Norcross High.

“Now people can’t tell me ‘You’re not in the NBA, you’re a two-way,’ ” Goodwin said. “No, I’m in the NBA. You can’t tell me that. You can’t take that away from me. I worked hard for that. I know how hard I’m going to keep working.”

Originally, the Hawks signed Goodwin, who went undrafted in 2018 and played sparingly with the Nuggets last season, to a two-way contract Aug. 6. In 25 games, he has averaged 6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 13.6 minutes. In the seven games in which he has played 20-plus minutes, he’s averaged 14.7 points.

The performance that put Goodwin on the map came Dec. 30 when he led the Hawks, who were without Young (out with a right ankle sprain), to a 101-93 win in Orlando with a career-best 21 points off the bench, adding six assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block in just 22 minutes. On a 10-game losing streak at the time, the Hawks were desperate for a win.

He’s also had several late surges. In the loss to the Wizards Jan. 10, Goodwin scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, to keep the Hawks in it. He helped the team overcome a 21-point deficit to beat the Clippers (again without Young), scoring all of his 19 points in the fourth, and was met with a Gatorade bath after the comeback, courtesy of Young and John Collins. Against the Celtics Feb. 7 (no Young again), Goodwin matched his career-high with 21 points and four assists and nearly got the Hawks to overtime, missing a 3 in the final seconds.

“I’m super excited for him. ... Brandon’s had a hell of a year this year, especially when I’ve been injured, coming in, he’s won us a couple games, late in games,” Young said. “It’s good to see. I’m happy for him.”

When the Hawks added another backup point guard,

trading for Jeff Teague from Minnesota Jan. 16, Goodwin's direction with the franchise was unclear.

Especially with Teague’s ability to play off the ball, though, having Young, Teague and Goodwin on the roster has worked so far. In the loss to Orlando Monday, Teague and Goodwin played alongside each other and found success, with Goodwin adding seven points in six minutes, making the most of limited opportunity (Teague had eight points and 11 assists).

“I knew, first off, it’s a business,” Goodwin said of his reaction to the Hawks acquiring Teague. “That’s just making the team better, it’s nothing I can do about that. But I knew how hard I work, I know I can still contribute in ways. ... I knew when I get my opportunities, I was going to maximize them. That’s all I can really count on. Jeff has been there for me since he got here.”

In Monday’s loss, Goodwin did what he’s made a habit of doing, in Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce’s mind. He made Pierce’s decisions about minutes and playing time difficult, which is a good problem to have, as the Hawks (15-40) rebuild and hope to become more competitive.

“You have to put pressure on the coaches to say ‘Why am I not playing in this game?’ ” Pierce said. “And every game, I have to come out of it, and I do, (thinking) ‘How do I get Brandon more minutes? Should I have gotten Brandon more minutes?’ … That means he’s doing his job.”