Another NBA season is almost here. The Hawks open training camp with media day Monday. President of basketball operations/head coach Mike Budenholzer recently sat down to talk about the training camp, roster and new management structure.
Here is a portion of the interview:
Q: Al Horford told me this summer, as he is going into the last year of his contract, that he didn’t want to negotiate during the season and be a distraction. What is the organization’s thought about that? And I assume you would like to have him back?
A: Al is the kind of player that we value, very much respect and want to continue to keep him and build with him. We respect how he’s handled these questions so far. As the season goes on, he’s such a professional and wants to put the team first and keep the focus there. That’s part of the reason he’s somebody you want to keep going forward.
Q: I know you can’t discuss the legal particulars, but have you had a chance to talk to Mike Scott? How is he mentally going into the season with something like that hanging over his head?
A: Mike has been in the gym every day working unbelievably hard. His focus and diligence has been great. He and I have had a lot of good conversations. It’s a legal process, so I can’t comment on any of that, but his mental focus and preparedness for the season is in a really good place.
Q: I know (scout and coordinator of basketball operations) Jeff Peterson was in Germany with Dennis Schroder for the EuroBasket tournament, but did you get a chance to watch him play? If so, what are your thoughts?
A: It was great to have Jeff as an assistant coach with the (German) national team. I went over to Berlin and watched the games against Spain and Italy. It was great to see him in person and get the experience myself that he was getting. I thought for him individually it was a great opportunity for him to grow, play well and have a lot of responsibility. I thought overall it was a real positive for him. I feel badly for him and the national team, that whole group, that they couldn’t get one or two of those close games. The Serbia game is a buzzer-beater. One game went to overtime. If he makes a free throw, another game goes to overtime. But I think he showed that he is continuing to grow and improve and can have a big impact on the game.
Q: The organization just announced the changes to the basketball-operations department. Can you shed any light on how you structured it or why you structured it the way? What do you want to get out of it that you weren’t getting before?
A: We feel great about the group that we’ve added. It’s like we always said, everything is done in a collaborative way, a collaborative fashion. To bring in guys with different skills and different backgrounds and different perspectives, and all of them incredibly intelligent and all good people. They understand the kind of players we want to have and the kind of people we want to have in the organization and the culture we are building. I think it was a really, really good summer. Going forward, we are better staffed, better prepared, to operate in a more efficient, more eyes on people, more good people with good ideas. The more of that you have, the better chance you have of making good decisions on players, on all the different things that happen during the season or even during a day.
Q: Is that something where you sat down and said “I need someone to do this. I need someone to do that.”
A: A little bit. It starts with (general manager) Wes (Wilcox). Wes has been incredible. His abilities make it all work and make it happen. Together he and I have tried to figure out what we need as a staff, what roles need to be filled and what those people will do. Both of us together put a lot of time and thought into it, especially Wes, it’s something on the management side, the day-to-day operations side, of we need scouts in this area and we need scouts doing this and we need a manager of basketball operations. I think I have a big-picture idea and vision of the directions we want to go, and Wes is responsible for a lot of the day-to-day and carrying out our shared vision.
Q: I know you like to look forward and not back, but it’s human to look back at last year and how far you went and how it ended. I don’t know if there are regrets, but are their reflections on how it ended? Does it still eat at you? How long does it take to get over getting that close and falling short?
A: We are all ultra-competitive. Any time your season ends it eats at you. Hopefully you reflect in a way for you to compete again, for the next season, for the next opportunity. I don’t know if you ever get over it, but you don’t wallow in it either. There are different times during the day where something might pop in your head and it might come from it. Maybe we can do this the next time we are in that situation, maybe we can do this better in this situation because you are still a little (expletive). I think it’s a good thing. It’s always in the context of how can we be better moving forward and not what could we have done differently.
Q: You’ve had new ownership for a little while now. I’m curious if there has been a tangible difference in the organization?
A: We are grateful, all of us, for the opportunity to work with the past group. Moving forward, I think there are things that are happening are tangible, be it the front office additions, for the players, things around the facilities, how we are going to operate day to day. Right now, there a pretty significant remodels going on in the locker room and the training area, weight room. Things like that. The ownership really wants us and has empowered us that we want to do everything we can in a first-class way. Give our players and provide them with everything possible to put them in the best position to succeed and perform at a high level.
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