Atlanta Hawks forward Omari Spellman takes the court to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Hawks trade Omari Spellman as his journey begins again to prove himself

After an disappointing rookie season with the Hawks, Spellman was traded to the Warriors on Monday for center Damian Jones and a 2026 second-round pick, the team announced.

The forward/center enters his second season, following a rookie campaign that by his own admission did not go as he expected. Spellman experienced life management issues in controlling his weight and staying in shape last season. To make matters worse, an ankle injury cut his rookie season short.

Spellman returned to the court with the Hawks in the Las Vegas Summer League this month. It’s his first real competition since he suffered the injury on March 1. The four-month absence took its toll.

“Knowing what you are capable of and not being able to be capable of that,” Spellman said of the toughest part of the comeback. “I know what I can do on the basketball court. My teammates, hopefully the Hawks, know what I can do on the basketball court. It’s just frustrating when you don’t do that.”

In Jones, the Hawks acquire the No. 30 overall pick in 2016. The 7-footer appeared in just 49 games with the Warriors, including 24 last season with 22 starts before a season-ending injury. He has career averages of 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. He is due $2.3 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract.

Spellman played only 46 games last season after the first-round pick was selected with the No. 30 pick coming off an national championship at Villanova. He did a stint in the G League. He was diagnosed with a low grade high ankle sprain with associated soft tissue injury on March 3 that caused him to missed the final 19 games of the season. While fellow rookie first-round picks Trae Young and Kevin Huerter were gaining accolades and national attention, Spellman was shut down. He finished with averages of 5.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 17.5 minutes.

“For lack of a better word, it sucked,” Spellman said. “I love basketball, man. For me, not being able to play or having to restrict myself or limit myself, those type of things, are frustrating for someone who loves basketball. Being able to be out there, for as long as I was out there, was good for me. It felt good. Shots didn’t fall. Shots didn’t go my way. But if I keep playing, it will come.”

Spellman started the Hawks first two summer league games on Saturday and Sunday. He had eight points and eight rebounds against the Bucks and a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds against the Timberwolves.

The Hawks intended to give Spellman a full workout during summer league.

“Omari is going to be just fine,” Hawks assistant and summer league coach Greg Foster said. “We are going to depend on him. He’s going to get a lot of action while we are out here. We are going to play into it. We are going to play him until he gets his rhythm.”

Spellman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he got “fat” last season and acknowledged that he weighed 293 points on his 6-foot-9 frame. He has worked to get his weight down, an ongoing process. He credits the Hawks with identify his issues and working toward an ultimate solution. He added he has sought counsel from John Collins, Young and Huerter.

“The Hawks have been big in helping me,” Spellman said. “Getting me on a plan. Structure was big in terms of my process in terms of helping me add structure into my life. I’m just trying to go up. … Still have a long way to go but we are still working.”

Alex Len and rookie Bruno Fernando are the only centers currently on the roster before the deal for Jones. Collins and Spellman could play the position at times.

Spellman admitted this summer league is much different than last year. He has something to prove but now with another team.

“You have expectations,” Spellman said. “You have things you want to do for yourself. You want to make a name for yourself. You want to prove yourself.”

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