New Hawks GM Schlenk already focused on important upcoming decisions

Travis Schlenk has been in the Golden State Warriors organization for more than a decade. Schlenk has been hired as the new Atlanta Hawks general manager.
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Travis Schlenk has been in the Golden State Warriors organization for more than a decade. Schlenk has been hired as the new Atlanta Hawks general manager.

Travis Schlenk already is on the job.

Although the start date for the Hawks’ new general manager and head of basketball operations is not until June 1, Schlenk arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday. A day ahead of the official announcement of his hire, Schlenk had dinner with head coach Mike Budenholzer. The two met again Thursday morning and have already started to go over the roster and the number of important decisions the franchise has to make this summer.

Schlenk resigned from the Golden State Warriors, where the spent 12 years, including the past five as assistant general manager under Bob Myers, on Wednesday. He spent Thursday doing paperwork and meeting members of the Hawks basketball operations staff after the cross-country trip.

Schlenk spoke with Bay Area radio station 95.7 FM The Game on Thursday about his decision to take the position with the Hawks.

“It certainly was not an easy decision to leave Golden State and everything we’ve got going on there,” Schlenk told the station. “But if I was going to leave, it starts with ownership. You know as in Golden State when you get a committed ownership group it makes everything else easier. After meeting this ownership group and spending time with them on the phone and in person, I feel real confident and comfortable with these guys and their desire to do what it takes to make the Hawks a competitive team for years to come.

“They’ve dumped a lot of money here. They are putting $200 million into the arena here. They’ve got a new state-of-the-art practice facility that is going to open up this fall. That’s really what made me take a long, hard look at his job and ultimately decide to come on here is the ownership group.”

Schlenk said he would return to Oakland this weekend before returning to begin work in earnest. There are player decisions to make, including a big one in unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap. The NBA Draft is June 22, and the Hawks hold three picks. He said he plans to talk to player agents. The Hawks have six other unrestricted free agents and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a restricted free agent.

“I’m real fortunate coming into this situation,” Schlenk said. “Normally when you come to a new team you are talking about teams that are not good. This is a franchise that has been in the playoffs 10 straight years. Three years ago they were in the Eastern Conference finals. We’ve got a good coach in place. That is a big relief for me coming in as a new general manager.

“Coach Bud and I spent a couple hours again this morning. I just want to get his thoughts on the roster, what style he wants to play, what pieces he wants to add. Then later on this afternoon, I’ll spend a lot of time with the front office. They’ve got a good group of guys here. I’ve never worked with any of them. It would be foolish of me to come in here and clean house on day one when they’ve had the kind of success they’ve had over the years. I’ve got to get to know those guys.”

Schlenk said when he arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday, after news broke on his imminent hire, he had 150 text messages and 1,000 emails.

“My wife said to me, you don’t even have that many friends,” Schlenk joked.

He said he plans to watch and root for the Warriors in the NBA Finals, which begin June 1. There is too much work to get to in Atlanta but wanted the Warriors to know they can mail his championship ring here.

Schlenk said part of his decision to leave Golden State was that the organization was in great shape with the way the team was built through the draft and in acquiring free agents. There is work to do in Atlanta to get the Hawks further in the postseason despite 10 straight years in the playoffs.

“Things were kind of running themselves in Golden State,” Schlenk said. “We have a young core, a successful young core, put together. As I’ve said to Bob (Myers) many times, our job is just not to mess it up.

“Here, we have to get that situation. Even though they’ve been to the playoffs, they haven’t had a ton of success. Other than the one trip to the Eastern Conference finals, they’ve been first round and out, a couple second round and out. How do we get the next step? It’s a big summer with free agency out there. It’s a team that could have a lot of cap space depending on how we put it together.

“It’s certainly not going to be easy to do, but the goal is to find another Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green. You are a really fortunate in Golden State to build through the draft. In doing that we are able to get free agents to want to come play with those guys. We’ve got to be diligent with our picks. We’ve got to be diligent with the guys we sign in free agency. One of the things we did in Golden State is we avoided signing bad contracts. All the guys we signed in free agency were on deals that were moveable. If you sign a bad free agent contract and it’s a deal that can’t be moved, that can hold your franchise down.”

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