Rick Sund's future with Hawks still uncertain

Hawks general manager Rick Sund is scheduled to attend a league scouting combine over the next couple of days in preparation for the NBA draft June 28.

It’s still not clear how much longer he’ll be the team’s general manager after that.

Sund’s contract expires at the end of June, and he’s had discussions with the team’s owners since the season ended nearly three weeks ago. But Sund said no agreement has been reached to return for a fifth season.

“We have had a little bit of discussion, but we’ve been focusing so much on putting closure to the season,” Sund said Wednesday. “Nothing has been resolved at this point. We will have some more discussions, and then the process will play itself out at some point and time.

“I’m here until July 1. Have I thought about [his future]? Yes. Have I focused on it? No, because we just have too much that had to be done here in the last two weeks.”

In addition to re-signing with the Hawks, Sund’s potential options include an advisory role with either the Hawks or another club. The Trail Blazers reportedly were interested in talking to Sund about their vacant GM post, but have narrowed their list of candidates to three other executives.

Sund, who turns 61 next week, also could opt for retirement.

Sund declined to comment on the details of his discussions with Hawks owners or say what factors he will weigh in making his decision. “I’m not going to talk about it until the process plays itself out,” he said.

Sund said he believes the Hawks had the potential to be one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference before injuries derailed them.

Sund said the Hawks had an “unbelievably great” regular season. The Hawks posted a 40-26 record, fourth-best in the Eastern Conference, including a 33-22 mark after two-time All-Star Al Horford suffered a pectoral injury that required surgery.

The Hawks lost to Boston in the first round of the playoffs to end a streak of three consecutive second-round appearances since Sund succeeded Billy Knight in 2008. Center Zaza Pachulia missed the series because of injury, forward Josh Smith sat out Game 3 and Horford didn’t return until Game 4.

Sund said although the Hawks fell short of the goal of making the East finals, he still considers the season a success overall.

“I thought with all the adversity it was really a great year with the compressed [lockout] schedule and all the obstacles a team has to climb, which every team has those obstacles,” he said. “I thought it was good. The second part of the season is the playoffs, and that’s disappointing.”

Sund said he was encouraged to hear players during exit interviews express their belief that the Hawks still should be playing. They blew an 11-point lead in the second half of Game 2, lost Game 3 in overtime and were eliminated in Game 6 after a key call that the league later admitted was erroneous.

The Hawks were a consistently good team on defense this season, but remained a middling team on offense. Sund said the injuries mitigate their struggles on offense, and he expects point guard Jeff Teague’s continuing development to help the offense improve.

“You say separate the injuries [from the evaluation], but you really can’t,” he said. “Because if your key personnel are core members of your club, you are going to miss the points that that person may bring. I think we were one of the better defensive teams in the league. ... Now we have got to focus on can we score a little more.”

The Hawks’ general manager, whether it’s Sund or someone else, won’t have much flexibility to add high-priced talent via free agency.

The team has approximately $61 million in guarantees committed to six players. If the Hawks continue with their strategy of trying to avoid to paying the luxury tax, they figure to have roughly $9 million to sign a minimum of seven players this summer.

Sund didn’t rule out a trade, but said it’s possible the Hawks will have to build the roster in the same fashion as this season, when he had to find value among minimum-salaried free agents.

“Many of the good teams are going to have to finesse their way around and look at that as an option,” he said. “If you don’t want to be a perennial taxpayer, you have to look at those options.”