De'Andre Hunter poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the fourth overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Waiting is the hardest part: ‘It was almost like I wasn’t drafted’

Hunter was provided the hat before he met commissioner Adam Silver upon being selected with the No. 4 overall pick. Problem was, everyone knew Hunter was not going to the Lakers. He was — eventually — going to the Hawks via the Pelicans. Confused? In a series of trades, the Pelicans acquired the No. 4 pick from the Lakers in the trade for Anthony Davis. The Pelicans then sent the pick to the Hawks for three other picks, Nos. 10, 17 and 35.

The completion of the deals had to wait until the official start the new league year. The moratorium ended on Saturday and a flurry of trades were finalized over two days. Finally on Sunday, the Hawks were allowed to introduce Hunter and Bruno Fernando, acquired in another draft-night deal. They were free to wear Hawks logoed clothing and speak about the start of the professional careers.

“It was like I wasn’t drafted almost,” Hunter said. He later added, “I couldn’t talk about being on any team. I was basically still in college. It was just weird not being able to talk about the team everyone knows you are on. I’m just happy now that I’m a Hawk and I can tell everyone about it.”

The issue of drawn criticism recently as Hunter and Fernando weren’t alone this year and many draftees that had to wait two weeks before officially joining their teams.

Fernando said the circumstances put a damper on his excitement.

“I was an awkward situation,” said Fernando, who the Hawks selected with the No. 34 pick after a trade with the 76ers. “I’m 20 years old. I’m young. Obviously, getting drafted means a lot to me and getting on a team and I want to be able to show it. Like I’m wearing an Atlanta shirt. Not being able to do that and stay on the low and you just can’t do anything until everything is official is awkward to see and experience. But I’m glad it’s over now.”

The Hawks were able to introduce Cam Reddish, the player they selected with their own No. 10 overall pick. General manager Travis Schlenk, head coach Lloyd Pierce and Reddish spoke of the future and the excitement surrounding the draft. All the while, Hunter and Fernando were awkwardly not included.

Hunter and Fernando were able to travel with the Hawks to Las Vegas for summer league play. They took part in select parts of pre-tournament workouts as they were able to participate in drills but not scrimmages. Once the trades were completed, they signed contracts and played in the team’s second summer league game.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said he expects the NBA will look into the issue. However, he noted, the circumstances were exasperated by the number of draft-night trades that collided with the league’s salary cap policy.

“I think this year was a little different because there were so many guys,” Schlenk said. “Maybe, typically in a year, there will be one or two. There were so many trades that took place where teams were relying on cap space for the next year. I think last year was the first year where there we no players traded in that draft. It’s a hard situation because you don’t have their rights, even though everyone knows it. I’m sure the league will look into it. They take tampering, they take salary cap circumvention and trying to get around it very seriously.” 

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