Said Schlenk: “We had another draft workout this morning. I was talking to some of the guys, and they were talking about a player, and I said, “He doesn’t help us beat Milwaukee.’ "
The Hawks’ needs are different now. Schlenk’s three-year rebuild has worked. Yours truly asked if there were times during the past month when he’d gaze on his creation and think, “This is what I had in mind.”
Schlenk: “I don’t know that I ever had those moments in my mind, but I will say there were times during the playoffs that you take a lot of pride and a lot of joy in what we’ve been able to accomplish in a short time period. When you go through these rebuilding programs through the draft, it can take several years. To be able to get through three drafts to get where we are, I do take satisfaction in that.”
Then, regarding the March 1 switch from Lloyd Pierce to McMillan: “We had the stated goal going into this season. We wanted the games at the end of the year to matter, and we were trying at least to get to the play-ins for the playoffs. When we decided to make the change, it was to give ourselves the best chance to get in that position.”
With McMillan the proud owner of a new four-year contract, the next offseason task involves forward John Collins. He spurned an extension of $90 million over four seasons last fall. He’s set to become a restricted free agent, which means the Hawks can retain him by matching any offer sheet he signs with another club. Trouble is, the offer he gets elsewhere might be significantly more than the Hawks care to pay, in which case they’d face a difficult choice.
Said Schlenk: “We project to be a team that’s over the cap the next few years.”
Then: “Once those salaries (on the existing payroll) start adding up, you’re really limited in ways to improve your team.”
John Collins slams home one of several key baskets for the Hawks during their second-half comeback in a Game 4 victory over the 76ers at State Farm Arena.
Credit: Curtis Comptonfirstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: Curtis Comptonemail@example.com
Of Collins, Schlenk said: “I told John yesterday I was extremely proud of how he handled this. He made the decision to go to a restricted free agency last fall, and a lot of times that can impact a player. But what you saw from John wasn’t a player who was playing for his numbers. He was playing for his team to win. With guys going into restricted free agency, a lot of times you see the opposite, and we didn’t see that at all in John. I think that speaks very highly of his character. He’s about being on a winning basketball team. I don’t have anything negative to say about John Collins.”
Is there any reason the Hawks won’t try to keep Collins? “I don’t know why there would be,” Schlenk said.
It isn’t as if Schlenk let McMillan linger on the market. The season ended Saturday night. Schlenk called McMillan’s agent on Sunday morning. The parties agreed to terms Monday morning.
Part of the reason the Hawks went so long without exciting the local populace was the silliness of their front office, which in previous manifestations matched a Jon Koncak offer sheet with Detroit that briefly made the backup center’s new contract more bountiful than Michael Jordan’s; sued itself over trading for Joe Johnson, and drafted Marvin Williams over Chris Paul. The most-discussed move made by Schlenk has been the trading of Luka Doncic’s draft rights to Dallas, and today that looks rather different than it did.
Trae Young, whom the Mavericks sent here in exchange for Doncic, rose to superstardom in these playoffs. Cam Reddish, chosen with the Round 1 pick Dallas ceded to the Hawks, nearly pulled out Game 6 against the Bucks despite having not played between February and the end of June. Even Onyeka Okongwu, last year’s Round 1 pick, blossomed in the postseason.
The Hawks haven’t just become a winning team. They’ve also become a clear-thinking organization. Will wonders never cease?