The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season hasn’t gone swimmingly for the Atlanta Hawks. There are bright spots with rookie John Collins, second-year swingman Taurean Prince and others but the team sports a 1-6 record that includes some highly frustrating losses.
While it was potentially foreseeable that the Hawks would struggle this season after an offseason seemingly geared toward the future, that doesn’t make it any more “fun” for the parties involved. However, owner Tony Ressler and GM Travis Schlenk spoke to David Aldridge of NBA.com this week and the duo shed quite a bit of light on their thought process.
First, Ressler opened up quite a bit on what he felt were his choices in terms of organizational direction and what he terms of the “three options in the NBA” in terms of on-court product.
“Well, we had two choices, the way I saw it.”
“We never had the choice of being a contender. We weren’t. I saw the team go from 60 wins to 48 to 43. And we didn’t make many changes going from 60 to 48 to 43. We thought we made additions. Let’s just say I concluded, with Travis’ help, with Bud’s help, I concluded that we were not going in the right direction.
"Truly, there are three options in the NBA, I would argue: being a contender, being a competitive team, and being young and fun. At least that would be my opinion. And we didn’t have the option of being a contender. So we could be competitive, or more competitive, and maybe, shall we say, with a whole bunch of higher-priced vets that made us older and made our payroll less flexible, and made our future more cloudy."
This certainly is not a revolutionary viewpoint but, in the same breath, it is refreshingly candid given the obvious nature of Atlanta’s decision this summer. While the club would certainly like to remain competitive in some ways (including the pleasing of the fan base), a future-driven direction provides hope and, frankly, upside when it comes to the construction of a contender.
While Ressler’s comments are noteworthy, it isn’t as if Schlenk is necessarily enjoying the early-season hiccups. He told Aldridge that he is “sitting up there miserable” as the team scuffles and went on to describe the interactions he has had with fans that agree and disagree with his choices.
“90 percent of the people I see in Atlanta, meet in Atlanta, say ‘hey, love what you’re doing, needs to be done.’ There’s another 10 percent of ‘what are you doing?’ But I think just as far as with Bud and the ownership group, it’s just constantly reminding them, listen, it’s painful right now. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We have five Draft picks the next two years, first-round picks. It’s my job to, hopefully, get four of those right.”
The reference to “light at the end of the tunnel” is something that fans will be hearing for a while and it might become difficult to hold on to down the line. Still, it seems as if both parties (and head coach Mike Budenholzer) are on the same page and that is usually an encouraging sign.
Not everyone agrees with the direction and that has to be noted. Still, there appears to be an actual plan in place and, with ownership seemingly on board, Schlenk can operate with the leash necessary to execute an optimal rebuild.