In the lead up to the NBA’s decision to restart the 2019-20 campaign in Orlando with only 22 teams, the Atlanta Hawks made it abundantly clear that the organization was interested in continuing its season. Once the decision was formally made to omit the Hawks and seven other NBA franchises from the “bubble,” Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce issued a joint statement, which concluded the statement that the team remains “engaged in finding ways for our team to compete and continue the important growth and development that was a core focus for our team this season.”
On Thursday afternoon, word broke from ESPN’s Jackie McMullan (via Adrian Wojnarowski) that the NBA is nearing an agreement for a second “bubble” setup in Chicago, with the Hawks presumably joining the other seven clubs for a gathering that could begin in September.
The NBA is closing in on signing off on a second “bubble” in Chicago for the eight teams that were not invited to play in Orlando, enabling mini-training camps and subsequent games against other clubs with a target date of September, sources tell ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2020
Shortly after, Sarah Spencer of the AJC confirmed the report of the league’s discussions, citing a source saying that the Hawks “would be supportive of their guys getting the opportunity to play.”
The reporting from ESPN’s McMullan indicates that “teams continue to push for an alternative plan that would enable them to hold mini-camps within their local markets and to explore the idea of establishing regional sites where teams could scrimmage against each other.” From there, she reports that the Hawks were one of seven teams that participated on a Thursday call with league officials, with only the New York Knicks absent among teams not going to Orlando.
Specifics will be important with regard to game play, though the initial report cites discussions about two weeks of practice and four games for each squad, albeit with voluntary participation.
On one hand, practice time could be quite valuable to a young team like the Hawks, with a handful of youthful players under contract that could benefit from additional time to come together as a unit. On the other, there are questions with how fully sanctioned games would manifest, including how the Hawks might deploy players.
Trae Young added his thoughts on Twitter after the initial ESPN reporting.
McMullan notes that “the league sought assurances from teams they will send their players if they move forward with the bubble format,” and Schlenk spoke on the subject of player participation in early June.
“This is where it gets tricky,” Schlenk said of the potential of Summer-League style games. “When you start talking about your team, when we have guys on our roster who are going to be free agents, and they’re going to have a different view on taking part in scrimmages or games with free agency looming over them. We’ve tried to be very mindful of that as we’ve tried to put together a proposal to take to the league and realizing that there’s guys in different stages in their career. It’s just something that we’ll have to negotiate, but again, we’ve been extremely mindful of guys that might be going into free agency and understanding why mandating something for them probably isn’t as realistic as some of our younger guys, if that makes sense.”
During that same media availability, Schlenk and Pierce conveyed hope for timely answers on what the Hawks would be able to do during this extended hiatus. While a few weeks have passed, a September gathering of some sort would help to bridge the gap between the end of Atlanta’s season in March and the arrival of the “real” offseason, beginning with the NBA Draft and free agency in mid-October.