The last several weeks have been tough for Atlanta Hawks fans as the team has gone 4-10 since an impressive win by a short-handed rotation over the Denver Nuggets on December 2. That was over a month ago now but it some ways it feels like so much longer than that.
Injuries have undoubtedly been a factor. But Atlanta has lost a number of games in that stretch that were either well in hand at one point or lined up for a controllable result if even basic execution was managed.
To further exasperate matters for Hawks fans a front office shake up has taken place. Travis Schlenk, a well-qualified president of basketball operations, is no longer running, well, basketball operations. Several key senior advisers have reportedly left their positions with the organization. Rumors have circulated about head coach Nate McMillan considering stepping down even in the middle of the regular season.
The follows a period time where it seems the star player, Trae Young, seemingly had a disconnect with his head coach. Hawks fans likely don’t know if that was more of an aberration or if it was just one more moment of conflict that just, in this case, became quite public.
Despite the losses there has been a bit of progress on the court at least as it relates to somewhat increased ball movement and a general decrease in reliance on isolation and other forms of one-on-one operations in the half court.
Still, in crunch time the offensive tendencies revert back to less sophisticated and constructive means of working to initiate something productive. Too often they bleed the shot clock and eventually draw out a hopefully favorable mismatch and attack in the waning seconds of the possession.
A team that has won games more often with their defense than their offense has had to work through, and is still working through, absences by their most important defensive players.
It would be a fun and pleasant distraction for fans if the team could put together a game in which they play with a focus on executing in the areas that generally sets them up to control the outcome.
But little, if any, of this matters unless and until the organization is stabilized.
It’s unclear right now who the actual decision makers are in the organization. From the outside it seems like individuals with significantly less experience than those that recently attrited are in positions of power and/or influence.
Even if things on the court are turned around sooner than later how can there be any expectation that some form of continuity can be managed considering how ambiguous things seem on the basketball operations side of the organization?
How much power does the star player wield? In these times star players understandably have a lot of influence in the organization. This is not remotely unusual. But good organizations know how to situate and supplement the input from its star players. Can this organization manage that constructively at this moment?
As the trade deadline nears, what are the priorities and goals? Who is setting them? Is the full organization aligned to the plan? It’s hard to trust that’s the case.
If there is a coaching change around the corner, as seems quite possible, would the franchise be able to attract a capable set of candidates for the position? Or would things once again come down to relationships?
In any business relationships are a critical factor. But good organizations balance this would ensuring the right knowledge, expertise, and competence is baked into the organizational makeup. Is that going to happen?
It’s undeniable that ownership and management have the right to manage their business and the organization in the best way they see fit. But, if the organization wants to maintain any sense of confidence with their most important stakeholders, their customers, a competent plan is needed. And some amount of transparency around the plan is a must.
Will that happen? Only time will tell.