Investing in the future.
That is the term Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk prefers when speaking on the current state of the team. While some will say rebuild and some will say tank, Schlenk doesn’t see it that way.
“Investing in the future,” Schlenk said of the Hawks plans. “We are going to be young. We are going to be fun. We are going to develop our talent. We are going to maintain our flexibility.”
Schlenk spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview Monday as the Hawks’ first- and second-year players competed in the Las Vegas Summer League. Schlenk spoke of the losses of Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway, what moves are next for the team in free agency and how some of the young players have looked early.
Q. I would like to start with a couple of recent moves and have you explain your thinking behind each. First, what can you tell me about the decision not to re-sign Paul Millsap?
A. The first thing, I would like to thank Paul organizationally for everything he did for the Hawks for the last four years. Obviously, he was a big part of the success of the organization had. We were in contact with his representation throughout the whole process. We knew he was going to get a very good deal. Where we are as a franchise and the path we are on, it just didn’t make sense for us at this time. Again, to reiterate, very grateful for everything that he has done for the organization and the city the last four years.
Q. So even a short-term deal, two years with an option, was too much?
A. Like I’ve maintained from the beginning, our goal is to maintain our flexibility. Get good guys on good contracts. Going into free agency, we weren’t going to be out of the gates early. We are going to take our time and let everything play out. That’s what we’ve done as we sit on the 10th and we’ve signed one guy.
Q. How about Tim Hardaway Jr.? Was that a contract that was just too rich?
A. We really wanted to work something out with him. Very happy for Timmy. Timmy did a great job here with our player development staff getting better. He got rewarded for that.
Q. How about Jamal Crawford and why did you buy him out?
A. That trade was to get the pick. It’s kind of the same reason as the decision with Paul. We are not really in a place. We want to be young. We want to be fun. That’s the direction we are going with younger guys.
Q. What advantage did you gain there?
A. The advantage, I don’t know there was an advantage, other than we have a lot of guards the way it is. We want to give (DeAndre) Bembry an opportunity. We’ve seen in Las Vegas that he is doing well. We have (Marco) Belinelli there also. (Kent Bazemore) also. We just drafted (Tyler) Dorsey. We just have a lot of wing guys. It didn’t make a lot of sense from a roster standpoint. Again, we did that trade to gain an asset.
Q. What can you tell me about the state of the Hawks free agent wise as you need to fill out the roster? As you said, you’ve only signed one guy (Mike Muscala).
A. We are in negotiations with a few guys. We are going to sign deals we think are going to be value deals. Good players on good contracts. Listen, we are going to be young. We want to be fun. We want guys that play hard. That is where we are.
Q. I know you don’t like the work rebuilding, but are you in a different place now than you expected because you lost Paul and Tim?
A. Certainly you have to be flexible when that happens. We don’t want to concede to losing. I think a lot of times that what the term rebuilding means, you are conceding to losing. We don’t want to do that. We want to be competitive every night. The term I like to use, we are investing in the future. We have young guys. We have probably five more first-round picks over the next two years to add to this group. We are investing in our future. The young guys we have, we want to keep developing them. We want to keep our flexibility, collect assets, build the guys we have. Investing in the future. The end goal is to be able a team able to compete for a championship. We didn’t feel like maintaining where we were – where you go 60, 48, 43 (wins). We have to start going up again.
Q. I know (coach Mike Budenholzer) likes to carry a third point guard. Do you expect to sign one?
A. We’ll sign a third point guard. We are deciding to we get a veteran guy or do we get a young guy that we think has upside. Do we bring in a couple guys and let them battle it out? We are going to sign a power forward for sure. We’ll sign a center for sure. Probably sign three more big guys so we end up with six.
Q. Do you expect Alpha Kaba and Isaia Cordiner to go back overseas?
A. I think Alpha will go back to Mega Leks or another team in Europe. I haven’t really talked to his agent but I expect he’ll go back there. Cordinier has expressed a desire to play in Erie (with the NBA G League team). We’ve talked to his agent a little bit. We aren’t really sure if he’ll go back but he’s expressed a desire to maybe to that. We’ll figure all that out in the next month.
Q. I know it’s summer league but John Collins has looked really good. Agree?
A. Very pleased with Collins. What we really like about him is that he is athletic. He’s got a great motor. Not just in the games but in practices from day one. After the (introductory) press conference, we had him in town and he just played hard every workout and goes hard every time. That’s what we really like about him.