Manage episode 291031381 series 2079983
Going into the 2020-21 season, the Atlanta Hawks revamped their roster, hoping a few high-profile veteran additions would help their talented young core finally make the playoffs. The plan didn’t exactly work out as intended, as the team incurred a slew of key injuries and fell to 14-20, which triggered the firing of its head coach, Lloyd Pierce. Under Nate McMillan, however, the Hawks have completely turned it around, playing high-quality basketball that’s put them in prime position to achieve a top-five playoff seed. And their veterans are excelling, including Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Clint Capela, who was acquired via trade last year. In the process, they’ve learned how to close games, most recently registering a 41-point fourth quarter to defeat the Greek Freak-led Bucks Sunday night, all without the services of a banged-up Trae Young. Joining Aaron to discuss this spirited group, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Sarah Spencer makes her first appearance on the pod. Near the end, she also touches upon what beloved Atlanta-based journalist Sekou Smith meant to her and her paper.
18:26-20:02: “The biggest factor for them has been [Clint] Capela. He’s been a good fit on both sides of the ball too because he gives Trae Young another rim-running target. … They needed someone to kind of organize and get things moving. I remember having a conversation with Kevin Huerter about this, and he said, ‘We want Trae to do that on offense; we want Clint to do that on defense.’ That’s what you need. You need guys to be vocal. And this was a pretty quiet team last year.”
26:02-26:28: “In the first half of the season, the Hawks were really pretty dreadful in the fourth quarter – that’s how they lost a lot of games. In the second half, in the fourth quarter, it’s pretty much been the exact opposite, which has been crazy how dramatic that turnaround has been. And I think Trae’s been a part of that. He’s had a few games where he’s come alive and been really steady in the fourth quarter, and that’s what you want to see out of a guy like that.”
32:28-33:06: “I think that the biggest thing with Nate [McMillan] has been his experience as a head coach over the years. This was Lloyd [Pierce]’s first head coaching gig, and it was a tough one. You take over a team that’s rebuilding, that’s very young, that’s banged up. But I think Nate’s experience has helped. Especially in the fourth quarter when things get dicey, it just seems like he’s managing things really well, and the Hawks are responding and you can see the results of that.”
38:09-38:59: “Before I could even send the email, he [Sekou Smith] had reached out to me. … And I just remember being blown away that this guy was taking time out of his day to do something like that. He didn’t have to do that. It was kind of on me to reach out, but that’s not how he saw it. He was just someone who was so happy to help and so earnest. My impression of him is that he was just an awesome guy who was always willing to give advice and talk through things.”
*Link to the Twitter thread referenced in the introduction where Aaron pays tribute to the great Sekou Smith.
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