ATLANTA — Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said Thursday the team will not repeat the complacency “mistake” it believes paved the way for this season’s disappointing first round exit from the playoffs.
Ressler said the hawks won’t stand idly by — even if it means paying tax on the salary.
Hawks returned a young nucleus led by Tra Young And John Collins From the team that was eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Ressler said he believes the team will improve based solely on experience.
Instead, the Hawks escaped the championship play with the No. 8 seed before losing to the Miami Heat in five games in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We thought we’d be better this season,” Ressler said on Thursday. “We plan to get better this season.”
Ressler said a lot of stock was put into the surprise postseason race last year. General Manager Travis Schlink’s only significant deal during the season was the forward trade Cam Reddish To the New York Knicks for Kevin Knoxwho has rarely played, and a protected draft pick from the first round.
“I think if you asked our front desk, they would say we thought based on last season’s visit to the Eastern Conference Finals we could bring back mostly the same team and get better and expect to be even better,” Ressler said. “I don’t think this went the way we thought.
“So, yeah, I think we should have tried to get better instead of giving back what we had. That won’t happen again, by the way. It was a mistake, in my opinion.”
Ressler said he has “great confidence” in Schlink and coach Nate McMillan, adding that he, GM and the coach “have been underperforming” this season.
Ressler’s candid assessment is an endorsement of a plan to change the schedule for next season. Any player other than Young can be available in the trade.
Ressler has also been outspoken in saying he is open to paying new players, even if that also means paying payroll tax. He amended his earlier statement that he would only be open to paying the tax if the team was a contender for the championship.
Getting into the tax doesn’t scare us, Ressler said.
“Diving into tax, in my opinion, at least, is only possible if we are competing for a championship that season. Our job is to wade into tax when it feels good, to set ourselves up for greatness. … We are not afraid to spend money. We fully expect that Atlanta is a really attractive market for anyone who is thinking of playing here. Money will not be an obstacle for us.”
The Hawks negotiated extensions to key players in their latest off-season, including a five-year starter contract extension for a maximum of $207 million with Young; five-year, $125 million deal with Collins; A four-year extension of $65 million with Kevin Huerter.
Led by Young, the Hawks boasted a high-scoring foul but ranked among the worst defensive teams in the league. Re-signature of a reserve point guard Dillon Wrightone of the best defenders on the team and an unrestricted free agent, could be a priority.
Based on Ressler’s call for change, it is expected that the Hawks will seek help elsewhere.
Asked if the team needed another star to join Young, Ressler said, “I think every team in the NBA should add a star whenever they can, and I promise we’re no exception.”
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