Hawks GM Schlenk on Huerter: ‘He’s developed into a versatile, two-way player’

The Atlanta Hawks have signed guard Kevin Huerter to a contract extension, which begins with the 2022-23 season, the team announced on Monday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year rookie contract extension worth $65 million.

“It was important to our group to secure Kevin as a part of our team moving forward,” said Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk in a press release to announce the deal. “He’s developed into a versatile, two-way player who can fit any lineup and can play minutes all over the perimeter. We are excited his future is in Atlanta.”

In 69 games (49 starts) last season, the 6’7 guard averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and a team-best 1.2 steals (tied for 31st in the NBA) in 30.8 minutes (.432 FG%, .363 3FG%, .781 FT%). 

In 18 playoff contests in 2021 (10 starts), he put in 11.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 31.0 minutes (.428 FG%, .347 3FG%, .706 FT%). In helping vault the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in Atlanta franchise history, Huerter finished with a career playoff-high 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal in 40 minutes (10-18 FGs, 2-4 3FGs and 5-7 FTs) in a 103-96 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Philadelphia.

Atlanta selected Huerter in the first round (19th overall) of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Hawks extend C Clint Capela

The Atlanta Hawks signed center Clint Capela to a contract extension, which begins with the 2023-24 season, the team announced on Wednesday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a two-year, $46 million extension. Capela, who had two years left on his deal, will be under contract through the 2024-2025 season.

Last season, Capela, 27, averaged 15.2 points, 14.3 rebounds(Led NBA), and 2.1 blocks. He recorded 48 double-doubles in 2020-21.

“Clint is one of the premier defensive and rebounding big men in the league. His presence in the paint and voice on defense had a tremendous impact on our success last season,” said Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Travis Schlenk via a press release. “He is a great teammate who leads by example, and we are excited to have him as a part of our team long-term.”

Entering his eighth NBA season, Capela has appeared in 397 career regular-season games with the Hawks and Houston Rockets, averaging 12.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 26.6 minutes.

Hawks’ Okongwu expected to miss six months after surgery to repair torn labrum

Atlanta Hawks C Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the team announced.

According to the Hawks, Okongwu will now enter a period of rest and rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery in approximately six months.

Okongwu, 20, was the sixth overall pick out of USC in the 2020 NBA Draft. In 50 regular-season games, he averaged 4.6 points and 3,3 rebounds per contest this season.

Hawks’ McMillan: ‘I believe what we accomplished this season is just the beginning of what we can achieve’

The Atlanta Hawks named Nate McMillan as full-time head coach, the team announced Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year deal. 

Named Atlanta’s interim head coach on March 1, 2021, McMillan, 56, led the Hawks to a 27-11 (.711) record over the remainder of the regular season, winning his first eight contests. Including postseason games, the Hawks recorded a 37-19 mark (.661) under McMillan’s guidance.

After leading the club to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, McMillan and the Hawks topped the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in the First Round, 4-1, and took out the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Semifinals, 4-3. The Hawks reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in Atlanta history before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.

McMillan became the third coach in the last 40 years to lead his team to the Conference Finals after taking over in-season (Pat Riley twice, ’82 Lakers and ’06 Heat; Tyronn Lue, ’16 Cavaliers).

“I am truly blessed to be able to lead this special group into the future,” McMillan said. “I believe what we accomplished this season is just the beginning of what we can achieve if we stay connected and committed to each other.”

Including his time as head coach with Seattle (2000-05), Portland (2005-12), Indiana (2016-20), and the Hawks, McMillan has led his teams to a 688-599 (.535) mark in 1,287 regular-season games. He also has 71 games of postseason head coaching experience.

The future is bright in Atlanta with Trae Young, and all the other young talent on this roster. However, next season won’t be easy, especially when you look at the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia are still probably better than the Hawks, but maybe things will be different if the young guys can grow.

Bucks’ Middleton: ‘Honestly, it’s been a long journey, but it’s been a great journey’

After 47 years, the Milwaukee Bucks are back in the NBA Finals. Khris Middleton scored 23 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter, and Jrue Holiday added 27 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 118-107 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at State Farm Arena on Saturday night.

Milwaukee wins the series 4-2, and now, they get ready for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

Despite not having Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed Games 5 and 6 due to a hyperextended left knee, the Bucks found a way. Getting to the NBA Finals was not an easy journey for the Bucks, which their head coach Mike Budenholzer discussed after the game.

“Yeah, what a roller coaster of emotions, especially this series,” Budenholzer said. “But the series before and opening with Miami, and how good they are. So just impressed with the resilience of the group, the character of the group. They just have a focus, and an edge that’s put us in a good place put us in an opportunity to keep playing. And so you’ve got to deal with all those emotions, everything that goes into each round, and this group has been able to do that. It’s impressive, but we’ve got more to do.”

Middleton and Antetokounmpo came into the NBA together with the Bucks, and the two went through the highs and lows in Milwaukee, including some playoff disappointments over the years, to get to this point. Middleton reflected on that journey following the victory.

“Honestly, it’s been a long journey, but it’s been a great journey,” Middleton said. “It’s been worth it. We put ourselves in position to be in the NBA Finals. After winning 15 games in our first year here and seven years not making the playoffs, to the last two years thinking we had a chance and just didn’t do enough, and now we’re here. This is what we’ve work for. Extremely happy that we’re still playing.

According to Holiday, this journey to the Finals is a story he will tell his children.

“Man, it’s been — it’s a story that I get to tell my kids, and it’s a story I get to tell people, and that’s one of the coolest things,” Holiday said. “Playing against the Heat and what we did against them; and then coming back against Brooklyn, one of the most talented teams in the league, or ever, honestly, against one of the best, what, top three of the greatest scorers of our game; and then a great Atlanta team, a young team but that have some crucial players.”

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks missed the playoffs. This season, the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference finals, which unexpected to many, so no matter what happened in Eastern Conference finals, this season was a success. According to Trae Young, who returned and had 14 points and nine assists on Saturday after missing Games 4 and 5 with a foot injury, Atlanta wants to keep this winning vibe going.

“I definitely feel like this is a start,” Young said. “I mean, this is the beginning. We’ve accomplished so much this year, but just the guys in the locker room, the young guys, we all understand that this is just the beginning. It’s fun. We had the city excited. We want to keep it this way.”

The Bucks move on to the NBA Finals against the Suns, and if they can get Antetokounmpo back, and he is fairly healthy, maybe they beat Phoenix. If they don’t get the two-time MVP back, winning an NBA title will be tough for Milwaukee.

Bucks’ Tucker: ‘It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses’

Coming into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Atlanta Hawks knew they would be without their star guard Trae Young(bruised right foot) against the Bucks. However, Milwaukee lost its star player and could be without him the rest of the way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo left Game 4 with just over seven minutes to go in the third quarter and did not return after he hyperextended his left knee trying to block Clint Capela’s shot. The two-time MVP did come back to the bench but had a noticeable limp and returned to the locker room.

After Antetokounmpo’s injury, the Hawks, who led the Bucks by 10 when Antetokounmpo went out of the game, outscored the Bucks 25-10 the rest of the third quarter. Atlanta would take a 25-point lead into the fourth quarter and ultimately defeat the Bucks 110-88 at State Farm Arena to tie the series at 2.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Without Young, Lou Williams, the three-time 6th-man of the year award winner, got his first career postseason start on Tuesday night, and Williams had a game-high 21 points and eight assists.

“When superstar caliber guys go out, you put some other guys in the game, and their eyes are this wide, and they’re like this is a great opportunity for me to show and prove my abilities,” Williams said. “You don’t want to be the guys that let them off the hook because Giannis was off the floor. I think we all felt that energy, and we just ratcheted up our energy and continued to go.”

Jrue Holiday led the Bucks with 19 points, to go along with nine assists and five rebounds. According to Holiday, without Antetokounmpo, everybody else has to step up.

“I think just based off of how he was grabbing his leg, it seemed like it was pretty bad,” Holiday said. “So from there, you are concerned, and you don’t want to see anybody, especially a teammate, get hurt, but you kind of have to shift to somebody has to step up. Multiple people have to step up.”

P.J. Tucker, who had eight points on Tuesday night, added on Antetokounmpo: “It’s not good. Any time you see your best player go down, it’s not great. But it’s an opportunity for somebody else and everybody else to step up. It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses. It doesn’t matter whoever is playing, not playing. They’ve got guys out; everybody’s hurt, everybody’s banged up, everybody has injuries. You have to fight through it and win.”

Credit to Atlanta for the way they played in Game 4. They came out with more passion and energy than the Bucks, which is why they were able to tie this series at 2.

According to reports, Antetokounmpo is expected to get an MRI on Wednesday, so what happens with that MRI could determine how the rest of this series plays out. Depending on how things go with Young’s injury, both teams could be without their best player in Game 5.

Notes:

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has been battling right knee soreness throughout the playoffs, had a breakout game for the Hawks. He scored 20 points(6-14 from downtown) on Tuesday night.

Before Game 4,  Bogdanovic scored 20 points in the first three games of this series combined.

 

 

 

Hawks’ Young suffers bone bruise in right foot, questionable for Game 4

Hawks’ Trae Young was given an MRI on Monday, which revealed a bone bruise to his right foot, the team announced on Monday. He will be listed as questionable for tomorrow’s Eastern Conference finals Game 4 against the Bucks.

Young, who had 35 points and four assists on Sunday night, left Game 3 late in the third quarter after he stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot. 

The Hawks’ star was able to return in the fourth quarter, but he was clearly bothered by the injury.

The Bucks lead the series 2-1.

Antetokounmpo on Middleton: ‘We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball’

After struggling with his shot in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Hawks, Khris Middleton finally came alive at the right time, and that time was the fourth quarter of Game 3.

Middleton scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 113-102 on Sunday night at State Farm Arena to take a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 is on Tuesday night in Atlanta.

In the first two games of the series, Middleton, who also added 11 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday night, scored a combined 30 points, and he almost did that in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Middleton is the first Bucks player with 20 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game over the last 25 postseasons.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists, but tonight was about Middleton. 

“Some games it’s me, some games it’s Giannis(Antetokounmpo), some games it’s Jrue(Holiday),” Middleton said. “We all have a great feel about who has it going, who has the best matchup, and who can create the best looks. When it’s my turn or my time to have it, I’m thinking the same way: just try to get the best shot up for everybody.”

Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “Greatness. Greatness. What I saw today was unbelievable. He was freaking unbelievable. Carried the team at the end. Man, like he turned the ball over two times, and after that, he was locked in and like “pass me the ball,” and we gave him the ball. There’s moments that is we know when to set screens for him, and we know when he wants the ball, and that was the moment. We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball, take us home, Khris, and that’s what he did.”

Trae Young led the Hawks with 35 points and four assists, but he injured his ankle late in the third quarter after he stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot. Young, who is expected to get an MRI on Monday, returned in the fourth quarter, but he was clearly limited. 

“It was really my blow-by speed,” Young said. “That’s a big part of my game, my ability to blow by anybody. When you’re on the left side, and you’re trying to blow by, you’ve got to use your right foot. So my left-hand pass to Bogey — I was going down the left side; it was in a lot of pain going back. Like I said, it’s more just the push-off and the blow-by….

“When I came back in, it was kind of sore. It made me mad I couldn’t really go as fast as I wanted to, and when I did, it hurt. So I’ve just got to get treatment and hopefully get it better for the next game.”

If Young is not healthy, the Hawks don’t have a shot in this series. It’s a tough break for Young and the Hawks, but again, Game 3 was all about the greatness of Middleton. 

Bucks shutdown Young, defeat Hawks in Game 2

The Milwaukee Bucks dominated the Atlanta Hawks from start to finish in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Milwaukee, who never trailed in this game, led by as many as 41 points and would defeat Atlanta 125-91 at Fiserv Forum on Friday night to tie the series at 1.

Milwaukee took complete control of this game in the second quarter. The Bucks shot 78% from the field in the quarter and outscored the Hawks 43-17. 

Jrue Holiday had 14 of his 22 points in the second. The Bucks would go on a 20-0 run in the quarter and led 77-45 at halftime. In the words of the great Marv Albert, it was extended garbage time from there, especially in the fourth quarter when both teams’ starters were on the bench.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. After losing Game 1, the two-time MVP knew Milwaukee needed to get Game 2.

“I think everybody is on the same page,” Antetokounmpo said postgame. “We know what we’ve got to do. And everybody knew that we’ve got to come in here and get this game.”

Khris Middleton, who had 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds on Friday night, felt Milwaukee needed to be more physical in Game 2.

“So tonight, we wanted to set the tone,” he said. “Just make sure they weren’t going to be comfortable. We wanted to be physical with them, do it without fouling, of course; that was just the main message tonight; the aggressiveness that we didn’t have from Game 1 needs to be here in Game 2.”

Trae Young had 48 points and 11 assists in the Hawks’ Game 1 victory, but Game 2 was a different story. Young struggled with his shot(6-16) and finished with 15 points, six assists, and nine turnovers. Holiday, with assistance from Brook Lopez on the pick-and-rolls, limited Young. 

“I think just mix it up, make it difficult for him,” Holiday said about Young. “Not get too many easy looks. Last game, he was living in the paint. Had a lot of floaters. Was pretty much there for him. We didn’t really want to get him started early, and I don’t think he went to the free-throw line much tonight, which is also pretty big for us.”

Young felt the officials allowed the Bucks to be more physical with him in Game 2.

They didn’t do anything too much different,” Young said. “They just played more aggressive. It was just more aggressive, and Scott (Foster) and them allowed more to go tonight. Just got to be better and be able to respond a lot better.”

The NBA is a game of adjustments, and the Bucks adjusted and played better on Friday night. Now, the series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4. We’ll see what adjustments both teams make at State Farm Arena. Game 3 is on Sunday night.