Free Agency, Injuries and Summer Plans: The Atlanta Hawks' Exit Interviews
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The Atlanta Hawks held their exit interviews Thursday, and the pressing topic of the day was whether or not unrestricted free agents Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll would return next season.
Millsap should be the MVP simply for his sense of humor.
"What kind of guy did y'all have right here?" Millsap asked, stepping up to a podium of microphones that only reached to his waist.
When told that Jeff Teague had spoken before him, Millsap crumpled one side of his face and smirked. "Oh, Jeff."
"It's fair to say I'm comfortable. These past two years have been great and wonderful. I've gotten better as a player. I've learned a lot within these two years," Millsap said when asked if he had a comfort level with Atlanta. "It's difficult. There are two different aspects to it. You want to look out for yourself financially, but you want to look out for yourself career-wise. You want to be on the best place that's going to fit you and help you continue to grow. It's tough, but I feel like this has been great situation for me. It's a decision that I probably won't make on my own, but my family will be there (and) agents, and we'll make the decision together."
If there is a player version of True to Atlanta, it would have to be Teague wearing a full throwback uniform to exit interviews.
"My thing is to try to get better from the previous year overall," Teague said when asked for his summer plans.
Then he joked, "I think I've got to get a little stronger so that I can guard LeBron."
As he left, Teague was asked if he was going to watch the NBA Finals.
Antic assumed the tone of the Hawk most ready for a break, both physically and emotionally. When asked about his summer plans, Antic could not predict them beyond a trip home to see family.
"The season just finished, you know? First of all, I will go to rest and see the family and get my mind right. Then I will think about next season. It's three months from now. It's a long time. I will just rest for now."
When asked about what skills he wanted to develop over the summer, Antic cracked a smile and nearly broke into the lighthearted version of Mike Gundy's "I'm a man! I'm 40!" speech.
"I think I'm 33," Antic said questioningly. "(My goal is) just to keep healthy my whole body throughout the whole year. No injuries. There are coaches who know what I need to do better: Kenny Atkinson and all the other guys. I will listen to what they say."
After the Hawks' Game 2 loss to Cleveland, TNT's Charles Barkley came into the Philips Arena media room and coldly (but correctly) predicted, "Last one to leave cut the lights out. See y'all next year."
So consider it a cosmic justice that Schröder did his exit interview in a sweatshirt with a 1980s-era photo of Michael Jordan elbowing Barkley in the face.
If Jordan is one of Schröder's heros, then the other is fellow German Dirk Nowitzki, with whom he could be playing with this summer in the European Championships.
"I hope Dirk is going to play, and (Chris) Kaman," Schröder said. "I'll definitely try to play for the national team, and get our goal: (to get) to the Olympics."
The top-6 finishers at the European Championships will qualify for the Olympics.
"Dirk told me that is his goal," Schröder noted before explaining the top-6 rule. "Before the draft, he told me, 'We've got to do this.' So I hope he's going to play."
Mack took the podium fitted in a black sling that supported the weight of his right arm.
"I'm getting surgery," Mack said. "It's a 3 or 4 month process. It's a grade V AC shoulder separation. The ligaments kind of broke off, so it's pretty bad."
Despite the injury, Mack remained upbeat about the timing, then he described the collision that caused it.
"I was cutting away from the ball, and he was cutting at the same time," Mack said. "It was more like in football when a receiver goes across the middle."
When asked if he had ever played football competitively, Mack quipped, "No. This is one of the reasons why."
Muscala said that he would be spending most of the summer in the Atlanta area, and that his summer goals included a mix of basketball and weight training.
"Getting stronger definitely is always an area for me," Muscala said. "It's just the way my body is built. It has always been a challenge for me to keep weight on. It's difficult for me during the season to really improve my body, and that's why the offseason is really important to me."
Horford was asked about the point at which he would resume playing basketball this summer.
"I want to pick up a basketball right now," he said before noting that he would spend a lot of time working out with teammates in Atlanta.
Horford picked up on a sentiment that head coach Mike Budenholzer would later echo, namely that the Hawks were in a multi-year progression.
"It all started last year in Coach Bud's first year in bringing all of us together. I only played 29 games last season, but it started then. We started to build this culture and to play this way. It's no fluke that the Hawks all of a sudden win. We worked in the summertime, hard, as a team to get to this position, and now we understand that there's another level we're trying to get to which means that we have to keep working and keep growing together."
Bazemore said that he was relieved to go into an offseason where he didn't have Summer League, injuries, or offseason transactions interfering with the schedule of his skills development.
"I know exactly what I need to work out," Bazemore said, "which is great, because I can actually get in here and work at it and get after it every day, twice a day, three times, or however many times a day. This is where guys get better."
Bazemore ended by gushing with such excitement about his bike that he could barely finish his sentences.
"Having this summer, I'll get on my Trek bike and cycle. I plan on doing the century ride two or three times," he said. "I'm so ready to get after it."
Of all the Hawks, Scott took the most glum tone.
"I can't lie and say it wasn't frustrating," Scott said of going in and out of the rotation. "I'm a competitor and I want to be out there competing. That's just how the business is, how the NBA is. Coach made his decision and I stood by it."
Despite the disappointment, Scott took on a mentoring role with Mike Muscala.
"I made sure I coached Muskie and was a great teammate."
Scott said that even though the dealt with more injuries this season than he ever had in his career, those injuries didn't affect him in the playoffs. He also listed the skills he wanted to work on in the offseason: defensive foot speed, dribbling, playmaking, and shooting.
When asked to sum up his offseason plans, Scott kept things brief.
"Basketball and tattoos."
Brand wasn't sure if the 2014-15 NBA season was his last one in the NBA or not.
"(I'll) just wait and see what the organization needs, and what they're adding," he said. "I'm just going to relax with my family and see if I have another year of trying to get prepared and what it takes to be on an NBA roster. For me personally, it takes a lot of work and time away from my family and time away from my kids. After two or three weeks, I'll know. I'll see if I have that itch. But this time I might not, and I'll just lay back down on the couch. We'll see."
Then Brand held up the red T-shirt that had been slung over his shoulder, a shirt with the phase 'That's what we worked on' printed on the front.
"That's a quote I used to say on the bench," Brand said. "Mike Muscala hits a three: 'That's what we worked on.' Paul Millsap with a face-up: 'That's what we worked on.' Because we put in a lot of work. We used to scream that and talk trash on the bench to the other team, so Coach made us some shirts."
Jenkins said that he was pleased with his recovery from injury while at the same time heaping praise on Kyle Korver.
"It was just really tough being behind the best shooter in the world in my opinion for three years," Jenkins said. "And with me being hurt as kind of a setback, I feel like I came back really strong."
Carroll talked about the excitement of signing a desirable free agent contract this summer.
"When that day comes, I'm probably going to be full of tears. There are a lot of things that people know, but there are a lot of things that get swept under the rug that I don't talk about. When that day comes, it will be a very emotional day for me and my family. I know this is probably going to be one of my biggest paydays. I do want to be financially set for the rest of my life. I think I owe that to my family and my daughter. Me and Coach Bud have a real, real, deep relationship. Everybody calls him my dad. I don't know why they do that, probably because he talks to me all the time, and he doesn't talk to them."
"Atlanta has been true to me," Carroll said. "The fans have been true to me. It would be the ideal situation."
Story by KL Chouinard