Hawks look for big step forward behind Bogdanovic, Gallinari
Bogdan Bogdanovic is tired of losing, and believes the Atlanta Hawks can make him a winner.
Paul Newberry | The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Bogdan Bogdanovic is tired of losing.
In what seems a rather strange twist, he believes the Atlanta Hawks can make him a winner.
“This is a perfect group for success,” Bogdanovic said Wednesday. “I can see only a bright future here.”
The sharp-shooting guard was the prize of Atlanta’s hefty free-agent class, which also included Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn.
They’re joining one of the league’s most intriguing teams, a franchise that has gone through a complete overhaul the last three seasons but now feels it is poised for major success.
Gallinari was thrilled when the Hawks made a big pitch for him, even accepting an expected role coming off the bench after starting most of his career.
“The young guys we’ve got are very, very good,” said Gallinari, who agreed to a three-year, $61 million deal. “If I didn’t believe in these young guys, I wouldn’t have picked the A-T-L. I really believe in the group that we’ve got. My focus since I’ve been playing basketball is winning. Whatever the coach wants me to do and needs me to do win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Bogdanovic is certainly eager to win after spending the last three seasons with the Sacramento Kings, who haven’t finished above .500 or made the playoffs since 2006.
When the Kings signaled that they didn’t plan any major additions, Bogdanovic was ready to move on. The Hawks signed the restricted free agent to a four-year, $72 million offer sheet, which Sacramento declined to match.
Bogdanovic feels like he’s a perfect fit for an Atlanta backcourt led by the face of the franchise, point guard Trae Young, who averaged 29.6 points and was voted an All-Star Game starter in just his second season.
The Hawks are looking for someone to take a bit of the load off Young, perhaps by handling some of the playmaking duties and creating easier chances for the budding superstar. Likewise, a 3-point weapon such as Bogdanovic should provide Young with a lot more options.
“We’re going to mesh perfectly, especially offensively,” predicted Bogdanovic, who averaged a career-best 15.1 points a game last season while shooting 37% from beyond the arc. “He’s an unbelievable shooter and I’m an unbelievable shooter. We can both handle the ball. He’s a little bit better at driving the ball into the paint, which is going to get us a lot of open shots.
“I think teams are really going to be in trouble trying to guard us together.”
While the Hawks are hopeful the 28-year-old is just entering the prime, Gallinari is a little further along in his career and willing to take on a bit of a different role.
Atlanta valued the 6-foot-10 player not just for his versatile abilities — he averaged 18.7 points for Oklahoma City last season and can play both forward positions as well as shooting guard — but his willingness to work with young players such as John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter.
Rondo is likely to fill a similar role with Young, not only providing valuable point guard minutes off the bench but serving as his mentor.
“When you’re a veteran and speak to a lot of these young players, teach them a lot of things, it’s amazing to me the way they’re able to translate that to the court,” the 32-year-old Gallinari said. “If they listen and do what you say, they’re going to get better game by game.”
Hunter, the Hawks’ top draft pick in 2019, is thrilled to have a player such as Gallinari pushing him to improve — even if it possibly means less time on the court.
“That’s how you get better: competing with guys,” Hunter said. “The playing time will work itself out. You can’t worry about that. Just come in and do what you’re supposed to do. It’s in the coach’s hands after that.”
The Hawks haven’t been to the playoffs since 2017, two seasons removed from their surprising run to the Eastern Conference final.
Gallinari believes this team is capable of something special, as well.
“The only goal is to take this team to the postseason,” he said. “And not just to get there. We need to do some damage when we get to the postseason.”