Much has been made of the Atlanta Hawks inconsistency over the season’s first month and a half. Between injuries and so many back to backs, Coach Bud hasn’t been able to really get a consistent rotation going. It has been rough on some of the young guys who are new to the system to play big minutes one night and then none the next. One of the guys who has seen his minutes go up and down lately has been rookie, Lamar Patterson. Recently I spoke with both Lamar Patterson and Mike Budenholzer concerning this and other matters.
Patterson has played in 16 of the Hawks’ first 22 games and saw 20+ minutes in six of those contests,. while seeing less than 10 minutes in another six. Those type of minutes fluctuations are difficult to deal with, especially for a guy who started his final three years a Pitt. But Patterson is taking it in stride.
“You’ve just got to stay optimistic. You know, I knew I wasn’t going to come in and play 20+ minutes every game with the team we have. I’ve just got to keep working. I know what Coach Bud wants from me and I know the system pretty well. The rest of the team and the coaching staff trust me. So right now, I’m just trying to play my role. We’ve got veterans like Kyle and Thabo who are established in this league. I’m just trying to learn from them, watching film and just seeing how hard these guys work on a consistent basis.”
But that’s the way Patterson is. During his draft evaluations back in 2014, he was always seen as level headed guy with a high basketball I.Q. and a guy that any organization would love to have on their roster. After the Hawks drafted him in the second round in the 2014 NBA Draft, Patterson spent the summer with the Hawks before heading over to play for Tofaş Bursa of the Turkish Basketball League where he averaged 11 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 29 games. But not having a guaranteed contract out of college in the NBA and the year in Turker has been a source of motivation ever since.
“I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t. You have to fight for your spot and fight to stick around and get that guaranteed contract. But a lot of guys before me have done it. Look at Paul or Kyle. These guys are now established veterans and All-Stars now. You just have to fight and earn your keep and then when you get an opportunity just run with it. And that all comes with preparation which is something that I’m learning here.”
On his experience in Turkey
“It was good. I got a lot of needed experience as a professional both on and off the court. It wasn’t ideal because your dream is to be in the NBA butI got to play a lot of minutes and was able to be a scorer and facilitator over there and go up against some of the top athletes in the world. Turkey has a great league as far as players and clubs.”
During the early part of the season, Patterson was getting more minutes due to the restrictions placed on both Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha who both were coming off of major injuries and didn’t play more than 30 minutes a night with neither playing on the second night of back to backs. Patterson had the best game of his career just before Thanksgiving against the Celtics after scoring 10 points, hauling in 6 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists in 23 minutes.Oct 23, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Lamar Patterson (13) dribbles past Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (3) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 115-87. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
But since then, Patterson has seen his playing time dwindle to the point where the team thought it best to send him, along with fellow teammates Tim Hardaway Jr. and Walter Tavares to the D-League on Friday of last week. The team had four days off and wanted all three of those guys to get some minutes without having to miss a game with the “big team”. All three got good minutes with Patterson really shining in his 35 minutes, notching a near triple-double with 19 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds.
“It was great. That was the whole point of the trip. To go down there and play during our break. Coach Bud wants me to stay ready and keep my confidence high for when my number is called. Since the team had some time off, I didn’t miss any games or get out of my rhythm at all. But I came back with some confidence.”
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Coach Bud agreed, saying that Patterson is a player who can really find open guys and can create opportunities for his teammates. The team was not only impressed by that one D-League outing, but what they’ve seen from Patterson as a whole this season.
“Sometimes the pressure can get to guys and their IQ doesn’t carry over in games but with Lamar, he’s doing things like making passes and making cuts all at a really high level. He’s played really confidently. He’s not afraid of a big shot or getting the big defensive stop. He just does a lot of little things that all add up to be a good player. That’s what we’ve seen from him over the last couple of summers and into this year. You’re never really sure if it is going to carry over to NBA games, but in his case it has.”
For a team that is searching for a new identity after overhauling the depth on their roster, Patterson is a guy who can come in and provide some much needed stability as the team looks for another wing to go along with Bazemore and/or Thabo (depending on who starts) in the team’s second unit. Both he, THJ and Justin Holiday have all tried to fill that role early on with Patterson clearly having the most success.
He knows what he has to do to earn more minutes and to become a mainstay in the Hawks’ rotation. A lot of young players might get discouraged or lash out to the media when asked these types of questions but Patterson has the right mindset and mentality to deal with the rigors of an 82 game NBA season.
“At the end of the day, you can only worry what you can control. And one of the things that I can control is how hard I work. I don’t control minutes or anything like that. But competing and my attitude are things I can control. And as long as I’m working hard, competing and keeping a good attitude then I have a great chance of sticking around.”
For now, Patterson’s minutes will likely continue to be a roller coaster as Coach Bud continues to tinker early in the season to try and find rotations and units that work well together. But if Patterson has anything to do with it, he’ll make his case to lock up those backup two guard minutes every time he steps out on the floor. This is his first season in the NBA and he has his mind made up that it won’t be his last.
“I’m just trying to keep getting better. I’ve learned that if you keep working hard then the sky is the limit. There are a lot of success stories on this team. Just look at Kyle (Korver), Paul (Millsap), Mike (Scott) and Kent (Bazemore). These guys were undrafted and second round guys. They all worked hard and fought to get better and look where they are now. I’ve got a bunch of great leaders around me and I feel like I’m in a great situation.”
Patterson is right, he is in a great situation grow and develop as a player. Don’t believe me? Just ask DeMarre Carroll.