Atlanta Hawks stars react to surprise front office shakeup

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

What a difference a year makes. At one point, former Atlanta Hawks president Travis Schlenk was viewed in some league circles as “next”, one of the front office executives on the rise with his rather rapid makeover of the team with what appeared to be a sustainable young core that was ready for contention a year early.

Fast forward, and Schlenk is moving into an advisory role while general manager Landry Fields continues his rapid ascent through the organization into his former boss’ now-vacated role as the architect of the franchise.

The underlying question has been about the timing and what exactly this means for Schlenk, Fields, and most importantly, the Hawks going forward.

In the immediate aftermath, the Hawks’ two most significant figures spoke out.

John Collins and Trae Young weigh in on Atlanta Hawks front office shakeup

“Obviously meant a lot to me,” John Collins — the Hawks’ longest-tenured player — told reporters, “starting my tenure with an NBA team here in Atlanta. Travis, again, believing in me and using that…19th pick to take me. So, I feel like Travis is forever in the positive with me just for giving me an opportunity to start my NBA career.”

Collins admitted that he was “a little shocked” that the move happened but noted that it is normal in the NBA to have change within an organization.

The big man made his return from an eight-game absence in the Hawks’ 126-125 victory over the Orlando Magic. But he has been mired in trade rumors since even before signing a $125 million contract the front office was reluctant to give him.

It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the reported talks the Hawks have engaged in regarding the 25-year-old high-flyer.

But he was not the only one to share their feelings on the matter.

“From what I’m told he’s still going to be around…our organization,” Trae Young said at practice, the face of the franchise. “I don’t think too much is changing too much. And I think that’s a good thing…He believed in me so I’m happy for that.”

The Hawks are 16-15 and sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with a date against the in-fighting Chicago Bulls – whom they’ve already beaten once – on deck.

Some of Atlanta’s struggles have been directly related to the moves Schlenk has made.

Trading for Dejounte Murray cost significant draft capital as well as a useful player in veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, though he is on the shelf after tearing his ACL. But not every decision is solely on the Hawks’ now-former president – a role he was only in for three seasons before promoting Fields from assistant general manager to general manager.

Fields will now step into a role that comes with a lot of expectations and could have just as difficult of a time as Schlenk did if he cannot sort out how to properly put a team around the mercurial Young.

Both Young and Collins praised Fields both for his intelligence and his pedigree as a former player who has formed a good with the current group.

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How well that will pay off in the future is what remains to be seen.