Former Atlanta Hawks exec resurfaces with East rival: Report

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

In the NBA, friendly faces turn to foes when they change zip codes.

One of the figures who is largely responsible for assembling this current Atlanta Hawks team, former president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk, has landed a new gig in a similar role with the division rival Washington Wizards.

“The Wizards are hiring former Hawks President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk as Senior VP of Player Personnel,” tweeted ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on June 1. “New Wizards president Michael Winger lands a well-regarded talent evaluator and executive as he continues his search for a general manager.”

Atlanta hired Schlenk away from the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and he took charge of their rebuild, turning a 20-something-win team into an Eastern Conference Finalist by 2021.

But, success breeds expectations.

As former Hawk (and now Sacramento King) Kevin Huerter explained, that team was a bit ahead of schedule. When they took a step back the following season, changes were the apparent remedy – after all, it was a coaching upheaval that sparked that ECF run.

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Since that Conference Finals berth – in a COVID-shortened, 72-game season – they have gone 84-80 but have been bounced in the first round of the playoffs in back-to-back years. Schlenk’s sudden departure in January caught some of the Hawks by surprise, including Trae Young and John Collins, both of whom Schlenk opted for over other, perhaps more attractive, options.

Schlenk orchestrated the draft night trade that sent Luka Doncic to Dallas Mavericks pr a package headlined by Young.

He also declined a trade offer that would have gotten Collins’ contract off the books.

But the main source of contention appeared to be the blockbuster trade that brought Dejounte Murray to Atlanta at a price – three unprotected first-round picks, one pick swap, and Danilo Gallinari – that made other executives around the league bristle.

Now, Schlenk takes over a Wizards team that has won no more than 35 games in any season over the last five years.

Atlanta Hawks star clears air over former head coach

Almost one month to the day after Schlenk stepped down, former head coach Nate McMillan was fired, paving the way for the Quin Snyder era. There has been plenty of speculation about Young’s role in that but the point guard took advantage of having his own platform.

“Everybody…can say what they want [but] me and him had a good relationship,” Young said on the debut episode of the “From The Point” podcast on June 1. “You can’t go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals without having a good relationship from the head coach to the PG… Obviously, things didn’t end how we both wanted it to. But that’s just the NBA.”

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Much was made of Snyder being Young’s third head coach since he entered the league. But he is also the most accomplished and has already got the buy-in from his star point guard.