Lloyd Pierce’s absence will give the Hawks a chance to see what they have without him

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Today, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears reported that Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce will return to Atlanta and miss at least the next two games to be there for the birth of his child.

First off, I want to say congratulations to Lloyd Pierce. This is bigger than basketball, and nobody should have a problem with him taking some time off to experience what will be one of the most important moments of his life. However, it’s difficult not to address the elephant in the room. The Hawks are spiraling downwards, and Lloyd Pierce’s seat is scorching hot.

After such a promising start, Atlanta has lost seven of their last eight, dropping into a tie for tenth in the Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat. They also have the worst fourth quarter differential of any team following last night’s defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks. What was supposed to be the season that saw the Hawks fly out of their rebuild has quickly turned into a disaster, looking eerily similar to the last two seasons under Pierce.

In Pierce’s absence, Nate McMillan will take over the head coaching responsibilities. McMillan has been a coach in this league since the late 90s — most recently for the Pacers. He made the playoffs in all four seasons but failed to get out of the first round, which resulted in his termination. Still, many believed he squeezed the best out of the talent he was provided, and I thought his firing was I’ll-advised. The Pacers went 45-28 last season and won 48 games in each of the previous two seasons prior — pretty impressive for a team that only had their best player, Victor Oladipo, on the floor for 75 games combined over those three seasons.

From the outset, the goal for Atlanta has been the playoffs. Ownership has made it abundantly clear that if the Hawks didn’t make the postseason, changes would be made — both on the coaching staff and in the front office. I’m not sure Travis Schlenk deserves to be removed, but Pierce must shoulder some of the blame for Atlanta’s recent struggles. If the Hawks find a way to bounce-back under McMillan against a fantastic Celtics team, it may be further prove that a permanent head coaching change is needed.

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