The Hawks have underachieved this season, sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, but even from the outside, it has felt for a while that something much worse was happening behind the scenes. Just a few weeks ago, Travis Schlenk stepped down as general manager out of nowhere. The Hawks said he would remain with the organization in an advisory role, something we now know isn’t true. Nate McMillan was also reportedly considering quitting. Coaches and GMs don’t just randomly throw in the towel. These guys are generally cut from a different cloth. There has been a massive power struggle going on behind closed doors, one that Schlenk and McMillan cannot win because Hawks owner Tony Ressler is allowing his 27-year-old son to run the team like it is an NBA 2K franchise.
Sam Amick of The Athletic released a deep dive into what’s currently happening within the Hawks organization behind closed doors, and the revelations could not be any more concerning. Tony Ressler’s son, Nick Ressler, is now one of the leading voices in basketball decisions, which is why Travis Schlenk decided to step away from the team.
As Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher reported recently, league sources confirmed to The Athletic that Nick Ressler’s effect on the decision-making process played a pivotal part in the power dynamics that ultimately lead to Schlenk’s exile. This was a bit of an open secret around the league, and it is clear that Nick Ressler’s voice is being heavily considered on all things Hawks these days.
Despite the Hawks claiming Schlenk is still serving in an advisory role, several members of the organization — including John Collins — have suggested that’s not true.
Amick tells us the Dejounte Murray trade was ‘the beginning of the end’ of Schlenk’s tenure in Atlanta. He was wary of the Spurs’ asking price, but Nick Ressler’s support was enough to push the deal through. Because the Hawks ownership was unwilling to go into the luxury tax, the Murray trade also forced them to move Huerter, which could go down as one of the worst trades in franchise history.
While Amick revealing all of these details has to be gut-wrenching for Hawks fans that finally started to believe the organization was turning itself around, it’s nowhere close to shocking. Something always felt fishy. From Travis Schlenk stepping down to reports of Nate McMillan considering stepping down as head coach to the turmoil in the locker room — there always had to be something more to the story. Now, the harsh reality has come to light; the Hawks have turned into the laughingstock of the NBA.
I’m not sure Atlanta could be in a worst position going forward. They have traded away most of their draft picks. They’re not sure whether to re-tool or rebuild. Dejounte Murray is set to become a free agent in a year and a half, and if things don’t pan out, Trae Young will eventually force his way out of Atlanta. On top of these critical decisions the Hawks are facing right now, the people in place to make these decisions are a 27-year-old owner’s son with no experience heading basketball operations, a general manager with less than one month of experience on the job, and an assistant general manager that was hired yesterday.
This entire situation is an embarrassment for the organization, the fans, and the city. The Ressler family clearly has no idea what they are doing and treats the franchise like their little game. I don’t blame anyone — not even fans that have supported this team through thick and thin for their entire lives — for deciding to turn their back on this franchise and support another team. The Hawks have bought a one-way ticket to the center of a black hole, and there’s no reason to believe they will find their way out of it now.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire