The NBA is diligently plotting its return from COVID-19 with the league’s Board of Governors fully expected to approve a July 31st reopening when voting commences later this week. The latest proposal calls for a 22-team restart, which would exclude eight of the league’s 30 franchises including the 20-47 Atlanta Hawks. Lloyd Pierce, who is in his second season at the helm in Atlanta, thinks the rebuilding Hawks could benefit from playing in Orlando, even if the games don’t mean anything.
“I coach the youngest team in the NBA," said Pierce while appearing on The Jump with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. "And the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point."
The Hawks are nowhere near playoff contention—only the Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves have worse records. The NBA is trying to limit players’ exposure amid the coronavirus pandemic, which means non-playoff squads like the Hawks likely won’t make the cut when the season resumes at Disney World next month. However, Pierce thinks sending Atlanta home for the summer would do his team a disservice when what the Hawks really need is more reps.
“If the season is going to resume and we're still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season,” said Pierce of his developing team led by rising stars Trae Young and John Collins. “They need game experience and so we need to play basketball, we want to play basketball.”
Pierce, who replaced Mike Budenholzer (now of the Milwaukee Bucks) as the team’s head coach in 2018, understands the logistical challenges of a 30-team restart and that time is not on anyone’s side following a three-month NBA hiatus. But the first-time coach still hopes his team will take the court again this season. “We're on our Zoom meetings, Thursdays and Sundays, and our guys want to do it," said Pierce, whose team was beginning to show signs of life (5-6 record since the All-Star break) when COVID-19 prompted the league’s shutdown in March. “Whatever the course of action that happens, we'll continue to find ways to get better as an organization with our guys."