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Lloyd Pierce Interview

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1 hour ago, REHawksFan said:

Sorry....meant to include the link to the site.  

The Athletic

Thanks for sharing! Just saw @JayBirdHawks request. I will be sure to share the 2nd part today once it comes out

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3 minutes ago, JayBirdHawk said:

Thanks :good:

Here’s part 2:

 

The Athletic sat down with Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce for an hour Wednesday to discuss a variety of topics related to the current roster, the progression he hopes to see from the team, the draft (which is June 20), free agency and Pierce being named to the Team USA coaching staff.

Part 1 focused on the current roster and the next steps of progression for the Hawks.

Part 2 focuses on the draft, free agency and how being with Team USA this summer can help Pierce’s career and the Hawks moving forward.

With the draft next week, you mentioned during exit interviews that right after the season, your job was essentially going to be an assistant GM and to watch film, but what else have you been involved with during this draft process, and how would you describe your role in this process? 

It’s been a little bit of everything. I’ve traveled with Travis (Schlenk) to pretty much everywhere — Chicago, Phoenix, LA a couple of times, Dallas, Vegas. Those trips have been to watch draft workouts and agency workouts. That’s Travis’ world, though. He gets to speak to GMs and scouts and gets to speak with agents about deals and possibilities of deals. I’m just sitting there watching. That’s his world. I’m not in that world. I just watch.

Well, what are you watching and what are you looking for when you do go to those workouts? 

It’s just different to watch someone live than just watching film. That’s why you bring guys into Atlanta. On film, you’re watching them against college guys. Everyone looks a little bigger. Everyone looks a little faster. Everyone’s skill set looks a little greater. You bring them up close, and sometimes you go, “He’s not that big. His handles are a little sloppy.” I think in a lot of ways, to me, I end up finding ways why I don’t like a guy more so than why I do like a guy. You’re not going to like everyone. I’m pretty sure this is workout 15 or 16, and we have six guys a day. We’ve brought in around 100 players. You’re not going to like everyone. We’re trying to find six. So you go through these workouts, and you go, “Nah. Underwhelming.” It’s better to do that face-to-face after seeing them in a workout.

But what happens if a guy just has a bad workout? No one is going to be perfect, especially in what is a pretty stressful job interview and something they’ve dreamed about probably all of their life. 

It’s not about makes or misses. It’s not about that at all. For example, “Let’s go get this five-man! We need a backup five-man!” That dude might be 6-6. He’s no five-man. But he played five-man in college and looked bigger on film. I’m obviously being drastic, but you get to see with your own eyes when they’re here, and then you go, “Can this guy play in the pick-and-roll? He’s athletic, but he’s not that athletic. He’s athletic in his league. I’m from the WCC — man, he was a great athlete in the WCC.” Well, that’s not great athleticism in the NBA. Everyone is a great athlete in the NBA, but he looked great in the WCC. You see that here. It’s not a matter of “Can he dunk?” I know he might be able to dunk. I see that on film. But being here, you can tell and say, “I don’t think he’s getting that dunk off if Steven Adams comes over.” So that’s what you look for. None of these guys have great workouts. I can tell you that right now. No one comes in here where you say, “Holy shit!” None of them do it. You can bring any one of them in here and none of them will overwhelm you, but you might see a guy and say, “OK, he’s 6-9. He’s a little bigger than I thought. He shoots it easy. He didn’t make a lot in the drill today, but you can tell he can shoot.” That’s what I’m looking for.

Over the next couple of days, do you sit down with Travis and the staff and say, “OK, these are the guys I’d like to coach”? I mean, you are still a first-year coach, so how much say do you have in these decisions? 

Yeah, the input is the same. My input is the same as (director of basketball operations) Mike McNeive’s and (vice president of basketball operations) Rod Higgins’. Travis gets to make the decision, and I respect that. It’s the same if (assistant coach) Chris Jent came in here and said, “Coach, we need to run this, run this and run this.” Then I would say, “I love it. I love it. But we’re not running that.” I still have to make the decision. I just go in there (to the draft war room) and say, “Here’s why I like such and such. Here’s why I don’t like such and such.” I’m not right or wrong. I don’t proclaim to know who’s going to be Donovan Mitchell. Donovan Mitchell fell to 13 and probably went too high at 13; however, he turned out to be pretty damn good as a rookie and is still pretty damn good now. I know for sure that I’m not going to know who the next Donovan Mitchell is going to be in this draft, but what I do know is based on the information I have received, the visuals I have seen on the computer and what I’ve seen live, based on the minimal conversations I’ve had with them — I had four guys in that chair (Tuesday) for 30 minutes. Based on that, I have a feel. And I’ll give you that feel. I don’t know if I’m right. I could be off. The kid could be shy. He could be holding back. His agent could have scripted what he should say to me. But based on my feel, that’s what I give to Travis.

Based on his analysis and him being a scout, Travis gets to make the decision. It’s important to give him this information, and I tell Travis, “Travis, there’s no f***ing way I can coach this kid,” and he might be like, “Well, he’s a great …”… “There’s no f***ing way I can coach this kid.’ That’s just my take, and there are a lot of other people who are giving him information. Usually, it’s pretty consistent (flaws). Bad character. Bad character. Bad character. But it’s his job. We have a meeting room right there for coaches, and we break down everything from game plan to plays to run, and we get in the war room and break down who likes which guy more than that guy. Travis says at 8, “This is who we’re taking.” It’s not: “Don’t f***ing do it!” It’s: “Is everyone good? If you’re not good, why aren’t you good?” No one is going to come in and say, “OK, we’re taking him? OK, we all agree.” That’s bullshit. You have the wrong people working for you. You argue it out where it might be down to three guys, and he makes that decision. They met yesterday. They’re meeting Thursday. They’re going to probably meet every day next week. They’ve had the discussions. When we walk out of the room, we’re in agreement. We might have done the fighting and the arguing, but when we walk out of the room, we’re in agreement. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

When you meet with these players and they are sitting in this chair, what are the qualities you are looking for? You just said you sometimes get the feel where you’re like, “I can’t coach this guy.” How can you tell so quickly? 

Because they’re not genuine. If I sit a guy down right here, I already know much about his basketball game. I just watched him on the court. I’ve seen him on film. I know a lot about his game. That’s probably the reason why he’s sitting in here. I might say, “There was an incident with you and your coach. Let’s watch this real quick. Your coach walked by, and you gave him a bad look. What was that about?”

Then he’ll say, “I was pissed. He took me out of the game.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I was pissed.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t give a shit.”

“What did you say back?”

“Nothing. He’s the coach.”

You want to see if a guy will give you a genuine answer like that where he’ll tell you he’s pissed, tell you he had respect for the coach’s decision but also tell you he was pissed. To me, that’s a guy you want to coach because that’s the character of the guy. You are sitting here with him face-to-face with a guy and listening to him explain his thought process, his competitive side. You want him to be competitive. You don’t want him to just sit there, put his head down and just take it from the coach. This is a grown-man’s league. Not everyone is coming in here and calling me Coach Pierce. They’ll say “LP.” That’s not a lack of respect. Back in the day maybe. Not today. That’s just the nature of the game now. We communicate on the same wavelength. Some people call me Coach Pierce, and some call me LP. I’m good with it. So when we communicate, I don’t want them at f***ing attention talking to me like, “Yes, sir. No, sir. I’ll do whatever you say, Coach.” I want, “Coach, why are we running that? I don’t like that scheme.” Well, “What do you guys want to do? You want to blitz? OK, cool, let’s blitz. Everyone else good with it and on the same page? OK. You guys are out there making the decisions.” That’s how you work in this league. That’s important. It’s important to do all of those things and for you to understand when you talk to a guy, are you going to get honesty, respect, truth?  If you can feel that, you’ll know. If you know a guy ain’t giving you truth, you’ll know that, too.

USATSI_12094110-1024x683.jpg
Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) was drafted last summer and moved into the starting lineup for head coach Lloyd Pierce during the season. (Chris Nicoll / USA Today)

Travis has said that the team’s draft strategy is to draft the best player available, but I’m sure you and the organization know that Trae Young is the cornerstone of this franchise. Especially with what you guys do in the top 10, how much of the decision is based on: “How does this guy fit with Trae?”

Let’s not fool ourselves. If we had a starting five-man like the guy in Philly, you’re not going to get another starting five-man. You’re going to get someone to complement him more so than compete against him. You want to find what works best, and we want to acquire as much talent as possible, but we also want to be balanced. You’re not always going to be balanced, though. The modern-day positionless basketball is important because I don’t mind having Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry play together. I wouldn’t say Kawhi (Leonard) and (Pascal) Siakam are the same, but you’re able to play guys and use them in different capacities. There’s a little bit of not putting yourself in position where you’re not maximizing guys but also don’t handicap yourself where you can’t play two similar guys. I think Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are the same. You give them the ball and let them play in pick-and-roll and let them create their own shot. One is a point guard and one is a shooting guard by definition, but they are the same players. They both need the basketball. To have another guy who needs the basketball is all right with me because that means he’s pretty damn good when he gets it and allows us to be creative with what we do. I also don’t want to short-circuit us, though, but part of Trae’s growth is to play without the basketball. We want another guy who can play with the ball, but we also want to develop Trae to where he can play without the basketball because, again, how do you progress? It’s about expanding your game at an efficient level.

When you’re watching film, then, do you look at these guys and say, “OK, this guy would be perfect for us because he can fit in this certain spot.”

I look at them with the thought of: “This guy is going to be a great or good NBA player.”

So, regardless, then, of how he would fit on this roster? 

I have been in this league too long. When you know the nature of July and you know the nature of draft day, there’s always movement. To say, “He wouldn’t make it on our roster,” no, you can’t do that because of this reason. You may lose someone, and that player is no longer on your roster, and you’ve already messed up by saying that certain player wouldn’t fit. I love what OKC did. They drafted (Kevin Durant), Russ (Westbrook) and James (Harden). You look back now and say, “Why the hell did they not keep all three? They would have been the dynasty.” But when they were there, you just have to figure out ways to make it work and then figure out ways to move them around after that as opposed to now, where everyone is like, “How do we get Russ, KD and James all on the same team?” That’s what everyone is trying to do now. Give us talent. Give us all of the talent we can get, and we’ll figure it out. If we figure that it’s not working, well, then we have some value and some assets. That’s just how our league is. Everyone is moving.

Along those same lines, historically, this place hasn’t been somewhere where marquee free agents have chosen to play. How do you change that, and why do you think Atlanta hasn’t been a place where guys like a KD or a Kawhi would say, “Atlanta is the place for me”?

I don’t know if there are some things that you can change. LA and New York are always going to be LA and New York. From my standpoint, that’s out of our control. I think what is in our control is who we draft, how we compete and how we position ourselves. I think Travis has done a masterful job of acquiring assets, of drafting and getting us a young core. It’s on me to deliver with a young core to keep them growing and to keep them getting better. This is the skip-steps part we talked about. We can’t be yelling out playoffs and yelling out this is what we’re going to do and not deliver — it’s not fair. We want to acquire and attract talent based on what we are doing through the draft and development. People see: “Holy shit. This is a place that is on the rise.” Atlanta is a great city. There’s so much in Atlanta. People (in the NBA) live here. But the organization has a foundation now. Chelsea has done a masterful job of organizing us. Travis has done a wonderful job bringing us talent. Now I have to do a great job of developing that talent. That’s going to be the solution, so we can’t just jump and go get some guy when these guys might not be ready for that guy. It all has to come together at the right time where (a free agent) is looking for that right spot that is going to get him over the hump and he has a crew of guys who are ready to make that jump, and then it’s like, “Bam!” Then you see one guy go, and then another one says, “Oh shit. I want to be a part of that.”

Three guys signed in Miami and took all of the money, and they were able to get all of the shooters in the Mike Millers, the Ray Allens on veteran minimums because they knew they could win there. They wanted to be a part of that. They knew it was special. Four championship runs later, they knew it was special. That’s why guys went there. Everyone’s situation is different, and this is ours right now. It takes finding young assets, developing them, and we still keep getting future assets. We keep getting future first-rounders because when it comes time to make that move, as you’re seeing, you need assets. If we’re going to get a big free agent or make a big trade, then you have to have assets or something to give up. All of that is about positioning, and it takes time. You don’t just get eight first-round picks in one transaction. You have to go through the stages you have to go through, but it’s fine because you know you have to go through it with the young players we have.

You guys added Vince (Carter) and Jeremy (Lin) last summer to “be the veteran leaders in this locker room.” And we’ve talked a lot about the young pieces here, but do you feel like the roster is too young and more veteran leadership needs to be added? 

Leadership is important, but that is primarily coming from me. Maturity and character is what is needed in the locker room. Vince was great, and Vince is great because he gives you leadership, credibility and experience. The character piece for him is just off the charts. I think we have a ton of high-character guys here, so we have to keep that. Any transaction we make and any free agent we do sign, those are important characteristics that we are looking for. Is that the end all, be all? I hope not. I hope we don’t have to get a leader just because we need one. Vince Carter came with a different set. He walked into the locker room, and he already has respect. He didn’t have to demand it or command it. If Vince isn’t here, I don’t know who the hell can walk into any locker room now and demand that respect. It’s unfair to say, “Jeremy, you are the leader of this team” because he wasn’t, and we weren’t going to make him that. He provides leadership, but we weren’t going to say, “You’re the leader of this team and why we brought you here.” That would be unfair. It still comes from me and the coaching staff.

You mentioned before that you have the young players and the stars and they have to come together at the right place to make it work. If one of the marquee free agents decided to come here, do you really believe that this place, where it is today, is ready for that? Do you think it’s the right time if that were to happen?

You never know, and that is the beauty of the game. You add any free agent of championship-caliber, your approach changes. The example I’ll give you is Cleveland. They hired David Blatt to develop a young team, then LeBron (James) decides he’s going back to Cleveland. Well, shit, things changed, and then they had to get some vets in there. So it’s not like we would add one guy and say, “Well, Kev (Huerter), John (Collins) and Trae, you better be ready for championships.” Everything changes. If you’re going to get that guy, you might as well go after some other guys and make moves to complement what you have. It’s: “Let’s go get someone on the first-team All-NBA and put him with six draft picks.” Those guys would turn into different assets. Everything changes. So, again, timing is important. That free agent would look over here and say, “Wait a minute. If I sign there, are you still keeping those six draft picks? Well, yeah. OK, well, I’m not signing there.” It’s not just: We’re going to get a guy and keep the plan as is. You have to adapt and adjust in the NBA.

Switching gears a little bit, how do you think your experience with Team USA (including working with Gregg Popovich) is going to help you do this job?

How does working with Coach Pop, Steve Kerr and (Villanova coach) Jay Wright help me with this job? Forget Team USA. It’s the coaches’ meetings. Every person tries to figure out how they can get better in everything they do. There are 10 championships in that room. I’ll be sitting with them for 40 days and having conversations about basketball with 10 championships. I already won. I’m good. I’m a better coach after 40 meetings, 40 interactions, 40 dinners, 40 film sessions because it’s being delivered to me in ways I haven’t thought about or delivered myself.

So, in a way, it’s almost like an internship, right? 

I don’t care what you call it — an internship, an apprenticeship, whatever you want to call it, because I am going to take full advantage of it. I’m blessed. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I haven’t gotten to the Team USA side yet. I would pay to spend time with Coach Pop and talk basketball with Steve Kerr and Jay Wright, because what you’re learning is how they go about their business. Pop had Tim Duncan. Steve has who he has. Pop had to approach his style to what worked for Tim, and Steve has to approach his style for who he has. It’s not the same for both guys, so I’m going to get their takes on what they did certain ways. What I said earlier: It’s hard to win in June when you haven’t played in May. It’s hard to talk about championships when you haven’t won one yourself. I’ve never won a championship. So I need to figure out and learn from guys who have won championships and guys who have experienced greatness and achieved greatness and understand how they went about doing it. It’s going to help me a lot from being around those guys. The Team USA side is just an amazing experience. I’ve already started scouting and watched past international games. It’s a different game. You see teams foul to prevent fast-break opportunities on a regular basis, so that approach is just completely different than our game. You see the execution of the passing and the ball movement. It’s a 40-minute game instead of a 48-minute game, so anything goes when teams are shooting well and the other might not. It’s just a different type of game — how like NBA is different from college and the NBA is different from Europe. To learn some of the nuances of what happens in international play is valuable. I’ll be able to steal some plays as well.

Have you thought that being a part of this increases your exposure and your accessibility to the game’s top players? Have you thought of this experience in that way? 

There’s a selfish side that makes you think that this gives the Atlanta Hawks valuable exposure. John was invited to the Select Team and hopefully has an opportunity to make the roster. That increases the exposure for the Atlanta Hawks if that happens. Not only having myself there but having John with the possibility of making the team. How do you become one of those LAs or New Yorks? Well, you increase your exposure and get people talking about you. You get people excited about what is happening here in Atlanta. You get brand recognition. All of those things are important. How do you get that? Having a coach on Team USA or having a player on the team helps, winning championships helps, getting a marquee player helps. All of those things add up. You think Toronto is a great market right now? They are catching the world by storm. Every person associated with covering the NBA that is there who I’ve seen on Twitter is saying, “I have yet to see a fan base this electric.” In Toronto. It’s remarkable and a win for the NBA to have, for the first time, the NBA championship in Canada and to have it gone over the way it has gone over. It’s been great exposure for the Toronto Raptors. If you keep that core together, do you think free agents wouldn’t want to go up there next year? You have to strike when you get that opportunity, and this is my opportunity with Team USA. I’m going to take full advantage of it. Selfishly, I hope it helps the Hawks as well.

Final question: Growing up, did you ever envision that you could be part of a gold-medal-winning team? 

You might as well start back. I didn’t dream or grow up wanting to be an NBA coach. It’s funny because I get hit up from people who say they want to coach in the NBA. I never once said that. It never crossed my mind as a kid. It never crossed my mind as a college athlete. When I graduated, coaching wasn’t an option. It was never a thought for me. I was never thinking about coaching. When I got the call for Team USA, I wasn’t thinking about it. I wasn’t pursuing that. It never crossed my mind. I have been to some of the practices they have in Vegas. I always thought it was cool. I just enjoyed watching them practice. I thought that was cool, and I was already an NBA coach. To now have the opportunity to do this, I’ve never said it before, but it’s so cool. I’m one of four guys who will be coaching our international team. That’s cool. That’s cool to say.

(Top photo of Lloyd Pierce: Soobum Im / USA Today)

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59 minutes ago, TheNorthCydeRises said:

When you read this interview, it's hard not to love what Pierce is talking about.

Agreed ! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a coach be that down to earth before in an interview! Not even pop

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14 hours ago, JTB said:

Along those same lines, historically, this place hasn’t been somewhere where marquee free agents have chosen to play. How do you change that, and why do you think Atlanta hasn’t been a place where guys like a KD or a Kawhi would say, “Atlanta is the place for me”?

I don’t know if there are some things that you can change. LA and New York are always going to be LA and New York. From my standpoint, that’s out of our control. I think what is in our control is who we draft, how we compete and how we position ourselves. I think Travis has done a masterful job of acquiring assets, of drafting and getting us a young core. It’s on me to deliver with a young core to keep them growing and to keep them getting better. This is the skip-steps part we talked about. We can’t be yelling out playoffs and yelling out this is what we’re going to do and not deliver — it’s not fair. We want to acquire and attract talent based on what we are doing through the draft and development. People see: “Holy shit. This is a place that is on the rise.” Atlanta is a great city. There’s so much in Atlanta. People (in the NBA) live here. But the organization has a foundation now. Chelsea has done a masterful job of organizing us. Travis has done a wonderful job bringing us talent. Now I have to do a great job of developing that talent. That’s going to be the solution, so we can’t just jump and go get some guy when these guys might not be ready for that guy. It all has to come together at the right time where (a free agent) is looking for that right spot that is going to get him over the hump and he has a crew of guys who are ready to make that jump, and then it’s like, “Bam!” Then you see one guy go, and then another one says, “Oh shit. I want to be a part of that.”

This question has been debated to death around here, this should finally put it to rest. CLP answers PERFECTLY, of course I think so because it’s the same argument I’ve been making for 2 years ☝🏽

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1 hour ago, hazer said:

This question has been debated to death around here, this should finally put it to rest. CLP answers PERFECTLY, of course I think so because it’s the same argument I’ve been making for 2 years ☝🏽

Essentially: Atlanta is already a mecca (Y’allywood, civil rights/hip hop/media capital, great weather, biz hub, cost of living, etc). Many sports and entertainment stars already live here (particularly NBA). Now there’s solid ownership, GM, Coach, and culture in place. One of the best arenas and practice facilities in the NBA. Draft well, develop those picks into good/great players, and All-Star level Trae/Huerter/Collins will sooner-than-later attract a Butler/PG/Thompson level free agent. Which will then bring you meetings with someone like Kawhi. It’s the only way, and it’s on it’s way.

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