published Friday, June 27th, 2014

Budenholzer's Atlanta Hawks seek to add depth

  • photo
    Michigan State's Adreian Payne, right, smiles for a photo with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the 15th overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Atlanta Hawks had the 15th pick in Thursday night's NBA draft and selected Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was a guest Thursday afternoon on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone. Budenholzer spent 17 seasons as a San Antonio Spurs assistant before taking over in Atlanta last year, and he nearly guided the Hawks to a first-round upset of the Indiana Pacers in May.

Q: When the two or three picks before you are coming off the board, how are your nerves compared to the last two minutes of a tight ballgame?

A: "It's probably comparable. It's amazing how much time, energy and manpower come together in those five minutes, and I think all of us feel the intensity of that moment. If it's someone who is very important to our organization, then it very much compares to the last two minutes of a game.

"I don't have to call time out or draw up a play, so I'm probably slightly less on edge."

Q: How much have you relived Game 6 against the Pacers, when you were up by five with three minutes left with the chance to close them out?

A: "I think it's important to look at where we need to improve, and I think our execution at the end of games needs to get better. Our whole group has to look at that as we work this summer. We're up five with three minutes to go, and we need to get baskets and stops.

"There were also a lot of positives to build from, because we did get up five with three minutes to go, so what did we do to get to that position? We just want a good dose of honesty to help us get better."

Q: San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has this gruff exterior on television. What is he like when he's not portraying that?

A: "The beauty of Pop is that he's unbelievably kind and caring. He puts a lot into his players and staff and everybody who works in the organization, so we've had some fun and laughing, but we've all caught a little bit of the heat, too. He has high standards and expectations, and he expects the best from everybody."

Q: Atlanta has been linked to pursuing LeBron James and even Carmelo Anthony. What are the odds a star like that could be in Atlanta this year?

A: "Are you trying to get me fined? As we go into free agency, there are a lot of different options as teams try to improve. I can just assure you that we're looking at everything as far as ways we can build within our system that we believe in."

Q: What areas of the team need most improving?

A: "We were laughing earlier this week about how different it feels this summer compared to last summer. We had four guys under contract last year going into the draft, and now we have eight, including all five of our starting group. I think we're in a situation where we want to add some depth to our core group.

"We need to improve in some areas, but I don't think we have one glaring need."

Q: Who is the toughest player you've ever had to scheme against? Would it be Michael Jordan or LeBron or somebody else?

A: "I'll go off the board and pick Dirk Nowitzki. He's an unbelievably difficult player to scheme for."

Q: You started out as a videographer in the NBA before becoming a coach. What is you favorite basketball movie?

A: " 'Hoosiers.'"

Q: How would the Spurs of the past 15 years compare to the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s?

A: "That's a tough one. I obviously have a much deeper feel for the San Antonio teams. I would love to see them compete on the court to see how San Antonio would do, because those Lakers teams were stacked. I think it would be fun to watch, but I can't say who would be better."

Q: If Popovich coaches against Bill Belichick in baseball, who wins?

A: "Popovich."

Q: Who is a team you saw this year that everybody should watch out for next season?

A: "The Wizards have a lot of young talent that is up-and-coming. With [John] Wall and [Bradley] Beal growing, I think they are a team that is going to emerge here in the future."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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