Hawks’ new GM Fields makes improving defense top priority


FILE – Landry Fields of the Toronto Raptors smiles during a break in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Minneapolis. New Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields says team president Travis Schlenk is still the decider as the Hawks approach the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jim Mone , File)


The Atlanta Hawks are emphasizing defensive improvement as they consider changes in the offseason.

The change has already happened in the front office, where Landry Fields has been promoted to general manager.

On Monday, Field continually stressed defense was the offseason priority for a team that took a big step back after advancing to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.

Fields said a defensive identity must be established for the Hawks to make another title run after being knocked out in the first round by Miami.

“The defensive identity has been, well that’s something we’re going to have to build on,” Landry said. “That’s part of the reason we didn’t take that step. We need to have a daily hard hat approach to our defensive capabilities. … ID will come when we see it consistently.

The Hawks ranked only 21st in the league in point defense, allowing 112.3 points per game. It was a big reason the team played below .500 for much of the season before entering the qualifying tournament and then earning the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Fields had served as assistant general manager. His promotion becomes official on July 1 and has not been announced by the team. Even so, he discussed his new role on Monday and said team president Travis Schlenk “is still the decision maker.”

Led by All-Star point guard Trae Young, the Hawks ranked sixth in scoring. The disappointing season showed the Hawks needed an improved defense and perhaps a more established complementary scorer behind Young.

Atlanta has the No. 16 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, but could trade that pick for a veteran player.

“It’s always a fine line and you have those discussions for sure,” Fields said.

Fields, 33, had a five-year career as a player with the New York Knicks and Toronto before becoming a quick learner off the court. He took a scouting job at San Antonio in 2016 and joined the Hawks as an assistant general manager in 2020.

A disappointing end to the season forced the Hawks to consider changes.

“It feels natural based on where we wanted to go this season and where we ended up,” Fields said.

Young is perhaps the only player not involved in trade talks. The team’s young core also includes power forward John Collins, small forward De’Andre Hunter, center Clint Capela and shooting guard Kevin Huerter.

After the playoff loss to Miami, Hawks primary owner Tony Ressler said the team was too complacent last offseason. He said the team wouldn’t make the same mistake.

“I think we should have tried to improve rather than bring back what we had,” Ressler said last month before adding “It won’t happen again, by the way. It was a mistake, to My opinion.”

Ressler’s comments have fueled speculation that the Hawks are open to a trade.

Fields said the Hawks have received calls from teams “about all the players. We take that into account and see if there is anything that makes sense.”


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Lynn A. Saleh