Dallas, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Miami, Atlanta (no game), Chicago. Six cities, 10 days, 5,819 miles.
The Atlanta Hawks are about to undertake a tough trek that puts them just about everywhere east of the Rockies. The Club begins its regular season with five straight road games – two games longer than any season-opening trip in franchise history. They’ll briefly return to Atlanta between games four and five; likely enough time for just one practice before another road game.
Even if the challenge of winning road games is difficult, the Hawks were ready to look for silver linings, like spending more time together as a team.
“Going out on the road can be a positive,” Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You don’t have anywhere to go. You don’t have a family to go home to. There’s more time to bond.”
Kent Bazemore echoed his coach’s sentiments, while adding that he thought that the preseason schedule provided a reasonable dress rehearsal.
“We did it in the preseason a bit,” he said, “going up to Athens, coming home for a day and a half, then hitting the road.”
The Hawks spent three days at the University of Georgia for training camp followed shortly after by a week on the road for their first three preseason games. Center Mike Muscala thinks the trip probably helped the rookies and younger players most.
“I think that was good preparation for the younger guys,” he said. “I mean, I’m used to it at this point. I like being on the road sometimes. I like traveling. It can be tough on back-to-backs for sure, but that’s definitely something that you’ve got to watch.”
Another person with plenty of road trip experience is Budenholzer. He knows them especially well from his time as an assistant coach in San Antonio. The Spurs annually take one of the league’s longest trips, the ‘Rodeo Road Trip’, when the AT&T Center hosts the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo each February.
“It’s so unusual to have it to start a regular season,” he said. “The thing that you can take from my experiences with the Spurs is that it was a great opportunity to bond and spend a lot of time together as a team.”
Another bright side of the situation is that by the time the Hawks open the season in Atlanta, they may not have just one, but possibly two shiny, new presents awaiting them.
“(The trip) is for a great cause,” Bazemore said. “They’re finishing up Philips Arena, so hopefully when we come back it will have been worth the wait.”
While the Arena is still in its first phase of a two-year transformation, the Hawks will play in the building this season. It will be fully transformed for the 2018-19 season. In addition, the team’s new practice facility within the Emory Sports Medicine Complex is close to completion.
Regardless of the start, the Hawks still get 41 home games and 41 road games just like every other NBA team. A long road start just means that the Hawks will have more home games later on, a fact best summarized by Coach Budenholzer.
“It’s our schedule, and we’ve got to play it and make the best of it.”