At his pre-camp news conference, Hawks boss Travis Schlenk noted that Dennis Schroder came to the NBA from Germany as a teenager and faced cultural adjustments along with the professional challenges. The GM said that Schroder, by all internal accounts, has shown “growth” as a player and person.
At his pre-draft news conference, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer called Schroder a “unique” talent . The coach indicated that he will seek more ways to fashion the offense around Schroder’s speed and ability to get to the basket.
Clearly, the Hawks are making it a point to signal that the Hawks are Schroder’s show now. That seems obvious because Schroder is the most talented player on the roster and, at 24 years old this month, brimming with star potential. But it has to mean something that the GM and the coach are saying it early and often.
With that comes the acknowledgement that, through his first four seasons, Schroder has been a mercurial talent. In his fifth season the Hawks need Schroder, their longest-tenured player, to grow up fast and be the point guard who leads.
Schroder said he’s ready.
“I try to get better every day on and off the court,” he said. “Try to mature off the court and on the court as well. Just try to help the organization to win games. That’s the reason why I’m here.”
And this from Schroder, when asked what he has to do better: “Everything. Leadership. Shooting. Finishing at the basket. Young players, they are looking up to me now. I’ve got to do everything professional and try to be a role model for them.”
It’s strange to hear Schroder talk like an old vet, but measuring it by experience, he’s no young guy anymore. He’s logged 6,263 minutes for four playoff teams. His first year a starter was a good one, even if he needs more polish and consistency.
Schroder’s star, veteran teammates are gone: Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard. The Hawks now will go as Schroder goes.
“Coach told me already he switched the system a little big playing-wise,” Schroder said. “We ain’t got Dwight no more, who was in the paint a lot. I think the pace is really important for us now. We try to play as fasts as possible. I think it is going to be a little change but I think everybody is prepared for it. Everybody worked all summer with it. It’s going to be great.”
Schroder said his summer with the German national team helped him to mature. He played well during Germany’s run to the Eurobasket quarterfinals. Schroder said he also led the team.
“Doing whatever I can to get a good relationship with the team,” Schroder said. “Took them out to dinner. Did the little things. That’s what I want to do here. Try keep the group together. I think that is going to give us the best situation to win games.”
Schroder’s NBA life has been relatively charmed. He was a rookie when the Hawks won 38 games and, since then, they’ve won 60, 48, and 43 games. Schroder always been a complementary piece to All-Star vets on playoff squads.
Now he is the main cog on what is, as presently constructed, a team most likely headed for the lottery. The memory of that 2014-15 team will only grow fainter as the 2016-17 Hawks take their lumps.
Schroder promised that, no matter the circumstances, the new Hawks will compete.
“We’ve got a younger group,” he said. “I think all five players who left, they are great guys. They did great job. They did a lot for the city. Now it is time people like me, Taurean Prince, DeAndre (Bembry), Kent Bazemore--it’s their turn to shine. I can’t wait to get to work with them and try to get a new legacy going on.”
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