Lloyd Pierce made his debut for two organizations Tuesday night and went 1-1.
The Hawks’ new coach threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Braves game and it sailed, in his words, “High and high. But the catcher caught it. I told before I walked out there, just make me look good.”
The more important victory came later. After throwing the first pitch, Pierce sat in the stands at SunTrust Park for a short time, then made his way to the SunTrust Club, where he watched the NBA draft lottery on a television. Actress Jami Gertz, wife of Hawks’ principal owner Tony Ressler, turned out to be a nice good luck charm as the team climbed from fourth to third for the June draft.
“We got third. That’s beautiful,” Pierce said.
“I was excited as soon as we got into the top three,” Pierce said. “Throughout this process, you just want the opportunity to try to get better. We have little bit more of an option to find the right guy.”
So the Travis Schlenk-Pierce regime got of to a nice start. And maybe Gertz should have an official position in management, given her immediate impact on the Hawks’ draft. She’s an accomplished actress but I’ll mostly remember her for her guest appearance in a “Seinfeld” episode, when she told “Elaine” from an adjacent bathroom stall, “I don’t have a square to spare.”
She was much more generous this time.
Back to basketball. Most expect former Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton and former Real Madrid guard Luka Doncic to be the first two selections (in either order) in the draft. Phoenix and Sacramento hold those picks, respectively, pending trades. The Hawks have the assets to move up if they choose, including two other first-round picks (19th and 30th).
If the Hawks stay at No. 3, they likely will choose from a list of players including Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr., Missouri’s Michael Porter and Duke’s Wendell Carter.
Pierce, as a former Philadelphia assistant, has been through a few of these situations. He said people shouldn’t assume anything.
“A few years back, Joel Embiid was the expected No. 1 pick,” he said. “Fortunately for Philly and unfortunately for a lot of other teams, he gets hurt a week before the draft, and Andrew Wiggins goes one and Jabari Parker goes two and Joel falls to three. I think we kind of like in Philly how that story ended. So it’s a month before the draft and there’s a lot of things that can happen.”
Pierce will travel to Chicago Wednesday night to join general manager Schlenk and his staff at the scouting combine, then return to Philadelphia before circling back to Los Angeles. His wife, Melissa, is pregnant with the couple’s first child, due on Aug. 1.
“Everything is happening, but it’s been great,” he said.
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