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“We wanted to bring back a modern feel to a classic, iconic uniform,” Hawks’ VP of Creative Shirley Zhang said. “It started with just looking at our history in the sense of what is our heritage and what is the homage that we can pay going into the next evolution of our modern sports? In looking at our 51 seasons of being the Atlanta Hawks with 35 seasons of the colors of legacy yellow, torch red and what we call infinity black, proudly worn for 35 seasons, it was a no-brainer for us to pay homage, in the sense of picking out those colors.”
The brighter yellow and red shades, in particular, are likely the most identifiable with Hawks’ branding, invoking the days of Dominique Wilkins and other former Hawks stars.
“There was a huge purpose in bringing back something that’s part of our history and part of our legacy and owning it from a classic and timeless perspective, and hoping that one day we will win a championship with whatever this new uniform was, maybe,” Zhang said.
The uniform change has been in the works for around two years, with owners Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz involved every step of the way. The goal was to create something that honored the legacy of the Hawks as an organization, but also something that was updated and modern.
“Timeless and classic, and really building a brand that could stand the test of time,” chief marketing officer Melissa Proctor said. “Sometimes there are a lot of those nuances, colors that are on trend, and things like that, but we really wanted to be able to build something that really represents the Atlanta Hawks and is true to Atlanta.”
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Her chief responsibilities in assisting Schlenk are analyzing all potential transactions and focusing on how they relate to the cap.
That makes her job especially difficult right now because the cap is still unknown due to the effects of the pandemic, and there’s a chance it could lower the cap for the 2021-22 season.
“In this case, I’m making assumptions based on the fact of looking at worst-case scenarios, middle-of-the-road and best-case scenarios,” Leftwich said. “Given where we are, we don’t know if there will be fans next year, so we don’t know the numbers. I can’t say a lot went into calculations. We’re a room team, and we expect to still be a room team.”
No matter what happens with the cap for next season, the Hawks will have the most space in the NBA. That’s something Leftwich says is specifically planned for because the team is continually analyzing different contract signings, what draft capital it has and what extensions are coming up. Leftwich said the team normally projects the cap situation two years out. After that, it becomes guesswork because of trades.
One of the big subplots for the Hawks this offseason is what they’ll do with John Collins’ contract extension. Collins is eligible for a rookie extension that won’t begin in 2021, but the team could decide to get it done now so it’s locked in on their books. If the Hawks did that, they would not be taking advantage of Collins’ low cap hold in 2021-22 that could be used to their benefit in a rich free-agent class. Leftwich can’t get into specifics of what the Hawks are going to do with Collins’ contract, but she said they work with their own analytics team that builds projects into a model analyzing player productivity as compared with other players across the league. That gives the team the insight to decide what a player contract should be worth.
Leftwich isn’t necessarily giving her input on whom the Hawks should sign or extend or make a trade for, but her analysis is crucial to making sure the numbers work for the future of the team. For example, on Trae Young’s trajectory, he’s likely going to get a max contract extension. Depending on what honors he receives until that time comes, it’s possible he’ll be eligible to receive 30 percent of the cap. This is all factored into Leftwich’s reporting.
“For purposes of projections, we’re looking at what the actual commitments are, and we’re looking at that in conjunction with our entire payroll and looking at our team’s salary,” she said. “Every player has a free-agent amount at the conclusion of their contract, so that is included, but you might change it if you think that particular player would get signed at a higher or lower amount than their free-agent amount. That’s the process you go through. For room projection purposes, you’re looking at the player’s free-agent amount and comparing him to what you think that player’s free-agent value might be, and you might make changes based on your assumptions.
“When looking at trades, I’m just looking at it to make sure it works for cap purposes. Any potential transaction, I’m looking at the trade rules in the CBA and the bylaws to make sure it works for cap purposes. That’s my primary role, and I’m also looking at how our salary cap will look after the trade and not just in the current year. In the current year, you’re just looking to see if it works for cap purposes, but I’m looking at what our salary cap looks like several years out based on several transactions.”
Another aspect of her job is deciding what are fair contracts for players using previous contract data across the league. For example, the Hawks have the 52nd pick in the upcoming draft. If the team elects to keep the pick, Leftwich will gather comparable contracts for players drafted in that range to use when the team negotiates with that player and his representation. Every detail of the player’s contract is discussed and debated with Leftwich’s advice.