New Hawks practice facility sparkles but will it really attract free agents?

(Michael Cunningham/AJC)

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was dancing for joy about the team’s first day in its new Brookhaven practice facility. I mean that literally: Budenholzer sprinted across the two practice floors for his post-practice session with media and performed a cartwheel and some other moves I can’t really explain.

Sadly, I do not have video of the moment.

“I caught everybody with their phones down,” Budenholzer quipped.

Seriously, though, the Hawks were happy to return home and break in their new place before continuing the five-game road trip. They returned to Atlanta following their defeat at Miami on Monday night, enjoyed a day off Tuesday, and then practiced today before heading to Chicago.

Injured point guard Dennis Schroder (ankle) did not make the trip. Injured forward Ersan Ilyasova did make the trip.

Kent Bazemore said working in the new facility gave the team a boost.

“It’s kind of like a rejuvenated group,” Bazemore said. “We’ve been on the road for so long: Athens (training camp) in preseason, the first few games of the season. It’s kind of good to know you are coming back to a world-class facility.”

Budenholzer said his excitement for the new practice area (officially dubbed “Emory Healthcare Courts”) is genuine.

“I don’t think there’s that word that describes how excited we are about being here, how helpful it’s going to be for our players (with) the emphasis we put on player development and player growth,” Budenholzer said. “Hopefully it’s going to put our players in a better position to be the best they can be and hopefully make our team the best it can be.”

The Hawks have high hopes for the new practice facility as a comfortable workplace for current players that includes an advanced sports medicine operation in the Emory Sports Medicine Center. The Hawks also plan to use the facility as a lure for future free agents.

I’m skeptical about that second part. I think practice facilities are far down the list of factors when players are considering signing with a team. There’s money, of course, but also the organizational leadership, the coach, the city and the promised role.

But surely a top-notch athletic-training operation can be a factor. And since other teams have either built fancy new digs or are planning them, at least the Hawks won’t be behind in that area.

The Hawks are selling the new practice facility and the ongoing renovation of Philips Arena as parts of an overall rejuvenation of the organization.

“Everybody in the NBA loves new stuff,” Bazemore said. “I’m sure this will get the attention of a lot of free agents come free-agency time. We are in an organization that is moving in the right direction. A lot of players live in Atlanta. Offseason, you will catch anyone here.

“Atlanta is the spot you want to be. We’ve got the front office and ownership group that is looking to change the entire city and not just the organization. Things are looking up if you are living in Atlanta right now.”

As you would expect, the new facility is very nice. In addition to the much roomier (and brighter) practice area than at their downtrodden gym inside Philips Arena, the Hawks have added several amenities to make current players comfortable.

That includes some basics that make work a little easier.

“There isn’t any stairs,” Bazemore said. “At the old practice facility you had to walk upstairs to get to the weight room. That’s kind of taxing in the middle of the season.”

Bazemore cited some other cool amenities: an outdoor pool (extra deep for tall dudes), cold/warm tub, a grilling area, video game consoles with large-screen TVs, and chefs who prepare post-practice meals to order.

“They want us to hang out a lot a lot when you are here in town,” Bazemore said. “I’m sure we will hang out two or three hours after practice and play video games, play horse and kind of do whatever.”

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