Parker gets fresh start with young, on-the-rise Hawks

Jabari Parker is looking forward to being part of the young Hawks.

ATLANTA— At just 24 years old, Jabari Parker, should have no issues fitting in with the young Atlanta Hawks. In fact, he’s going into his sixth NBA season and will be one of the older players on the team.

Just five years ago, the possibility of Parker being a free agent with somewhat of a dry market would seem laughable. At just 17 , he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, dubbed “The best High School Basketball Player Since LeBron James.” However, he’s torn his ACL twice since being in the high school.

”It’s a blessing. Honestly, just to be in this position right now,” Parker, who agreed a two-year, $13 million contract with the Hawks (the second season being a player option) told reporters. “Going into Year 6, it’s just a blessing as far as my health concerns go.”

When he is heathy the flashes of potential that had him drafted second overall in the 2014 NBA Draft are still there. During the 2016-17 season, Parker averaged more than 20 points per game, and just last past season, he averaged 14.5 points. His ability to score has never left and could prove to be vital for the Hawks. As for his health concerns, one of the reasons he is excited to be on the Hawks is their medical staff. Chelsea Lane, most-known for her role with the Golden State Warriors, joined the Hawks last season. She’s regarded as one of the top athletic trainers in the NBA.

“I have very great reviews of Chelsea,” Parker said. “It’s been very good having dialogue with her so far, so definitely that was an attraction.”

A lot of players take exception to coming off of the bench, but Parker is willing to embrace any role with the Hawks. There is a chance he could be their leading scorer off the bench and quietly form one of the best second units in the Eastern Conference. There is a possibility to put Parker, Evan TurnerCam ReddishBruno Fernando and several others in positions to play key roles as backups.

“I just wanna be somebody that kids look up to,” Parker said. “Now that I’m able to be every form of player from a starter to a bench player, I can relate on all angles.”

Last season, the Hawks only won 29 games, but exceeded expeditions for a multitude of reasons. One of them is coach Lloyd Pierce, of whom Parker has high praise.

“He’s doing a very good job building this organization up,” Parker said. “We’re definitely young, but his type of attitude is optimism goes a long way. You really appreciate coaches like that.”

On the outside looking in, there was a lot for Parker to like. The Hawks are young, move the ball well and score at a very high clip.

They’re exciting.

“I didn’t expect them to do as well as they did,” he said. “You have these teams that’ve been together so long and they’ve done better than them.”

There is a lot to like about everything the Hawks have been doing since Travis Schlenk took over as president of basketball operations in 2017. Last year was just the beginning of the success the Hawks could enjoy for many years. Someday in the near future, Atlanta could become a free-agent destination for some of the NBA’s top players. Even right now, they were an attractive place for which Parker to want to play.

“I was talking to a few teams,” Parker said. “None of them had the attraction that Atlanta brings as far as my career goes.”