It would be a juggle for an experienced coach, but interim Hawks coach Justin Tatum insists he's not feeling any added pressure to up the minutes of highly touted Next Star AJ Johnson.
A projected first round pick at the next NBA Draft, Johnson was used sparingly by now ousted coach Jacob Jackomas who was coaching for his future and looking to integrate a host of new faces in a stacked offensive arsenal.
It's seen Johnson average just 5.6 minutes over eight games after sitting out the season-opener. A broken that limited his preseason was a factor early on, but a cavalcade of fans and commentators had called for the 18-year-old to be given more time on the floor, particularly amid floundering fortunes.
Keeping a Next Star, and by extension their team and the NBL that foots the contract bill, happy is a difficult task when balanced against the need to win games. It's an added factor to Tatum's professional head coaching gig, but he insists it's something he's feeling squeezed by.
"I feel no pressure on that, none at all," Tatum said.
"I talked to AJ I said 'I know what you expected of yourself, you know what the world expects of you, but you still have to play within these four lines and gain your teammates trust and my trust to be able to get you out there to do that.
"I said 'we know what your capabilities are, but we don't want to gamble on games just to try to get you to go where you're feeling you're going to go next year'. He understands that so I said 'as long as you work hard in here for me and grow out of your comfort zone, then I'm going to find spots and minutes for you'.
"I think AJ is going to be a useful attribute for us. This last couple of months of him working and training and sitting and hopefully building up his hunger has endured him to come out here and help us win games.
"I'm not saying there's going to be 18 to 20 minutes [a game], but I think he's going to be a big factor for us to win some games."
While he's a novice at the professional level, Tatum compiled a stellar resume in a decade as a coach in the Missouri high school system, developing a reputation as a hard taskmaster, but one with a knack for developing emerging talent.
He feels it's something he utilise in getting the best out of Johnson and also Lachlan Olbrich, who is starting to appear in top one hundred mock Drafts on his early-season showings.
"I'm not too far off from coaching high school guys, so I kind of know their mentality and what they've been doing," Tatum said.
"With those two guys, it's just really about teaching how to fight through adversity. Neither one of them had that consistently in there and, at the time, we couldn't use them like we wanted to use them.
"Their skill set is very high, they're some of the most talented guys in our league. I feel that they just had to fight through adversity and now since they have fought through it and learned a little bit about it, I think they can produce for us.
"I demand a lot from them in practice and in games and they understand my voice is different, but my experience as a player and as a coach gives them a reassuring feeling as well."
Jackomas copped criticism for his rotations through a 2-7 start to the season, with the decision to shift skipper Tyler Harvey to the bench for last week's Cairns game seeing mixed results.
It remains to be seen whether Tatum continues the experiment, but he said there'll be "nothing that's going to be surprising" for his players.
"We did it last game and it wasn't a bad situation for us," Tatum said.
"At the end of the day, we want to see how this goes and what's best for us because our line-ups could change every other game depending on who we're playing against. I think we'll find something, these guys will know their role no matter if they come off the bench or play a lot, no matter what, because I have that open communication with them.
"I think that we will be well prepared and hyped to play New Zealand and I think, for 40 minutes, we'll compete. I didn't see our group do that in the first nine games consistently enough. This is a very competitive league and we didn't do that for 40 minutes.
"We might have done it for 25, maybe 30, but not for 40. Our competitive nature really has to show for 40 minutes."
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