Marvin Williams heard Zaza Pachulia refer to his Hawks' teammates as his "family" Tuesday and immediately leaned over and hugged him. "You heard him," Williams said, playfully resting his head on Pachulia's shoulder. "He said we're family."
But for how long?
Four of the Hawks' top eight players are free agents this summer. Williams, Pachulia, veteran point guard Mike Bibby and sixth man Flip Murray could all have new locker room neighbors next season, depending on what the Hawks decide to do in the draft and free agency.
"It's a possibility," Hawks captain Joe Johnson said of seeing a cast of new faces. "It happens in the NBA. Guys get shuffled around in this league. It's a part of the profession we're in.
"But I definitely think this group can get to that next level. We just have to get better individually and get better as a team."
Williams is the only one of the four who is a restricted free agent, giving the Hawks the right to match any offers. The other three, along with reserve forward Solomon Jones, are unrestricted free agents.
That means the Hawks will have just as much heavy lifting to do this summer as they did the past seven months if they plan to keep their core intact for a run at a third straight playoff bid.
"We're not that far away," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said, advocating a subtle tweak to the roster as opposed to an extreme makeover. "I think we got exposed in the Cleveland series because we were banged up. We weren't as deep as they were coming off the bench. So, in that regard, we have to get better with our bench guys.
"But I've been in this league 27 years, and I've seen teams panic and bust a team up and then they go the other way. We won 47 games, man. So as the coach of this team, I say no, you don't bust this team up. We've got eight, nine good core guys. You build around that. You add two or three more solid pieces to the team, and you move forward. You take your chances that way."
The expectations going forward will be far greater than they've been the past two years.
The Hawks were the youngest team in the Eastern Conference playoff field this year. They defied the odds all season, first by earning a second straight playoff berth, then by hosting a first-round series.
"There's a lot going on for us right now around here. I wish these guys the best," Josh Smith said. "I was in the same situation last summer, and it's tough. We all think we've got the right nucleus and now it's just a matter of adding the right pieces to push it along."
Still, it's clear that there is more work to be done.
It wasn't on display during the conference semifinals, when the Cavaliers outrebounded the Hawks by wide margins in all four games on their way to four straight double-digit wins.
The Hawks also took a beating inside in their first-round series against Miami.
Woodson said he, Hawks general manager Rick Sund and the ownership group would meet in the coming weeks to determine the priorities going forward.
The other members of the "family" already have made it clear to each other how they feel.
"I've been here four years, so I know how long it took us to get to this point," Pachulia said. "When I first signed here, we were coming off a 13-win season. And look at us now. This is what you work for in the NBA, to be a part of something like this. So yes, I'd love to be back here.
"But it is a business. And we all have to address that individually."