Coach Brian Goorjian has defended the Hawks' decision to part ways with Deng Adel, saying the marquee signing's time in Wollongong was going in a "bad direction" for both parties.
As revealed by Australian Community Media last week, the former Cleveland Cavalier has departed the Illawarra, with confirmation made via social media just 90 minutes before tip-off in Monday night's game against the Breakers.
Adel signed with the Hawks last July and was viewed as a key cog in Goorjian's rebuild project.
However, the 24-year-old had his fair share of injuries since arriving in the Wollongong.
With nine games left until finals. Goorjian said the timing was right to move on.
"I just thought it had come to an end. He was broken and he wasn't getting healthy again. There was a lot of pressure on him and it was going in a bad direction both ways," the coach said.
"I think he appreciated how it was handled. He felt the same way we did, that it had come to an end. Things weren't going to get better and the pressure was mounting. He needed to go in another direction and rejig it."
Monday's announcement didn't seem to distract the Hawks, who claimed a 75-67 win over the Breakers on a cold evening in Launceston.
Hawks star Tyler Harvey was superb, scoring 29 points and making seven steals. He became the first NBL to record at least 20 points and seven steals in a game.
Harvey did the bulk of his scoring damage in the first half, compiling 21 points. Teammate Justin Simon mustered 11 points, six rebounds and a massive block late in the fourth quarter.
In a see-sawing battle, Illawarra had trailed 55-49 midway through the third quarter, but surged home to secure victory and stay in finals contention.
"We've obviously had our tough spots, but I've said even said through the losses that this team has tremendous character and it works hard, and there's no quit in them," Goorjian said.
"We started a little slow, they got their feet set and hit some threes. But then the trapping got more aggressive and the rotations got more aggressive. And from the first quarter-and-a-half on, I thought our defence got better and better as the game went on.
"We weren't brilliant offensively by any stretch of imagination, but that group played great defence. The energy on that end, the desperation, the fight in them is something that I was really proud of. And I was in the Sydney game as well, even though we lost, I thought we did the same thing, but maybe to a higher level tonight."
The Hawks now return home to start preparing for their next clash with Adelaide at the WEC on Tuesday, May 11. As the season progresses, Goorjian believes the club's youth will become vital.
"I have Dan Grida, Justinian [Jessup] and some young guys that we want to play down this back stretch. We didn't expect Grida to be available this season. This season's been stretched three or four months, so he's ready. He's going to be with us long term," he said.
"But we wish him [Deng Adel] all the best. He's a young guy and he's got a future, but it's obviously not with the Hawks. So the decision was made and I think he was comfortable with it, and we're obviously moving forward."