The 20-47 Hawks would not make the cut in such a scenario, meaning their season would be over.
"I coach the youngest team in the NBA," Pierce told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on The Jump. "And the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point."
"If the season is going to resume and we're still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season."
If the NBA returns to conclude the 2019-20 season, it will likely be at a single location: the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. Various formats have reportedly been discussed, from teams participating in a group style of play similar to soccer's World Cup, to all 30 teams returning, or just 20 teams returning and holding a "play-in" tournament before the postseason.
A 22-team format would also likely include either a play-in tournament or an expanded postseason, though the NBA's exact plans are unknown at this time. But it wouldn't include a team like the Hawks, though Pierce said they have continued to prepare as though the season will resume for them.
"We're on our Zoom meetings, Thursdays and Sundays, and our guys want to do it," the second-year head coach said. "But we also understand there's so many scenarios, and we're all anxiously waiting to find out where we sit in that. And then whatever the course of action that happens, we'll continue to find ways to get better as an organization with our guys."
The Hawks aren't alone in pushing against a return to play that wouldn't include all of the teams.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, Oklahoma City Thunder governor Clay Bennett "delivered an impassioned soliloquy on why the league and owners needed to consider the competitive and financial plights of smaller-market teams that could be left out of the season's summer resumption in Orlando" during the NBA's Board of Governors call on Friday.
Another high-level Eastern Conference official added: "The message was something bigger, reminding people that some teams can't just reopen the doors in nine or 10 months and so easily sell tickets or a sponsorship without having played basketball for that long."
That is undoubtedly a reality the league is facing. For Pierce, however, the priority remains developing his young team.
"I play young guys, I have young guys," the 44-year-old said. "They need game experience and so we need to play basketball, we want to play basketball."