HAWKSVILLE - Who said the Hawks were done chasing big men this summer?
You didn’t hear it around these parts, at least not officially (from me).
Barring a last minute change of plans, veteran big man Joe Smith is scheduled to visit town on Wednesday, according to two of my best spies. And the Hawks are not out of the running for Ben Wallace, who has yet to agree to terms with Detroit (though, one of my best spies up north insists that it’s just a matter of time before Wallace returns to the Pistons).
A 6-10, 225-pound veteran of 14 NBA seasons, Smith showed he has plenty left in the tank against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, averaging 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 points and 1.2 blocks in a little over 21 minutes per game. He’s got that “old man” strength that belies his seemingly slender frame. I watched him push the Hawks’ around in that series whenever he was on the floor.
Smith’s numbers (10.8 points and 5.5 rebounds) in the Cavaliers’ first round sweep of Detroit were even more impressive. He’s capable of that kind of production off the bench for a quality team, which speaks volumes for the type of veteran and pro that he has become since being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft.
Pair him on the frontline with Zaza Pachulia behind Josh Smith and Al Horford and the Hawks’ paper-thin frontcourt rotation suddenly takes on a different look. While it’s far from the “championship move” many have argued for around here, it’s certainly a move in the right direction (provided the Hawks are able to recruit him and sign him at some point between now and training camp).
The Hawks’ other big man options aren’t exactly ready to fade into the background. I mentioned Randolph Morris the other day and he’s shown well so far. Jeff Schultz caught up with him after Tuesday morning’s mini-camp practice for an interesting update on what he’s been up to this summer.
Another player to keep an eye on for a training camp invite is Othello Hunter. His minutes were sparse as a rookie last season, but the strides he made (physically and in his game) have been stunning to see from a year ago this time. It’s not clear right now what his future is with the Hawks. There are only going to be so many roster spots to go around. And without a guaranteed contract heading into camp, he’ll be gambling a bit if he comes to camp with the Hawks. But I like his game and what he brings in terms of a no-nonsense reserve that’s going to get to it whenever he’s asked.
I spoke with an Eastern Conference executive Tuesday afternoon that wanted to know what the Hawks were going to do with Solomon Jones. Funny, Jones asked me the same thing last week. I answered his question with the same question he asked me. He’s a restricted free agent, so you almost expect his summer to last a bit longer than most. Still, he’ll become an option for not only the Hawks but plenty of other teams looking to fill out the rotation with a long and athletic (even if he’s still a bit undersized) big that can play spot minutes when necessary.
Garret Siler has his chance to make an impression over the next 36 hours or so. He played well enough in summer league to get some looks from several other teams, so the Hawks will have to make a decision about what they want to do with him regarding training camp. One hilarious story that’s already made the mini-camp rounds is that it takes an entire roll of tape to properly tape up one of his ankles. I have to admit he is one of the largest human beings I can remember cutting corners in the hawks’ locker room during my time here. It’s on the floor, though, and particularly against Morris, Hunter and guys like Earl Barron, where we’ll be able to gauge Siler’s readiness for the rigors of the NBA.
There are still a few names left on the free agent radar, the most notable being Johan Petro. He hasn’t signed anywhere yet and could still be an option for the Hawks should things not work out with one of the other guys mentioned above.
Enough about these big men already. It’s time for some actual scrimmage action here shortly (the next time the Hawks have a mini-camp that has more drills than scrimmages in the first two days we should stage a non-violent protest in the name of the game). The blog will be open for business all night. I’ll be dipping back and forth between the blog and Twitter throughout the evening if you want to join the party.