HAWKSVILLE – From the minute Jamal Crawford hit the door Monday all eyes were on the Hawks’ newest addition (well, so to speak).
And he didn’t disappoint, not that anything he could have done would have disappointed the crowd of players, many of them his new teammates, hoping to get a glimpse of him in Hawks’ practice duds.
“They’re going to be (expletive) good this year,” said a visiting pro from another NBA team. “You throw JC and Joe Smith and this kid [Jeff] Teague, and they’ve got some wrinkles now that they didn’t have last season. They were already a dangerous team and now they’re really dangerous. And knowing these fans down here and what they like, they’re going to love the style this team can play. They’re going to love JC.”
Crawford loves the idea of what this Hawks team could be. He was all smiles after playing a few pickup games with guys like Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Mike Bibby and others, for the very first time.
“If you look at us on paper, you know we should be pretty good,” Williams said, “but so far I’d have to say it looks even better than I thought. It’s impressive. It’s different. Everybody knows what Jamal is capable of. And Jeff can play, man. I don’t know any other way of saying it, he can just play. And it’ll be exciting when we get everybody in here and see how the pieces fit. I truly believe we are going to be one of the most explosive teams in the league.”
Crawford wasn’t even in scoring mode on his first day (training camp starts in one week but most of the main faces have already made it back to town or are on the way). He played the role of set-up man. “Everybody knows I can score a little bit,” Crawford said modestly. “I’m a good passer, too. I love to set guys up. I always have.”
A nasty no-look pass here, another wicked dish there and his teammates, not to mention everyone else in attendance, had seen enough.
Horford couldn’t contain his glee while watching Crawford break down a defender in the lane on one play. He let out a loud yelp when Crawford’s crossover dribble whipped from one side to the other. Horford calmed down just in time to catch the pass (yup, he was on the floor and playing in the game but clearly enjoying the spectacle) of Crawford shredding yet another ill-fated attempt to slow him down.
“I couldn’t help it,” a smiling Horford would say later. “It’s fun to watch him got o work on somebody. I’m just excited, man. Training camp is going to be so competitive and it’s because we have some of these [new] guys coming in that will stir it up. I can’t wait to get going.”
OTHER NEW FACES
Crawford wasn’t the only new face to open a few eyes Monday. Training camp invitee Courtney Sims made his first appearance at the John “Beans” Beckett Invitational and did not disappoint.
Sims is a solid 6-11, 240-pounder that didn’t seem at all out of place banging against the likes of Horford, Randolph Morris, Othello Hunter and Garrett Siler – the other true bigs on the floor for most of Monday’s action. Sims finished with authority around the rim and was as active as any big running the floor and getting his hands dirty in the rebounding battles on both ends of the floor.
“We’re going to have so many bigs now that things will change dramatically for us,” Horford said of he, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, the men who shouldered the bulk of the low-post burden for the Hawks last season. “You go from playing three or four guys, with Solomon Jones, to having five or six quality guys that can play and that has to make a big difference for us.”
THE WAFER RULE
Day after day veteran free agent Jerry Stackhouse turns heads during these informal workouts.
I haven’t found a player yet that isn’t convinced that he could help this Hawks team this season as versatile specialists off the bench.
Whether or not that connection ever comes to fruition is obviously not up to said players or any of us around here.
But let me offer up a cautionary tale about watching a free agent dazzle on the practice court all summer only to find work elsewhere once training camp rolls around. Von Wafer [breakout season in Houston last year and ow a teammate of former Hawks swingman Josh Childress in Greece] put on a somewhat similar type of show last summer, wowing everyone with his shooting stroke from deep and his ability to finish at the rim without any regard for whoever and whatever might be in his way.
Wafer would have helped this Hawks team tremendously last year but a decision was made to go in a different direction (one that, it should be pointed out, helped net 47 wins). It’ll be interesting to see if the Hawks look past Stackhouse (for whatever reasons) and break the Wafer Rule.
It’s not my decision, my team, my money or my main concern right now. But I don’t know that I’d be able to rationalize not trying to sign Stackhouse up if he goes anywhere this season and plays half as well as he’s played since I’ve been watching this summer.