HAWKSVILLE – The last time you saw the Hawks on this floor, their heads were dipped and the spirits were sagging. On the receiving end of a series of furious left hooks and right crosses from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the mood was nasty.
Thank goodness for preseason basketball. The Hawks kick off their slate tonight at the building formerly known as the “Highlight Factory” against New Orleans.
While I don’t expect to see Joe Johnson and Josh Smith or Chris Paul and the Hornets’ starters for long, I’m going to cherish the few quality minutes we see from the big boys tonight.
If we get a barnburner by accident, so be it. After all, this is Mike Woodson we’re talking about (he of the “I’m trying to win every preseason game I can” fame of the past few seasons). But the smart money is on seeing much less of the starters and more and more of guys like Hawks rookie point guard Jeff Teague and his draft classmate Darren Collison of the Hornets.
“I’m going to be excited to be out there and to see how we all jell together,” Teague said. “I’m just excited in general to play my first real NBA game.”
The youngster will have to forgive some of his older and more seasoned teammates for not showing up with the same vigor. The veteran Hawks know that what really counts is the games that come at the end of this season and not these pre-Halloween dress rehearsals. I’m not insinuating that the preseason is meaningless, but as a wise general manager told me recently, “Does anybody remember how many preseason games the Lakers won last year?”
Yet I remain addicted to the NBA preseason. I like it because it gives me a chance to see the rookies and the camp invitees at work, knowing this might be the last time we see some of them this season (or at least for a while). Who knows? We might not see a whole lot of Courtney Sims or Aaron Miles after tonight, not to pick on those two guys alone. But you get my point.
Now is the time to take full stock of all the guys you see wearing the uniform, because in a few weeks there will only be nine or 10 of them playing most nights. And that means you’ll have a small sample size to work with on the others (that make the team but don’t make the playing rotation).
IN THE MEANTIME …
All that said, you shouldn’t take your eyes off the big boys. I think we all want to see what the chemistry looks like with the top seven or eight guys. I know I want to see how Jamal Crawford looks out there with JJ, Josh and Al Horford. We’ve seen so little of it during training camp, what with Crawford and Teague working exclusively with the reserve team in scrimmages (simulated and the real thing). I need to see if he fits as nicely as I think he will with those guys.
Other than how he and Teague (and to an extent Joe Smith, though he’s a utility player that should have no problem blending his skills in with whatever a team is doing) mesh with the core group, I can’t imagine there a ton of surprises to be had in this game. One of the benefits of the Hawks returning so much of their core from a year ago is that we should know exactly what we’re dealing with from the opening tip of this season.
Roles have been established. Responsibilities have been defined. Positions are squared away. The only left is to trot out onto that floor and see if it all looks as good under the bright lights as it did with the practice lights on.
The conversation here throughout tonight’s game, so don’t go anywhere.
Oh, and in case you missed the update, there’s a new home for your Hawks information on Twitter. We’re going with a new look and a revamped, corporate style. It’s a permanent move for the Twitter updates, so adjust your glasses to make sure it fits. Everybody starts from scratch on the new spot. Ha.