Atlanta Hawks: Camp report

Larry Drew has Hawks picking up the pace. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

Larry Drew has Hawks picking up the pace. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

The Hawks scrimmaged live for the first time today and and us media types got to watch. It was different from when I watched L.D. and his staff run the motion offense against air last month, and I came away with three thoughts:

1. To keep this up, the Hawks are going to have to be in tremendous shape and L.D. is going to have to go deep into his bench.

2. The first time you see the Hawks run the offense it’s going to be a shock to your system because it’s such a radical departure from their norm.

3. Because of No. 2, it’s going to take some time for it to look the way L.D. wants.

“I think probably we will have it boiled down and going pretty good by the third preseason game,” J.J. said (that would be Oct. 12 at Washington. “Everyone is pretty much picking it up quickly but when game time comes it will be a little bit different.”

For the Hawks, learning the offense is just the first challenge and probably the easiest–these are pros, after all, and some of this stuff already was in the playbook. More difficult than digesting Xs and Os could be the mental adjustment to playing such a different style.

You could see this on the very first possession of the controlled scrimmage today. J.J. got the ball on the right wing and waited for someone to flash to his side. No one did, so he held the ball until jacking up a fadeaway jumper at the shot-clock buzzer. Another possession also ended in Iso-Joe.

It was as if the Hawks are so conditioned to throwing it to Joe and watching him work they don’t know any other way. Actually, it wasn’t “as if” that’s what happened–one player said that’s exactly what happened. Old habits are hard to break, I guess.

On another play, Smoove saw the backdoor open and tried to feed Joe with a bounce pass. But Joe reversed direction and Smoove’s pass sailed out of bounds. The offense is designed to get shots going to the basket or create open catch-and-shoot 15-footers but Atlanta’s guards are accustomed to working off the dribble far out on the perimeter.

There were some good things, too. Two or three times Marvin confidently came off hand-off screens and made jumpers. Zaza twice got to the basket on backdoor cuts and drew fouls. Smoove caught a backdoor oop from Teague.

“We saw a lot of good things out out of it but we got a little helter-skelter at times,” J.J. said. “But if you run it right, you definitely can get open shots out of it.”

L.D. plans to have all of the plays installed by the time camp wraps up Saturday.

“They kind of know the shell of it, we are just adding different options of it,” he said. “Some of this is going to be a learning experience, especially when they go against a defense. The tendency is to speed up and get out of control. But for the most part they executed pretty much the plays we’ve been working on these first five practices.”

And they were running

The morning practice sessions so far have all lasted at least 135 minutes and the Hawks have run, run and run some more. Near the end of today’s practice, they ran a series of “suicide” sprints” that increased in length each time through. For the final sprint, players ran the length of the court eight times.

Only, that wasn’t really the end. L.D. lined up each group and asked for one final suicide. If they did it in less than nine seconds, the running was over.

“I don’t think there will be a better-conditioned team out there,” Jamal said.

L.D. is asking a lot but so far he said he’s getting it.

“The type of juice they still have left in the tank tells tells me they are in pretty good shape,” he said. “I am pretty happy about that.”

It’s one thing to push guys like this during training camp but I’m not sure how that plays during the season. Already there has been a bit of grumbling among players but nothing too serious. That inevitably would change if it went on like this during the season, when long, frequent, intense practices can take their toll.

Is this something L.D. is doing only for training camp only or will it carry over into the season?

“A little bit of both,” he said. “Any time you come into training camp, for any new head coach, I think he has to set the tone. One, how his practices are going to be. Also, with it being training camp, you do want to get yourself established and get the team established with the mindset that you want going into the regular season.

“I told our guys from Day One, everything we do, we want to do with an aggression. We want to be the hunter, not the ‘huntee.’ Our mentality offensively and defensively is to attack. It all starts in training camp. We have to do it at the pace and the speed and [with] the type of energy we have put into it.”

‘Nine, 10 deep’

The other part of that equation is the Hawks will need a rotation deeper than eight to play this style. Jamal, Zaza, Mo and Teague are mainstays, and L.D. will probably need even more numbers.

“I am very confident with us being a team that can go nine, 10 deep,” he said. “We have some guys, you look at their minutes last season they didn’t play as many minutes as they would have liked. I am going to give those guys every opportunity to show me what they can do and play minutes where they can get into a rhythm.”

Getting familiar

L.D. said he will mix and match lineups during practice so all of his bench players can get comfortable playing with the starters. Today he had Teague running with Josh, Joe, Marvin and Zaza (Al sat out the second straight day with a left ankle injury he says isn’t serious).

“Last year he didn’t practice a lot with those guys on the same team,” Drew said. “I want him to get familiar and comfortable with those guys. That all starts in practice. You build that confidence and camaraderie in practice and it carries over into the games.”

Injury report

Mo (knee) and Pape (back) also sat out today. Mo hasn’t been cleared for contact work and Pape is resting with the hope that a break will alleviate the tightness.

Jamal’s back tightened up during practice but he finished.

MC

177 comments Add your comment

jdewayneatl

September 30th, 2010
4:56 pm

just SHOOT me

September 30th, 2010
4:57 pm

Dang not first!

i_am_soulstar

September 30th, 2010
4:58 pm

jay

September 30th, 2010
4:58 pm

Run Hawks Run!

i_am_soulstar

September 30th, 2010
4:59 pm

Run them into the ground LD, they’re always talking about wanting to run more. LD’s just gift-wrapping it for them.

jdewayneatl

September 30th, 2010
5:01 pm

More than anything, this definitely builds my confidence for the season to come and I think the team as a whole will be much more confident offensively.

jason

September 30th, 2010
5:02 pm

whats up with 2 comments

Swingman912

September 30th, 2010
5:14 pm

a team that can run for 4 qtrs is tough to beat….this is a plus…it’ll take some getting used to for the players. preseason will help as well….this can be a well oiled machine….keep it up Hawks, and i like the collars on the Jerseys this year……chuuuuuuuch

doc

September 30th, 2010
5:14 pm

great work MC, awesome insights. just what the discerning fan wants and with passion, too.

Coscro

September 30th, 2010
5:14 pm

This really outlines why we should be glad Shaq didn’t come in. He’d be complaining by now.

HoosierHawk

September 30th, 2010
5:17 pm

@ MC any impressions of jordan crawford?

Senator Blutarski

September 30th, 2010
5:19 pm

The conditioning plus playing a deeper bench should help. The new offense sounds promising.

MannyT

September 30th, 2010
5:19 pm

@MC

If LD needs a deeper bench to play that style, why didn’t he get a legit SF sized backup on the roster? No disrespect to the bench, but Joe usually backs up Marvin. If this is high energy team that requires more depth, who is going to guard the opposing SFs when Marvin is on the bench.

Sounds like there won’t be a need to go high tech with the playbook, like they are doing in DC.
http://www.bulletsforever.com/2010/9/29/1719240/washington-wizards-upgrade-from-the-i-touch-to-i-pad

Rod from College Park

September 30th, 2010
5:20 pm

“There were some good things, too. Two or three times Marvin confidently came off hand-off screens and made jumpers. Zaza twice got to the basket on backdoor cuts and drew fouls. Smoove caught a backdoor oop from Teague.”

All of you Marvin supporters were right. This offense is just what he needed. He will make the allstar team this year.(LOL)

Rod from College Park

September 30th, 2010
5:23 pm

“If LD needs a deeper bench to play that style, why didn’t he get a legit SF sized backup on the roster? No disrespect to the bench, but Joe usually backs up Marvin. If this is high energy team that requires more depth, who is going to guard the opposing SFs when Marvin is on the bench.”

The great Pape Sy. (LOL)

PD

September 30th, 2010
5:25 pm

Awesome stuff. MC how does Teague and Jordan Crawford look out there

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:25 pm

@doc: “great work MC, awesome insights. just what the discerning fan wants and with passion, too.”

ha . . . i have no passion. i am a machine like Drago.

i just have better access now because, you know, the Hawks are here.

The Truth

September 30th, 2010
5:26 pm

“J.J. got the ball on the right wing and waited for someone to flash to his side. No one did, so he held the ball until jacking up a fadeaway jumper at the shot-clock buzzer. Another possession also ended in Iso-Joe.”

So does that mean everytime we see an Iso-Joe play, it is really a busted play?

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:26 pm

@ HoosierHawk: “@ MC any impressions of jordan crawford?”

he didn’t do much during this scrimmage, but it was only about 15-20 possessions total. people who’ve watched all of the practices say he’s been impressive. i will get to him eventually.

SR

September 30th, 2010
5:27 pm

Oh boy, the Hawks are back in the news with a Camp Report, just what I’ve been waiting for!!! ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

The ASG loser group that sat back while the Heat, the Celtics and virtually everybody else got better while this pathetic bunch did nothing. Wait, let me correct myself, I forgot they hired a boot licking toady (cheap) Assistant Coach and made him top dog and oh yeah, they have a slimmed down Jason Collins. And Marvin Williams. Yeah, that ought to put them over the top. They are delusional.

Big Daddy

September 30th, 2010
5:28 pm

This sounds promising. It sounds like he is settting up a very aggressive offense and that it gets everyone involved and everyone gets their shots. I did not hear much of what is being done in the way of defense. We all know that no team has ever been able to go far without a good solid defense. I hope he is/will be putting together a strong solid one and pushing the guys just as hard.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:28 pm

@MannyT: “@MC If LD needs a deeper bench to play that style, why didn’t he get a legit SF sized backup on the roster? No disrespect to the bench, but Joe usually backs up Marvin. If this is high energy team that requires more depth, who is going to guard the opposing SFs when Marvin is on the bench.”

basically i think it means he can’t have J.J. and Marvin on the bench at the same time unless he uses Mo as a SF. it should be noted that LD is not in charge of player acquisitions, that would be Rick Sund’s territory. but when i’ve asked LD about the backup SF thing he doesn’t seem too concerned.

dstdeelite

September 30th, 2010
5:30 pm

MC, How do you feel this rigorous type offense will affect them on the defensive end? With Boston, Miami, and Orlando stressing defense this season, they’ve got to get better defensively. A lot of their losses was from the inability to get a stop when they needed one.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:34 pm

@ Big Daddy: “I did not hear much of what is being done in the way of defense. We all know that no team has ever been able to go far without a good solid defense. I hope he is/will be putting together a strong solid one and pushing the guys just as hard.”

the drills over the first couple days focused on defense. i just didn’t get to see them so i can’t tell you what they looked like. defense is definitely a focus.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:36 pm

@dstdeelite: “MC, How do you feel this rigorous type offense will affect them on the defensive end? With Boston, Miami, and Orlando stressing defense this season, they’ve got to get better defensively. A lot of their losses was from the inability to get a stop when they needed one.”

it’s going to be tough for them to do both, but it’s hard to be a contender, right? L.D. will stress defense. they are just spending a lot of time on offense because he’s installing new stuff.

Reggie

September 30th, 2010
5:37 pm

MC

How has Jeff Teague looked so far?

newkid

September 30th, 2010
5:37 pm

Sounds somewhat like the Falcons’ ‘ground, pound, and wear them down, take advantage in the later rounds’ strategy. Some of those cats will vocally push back if this approach doesn’t demonstrate substantial results fairly immediately; a few (I think Kobe recently referred to these kind of cats as ‘wimps’) will likely ask out. Hope there’s a multi-year commitment to this sort of approach, for if this is just a ‘flava-of-the-day’ strategy, then a players revolt will ensue and LD’s time as Hawks head coach would have been only sufficient for a cup of coffee.

Roger

September 30th, 2010
5:41 pm

@dstdeelite,

You make a great point with regards to the Hawks defense. It is crucial for any true contender to have a solid defense, and I too hope that the Hawks put a strong emphasis on lock-down defensive this season. However, on a positive note, one thing to keep in mind is that the opposing team have to expend an awful lot of energy on the defensive end trying to guard this up-tempo motion system, as opposed to the rather small amount of energy (aside from that of the on-ball defender) required to guard the isolation-based system last season. This should actually help the Hawks, not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as well, consider their opponents should have less gas in the tank as the game wears on. However, this assumes the Hawks will be well-conditioned if they are to take advantage of such scenarios. If not, this could potentially hurt them as much as their opponents on the other end of the floor.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
5:52 pm

@ Reggie: “MC How has Jeff Teague looked so far?”

i haven’t seen a lot of practice action due to access restrictions. his name didn’t come up when i asked a few people today who has looked good,

O'Brien

September 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

I am going to give those guys every opportunity to show me what they can do and play minutes where they can get into a rhythm.” Larry Drew .

The bench players have no excuse this time around. But I agree with MannyT. They should have gotten a backup SF because we will need JJ well rested in the fourth quarter.

And very move LD has made (and everything he has said) seems to be calculated, in a good way. He has it all planned out on paper, so it will be an interesting ride during the season to see how it all plays out.

truthspitter

September 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

This is not good IMO. If you look at the first 2 months of the regular season the Hawks should go 14-4 with no problems and they will need to get off to a good start to even compete for home court with the improved East, but now you put this new offense in that is only gonna cause more turnovers then you cut that to like 10-6 and things aren’t looking good for ever getting home court advantage. Finally, it’s very disappointing to hear guys complaining about working hard and doing there jobs, I read from day 1 that Zaza and Marvin were grumbling. It does not surprise me one bit that two guys that really don’t contribute on the regular are two of the biggest female dogs on the team. Not looking good if you are objective and care for the truth over hype.

dstdeelite

September 30th, 2010
6:27 pm

MC-Thanks for the prompt response. Do you know if they’re going to have a Training Camp segment on NBATV like they had last year?

Rev in Tampa

September 30th, 2010
6:29 pm

@Rod from College Park – Co-sign your 5:20 comment, but without the sarcasm.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
6:40 pm

@dstdeelite: “MC-Thanks for the prompt response. Do you know if they’re going to have a Training Camp segment on NBATV like they had last year?”

there was an NBATV reporter there yesterday but she didn’t have a camera. i haven’t heard anything about a segment.

Rev in Tampa

September 30th, 2010
6:48 pm

@Rod from College Park@Rod from College Park – Also co-sign your 5:23 comment, but without the sarcasm.

Will Sev

September 30th, 2010
7:00 pm

@truthspitter

Even if the Hawks don”t get off to a good start like they have the past few seasons, I’m not going to write this team off. I’m not sure what you’re expecting. When a team needs to make some changes(like a new offensive system), it’s going to take some sacrificing….even if it means they lose a couple of games to less talented teams because they are still learning a new system. As long as it benefits the team in the long run, I won’t care for what happened at the begging of the season.
I would rather lose some games in the early part of the season than stick with the same routine we’ve had with Mike Woodson and get off to a good start only to falter later during the season. For once(I’m assuming) the Hawks improve as the season progresses and not the other way around.

Where did you read or hear that Zaza and Marvin were the ones complaining about the hard work they’ve had to put in during training camp?

http://www.thehighlightfactory.net

ryan

September 30th, 2010
7:08 pm

LeBron is already a distraction with his commits so if there some hope for the Hawks to beat the Heat is the huge egos .

Will Sev

September 30th, 2010
7:10 pm

@MC

Hey Mr. Cunningham, I’ve been really enjoying the reports and blogs recently. :) Anyway, have any of the three invitees shown anything so far during training camp? Any of them showing flashes that they can be part of the team?

cp

September 30th, 2010
7:14 pm

I just hope the guys buy into the system. I was never a fan of Woodrow but he cant be used as the excuse anymore. I really didn’t like reading about guys grumbling already. The way these cats quit in the playoffs last year they should be doing everything the coach asks with no complaints.

Samuel

September 30th, 2010
7:14 pm

When I first heard of LD’s “new and improved offense” two things came to mind. Will these guys be able to sustain that type of running for 82 games and hopefully the playoffs. After all, LD isn’t the first coach to ever try the motion offense in the NBA. What happened to all the others who tried it. It’s easy to say the right things but getting Millionaires with guaranteed contracts to change is easier said than done. The players are already complaining. Not good.

How long will it take these guys to adjust and learn this new system. It’s one thing to have one or two new players come in and learn a new system but the whole team? The NBA doesn’t really give you that much time before you start playing. It’s not like Baseball and Football with spring training and mini-camps. You have less than two weeks before you start playing games then it’s gets tougher and tougher to teach something new. What happens if we get on a losing streak on a long tiring road trip. Will the players complain and rebel even more?

kwood

September 30th, 2010
7:17 pm

MC, sounds like what we’ve been waiting for! If all goes well during the regular season, then this type of offensive can be very effective in the playoffs. Hopefully they will really have the offensive really down by that time.

I see what everyone is saying about a backup to Marvin, but I’m not to worried because 3 guard offensives are all to common in basketball today. Besides if all goes well, when Mo comes in he won’t be guarding the starting SF, but the backup.

Grandad

September 30th, 2010
7:24 pm

MannyT:
“Sounds like there won’t be a need to go high tech with the playbook, like they are doing in DC”
In learning “motion” offense it’s not always the play itself
but the read. The sets will be varied but the screens & cuts
will will be fairly simple.
It’s the reads that take (basketball IQ) and timing.
**Plus Reversing The Ball
[changing sides of the floor with the ball]
Takes Commitment,Even Though It Seems Like Such A Simple Thing**!

truthspitter -&- others
Why do people think there will be a spate of turnovers
due to the offense. If LD stresses fundamentals then TO’s
should not be a problem.

RfCP -&- others
*Small forward – yawl are still thinking by the numbers.
LD has said “Josh will play some [3]“.
Plus I am averse to RfCP’s sarcasm, as I believe ‘Paps’
will contribute as a [3].

The Truth

September 30th, 2010
7:40 pm

MC: this statement

“3. Because of No. 2, it’s going to take some time for it to look the way L.D. wants.”

What does this mean? Are you asserting that JJ will be the hardest to transition based on observation? What did you see that caused this observation?

Also this statement:

“Already there has been a bit of grumbling among players but nothing too serious.”

Can you clarify so we don’t get the wrong impression? Did you actually see some confrontation or is this what you heard?

Samuel

September 30th, 2010
7:50 pm

Truth,
More than likely, “grumbling” was putting it mildly. I’m sure quite a few “F Bombs” were being hurled LD’s way today. We’ll see if he can withstand the onslaught from the prima donnas as the season goes on.

Astro Joe

September 30th, 2010
8:03 pm

Sounds encouraging. But he will need to drill some of the old plays out of their system. It will be interesting to see how things play out with the differences between coaches… kind of a chicken vs. egg theory. Did some guys not get consistent time because of the coach or because of the player? Did they run a simplistic offense because of the lack of creativity of the coach or because of the lack of player focus/intelligence/conditioning? Sometimes asking someone to answer a math equation like 4 times 3 is a lot easier than asking for the square root of 144.

truthspitter

September 30th, 2010
8:16 pm

Will Sev

September 30th, 2010
7:00 pm

@truthspitter

Even if the Hawks don”t get off to a good start like they have the past few seasons, I’m not going to write this team off. I’m not sure what you’re expecting. When a team needs to make some changes(like a new offensive system), it’s going to take some sacrificing….even if it means they lose a couple of games to less talented teams because they are still learning a new system. As long as it benefits the team in the long run, I won’t care for what happened at the begging of the season.
I would rather lose some games in the early part of the season than stick with the same routine we’ve had with Mike Woodson and get off to a good start only to falter later during the season. For once(I’m assuming) the Hawks improve as the season progresses and not the other way around.

Where did you read or hear that Zaza and Marvin were the ones complaining about the hard work they’ve had to put in during training camp?

Will: I tried to post the links yesterday but Cunningham did not want me to expose the truth about Marvin and Zaza and there female dog ways toward hard work. I follow some guy who goes by the name Hawks PR Guy on twitter and he basically said it without saying it. Marvin asked him if he wanted to trade places and Zaza asked LD were they finished yet. I understand that some may take these type of things lightly but I don’t. You should never even insinuate that you don’t want to work hard or work anymore and that’s what both of them spoke. Things like that make a big difference in the mindset of teams coupled with the fact that they are two guys who really don’t put out on a consistent basis that just pisses me off.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
8:34 pm

@ Will Sev: “Hey Mr. Cunningham, I’ve been really enjoying the reports and blogs recently. :) Anyway, have any of the three invitees shown anything so far during training camp? Any of them showing flashes that they can be part of the team?”

i haven’t seen much practice action but it doesn’t look like there is a roster spot open so i doubt they will stick around.

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
8:37 pm

@ The Truth: “MC: this statement “3. Because of No. 2, it’s going to take some time for it to look the way L.D. wants.”

What does this mean? Are you asserting that JJ will be the hardest to transition based on observation? What did you see that caused this observation?”

on the very first possession today they reverted to Iso-Joe. he got the ball and suddenly everyone stopped moving. it wasn’t even that he was unwilling to pass it, it’s that no one moved to his side. it was uncanny. i just think it’s going to take time for them to get out of the iso habits, not because they don’t want to but because it’s what is comfortable for them and they did win a lot of games that way.

Fundamentals

September 30th, 2010
8:41 pm

MC – how do the Hawks feel about the snub Chris Webber and other analysts have been giving us lately. No playoffs, no chance, no good players? Shouldn’t that salt their wounds from last season and bring them out with more fire and determination? I personally thought it was short sighted and media hyped. We should have something to prove all season.

Thanks for the good coverage. Now that camp’s moving we’ll have alot more to talk about.

Any chance of a video or photo of Collins and Etan working down low? The previous article discussed the bigs wanting a role at C w/ Al at PF? Will it happen? How often? Enought to keep them inspired?

Michael Cunningham

September 30th, 2010
8:43 pm

@truthspitter: “Will: I tried to post the links yesterday but Cunningham did not want me to expose the truth about Marvin and Zaza and there female dog ways toward hard work. I follow some guy who goes by the name Hawks PR Guy on twitter and he basically said it without saying it. Marvin asked him if he wanted to trade places and Zaza asked LD were they finished yet. I understand that some may take these type of things lightly but I don’t. You should never even insinuate that you don’t want to work hard or work anymore and that’s what both of them spoke. Things like that make a big difference in the mindset of teams coupled with the fact that they are two guys who really don’t put out on a consistent basis that just pisses me off.”

[sigh] you really need to chill. as i explained to you in the comments yesterday, the blog monster automatically eats comments with more than one link. i actually went in and approved the comment manually when i saw it. so not only did i not block the comment, i made an effort for it to see the light of day. but, yeah, i don’t want you to “expose” the truth about something you didn’t even see.

i was there, and Marvin and Zaza were clearly joking. they both went hard like everyone else. Zaza, in fact, was keeping pace with some of the smaller players during sprints and the assistants shouted him out for it. but since those observations don’t fit your narrative, i am sure you will dismiss them.