Atlanta Hawks: Etan Thomas and Josh Powell add ‘physicality’

If Etan doesn't get much chance to mix it up with the likes of Dwight he'll prepare teammates for it. (AP Photo)

If Etan doesn't get much chance to mix it up with the likes of Dwight he'll prepare teammates for it. (AP Photo)

Even considering L.D.’s plan to use a deeper rotation, it’s possible Etan Thomas and Josh Powell won’t get regular minutes during the season. As it stands now Thomas is no higher than the No. 3 center behind Al and Zaza , and with Al expected to play minutes at power forward Powell might be fifth or six in the bigs pecking order.

Yet even if Atlanta’s two new big men don’t get much game time the word at Hawks training camp is they are already paying dividends with their physical play during practices. One observer said he wouldn’t be surprised if a fight breaks out soon because of the way Thomas and Powell mix it up.

Not that such a development would be unwelcome for the Hawks as they try to shed their finesse rep.

“All of Etan’s career he’s brought toughness,” Smoove said. “Josh has come in and he’s a physical player. We definitely need that. He played on a championship-caliber team with two rings. The physicality is there, and I like that. It definitely brings a ‘no back down’ attitude to the bigs.”

The Hawks are known as an athletic, skilled team, which is another way of saying they haven’t had any real bangers. They can run the floor, grab steals, block shots and throw down dunks but when it’s time to grind (i.e., the playoffs) they come up short.

Thomas and Powell are grinders.

“They have certainly brought some physicality to our practices, which I embrace,” L.D. said. “Both guys play that style. Coming here and being who they are, it makes our practices that much more competitive.”

Before injuries and age intervened, Thomas earned a rep for being tough and scrappy despite being short for a center. He’s still got a grown man’s build (those biceps in particular are impressive) and a disposition to take on all comers.

He said he’s noticed the Hawks are ready to make amends for last spring.

“One of the things I’ve constantly heard is the way last year ended left a bitter test in their mouths,” Thomas said. “Yeah, they won 53 games, and that’s a great season, but the way it ended left a bitter taste. Everybody is really hungry and determined not to let that happen again. Everybody came ready.”

When the Hawks signed Powell, Rick Sund cited his experience with the Lakers as a plus. Powell didn’t play much for the Lakers over the last two seasons but was praised for his practice habits and professionalism.

He has the insight that only comes from being part of a championship program–the other day during a grueling set of sprints at practice, Hawks assistant Lester Conner told Powell: “Bring those two championship rings in here so they can see what we are working for.”

What does it take to reach that level?

“The first thing is you have got to have a group of guys that is committed,” Powell said. “Commitment can be from all aspects: defensively, offensively, sacrifice. We obviously have the talent. We have a lot of guys with skills. We just have got to continue to work hard and create good habits.

“[You do that] with the effort. When you have that in practice it’s much easier to have in games. We have to have that mindset, that killer mentality.”

Thomas and Powell are helping to bring that out in practice. It’s already led to a few heated engagements.

“You’ve seen it a little bit,” Smoove said. “A little complaining. It is definitely getting a little physical out there. I like it. There ain’t nothing wrong with a little testosterone going, the energy is going and the body fluids are going.”

No call, no cry

L.D. stopped practice today when players started complaining about the calls by local officials brought in for scrimmages. The calls were pretty bad–lots of illegal screens went without a whistle, to the point that even J.J. lashed out–but L.D. didn’t want to hear it.

“Let the officials make the calls and play,” he told them. “That’s a big part of our growth. We are always complaining to officials about calls. We have got to get that [blank] out of our system. That starts here in practice.”

L.D. elaborated on his stance afterward:

“To me nothing positive comes out of that. They are not going to change the call, so just leave them alone and just play basketball. It’s a very emotional game, and I understand that. . . . [But] we don’t want to get into being a team that complains a lot and always disputing calls and that type thing. Stay away from that and just play ball.”

L.D. said he was called for one technical foul during his 10-year career–he even remembered the city (San Antonio) and the official (Wally Rooney). He said he never was called for a tech as an assistant coach.

Now that he’s moving over to the head coach’s seat, his interactions with officials will increase dramatically. How does he think he will handle them?

“I don’t know how am I going to be,” he said. “If if it ain’t going the way I like it, obviously I am going to voice my opinion and stick up for my players. Some [coaches], they are masters at how they work officials. Some guys they take the approach of leaving the officials alone. That is kind of the approach I want to take and want my players to take the same approach. I know it is an emotional game but they have to fight through that and kind of let me handle it.”

Injury report

The nagging injuries are starting to pile up as the two-a-days start to take their toll after a summer off. Today Josh Powell (groin) was added to an injured list that still includes Al (ankle), Pape Sy (back), Mo (knee), and Jamal (back).

“That’s normal training camp stuff,” L.D. said. “Their bodies are not quite used to this kind of work when they haven’t done anything for a while. Not saying they haven’t played any basketball, but the two-a-days and some of the starting and stopping [lead to soreness].”

– Conner is a lively presence during practices due to his talent for mess talking. He shouts out encouragement, praise, critiques and whatever else he thinks the Hawks need to hear.

The other day during sprints Conner walked near reporters and shouted at players: “Miami who? We are going to run them out of the gym!” Today during suicide sprints at the end of practice Conner yelled out: “Best-conditioned team in the league!”

Coincidentally, that last one is a Pat Riley rallying cry, too.

MC

74 comments Add your comment

Coscro

October 1st, 2010
6:15 pm

MC thanks for the continued feeding of the Hawk fan masses. It really is different to see so many players on this team who have an actual story. A far cry from the days when our bench was a bunch of 10 day free agent types.

Luke Cage

October 1st, 2010
6:31 pm

i_am_soulstar

October 1st, 2010
6:38 pm

Thanks MC, keep ‘em coming please and thank you.

Michael Warren

October 1st, 2010
6:39 pm

I totally agree. Etan is a powerful physical defender down low and can block shots and rebound well. He’s tough, athletic and is a good locker room guy. He’s also a serviceable scorer down low. JP also brings that energy and toughness. He’s a little bit better of an offensive player, who can shoot well from mid-range and has some touch from beyond the arc. Hopefully, he can shoot more 3 pointers with Atlanta. He’s strong, athletic, mobile and has good passing and ball-handling ability. He’s got championship experience and can bring some of that swagger to Atlanta. Good pick-ups.

Mark

October 1st, 2010
6:44 pm

I hope they are well conditioned, because from where I sit (near Miami), I’m not reading about a lot of guys with small injuries. I’m reading about a lot of guys going at each other hard, particularly D-Wade & LaBron. This will be a fun season.

northcyde

October 1st, 2010
6:49 pm

“That’s a big part of our growth. We are always complaining to officials about calls. We have got to get that [blank] out of our system. That starts here in practice.”

Best quote of the article. Quit crying and just play. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t “sell the foul”, like a Paul Pierce. LOL @ the irony of Smoove liking the physical play in practice.

So I guess it’s official. Josh Powell and Etan Thomas are practice All-Americans. I guess their true role on the team, is to toughen Smoove and Al up in between games.

Sautee

October 1st, 2010
6:59 pm

northcyde,

Yeah, if that’s ALL they do they will earn their salaries in full.

jason

October 1st, 2010
7:01 pm

MC can you decribe how the scrimmages went? I want to hear how this group of guys can help in the upcoming season

shaqtus thorns

October 1st, 2010
7:08 pm

MC,

How does JC2 look?

Clyde

October 1st, 2010
7:11 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

October 1st, 2010
7:14 pm

Al Horford, in particular, could definitely benefit from a more physical approach. Not that he is soft by any means, but at his size he needs to out-physical pretty much everyone he faces in order to be successful, and the better he is at doing that the more success he will have against the league’s premier centers.

The Truth

October 1st, 2010
7:16 pm

Don’t know about this, if Thomas and Powell outperform then they should be rewarded with PT instead of just practice praises.

dstdeelite

October 1st, 2010
7:38 pm

I’m all for adding more toughness. They let Howard bully them in the post all series long. He did whatever he wanted. I can’t fault our guys because Woody had the two foul rule. I like Doc Rivers’ approach. They had 2 or 3 big men with 6 fouls a piece. They made Howard earn every last one of his points. Rasheed was a master at getting him frustrated and agitated. I know Al’s not the bruiser type, but we need at least one grimy big man.

2 FOR JOHN DREW

October 1st, 2010
7:40 pm

Y’all starting to get me worked up !…. No blood, No foul !!!!!!!!!!

MsDee

October 1st, 2010
8:05 pm

We may need some backup players pretty soon if that injury report continues to increase.

Michael Cunningham

October 1st, 2010
8:25 pm

@jason: “MC can you decribe how the scrimmages went? I want to hear how this group of guys can help in the upcoming season”

they haven’t scrimmaged much and my access is limited so i’ve probably only seen about 30 possessions. you can look at yesterday’s post to see my limited observations.

Michael Cunningham

October 1st, 2010
8:27 pm

@ shaqtus thorns: “MC, How does JC2 look?”

word is he’s struggling defensively and with the workload. that’s no surprise since he’s checking guys like Joe and Jamal every day and he’s never had to practice this hard in his life. i will have some stuff from JC2 this weekend.

MsDee

October 1st, 2010
8:34 pm

MC,

Since you arent ‘personally connected’ to the Hawks, in which I kinda like, how do u truly view the Hawks based on the OFFense, the attitudes displayed already in practice, the early injuries..etc? Do we look like we will have a chance to GATHER IT ALL based on what is going on thus far? Am I making any since cause I am kinda confusing myself..LOL

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
8:35 pm

Northcyde ,

You stole the words right out of my mouth. I honestly think that’s the best thing I’ve heard from Larry Drew so far. Nothing against all of his other philosophies, mind you. Those guys (Josh Smith most especially) needed to hear that.

Najeh ,

I could be a smart-a$$ and say you get what you pay for (and I think there is some merit to that sentiment anyway), but the fact is, if we get this out of two veteran bench players, it will be the first time in years. I mean, anybody remember the effect (or lack thereof) had by Lorenzen Wright (Lord bless his soul)?

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
8:38 pm

I also agree that Horford should benefit from the added toughness of the practice dummies (sorry, having a sarcastic and cynical moment).

If Ben Wallace could outwork and out-tough guys at 6′8″ 245 lbs, then Horford can learn to do so (theoretically) as well. It’s all in the mind. No excuse with arguably the league’s most dynamic shot-blocker helping you out. Toughen up or stop calling yourself “The Boss.” Ya heard?

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
8:40 pm

Not surprised at JC2 struggling on defense. It will be an uphill climb for him, but what better practice opportunity than to have to guard Joe and Jamal all day? Two different styles of attack, both killers.

Astro Joe

October 1st, 2010
8:43 pm

If Drew can get the Hawks to stop complaining and maintain their focus even after a bad call (or no call), I will personally send Drew a check for $100 and double his monthly salary.

Michael Cunningham

October 1st, 2010
8:45 pm

@MsDee: “MC, Since you arent ‘personally connected’ to the Hawks, in which I kinda like, how do u truly view the Hawks based on the OFFense, the attitudes displayed already in practice, the early injuries..etc? Do we look like we will have a chance to GATHER IT ALL based on what is going on thus far? Am I making any since cause I am kinda confusing myself..LOL”

i’m trying to hold off on making any judgments this early. for one thing, i don’t get to see much right now because of the limited access so any conclusions i draw would be based on incomplete info. sure, i can go in there and ask guys questions and report what they tell me but the best way to evaluate is to see it with my own eyes. i won’t be able to do that until they start playing games.

but more than that, my feeling is this is the time of the year for optimism, so i have no problem with the Hawks believing all of their issues will be solved and everything will go according to plan. who’s to say that won’t happen? it all sounds great right now and it should. there will be time to for scrutiny later, haha.

doc

October 1st, 2010
8:45 pm

yes big ray, only al doesnt use performance enhancing drugs like big ben did. if he is he needs a new body designer.

Astro Joe

October 1st, 2010
8:47 pm

It’s hard to know the difference between this camp and prevous ones (since we have a different beat writer with maybe a different way of covering camps), but the attention to detail is very impressive and encouraging. Of course, I haven;t read the LA newspapers to see if Vinnie is doing/saying comparable stuff out in Clipperville. But there is certainly good reason for Hawks fans to be encouraged by the approach of our new head coach.

truthspitter

October 1st, 2010
8:55 pm

Soft team. They have not been practicing a week and already the injuries piling up. If you watch or ever played football you know how much it takes out of a team on the mental side of things when guys start dropping like flies. You start to question your teammates toughness and willingness to battle in that type of physical war and that’s what I see here. Soft team acting the way softies act.

Swatguy

October 1st, 2010
9:00 pm

I like what I’ve heard so far. I dig what Conner is bringing. In fact toughness seems to be our mantra and it is good. From the coaches and the “new Hawks”. I do not expect the invitees to make much of an impact but would like to here about them too. By the way, is Aminu and the other big (forgot his name) from summer league in camps? Al and Sy needs to get some of this physicality, get well you lazy millworms.

Astro Joe

October 1st, 2010
9:11 pm

Let’s see, if Al isn’t practicing and Etan and Powell are bringing the noise, and Smith claims he likes it… then that leaves either Collins and/or Zaza complaining about the new tough guys. Right?

dstdeelite

October 1st, 2010
9:16 pm

On what day is LD going to teach playing with heart?

cadagan

October 1st, 2010
9:18 pm

Deja vu. This feels weird because i’m certain i’ve read this before with just different names last year. I’m probably wrong, because it hasn’t already been mentioned, and i can’t find it in last octobers history from this blog. More physical practices to improve the starting bigs, because of better bench bigs to practice with, even if the practice bigs might not play much. joe,morris,collins.

I’m not trying to “dis” this blog. It’s more of trying to reason out for myself if i’m going crazy.
Either way, guess it doesn’t matter. I hope it works out.

Macaroni Tony

October 1st, 2010
9:19 pm

@Astro Joe

That sounds just about right to me. I just that they take that frustration out on other teams and not themselves.

Macaroni Tony

October 1st, 2010
9:22 pm

@cadagan

The Hawks did have a better year last year. They started with heart, but in the playoffs they didn’t finish with heart. I think that we’re heading in the right direction.

2 FOR JOHN DREW

October 1st, 2010
9:51 pm

MC, I think you’re doing a splendid job !!!!

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

October 1st, 2010
10:01 pm

Conner is the motivator! His pep talks can keep disillusioned old heads like Zaza focused on the goal of becoming a well-oiled, tough machine. Etan and Powell are apparently scrimmaging like they have a point to prove and if that further lights a fire under Collins and Zaza then its all for the better.

Fundamentals

October 1st, 2010
10:18 pm

Excellent on all accounts. LD taking care of business! Good work Hawks!

Mike is back

October 1st, 2010
10:23 pm

MC, keep bringing it man…I love it!!!

Astro Joe, finally a ray of hope for LD…you got to admit… dude got that thang. I don’t know what it is…but LD got a ton of it.

Oh ya…told you’ll early on…DON’T SLEEP ON CONNER.

LD…KEEP SWAGGING….GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Sore Back

October 1st, 2010
10:26 pm

No extension means a SORE BACK!! There’s more than 1 way to skin Hawk.

Dub C

October 1st, 2010
10:35 pm

Is it just me or does anyone else get the feeling that Thomas or Powell could challenge ZaZa for meaningful minutes this season?

O'Brien

October 1st, 2010
10:37 pm

word is he’s struggling defensively and with the workload.MC .

Ken S,

One example of why we should not talk about Jordan’s defense as yet. Regardless of how he looked in college or summer league, it will be a whole new ballgame once the regular season starts.

So Drew will not get into with officials much? I guess thats one thing he has in common with Woody after all. Woody would stand there with his arms folded, and just stare at the refs.

doc

October 1st, 2010
10:46 pm

a little physicality at the celts camp by some of their scrubs …

http://www.twitvid.com/NJD53

Rev in Tampa

October 1st, 2010
11:15 pm

Big Ray, I couldn’t help laughing my butt off when I read doc’s 8:45pm post with no concern for Capitals and AJ’s sarcasm at 8:43pm. Thanks again for the postings last night.

It seemed from MC’s article that Powell and Thomas are fighting with each other. How is that going to help the Hawks get tougher. I guess that’s why Smoove didn’t mind the extra physicality – he wasn’t in the middle of it. I say pair Etan up with Marvin.

There was discussion on the previous blog about Teague’s style of play as a point guard. Some said he was a slasher & scorer, while others compared his style to specific point guards in the league. From this discussion I wanted to know Van Exel’s style of play as a point guard. Was he a true point guard (focused on high assists) or a slasher/scorer, or an outside shooting threat? Knowing this might give us some insight into how Van Exel is going to mentor Teague. If someone with knowledge of Van Exel’s style would comment I would appreciate it.

dap01

October 1st, 2010
11:21 pm

Great job MC. The coaching staff has a clue (for a change).

doc

October 1st, 2010
11:37 pm

rev, only problem is he couldnt get in total character for me and leave off the caps ad run a few sentences together.

dude, i do well to correct most of my typos, much less worry about caps. typing is an adventure for me. whatever i can do to increase efficiency i do. until i get dragon and record it, the e e cummings style stays. i think najeh figured out i had i phone when i came in with caps one night and commented on it. too funny. ultimately took his advice to do away with auto correct, which is a nuisance. dictated everything i did in the office and hospital in the old days so had little need for this keyboard until the blog came along.

does etan play canniballing? seems he is always getting into it on the practice floor. instead of increasing time on the floor it cost him a suspension as he fought with hayward in washington.

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
11:40 pm

Stop the presses

October 1st, 2010
9:57 pm
Rare objectivity coming from ??Ray?

“Toughen up or stop calling yourself “The Boss.” Ya heard?”

It’s always been there. I’ve asked the guy to get tougher (especially after Kurt Thomas manhandled him in the playoffs). I think that’s reasonable. I haven’t asked him to grow 4 inches and gain 50 pounds, though….

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
11:43 pm

Rev in Tampa ,

Glad you liked it! I only pick on Doc about that because he doesn’t care and we’ve been cool like that for a few years. Besides, he knows how to get me back if he wants to, LOL.

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
11:43 pm

Doc ,

It beats the heck out of influencing your younger teammates by filling their cars with popcorn…

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
11:45 pm

Oh, and I realize that Ben Wallace was a bad comparison to Al Horford. Dude was definitely juicing. You don’t suddenly become a scrub again after beasting through the whole league, especially after no major injuries. Ha! Even his ‘fro ain’t the same anymore…

Big Ray

October 1st, 2010
11:47 pm

A

Spagetti in a cup

October 1st, 2010
9:44 pm
every body new the hawks would not go far in the playoff last year because they did not have a quality starting center. This year will be no different. See you back here at the end of the summer and well play this game again!!

Gee five new fake bloggers and still cant fill a page. You just go cunningham

Well, at least you call the man by his name now instead of “free booty” or something. I mean, fuh real..

Section 303

October 2nd, 2010
12:03 am

Guess who has been drinking? If you guessed me, you’re right! In East Lansing for MSU Wisconsin.

doc

October 2nd, 2010
12:10 am

besides ray, it is an easy target. well done my friend. i was enthralled by it and glad you took najeh’s bait. i was actually hoping you would but my inner voice said to not get my hopes up, maybe down the road. again good job. just funny to see who folks thought the culprit to be. as far as ts being the one, he has enough trouble parodying himself much less to get others on target with a sense of respect which is hard to do under these circumstances. he is plenty smart enough to do it and wish he could have had such a sense of humor to do it. one cant be angry at the world and be able to pull that off.

popcorn hasnt been right since. dont tell manny t that.