You might have noticed a lot of the talk from Hawks camp has been about offense. Two reasons for that, both having to do with circumstance.
For one, my access to practices has been limited. When I’ve been let in to watch the sessions the Hawks usually have been working on offense. So it follows that most of my dispatches have been about offense.
More than that, L.D. has spent the majority of practice time installing his complicated offensive system. But don’t t fret: L.D. knows tough defense is what makes true contenders. When the Hawks huddled up at the end of practice Thursday, he delivered this message to the team:
“Defense is what is going to carry us through the season. I’m not concerned about what we do offensively. The focus of the preseason is going to be defense. We are going to look at numbers like [defensive] field-goal percentage and the whole defensive realm. That is what is going to take us to another level. We have the athleticism, size, speed, and quickness to be a top-echelon defensive team.”
While teaching the offense has been a priority, L.D. said the Hawks have had defensive periods of at least one hour at the start of every practice. That work includes individual drills and also work on situations.
“That’s important because the tendency for a lot of players when they are drilling, they will do the drill but as soon as put them in game-like situations they have a tendency to forget or they are not as sharp,” he said in an interview. “Because now you are changing ends and it is forcing them to think about other things as well, and the tendency is to not be as sharp. We are stopping them and pointing the things out and watching a lot of tape to show them the mistakes.”
That’s the kind of work that should improve Atlanta’s defensive awareness, especially in transition. If L.D. can get the Hawks to truly buy into a culture of maximum defensive effort and toughness while also making them less predictable on offense, the Hawks might have a chance to be a better team even with essentially the same personnel.
Hey, it’s October. Nothing has gone wrong yet. This is the time for optimism, right?
L.D. said he would track defensive statistics throughout the season and give the players constant reports. The “hustle board” will include deflections and charging fouls drawn–the Hawks were last in the league in the latter category last season.
“My challenge to them is going to be defensively every night,” L.D. said. “We already have some numbers in mind where we want to be compared to last year. That is going to me a primary focus every night we step on the floor. [The 'hustle' numbers] gives us a gauge whether we are being active and making defensive plays. Because I think that is going to be the staple of who we are going to be.”
No GM love
You have to look pretty deep into the NBA.com’s annual survey of general managers to find the Hawks represented. The team didn’t get any votes to win the Southeast Division (not that it should) and none of its players earned superlatives (those are some tough lists to crack).
J.J. received at least one vote for “most underrated player acquisition” but, confusingly, he’s the only guy on the list who didn’t change teams. And GMs were not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel so, no, that wasn’t Rick Sund’s vote.
Al vs. Noah
Al’s friend and former Gators teammate Joakim Noah agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension with Chicago that also includes bonuses.
Noah’s deal gives some sense of what Al might expect for an extension with the Hawks. Statistically Noah and Horford are comparable players, though Al is younger by more than a year and has proven more durable. The Bulls are more flush with cash than the Hawks but so goes the price of keeping young talent.
Horford said he talked to Noah before his extension was official and was happy to see him get his deal. Does Al think he will be next in line?
“We’ll see,” he said.
Nov. 1 is the deadline.
L.D. has been around the league for a long time as a player and assistant coach but this will be a new experience for him at Philips tonight. It’s just an exhibition, but it’s his first time in the head coach’s chair.
Does he have any feelings on that?
“I just want to see everything that we have put in,” he said. “I am anxious to see how we can do it against an opponent. I know I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. But somebody asked me this question last night about having butterflies. I just told them, ‘I think I am too old to have butterflies.’
“I am more anxious and excited than anything. If I came in with a group of new guys for the first time, maybe there would be more anxiety. But we have been together for a while.”
This is my seventh season covering the league, but I am curious to see what the Hawks are about, too.
It’s all new for JC2, who is hyped to play his first NBA game, exhibition or not.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there and play with the team on the real floor and just have a good time,” he said.
Crawford said a couple friends wold be there tonight to watch but that his family will wait for the Hawks to play in his native Detroit Monday.
Out of sight, sound
No TV or Radio for the game tonight, but you can follow my updates on Twitter.