Since camp opened on Sept. 28 L.D. has laid out some specific defensive goals he wants from the Hawks.:
Get back in transition and then stop the ball and protect the basket.
Defend the pick-and-roll by showing hard with the help.
Play with energy.
More than two weeks later, what he’s gotten is players showing “no energy as far as stopping the ball and protecting the basket” in transition, “kind of swiping at the ball from the help position” on pick-and-rolls and not boxing out.
Is L.D. disappointed his preaching hasn’t yet led to results?
“No,” he said. “It has to become habit. Doing it the old way, we could possibly finish somewhere in the middle of the pack defensively. But I am looking beyond that. I think we should be one of the top 10 teams in the league defensively if we make the total commitment of taking care of our responsibilities. That is something I am teaching every day and I am not going to let up.”
So L.D. broke down all those issues during a video session today and said the Hawks then had “one of the better practices with the energy and the responsibilities on the coverages.” It also helped that he had more bodies.
Jamal, Twin, Mo, and Marvin all returned to practice today. Teague (ankle) is still out and may not play Saturday vs. the Hornets in Johnson City, Tenn.
The injuries have nothing to do with effort, of course, but they’ve affected everything else. It’s been tough to get a read on the Hawks because, outside of parts of the first half of the exhibition opener, they’ve had a patchwork group on the court
That’s contributed to the ragged play. It’s also scuttled many of L.D.’s plans like playing Teague with the starters, Al at power forward, and keeping Jordan Crawford at two guard while not playing him crazy minutes.
“That part of it is tough,” L.D. said. “But that’s just the way it is. You have to deal with it. When they [the injured players] get back we’ll spend more teaching them to try to get them caught up.”
There will still be issues when the full group is intact. In addition to facing the tough task of molding this group into the kind of gritty defensive team they’ve never been, L.D. is hamstrung by personnel.
Bibby’s issues with lateral quickness were on full display against Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. L.D. didn’t even bother trying him on John Wall.
Sure those are some young, fast guys but the problem for the Hawks is the league has a lot of those. If they can’t somehow find a way to contain ballhandlers on the perimeter it’s hard to see how they can make the defensive leap L.D. is seeking.
That’s why the Hawks need Teague to rise up. Otherwise, L.D.’s other options include letting J.J. spend significant time guarding point guards (which J.J. doesn’t like because he wears down), play Bibby only in lineups that also include Marvin, Josh and Al, or hope Jamal can do better.
The injuries have prevented L.D. from sorting those things out.
“I understand we don’t have guys, but I still want the mindset to be every single night we are going to make it tough for people to score against us,” he said. “I’m looking at transition ‘D,’ I’m looking at how we defend the pick-and-roll, and are we in position when the ball goes up on the glass to rebound. Once we get that part consistent, it becomes habit-forming. I think we have enough to score baskets.”
If not for Teague’s injury, he would have gotten a lot of those minutes JC2 has been playing at point guard.
“It’s frustrating,” Teague said. “I played well in the one game, though we didn’t win. And then I got hurt in practice the next day. But it happens. I’m just glad it’s not worse.”
By the way, L.D. said Jordan Crawford is not a realistic option at point guard, so he’s not in competition with Teague to either back up Bibby or supplant him in the starting lineup.
“I’ve made no bones about it as far as how I see Jeff,” L.D. said. “My expectations for him was to come in and push Mike for the starting role. Jeff has had a good camp and then unfortunately he had the ankle injury.
“I look at Jordan as who he is. He is not a point. He has the ability to play some point but he doesn’t have those natural point-guard instincts. He’s a good passer. That being said, I just view him more as a two than a one.”
Teague ran on the treadmill for 19 minutes and said he felt fine but he’s being cautious.
“Wally [Blase]told me to take my time and don’t rush it,” he said. “An ankle is nothing to mess with. I don’t want to tweak it and make it worse.”
Jamal said his back is at 75 percent.
“It felt pretty good,” he said. “It’s better and better. The worst is behind me.”
Collins said he might play Saturday.
“I hope so,” he said. “It’s a little sore, which is to be expected on the first day back from a sprain.”
Mo and Marvin should be ready to play Saturday.
Pape Sy (back) is still on the shelf. L.D. said he had no update on his status.