Archive for December, 2011

Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 10

The Hawks ranked 16th among NBA teams in defensive efficiency last season.

Some of their defensive category ranks, according to Hoopdata: 12th in opposing true-shooting percentage (53.7); fourth in opposing 3-point percentage (33.8); 22nd in opposing assist rate (20.98); 29th in opposing turnover rate (12.29), 11th in defensive rebounding rate (74.57); 24th in block rate (12.3); third in opposing free-throw rate (27.4), meaning they sent opponents to the line at the third-lowest rate in the league; and 29th in defensive plays rate (blocks, steals and charges).

More than a few of those numbers could be interpreted as a lack of aggressive defense by the Hawks. I’m looking at the opposing turnover rate, the block rate (and, by extension, the defensive plays rate) and the opposing assist rate.

Larry Drew said he’s changing the defensive approach.

“We are doing some things differently this year,” Drew said. “One, you have to be in shape. Two, you have to play with energy. We are …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 9

So today I was telling Larry Drew it looks like the team’s decision on which of the young point guards to keep is an important one. Because that player is likely will actually have to take on a significant role on a team looking to the playoffs until Kirk Hinrich returns.

I guess my usual reporter’s stoicism was betrayed by my skeptical expression.

“I’ve got my hands full,” Drew said. “Is that why you are giving me that look?”

Yeah, he got me. The candidates are a second-round pick who hardly played last season, a rookie free agent and a D-League star. It could be that one of them is a player but it’s not the best situation for a good team looking at a break-neck schedule to start the season.

But unless the Hawks eventually decide to add a veteran, this is where they stand. I can tell you Pape Sy, Brad Wanamaker and Donald Sloan all have looked strong at times during training camp, but what happens when the Hawks actually need them to help win real games?

We may soon find …

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Atlanta Hawks: Michael Gearon Jr. Q-and-A

Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. sat down Friday for a long interview with myself and fellow AJC scribe Tim Tucker. Here are some excerpts from the wide-ranging discussion, edited for clarity and flow. It includes my interrogatives and/or explanations of what Gearon was talking about:

Gearon started out by explaining his reasoning on bringing back most of the same players for what he says is a “make or break” year for the Hawks.

I look at us, and you measure a team on its results: How are we doing vs. the league? There are three teams the last three years that have advanced past the first round. The Lakers—who everybody loves the Lakers—the Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. It’s not the Dallas Mavericks, it’s not the Miami Heat, it’s not the New York Knicks, it’s not the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s not the Orlando Magic. It’s just those three. Have we been able to win a championship? No. But our goal is to be as competitive and entertaining as possible and it’s unrealistic …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 8 (Public Scrimmage)

  • The Hawks had a public scrimmage. They let me in, too. I don’t want to make too much of a camp scrimmage but I was so happy to see competitive professional basketball again I have to make some observations even if they end up meaning nothing.
  • Nice crowd at Philips–the Hawks put it at 2,500. The fans were into it. “That felt great to see that,” Josh Smith said. “The fans are really anticipating this season and looks like they are really excited to see something special we are putting together.”
  • The fans saw a scrimmage that was cleaner than any I’ve seen at camp. That doesn’t mean it was very good. “Overall, it was OK,” Larry Drew said. “But we still have a ways to go.”
  • Joe Johnson (13 points, three rebounds, seven assists, very very unofficially) looked like he could go out and play 40 good minutes right now. He scored effortlessly, made his 3-pointers, defended with vigor and generally showed the young guards in camp what an All-Star talent in top form looks like. “I …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 7

It appears the Hawks are in no hurry to add another veteran guard. And if Kirk Hinrich continues his quick recovery from shoulder surgery, Larry Drew said there’s a chance they may try to get by with that they have until he returns to the lineup.

“It sounds like he is healing pretty good,” Drew said today. “From my understanding, he is ahead of schedule, and that is a good thing. He wants to hurry up and get back but we have got to let this thing take its course. It’s something you can’t rush. Those type injuries they could really set you back.”

Hinrich had the procedure in early November and the Hawks said he would be out 3-4 months. He’s been shooting baskets but still doesn’t have full range of motion and hasn’t been cleared to run.

Drew said the Hawks inquired about free agent point guard Carlos Arroyo but were told he’s playing elsewhere. He said there have been internal discussions about Gilbert Arenas and other free agents but “right now we are not making decisions on …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 6

Could Jerry Stackhouse be the Hawks’ Alonzo Mourning?.

Normally, I’d say there are two things working against him: I’m not sure if Stack’s role would be very significant if he does make the roster, and he’s the new guy on a team whose main cogs have been together for a while.

But Stack has two other things working for him that could help him overcome those hurdles: His familiarity with Hawks players from summer workouts over the last few years, and the sheer force of his personality.

In fact, Al Horford said Stack has wasted no time making his mark.

“Stack is already doing it, just kind of taking over and pulling guys to the side and talking to them,” he said. “We respect him. I’m happy when he does it because he sees things a different way. You might not see them that way but then they make sense [when he points them out]. I’m happy he’s on the team and I think he’s going to be a big help for us this year with the locker room and keeping people on the same page.”

I get the …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 5

The Hawks want to run more often than they did last season. It makes sense when you look at their personnel.

“They call can get up and down the floor, which gives us I think a tremendous advantage in transition if we commit to the run, which I am really trying to get these guys to do,” Larry Drew said. “Jeff [Teague] can really exchange ends. Joe [Johnson] can run. Marvin [Williams] can run. Josh Smith is a deer and Al [Horford] is probably as fast as any five man in the league.

“Running, to me, it has to be habit-forming. It can’t be just a sometimes thing. When you develop that habit it becomes a part of who you are.”

We’ve heard this before. Before last season the Hawks said they would run more often. And then, according to Synergy Sports Technology, they ended up ranking 11th among Eastern Conference teams in the percentage of their total possessions used (shot, free throw or turnover) in transition and tied for sixth in points per possession in transition (1.14). …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 4

Media Day (David Tulis/AJC Special)

Media Day (David Tulis/AJC Special)

Notes and quotes gathered at Hawks media day while realizing I won’t see 70 percent of these people for the rest of the season. . . .

  • I haven’t been in the locker room yet but Larry Drew said he’s put up a new sign that reads: “No excuses.” “I told them there are no more excuses at this point of our careers,” Drew said. “It’s time to take the next step.
  • That’s a good point. Hawks players and coaches can wish they had more pieces–nearly every team in the league does–but if this is the team they are going to have, then this is who is going to have to get it done. It’s not as if they don’t have players or experience.
  • “In order for us to become champs in this league we are all going to have to step our game up at some point,” Joe Johnson said. “We can’t blame it on ‘what we need.’ We can get it done with this group that we’ve got. We just have to believe it.”
  • Drew said Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse can provide the kind of leadership …

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Atlanta Hawks: Camp Report Day 3

Notes gathered while sleepwalking and dreaming about a sandwich. . . .

  • Rick Sund said the Hawks are interested in Gilbert Arenas and Chauncey Billups if they clear amnesty waivers. If teams with cap space don’t bid on those players by tonight’s deadline, they become free agents. (Note: Arenas already has cleared waivers, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, and wants to join up Dwight Howard.)
  • Asked about acquiring another center, Sund said:”I like our ‘bigs.’ We’ve got so many players that are versatile. Larry [Drew] is comfortable using those guys in different position.”
  • Billups isn’t a pure point guard but has great value for the Hawks because he can play the 2, is a big-time shotmaker and adds leadership and toughness. He’s also really, really good at doing something the Hawks were really, really bad at doing last season: getting to the free-throw line.
  • The Hawks still have no plans to use their amnesty clause this season.
  • Al Horford said he and fellow captains Josh Smith

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Atlanta Hawks: Rick Sund says Hawks don’t want to pay tax, making Jamal Crawford’s return doubtful

GM Rick Sund said the Hawks still “have never been a taxpaying team and our goal is not to pay the tax,” an approach that essentially means the team is out of the running to re-sign Jamal Crawford or use the free-agent guard in a sign-and-trade transaction.

“It’s going to be difficult to sign Jamal in a straight signing transaction,” Sund said. “We are looking at other alternatives, of course. You always look at everything but it’s not nearly as easy as if you had four months. Four days instead of four months makes it more it more difficult.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that the Hawks, Knicks and Warriors are discussing a three-team trade. SI.com’s Sam Amick later reported that the Warriors are not involved in the discussions.

The bottom line, though, is that any transaction which results in the Hawks paying the tax remains doubtful.

The only way a straight sign-and-trade with the Knicks is plausible is if the Crawford’s starting salary is low enough that the …

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