Season reviews presented in alphabetical order . . .
When I think back to Erick Dampier’s 2012 season with the Hawks, three memories stand out.
The first is from his introduction at Hawks practice on Feb. 9. Somebody asked Dampier if he thought his career might be finished before he got the call because, well, he was 36-years old.
“I didn’t really think that,” he said flatly. “With all of the injuries at some point some team would need my service.”
You won’t hear many 6-5 guys say that. This was the latest example of how cool it must feel to be 7-feet tall, motor coordinated and skilled at basketball.
Dampier also was asked if he’d been working out back home in Jackson, Miss., during his idle time: “I’ve been working out but I wouldn’t say it’s basketball shape.”
You had to be there to really appreciate it. The “working out” needed air quotes.
The second thing I will always remember about Dampier is that he ended up on the injury report in April in spite of not playing a game since March 18. At least the Hawks didn’t count him as missing games like they did with Pape Sy (never forget).
And my final, most relevant memory of Dampier is from Game 3 at Boston. As he headed to the scorer’s table to check in, a wise guy Celtics hack turned to me and asked: “Dampier?” I shrugged, unable to explain it . . . and then Dampier had his best game of the season. “Dang near spry” is how I described him in my blog post.
That was shocking enough, but Dampier validated that skin with another solid outing in Game 4. Yeah it was a blowout loss, but, still.
Here’s what I wrote about Dampier back when the Hawks signed him:
The biggest red flags for Dampier last season were drastic declines in his scoring and rebounding rates. The two are related because Dampier didn’t grab as many offensive boards and so didn’t have as many putbacks. But Dampier still was effective when he managed to collect misses: His 1.1 points scored per possession on offensive rebounds (on 31 possessions) ranked 84th in the league last season, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
And Dampier may still have some value as a defender. His opponent PER of 14.3 last season was solid. Dampier’s Synergy defensive numbers were good: .83 points per possession allowed, 83rd-best in the league. Plus, let’s face it: At this point the Hawks just need a big body to plug in the middle so bigs can’t bull their way to the basket at will and smalls at least have an obstacle to navigate on their way to the basket.
I guess Dampier filled that role effectively, but it’s hard to say for sure because he played just 83 regular-season minutes. Offered with the usual Small Sample Size Disclaimer are Dampier’s target=”new”strong opponent PER and .84 points per possession allowed. His rebounding rate bounced back even as his already-anemic scoring rate plummeted to rank near the bottom of the league.
The Hawks, flush with guards and wings on the roster, needed a big after Al Horford and Jason Collins went down. A center-starved league had snapped up nearly every quality big by then. The Hawks turned to Dampier, whose salary ended up pushing them further over the luxury-tax line.
(Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse are the answers to a future Hawks trivia question: Which players’ contracts contributed to the team paying the luxury tax for the first time in the franchise’s history?)
Dampier eventually worked himself into reasonable shape and showed he can be an effective defender in short stints even as he offers next-to-nothing offensively. Dampier provided some decent minutes in the playoffs in spite of essentially being on the shelf for more than six weeks.
In this league, that might be enough for Dampier to get another call when some team needs his service next season.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat