Vivlamore reporting. Here is the training camp preview story that will appear in Sunday’s paper. I hope you enjoy.
Call it the Ferry Project.
When Danny Ferry took over as Hawks general manager in June he considered his inheritance a good team. However, not one that was capable of bringing Atlanta an NBA championship.
So Ferry set about his re-construction project on a team that had made the playoffs five straight seasons. He jettisoned six-time all-star Joe Johnson and his max contract to the Nets. He sent former first-round draft pick Marvin Williams to the Jazz. Johnson and Williams made up two-fifths of the starting lineup who will need to be replaced. There is nearly an entire new group of bench players.
The Hawks opening training camp Monday with only five returning players – Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson. That’s it.
“Our depth is going to be good, we are going to have some speed and we are going to be able to shoot the basketball,” Ferry said. “I do expect us to be very competitive this year. Going forward, there are several road maps we can take. There are three ways to get players – strong drafts, free agency and trades. I think we are in all of those areas in good position going forward to put ourselves in a situation where we can be good for a long time as well as win the NBA championship.”
An NBA title – that’s the end game after all.
Coach Larry Drew, entering the final year of his contract, said he was in complete agreement with Ferry’s assessment of the franchise.
“It kind of reminds me of my years when I was in L.A. with the Lakers,” Drew said. “It is an organization that has always been accustomed to winning and success and just didn’t settle for mediocrity. I get the same feeling. It’s not just about getting to the playoffs, it’s about winning the whole thing. Where this club was, I think everybody was in agreement where this club was, and it was probably time to make a change.”
Enter: Devin Harris, John Jenkins, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Mike Scott, DeShawn Stevenson and Louis Williams.
Exit: Jason Collins, Erick Dampier, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo and Vladimir Radmanovic along with Johnson and Williams.
“We understand that this is part of the business,” said Pachulia, who joined the Hawks the same summer as Johnson and Williams. “It’s about winning games. We are going to get a chance to do something great for the fans, the city, the organization. That’s what matters.”
The Hawks will have to replace the scoring and versatility of Johnson and Williams. Johnson averaged 20.9 points per game in his seven years with the Hawks (10,606 points in 508 games). He averaged 18.9 points last season. Williams averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in his seven years with the Hawks after being the No. 2 overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft. Drew had the flexibility with the 6-foot-7 Johnson and the 6-9 Williams to move them between shooting guard and small forward creating matchup problems for opposing teams.
Drew said this version of the Hawks will be a little less versatile and smaller in the backcourt. The strengths will be a team that is faster, can shoot from the perimeter and has more depth. The bench was considered a strength last season.
“It’s very difficult and it’s going to be a challenge for me,” Drew said. “When you bring in a lot of new faces, and this year having to replace a couple guys out of the starting lineup, it makes it a tough challenge. Last year, even with the short season and the lockout, by bringing the core guys back they already knew everything. It was a matter of teaching the other guys what we do, bringing them up to speed. This is going to be totally different. … It’s challenge that I embrace.”
The key to the season may be decided defensively. There is no question this version of the Hawks can shoot, pass and get up and down the court, Drew said. The coach is waiting to see if this group can guard.
Training camp will give Ferry, Drew and the coaching staff the chance to see how fast the new and old can blend.
Five straight trips to the playoffs without moving past the second round have left something to be desired.
“Our goal is to always try to improve and I use the term a lot to try to get over the hump,” Drew said. “When I first got to Atlanta, we went through a rebuilding process. The goal was to get to the playoffs and then we finally got to the playoffs. Now that we’ve reached the playoffs, we want to try to get to the next level.”
The first step is about to be taken in a new era of Hawks basketball.
- Chris Vivlamore
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