Vivlamore reporting. Here is my main story for Wednesday’s paper.
It didn’t take long for Larry Drew to see the good – and perhaps the bad – from his new-look roster.
The Hawks coach watched a pick-up game this summer featuring point guards Jeff Teague and Devin Harris on the team’s practice court.
Teague picks up the story. “I played with Devin for the first week and, man, he’s a blur,” the fourth-year guard said. “I remember one time we were playing against each other. I went down and scored a full-court layup. He came down and scored a full-court layup. I went down and scored a full-court layup. Coach Drew pulled us aside and said ‘Y’all not going to play any defense?’ I’m like ‘He’s fast. I’m fast.’”
Drew is adapting to his roster, which features only five returning players, to more of an up-tempo style of play. Coach and players have used the description time and again as training camp gets underway. While the Hawks were not a half-court offense last season, the additions of Harris, Lou Williams and several others in the back court has caused Drew to re-work his offense. The Hawks will be smaller with the loss of 6-foot-7 Joe Johnson and 6-9 Marvin Williams but quickness can have advantage over size, Drew said.
“This team is a team who can get up and down the floor,” Drew said. “Last year, we had some guys who can run. This year, we really have guys who can get out and run. When you think of our fast break you think of Jeff Teague having the ball in his hands and getting from one end of the floor to the other. I think we have somewhat of a two-headed snake with Devin and Lou who are just as fast and creative in the open court. With Kyle Korver, everyone knows he can shoot the basketball, but he does a really good job getting up and down the floor. For big men, both Josh [Smith] and Al [Horford] are two of the best runners in our league. We have an opportunity to be even that much more effective in the open court.”
Drew quickly followed with words of caution.
“I really want to make sure that these guys understand that because I’m talking about play a more open-court basketball game that is not going to be an excuse to be a bad defensive team,” Drew said. “Our focus and emphasis, as it has been the past two years with me being the head coach, our emphasis is defense. We don’t get out and run unless we defend. That is going to be the tone set throughout this training camp.”
Drew said he has not yet decided on a rotation at guard, including who will replace Johnson as the shooting guard. Teague said he was told he will again be the starter at point guard. He said he welcomes the additions of Harris and Williams, who will take pressure off him bring the ball up court and will allow him to slide to the wing at times.
Fitness will be an issue with the new offense, especially for the big men on the roster. They’ll have to keep up with the speedy guards.
“For Josh and myself, we are drooling over this new look just because he’s going to be running the floor, I’m going to be running the floor,” Horford said. “We have some of our other bigs coming off the bench who can run the floor as well. I think that as long as we move the ball around and we defend, I think we are going to be in great [position].”
Drew said he spent the summer de-constructing and re-constructing his offense to fit the new roster. He threw some things out from last season. He added some new elements. He tinkered when not satisfied. He spent four days in Israel with David Blatt, who coached the Russian national team to a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics and is now with Maccabi Tel Aviv, for new offensive principles.
Veteran DeShawn Stevenson, acquired from the Nets in the trade for Johnson, will be looked to as a defensive stopper when the Hawks are undersized.
“The misconception is you go up-tempo you stop guarding,” Drew said. “That is one thing I’m not going to allow of the players to even sink in or thought about. We are still going to be a team that is going to guard, is going to defend.”
- Chris Vivlamore
THE LATEST NEWS
Follow me on Twitter at ajchawks