Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.
The search is nearing an end.
Or is it?
As the Hawks wind down training camp, the revamped roster has taken shape over the course of six exhibition games. One of the biggest questions entering the preseason was what coach Larry Drew would do at the small forward position. Or call it the 3-guard, if you prefer.
The answer is Drew has options – and plenty of them. He likes it that way.
DeShawn Stevenson, Kyle Korver, Damion James, Anthony Tolliver and Josh Smith have played at the 3 during exhibitions. Stevenson and Korver are guards.
“As I’ve said going into this preseason, my main focus was to really see what kind of combinations we can put out there and be effective,” Drew said. “We’ve gone with DeShawn at 3. I like that. We’ve gone with Kyle at the 3. I like that. We’ve gone with Josh at some 3. I like that.
“That gives us some flexibility from the standpoint that if we need to adapt and make some minor adjustments with our lineup we have the ability to do that. To say it’s a lock on any guy who is going to be starting at that position every single night, I won’t say that’s the case. I love the flexibility to be able to move guys around and experiment a little bit and to be able to make adjustments depending on who we play.”
The Hawks have a smaller team following their numerous offseason changes. The loss of 6-foot-7 Joe Johnson and the 6-9 Marvin Williams were the most notable. How they will defend the small forward position is at issue.
Drew has the ability to play Zaza Pachulia at center, move Al Horford to power forward and Smith to the small forward. Smith drew much of the assignment to guard LeBron James in the exhibition opener against the Heat.
“The 3, night in and night out, you are playing a beast at that position,” Smith said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenging position for us but at the same time we are a team. The 3 is just one position. Last time I checked there were five positions. We have to be able to help each other collectively. One guy is not going to get it done.”
Stevenson has started several of the exhibition games and said he is quite comfortable with the defensive responsibilities. The veteran points to his time with Dallas when he and Shawn Marion were assigned the opposition’s top scoring threat.
“I guard the Carmelos, the LeBrons,” Stevenson said. “On defense, I’m basically a 3 guard. I’m getting used to it. In this offense, the 3-guard is basically a 2-guard, the 2-guard is basically a 3-guard. They are interchangeable.”
The 6-8 Tolliver is an option when the Hawks go against a bigger lineup. Tolliver said he learned to play small forward last season with Minnesota and is now comfortable in the role.
While the Hawks could be undersized at the small forward position, their lineup allows them to get another shooter on the floor. With a depth of long-range shooters, they will be able to take advantage of their speed guard with Devin Harris, Lou Williams and Jeff Teague. Drew thinks the Hawks can exploit those matchups.
“We could go into this thing and the mindset be to go with the guy who we think is going to be at that position,” Drew said. “Or we can change it up. What has been good to us in the past is our ability to make adjustments during the game, whether we want to go with a small 3 or go with a big 3. As I said before, I embrace having that ability to do that. It allows you not only to adapt but we feel with our lineup, with our personnel, if we are small we can play a certain way; if we are big we can play a certain way. Our guys are very comfortable with either way. It’s been a strength of ours. I want to continue to use it.”
Practice update: The Hawks held an open practice Sunday at Philips Arena in front of a crowd of nearly 2,000. … Lou Hudson, whose No. 23 is retired by the Hawks organization, was in attendance. … Teague (sprained left ankle), Pachulia (sprained left ankle) and John Jenkins (left hand contusion) did not participate.Horford (right calf) was limited. He expects to play in the final exhibition game Friday at Detroit.
- Chris Vivlamore
* Offense steps up in win over Mavs
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