Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.
Anthony Tolliver took the phone call from Hawks general manager Danny Ferry Saturday. His first thought before answering was not a good one. Why would the general manger call if not to break some bad news?
The forward, fighting for a roster spot, feared he had failed to make the team. However, Hawks management wanted to inform the veteran quite the opposite.
“It scared me when they called me,” Tolliver said Sunday. “Usually, it’s no news is good news. I was getting a call (Saturday) and I was like ‘This isn’t good.’ But they said they look forward to having me on this team.”
Tolliver secured the final spot on a roster of 14, one below the NBA maximum. The Hawks waived James Anderson and Damion James Saturday to finalize their roster well before the Monday deadline. Coach Larry Drew said the final decisions were not easy, especially in the case of James. The former Hawks draft pick turned heads with his preseason play.
“Going into our preseason we were looking at both (Anderson and James) very closely,” Drew said. “Damion James was a guy I was looking at extra close. I love his size. I love his length. I love his athleticism. He’s mindset is to defend.
“We thought it was more important to give ourselves a little flexibility by leaving one (roster) spot open. I thought Damion played extremely, extremely well. Probably should have made our club. But again, our mindset was we wanted to allow ourselves flexibility in the event there is something else out there, there is something else that might pop open.”
Drew said he knew little of Tolliver prior to training camp other than his name came up from time to time as a trade possibility. He said his initial impression that Tolliver was just a 3-point shooter was not accurate.
It was Tolliver’s exhibition play, especially on the defensive end, that made the decision to keep him an easy one. The 6-foot-8 Tolliver averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in seven exhibition games.
“He has versatility where you can play him at some (power forward) or move him to some (small forward),” Drew said. “In a lot of ways, he’s like Josh (Smith). He might not be the athlete that Josh is but defensively his length and his understanding about defense makes him a very valuable piece.”
Tolliver, 27, is entering his fifth NBA season after playing at Creighton. He spent the past two seasons with the Timberwolves but has also played for the Spurs, Trail Blazers and Warriors. There have also been professional stints in the Developmental League and overseas in Germany and Turkey.
Tolliver said he wants to be known as a player who will do thing things nobody else wants to do – take a charge, dive for a loose ball. By his unofficial count he figures he drew one, or sometimes two, charges per exhibition game.
“I came in with the mindset that failure was not an option,” Tolliver said. “I didn’t really even think about it as a tryout. I was just coming in and doing what I do, what I’ve been doing for the last five years
“I try to go out there and play mistake-free basketball. I don’t want to go out there and over-think things. I just try to go out there and help my team win, if that is taking charges, diving on loose balls or always being in the right position on defense and on defensive rotations. I’ve been in this league for a while. I’ve been playing professional basketball for a while. It comes second nature to me.”
Practice report: Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia, both with sprained left ankles, took part in Sunday’s practice because it was all non-contact. Their status for Friday’s regular-season opener has still not been determined.
- Chris Vivlamore
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