Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.
Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia, who both missed the final two exhibition games with sprained left ankles, returned to full-contact practice for the Hawks Monday. They are expected to play in Friday’s regular-season opener against the Rockets.
Teague said he can still feel some soreness in the ankle but it is improving every day. The point guard declared himself a go.
Pachulia has been limited much of the preseason, first with a groin injury and then the ankle. The center appeared in just three exhibition games.
“Right now, I’m doing my best to get back as quick as possible with my timing, my legs,” Pachulia said. “I haven’t had too much time to run and work on my legs. I’m trying to get back in good shape.”
Center Johan Petro did not practice Monday with what coach Larry Drew called a sore back. Petro would be an early candidate to the one player the team must declare inactive for the season opener.
Drew was pleased by the return of Teague and Pachulia for it finally gave him a chance to practice with a full complement of regular players.
“It gave us a chance to get lineups that we had envisioned throughout the preseason,” Drew said.
Based on Monday’s practice, a starting lineup of Teague, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith and Al Horford appears likely. However, Drew could manipulate the lineup based on matchups against the Rockets.
Still more offense to implement
Drew said the majority of Monday’s practice was spent going over offensive schemes that have already been implemented.
“[We want to] make sure every guy understands exactly what we are doing on both ends of the floor, particularly defensively,” Drew said. “To really fine tune what we put in from day one of training camp. … I want everything to be lock-down tight and every guy knows exactly what we are doing.”
Drew said the task was also important because several players are learning multiple positions, most notably players like DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Tolliver and Korver.
Drew said the entire offensive playbook has yet to be installed, a process that will continue into the regular season.
The process of preparing specifically for Houston will not begin for another day or two.
Drew brought his team together Sunday, the first practice after making the final roster cuts, and told them to get a good look at those who were left.
“I really want them to look around and see who is standing in that circle,” Drew said. “This is the group that is going to go to battle. We have to have each others back from start to finish. They were in total agreement. They know it’s a long season. There are going to be some peaks and some valleys. There are going to be some tough times. There are going to be some good times. We have to be able to ride an emotional roller coaster and endure and persevere, weather the storms.”
Drew said he was pleased with the players’ reactions to his comments.
“We are ready,” Teague said of the team’s mindset. “We are all in. Nobody was holding their head down, looking to the right trying to figure out what was going to happen. We all bought in.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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