Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.
With the Hawks’ regular-season opener just three days away, here are five things we’ve learned after a month of training camp and exhibition games.
1. New offense modifications
With a roster of new players, just five returnees, coach Larry Drew set about re-writing his offensive playbook. There was speed at the guard position and a depth of outside shooters to employ.
The offense struggled at times during exhibition games as players – new and old – worked to implement the new system. Drew and his staff have spent several practices since the final exhibition game going over what has already been put in place. There is more offense to install. In all, the Hawks scored 92 or more points in six of their seven exhibitions.
Drew has tweaked his playbook since getting an up-close look at his roster and seeking player input. He modified it based on such things as what side of the court or angle a player prefers to run an offensive set.
“As a coach I’m always looking to see if something fits our club,” Drew said. “It really has to fit our club, our personnel. If I see something that needs to be tweaked, I will certainly tweak it.”
2. Winning on road
The Hawks finished with an exhibition record of 3-4, three wins at home and four losses on the road. They outscored the competition 299-241 at home and were outscored 417-387 on the road. Drew said this new group must learn, as a unit, the differences between playing home and away.
“I don’t think you can play on the road the same way to play at home,” Drew said. “You can’t play a total freestyle type of game. You have to have some discipline to your game on the road. You have to be able to control the rhythm of the game. How do you do that? Good shot selection. You have to limit your turnovers. You have to rebound the basketball. You have to dictate the pace of that game. Those four games we were looking at a lot of things but as we move forward, it’s something I’ll be spending more and more time with.”
3. Areas of concern
The Hawks will be at a significant size disadvantage this season, especially at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Departed Joe Johnson (6-foot-7) and Marvin Williams (6-9) were big for the positions. Devin Harris (6-3) and Lou Williams (6-1) will see significant time at shooting guard.
“We are really small at the 2-guard position,” point guard Jeff Teague said. “But I think if we play really scrappy and play hard like I know we can, I think we’ll be really good.”
Defensive rebounding is another area of concern. The Hawks allowed an average of 45.59 defensive rebounds in seven exhibition games, third-worst in the preseason. Only Dallas (49.88) and Charlotte (46.25) were worse.
Points in the paint, which could be bolstered from last year with speedy guards breaking down an opponent, will be an area worth watching.
4. Sharing the basketball
Through the exhibition season, the Hawks showed a propensity to share the ball. It’s no small challenge with the number of speedy guards and outside shooters. They had 19 or more assists in six of their seven exhibitions. Even as they worked in a number of players and rotations they were 12th in the NBA during the preseason with an average of 20.8 assists a game.
“We are very unselfish,” Josh Smith said. “There was some uncertainty because everyone was new but we quickly gelled. The cohesiveness is there.”
5. Roster flexibility
Although they brought 19 players to training camp, it was always a real possibility the team would carry less than the NBA maximum of 15 players on its roster. The regular season will begin with 14 players. Now, the Hawks have the flexibility to add a player via trade or signing during the season should a move be available. The Hawks did scan the waiver wire but elected to keep the open spot. In addition, the team can dress out 13 players for regular-season games. The current philosophy is that the team is not helped with a player participating in practices but relegated to inactive status for games.
Damion James, the final cut, gave the Hawks reason to reconsider. Drew said James probably should have made the club. However, together with management, roster flexibility was deemed important.
* In other practice news: Rookie Mike Scott did not practice Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. The forward reported to Philips Arena but was sent home. Also, center Johan Petro (back) did not practice for a second straight day. … According to a report, the Hawks were to work out Kyrylo Fesenko on Tuesday. The team would not confirm nor deny the report. I can say that it is common practice for team’s to work out players. Such a workout does not necessarily lead to a signing.
- Chris Vivlamore
Follow me on Twitter at ajchawks