Hawks embrace new offense

Jon Barash

The Atlanta Hawks came together for the first time as a unit Monday for the annual media day. The buzz around the practice floor was great as the players and coaches came out to talk about the upcoming season before starting training camp on Tuesday. Larry Drew kicked the session off and talked about what changes Hawks fans can expect for this season.

“We will be playing a different style of ball,” revealed Drew. “We will be playing more up-tempo, which I’m very excited about. I think with the changes that we’ve made, we’ve put ourselves in a position to play up-tempo. I think it’s a great opportunity for this team to move in a different direction as far as style of play.”

The Hawks backcourt has a very different look, most notably the absence of Joe Johnson, but Drew and the rest of the team are excited about the possibilities with their guard rotation featuring a lot of speed and a lot of shooting ability.

“To be honest I can’t think of [a faster backcourt] than ours,” admitted Drew. “When you look at our backcourt, we brought guys in that can certainly get the ball from one end to the other as fast as anyone. Jeff [Teague] and Lou [Williams] are two guys that are tremendously good in the open floor. We’re going to take full advantage of their abilities to get in the open court and get the ball up and down the floor and keep constant pressure on the defense. I’m really excited what those guys are able to do.”

Along with Teague and Williams, Devin Harris provides the Hawks with a lot of depth at the point guard spot because all three are versatile in their abilities to both score, facilitate and push the ball up the floor.

Harris, formerly of the Jazz, is excited about playing with a team that wants to get up and down the floor, especially after playing with a predominantly half-court team in Utah.

“I think it fits us a lot better,” said Harris. “I’ll have a lot of guys running with me and it’s always fun to have guys playing with you and running. A strength of our team is playing faster. We’re going to speed up the tempo and we have a lot of guys that can space the floor, and it’s going to be fun.

The offense will be predicated on pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops to allow the Hawks to maximize the talents of their players. The penetrating ability of their point guards, the shooting ability of guys like John Jenkins, Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver and Deshawn Stevenson and the athleticism and mid-range shooting ability of Josh Smith and Al Horford make the Hawks a very dangerous pick-and-roll team.

Harris elaborated on the Hawks pick-and-roll possibilities, and how spacing will create opportunities.

“I think spacing is going to be very key,” said Harris. “We have a lot of bigs who can shoot and space the floor and we have a lot of shooters that can space the floor, and guys that can run the pick-and-roll. In my experience running pick-and-rolls when you have space you are very successful, and I’m looking forward to it.”

New addition Lou Williams, returning home after a stellar high school career at South Gwinnett, is excited to be back in Atlanta, but is excited for more reasons than just being home.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Williams. “We have three guards that can really run the floor. It’s going to be exciting. I don’t think there’s going to be many breaks for other guards around the league with the depth we have. We have a lot of great balance at a lot of positions and I think that will be a great plus for us. We have guys like Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver and Deshawn Stevenson that can shoot the lights out and then three small guards capable of getting the ball to those guys and finishing ourselves.”

While Williams and Harris are the new additions to the Hawks backcourt, the one constant is Teague. Teague is entering his second season as the starting point guard for the Hawks, and is excited, like the rest of the team, about the new, up-tempo offense.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” predicted Teague. “We’ve got a lot of speed at every position. With the addition of Lou and Devin it makes my job, Josh’s job and Al’s job a lot easier. We have a lot of shooters and that’s something we haven’t had here in a while.”

As to what Teague is looking to improve on heading into his second year at the helm of the Hawks’ offense, he wants to become a complete point guard.

“I’m trying to be an all-around better player, try to be more of a pure point guard,” revealed Teague. “We have a lot of talented players on this team and I just want to do my part and hopefully it works for the best.”

A lot of the talk this offseason in Atlanta is whether the Hawks will be in a rebuilding mode. When asked about that, all of the players and coaches quickly rebuffed that idea, stating instead that the team is still very strong with a number of good players on the roster.

“The team isn’t rebuilding, it’s restructuring,” according to Williams.

Teague also added that he feels the Hawks can still contend in the East.

“Most definitely [we can contend],” added Teague. “I think we have a lot of great players. I don’t think we’ll fall off or anything like that; some people might see it that way, but the guys we’ve added are really good players.”

The Hawks come into this season energized, especially by the new arrivals at all levels from upper management to the coaching staff to the new faces on the roster. The themes of this year’s media day were all about how exciting and fun this team should be. Last year the Hawks had the same look as in previous years and the thoughts were to just simply improve. This year the mood is different. Energy seems to have been injected into the squad by the prospects of playing in an up-tempo offense, which excited all of the guys on the roster because of the combined athleticism of the team and the balance of the frontcourt and the backcourt.

Danny Ferry spoke about the team having more vocal leaders this year in guys like Williams and Korver than they have had in years past. There also seems to be more of a commitment to the “team” concept rather than the reliance on the individual. Without one dominant scorer to rely on down the stretch or having a single shut-down defender, everyone talked about playing together to accomplish the goal on both ends of the floor.

The quote of the day award had to go to Josh Smith when asked about whether he would be shooting as many threes this year. After going down a laundry list of players on the roster better at shooting threes than him, he revealed his new moniker for the 2012-13 season.

“My nickname this year is ‘mid-range shawty.’”

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