In the midst of a condensed training camp, the Atlanta Hawks will have to make plenty of adjustments, as they have a few new parts and players set to take on new roles.
Before last season, many people felt that Jeff Teague could have a breakout year, but the 23-year-old point guard didn’t start to really shine until the second round of the playoffs. This year, Hawks players and coaches seem to be banking on Teague to extend last year’s playoff performance into a similar regular season.
“We are all following his lead at this point,” Joe Johnson said. “We all have to help him become that great point guard that I think he can become some day.”
Teague’s speed is an aspect of his game that might drastically change the team’s style of play. With a roster not short on athleticism, the Hawks will probably be looking to run more.
“I think we will definitely be up and down a lot more,” Johnson said. “With Jeff handling the ball, he pushes it almost every opportunity he gets, whether it’s a miss or a make.”
Atlanta may also benefit from the veteran leadership they have brought in through free agency. Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse are both players who have logged major minutes and responsibilities for competitive teams. The two vets have also been vocal in the past, which is a brand of leadership the Hawks have lacked over the past couple of seasons.
“Those guys have already started implementing their leadership as far as policing and just being able to help us out scoring wise,” Josh Smith said. “They have a good feel for the game.”
McGrady said he remembers when Atlanta was a team that struggled and he is impressed by the turnaround the team has made over the past half a decade.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this team,” McGrady said. “I feel like they have a great nucleus here and I feel like I can add to it. There have been guys here itching to take that next step and last year I felt like they did that by beating Orlando and facing Chicago in the second round.”
Health hurt the Hawks at times last year as Marvin Williams suffered from back problems and Joe Johnson underwent surgery on the elbow of his shooting arm.
Williams opted for surgery this summer and looks noticeably more mobile even just when walking around the court. Johnson said that his arm is fully healed and he feels healthy. He also seems determined to have a big season this year, as his numbers dropped off last year and he said the injury is no excuse for his performance.
“I’m a guy who never makes excuses,” Johnson said. “I had a down year last year and I’m looking forward to bouncing back.”
The Hawks will get a chance to test the new roster via preseason play, Monday December 19 when they take on the Bobcats in Charlotte before the Bobcats travel to Atlanta for a second preseason game Thursday, December 22.