The Atlanta Hawks don’t open up their regular season schedule until October 27th; however, the team gave the Hawks fans that are anxious for the regular season a glimpse of the 2016-17 roster. One of the few Hawks events that helps bridge your anticipation was the annual Hawks Open practice from last Saturday. Open practice gives excited True Believers a chance to get a glimpse of what the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club will look like this season by enjoying a nice split squad scrimmage.
After a successful training camp in Athens, at the University of Georgia; the players are more than ready to step out on the court and get a feel for what they anticipate is the start of a very successful season. “I think it was good (training camp). We worked hard, thought it was productive,” Muscala said. However, things still may take time for the player on the roster to gain chemistry and get accustomed to each other; which is essentially what the goal for every NBA team during pre-season. However, in the case of the Hawks, the team is surely coming together as a cohesive unit, which will be a key component in the Hawks returning back to elite form.
This is going to be a very exciting team for Hawks fans to watch this year. Also, this is also a team that fans believe should be even better than last season’s squad. “We want to win a championship,” Paul Millsap says. Millsap, who didn’t participate in Saturday’s scrimmage, is sidelined for a couple weeks after a procedure he had to reduce swelling in his right knee; however, he’ll be ready for the Hawks regular season opener.
New face in the building Dwight Howard wants fans to know that there’s one particular reason why he chose to return home this past off-season ; “I want everyone to know that I’m here to win a championship,” Howard says. Quotes such as Millsap’s & Howard are the ones that fans love to hear from arguably the team’s best players. There’s still more work that’s left to be done before October 27th, however , without a doubt, this team has the potential to be very special from all facets. The entire league will keep a close eye on the new look Hawks and how this team seemingly will have a different identity.
As a member of the media during this Open Practice Saturday, I had the opportunity to watch the scrimmage more from an impartial perspective rather than a diehard fan viewpoint. The key aspect of this current Hawks team I am looking forward to more than any is newly acquired center Dwight Howard. This season, myself and many Hawks fans will play close attention to how Coach Bud will implement Howard into the Hawks system offensively compared to his last season in Houston. Despite the acquisition, Howard is well known to be a traditional center, but in the Hawks’ system, he will be utilized on both ends of the floor.
In Coach Bud’s system, he expects the Hawks players to stretch the floor, get the wing players open for uncontested shots, and making smart passes inside the paint to our big men. However, with Howard as the new big man in the middle; fans will see a few more lobs and more play designs created to give our post players more influence in the offense.
During Saturday’s scrimmage, it was evident early that the Hawks wanted guys to get a feel for how each player performs in the new system. While Tim Hardaway Jr. led Team White with (13) points and Dwight Howard was the leader for Team Black with (15) points, (9) rebounds and two blocks. Both teams had a combined 33 turnovers, but you would rather the kinks be worked out during a scrimmage with nothing on the line than a regular season game where a potential loss could hurt the team in the standings.
Another notable thing from the practice was the defensive mindset from both sides of the Hawks. For a team that was one of the regular season’s best defensive unit towards the playoffs, they were active as both squads accounted for a total of 21 steals. Arguably, the best defensive performance went to Rookie Taurean Prince . Prince, Atlanta’s first round selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, recorded five steals in his debut in front of the Hawks faithful.
Defensively, I don’t think Coach Budenholzer have seen a group as prolific as the 2016-17 roster. Although only time will tell, if Saturday was any indicator, the Hawks could once again rank as one of the elite defensive teams in the Eastern Conference and in the NBA as well. Open practice was a great day for both Hawks fans and the players. On a day where the “True Believers” got a first glimpse at the 2016-17 Hawks, the players practiced in front of their home crowd.
“It’s great to come out on a Saturday morning and have an open scrimmage and to see that many people there. I think this city is getting excited about the Hawks,” Coach Bud says. Atlanta native Dwight Howard, who has everyone’s attention enjoyed watching the Hawks fans come out and show their support as the weeks get closer to the NBA season. “Thank you for all the fans who came out. We really enjoy, this is a lot of fun, we’re expecting to have big crowds every night and we’re going to come out and play as hard as we can.”
Garrett Brown: (@_GMB96)