Training camp has come and gone. The Hawks finished their training camp with their final practice this afternoon at the University of Georgia’s Stegman Coliseum Practice Facility. As they bid Athens adieu, the Hawks must now turn their focus to games.
Yes, people there are games to be played. The Hawks open their preseason Sunday at the Miami Heat before making trips to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons in the next week.
With only three days of two-a-day practices, Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer needed to get as much done as he could which caused a few practice sessions to run longer than expected so that that the team could get much-needed reps as the Hawks adjust to a new offense. All the changes to the Hawks’ scheme and roster come on the heels of the NBA shortening the preseason schedule from eight games to five this season. Budenholzer feels there was more teaching necessary in camp this season.
“I think we maybe had to teach a little more, maybe try and get more done while we were here in Athens,” Budenholzer said. “I think the preseason games will mean a little more because there’s less of them. At the end of the day, I still think five is plenty. Some guys may not play all of them. We’ll just see how we’re kind of progressing through. We’ll probably have to practice a little more, be more focused, [do] more teaching, before that opening night [against Dallas Mavericks].”
With so many changes to the roster, there is a bit of familiarity one the roster to guide the new parts. It helps the Hawks’ cause when players like 10-year veteran Marco Belinelli join the roster, in addition, the returning players. Belinelli spent two seasons in San Antonio where Budenholzer was an assistant at the time. Belinelli also learned the Hawks’ style of play during his time with the Spurs, making the shorter transition period smoother.
“Everything is easier for me,” Belinelli said. “It’s close to the system we ran when I was in San Antonio and other teams too. We’re just trying to get better every day and offensively just move the ball, be an unselfish team. Defensively I think everyone needs to be in tune with each other.”
Players aren’t complaining about the shortened preseason. The offseason seems to get shorter and shorter every year with playoffs extending until July. The Hawks’ roster features two players that played competitive basketball well after and before the NBA season. Dennis Schroeder and Belinelli both played in the FIBA Eurobasket tournaments over the past few weeks leading up to the opening of training camp. Schroeder’s Germany National team reached the quarterfinals of the event, while Belinelli played for Italy’s National Team that also reached the quarterfinals.
Belinelli is grateful for the extra downtime before the season after only taking seven days off since the end of Eurobasket.
“I feel good, I think it’s much better,” Belinelli said. “I spent two months in Italy with the national team for the European championships. After that, I got only seven or eight days off and then I was here Saturday night. I’m just happy to be here. I think every day I’m going to be better, we’re going to be better. That’s the most important thing.”