Over the course of several interviews, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer discussed the upcoming season, including the progress of Mike Scott, a Jeff Teague-Dennis Schroder backcourt and his biggest adjustment from assistant to head coach.
Q. Where are you with the implementation of your systems?
A. I think it’s going pretty well. There are times when it doesn’t look great and it’s obvious how much further we have to go. There are other times when it, you know, it’s starting to take root and take place. It’s always going to be a process where it is evolving and (players) are getting more comfortable. I would say we are on pace. We are doing OK. I wouldn’t be critical of where we are.
Q. Is it truly a matter of the system becoming second nature?
A. Yes, and all of them trying to understand where they fit in it and their strengths and weaknesses. Even for me to try to figure out what we want to emphasize and where we want the ball to go and different things. It has to become second nature and there are times when they are definitely thinking.
Q. Has there been one surprise this training camp that you didn’t expect? Perhaps Mike Scott?
A. It’s interesting. He’s had a great summer. Instead of saying a surprise, I think it’s a tribute to how hard he’s worked this summer. For coaches, we always look for those examples of guys who put in a lot of time and effort during the summer and really work and it carries over for them to take their game to the next level. I feel like between summer league and open gym, even working with (strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson) while the Spurs were still in the playoffs, I heard stories of Mike Scott working with (Watkinson), in the gym with (assistant coach Kenny Atkinson). He had a great summer so I think it’s a tribute to that work and now he is reaping the benefits of that.
Q. Is there one concern going into the season?
A. I think just getting past that learning stage and getting to the point where they are just reading, reacting and getting used to playing with each other. I think the more we just get there, where defensively we are more perfect in all of our rotations and all of our assignments and knowing exactly what we want to do. Not to the degree offensively, but there is still a degree of a little bit of thinking on defense also and where we get to the point where we are not thinking.
Q. Any insight you can give on what your bench rotations might look like, specifically with Dennis Schroder?
A. I’m still kind of thinking about it but I think there are opportunities where we will play Jeff (Teague) and Dennis together a little bit. We got to do it some (in the preseason), not to the degree I would have liked to, but I think it is something we will do. I don’t know how much but it’s something we will talk about and I will be surprised if we don’t do it some.
Q. Both Al Horford and Jeff Teague have said there is still conditioning work to do. Is that a matter of it takes more to run your systems and you have be faster, or just part of an NBA player getting into basketball shape?
A. Probably a little bit of both. We always debate conditioning and you never really know but I think that we want to play faster and people to be moving and the ball to be moving. So if you’ve been accustomed to not as much movement in the half court or not playing as fast in transition, you could say that the system is going to require them to be in a little higher level of conditioning. But I think most NBA players this time of year are playing themselves into shape so they can play the number of minutes the coach expects of them no matter what the system is.
Q. Are there duties as head coach that maybe you didn’t expect would require so much of your time and effort?
A. Yeah, the media. I’m not saying that in a negative way but speaking after each practice, before the games and after the games. I don’t think I appreciated how much of that there was going to be. Hopefully, I’m learning and adjusting and getting used to it. Also, you don’t have players that you are working with individually or being out in the middle of a drill. There is still a little bit of an adjustment to watching the staff work, watching the assistants work and, obviously, watching the players work. You get to observe more and you get to take it in. Before, you were so focused on your drill or you’re so focused on what you are supposed to be doing next.