Something was different about this first practice.
The Hawks’ offensive and defensive schemes won’t be overhauled after offseason roster additions. They will be tweaked. However, there was a noticeable change to the group that underwent the initial workout in preparation for the upcoming NBA season.
“Nothing changes,” said Kent Bazemore of the Hawks’ ingrained systems. “We just have a big dominant guy down the middle in Dwight (Howard). He had a large presence today around the rim. It feels good when you can throw the ball down low and watch somebody go to work.”
Dennis Schroder began his first training camp as the starting point guard. Bazemore noted a solid start to Schroder and Howard working together and with the rest of the group.
The new Hawks season officially got underway on Tuesday with the first day of training camp held at the University of Georgia.
Many of the Hawks were in Atlanta for much of the summer. They gathered for voluntary workouts and were joined by most of the team through September. Such workouts are good. But the real work begins now.
“The energy was good,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The level of understanding and wanting to understand if you don’t understand was at a high level.
“Right now, you have to start teaching. You have to start building those foundational blocks, especially defensively, your roles and things that are non-negotiable. Get into a little bit of the detail so you can get them back playing as quickly as possible and at as high level as possible. There is a lot of detail that goes into training camp and these types of practices.”
The Hawks return 11 players from last season. However, there are 20 players in camp that includes Howard, four rookies, a free-agent and three invites. There will be a great deal of continuity for the Hawks but there will be some change.
“The effort has been amazing all summer,” Howard said. “All the guys who have been in every day, we worked hard to get to this point. It’s showing. Everybody came in with a great attitude today and we got a lot of work done. Very happy with the first day.”
The Hawks will remain in Athens through Thursday before returning to Atlanta. Budenholzer noted last week the extreme competitive nature he expected. There are 15 roster spots available and several players with NBA experience won’t make it to opening night.
“The energy and intensity today was where it needed to be,” Bazemore said of the first workout. “Everyone in the gym, from coaches to players to management, is excited to be here today. The anticipation lived up to the hype. We had a great month of September with all the guys there, stayed in the weight room and battled on the court. It carried over. It’s what we need this year. A group that is going to show up every night and be competitive. I think we have that.”
Budenholzer said all players made it through the two-plus hour workout healthy. Starting power forward Paul Millsap was “very, very limited” he said. Millsap recently had a non-surgical procedure on his right knee and will be nearly shutdown for the first three weeks of training camp. Jarrett Jack is returning from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered with the Nets last season. The team is bringing the guard along slowly. Jack said he has done drill work leading up to camp but has not participated in five-on-five scrimmage work. Budenholzer said Jack participated in most non-contact drills Tuesday.
The Hawks will hold an evening practice Tuesday, the first of two two-a-day workouts in Athens.