The regular season is here.
The Hawks open in Toronto tonight against the Raptors. I was on Toronto radio station TSN 1050 this morning (a blast from the past from my days covering the Thrashers). I made this point about tonight’s game. I know it’s just the first game of the season, but I think this will be a really good measuring stick for the Hawks. The Raptors (again) are a trendy pick in the Eastern Conference. They made some noise last year by making the playoffs. They have talent. The Raptors will be one of the teams – after the Cavaliers and Bulls – that the Hawks are up against in the race for the Nos. 3-8 playoff spots. A loss wouldn’t be terrible – especially since it’s the Raptors home opener – but if the Hawks can play with them or beat them it would go a long way in determining what strides the Hawks have made in Year 2 of the Mike Budenholzer regime.
Here is what Budenholzer said Tuesday about the Raptors before the team departed for Canada:
“They have put together a good group. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways. I think (DeMar) DeRozan is a young player who is continuing to grow and develop and emerging. And Kyle Lowry as a point guard, I think he really led them to being a really tough minded team on both ends of the court. (Jonas) Valanciunas inside. Terrence Ross. I think they are really well put together and can hurt you in a lot of ways.”
* The only real question about the Hawks lineup against the Raptors will be which two players will be inactive. Budenholzer declined to say Tuesday.
* In keeping with the story I wrote Tuesday online/Wednesday print on the Hawks’ ability to pass the basketball, I asked DeMarre Carroll his thoughts on the team’s success.
“Coach Bud, and the system he brought from San Antonio, does a great job of teaching us. In the film room he breaks it down – this is a good shot but this is a great shot. He tries to get everybody to get a great shot. When you get the ball you are looking to score but if you see somebody open, you are not hesitant to pass. That really starts with our point guard. Jeff Teague being unselfish, Shelvin (Mack). Then our bigs, we have really good passing bigs like Elton (Brand) and Paul (Millsap) and Al (Horford).
“We just want a better shot. If we can get an open shot, everybody is happy. Everybody gets the ball. Everybody gets a shot. It’s not like a team where one guy shoots 30 shots and everybody else shoots two. Some games you might have Paul as the leading scorer or Kyle (Korver) as the leading scorer or Jeff. You never know, even a guy off the bench like Mike Scott. I think that is the beauty of this team. We are a team. We are not individuals.
* Speaking of Scott, he appears to have picked up where he left off last season in his development. He averaged more than 12 points per game during the preseason. His name came up in the story on the Hawks’ passing. Budenholzer pointed to him as one of the young players who has really picked up the offensive system and is scoring points from it – both inside and outside.
“As much as Mike Scott is scoring, I think his ability to read the defense and make decisions and find the open guy has come a long way,” Budenholzer said. “That is where (Mike Muscala) and (Adreian Payne), they’ve got to learn how to make the reads and make the quick decisions.”
* The Raptors feature a former Hawk and a former Hawk first-round draft pick. Lou Williams will make his debut after being sent to Toronto is an offseason trade. Lucas Nogueira is on the Raptors roster after spending last season in Spain. He was included in the Williams trade and has been slowed much of the preseason with a groin strain.
* Check ajc.com after tonight’s game for a recap.