The Hawks took to the practice floor Monday with all of their key players available for the first time all training camp. Johan Petro sat out practice with a sore back, but Jeff Teague (ankle) and Zaza Pachulia (ankle) both participated in the full practice. With the final roster set after Damion James and James Anderson were waived, the Hawks can turn their focus and attention to preparing for the season and their opener Friday against the Rockets. Larry Drew was happy with the level of intensity the squad showed during practice, and the word of the day (and focus for the week) is "fine-tune."
"[The goal for the week] is to really fine-tune what we've put in since day one of training camp. I really want to fine-tune everything and for everything to be locked down tight, with everything that we're doing and that every guy knows exactly what we're doing. We've got some guys that will be playing a couple of positions, so it will be more difficult for them, but I really want to get this thing fine-tuned before we tip this thing off Friday night."
As for the lineup for Friday, the Hawks have not released any official information, but in watching the groups that were together in practice it appears that Teague, Harris, Korver, Smith and Horford were the group that worked together and should be the opening night starting lineup.
Through their seven preseason games, the Hawks went 3-4, winning all their home games and losing all of their away games. For Drew, it's mental, and he expects the Hawks to be fine on the road as long as they commit mentally.
"One thing I've always preached is learning how to play on the road. I don't think you can play on the road you play at home. You can't just play a total freestyle type game on the road; you have to have some discipline to be able to control the rhythm of a game. How do you do that? Good shot selection, number one. You've got to limit your turnovers, you've got to rebound the basketball and you have to dictate the pace of the game."
The emphasis remains the defensive side of the ball for Drew and the Hawks, who know their offensive fire-power will be there. Drew continues to harp on keeping the energy level up on defense at all times because that's what they will have to do in order to compete on the defensive end with their new roster.
"Where we have to become better and become more of a unit is on the defensive end. We have to make more of a commitment as a unit on the defensive end. We have a lot of shooters, we have speed and we have quickness, but I tell these guys every day we cannot hang our hat on just that. We have to be a team that comes out and defends every night, if we do that then we certainly give ourselves a great chance. Every night we step out between the lines we have to be a team that's totally committed to defend. I am very optimistic [that we have a team that will do that]."
While Drew and the Hawks try to remain focused early in the week on refining their sets, looming in the distance are the Houston Rockets who have a very different look than what was expected after the James Harden trade. The Hawks have not begun preparations directly for the Rockets, but the players know that the challenge just got a little more difficult. Lou Williams, who will likely draw Harden on defense much of his night, spoke briefly about facing Harden.
"We know what he's capable of, and obviously when you put him on that team he automatically makes that team better with what he can bring to the table. So, we'll just prepare accordingly and it'll be a tough task, but starting the season off on our home floor we'll just have to have ‘it'."
Lou also joked about Harden, who beat Williams out for sixth-man of the year last season.
"He's a starter now, so we'll see what happens with that. My competition just went down a little bit."
Anthony Morrow didn't seem too concerned with Harden or the Rockets.
"I'm not really worried about it. Obviously he's a good player and he's coming onto a team, I'm not too sure about what they're going to do, but I know we'll be ready when they come in."
He echoed Coach Drew's sentiments that effort and intensity are the key to the Hawks much maligned defense this year (and didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement for his former clubs).
"It's pretty good, when we get focused and locked down, when we strap up and get after people, as we did against Dallas and New Orleans. Against Detroit we didn't really get in that mind-state, so it's about coming out and doing that every single game as a whole entire team. This is probably the best defensive team I've been on top to bottom in terms of the coaches and we've got two guys down low in Josh and Al that are great."