The Atlanta Hawks made their long-awaited return to the court as their NBA preseason got underway at the FTX Arena against the Miami Heat on Monday night. However, while it was a return to action it was not a return to the winning column as the Heat toppled the Hawks 125-99.
Trae Young, John Collins and Danilo Gallinari all notched 14 points for the Hawks while Tyler Herro led the Heat with 26 points.
Preseason basketball is...a strange one to break down. Rotations are much larger, minutes for key players are reduced (sometimes non existent as players rest) and final results don’t totally matter, although, Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was left with the impression that they have much to improve on.
“I said before the game that this would be a good test for us,” said McMillan. “I knew that Miami would come out and play with a lot of energy — scrappy, playing fast, they were going to challenge us on both ends of the floor and they did. It showed that we got a lot of work to do. I thought we were sloppy in our execution. They were the more aggressive team from start to finish. I thought they out-scrapped us, outworked us and just played with a lot more energy. Execution wise, 16 turnovers is pretty bad and you’re giving up 28 points (off of turnovers) when you’re turning the ball over like that. I thought our shot selection offensively was poor tonight, that led to some transition baskets. We have a lot of work to do. That’s what preseason is about: seeing where you are.”
“We didn’t have a lot of good stretches in this game,” added Gallinari. “They played harder and better than us, which we cannot afford to have a team playing most of the game harder than us. We had a couple of good stretches, of course we have to take the positives things we did as it’s the first preseason game but of course there’s a lot of work to do.”
For the game itself, the differential came by way of the Miami’s three-point shooting. The Heat drained 21-of-41 from three three including 13 in the first half. The Hawks shot 9-of-38 from three. While the final score looks worse than it actually was, the Heat just looked the overall sharper side, a side, perhaps, with a bit more conditioning under their belts, something McMillan also alluded to after the game.
“We’re measuring where we are and the game tonight, we have work to do,” McMillan said. “That’s the measure I get coming from tonight’s game. Our conditioning needs to be much better, certainly our execution on both ends of the floor—74 points in the first half we gave up. That’s what I’m measuring.”
The Hawks didn’t enjoy a ton of positives from their first preseason outing and it was hard to get an overall sense of, well, anything as Clint Capela, Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter all sat out due to injury management.
“Sometimes the game is unpredictable,” said Collins. “Our first time playing together in a while, still had a couple of guys out who we usually have anyway as preseason is — Ice went down — a couple of weird things going on but like I said it’s preseason. You just try not to put too much thought or energy into it and move on.”
Young will be added to that list as he sustained a right quad contusion in the third quarter on this play:
Trae Young went back to the locker room following this play ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/6zKGfivBwR— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) October 5, 2021
“It’s in pain a little bit right now,” said Young postgame of his quad. “I hit his (Gabe Vincent’s) brace, so it was more knee into the brace. It wasn’t anything intentional on his end. He was being very aggressive and I just did a spin move to get the ball to Bogi and he was continuing to move forward with being aggressive and he caught me with that left knee in his brace so it just got me really good.”
“It’s got a little bit of swelling in it, it definitely got hit pretty hard but I’m going to be alright,” added Young. “I’ll be good, trust me.”
Young was unlikely to play in the Hawks’ next preseason game anyways (with McMillan alluding to giving the younger a players a more dedicated run for Wednesday’s contest against the Cavaliers) so he will have time to rest any lingering soreness from that impact.
The younger players — including draft selections Sharife Cooper and Jalen Johnson — got to see some action in the fourth quarter having not featured in the first three quarters, and McMillan reaffirmed postgame that they would see more action on Wednesday.
“That’s really tough for those guys to come in the fourth quarter after sitting over an hour,” said McMillan of Cooper and Johnson. “I do plan to play them more in our next game, that was the plan to give them minutes in our game at home. I thought they came out and tried to get a feel for the game, that’s a tough situation to come into.”
That said, Cooper and Johnson didn’t take long to reignite some of their Summer League chemistry, Cooper throwing this lob for Johnson in the fourth quarter:
“You definitely like to see it,” said Collins of Cooper’s lob to Johnson. “I usually don’t see that on the sideline, I’m usually involved in it so it was good to see the young guys doing their thing and finding a little chemistry.”
In addition to the younger players featuring more on Wednesday’s game against the Cavaliers, McMillan confirmed that Cam Reddish is set to feature in all of the Hawks’ preseason fixtures.
“Cam, I plan to play in all four preseason games,” said McMillan of Reddish. “I think we need to get him out on the floor and see how we can use him and get him minutes. That’s the plan this preseason.”
Reddish...frankly, could do with as much court time as possible, and as for his showing last night you could argue it was par for the course when it came to Reddish’s shot selection. Alas, there will be plenty of other opportunities for Reddish in the preseason to come.
Elsewhere, Gallinari looked impressive last night as he scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. What impressed more so was Gallinari’s ease of movement — something that was not always the case last season, so early signs of encouragement there.
Danilo dips deep into his Italian leather bag for the +1. pic.twitter.com/cEXEdOwSFf— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) October 5, 2021
Delon Wright made his Hawks debut last night and scored six points and dished out five assists in 19 minutes, flashing both his playmaking skills and his ability to finish at the rim:
Honestly, there’s not a ton else to say in this spot because there’s little to be gained in, for example, making anything out Bogdan Bogdanvic’s 4-of-13 shooting display or how Jahlil Okafor looked on the court (which was...not great at times). There were some interesting lineups on display last night but nothing incredibly noteworthy because of how many players did not play.
Other than that, it’s good to have Atlanta Hawks basketball back once again. The Hawks will go again on Wednesday night at State Farm Arena against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Should be fun. Until next time...