The 2023-24 Atlanta Hawks put on a show in front of a live crowd gathered in State Farm Arena for the first time this season. Yes, their only opponent was themselves, but it signaled the unofficial start of competitive basketball for this newly retooled team. Quin Snyder and his staff also showcased how they prefer practices to be run: with pace, space, and lots of competitive banter.
Ultimately, there isn’t much to take away from what was essentially a scrimmage broadcast to the masses. But here are a few key observations I picked up on during my Monday night in State Farm Arena.
Quinball, the origins
A lot of the opening drills involved three-point shooting competitions. Once the team split into two squad, in one round of competition the teams battled back-and-forth trying to string together corner threes. The same drill was repeated from the top of the key. A similar drill followed as players drifted to the corner for catch-and-shoot attempts. Everyone was involved, even those clearly lacking the range required to hit triples at a consistent rate (*cough* Clint Capela *cough*).
The pace part of pace-and-space
The Hawks ranked ninth last year in pace at 100.7 possessions per 48 minutes. But the Hawks can reach another level in quickly getting into their screen sets in semi-transition. Coach Snyder had the team run a version of a full court weave with dribble-handoffs and kickouts to the corner against a ghost defense. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta has some similar sets implemented in a real game environment.
The return of the basketball atmosphere
By the end of the exhibition, some 5,000 loyal Hawks fans had filtered down into the lower bowl. There was Big Tigger MCing the ceremony, rookies dancing and singing in silly costumes, and a crowd bringing energy that trickled down to the players on the court. In a phrase: Atlanta Hawks basketball is finally back.