Hawks first-year coach Mike Budenholzer watched his team struggle to a 1-6 preseason record, but Budenholzer believed they were necessary growing pains for a team learning a new system. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — There was a video presentation waiting for the Hawks when they returned to practice Monday.
After a 1-6 exhibition season, coach Mike Budenholzer wanted to show his team that some good was accomplished this preseason. Building a new roster and implementing a new system will take time, but from here on, the games count. The Hawks open the regular season today at the Dallas Mavericks.
“You’d love to win all of them,” Kyle Korver said of the preseason. “I was a little discouraged until coach broke down some of the stats and some things we’ve been focusing on. There were some real positive things that I was really surprised by. And a lot of the areas that we weren’t maybe as strong and were costing us some of the games were very fixable things.”
The Hawks coaching staff was pleased with:
• Assists. In seven preseason games the Hawks totaled 154 assists, an average of 22 per game, which was seventh-best in the NBA.
• Defensive rebounding. The Hawks allowed 7.71 offensive rebounds by opponents, best in the league.
• Opponents free-throw attempts. The Hawks allowed 150 free throws, an average of 21.4 per game, third-fewest in the league.
• Steals. The Hawks were seventh during the exhibition season with 69 steals, an average of 9.9 per game.
Ball movement, playing the pass and playing with pace were all positives, according to Budenholzer. Just as the Hawks’ preseason record was not of great importance, the coach acknowledged likewise with such statistics. Still, showing his team what went right — and what went wrong — has value.
“There are areas to improve based on the preseason,” Budenholzer said. “There are areas that we did well. There are a couple of big chunks on both ends to the court that I say are going to take time. There is nothing but time that is going to give us the perfection in these areas.
“We are going to be pushing forward every day and we are going to be working to improve every day. I personally have faith in what we are doing and the players that we have are going to stick with it.”
How the Hawks start the season will be critical, as early success will be important in the implementation of the new systems. Only seven of their first 18 games come against teams that made the playoffs last season. Five of the first seven games are on the road. Coaching staff and players said they are aware that getting off to a rough start may impact the team’s trust in the new offense and defense.
“That is something you have to be conscious of,” Korver said. “There is a lot that is new and there are probably going to be bumps and bruises or growing pains or whatever you want to call them along the way. We have to learn to trust the system.
“You have to be conscious of it. A lot of the drills we run and the film we watch are preaching team play and making the extra pass, playing with the pass, playing with pace and early pick-and-rolls. The more we focus on it, the more we practice, the faster it will come.”