Hawks GM sees fast, sharp-shooting team

BY foxsports • September 25, 2012

ATLANTA -- With Atlanta Hawks training camp set to begin one week from Tuesday, new general manager Danny Ferry said that he thinks the team's strengths will be its speed and shooting ability and also its depth.

After taking over the Hawks just a few days before the NBA Draft in June, Ferry undertook a drastic make-over of the Hawks' roster in just a matter of weeks. He traded perennial All-Star Joe Johnson, who had one of the largest contracts in the league, and former second overall pick Marvin Williams.

He drafted sharp-shooting Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins and multi-skilled Virginia forward Mike Scott and acquired a slew of new players via the Johnson and Williams trades, including guard Devin Harris, who a former All-Star who is a likely starter, and others whom the Hawks already have parted ways with. During free agency, Ferry added a few more, notably guard Lou Williams and three-point shooting specialist Kyle Korver.

Ferry also has revamped the front office and how it will function, thirty-something hiring assistant general manager Wes Wilcox and fresh-faced basketball operations assistant Andy Birdsong, each of whom Ferry introduced on Tuesday. Ferry also has overseen changes to the coaching staff in conjunction with head coach Larry Drew, including the additions of Kenny Atkinson and advisor Bob Weiss, a former Hawks head coach.

As Ferry continues to get acclimated to his new city – he said he still is living in temporary housing -- and to lay the foundation for what he hopes is a NBA-championship caliber team, he met with local media to discuss the upcoming season. He said he likes the energy he has seen in the team's gym as the players have participated in pick-up games before the official start of camp and leadership he sees in veterans like Korver, Williams and Anthony Morrow, another acquisition via trade who is one of the league's top three-point shooters.

"I do expect us to be very competitive this year," Ferry said. "Going forward, there are several road maps, three ways to get players: strong drafts, free agency and trades and I think in all of those areas we're in good position going forward to put ourselves in a situation where we can be good for a long time as well as win the NBA championship."

Among the hottest topics facing the Hawks this season is the status of forward Josh Smith, the team's co-leader in scoring last season who is in the final year of his contract. Ferry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that Smith would most likely not be re-signed during the season, as incentives accrue to both the player and the team if they wait until the beginning of free agency by being able to sign a longer contract after June 30.

"Josh and his representatives have been clear that he is excited about the direction of the team and wants to be part of the future in Atlanta," Ferry told the paper.

One thing that is clear about Ferry is that he is in for the long haul and that he is intent on building the organization from the ground up with his own ideas. Among those ideas are analytics – sort of advanced statistics and research -- which have been used by, among others, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, an undergraduate computer science major who got his MBA at MIT's Sloan School of Management, which has pioneered in analytics. Former general manager Rick Sund, who remains as a consultant, was more of an old-school GM whereas Ferry is more new-school in the analytics department.

"From an analytics standpoint, we want to start to build a group with our analytics program," Ferry said. "I think it's a great tool. It's not the answer, but it's a great tool and whether that's game-to-game-type situation on a micro level or on the macro level with rosters, what you want roster to look like over next few years. There's a lot of ways to use it. It's a tool that I like a lot and that we will use going forward and we'll have a group focusing on that."

Ferry also wants to the franchise to focus more on improving players once they arrive in Atlanta. It's hard to remember the last time a second-round pick made an impact with the Hawks; Ferry seems to hope that Scott will be the start of that process. (Ferry also added a new strength and conditioning coach in the offseason.)

"I think Larry, first of all, and the staff he's assembled -- Bob Bender and Kenny Atkinson, Nick Van Exel, you go down the list of guys, I think it's a pretty strong staff," Ferry said. "Kenny's real expertise has been player development. It's an area that we have invested money and will continue to get money. We want to get the right people and will, but it's a time commitment that an organization has to make, that the players have to make and it will be emphasized holistically and also just rolling up your sleeves as far as getting out there.

"But it'll be something that's very important to our program this year, but also to the future. Our players need to get better and it's something I believe pretty strongly in."

With the organization already having taken steps to get better, the players will start that process in about a week.