Hawks Notebook: Ferry leading changes at camp
ATLANTA – Last season, with the NBA lockout shortening training camp to a laughable formality, the Hawks’ two most recent second-round picks, Pape Sy (’10) and Keith Benson (’11), did not make the roster.
Both of those players were invited to this week’s rookie camp and will participate on the team’s entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and are hoping to land a roster spot.
Under former general manager Rick Sund, the Hawks went old last season, cutting Sy and Benson in favor of long-time veterans like Jerry Stackhouse and Tracy McGrady.
With Danny Ferry having taken over for Sund, the Hawks are going in a new direction. Whether that means Sy and Benson make the team remains to be seen but, in any event, opportunity appears to be presenting itself to those two.
Sy played last season in his native France and looks noticeably stronger. During the 2010-11 season that he spent with the Hawks, the team tried to make him into a point guard. Now coach Larry Drew is talking about him as a shooting guard and the Hawks could use his size there.
Sy seems to like the change from point to shooting guard.
“I feel stronger,” he said. “I worked on my shot, so I feel more comfortable with my shot.”
Drew complimented him for his play during rookie camp scrimmages when he took the ball to the basket and used his size to get his shot off. While management might be new, the coaching staff remains the same from when Sy was last with the team. Sy said that gave him a comfort level.
“The same coaches,” Sy said. “I know them, so I talked with them and feel good about it.”
As for the 6-11 Benson, a forward, he spent most of his season in the NBA Development League, but he also signed a 10-day contract with Golden State and got in same game action. Benson played a total of nine minute, missing his only field goal try but grabbing three rebounds.
“It was a good experience to be on a team during the regular season, get some playing time and see how fast-paced everything is and get a feel for it,” Benson said, “so I’ll be better prepared for this year.”
Benson also said he spent a lot of time working with a personal trainer, strengthening his core and lower body so that he’ll be able to hold his ground against bigger players.
Benson said he thinks that the lockout hurt his chances to make the team.
“I came to minicamp and it was a big break before I came back,” he said. “Now I just get to focus on the NBA. I went overseas and it was two different styles of play. I can just focus in on the Hawks now.”
Helping the Hawks to fill out their summer league roster are players whose chances of making the team vary, including some longshots. Among those who impressed on Tuesday when the scrimmages were opened to the media was 6-9 forward John Shurna out of Northwestern. Shurna averaged 20.0 points per game for the Wildcats as a senior in 2011-12, shooting 46.3 percent. He got a hot hand on Tuesday, stroking a number of long jumpers.
Another invited player who brings with him some impressive statistics is 6-11 Brian Butch, a 27-year-old who played his college ball at Wisconsin. Butch averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds in 2009-10 in the D-League but an injury forced him to sit out all of the following season. When he returned last season, his production was not quite as high, at 15.3 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Drew was asked about some of the longshots’ chances.
“Yeah, I mean, all these guys that we did bring in, obviously, we have interest in these guys,” he said. “They must be doing something right in order to get a look and we have guys who follow the D-League and European leagues and they know what these guys can do…
“We take that into total consideration, knowing what our situation is and trying to fill our roster. We want to look at these guys very closely and not only these guys, but we’ll be tracking other guys who are out there and we’ll look and see what’s available and who is available and just what their situation is. But it’s a perfect opportunity for these guys to showcase their talent but it’s important that they showcase it in the right way. We don’t want guys who are going to be strictly be for themselves. It still has to be a team concept, still has to be the way we want them done and they still have to be extremely competitive.”
Williams Signing Official
The Hawks officially announced the signing of guard Lou Williams, a metro Atlanta native, on Thursday. Here is Ferry’s statement on the signing: “Upon learning of his situation, Lou was a player we really targeted for our club. He’s a young and experienced professional who is capable of providing leadership as a starter or a reserve, and his versatility is a tremendous plus for our backcourt.’
Pachulia in Tennis Exhibition
On Monday at opening day of the BB&T Atlanta Open, an ATP event held at Atlantic Station, Hawks center Zaza Pachulia will participate in an exhibition with pro tennis player Mardy Fish.
According to a release Pachulia “will take on ATP professional Mardy Fish in a special tennis match and basketball shooting competition.” Watching the 6-11, 275-pound Pachulia get around a tennis court could be a treat.