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October 2, 2012

New-look Hawks insist they're not just rebuilding

ATLANTA — Josh Smith calls it "semi-rebuilding."

Lou Williams goes with the term "restructuring."

Whatever the description, there's no denying that the Atlanta Hawks will look a lot different this season.

The group that begins training camp on Tuesday includes only five holdovers from last year's team, which made its fifth straight trip to the playoffs but was eliminated in the opening round by the Boston Celtics.

Gone is Joe Johnson, the centerpiece of the team since 2005. Marvin Williams also was sent packing, a former No. 2 overall pick who never lived up to expectations.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge because we're semi-rebuilding," said Smith, one of the few familiar faces. "You hate to see those guys leave. But we're going to be playing with different teammates now, so we've got to try to make things work."

Stuck on a seemingly perpetual loop of being a good team that didn't have any trouble making the playoffs, but was never stout enough to get past the second round, the Hawks decided on a dramatic makeover after their latest postseason exit. They hired a new general manager, Danny Ferry, who immediately put his stamp on the team by making two striking moves that were designed to give the team enough maneuvering room financially to chart a new course.

He sent Johnson, a six-time All-Star but also the team's highest-paid player, to the Brooklyn Nets for what amounted to a bunch of soon-to-be expiring contracts. Williams' hefty salary was sent to the Utah Jazz for point guard Devin Harris.

"It's kind of startling," Smith said. "But you knew something was going to happen when they brought in a new GM."

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