The Union Recorder

October 4, 2012

Hawks not expecting 1 player to replace Johnson

CHARLES ODUM
The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Larry Drew smiled Wednesday as he talked about the fun he has had with his coaching staff drawing up different lineup combinations for the Atlanta Hawks.

Drew's long list of newcomers includes Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson and rookie John Jenkins.

That makes for a lot of combinations.

All Drew knows for sure is it will take a combination of those players to replace Joe Johnson, a six-time All-Star.

The Hawks traded Johnson, who averaged more than 20 points in five of his seven seasons in Atlanta, to the Brooklyn Nets in July for five players and a draft pick.

When healthy, Johnson was a lock as the starting shooting guard. Now Drew has to figure out who will join three returning starters — center Al Horford, forward Josh Smith and point guard Jeff Teague — in the new-look lineup.

"Every morning before we come out on the floor, my staff and I meet and we talk about the different combinations," Drew said. "That was one thing we wanted to do in training camp, throw out a lot of different combinations to get a good feel for some of these guys and how they play with others."

First-year general manager Danny Ferry also traded small forward Marvin Williams to the Jazz for Harris.

The Hawks could be much smaller — and quicker — if Drew replaces Johnson and Marvin Williams with a three-guard lineup.

Teague said he's expecting to play at times with another point guard, Harris or Lou Williams. Teague said the Celtics had success last season playing small but quick guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley together.

"That was the whole idea, having me and Devin out there on the floor or me and Lou," Teague said. "That's a tough combination, kind of like Rondo and Bradley last year. They had two guys able to pick up guys full-court and cause havoc. I think we can do the same thing."

It's no surprise Teague referred to the defensive implications of a small lineup. Drew has made an impression on his newcomers early in training camp that defense comes first.

"I've never done so much defensively off the bat in training camp in my career," said Morrow, who played the last two years with the Nets after two seasons with Golden State.

Harris is 6-3, Teague is 6-2 and Williams is 6-foot-1. Teague's size wasn't an issue when he was paired with Johnson, who is 6-7.

Williams said speed can make up for lack of height.

"It's a speed league anyway," Williams said. "It's all about quickness and obviously we have a lot of guys that can fly around.

"It's going to be fun to see how everything works out and how we put this team together. I don't think teams are going to have a break when they play us, because we have three guards capable of playing that position."

Williams played both guard positions with Philadelphia. He averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game with the Sixers last season when he was runner-up to Oklahoma City's James Harden for NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Morrow has made more than 40 percent of his 3-point shots in three of the last four years. Korver has topped 40 percent on 3s in six of his last eight years. Jenkins, from Vanderbilt, was rated as perhaps the top shooter in the draft. Harris has averaged 13.1 points in his career.

"We definitely can put points on the board," Teague said. "That's not going to be a problem. Everybody can put the ball in the bucket when they need to. That's a great thing to have."

Drew said the main problem now is getting the newcomers trained in his system.

"The guys who have been here, they know what they're supposed to do out there," Drew said. "We've still got guys who are a little bit lost. When you mix in the guys who know what they're doing with the guys who are a little lost, it can get a little bit scattered at times.

"I'm really just trying to make sure what we put in and the combinations we try really do make sense so they can see the big picture."

Atlanta waived two of the players it received for Johnson — forward Jordan Williams and Jordan Farmar— before training camp. Morrow, guard DeShawn Stevenson and center Johan Petro also came to Atlanta in the trade.