Jalen Johnson, who had a nonsurgical procedure during the offseason, was healthy. Coach Nate McMillan added that Johnson, a second-year forward, participated in five-on-five activities during the team’s workouts in September.
Fields said John Collins (finger), Clint Capela (knee), AJ Griffin (foot) all were good to go for training camp and the team is healthy overall heading into camp.
Expectations for the Murray-Young tandem
One of the top questions heading into the season was how Trae Young and Dejounte Murray would handle sharing the basketball. From Fields, to McMillan, to Murray and Young, all expressed confidence in the young guards’ ability to adapt.
“It was exciting to me as soon as I heard it was a possibility,” Young said. “Just knowing his game and what he brings to the team. It’s hard to point out what he’s great at, but he’s good at everything -- like defense, scoring, passing, rebounding. I mean, he’s really good at everything. So just having somebody who’s going to be just as dependent as I am in the backcourt, which is going to be the fun, I can’t wait to get started.”
Fields said that the team would give Young and Murray the opportunity to see what their together could become. He added that it was expected to be clunky in the early days as they adjust to each other’s habits, but the team expects them to make the necessary adjustments.
“But the reality of the situation in any course of development, there’s gonna be conflict before, and I don’t mean that in a negative connotation, I just mean that there’s some friction that has to take place in order for us to grow through that,” Fields said.
“So, we’ll see what that looks like. I know Coach and his staff are gonna work on great schemes and ways in which we want to play this year that are going to give them a general outlook and plan of how that’s going to look. And then at the end of the day, you’re gonna have to perform and leverage how smart they are and their competitive nature to make it work.”
Hawks-Hunter negotiations still a work in progress
The Hawks have until Oct. 17 to make a decision on De’Andre Hunter’s rookie extension. If they do not pick up the extension, Hunter will become a restricted free agent in July, which leaves the option for the Hawks to extend an offer sheet. Hunter can explore his options, and should he receive something more favorable from another team, the Hawks will have to match the offer. If they don’t, Hunter will be able to move on.
Fields said he hoped that both sides would be able to reach an agreement before the deadline, while Hunter said that he left that up to his agent.
Both McMillan and Fields talked of how Hunter fits into the Hawks’ plans for the future as the team aims to compete deep into the playoffs.
For the first time since Hunter was drafted in 2019, he has not had a traditional offseason. So, he took advantage of the time to improve his skill set on offense and defense. Hunter said that he spent the offseason working on his ballhandling to give the team another option.
But Hunter said he aimed to take another step on defense, especially because that was one of the team’s weaker areas last season. Now after seeing his team in action in workouts, he has confidence that they have gotten better.
“We’ve been in the gym for about two or three weeks, just working out and playing pick up things like that, just learning each other’s games, and I feel like that’s big because, you know, we haven’t done that prior to this year,” Hunter said. “So just having that stuff going into training camp helps a lot.”
Keeping communication open with Collins
Collins’ name has come up frequently in trade conversations, but the Hawks have not pulled the trigger on any deals to trade the veteran forward. Fields said that Collins has remained a professional through all of the noise and said he empathizes with what he is experiencing.
Fields vowed to keep the communication lines between Collins and the team open. He added that he asked Collins to do the same.
Collins has played an instrumental role in the Hawks’ starting five over the past five seasons. He has averaged 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists over, and the team said it will continue to rely on his talent.
With Murray in the fold, Collins could unlock another level to his game.
While Fields did not hint that Collins’ name would never find its way into the trade rumor mill again, it would appear there is a commitment to do right by him.
Defensive communication a key for them taking the next step
The Hawks have spoken a lot about their need to get better on defense. On Friday, McMillan spoke about how the team is doing that. He added that one aspect of the team’s struggles on defense comes down to a breakdown in communication, and keeping consistent communication was one of its goals.
The Hawks added a few veterans over the offseason who will add to the team’s defensive presence. But McMillan was quick to acknowledge that the improvements wouldn’t happen overnight.
But with guys like Justin Holiday and Frank Kaminsky ready to lean into their roles as veterans on the team.
Holiday said that he was prepared to lead by example, while Kaminsky said that he was willing to contribute from the court, as well as the bench.
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides defensively throughout the course of my career,” Kaminsky said. “And a lot of that has just been my communication and understanding in what other teams are trying to do.
“If you watch games, I’m always that guy on the defensive end that tries to scream out calls and plays before they happen. If you recognize something, you can see something you’re trying to add to the game. You have to be able to speak and communicate with your teammates, even especially on the bench.”