Hawks rookie AJ Griffin on pushing through rookie wall

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Eventually in a number of NBA players’ rookie seasons there comes a point where things start to get tough. For Hawks rookie AJ Griffin, he’s working through the point of the season where the shots aren’t falling the way they used to.

Fifty-eight games into his young career, he’s trying break through that dreaded “rookie wall.” While some debate whether the wall really exists, Griffin said he has been able to check in with some other first-year players who are adjusting to life in the NBA.

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Despite the challenges of trying to keep up his efficiency while trying to knock a high volume of 3-point shots, he’s having fun as he tries to get out of his comfort zone.

“Really just talking after the games,” he said. “I got to talk to Blake Wesley after the Spurs game, and he goes through the same stuff, same with (Pistons rookie) Jaden Ivey. It’s common around the rookies. But I think as this year is going on, you get to learn so much. You get to just grow. I think that’s the exciting part, for me. It’s really getting better and pushing your limits. I think that’s the fun part about this.”

Through 58 games, Griffin has averaged 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and one assist per game. On top of that, he’s still making 38.6% of his 3-point shots despite a cold month in February. Last month, Griffin sank only 21% of his 3-point attempts after a blazing hot January, when he made 23 of 43 tries from long range.

Griffin has played 19 more games this season than he did in his lone season at Duke. He played only 16 of 30 games his sophomore season with foot injuries and missed another 15 games his junior season of high school with a knee injury. He then missed his entire senior season with an ankle injury.

The Hawks understand that the 19-year-old has logged some serious minutes this season. With that, they’ll look for opportunities to help Griffin refresh his legs, while also giving another of their young players the chance to play.

At practice Wednesday, Hawks coach Quin Snyder said that the team is in a blessed, as well as cursed, position because of the depth it has on the roster. He noted that it is uncommon for teams to run a 10-man or 11-man rotation because of the limited minutes to go around.

Snyder said that as the team moves forward, based on matchups there could be nights where they turn to Jalen Johnson, and there could be nights where they need Griffin. So while they understand Griffin’s position, they also know that this is an opportunity for him to power through the challenge.

“It’s interesting, like (Hawks assistant coach) Jamelle (McMillan) and I were talking about it today, and (Griffin) had the (Rising Stars game),” Snyder said. “So, we’ll look for chances for him to kind of get fresher, and and he’s also in a position, he has to power through mentally, too. So, we can help him, and those experiences are what helped guys improve.”

Griffin is up for the challenge. He’s already felt the improvements he’s made over the season. Plus, with teams putting him on their scouting reports and defenders closing out on him faster than before. He recognizes that it will be benefit the team in the long run as he helps to space the floor as defenders help off him.

The Hawks head back to the court Friday when they host the Trail Blazers at State Farm Arena.