Hawks take advantage of healthy training-camp roster to ramp up competition

Hawks guard Tyson Etienne dribbles during practice Saturday in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Hawks guard Tyson Etienne dribbles during practice Saturday in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Hawks have wasted no time getting players into the competitive spirit. The team has taken advantage of how focused and healthy its training-camp roster has been as the Hawks seek to improve on last season’s early exit from the playoffs.

The Hawks held a conditioning test during their second camp practice Saturday night.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan said everyone survived Saturday’s test, though he was not surprised. The team notified players of what the test entailed before camp, so there was an expectation they would be ready.

“I expected them to pass the test if they did anything this summer, and we had some guys put up some good numbers,” McMillan said. “But everybody passed the test, and we can move on. (We) came in today, I thought these guys would be a little sore. But they came out and had another good intense practice.”

McMillan said the team completed five trips up and down the court in a predetermined time based on their positions. While players were not surprised by what their teammates did, McMillan said there were a few players who ended up completing their tests with time to spare.

“We had some guys that were plus-nine, plus, I think plus-18,” McMillan said. “We had a plus-28, which I had never seen before. And the way that you get plus-28 is if your time is 60, OK, you run it in 50, OK, that’s plus- 10. So, that guy was pushing. I won’t give out names, but I think the majority of the team was plus at least plus-one.”

The Hawks will look to capitalize on their speed and athleticism as they look to push the pace. The conditioning, of course, will help them deep into games as the 82-game season progresses.

Their conditioning will also help them in the immediate future as they look to take advantage of a mostly healthy roster. The team is without Bogdan Bogdanovic, who had a procedure this offseason and did not enter camp at 100%.

So, the Hawks coaching staff will try to get the best idea of how the team’s rotation will shake out based on how competitive players are.

“We’re making this camp all about competing and challenging each other, to get better every day,” McMillan said. “Our goal is to be better than we were yesterday. And, as I said to those guys, I thought they were better today than they were yesterday. So, that’s the goal we want to come out with each and every day.”

That’s part of the reason veteran forward Justin Holiday categorizes McMillan as an old-school coach. But Holiday added that McMillan has shown that he continues to understand today’s NBA game and how to manage today’s players. Holiday said it is something that suits him.

“I think every team wants to be in condition; some teams do it differently,” Holiday said. “Some teams don’t have conditioning tests. You know, Nate is old school and is always going to challenge you to come in condition off the rip, not getting in condition, you know, and playing pickup and, you know, when we’re practicing, whatever. So that’s, that’s a little, I guess, the extent of that.

“And then again, it’s hard to say that I’m not saying one side doesn’t do it. But like, expectations defensively, Nate is an old-school coach because of the fact that we’re going to come out here and defend like he usually has had good defensive teams. And he’s gonna make sure he utilizes that and gets that someway somehow. And I think we’re doing it.”

It’s helped them to work through some of the tedious parts of camp faster, and Holiday said it has helped them get the best out of players.

“First day we’re already doing competition stuff,” Holiday said. “We all want to play at the end of the day. So doing the competition and at the same time working on what we need to work on, so pick-and-roll competition, I think that’s what gets the best out of the players.

“It keeps us from also standing. I hate standing in practice. And sometimes you have to stand and learn and teach, but when you have a group like we do, guys are getting through stuff quickly. Most of these guys have been together. The dudes they brought in (are) guys who have played it for a while, so we get to the competitions earlier, and I think we all enjoy that.”