Reddish showing progress; looking to ‘make the right play’

Charlotte Hornets Jalen McDaniels (6) defends against Atlanta Hawks Cam Reddish (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Charlotte Hornets Jalen McDaniels (6) defends against Atlanta Hawks Cam Reddish (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

When talking with teammate Cam Reddish, John Collins preaches a message of “aggressive intelligence.”

Incredibly fast, long and athletic, Reddish slowing down and harnessing his speed and aggression at the right time seems to make him most effective both individually and for the Hawks as a whole.

“Calmness, but still try to attac. k… You’re just starting to see his game slow down and when he does slow down and finally pick his spots, the game’s so easy for that dude,” Collins said Wednesday, after the Hawks’ win over the Celtics. “That’s what we want to see more of because it helps him, it helps us. We just want to win. So we’re trying to keep pushing Cam.”

The past few games, Reddish has shown more of that balance and played in control. That’s a good sign for the Hawks, who benefit from him coming off the bench to put pressure on the rim and move the ball, in addition to his solid defense.

When the Hawks were on their six-game losing stretch in early November, Reddish was one of several players rushing pull-up jumpers too early in the shot clock instead of making the defense work. He also only tallied one assist across their four-game road trip out west (losses to Denver, Golden State, Utah and Denver from Nov. 6-12).

But lately, it’s been a different story — he’s slowing down and making the right play, whether that means getting to the rim and being aggressive, taking an open shot or passing up a contested shot to find the open man. Going back to Collins’ message, Reddish has been making good decisions.

“He tells me to be aggressive, be assertive, but at the same time make the right play, being smart, whether I’m driving or taking a regular jump shot, just being aggressive but being smart at the same time,” Reddish said, adding of his last few games: “Just being a little more aggressive, trying to find myself again, that’s pretty much it.”

A handful of Hawks are still working up to 100% health and rhythm, including Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter, but 17 games in, Reddish is tied with Bogdanovic for third on the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game. It’s a small sample size, but that’s a career-high, as is his 36.9% clip from 3-point range and 41.2% field-goal percentage.

He has been coming off the bench, and while Hawks full-bench units have largely struggled, things have picked up recently as coach Nate McMillan leaves at least one starter on the floor, usually Trae Young, John Collins or Capela, to keep things rolling.

In the Hawks’ 115-105 win vs. the Hornets Saturday, Reddish played the whole fourth quarter, hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 38.9 seconds to go to get the Hawks back up to a comfortable nine-point lead, after it had whittled down to four the minute prior. He also had a good pass the play prior, with Collins then finding Huerter for an open 3-pointer to put the Hawks up seven.

“I thought he let the game come to him,” McMillan said of Reddish. “He made plays when the ball was reversed to him on the weak side, being aggressive, attacking the rim, knocking down shots. Defensively, we were able to match him on a couple guys down the stretch and he ended up finishing the game for us tonight, so I really like the way he played (Sunday).”

In particular, Reddish’s physicality and ability to get to the rim adds another dynamic for the Hawks’ offense. That’s something Young loves about Reddish, in addition to the aggression and confidence he’s showing. He had three steals in the Hawks’ win over the Celtics Wednesday, and his defense is even more important now with De’Andre Hunter out for eight weeks after wrist surgery.

“He’s just stepping right in and playing his role, going hard on defense, and then on the offensive end we want him to attack, be aggressive and for me personally I love when he’s going to the basket and he’s making plays and he’s talking mess, just being himself, you know what I’m saying?” Young said. “I think that’s when you get the best version of Cam, when he’s playing like that.

“... It’s big-time because he gets into the lane and he floats and he’s literally attacking a big and gets them in foul trouble, but also gets easy layups because guys want to get out of the way. He’s just a smart basketball player. I think he’s growing and he’s learning. If he can play like that consistently, the way he did tonight, the way he did these past couple games, it’s big for us.”

Consistency is key for Reddish, and that’s the main thing that has evaded him so far in his career. An Achilles injury limited him to 26 regular-season games last season and he struggled with his shot early on as a rookie, missing Summer League with a core injury, but had a strong finish to the year.

Also, he’s had five assists across the past four games, but continuing to develop his passing and playmaking is next on the list for Reddish, who thinks that part of his game will open up as he continues to be aggressive.

“I think that’s something that I want him to add to his game,” McMillan said. “All of our guys, I think most of the guys on our roster, they are scorers, and when you call a play for a guy, it doesn’t mean that you have to shoot it. We want you to make a play, and make the right play. And sometimes that play is passing the ball.

“So those are things that we are challenging our guys to, all these guys that we call plays for or we put the ball in their hands, to make the right play and sometimes that’s putting it in the basket, sometimes that is when you draw two, or there’s an open man, making an assist. I thought he had some really good reads in our last game (against Boston), where he was attacking the paint, the defense had to give help, and he found the open man. That’s what it’s all about. I think he’s playing the game the right way.”