Thabo Sefolosha is back in the United States early to prepare for the upcoming NBA season - such is life with school-aged children. The Hawks wing attended and spoke at the organization’s unveiling of a refurbished courts at Cliftondale Park in Fulton County on Saturday.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught up with Sefolosha and he spoke about a number of subjects including the changes to the roster with the addition of Dwight Howard and a rookie class, how the offense will be different next season and his thoughts about entering the final year of his contract.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Q. Generally, what are your thoughts about the offseason changes to the roster?
A. Things have changed a little bit. It’s going to be a new season. I think we have a different dynamic now. It’s going to take a little bit to get used to I’m sure but I think it’s a good change for us. It’s going to bring some toughness, I think. Hopefully, we’ll be competitive.
Q. Dwight Howard will replace Al Horford and Dennis Schroder will replace Jeff Teague. Specifically how do you see the team being different next season? First with Howard?
A. (Howard) is not as much of a stretch-5. Al could really pick-and-pop and shoot the ball. I think Dwight is going to me more of a force close to the basket. I think it’s definitely going to have an impact on the defensive end and the intensity that we play with. It’s definitely something that we were missing. So I think he’s going to come and fill a big void that we had in that area.
Q. Second with Schroder?
A. I love what Jeff was bringing to the team. It’s always tough. Dennis has an incredible talent. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be the point guard. It’s going to be tough. I think we are all going to help him. I think it’s a tough position to be so young and to have so much on your shoulders. I think it’s going to be on all of us to help him. Help him and Dwight. The relationship between the point guard and the (center) is going to be huge. I think early we have to establish something good for them to feel comfortable and it’s going to be on us as veterans, guys like me who have been with the team for a period.”
Q. I’ve been told that the power forward and center are interchangeable in the Hawks’ system. That won’t be the case this season with Howard being a traditional center. Do you think that will be the case?
A. On the defensive end, it’s still possible. On the offensive end, we have a style of play that we move the ball so much. Yes, I think what Al was doing – catching the ball up top and swinging and going to the pick-and-pop – now it’s going to give us some different options by rolling to the basket a lot more, bringing some force to the basket, maybe giving guys open shots on the outside. It’s going to be interesting.
Q. Also, I’m told that the presence of Howard will open up some outside shooting. Do you agree?
A. That’s common knowledge of basketball. Guys rolling to the basket who are that athletic obviously he can go and get it and dunk it. They are going to have to guard that. We are going to have a little bit of a different feel. Maybe it’s going to be a little more open on the wings. There were times when we had all five guys outside of the 3-point line last year. That’s going to be different.
Q. How long of an adjustment period with the changes?
A. Nobody can tell. The best thing to do is embrace the process and not worry if things are going the way we want the first two weeks of the season. For us, it’s going to be about building a team. Then when we go on the court – win or lose – if we fight together and everybody feels like family and everybody embraces their role we are going to be good.
Q. Do you look at it like they’ve made these changes and you’re going to be better next year? How do you look at where you fit in the spectrum of the Eastern Conference?
A. We’ve lost in some aspects. We’ve gained some with Dwight coming – great player, incredible talent – so I think it’s hard to say. We lose a guy like Al, you can’t say if it will be easy to get something that he was bringing to the team. Overall, I think we’ve still got a good core group of guys. It’s going to be on us to be a team and play as a team and to win games.
Q. What do you think of the incoming rookies?
A. Taurean Prince has a body that is NBA-ready. I think he’s going to be able to provide some minutes fairly quickly. Malcolm (Delaney), he’s a seasoned rookie. I think he’s also going to help us, especially with Jarrett Jack being new to the system as a backup and Dennis being so young. I think Malcolm is going to be a big plus.
Q. What have you been doing this summer?
A. I was working the whole summer. I realize it was a big summer. Also, with the changes, it’s going to bring some more opportunities for me offensively. I’ve been working on all that, feeling great, body feeling great, ready to go.
Q. What are your thoughts about going into the final season of your contract?
A. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind. Once it is basketball season, I believe that if you take care of what you have to the rest will take care of itself. I’m going to focus on what I can control, play my game and take it from there.
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