Hawks’ Carroll not just about defense

It’s all in the feet.

DeMarre Carroll’s steadily improving offensive game has been an added bonus for the Hawks this season. The small forward was signed to be a defensive stopper, but he has shown a capability, especially of late, to be productive on offense.

Carroll has scored in double-figures in 12 of the past 14 games since he returned from missing two games with a right thumb sprain. That includes a career-high 22 points in Wednesday night’s loss to the Pelicans.

Carroll quickly credits assistant coach Quin Snyder for helping him develop better footwork. Yes, the game of basketball begins with such fundamentals, even for a player who has reached the highest level.

“I never had anybody work with me on my footwork,” Carroll said recently. “That has been big. The footwork is so big in this league, and I really didn’t know it until (Snyder) taught me. Now, when I watch NBA games I look at guys like Chris Paul and his footwork, a lot of point guards, because they are the best at it.”

In 173 career games before this season, Carroll averaged 4.2 points. In 44 games this season, he has averaged 10.3 points with double-figures 25 times. He has set his career-high in points twice the season and recorded his first double-double. In Wednesday’s effort, Carroll had season-highs with nine made field goals and four assists.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he hired assistants, such as Snyder, who have an ability to teach and develop players. Carroll and Snyder work on a myriad of elements, much more than the casual fan realizes goes into the game. Carroll said they work on his pick-and-roll game and the different angles associated with such a play, attacking off the dribble, shooting floaters and knocking down the 3-point shot.

In his previous four seasons, Carroll was 27-of-95 (.284) from 3-point range. This season, he is 55-of-150 (.367) from outside the arc.

“Quin has a unique ability to break down situations and break down footwork and really take what happens in the game and what your reaction, what your read and what your footwork is based on what the defense is doing to you,” Budenholzer said. “They are pressuring you. They are not pressuring you. They are denying. Ways to get out of trouble. Ways to avoid trouble. A lot of it is footwork and ball-handling.

“There is so much that goes into being good. All the best players have good footwork — (Kevin) Durant, LeBron (James), Dirk (Nowitzki), Tim Duncan, Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker), those guys. It’s a huge part of the game.”

Carroll has put up the numbers on offense as he has continued to hound the opposition’s top scorer. Carroll scored only eight points in Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers, but he also held Paul George to 18 points, below his NBA-ninth-best 22.7 average.

Carroll knows where his bread is buttered. He is here for his defense, but there is no reason he can’t have an impact on offense.

In a recent game last week against the Timberwolves, Carroll dribbled the ball while being hounded by a defender. He even dropped his knees at one point to escape the pressure. Carroll said he looked straight to the bench, and to Snyder, following the play.

“He has been my individual coach, and he has really been giving me the confidence that I can be (defensive stopper) Bruce Bowen and better, playing the offensive side, too, and not just shooting 3’s,” Carroll said. “When I was dribbling the ball and I was on the ground and Corey Brewer had me, I looked at him because he taught me how to keep the ball low.

“I’m just trying to better myself and improve my game.”