Like all the other free-agent invitees in the Hawks' training camp, Othello Hunter has designs on securing one of the open roster spots that are available.
But unlike most of them, he has extensive experience in coach Mike Woodson's system. He knows the ins and outs of the offense and what Woodson is looking for on defense.
He also knows that the key to making the right impression is playing at a breakneck pace on both ends of the floor at all times, courtesy of spending his rookie season with the Hawks last year.
"I just feel like I have to play like that all the time," Hunter said. "It doesn’t matter if I was already signed here [to a guaranteed contract] or not. I understand now what it means to be working to take care of your family and working with a purpose. I did it last year. Even more important to me is proving that you can play and that you belong here.
"And to do that, you've got to go hard every single day."
Hunter has done that. And there's no doubt he belongs. Even though he played sparingly last season, he appeared in just 16 games; he made a strong case for a return visit to camp with his diligent work in the offseason.
He worked regularly with Hawks assistant coach Tyrone Hill to polish his game and also with strength and conditioning coach Chattin Hill to build up his frame.
"I think it helped, I really do," said Hunter, who explored other training-camp options this summer before deciding to return to the Hawks. "I know what to expect better this time around. I know what training camp is going to be like. I know what's expected. Being here made the most sense for me."
"He's worked hard and it shows," Woodson said. "He's doing a fantastic job right now."
Woodson acknowledged after Friday's practice that he eased up on his team a bit in anticipation of a weekend full of live scrimmage action, complete with game officials. "I think they were a bit tired from [Thursday]," he said. "But that also gave us an opportunity to teach a little bit more. We put in a lot of the offense and that's a good thing."
Woodson said the plan is teach a little bit more Saturday morning and then go into some scrimmage work, duplicating that routine on Sunday and Monday as well.
"We actually had two extra days this year before we actually play," Woodson said. "We're still getting our conditioning in as needed. But camp is a long way from over, so we just have to be smart about pacing ourselves for what we're trying to do this season."
Hawks assistant headed to hall
Hawks legend and vice president of basketball Dominique Wilkins won't be the only member of the staff in a Hall of Fame this time next week.
Assistant coach Jim Todd is set to be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame on Oct. 9 in Rhode Island.
Todd played and coached at Fitchburg State in Massachusetts, where he's already in the school's athletic Hall of Fame. He's also in the Hall of Fame at Salem State, just north of Boston, where he also coached.
"Hey, they recognize a lot of people," Todd said Friday. "But it's nice. Bob Cousy is in it, so is Tommy Heinsohn and other guys like that. So it's a nice honor."
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