Hawks using break to get healthy, work on conditioning

Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) drives as Miami Heat forward Chris Silva, left, and guard Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (3) drives as Miami Heat forward Chris Silva, left, and guard Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Credit: Lynne Sladky

After three consecutive losses and injuries to starting point guard Trae Young and backup Evan Turner, the Hawks now get a much-needed break.

Their next game isn’t until Tuesday, when they host the Spurs at State Farm Arena, so that’s four days, and a true off day Sunday, for the team to regroup and get healthy. Coming off a heartbreaker to the 76ers on Monday and two tough losses to the Heat Tuesday and Thursday, the team welcomes that gap, John Collins said after practice Friday.

“It’s amazing,” Collins said. “I’d say as a group, the NBA, NBA players love time off, days off, to just rest our body. All this travel, all the games, media, everything we have to do, all combined together, makes for a nice workload, so it’s always nice to have a couple days off.”

The four-day gap gives Young, who sprained his right ankle in Tuesday’s loss, Turner, who has been experiencing left Achilles pain and also rolled his ankle in the win vs. the Magic on Oct. 26 and Kevin Huerter, who’s working his way back from right knee issues, time to heal. (Collins sprained his left ankle in Thursday’s loss, but returned to the game and was able to go through a full practice Friday, mentioning his ankle is bruised, but it’s nothing serious.)

After playing the Spurs on Nov. 5, the Hawks have two more home games (against the Bulls on Nov. 6 and the Kings on Nov. 8). They avoid having to travel for a while, even if they do have to play three games in four days.

These next few days are beneficial, coach Lloyd Pierce said, for a few players to try to heal, but also for others to improve their conditioning, which has contributed to some lapses and scoring droughts in the Hawks’ three losses.

Against Miami on Tuesday, the Hawks shot a season-low 42.2% from the field and 28.2% from 3-point range -- those numbers fell again Thursday, going 40.9% from the field and 20.6% from 3. As a team, the Hawks are shooting 29.2 percent from 3-point range (No. 28 in the league).

Of course, five games in, that’s a small sample size, and Young being out no doubt hurts the Hawks’ numbers.

But behind those numbers are a few players still building to full speed, Pierce said.

“Our shooting numbers are a result of guys just not having their legs behind them early in the season,” Pierce said, mentioning the conditioning of Huerter, Vince Carter, Alex Len and rookie Cam Reddish, who underwent core muscle surgery earlier in the summer.

“Vince Carter is a shooter, we know. For him to be 1-for-whatever-he-is, part (of it is he’s 42), but part not having his legs there yet, but that’ll get better. Same thing with Cam, same thing with Kevin, same thing with Alex. Those are the guys that really struggled with their outside shot. It’ll help us get in shape, I hope.”

Huerter, who missed all preseason and has operated on a minute restriction in the regular season, working his way to 25 minutes Thursday, is shooting 26.3 percent from 3-point range (taking 3.8 per game). Len is shooting 15.4% from 3 (taking 2.6 per game), Carter is shooting 6.3% from 3-point range (taking 3.2 per game) and Reddish made his first career 3-pointer in Thursday’s loss.

For Huerter, getting up to full-game speed also is important for his defense.

“There’s some good of where he is, and there’s still some areas, his reaction time, especially defensively, it’s easy when you’re on offense, you can control the speed you go at, but on defense you have to react,” Pierce said.

“You can see some areas where he’s just not there yet. And it’s no knock of his, but when you come off of injury, that’s where conditioning and fatigue and acceleration, deceleration start to show.”

As a team, it’s not really a matter of the Hawks getting together and running wind sprints. Their conditioning drills are centered around functional movement and decision-making, running through plays at game speed.

Focusing on getting to the rim also will help the Hawks open up some 3-pointers (in Thursday’s loss, they took 20 free throws in the first half, but took six in the second).

“We lost that mental edge of attacking in the second half, which is what we need, which will also get us more uncontested 3’s,” Pierce said. “We’re shooting a lot of dribble 3’s, and you’ve got to have great legs and great strength to shoot those type of shots. So we’re just focused on getting in shape, attacking more, trying to create easier opportunities for ourselves.”

In Other News