Kris Humphries will be back in a Hawks uniform next season. The late-season addition signed a one-year, $4 million deal to return.
In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Humphries spoke about a variety of subjects including his free agency process, the difference in the team with the addition of Dwight Howard and loss of Al Horford and what he expects from Dennis Schroder.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q. What’s it like to be back with the Hawks? I know before you left for the summer you said you wanted to come back.
A. It’s exciting. I think that we have a chance to improve upon what we did last year. The team is a little different with Dwight (Howard) versus (Al) Horford but there are a few things we’ll miss from Al and a few things that Dwight brings. He’s one of four or five guys in the NBA with what he does in terms of rim protection and things like that. I’m excited to be back. We’ve got Dennis (Schroder) running the show and I think he’s wanted it. I can’t wait to see how he comes out to start the year.
Q. Can you take me through the free agency process? Were there other teams interested or did you just wait to see how things unfolded with the Hawks?
A. It was some wait and see. Obviously, other teams were interested. But for me, I wasn’t going to play on a team that wasn’t a playoff team with a shot to win. Being in the playoffs is so important, so fun, that that is one of the more important things when it comes down to making decisions.
Q. Did Hawks management – (GM) Wes (Wilcox) and (Coach Mike Budenholzer) - let you know that they wanted you back?
A. Yes. I talked to Bud a week, week and a half before I signed. It gets tricky. There are a lot of moving parts. As a player, you have to avoid getting caught up in that. For me, it’s about winning. It’s a situation where I’m glad to be back. They told me during the process that they wanted me back. I think it worked out for everyone.
Q. Why the one-year deal? Were there offers for longer or are you thinking you are getting near the end?
A. I feel great. My body feels great. Everything feels great. I think the one year was the kind of situation where it worked out for both sides. Sometimes things are like ‘OK, let’s just do this for a year and we’ll see.’ It wasn’t like there was a lot of thought that went into it. I’ve played on short-term deals in the past. I never have a problem with playing and earning my money every year. I plan to be healthy for a long time. If I had to, I’d play on a one-year deal the rest of my career. It’s not a big deal to me.
Q. What do you see your role as next season considering the changes made to the roster with a stretch-5 like Horford gone and replaced by a more traditional center in Howard?
A. It’s hard to tell. I’m going to continue to do the things that I did last year. Whatever role I’m in, I’m ready to be the best I can be. I don’t really know. I think we will change the offense a little bit with a few more post-ups probably. We didn’t have much post-action last year. I think we’ll probably do some post-up with Dwight. You just compare yourself the best you can to help the team.
Q. Can you speak a little to Schroder taking over at point guard and what do you expect to be different with him running the show?
A. I think it’s something that he’s wanted. He did a great job last year of cheering for Jeff (Teague) and being supportive and playing hard when he had his opportunity. He was a team guy about it. Everyone is competitive and you could tell he wanted to take over as the starting point guard. I’m excited for him to get that opportunity. I know he works really hard. As far as our team, he’s a really good defender. There are a lot of things he can do on the court. I’m not really going to get into comparing him to Jeff but he’s a guy who has wanted this opportunity. I think he’s going to go out and do whatever he can to elevate his game and elevate us. I think Coach Bud and Wes and all of us teammates expect him to bring his game to another level now that he’s getting the opportunity that he’s wanted.
Q. You are a veteran of many NBA seasons. When a team loses a player like Horford, there is a sense of a leadership void. Is that something you see yourself fitting into even more than you might have? I’ve talked to a lot of guys around the team that have said you are not afraid to speak up.
A. I think coming into a team, like last year for me to come into that team with the Hawks having won 60 games the season before, it’s hard to come into that situation and try to overly assert yourself. Like you said, I’m not afraid to tell what I see. Al being gone and he’s been here is whole career, everyone has to step up. Me being more familiar with what’s going on will help me take more of a leadership role. It’s really has to come from everybody. It starts with Dennis because him being the point guard, he is calling the plays. He has the ball in his hands. I think we need him to be a big leader for us based on his play and the way he carries himself this year.
Q. By the end of last season, how comfortable were you in the system as far as where to be and where your shot would come from? Will you be able to take another step in that direction next season?
A. I think that will improve just because you get in a system and you figure it out but the more you play in it things becomes easy. Counters and reads become more second nature. I was comfortable last year in what we were doing but you can improve. If you look at the players in this system or any system for a long time, they get to the point where it’s so fluid. I think things will be a lot smoother for me next year but I felt good last year.
Q. You said winning and being with a playoff team was so important to you. Does that come from years of being in the league and wanting that success? Why was that the priority?
A. When you play in the playoffs, the excitement, that’s want the grind is all about. You go through a season and 82 games, if you are going through all of that and not have a realistic chance of playing at the end of April and May, it’s kind of tough. Especially if you’ve played over 10 years in the NBA. I’d imagine if you talk to a guy like (Kyle) Korver or a guy who has played for a while and been in the playoffs, the last thing a guy who has played a long time wants to do is go to a situation where you are not competing for the playoffs.
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