Etan Thomas and forward Josh Powell play a bruising, high-energy style that already has led to a few heated engagements at Hawks practices.
Not that such a development is a bad thing for the Hawks, who are trying to supplement their talent with some grit.
“All of Etan’s career he’s brought toughness,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “Josh has come in and he’s a physical player. We definitely need that. He played on a championship-caliber team with two rings.
“The physicality is there, and I like that. It definitely brings a ‘no back down’ attitude to the ‘bigs'.”
Thomas and Powell were both signed as free agents this summer. It's not certain either player will be part of coach Larry Drew's regular rotation --Thomas is no higher than the No. 3 center behind Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia and Powell might be fifth or sixth in the power rotation since Horford is expected to play some at power forward.
But the newcomers already have made an impact on the practice floor.
“They have certainly brought some physicality to our practices, which I embrace,” Drew said. “Both guys play that style. Coming here and being who they are, it makes our practices that much more competitive.”
Before injuries and age intervened, Thomas earned a rep for being tough and scrappy despite being relative short (6-10) for a center. He’s still got a stout build and a disposition to take on all comers.
Thomas said he’s noticed the Hawks are ready to make amends for last spring.
“Yeah, they won 53 games, and that’s a great season, but the way it ended left a bitter taste,” Thomas said. “Everybody is really hungry and determined not to let that happen again. Everybody came ready.”
When the Hawks signed Powell, general manager Rick Sund cited Powell's experience with the Lakers as a plus. Powell didn't play much for the Lakers over the last two seasons but earned praise for his practice habits and professionalism.
Powell owns the insight that only comes from being part of a championship program.
“The first thing is you have got to have a group of guys that is committed,” Powell said. “Commitment can be from all aspects: defensively, offensively, sacrifice. We obviously have the talent. We have a lot of guys with skills.
“We just have got to continue to work hard and create good habits.[You do that] with the effort. When you have that in practice it’s much easier to have in games. We have to have that mindset, that killer mentality.”
Still working hard
The two-a-day practices and hotel stays are over for the Hawks. The long, hard sessions have just begun.
Drew said he wants the training camp mindset to carry over into the rest of the season.
“That has to be our approach for every practice, whether [it's] camp or mid-season,” he said. “We have to bring an aggressive mentality on how we are going to approach our games, and it all starts in practice.”
Horford (ankle), Mo Evans (knee), Pape Sy (back) and Jamal Crawford (back) sat out the contact portions of practice Monday. Powell (groin) returned to full participation.
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