PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Acie Law (R), F-C Al Horford (R), G Josh Childress, GAnthony Johnson, F Shelden Williams (R) Rookie
Record: 30-52(13th in East) Points scored: 93.7 (30th in NBA) Points allowed: 98.4 (15th)Coach: Mike Woodson (fourth season with Hawks)
Al Horford wasthe third pick in the June draft, but the 6' 10", 245-pound big man stillhas to pay his NBA dues. That's why veteran center Lorenzen Wright blocked himfrom riding an elevator on the first day of training camp.
"He told me Icouldn't get on because I was a rookie," Horford says. "The other guyswere all laughing. As the doors were closing, I said, 'I'll see you in practicetomorrow.' "
It's that kind ofself-assertion that makes the Hawks think they have found a potential star. Theformer Florida standout has the size and strength to give Atlanta somemuch-needed muscle down low. Though he's not a big scorer, his ability tohandle the ball and pass should mesh well with the talents of athletic wingmenJoe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress. "He bangs andrebounds and does good things around the basket," Hawks coach Mike Woodsonsays of Horford, "and he's a very confident young man. He doesn't seem toget rattled."
Horford--whosefather, Tito, spent parts of three seasons in the NBA--certainly doesn't showany fear. At Florida, coach Billy Donovan dubbed him the Godfather for therespect he engendered, and his quiet but forceful presence was crucial to theGators' back-to-back NCAA title runs.
Horford'sphysical and emotional readiness have made him a popular preseason pick forRookie of the Year. Fellow rookie Acie Law, a poised point guard from TexasA&M, also has heard his name mentioned. Either would be the first Hawksplayer to be so honored since Bob Pettit in 1955. "Right now I'm thinkingmore of team goals," Horford says, "but I feel myself and Acie can comein and help right away."
Wright and theother Atlanta veterans might want to start holding a spot on the elevator.After all, Horford just might be the guy to take them to greater heights.
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Hawks
This team is sobad that you can tell who's taking the first shot simply by whoever gets theball in his hands first. . . . Where do we begin with Josh Smith? He'll dunk itthree straight times, and the next time down he'll want to see if he can getthe three-point shot working, so he'll throw one up out of the flow, clank. Orhe'll make some stupid pass into the third row. Or he'll jump in the air andthrow it at somebody's knees. . . . Al Horford has a better chance of being asuccessful pro than Smith or either Marvin Williams or Shelden Williams. Heknows what he is, and he sticks with that. . . . Marvin Williams thinks he's ajump shooter, but he doesn't make jump shots, and he thinks he's a ballhandler, but he's not quick enough to get by people, so he'll run into them andget called for a charge. . . . They don't have leadership at point guard.Speedy Claxton is in decline--he may have to change his first name. Acie Law isa ball-control guy, and he defends. We'll have to see if he's capable of makingplays for the rest of them.
Josh Smith becamethe first Hawk to have 200 blocks and 100 steals in the same season. He and theNuggets' Marcus Camby, the Defensive Player of the Year, were the only playersto reach both marks in 2006-07.
INNER STRENGTHThe chiseled Horford should make his presence felt.
SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES