Drew, the first-year head coach, drove the point home on the first day of training camp last week. He took the team to the Georgia Tech track for timed mile runs.
It was clear from the start this would be a different training camp for the Hawks.
“We had never done that before,” said center Zaza Pachulia, who is entering his sixth season in Atlanta, after Wednesday’s practice. “It was something different that set the tone from the beginning.”
The conditioning test was no surprise. Drew warned the players about a month before training camp, and they were ready for the challenge.
Every player met Drew’s standard of under 7 minutes.
Drew is installing a motion offense to take advantage of the athleticism.
“I see a lot of positives coming out thus far of the work we’ve put in, and I’m starting to see the guys catch on,” Drew said this week.
Drew, 52, has been an NBA assistant coach for 18 years, including the last six as former coach Mike Woodson’s top assistant. He played 11 seasons with the Pistons, Kings, Clippers and Lakers.
It’s not as if the Hawks never ran under Woodson.
Atlanta ranked fourth in the league with 16.2 fast-break points per game last season, according to STATS, Inc. The problem was the Hawks sometimes slowed to a crawl in their half-court offense. That trend was painfully evident when they were swept by Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
There was widespread criticism that too many Atlanta players stood around, waiting for Johnson to create a scoring opportunity for himself.