Van Exel Hire Could Help Shape Future

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
By Jon Newberry

The Hawks announced today that they have added Nick Van Exel to their staff as a “Player Development Instructor”.

On the surface this does not appear to be big news. Many teams have a similarly accomplished former player in a similar role. A closer look reveals that this small addition to the coaching staff could change the direction of the Hawks franchise.

Van Exel played 13 seasons in the NBA from 1993-2006, finishing his career with 12,658 points while averaging 6.6 assists per contest. He was named to the 1997-98 Western Conference All-Star team and earned a reputation as one of the most exciting guards in the league to watch. (Click Here for a full recap of his playing career in the official press release) His handles (immortalized by Jay-Z in the song “Crazy in Love”) were among the best of his era, and his brash style of play allowed the 6’1″, 170-pound guard to fill up the highlight tapes while playing primarily below the rim.

As a Player Development Instructor for the Hawks Van Exel will have contact with Joe, Jamal and Bibby, but veterans with nearly a decade (or more) of experience can only alter their approach so much. It is the potential influence Nick can have on the Hawks younger players that is exciting.

Up until now I would guess that few, if any, people have labeled Jeff Teague as “brash”. On the flip side, I doubt that anyone has described Nick Van Exel as “quiet” or “timid”. Van Exel played every night like he had a very large chip on his shoulder. Even after he had well established himself as a top-tier guard in the league he seemed to play like he was always out to prove any doubters wrong. If Teague can adopt any of that defiant, brash, aggressive (but under control) style that Van Exel perfected, then his value to the Hawks this year and beyond has just shot through the roof.

Earlier this summer in Vegas Jordan Crawford showed that he has some of that aggressive style in his game. Van Exel should be able to teach him how to perfect it and how to develop the skills and decision making that must accompany that aggression. Hopefully they can get past the whole cross-town rivalry from their days at Xavier and Cincinnati.

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