A Texas-Size Challenge

Thursday, December 9, 2010
By Jon Newberry

Let’s hope the Hawks remember the Alamo… or at least remember the Alamodome since the team has yet to win in the Spurs new home, the AT&T Center.

To be fair, Atlanta didn’t fair much better before the move. Overall, the Hawks have lost 12 straight games in San Antonio, dating back to February of 1997.

The Spurs have been good for a long, long time. They have built around Tim Duncan, skillfully acquiring pieces through trades and finding gold in the draft even with high draft picks. This year’s team is no different. Led by Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are off to the best start in franchise history at 18-3.

“They are a typical Spurs team, just solid in every aspect of the game,” commented Hawks head coach Larry Drew following practice on Thursday. “We’re gonna have to be really good.”

The Spurs are generally known for hard nosed defense, but this year’s team is also scoring the basketball at a frantic pace. They are currently leading the league in margin of victory (9.3) and fourth in points per game (106.1).

“They really get up and down the floor,” said Drew. “Parker is one of the best in the league from end to end at getting to the basket. We are going to have to be exceptional at transition defense. That’s just how we are going to have to be in pretty much all of our road games. (We need to) contain on the perimeter, but even go back a step further. Our offense has to put us in a position where we can get back defensively. We have to have good shot selection so that we can maintain good floor balance that will enable us to get back. It will be the ultimate test tomorrow night.”

Zaza Pachulia will likely miss the one-game trip with the flu, but Drew plans on sticking with the bigger line-up that has worked well the past two games.

“We want to make Tim work for all his baskets. It’s been tough, but the thing that has helped us is the fact that when we go big like that we don’t get into as many double-teams and rotations so we’re able to plays these guys heads-up and not get into the rotations where we are running around and trying to get to shooters.”

As far as the losing streak in San Antonio is concerned, LD isn’t changing his focus. “I don’t know about the streaks as far as the last time we won there, but we are going to approach that game just like we do all games and go into it with a defined game plan and just go in there and play just like we have played thus far on the road. ”

While many NBA fans wondered where the Hawks would get their offense from when their leading scorer went down, Atlanta’s G.M Rick Sund made a quick and decisive move to address the hole it left on defense. Damien Wilkins is a big, athletic defender that can lock down both guards and forwards. Listening to LD talk throughout the first couple months of the season, Wilkins is a great addition to what he wants out of the team. Three games in to Damien’s career as a Hawk and his new head coach has no complaints:

“Oh I like him a lot, I really do. I like his size. I like his toughness. He can defend four positions. He gives us some versatility and a guy that, that’s what he’s known for. He’s known to defend big two’s, big three’s, and can guard a four. He gives us a lot of versatility in that area and gives me some flexibility of when I do play him I can give him different defensive assignments. It enhances us a great deal.”