A lockout shortened NBA season is coming down the home stretch, and playoff spots three though eight in the Eastern Conference are up for grabs.
The Atlanta Hawks over the past few seasons have made their way to the dance, but have barely made any noise in the first round. This season Hawks head coach Larry Drew looks to change that for his young team. The Hawks may lack veteran playoff experience, but Drew feels his team can change things this season by getting hot towards the end of the regular season.
Larry Drew joined WCNN in Atlanta with Buck and Kincade to discuss the Atlanta Hawks upcoming games against the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, the NBA lockout presenting challenges in keeping his starting lineup fresh this season, the Hawks being a relatively inexperienced playoff team despite reaching the postseason the past few seasons and preparing for the Boston Celtics.
Looks like a tough assignment this week. Boston on Tuesday and Orlando on Friday. Your thoughts?
“Yeah they should be a couple of tough games. Obviously Boston is right in the thick of things along with Orlando and my mindset is to take them one at a time. We won’t look past anybody and wont look too far ahead. Boston has always been a team that…first of all they are a veteran team and they have been in this situation before, but it is going to be a tough battle.”
What have been the challenges in a lockout shortened season? Are you manipulating the roster differently to use guys?
“Well it’s certainly been a challenge. I think given what our injury situation has been and not really knowing which guys are going to be available to play that has been a challenge. The fact that we are winding down the regular season. It’s important that we maintain a level of focus regardless of who we play. These last 3 ball games we played against a couple of teams that are basically playing spoilers role. I thought it was a challenge for our guys to come out and maintain their focus to just go out and approach each game irregardless of what name is on the back and what the name is on the front. We have to maintain a focus every time we step on the floor. That’s going to be a challenge as we wind down this season with 9 games to go. Certainly there are going to be some teams that are playing for a playoff spot and jockeying for a playoff spot, but we have to again take it one game at a time and just maintain our focus and just play as if each game is a playoff game and see where we end up at the end.”
Do guys like us make too big of a deal about needing home-court advantage in the playoffs?
“No it definitely does. It definitely does. I think any time you can start a series on your floor certainly gives you an advantage. I’ve seen teams in some cases where it doesn’t make as much of a difference. Veteran teams that are capable of going out on the road and winning on the road – they don’t look at is as it being a huge plus, but you take a team like ours and I still consider us a pretty young ball club. We have not experienced the playoffs not like some of these other teams have, so it carries a lot of value when we start a series and are able to come out on our home court and be in front of our own fans.”
What do you see in the Celtics?
“Well they are always going to be tough. First of all they are a veteran club that has been in this situation a couple of times and they came in here I guess a month ago and we ended up losing a very tough ball game down the stretch. We have to go up to Boston and return the favor. It won’t be easy. We are going to have to play smart. We are going to play consistent on both ends of the floor, control the tempo. Their big three…we can’t let those guys get into a groove and get into a rhythm, so we are going to have our hands full and I am sure our guys are looking up to the challenge.