ATHENS – Al Horford got a smile on his face when asked about rookie Adreian Payne at Monday’s media day. A big smile.
“Explosive, man,” Horford said. “Honestly. I never saw him play much in college and I didn’t realize that he was that explosive. He is a special athlete, I’m telling you, just blocking shots and some of the dunks he does. And he can shoot. He can really shoot the 3-ball. I was really impressed with him. … He is a very, very nice addition to our team.”
Payne, the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft out of Michigan State, played six games for the Hawks Las Vegas Summer League team. He averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 forward admitted he was still learning where his shot will come from in the Hawks offensive system. That process progressed through the summer during open gym workouts with Hawks veterans. And it will dramatically increase in training camp with coaches on the floor.
“It’s been a tough transition trying to pick up some things from the vets because they have so many different moves and schemes that they do out of the court,” Payne said. “It’s just trying to get used to some of those things.”
* The Hawks wrap up their three-day stay in Athens with one final practice Thursday. The team held a morning and evening practice each of the first two days. The morning sessions included a lot of scrimmaging, while the evening sessions were more concentrated on teaching, shooting and establishing offensive and defensive foundations without contact.
“To play five-on-five and get after each other, learn how to make reads and decisions with defense,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of the morning sessions. “Defensively, learn how to react when the ball is moving and driven.”
* There is one more Hawk recovering from surgery in addition to Kent Bazemore and Horford – assistant coach Darvin Ham. The coach tore his left Achilles about two months ago playing basketball with his children. Ham is wearing a walking boot and uses a cane to get around.
* Athletic trainer Wally Blase will be interviewed as part of an upcoming 30 for 30 film about Dennis Rodman.
* In case you missed it, here are yesterday’s stories from training camp:
* Later today look for my feature on John Jenkins’ return following back surgery. With the Hawks carrying seven big men – a rarity in the NBA – and three point guards there are only five wing players on the roster. That means Jenkins will likely be part of the rotation, especially until Bazemore is fully cleared to play.