ATLANTA — For a team that looks so familiar on paper, the Atlanta Hawks look much different on the court.
Point guard Jeff Teague will be the only new starter when the Hawks open their season on Tuesday at New Jersey, but some of the veterans have new looks.
Strong forward Josh Smith has lost about 25 pounds. He is down to about 225 pounds on his 6-foot-9 frame. He says he sought the quickness he had as a rookie seven years ago, in part because he was asked to alternate more between the two forward spots last season.
“If I’m going to be a more versatile player this year, to be able to get around those screens and be more mobile, I had to get back to the weight that I was accustomed to playing when I first got into the league,” Smith said.
Several Atlanta players have said small forward Marvin Williams looks like he’s an inch taller after off-season back surgery.
“I went to a gym to work out with Josh and the first time I saw him I said ‘Where is the rest of you?’ ” Teague said. “He just said ‘I’ve been getting ready and back to my old self, jumping higher and playing faster.’
“I was like ‘Man, big ups to you!’ Then I saw Marvin and it looks like he grew an inch. I was like, man! But I was excited. It looks like these guys put in a lot of work and are ready to play.”
Williams, entering his seventh season, looks more upright instead of slightly slouched. He has impressed teammates with his renewed athleticism in training camp.
“He’s like a totally different player moving around out there,” Teague said. “It’s like the highlights I was watching when he was younger, flying around and dunking and things like that. It looks like he’s in the best shape of his whole career.”
Backup center Jason Collins has added more muscle in his shoulders and chest as he prepares for his battles with Orlando’s Dwight Howard.
In his first year as coach, Larry Drew showed he was comfortable in moving Al Horford from center to power forward to clear a spot for the 7-foot Collins in a bigger lineup. That was enough to convince Smith he’d be spending more time at small forward this season.
Smith, Williams, Horford and Joe Johnson have been the foundation of the team for several years. Center Zaza Pachulia, entering his seventh season with the team, is another mainstay. Now all the key players are veterans.