Originally created 06/17/04

Hawks audition point guards



ATLANTA -- Atlanta Hawks general manager Billy Knight doesn't merely have holes in his lineup.

He's got a hole where his lineup used to be. After last season the Hawks basically cleaned out their roster, leaving only four players under contract for 2004-05.

In preparation for next week's draft in New York, Knight put five top guard prospects through 90 minutes of drills Wednesday at Philips Arena as the Hawks begin rebuilding from last year's 28-54 campaign.

Led by NCAA player of the year Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's, the workout also included Ben Gordon of national champion Connecticut, Devin Harris of Wisconsin, Royal Ivey of Texas and Shaun Livingston of Peoria (Ill.) High School.

"We're not going to look at it like we're going to fill a certain position," Knight said. "We're still going to try to pick the best player."

But the position of the day was point guard, which ranks high on the Hawks' priority list.

It has been rumored that Knight will package some of the Hawks' five draft picks (Nos. 6, 17, 34, 37 and a pick from Orlando to be determined) to make a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 2 pick. Then the Hawks could claim 6-foot-11 Dwight Howard, a forward, of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

However, Knight said he is keeping his options open.

In groups at either end of the practice court, the five guards were put through shooting and one-on-one drills by assistant coaches, scouts and the team's ownership. The Hawks still have not hired a head coach to replace the fired Terry Stotts.

Mock drafts floating around the Internet predict the Hawks will take Harris. Others say the Hawks like Gordon, and still others have the Hawks gambling on the high schooler, Livingston.

Knight saw no shortage of possibilities Wednesday but stopped short of naming an instant success candidate.

"That depends on the team they're on, the time frame they're able to play on the court," he said. "There are some talented young players here that are going to be playing in the NBA. It's hard to say. It just depends."

Gordon is leaving Connecticut after a junior year in which he become the school's all-time 3-point leader. He averaged 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists en route to a national title.

Harris is a similar scoring threat, averaging 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists while garnering Big Ten Player of the Year honors.

Texas captain Ivey, more of a shooting guard and defensive specialist, was back for a second workout for the Hawks. He averaged 9.4 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebound for the Longhorns.

Livingston was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois after leading Peoria High School to a second consecutive Class-AA state title. At 6-foot-8, he could be the pivotal player in a trade with the Clippers, who are said to covet him but don't want to use the second overall pick. This was his first competitive workout against other players.

"He's young and he's going to develop and improve. I see a lot of potential and lot of upside," Knight said.

Nelson averaged 20.6 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds while leading St. Joe's to a 27-0 regular season.

"Honestly, I feel good about all of (my workouts so far)," Nelson said. "Certain teams did different things, you know, certain teams put up different challenges. But I think I've stood up to the challenge so far."

Knight said he was confident Nelson, only 6 feet tall, would rise above the NBA's unwritten height requirement.

"He's a good player," Knight said. "He's knowledgeable, he's experienced, he understands the position. He plays hard every possession."