Speedy Claxton is doing everything in his power to rewrite his story with the Hawks by fighting, once again, to reclaim his reputation and his game.Two years after signing on as the Hawks' point guard of the future, Claxton is still trying to justify the hype. Only now he's doing it without any of the fanfare that accompanied his first two seasons. That spotlight belongs to starter Mike Bibby and second-year backup point guard Acie Law IV.
Claxton's future with the Hawks was cast in serious doubt by hand and knee injuries in each of the past two seasons. He'll have to prove his worth now during the grind of training camp.
"I can just come into camp with an open mind, and I don't feel a ton of pressure on me," Claxton said after the Hawks wrapped up their second practice of camp. "The first year I came in as the starting point guard, and last year everybody was wondering if I could come back from the (knee) injury. I don't think there is anything really expected of me at this point.
"It's sort of like, 'Let's see what happens. If he can help us, cool. And if not, let's move on.'"
That's exactly what the Hawks did last season, drafting Law with the 11th pick in the 2007 draft and then acquiring Bibby at the February trade deadline while Claxton sat out the entire season with a knee injury that would ultimately require surgery.
Claxton broke his hand days before his first training camp with the Hawks and wound up playing just 42 games that season, so last year was supposed to be his redemption season.
But after resuming his starting role throughout training camp, knee troubles forced him out of the lineup and out of the playing rotation for good. So after two days of camp thus far, Hawks coach Mike Woodson is hesitant to heap any extra pressure on Claxton.
"All we're doing from an organizational and coaching standpoint is taking things one day at a time with Speedy," Woodson said. "A lot of it is up to Speedy. Where he goes with his game and helping us win basketball games -- his health is the main issue.
"And it's funny, we were watching exhibition games from last season earlier today. Speedy made it all through our running program and was starting for us in exhibition season and played well. Then he got hurt and couldn't play the regular season. So we're just trying to watch him closely and hoping that he's healthy enough to play."
For the record, Claxton said his knees feel fine and that he's optimistic that he can contribute if called upon. But there's no telling where he might fit into the playing rotation with not only Bibby and Law slated for minutes, but also newcomer Flip Murray capable of sliding over and working at point guard.
"I played against Speedy when he was in Golden State, and Speedy is a top point guard," Bibby said. "So for him to be off the radar is just stupid. I mean, I know he hasn't played, but he has it in him. He just has to come out and do it."