--Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby haven't shared space on a basketball court since May, when the Hawks' season came to a crashing end in a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics. Sure, they'd spoken a few times and even saw each other out Friday night in Atlanta.But until Monday morning they hadn't worked together on the court in months.
Easing back into the routine, however, proved to be no problem, Johnson said.
"Mike knows my sweet spots on the floor and I know his as well and when we're both out there healthy and hungry, like we are right now, we're going to be tough to deal with," Johnson said. "Even though you take a few months away from all this doesn't mean you can't come right back and get right back into the flow. It feels good knowing (whom) you're dealing with out there and having the confidence in each other necessary to get into an immediate groove. Having him healthy, too, is the best part."
Johnson said the Hawks must continue grooving until training camp starts at the end of the month. Everyone scheduled to be on the training camp roster either has been or will be in for "unofficial" workouts before the start of camp.
And while it was a total coincidence that he and Bibby made their grand entrances simultaneously, the tone of the workouts changed dramatically for a reason.
"We're not messing around," he said. "You can't really judge much from these workouts, because it really is guys being mixed and matched on teams of five to run and just play to get in shape. But we're not playing around. This is serious business, just like it was before last season. We don't have everybody here yet but when we get the entire crew in here, we'll be ready to go."
Bibby insists he's just glad to be back, finally healthy after an injury-plagued start with the Hawks.
"I got here Friday and it was a good run for me, trying to get into that flow again," Bibby said. "I'd been working and doing drills and stuff. But as far as playing, I hadn't really played since last season. So it was good to get back out here with all these cats and get busy."
--Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby weren't the only Hawks' veterans to make it the floor Monday. Veteran Hawks point guard Speedy Claxton was in the house as well, and has been a regular this summer, looking as "explosive" as Johnson said he could remember seeing Claxton in a "long time."
Claxton showed off a similar burst during a two-game stint in summer league in July, but there remains some uncertainty as to whether or not he'll be able to regain his form after two injury-riddled seasons that have cost him his security in the playing rotation.
There were good vibrations this time a year ago and ultimately Claxton never did get back to form. So he's realistic about his situation this time around.
"I'm coming around," Claxton said. "Honestly, earlier in the summer I wasn't feeling this explosive. But now, it's starting, slowly, to come around. I kind of know how to read my body now, too. I know when I have to rest and when I have to take a day or two off. And once I'm able to do that I can get back into the flow."
With Bibby, Acie Law IV, newcomer Flip Murray and Claxton all on the roster, it's going to be a scrap for minutes at point guard from the start of training camp until the situation is resolved.
"I know right now I'm the odd man out," Claxton said. "That's just how it is. But I can't complain about it. They depended on me the last two years and I wasn't able to be there for them, so they had to move on. I can't be mad at anybody about that. The most frustrating part is that I know they had big plans for me, just like I had big plans for myself, and it's a letdown when your body betrays your heart and mind. So hopefully, I can be back out there this year and prove myself."
--Anxious can't do justice to what C Solomon Jones has been feeling since the Hawks' Game 7 loss to Boston in May.
Like most of his teammates who have been working together at the team's practice facility the past two weeks, Jones has been champing at the bit all summer in anticipation of the start of training camp, which is just weeks away.
Jones played sparingly in his first two seasons with the Hawks. But he is angling for an expanded role this year.
With 20 extra pounds packed on his 6-10-and-a-half-inch frame and a much more aggressive attitude, Jones is eager to make his case on the court as opposed to anywhere else. And that's why his decision to skip summer league at a time when the post minutes would have been plentiful, seemed so bizarre.
"I did two years in summer league and I wanted to take this summer to hit the weights hard and it paid off," Jones said. "Right now, I'm up to 250 and I want to play this season anywhere from 245 to 250. I thought (skipping summer league) was the best choice for me to make at the time, even though some people didn't think it was the best decision. But I think people watching me right now would agree that I did the right thing."
It's no secret that this is a huge season for Jones, the one-time second round pick who has outlasted the fifth overall pick of the same draft, Shelden Williams (who was jettisoned in the Mike Bibby trade last year). And Jones knows that better than anyone.
"Man, hungry isn't the word to capture how I'm feeling," he said. "I've had opportunities and I thought I made the best of those. But now I have to come out and prove to people, to people everywhere that I can play in this league. And that's what I'm doing right now. That's what working so hard this summer was all about, proving that I belong."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to really focus in on training camp. I've had some discussions with Mike (Woodson). It's going to be a serious, serious endeavor this year. We're putting them up at the hotel this year. They're going to have practice sessions in the morning and skull sessions and meetings and everything at night. We're going to be like Hard Knocks on HBO, we're going that route. We're not going to go crazy because we have rules. But training camp is going to be a 24-7 gig." -- Hawks GM Rick Sund, on the intense focus that will be adhered to during training camp.