Hawks coach Mike Woodson is careful not to invest too much emotion into preseason Basketball. There was a time when that was not the case, when Woodson pushed his team to fight for every inch of space in the preseason like it was the playoffs.
He learned his lesson after back-to-back trips to the playoffs.
"The season is so long when you're dealing with the playoffs and everything that comes with it," Woodson said. "So you have to pace yourself and make sure you take a more measured approach."
That doesn't mean the preseason is without merit. Plenty can be learned about a team while watching it play seven or eight games that essentially mean nothing outside of the lessons learned about a team and its individual parts.
What we've learned about the Hawks this preseason:
1. Woodson was serious about not burning his starters during the preseason. No starter is playing more than the 22 minutes per game that Marvin Williams is averaging through four games. In fact, rookie point guard Jeff Teague leads the team in minutes (29.0), another sign that Woodson's radical shift in approach is paying immediate dividends for this team.
2. Jamal Crawford's addition changes everything. Sure, he's played sparingly in exhibition games (a total of just nine minutes courtesy of a left calf strain), but Crawford has blown away anyone who has seen him work in practice, where his elite scoring and passing rivals that of Hawks' captain and All-Star Joe Johnson.
3. Teague will be a factor as a rookie. It might be a tad early for the rookie of the year Web site to get going, but Teague has shown tremendous flashes of abilities that the Hawks haven't seen from a rookie point guard in forever. While his 3-point shooting has been non-existent in the preseason (0-for-4), Teague has shown everything else you could want out of a young point guard. He shifts gears like few can. One of his teammates compared his open-floor speed to that of Spurs' All-Star guard Tony Parker, and he has explosive athleticism that allows him to challenge players twice his size at the rim on both ends of the floor.
4. Improved depth is a tangible result from one of the best offseasons in recent franchise history. How else to explain backup swingman Mo Evans missing the Hawks' first three preseason games with a sore knee and then leading them with 27 points in just 26 minutes in his debut, a blowout win Wednesday night in Memphis? The Hawks' starters are still crushing people in the limited time they've been on the floor together.
5. There's something to be said for organic growth, what with the massive improvements guys like Josh Smith, Al Horford and Williams have made over the past few seasons. But nothing pushes the envelope like true competition. And for the first time in years the Hawks have a true two-deep roster.