SI Vault
Elizabeth Newman
October 30, 2000
Rookie coach. Few veterans. Lone star who may be dealt. Not good signs. Not a good team
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 30, 2000

15 Atlanta Hawks

Rookie coach. Few veterans. Lone star who may be dealt. Not good signs. Not a good team

View CoverRead All Articles

Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Chris Crawford


4.6 ppg

1.8 rpg

0.6 apg

39.7 FG%

25.9 3FG%


Alan Henderson


13.2 ppg

7.0 rpg

0.99 spg

0.66 bpg

46.1 FG%


Dikembe Mutombo


11.5 ppg

14.1 rpg

3.28 bpg

56.2 FG%

70.8 FT%


Jim Jackson


16.7 ppg

5.0 rpg

2.9 apg

41.1 FG%

38.6 3FG%


Jason Terry


8.1 ppg

4.3 apg

2.0 rpg

1.11 spg

41.5 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Lorenzen Wright


6.0 ppg

4.1 rpg

0.53 bpg

49.9 FG%

64.4 FT%


Roshown McLeod


7.2 ppg

3.1 rpg

1.2 apg

39.5 FG%

77.1 FT%


Anthony Johnson


2.8 ppg

1.3 apg

0.59 spg

37.8 FG%

71.8 FT%


Dion Glover


6.5 ppg

1.3 rpg

0.9 apg

38.6 FG%

26.7 3FG%


DerMarr Johnson (R)


12.6 ppg

3.8 rpg

1.4 apg

47.8 FG%

37.1 3FG%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Jason Terry was in the process of sinking his sixth straight three-pointer during a break between drills at the Hawks' training camp in Chattanooga when the challenge came. "Fifteen hundred dollars from the concrete," barked swingman Jim Jackson. "I'll give you fifteen hundred dollars if you make that shot from the concrete over by the stands." Terry flashed a devilish grin and waltzed over to the area in question, a good 28 feet from the basket. "Make it two thousand," he yelled back.

Before Jackson could respond, Terry, eyes locked not on the basket but on his challenger, fired a shot that hit nothing but net. "You know, I've been taking money from these veterans all week," said the 23-year-old Terry. "I'm ready, man. My game is on, and you can tell I'm ready for this season. Who's next?"

Who's next? Youthful bravado is nice, but side bets are about the only thing Terry will be winning this year as the starting point guard on a team in swift descent toward rock bottom. In 1999-2000, Atlanta failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years. "There were so many distractions and bickering and plain nonsense," Terry says. "We just never got into a rhythm."

Before last season, in an attempt to shake up a roster good enough to win 50 games but not good enough to contend for the title, general manager Pete Babcock swapped solid citizen Steve Smith for problem child Isaiah Rider. The ensuing Rider-inspired chaos helped lead to the resignation of Lenny Wilkens, the league's alltime winningest coach, and a serenade of I-told-you-so's directed at Babcock. "It was worse than I ever imagined," says Babcock of the fallout from his gamble.

Rider signed with the Lakers as a free agent in the off-season, which will make the Hawks more predictable—and less talented. Under Babcock, Atlanta enters 2000-01 with a combination ripe for failure: a coach fresh out of college and only three players who have been in the league longer than five years.

At least the new coach, 48-year-old Lon Kruger, is no stranger to rebuilding. After taking his alma mater, Kansas State, to four NCAA tournaments in four seasons, he turned around the program at Florida, guiding the Gators to a school record 29-8 mark and a Final Four appearance in 1994. "This won't be much different from starting any other season in the last 25 years I've had in coaching," says Kruger, who was 81-48 in four seasons at Illinois before joining Atlanta.

Alas, the Hawks' woes won't be solved by a good recruiting class or two. But for now, the players are putting their faith in Kruger's track record. "Lenny was used to being around a lot of veterans and winning," Terry says. " Kruger knows how to deal with young talent and winning."

The player who stands to gain the most from Kruger's knack with youngsters is 20-year-old rookie swingman DerMarr Johnson, the sixth pick in the draft, who left Cincinnati after his freshman season. At 6'9" and 201 pounds, Johnson came into camp looking as if he needed to be fed in a hurry. But in practice he proved himself to be a pure shooter with passing and shot-blocking skills, all of which should get him ample time under Kruger's up-tempo game plan. "If DerMarr continues to improve, then of course he's going to get some time," says Kruger. "But he's awfully young, and we can't lose sight of that."

Kruger needs heavy contributions on the court and in the locker room from his three five-plus-year men, Jackson, forward Alan Henderson and center Dikembe Mutombo. But Mutombo, who contracted a mild case of malaria in the off-season and could miss a week or two, is in the last year of his contract and may well be dealt.

Terry doesn't even want to think about Mutombo's departure. "Man, that's how we got messed up last year, all those rumors and idle talk," he says. "I'm telling you, if we stay focused, we're going to surprise some people."

Continue Story
1 2