If there were an experiment to further understand the effects of road weariness, the Atlanta Hawks would be the subject.
The Hawks finally played a ‘home’ preseason game Monday night that was only a home game in the sense that is was played in the city of Atlanta. The Hawks defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 100-88 in the penultimate game of the preseason.
The Hawks will play again Thursday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion before a few days of practice and rest before heading out on the road for five straight road games.
The Hawks are the only team in the NBA with home opener later than Oct.27 as Phillips Arena undergoes its final stages of the first phase of a two-phase renovation.
Travel of the NBA is typical, but even so, starting the season with as much travel as the Hawks have endured have playing having to adjust as veterans like forward Kent Bazemore tries to pass his knowledge down to the many young players the Hawks have. Bazemore admits the road-life gets tough and things as simple as a home cooked meal and bed become a luxury when the team gets time off or plays at home.
“It kind of mimics what we’ve got going on to start the season on that last road trip we had, but you’ve to take it a day at a time,” Bazemore said. “One thing you kind of miss on the road is a home cooked meal and your own bed. It’s good to be back home for a little bit and enjoy that. It comes with the territory, you’ve just got to be smart. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of veterans in front of me how to optimize the rest on the road. I’m trying to share that with some of these young guys.”
For a rookie like John Collins, Monday was the first time he got to hear Ryan Cameron’s ‘Jam’ call whenever a Hawks’ player throws down a dunk. Collins was excited to play in front of his fans for the first time.
“I thought it was cool, we had a nice little road trip in preseason to start off, so it’s been good for us,” Collins said. “It’s always good to see that crowd cheering when you score a bucket. It felt good to get some energy.”
With 11 new players on the roster as of Monday, the Hawks needed to get to acquainted. The time the group has spent together has been a bit of a blessing for players to not only get a feel for what one another can do on the court but also get to know the guys and make some off the floor connections.
“We spent a ton of time together on the road, whether it be at dinner or just hanging out and playing video games,” Bazemore said. “It’s just good to kind of get that bonding time on the road. We had training camp and we came home for like a day and a half, but we’ve kind of been around each other for a little bit and kind of feeling each other out off the court and it’s starting to show on the court as well.”
After Thursday’s final preseason contest against the Dallas Mavericks, the Hawks will have five days before facing the Mavericks again in regular season-opener in Dallas. The Hawks first five games are on the road. Phillips Arena is scheduled to reopen on Friday, Oct. 27 as the Hawks host the Denver Nuggets.