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October 1, 2013

New Hawks coach steers away from DUI questions

ATLANTA — Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer wants to focus on basketball rather than an offseason DUI arrest as his new team gets ready to open training camp.

Budenholzer was arrested last month in Atlanta and the case has yet to be settled, putting a damper on his first head coaching job. He issued a statement of apology through his attorney shortly afterward, but had not spoken to the media about the incident before Monday’s media day at Philips Arena.

He sidestepped a couple of questions about the impact of his arrest on the team.

“I never want to bring any negative attention to our organization or our players,” Budenholzer said. “Having said that, there’s a legal process that’s playing out. I think it’s important for me to respect that process. I can’t say a whole lot more than that.”

He also was asked if the arrest would make it more difficult to win the respect of his players, especially in the early going as he’s trying to build a cohesive roster after another year of heavy turnover.

The Hawks will hold their first practice on Tuesday at the University of Georgia, about 75 miles east of Atlanta, where they are training for three days before returning home. The preseason opener is next Monday at Miami against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat.

“I respect the question,” Budenholzer said. “I really think it’s important for me to move the focus of our team and our group. We’re excited about getting to basketball and getting to training camp tomorrow. I really hope to keep the focus on the team and on camp and let everything else play out.”

The Hawks are in the midst of a heavy rebuilding job that began in the summer of 2012, when general manager Danny Ferry traded longtime starters Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, mainly to acquire expiring contracts and free up salary cap space.

Even though Atlanta made the playoffs, losing in the opening round to Indiana, Ferry fired Larry Drew and brought in Budenholzer, a longtime assistant at San Antonio but a rookie head coach.

Two key players have returned — center Al Horford and point guard Jeff Teague — but it’s another year requiring plenty of introductions on the first day of camp. Lou Williams and Kyle Korver are the only other holdovers to get extensive playing time last season, and Williams won’t be ready to go full speed at the start of camp as he continues his recovery from a season-ending knee injury.

Like last year, the Hawks have a guard-heavy roster that could have problems matching up against the league’s bigger teams. They also failed to make a huge impact in the free agent market, despite having plenty of money to spend. Ferry made a run at center Dwight Howard, a native of Atlanta, but he chose to sign with Houston after one disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Paul Millsap, a 6-foot-8 forward, was Atlanta’s most significant signing in free agency. That leaves the team with little choice except to stick with Horford at center, even though the 6-10 player is probably better suited for strong forward.

 

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