Good vibes go a long way in a locker room. The Atlanta Hawks are no strangers to the pitfalls that can come when not everyone is pulling on the same end of the rope. But they don’t seem to have that problem – not by a long shot. Even as things have not been perfect, the Hawks have been resilient.
They’ve started the season at 10-6 and sit third in the Eastern Conference despite massive changes in the offseason.
The addition of Dejounte Murray led to subsequent deals that altered a strong bench.
A bench that is relying on a rookie for some much-needed floor-spacing and, surprisingly defense. More surprisingly – or perhaps not given his pedigree – that rookie, AJ Griffin, stepped up to the plate once again, this time in a 124-122 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors.
Rookie AJ Griffin sends heartfelt message about Atlanta Hawks teammates
“I love my team,” Griffin told Bally Sports Hawks reporter Lauren Jbarra after getting a celebratory bath from his teammates. “Happy to get this one. I know Coach wanted this one…You see the joy we have on this team? It’s just amazing.”
Griffin totaled 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one assist, one block, and one rebound in 30 minutes. It was his second highest-scoring game of the season following a 24-point effort in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks nearly two weeks ago but the finish in this one was second-to-none.
He said that he was thinking he had to beat his father, Adrian Griffin who is an assistant with the Raptors, at least once.
He added that he loves Atlanta calling it “home” adding that he knew it would be “special”.
“I love this kid, man,” big man Clint Capela told Hawks digital reporter Annie Finberg. “He works hard. It’s not just tonight. It’s about the preparation also. He gets himself ready the day before and the day before that. I see him as real mature. He deserves that.
Griffin has already broken into the rotation but, more significantly, he has broken one of head coach Nate McMillan’s tendencies of not playing rookies.
Whether that was from the coach or the front office, Griffin is justifying the minutes he’s getting.
For one thing, his defense has rated ahead of his offense so far. Griffin’s offensive rating is 107.1 and ranks in the 15th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass. But his defensive rating of 107.9 ranks in the 85th percentile.
Griffin is averaging 7.7 points on 58.7% true shooting while knocking down 36% of his threes so far. There is still a long way to go for the 19-year-old – he finished as a minus-21 in the Hawks’ previous outing. But he is already showing even more than expected after falling to the Hawks at 16th overall for, among other reasons, questionable defense.
We’ll have to see how this will impact Griffin’s minutes going forward. But this was the fourth straight game he has seen an uptick in his floor time.