Third-year Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson trained with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James this past offseason. It was a fitting pairing given the similarities in their skill sets. But Johnson plays for the Atlanta Hawks, not James’ Lakers.
His fit on the court with them is paramount, and independent of how well he can emulate James, though it wouldn’t hurt.
Still, Johnson alluded to his on-court chemistry with one teammate going without a hitch.
“CC makes it easy,” Johnson said of his on-court fit next to starting center Clint Capela after Thursday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies via atlhawksfans on October 12. “He holds it down on the interior, and I try my best to communicate with all the guys that I’m on the floor with at all times. Just to try to be that voice and you know help make things easier on that side of the ball.”
Johnson pointed to communication as the area he is still looking to improve when on the floor with Capela. But his note about wanting to be vocal on defense is critical given the Hawks traded arguably their most vocal on-court player in John Collins this offseason.
That’s not to say no other Hawks talk on the floor. But Collins’ defense was an underrated positive of last season when his offense, and namely his three-point shooting betrayed him.
Johnson is in a presumed battle with at least Saddiq Bey for the fifth starting spot.
He has started both preseason games for the Hawks while Bey missed the win over Memphis for undisclosed reasons. De’Andre Hunter has also missed both preseason games dealing with a mild knee bruise, per head coach Quin Snyder further clouding just how the starting lineup will shake out once he returns.
Johnson tallied just seven points on 2-for-5 shooting in the preseason-opening win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, missing his only three-point attempt. But he did haul in seven rebounds, dish out three assists, and record a block with just one turnover.
He was even better in the second game, finishing with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Johnson also connected on both of his attempts from beyond the arc.
It remains unclear when Hunter will take the floor, so we may have to hold off on declaring a winner of the highly-anticipated battle for the fifth starting spot. The bigger concern then is a time-table for Hunter who is a key to what the Hawks want to do on both sides of the ball with his ability to get his own shot and defend the toughest wing matchup.
Atlanta Hawks bring back summer leaguer on ‘camp deal’
While we await further updates on Hunter, the Hawks remained active, taking full advantage of the additional roster space in the preseason.
“The Hawks signed David Singleton to a camp deal,” posted Brad Rowland of the “Locked On Hawks” podcast on October 13. “As a reminder, the former UCLA guard played for ATL in summer league.”
Singleton is a 6-foot-4 undrafted free agent guard.
He averaged 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in two appearances for the summer Hawks. Atlanta is fairly deep at the guard spot with the bulk of the minutes allocated to Trae Young and Dejounte Murray and with Bogdan Bogdanovic, Patty Mills, and even rookie Kobe Bufkin on hand.
But it never hurts to gather as much information as a player as possible, and the Hawks could try to lure Singleton to the College Park Skyhawks.
College Park also just happens to be the venue for their third preseason contest, this one against the New Orleans Pelicans.