ATLANTA, Ga. -- It's not uncommon for NBA players to report for a new season with a transformed body or game. Mike Scott is back with both.
The second-year power forward is 15 pounds lighter and is broader in the shoulders. That's the physical appearance. He has a much improved outside shot. That's the physical performance.
Through two exhibition games, Scott's improved scoring touch has been on full display. He led the Hawks in scoring against the Heat (13 points) and Bobcats (19 points). He had eight fourth-quarter points in the win against the Bobcats on Tuesday that included two 3-pointers.
Scott has a total of 32 exhibition points, 10 more than the next-best, DeMarre Carroll's 22 points. He also leads the Hawks in rebounding with 12, one more than Paul Millsap. He's done it all in 24.4 minutes per game, all off the bench.
"I'm just letting the game come to me," Scott said. "Last year, I would have forced a lot, sped up my game. This year, I'm just letting the offense come to me, not forcing much, taking shots when I have them." Scott remained in Atlanta for much of the offseason, except for a couple of weeks of workouts back at the University of Virginia, where he played. He changed his diet on the advice of the previous coaching staff to become quicker and more agile.
When questioned before the start of training camp about the frontcourt depth added by the Hawks in free agency, center Al Horford was quick to remind of a returning player.
"We can't forget about Mike Scott," Horford said. "He is the one who has made the most improvement that I have seen. By far he is in better shape than anyone. He is doing great. He is going to be somebody that people are going to sleep on, but he's going to be really good." When coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff came on board, Scott began to work on his outside shot to better fit into a new offensive system. At the Las Vegas Summer League, Scott averaged 18.6 points (sixth best in the tournament) and 6.2 rebounds.
"We all got to know Mike well leading up to the summer league," Budenholzer said. "(Then) he had a great month of September. He has worked extremely hard. His dedication and his time, he has probably been in the gym as much as anybody. He is reaping the benefits of that work." Scott, a second-round pick, showed glimpses of his potential at the end of last season. He played in four of the five Hawks' regular-season games and averaged 18.5 points and 10 rebounds. In the season finale against the Knicks he had season-highs of 23 points, 10 field goals, 22 attempts, 14 rebounds and 36 minutes.
John Jenkins, a fellow rookie last season, spent most of the summer in Atlanta working out with Scott. He saw the transformation firsthand.
"We were both here all summer, every day," Jenkins said. "It's a process. You have to work on it every day so that when you get into a game, you are confident in the shots you put up." Scott is on a non-guaranteed contract. However, there is little doubt it will become fully guaranteed Jan. 10. Hawks management has been pleased with his progress.
"I leave that to the guys upstairs," Scott said of his contract status. "I just make sure I take care of whatever I do on the court." Etc.: The Hawks roster remained at 20 players Thursday. The team likely will make a first-round of cuts before Sunday's exhibition game against the Pelicans in Biloxi, Miss. Adonis Thomas is the most likely candidate. He did not play in either of the first two exhibition games. ... Jenkins (lower back spasms) said he remains day-to-day after receiving treatment Thursday. He said the issue is related to the back injury that caused him to miss two months of training in the offseason. Gustavo Ayon (right shoulder) was not a practice.
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