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The former UVa star had a solid rookie season, but nothing is guaranteed for a second round pick in the NBA.
Mike Scott averaged 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds a game for the Hawks this season.
Former Virginia standout Mike Scott (32) will spend much of his summer trying to improve his shooting range and ball-handling.
Hawks rookie Mike Scott (32) tries to slip past San Antonio defender Tim Duncan during a game this season.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
NORFOLK — Welcome to the NBA, second-rounder, and congrats on making the team.
Now, don’t get too comfy.
For those taken in the second half of the draft, a group lacking the guaranteed contracts awarded to first-round selections, sticking in the league can be an uphill battle. Five years out, just seven of the 30 players taken in the second round in the 2008 draft were still on rosters this season. Thirteen others who made a team at some point are out of the league. An additional 10 who were drafted never even played.
It is against those odds that Mike Scott laced his sneakers on a recent evening at Old Dominion University. Scott, a Norfolk native who went on to play at the University of Virginia, was selected by Atlanta in the second round, No. 43 overall, in the 2012 draft, and played 40 games this past season.
A 6-foot-8 forward, Scott averaged 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game. It was a solid debut, but Scott knows the hardest part lies ahead.
“This is going to be a pretty big summer for me,” he said.
With the Hawks holding the option on the second year of his contract, Scott must make the team again, a process that’s already begun. Back home for a few weeks before returning to Atlanta, his workouts have included occasional pickup games at ODU.
On the court with some current Monarchs and some former collegians from the area, Scott’s Atlanta Hawks T-shirt and league logo socks weren’t the only thing that marked him as the NBA player in the bunch.
The efficiency of his game and the professionalism of his approach also stood out.
“Mike is a worker, man,” teammate Al Horford told Fox Sports South in a recent article.
Indeed, the day after the pickup game, Scott and former ODU standout Frank Hassell — a star last season in the Israeli league — took 1,000 jump shots in a two-hour workout.
Improving his shooting range and ball-handling is a summer project for Scott, whose stature says “small forward” but whose skills are more suited to the power forward position. Regarded as a “tweener” coming out of UVa, Scott is trying to carve a niche between the two positions.
He played three positions for Atlanta last year, in a deep and versatile frontcourt in which playing time was hard to come by.
Scott did not play in 35 games, and he did two brief stints in the NBA Development League. He blamed his early struggles on impatience — he was rushing shots and needed to slow down — and some later-season hard times on hitting the proverbial “rookie wall.”
Four games with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam in December and three more in March helped sharpen Scott’s game. He also leaned on veterans Horford, Josh Smith and ZaZa Pachulia for advice.
Scott finished strong, averaging 14.8 points over the final five regular season games. In the regular season finale, with Horford and Smith taking the night off to rest for the playoffs, he scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
In the playoffs, he appeared in four of six games, averaging 3.3 points.
It wrapped up a season of gradual improvement on both ends. If slowing down was Scott’s biggest challenge offensively, getting quicker is his biggest need on defense.
At 240 pounds, Scott was well-equipped to play post defense, even against punishing types such as Indiana’s David West and Memphis’ Zach Randolph.
“I thought I was pretty strong coming out of college,” he said. “You really don’t know how strong you are until you try to fight David West in the post, or someone like Zach Randolph,” he said.
Scott said he tried to use his combination of strength and relative quickness to defend players like those. Defending small forwards on the perimeter requires more speed, and Scott said he found the going tougher there.
Finding a weight at which he can maintain his strength while improving his quickness is an off-season goal.
“I just try to be professional — go to work, go hard every day,” Scott said. “Come in first, leave last.”
Speaking to Fox Sports South, former Hawks coach Larry Drew praised Scott for that approach and also for his post defense and potential as a “pick-and-pop” shooter.
Drew was replaced last week, however, by Mike Bundenholzer, a longtime assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.
Scott will need to prove himself to a new staff, starting in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He’ll also be keeping an eye on the NBA Draft next month, in which the Hawks have four picks — two in the first round and two in the second. At least one mock draft has them taking two frontcourt players.
More guys coming for his job. That’s the life of a second-rounder.
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