ATLANTA — Larry Drew wakes up at 4:30 every morning for a two-hour workout.
A tumultuous offseason gave the Atlanta Hawks’ second-year coach much to think about as he lifted weights and labored on his elliptical machine.
First, the Hawks were sold to Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo. Then the sale fell through and the ownership group said the team was no longer on the market. Through it all, the NBA lockout kept Drew from talking with his players.
Dark days, indeed.
“All the not knowing, the uncertainty, the things that you hear that are true or not true, what’s going to happen with the organization,” Drew said Monday. “You get all these things going through your mind, and you definitely have to do things to keep your mind occupied.”
Drew said his offseason of uncertainty has been replaced by optimism, thanks in part to three new low-cost veterans: Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Drew isn’t complaining that the Hawks, trying to avoid paying the luxury tax, have shopped only for bargains.
McGrady, the two-time NBA scoring champion, and Radmanovic, a 10-year veteran 3-point specialist, signed veteran minimum deals. Stackhouse, 37, played only seven games with Miami last season, his 16th in the NBA, and has a non-guaranteed contract with the Hawks.
The 32-year-old McGrady is the more affordable option than bidding to re-sign high-scoring sixth man Jamal Crawford. McGrady averaged 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds with Detroit last season and is expected to play behind point guard Jeff Teague, shooting guard Joe Johnson and small forward Marvin Williams.
Drew sees McGrady and the other veterans filling another important role. The Hawks have advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals three straight years with Johnson, Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford but need a push to take the next step to the finals.
Drew is asking Johnson to be more vocal. The coach also hopes a firm push from McGrady and Stackhouse could be invaluable this season.
“Both guys have been in this league a long time,” Drew said. “They’ve been through some wars.
“I’m sure they have a lot to add to our team from a guiding standpoint. You bring in guys like that, it enhances your locker room. It enhances you on the court. I’m hoping both guys can grab some of our guys and really talk to them and get them to understand the importance of the moment and get them to understand you can’t let these opportunities pass you by.”
Looking at the Hawks from a distance, Stackhouse said he saw a team that lacked resolve.
“At times they seemed to self-implode,” Stackhouse said. “When they got down a little bit, it seemed they couldn’t recover.”
Drew said the Hawks’ core players have lacked a veteran leader with a strong voice. He said McGrady and Stackhouse have the courage to speak out.
“First of all, they’re not afraid to step on anyone’s toes,” Drew said. “That is one of the most important ingredients with veteran leadership. They’re not afraid to voice their opinions. They’re not afraid to call guys out. We haven’t had that in the past from a veteran standpoint.”
McGrady and Stackhouse won’t be expected to start, but their resumes command respect from their new teammates.
“I think they have what it takes to get the attention of players who in the past just aren’t used to that,” Drew said, adding sometimes peer pressure can be more effective than scolding from a coach.
“Sometimes it’s better when it comes from within,” he said.
The Hawks knocked off Orlando in the opening round of last season’s playoffs and then took a Game 1 win at Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bulls recovered to win the series in six games. For Atlanta, it was improvement from the previous two years when the Hawks were swept in the second round.
General manager Rick Sund said he had an eye on additional leadership, especially in the playoffs, when he added the three veterans.
“That had a lot to do with it,” Sund said.