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Hawks GM stands behind new coach Budenholzer
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer gestures during a May press conference in Atlanta. - photo by David Tullis

ATLANTA — Hawks general manager Danny Ferry says that he hasn't lost confidence in first-year coach Mike Budenholzer with training camp beginning next week.

Ferry anguished when Budenholzer, an assistant in San Antonio the last 19 years, was arrested last month on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

But Ferry says Budenholzer's legal issue is taking its course and won't affect the Hawks as they open camp Tuesday in Athens at the University of Georgia.

"It's an important issue, and it's one that I respect," Ferry said. "I also respect that there's a legal process going on. As I said, I'll support Bud as he goes through the whole thing."

Budenholzer's hiring in late May was the first big move made in the offseason by Ferry, who signed forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll as free agents, re-signed point guard Jeff Teague and swingman Kyle Korver and drafted German point guard Dennis Schröder with the 17th overall pick.

Ferry decided to let Josh Smith, who tantalized and frustrated Atlanta fans over the last nine seasons, leave as a free agent for Detroit. Larry Drew, the Hawks' head coach over the last three years and an assistant under Mike Woodson for six years before that, departed for Milwaukee.

Ferry won't publicly place a timeline on the potential return of eighth-year shooting guard Lou Williams from reconstructive knee surgery.

Williams, who averaged 14.1 points in his first season with the Hawks, was injured last January. Ferry said his rehab has gone well.

"He's really had a good last few months," Ferry said. "It was hard at first because he's never been injured, but he's worked hard to get back. We're not going to set timeline. He's in the mode now of playing one-on-one and has no restrictions in doing so."

Along with Korver, Millsap, Williams and reserve center Elton Brand, Ferry likes the veteran nucleus he's built around two-time All-Star center and franchise centerpiece Al Horford.

The Hawks don't exactly see themselves as contenders for a championship this season, but Ferry believes Budenholzer, who's worked countless practice sessions with San Antonio's Big Three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli — has a solid group of role models in the locker room.

Ferry credits Horford, Korver, Williams and departed veterans Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson with helping Teague mature last season, along with rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott.

"They take their craft seriously," Ferry said. "For our young guys, it's important to have an environment where they're around guys who know how to work and will do it on a consistent basis."

After watching Schröder excel in the NBA summer league, the Hawks decided he was ready to serve as Teague's backup.

Schröder, 19, has played professionally in Germany since 2009-10.

"Dennis will be on the roster," Ferry said. "He's certainly talented and he's also certainly young. Definitely like some of the things he can bring to the basketball team. We look forward to working with him and helping him. He's just starting to maximize his potentials as an NBA player."

Atlanta's two other draft picks aren't candidates to help the club this season. Lucas Nogueira, a 7-foot center from Brazil and the 16th overall draft pick, and former Bucknell center Mike Muscala, the 44th overall pick, are playing in Spain.

Ferry said the Hawks don't have a timeline for Nogueira or Muscala to make their NBA debut.

"They need to continue to develop," Ferry said. "They're in great environments with very good programs in Spain that they're playing for and we look forward to following their progress as closely as we can."

With Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson no longer on the roster, the Hawks hope that Gustavo Ayon, claimed off waivers from Milwaukee, will beef up the front line.

Pero Antic, a 6-foot-11 shooting forward from Macdeonia, will be expected to compete for bench minutes, too.

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