How a quiet deal has kicked the Hawks’ defense into high-gear

On March 1, the Atlanta Hawks signed Kris Humphries. Better known as “that dude who was married to Kim Kardashian once,” there wasn’t much attention paid to this acquisition because Humphries hasn’t been known as much of a difference-maker during his 12-year NBA career.

But this was a deal that has made the Hawks a very different team.

While he’s only a bench player that was brought in to replace the injured Tiago Splitter, Humphries has been extremely productive when he gets playing time. Averaging 17.5 minutes per game since he made his Hawks debut, Humphries has scored 7.8 points per game and averaged 4.7 rebounds in his first six games.

(Also read: Now we know the dimensions of the SunTrust Park field)

It’s not just about the numbers, however. Humphries is a big, physical body that has a great presence in the paint, making life difficult for opposing players before and after a shot goes up. He may not always get the rebound, but he sets his teammates up to grab the ball when he can’t.

According to Peachtree Hoops, the Hawks are 27th in the NBA in rebounding, but since Humphries made his Hawks debut on March 4, they’re 15th in the league. They’re 5-1 in that six-game stretch, which included four games on the road, and the loss came at Toronto.

The Hawks have averaged 41.8 rebounds per game this season; in all of the six games since Humphries joined the Hawks, they’ve exceeded that total. Is it all Humphries? No, because several of the Hawks have stepped up their defense. But it certainly has helped make this team better.

“They look a lot like San Antonio, for obvious reasons,” Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel told before his team got smoked 104-75 by the Hawks Sunday night. “They just play extremely hard. Their intensity and tenacity and in-your-faced-ness is tremendous. It’s admirable.”

The Hawks may not be favorites to win a championship this season, or even to make a deep run into the playoffs, but if they are getting hot – defensively, in particular – the next few months could be mighty exciting.

Photo: AP/John Amis

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