The Atlanta Hawks are hardly recognizable from a year ago.
After hiring a new GM in Danny Ferry, the Hawks traded veteran All-Star guard Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams to the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz, respectively, completing an off season filled with trades, releases and new additions.
The Hawks began making modifications to its front office earlier this year, and those alterations worked their way through almost every department within the franchise. The theme of this year's team seems to be "change," as the Hawks' 2012 regular season opened Nov. 2.
With the progression of veteran forward Josh Smith and the acquisition of one of the league's best bench players, Lou Williams, the Hawks hope the new changes are good ones.
If the action during the two in the preseason is any indication, Atlanta fans have reason for optimism. The Hawks were led in their final two preseason games by the two Atlanta-area natives – Smith and Williams – despite a 104-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons in the preseason finale. The pair combined for 49 points and contributed greatly to the assist and rebound columns in the final two preliminary contests.
Much of Atlanta's success depends on the play of Smith and Williams. Smith, the Hawks longest tenured player, enjoyed his best season last year, finishing with career-high averages of 18.8 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Smith added confidence to a Hawks team still looking for a new identity to go along with its new lineup. He believes the Hawks are up for the task.
"We still don't know what the regular starting line up will be, but we feel comfortable," the 6-9 forward said. "We just have to stick together."
Aside from these two local players, one thing is certain – it will take a total team effort and chemistry for the Hawks to be a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Deitra P. Johnson contributed to this article.