Southeast Notes: Dunn, Okeke, Heat, Birch

Hawks guard Kris Dunn is hoping to bring a “dog mentality” with his new team on defense, an area where he’s excelled in his short NBA career, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

Dunn signed a two-year, $10MM deal to join Atlanta in free agency. The 26-year-old was one of the better perimeter defenders in the league last season, also averaging 7.3 points, 3.4 assists and 25 minutes per contest. He shot a career-best 44% from the floor in those games, but also a career-worst 26% from deep.

“Just bringing the energy, bringing that dog mentality, basically what I did last year with the Bulls, just bring it over here,” Dunn said of what he plans to bring. “I wouldn’t say ‘teach’ but just bring it over and just bring everybody to a whole new level and a whole new standard, and I think we’ve got a couple great defenders already. I think they just need the motivation and someone out there to also help them and push them to be where they can be.”

In addition to Dunn, the Hawks also signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo in free agency, pairing the duo with new signings Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The team is clearly eyeing a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season after accruing just a 20-47 record last year.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic are eager to see what Chuma Okeke can do this season, but the team is being careful not to put any unnecessary pressure on the 22-year-old, Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Okeke was drafted with the No. 16 pick in 2019 but sat out the entire 2019/20 season to rehab a torn ACL.
  • Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald examines how the Heat‘s first practice at American Airlines Arena in nine months went on Sunday. Miami is coming off a run to the NBA Finals, the franchise’s fifth trip in the past decade. The team lost starting forward Jae Crowder in free agency, as well as Derrick Jones Jr. and Solomon Hill, replacing the trio with Precious Achiuwa, Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless“I just wanted to use it as a template to really see where guys were, what they were able to retain and how quickly the new players are able to get up to speed with things,” Spoelstra said of the practice.
  • Magic center Khem Birch is in the process of developing a corner three-point shot, Josh Cohen of writes. “I’ve been working on my game so I can play with Vooch [Nikola Vucevic] this season,” Birch said. “Working on the corner threes, so when he gets the ball in the post he can kick out, and also being more aggressive. When I’m on the court, a lot of teams tend to think I’m not a threat. I feel like playing with Vooch, I have to be more of a threat this season and that’s what I’ve been working on this offseason.”
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