Story by Jacob Eisenberg
Heading into Monday’s game, Kris Humphries had played 20+ minutes in a game only once since the beginning of November. Luckily for Atlanta, Humphries – a consummate veteran – takes pride in his work ethic and his ability to stay prepared. For a Hawks team that’s sought consistency this season, one constant throughout is Humphries’ uncanny ability to stay engaged and ready for action.
In a game that saw the Hawks without Dwight Howard and Mike Muscala from the tip, Humphries took advantage of his opportunity. He scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes of action. His assist to Dennis Schröder with 22 seconds left proved to be the game-winner in a thrilling 108-107 victory.
“I do so much to stay ready,” Humphries said following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. “A lot of times people don’t see me working out at night or working out on days off. I’ve got to do it, and if I get an opportunity to play I’ve got to be ready. That’s my mentality, when I get extended minutes, I’ve got to make something of it.”
Humphries has made something out of extended minutes all season. While the sample size is small, the Hawks are now 3-0 this season in games when Humphries plays 20 or more minutes. They’re 6-3 in games when he plays 15 minutes or more.
“It’s hard to describe Hump’s spirit,” Coach Mike Budenholzer explained. “He brings a lot of personality and readiness. He comes to work every day and he enjoys working. A big part of that is being ready. He’s a big part of our fabric.”
For a Hawks team flushed with youth, Humphries’ veteran leadership sets the example for younger players to follow.
One thing that stood out to Tim Hardaway Jr., another star in Monday’s win, was Humphries’ preparedness on short notice.
“He’s a veteran, and he plays hard every game,” Hardaway said. “He didn’t know Dwight wasn’t playing until we got to the arena. But he got out there, defended, rebounded, and did all the dirty work for us.”
Against a Knicks team that has rebounded well in recent weeks, Humphries solidified what would’ve otherwise been a disadvantage for his team. His team high-tying seven boards included three extra possessions on offensive rebounds, something the team has struggled with when Howard has been out. Equally important was Humphries’ steady perimeter game – which has evolved tremendously over the past two years. After shooting 3-for-3 from long range Monday, Humphries has boosted his three-point percentage to 43 percent since the start of December. If he can maintain that rate, the Hawks will have the ability to play him alongside Howard in super-sized lineups going forward.
So while Howard is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday night in Detroit, the Hawks can remain comfortable knowing Humphries will be ready to “make something of it” the next time his name is called.