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Hawks take last look at Horford, Conley

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Posted: June 25, 2007 6:21 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    ATLANTA — The last time Al Horford and Mike Conley Jr. were in competition against each other, it was for college basketball’s national championship.
    Horford helped the Florida Gators beat Conley’s Ohio State Buckeyes in April’s title game. On Monday, each tried to show during individual workouts that he was worthy of being chosen third by the Atlanta Hawks in the upcoming NBA draft.
    ‘‘It definitely seems like we are competing again,’’ Conley said. ‘‘We’re going for the highest spot we can possibly achieve in the draft.’’
    The first two picks seem to be a lock between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, who could land in either Portland or Seattle on Thursday. Some mock drafts have the Hawks going with Horford or Conley with their No. 3 pick.
    In the early session, Horford impressed the Hawks with his 6-foot-10, 244-pound sturdy frame, aggressive rebounding and ability to make the short perimeter shot. He averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots a game as a junior for the Gators.
    Conley didn’t look too shabby either. The point guard’s speed, quickness and defensive skills seen on tape are all intangibles the Hawks are looking for at the position, making up for his slim 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame.
    As a freshman, Conley led the Big Ten with 6.1 assists and 2.2 steals. He also scored 13.2 points a game and shot 52 percent from the floor.
    ‘‘He’s the first point guard we’ve had in here who is probably a true point guard in terms of possessing speed and being able to get up and down the floor,’’ he said.
    Factoring into the decision is that while point guards Speedy Claxton and Tyronn Lue were injury-plagued last season, Woodson believes the tandem should be stronger for the upcoming season.
    Woodson believes an upgrade in the frontcourt is more a necessity. He also said with journeymen forwards Esteban Batista and Slava Medvedenko not returning, they need more depth there, which could ultimately lean toward picking Horford.
    ‘‘We still lack size,’’ Woodson said. ‘‘We are still considered one of the smallest teams in the league, so we need someone big. We are going to fill the need of a big man, then address the point guard situation as well.’’
    Horford believes he can step in and fulfill the role asked of him.
    ‘‘I’m physically there rebounding and scoring in the low post,’’ he said. ‘‘The three years in college gave me a chance to be well-ready for the NBA.’’
    The Hawks also have the No. 11 pick. They could grab a young point guard in Acie Law or Javaris Crittenton, who worked out last week, or obtain a veteran player through trade.
    ‘‘We’ve got to have some insurance,’’ Woodson said. ‘‘Not to say Speedy and Lue won’t come back, because I’m counting on them being in Hawks uniform next season. They’re veterans and battle tested. But just in case, we need an insurance policy.’’
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