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Trade talks fail, Hawks stick with youth in Horford, Law
Hawks 2 col BW
Florida's Al Horford gives the “Gator Chomp” after being selected by Atlanta Hawks as the third overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. - photo by Associated Press

    ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks were involved in plenty of trade talks leading up to the NBA draft. In the end, they decided to go with two more youngsters.

    Already the least-experienced team in the league, the Hawks picked forward Al Horford from national champion Florida with the third choice Thursday night, then followed up with Texas A&M guard Acie Law at No. 11.

    Horford, a rugged power forward, and Law, a point guard with scoring ability, fill two glaring weaknesses on a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999.

    Still, with a youthful core that already included former first-round picks Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams, the Hawks might have preferred to package their two first-rounders for a more experienced player.

    Nothing came of all those phone calls.

    ‘‘We had a lot of conversations about both picks or one of the picks,’’ general manager Billy Knight said. ‘‘It didn’t happen, so you do the best you can with what you’ve got.’’

    Coach Mike Woodson said it’s time for the Hawks to stop using their youth as an excuse. Smith and Childress are heading into their fourth seasons. Marvin Williams has two years under his belt. And Joe Johnson became a bona fide star in 2006-07, averaging 25 points a game.

    ‘‘High on the list was bringing in a veteran guy,’’ Woodson conceded. ‘‘But as a coach, I’ve got to quit calling them young. We’ve got to make our move this year. I know I’m under pressure to lead this team to the playoffs. That’s OK. That’s why I took this job. It’s very pivotal this year that we get to the playoffs.’’

    The Hawks feel Horford and Law are just the players to get them to the postseason for the first time this millennium.

    Horford is a 6-foot-10, 245-pound bruiser who can switch over to play center if needed. He averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his final college season, helping the Gators win their second straight national title.

    The Hawks had an awful time trying to shut down teams on the inside, which is why they chose Horford instead of Ohio State point guard Mike Conley, who went to Memphis with the very next pick.

    ‘‘Horford is a physical player. He’s got size, he’s got strength,’’ Knight said. ‘‘But we feel like he’s a unique blend. He also can pass the ball. He can handle the ball some. He can make a shot on the perimeter.’’

    While the Hawks were high on Conley’s abilities as a point guard, they didn’t think he would contribute enough offensively to take some of the heat off Johnson.

    ‘‘I liked Conley’s workout,’’ Woodson said. ‘‘The only thing that scared me about him was he couldn’t shoot the ball. He struggled to make shots. Joe Johnson is the only guy on our team who gets double-teamed. We’ve got to have some guys around him who can make shots.’’

    After taking Horford, the Hawks crossed their fingers and hoped that Law would still be around eight picks later. He was.

    ‘‘These are two guys who can contribute right away,’’ Knight said. ‘‘They’re going to step in and help us. They can contribute to the team this year, and they still have a lot of growing potential.’’

    At 6-3, Law is more imposing physically than either of Atlanta’s incumbent point guards, Tyronn Lue and major disappointment Speedy Claxton. The Hawks were last in the league in scoring and ranked 26th in assists.

    Law isn’t a true point guard, leading the Aggies in both scoring (18.1 points) and assists (5.0). That said, the Hawks expect him to be a much better option than anyone they sent on the court last season. ‘

    ‘He’s somewhat unorthodox,’’ Knight said. ‘‘He may not be your prototypical player at the point, but we still think he can play the position.’’