Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 2/9/12
ATLANTA With their depth at center whittled down to almost nothing, the Atlanta Hawks ran smack into a three-game losing streak recently. They dug their way out of that with a 97-87 win over Indiana on Wednesday, but entering Friday's key Southeast Division game on Friday at Orlando and one of the game's best big men in Dwight Howard, the Hawks knew they could not continue to try and mask that deficiency. "I think you can look at our team and you definitely can see we need a new body," Hawks coach Larry Drew said on Thursday. "I've been saying it all along." On Thursday, they did something about it and signed 15-year veteran Erick Dampier, who has yet to play this season, to a 10-day contract. Dampier played 51 games last season for Miami, as they went to the NBA finals, averaging 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. He did not play at all in the postseason. His best season was in 2003-04 when he averaged 12.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for Golden State. While Hawks coach Larry Drew was honest in his appraisal of Dampier's physical condition, saying, "You know, he's not in the best of shape," it looks as though the brawny, 6-foot-11 Dampier, will get thrown into the fire, even in a limited capacity, against Howard. Howard is coming off a 25-point, 24-rebound performance in Wednesday's 102-89 over Miami. A win by Orlando (16-10) would even them with the Hawks (17-9) in the standings. "Yeah, sometimes you got to do that," Drew said of the possibility of playing Dampier on Friday. "Obviously, playing against Dwight, we're going to need as many bodies as we can. We've had some success against the Orlando team because we've been able to utilize all the bodies we have. We're a little depleted in that area right now and now that we have Erick we may be in a situation where we have to use him a little bit." With both All-Star Al Horford and reserve Jason Collins out, the Hawks had been forced to play 6-foot-8, 255-pound rookie Ivan Johnson and 6-9, 225-pound Josh Smith at center at times. As a result, having said what he did about Dampier's shape, Drew is glad to have a natural center. "His size is still a presence in the middle," Drew said. "And he just has to get acclimated to what we do and get in playing shape, but he gives us the ability to keep guys in their natural position. I don't know how much he'll play off the bat. It's yet to be determined because I don't want to put him in a situation where he's labored or anything, but we'll throw him in there some spotty minutes to relieve Zaza (Pachulia) at the five spot to allow Ivan and Josh Smith to play the four position." Dampier said he was excited about the opportunity. With the Heat's late run, he said he took the early part of the summer off and began shooting and doing other drills in the late summer. He was in Mississippi, where he makes his permanent home, when the Hawks came calling. "I've been working out," he said. "I wouldn't say it's like basketball shape. It's going to take a couple days in practice, a couple of games, you know, get out there, get up and down the floor, get my legs back under me. But I'm looking forward to it. It's an opportunity for me." The Hawks are mostly looking for Dampier to provide a presence on defense and to help rebound. Dampier thinks he can do that. "Whenever I get the opportunity to be close to the basket, make the most of it," he said. One plus is that, by playing in the division last season, he got plenty of experience against Howard. On Sunday, he'll play his old team when the Hawks host the Heat. For the six seasons before last, Dampier played for Dallas. That will make him familiar with some of the other big men coming up on the Hawks schedule, as they visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. "I played against all those guys," Dampier said. "I know some of the things they like to do, so I just got to go out there and play the best I can."
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