Perhaps things could be worse, but the Atlanta Hawks have definitely fallen out favor with the basketball gods this season.
“Obviously no Pargo, obviously no Horford, no Vladimir Radmanovic…oh, and no Ivan [Johnson],” coach Larry Drew said as he ran down the list of Atlanta Hawks players who would not see action in Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The loss of all-star center Al Horford was without question the biggest blow to the team this season, but the team has had to deal with injuries to players at nearly every position and every role.
“Over the past years we have survived injuries,” coach Larry Drew said. “We didn’t have a lot of people out or any serious injuries, but this year—I guess what didn’t happen in the past is being made for this year.”
To make matters more complicated, the condensed schedule cuts out time that would normally be reserved for practice, which makes it much tougher for players returning from injury to get back into the swing of NBA basketball.
“When they come back they have to jump right in,” Drew said. “For guys who miss a length of time with injury, with the schedule being what it is and being compressed as it is, they have no luxury to gradually get back into it.”
Luckily for Atlanta, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson have both done their parts to help the team weather the storm.
Johnson, who has also missed several games this season due to injury, seems to be hitting a groove. Although his scoring average has taken a hit this year (19 points per game), Johnson has managed to average 25.1 ppg in the month of March. He has shot 27-50 from the three-point line and Johnson has also showed up in the clutch for the Hawks. In the Hawks recent loss to the Boston Celtics, Johnson led a charge that brought the Hawks from 15 points down in the fourth to within one point in the waning minutes of the game.
Smith has been the most consistent member of the Hawks simply by being there, as him and Jeff Teague are the only two Hawks to have started in all 47 games. The only other Hawk to have played in every single game is Zaza Pachulia. Smith has also compiled five games where he has scored at least 20 points and collected 15 rebounds, including his 32-point, 17-rebound outburst in Wednesday’s matchup against the Cavs.
Despite their ill bill of health, the Hawks still have plenty to be encouraged about. They currently find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference—two games ahead of seventh-placed Boston Celtics. Also, Drew reported that Horford was able to take a few jump shots this week, for the first time since injuring his left pectoral muscle in January.
If the Hawks continue to stay afloat and perhaps get Horford back before playoff time, who knows what they could do. Teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic should definitely be weary if matched up against a healthy Hawk team in the first round of this year’s post season.
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