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Hawks ready for needed All-Star break rest

The Hawks charter will not be full when the team returns from the end of a three-game west coast road trip on Thursday.

It’s the NBA All-Star break.

The Hawks won’t play a game again until Feb. 24 after Wednesday’s game at the Clippers. Many players and coaches will scatter for mini-vacations during the down time and Los Angeles is a convenient starting point.

The break is needed.

“Is it okay if we all admit it?” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Yeah, we wouldn’t mind a break. We’ve all been in the NBA a long time. Good teams, teams in the middle, teams at the bottom, everybody. The all-star break is placed there and it’s needed by everybody – players, coaches, media it sounds like. Everybody then looks forward to coming back.”

One Hawks player won’t get much of a hiatus. Paul Millsap will head to New Orleans for the Friday-Sunday events as a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team, his fourth straight trip to the midseason exhibition. Millsap said he will try to get a few days of downtown before the Hawks return to practice on Feb. 22. They host the Heat two days later in their return.

“This is definitely a time when I really need it,” Millsap said. “It is what it is. I’ve got to get out there and take care of business and hopefully find some time in between to get some rest. It’s what comes with it.”

Budenholzer, noting NBA rules about the break, said the team will encourage players to do some cardio work while away to keep their conditioning.

“There is a reason the NBA made the All-Star break longer so the players can have more of a break and not more practices,” Budenholzer said.

The Hawks play three games in four days following the break. They play at the Magic and Celtics following the home game against the Heat. That precedes a six-game homestand, the longest of the season, from March 1-10.

The Hawks enter Wednesday’s first-half finale with a 32-23 record. A win over the Clippers would move them to a season-best 10 games over .500 at the break. The Hawks are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference. They trail the third-place Wizards by 1-1/2 games, the second-place Celtics by four games and the first-place Cavaliers by 6-1/2 games. They are ½-game ahead of the Raptors, who host the Hornets Wednesday. They have a three-game lead over the sixth-place Pacers.

The Hawks have 26 games remaining after the break – 14 at home and 12 on the road. Of note, they have three games remaining with the Cavaliers, two games with the Celtics and one game against the Wizards and Raptors. Of the games remaining, 13 will be against teams with an under .500 record at the break.

Basketball Reference currently has the Hawks’ odds of making the playoffs at 99.1 percent in the Eastern Conference. They trail only the Cavaliers (100), Celtics (100), Raptors (100) and Wizards (99.9). The website’s playoff probabilities report also has the Hawks with a 24.2 percent chance to win the Southeast Division, a 2.5 percent chance to win the conference and a 0.1 percent chance to win the NBA title.

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