Hawks search for beautiful destination at end of rocky path


The Hawks are going down a dark path.

They have lost seven straight games, a skid that has come at the wrong time with just nine contests remaining in the regular season. A playoff berth and positioning are on the line.

The slumping team will again be without three starters — Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha — when they host the Suns on Tuesday, the second straight game they will be so severely short-handed.

There may be some good news on the horizon. Bazemore, who has missed four straight games with a right knee bone bruise, is close to a return. The starting shooting guard may be back as soon as Wednesday’s game at the 76ers. Bazemore wrote a message to his teammates on the whiteboard Monday morning before the team gathered for practice.

“All terrible roads lead to beautiful destinations,” Bazemore said he wrote.

Millsap missed his fifth straight game with left knee tightness when the Hawks lost to the Nets 107-92 on Sunday. Sefolosha will miss a second game with a right groin strain after being a late scratch against the Nets. The Hawks did not hold a contact practice Monday while Sefolosha spent time on a treadmill. There was no indication as to when Millsap or Sefolosha could return.

Entering Monday’s NBA schedule, the Hawks were fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They have the same 37-36 record as the Bucks and Pacers but currently own tiebreakers over both. The trio is just two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. The Bulls are just a half-game and the Pistons are just one game out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

“The NBA isn’t easy,” said Dennis Schroder, one of the team’s two healthy starters along with Dwight Howard. “You have to win games to make it to the playoffs. I think we are in good shape. Everybody is competing. When everybody else comes back, we are going to be in good shape. … Now, we have to change something, too. We can’t wait until they come back. Maybe it’s too late then. We have to figure it out with our group now and then when they come back, we’ll be even stronger.”

Millsap and Bazemore have been sending words of encouragement to teammates during their absence that including a three-game road trip while they remained in Atlanta. The two sent text messages, including one to Schroder during halftime of the team’s loss at the Bucks last week.

Much of the focus on the injury-plagued team has been on Schroder, who said he has spoken to coach Mike Budenholzer about what he needs to do to make himself and the team better during these difficult circumstances. The team spent much of practice on Monday watching video to fix mistakes. Losses at the Wizards and Bucks have come by a combined seven points.

“Being short-handed, we have to be more ourselves than we ever are,” Budenholzer said. “I think it’s human nature that you either pull away or try to do things differently. Really, the reverse is what you should do. Our competitiveness has to come out in the right way on both ends of the court.

“Defensively, we have to be more active, more willing to cover for a teammate, more committed to rebound, more committed to scrambling. Offensively, more committed to ball movement, more committed to everybody being involved. It’s one of those things where it’s easy to talk about, easy to say, and you see film where we are not as good in all those areas where we need to be.”

The Hawks will use the same lineup it has with starters out. Ersan Ilyasova will replace Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr. will replace Bazemore and Taurean Prince will get his second NBA start in place of Sefolosha.

“Those are my guys,” Bazemore said of the healthy Hawks. “They are doing everything they can to win games. They are playing hard. The effort is there. We are just down guys right now. That was my message: Keep your eyes on the prize and continue to grind.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Hawks

NBA teams have fun with eclipse
NBA teams have fun with eclipse

The world watched the 2017 solar eclipse. And the lifetime event was more than reason enough for several NBA teams to have some fun on social media. The following are tweets several teams posted:  
Hawks agree to two-year deal with Cook
Hawks agree to two-year deal with Cook

The Hawks have agreed to terms with Quinn Cook to a two-year partially guaranteed contract and the guard will come to training camp next month, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Hawks are familiar with Cook, who played exceptionally well against them in the Las Vegas Summer League last month. Cook played for the Pelicans&rsquo...
Kyrie Irving in Atlanta ... for AEBL playoffs
Kyrie Irving in Atlanta ... for AEBL playoffs

Kyrie Irving was in Atlanta on Sunday. It’s not what you think. The Cavaliers’ All-Star point guard, who recently requested a trade, was part of the championship winning team in the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League on Sunday. Irving was joined by fellow NBA players Lou Williams and Iman Shumpert in a 104-102 overtime victory over...
Howard hopes to shut mouths after ‘mess’ of last few seasons
Howard hopes to shut mouths after ‘mess’ of last few seasons

Dwight Howard referred to his last several NBA seasons as a “mess” several times in a recent interview. That includes last year playing for his hometown Hawks. Howard was traded to the Hornets earlier this summer. In praise of a reunion with Hornets coach Steve Clifford, who was an assistant with the Magic when Howard entered the NBA as...
Hawks land jersey sponsorship deal with Sharecare
Hawks land jersey sponsorship deal with Sharecare

For the first time, the Hawks will wear an advertising patch on their uniforms, beginning with the 2017-18 season.  The Hawks and Atlanta-based digital health company Sharecare have reached agreement on a five-year deal that will put the Sharecare logo on the front left shoulder of the players’ game jerseys, team and company executives told...
More Stories