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Millsap dealt with knee issue weeks before synovitis diagnosis

Paul Millsap had issues with his left knee for about two weeks before tightness in the joint caused the Hawks forward to miss the past eight games.

The starting forward could return today when the Hawks play at the Nets.

“It’s something I was dealing with a week or two before I sat down,” Millsap said Saturday. “(The tightness) just happened all of a sudden. It’s been hard to recover.”

Millsap sat for five games in which the team believed was a short-term issue. He then traveled to Florida to visit Dr. James Andrews. After conferring with team doctors, a diagnosis of left knee synovitis was announced. Millsap underwent a non-surgical procedure and was ruled out for three additional games, a timetable that ended against the Bulls Saturday. Synovitis is swelling and fluid buildup in a joint.

Signs point to a possible return Sunday. However, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and Millsap were non-committal Saturday.

“As of now, we’ll see,” Millsap said.

Millsap said the rest has been most beneficial for his knee. The training staff has also worked to strengthen his legs while he has been out. Millsap took part in much of the Hawks practice Friday and did a pregame workout Saturday.

The Hawks have lost six of the eight games Millsap has missed with the knee issue. They also lost three games his missed earlier this season with a hip injury bringing their record to 2-9 without the All-Star and leading scorer.

“Very difficult,” Millsap said of watching the Hawks struggle down the stretch of the regular season. “You always want to be out on the court with your team. It gets on you being on the bench watching. It’s been rough on me.”

The Hawks (39-37) had six games remaining in the regular season. They have slipped to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. Millsap said he has been encouraged at how the team has played without himself and fellow starters Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore for several games during his absence.

“It’s definitely been headed in the right direction, especially the last two wins,” Millsap said of victories over the Suns and 76ers. “The intentions were good. Guys were learning from it. That’s good. Going into the playoffs, that’s what you need. Everybody playing well.”

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