This isn’t meant to come off as a sky-if-falling blog.
OK. Maybe a little.
But the Hawks have had a horrible 16-day stretch, and at the worst possible time of the season.
• April 4: Paul Millsap, the team’s leading scorer and its best player for most of this season, suffered a right shoulder contusion and sprain in a collision with Brooklyn’s Earl Clark. He sat out five games but still has lingering soreness and is struggling to regain his shooting touch, in part because of the protective compression shirt he wears under his jersey (going only 4-for-20 from the floor in the regular season finale and Sunday’s playoff opener against the Nets).
• April 8: Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic were arrested after an early morning altercation outside of a New York night club. Sefolosha, one of the Hawks’ best defenders and bench players, suffered a broken leg and ligament damage and was lost for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.
• April 19: Al Horford suffered a dislocated right pinky in the playoff series-opening win over the Nets. He returned to play late in the game with his pinky and ring finger taped together. X-rays were negative. Horford told Chris Vivlamore he will play in Game 2 on Wednesday but acknowledged the injury “definitely affected me” in the game. “Having it taped like that around my finger, especially on my shooting hand, was very uncomfortable to shoot the ball.”
This is a team that largely went through the season without a major injury to a core player (save Kyle Korver’s broken nose on March 15, forcing him to miss three games and then returning with a protective mask).
Question: Does all this make you wonder what lies ahead? The strength of the Hawks is their balance and the fact they’re not overly reliant on one player. But when a team’s core takes hits like this, it’s going to have a significant effect.
The Hawks are good enough to win a playoff series over Brooklyn, even with the injury issues. But they can’t go deep into the NBA playoffs without a healthy Millsap and Horford, and they certainly need Millsap to rediscover his shooting touch.
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox — MyAJC: Hawks need a better Millsap for long playoff run — MyAJC: Budenholzer knows what playoff success is all about — MyAJC: Hawks hoping to leave Atlanta playoff wreckage behind — AJC: Hawks lose lottery pick but get better playoff match-up: Nets — MyAJC: Jordan Spieth: Perfect champion, perfect story — AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth’s first major won’t be his last — MyAJC: It’s a Masters Sunday, and here comes old Phil Mickelson — AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth hopes to avoid Norman flashback — MyAJC: Jordan Spieth toying with Augusta, Masters’ field — AJC: Masters short takes: Spieth’s historic run, and the other guy — MyAJC: Woods is back, or he’s not, or he is, or he’s not… — AJC: Masters short takes: The future (Spieth) and the past (Crenshaw) — AJC: It’s Masters morning and old guys have laready withdrawn — MyAJC: On eve of final Masters, Ben Crenshaw embracing every moment — MyAJC: Woods loose, confident, but is he really ready for Masters — MyAJC: Braves stop the noise with opening victory — AJC: Short takes: Small ball, Teheran, bullpen and a Braves’ win — AJC: LIVE: Braves (or what’s left of them) open series vs. Marlins — AJC: Braves’ deal saves budget (Upton) but drives nail in season (Kimbrel) — MyAJC: Trade reaffirms Braves’ decision to go backward before forward — MyAJC: With expectations low, at least Braves won’t underachieve — AJC: Hawks’ biggest nightmare: Millsap suffers shoulder injury — MyAJC: Hawks’ turnaround started with trade of Joe Johnson — and he knows it