The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards are dealing with different personnel situations as they prepare to meet for the first time this season on Friday in Washington, D.C.
The Wizards are wondering who’s going to play. The Hawks, finally at full strength, are sorting out how to play together.
The two teams from the Southeast Division split last year’s four-game series. They have traded wins over the past two seasons.
The Wizards are coming off a 123-89 loss at Orlando but have won two of their past three. The Hawks took Houston to the wire before losing 122-115 on Wednesday and have dropped two straight.
Washington is trying to work its way through injuries. The Wizards have played all season without John Wall (left Achilles surgery) and have been without guard Bradley Beal the past four games because of lower right leg soreness.
Beal had posted 14 games of at least 30 points on the season when his 194-game playing streak was halted on Dec. 28 due to leg discomfort. He came back to play on Jan. 1 and scored 27 but has not returned since banging knees in that game with Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac. Beal is listed as day-to-day.
“It’s between our medical staff and Brad,” coach Scott Brooks said. “He has to get to a point where he’s comfortable. Right now, it’s still sore. We thought the last couple of games that he would be able to play, but we’re going to be super-cautious, not only with Brad, but with all our guys. He’s not ready. We’d love to have him out there. He’s one of the best guards, two-way players, in the league, but it’s not worth it for him to go out there if he’s not ready.”
The Wizards also are playing without Garrison Mathews (right ankle sprain), Rui Hachimura (groin), Thomas Bryant (foot) and Davis Bertans (quad). The team had just nine healthy bodies available against Orlando.
“It’s definitely a little overwhelming at times,” forward Troy Brown Jr. said. “I think coach is trying to do the best job he can in our situation.”
With Beal on the mend, the Wizards are led by guard Isaiah Thomas, who averages 12.8 points, and forward Jordan McRae, who was playing in the G League last season. McRae also is averaging 12.8 points.
The Hawks have fought through their own personnel issues. John Collins, who was suspended for 25 games, has been dealing with a lower back pain since sustaining a fall. Kevin Huerter finally appears healthy after missing 11 games in November with a left rotator cuff strain and also is coping with back issues.
With the parts finally in place, the Hawks have beaten Indiana and played well in losses to Denver and Houston, two of the top teams from the Western Conference, in the past two weeks.
“We got a lot of our guys back healthy,” guard Trae Young said. “We just have to figure out how to close out games.”
Young has carried his weight. He logged his second triple-double of the season when he had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against the Rockets. Young has scored 40-plus points in six games and is averaging 29.2 points.
The Hawks will continue to be without forward Jabari Parker, who had a non-surgical procedure on his right shoulder Tuesday and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
–Field Level Media