Mike Budenholzer says he’s not one for big speeches.
The Hawks coach may or may not address his team as they begin an important part of the schedule without two starters. The Hawks have 13 games remaining in the regular season and will be without Paul Millsap for at least two games and Kent Bazemore for at least four games. There is no guarantee that either player will return in those timelines.
The Hawks, losers of three straight games, begin a three-game road trip at the Hornets Monday. They will also play at the Wizards on Wednesday without Millsap, who has been ruled out with left knee tightness that became an issue Saturday. Bazemore will be out at least 7-10 days after an MRI exam revealed a right knee bone bruise.
“We all understand and know,” Budenholzer said Monday morning of the task at hand. “I don’t think we are ever ones for big speeches but when it’s appropriate we say something.”
Ersan Ilyasova will start in place of Millsap as he did in the Hawks’ loss to the Trail Blazers Saturday. Tim Hardaway Jr. will start in place of Bazemore. Budenholzer said he expects the starting lineup to remain the same until each injured player returns.
The Hawks are 0-4 this season in games played without their All-Star power forward Millsap. He missed three games at the end of November and beginning of December with a left hip injury. Two of the losses we by a combined 80 points in back-to-back defeats to the Pistons and Raptors. The average margin of defeat in the four losses was 14.6 points.
Budenholzer said the Hawks will be challenged without Millsap both offensively and defensively. He said it’s possible the team will run more of the offense through Dwight Howard as Millsap was a regular option in the post.
“He is someone we go to,” Budenholzer said of Millsap. “We don’t play a lot of one-on-one but he is guy we will go to in the post. He’s such a big part of our pick-and-roll game. I think Ersan, as far as the pick-and-roll game is different than Paul, has been great. Defensively, Paul is pretty special.”
Entering Monday’s NBA schedule the Hawks were fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They trail the fourth-place Raptors by 3-1/2 games. They lead the sixth-place Pacers by two games, the seventh-place Heat by three games and the eighth-place Bucks by 3-1/2 games.
“Win,” Howard said of the Hawks’ psyche with the injury news that came down Sunday. “That’s all the mindset. W-I-N. Win. Don’t lose.”
Sports cliché is that injuries are opportunities for other players to step up. That’s the Hawks’ reality. The Hawks are two games – both losses - into a 10-game portion of the schedule where eight of the opponents have worse than .500 record.
“Everybody is ready for the challenge,” Hardaway said. “We all know we are a lot better with our All-Star and a guy like Baze knocking down shots. But at the end of the day, we are all one. We have to go out there and compete.
“(Stepping up) means take the challenge. People say they don’t have an opportunity when they are not playing, now is their time. I’ve been in that situation plenty of times. You have to go out there and showcase your talent and show you pay attention to the details and the small things it takes to help the team win.”
HAWKS WITHOUT MILLSAP
The Hawks have lost all four games without All-Star power forward Paul Millsap this season.