Bogdanovic, Dieng join Hawks on COVID protocols list

The Hawks will have a team ready to play the Bulls on Wednesday.

You won’t recognize them. They may not recognize each other for that matter.

In what has been a series of powerful COVID-related punches to the gut, the Hawks lost three more players to the NBA’s health and safety protocols Tuesday, with the additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Gorgui Dieng and Malik Ellison. The Hawks currently have 13 players unable to play because of the protocols. Bogdanovic, Dieng and Ellison all were tested following Monday’s 130-118 home loss to the Bulls, and the positive tests were returned Tuesday morning. All-Star Trae Young and Clint Capela returned from protocols this week, or the situation would be even more direr – if that is possible.

“It’s just a sick feeling,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Tuesday morning, two hours before the team was to depart for a rematch with the Bulls that kicks off a long road trip. “The timing is definitely bad to be losing guys when you are going on a six-game road trip. Every day you are just wondering what’s going to happen next. You walk into the office this morning knowing that you are already down players and you get the news that three of your players and a couple coaches go down.

“They have to go into protocol and we have to continue on.”

Against the Bulls, Bogdanovic finished with 20 points, Dieng finished with 12 points and Ellison, on a 10-day hardship contract, did not play.

For some dramatic reading, here is the list of Hawks players currently in the health and safety protocols (take a big breath):

Bogdan Bogdanovic

John Collins

Sharife Cooper

Gorgui Dieng

Malik Ellison

Danilo Gallinari

Kevin Huerter

Wes Iwundu

Jalen Johnson

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

Onyeka Okongwu

Lou Williams

Delon Wright

The Hawks currently have nine players eligible to play Wednesday with Cat Barber, Chaundee Brown, Malcolm Hill, Skylar Mays, Cam Reddish, Lance Stephenson, Justin Tillman (signed to a 10-day contract Tuesday), Young and Capela. The Hawks will add Cam Oliver and Chris Clemons to 10-day contracts. They will sign Wednesday if they pass their COVID-19 tests. The NBA requires at least eight healthy players to play a game.

In addition to the players, the Hawks are down three coaches. Chris Jent tested positive Monday, and Matt Hill and Cam Baskerville tested positive last week.

McMillan canceled practice Tuesday for fear of more spread of the virus. The eight available players did some individual work.

There is a possibility that Hawks could get players out of the protocols, but that will require more testing. McMillan said when tests taken Tuesday morning are returned, he’ll know who will be available game-day morning. Tests Wednesday morning will determine who will be available for that night’s game. A player must return two negative tests before he can clear protocols.

McMillan was asked for the second time in two days whether the NBA should pause – as more of his players test positive and they slide lower into the standings.

“Of course, I think that way, but it’s not up to me,” McMillan said. “The league is trying to keep this season going. Of course, it’s really frustrating for us and a lot of other teams. But there isn’t anything we can do other than follow the direction of the league. We are trying to bring in players to replace guys who go into protocol. It’s a real challenge, and the timing really couldn’t be any worse for us to start a six-game road trip with a number of our guys in protocol.”

The Hawks (15-18) have lost three of their past four games since Dec. 18, when Young went into health and safety protocols and a game against Cleveland was postponed the next night because of issues within the Cavaliers. The Hawks are 12th in the Eastern Conference following Monday’s games.

“Hopefully we don’t dig ourselves a hole that’s so deep that we can’t come out of it,” McMillan said. “But there is nothing we can do.”