“He was honestly our best player before the injury, most consistent player,” wing Bogdan Bogdanovic said of what it would mean for the Hawks to get Hunter back. “So we all know how much we miss him, and he knows as well. It’s good to see him hooping today, and he looks good.”
Hunter was averaging 16 points (good for the third-most on the roster), 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 31.3 minutes per game.
“I think Dre is a two-way player,” McMillan said. “He’s a guy that gives you something on both ends of the floor. Not only can he defend several different positions, he’s another big body. Offensively he gives you another ballhandler, a guy that you can run some sets through. Getting a two-way player is always good, and having him back whether that’s the first or second unit, it just allows us to do a few more things.”
Hunter’s recovery has been up-and-down this season. He missed 23 games after exiting with a knee injury in the Hawks’ win in Washington on Jan. 29, when he didn’t feel right after coming down from a dunk. Then, he underwent a lateral meniscus debridement procedure Feb. 8 and later returned to the lineup for two games in late March.
He hasn’t played since, missing the next 24 games, dealing with some swelling in his knee at times. It sounds as if Hunter has made significant progress lately, though.
Although this NBA season has been incredibly compressed, with games essentially every other day, this three-day break between games came at a good time for the Hawks, as they try to get healthy for their final four regular-season games.
Right now, the Hawks are the No. 5 seed and are a half-game behind the No. 4 Knicks. At the least, they’ll try to stay where they are and not slip in the standings, and at best, they’d like to overtake that No. 4 spot, if the Knicks lose enough of their remaining games for it to shake out that way.
“We definitely needed this break, and we’re going to try to take advantage of it, as well as get some work in,” McMillan said.