Rookie Sharife Cooper continues to impress in preseason

With a burst of energy in the fourth quarter from rookie Sharife Cooper, the Hawks picked up their first exhibition win, 91-87 on Saturday night in Memphis.

Next up, the Hawks will play their final exhibition game Thursday, when they host the Heat, before the regular season begins Oct. 21.

Let’s break down what we learned from Saturday’s game:

Rookie Sharife Cooper showed out in the fourth quarter. He paved the way for the comeback and continues to impress in the preseason, tallying 10 points, three assists, three rebounds, two steals and one block in the fourth, playing the entire period. Overall, this was a rough exhibition game for both teams, but this is the second time in a row Cooper has given the Hawks a lift in the second half, and this time it was enough for a win.

“I love the energy that he’s bringing,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said of Cooper. “He’s scrappy. He’s playing scrappy basketball out there. He’s trying to make a statement. He’s stepping up, and he’s not pacing himself.”

It’s not looking like we’ll get to see many regular-season lineups in the preseason. From a chemistry standpoint, that’s not ideal, though obviously being healthy for the regular season is far more important. With only one exhibition game remaining, there are still a handful of players out injured or not 100%, and one more went down Saturday.

Credit: Nikki Boertman

Credit: Nikki Boertman

Gorgui Dieng, added to back up Clint Capela at center with rookie Onyeka Okongwu out likely until January, started but missed the second half after suffering a right hand sprain. Capela (left Achilles injury management) hasn’t participated in live work yet, De’Andre Hunter (right knee injury management) didn’t play after experiencing some knee soreness Friday, plus Delon Wright (left ankle soreness) and Trae Young (right quad contusion) are out after tweaks in the preseason. With Dieng out, Jahlil Okafor got some playing time, finishing as a plus-7 with four points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.

In a little positive injury news, Bogdan Bogdanovic returned and is back to dominating from 3-point range, going 4-for-6 from distance, finishing with 16 points and five assists. In the offseason, Bogdanovic underwent an injection to address knee soreness that flared up in the postseason, and he’s working up to full strength, but his shot looking so smooth at this point is a great sign for the Hawks. Bogdanovic rested in Wednesday’s exhibition loss to the Cavaliers.