Trae Young diagnosed with Grade 2 left ankle sprain

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) shoots against the New York Knicks during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in New York. (Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) shoots against the New York Knicks during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in New York. (Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

Tough injury news seems to be a constant for the Hawks this season.

Trae Young went down with a left ankle sprain late in the third quarter of the Hawks’ overtime loss in New York on Wednesday night, seeming to be in a lot of pain and grabbing his ankle after appearing to come down wrong on it.

X-rays were negative on Young’s ankle, and he underwent an MRI on Thursday afternoon in Atlanta, which showed a grade 2 sprain, or a sprain of moderate severity. Per the Hawks, Young will miss Friday’s game vs. Miami and Sunday’s game vs. Milwaukee -- the team didn’t offer any timeline other than to say his status will be “updated as appropriate.” On one hand, the diagnosis could have been much worse, but on the other, it’s hard to guess how much time Young will miss as of now, as the Hawks try to finish the regular season strong, with 13 games left.

This lines up with what center Clint Capela, who himself had a sore back and a tough time walking after an awkward fall in the loss (though he was able to stay in the game), said Young told him after the game, that the sprain “wasn’t as bad as he thought.” (Capela is listed as questionable for Friday’s game with a back contusion).

On ESPN’s “The Jump” on Thursday afternoon, Young told Rachel Nichols that it was fortunate he was wearing his ankle braces, when he rolled his ankle in Wednesday’s loss.

“It feels a lot better,” Young said. “Still sore. Getting an MRI here in a little bit to see if there’s anything more. A lot better than what it felt in the moment.”

Still, it’s more bad injury luck for the Hawks, who have been the third-most injured team in the NBA, per Spotrac. Despite those injuries, they’ve assembled a deep-enough team to still be in a pretty good position late in the regular season, at No. 5 in the Eastern Conference standings (the Knicks moved up to No. 4 with the win) with 13 games left.

“It’s not something that you like or go into the season preparing for, but injuries are a part of it,” McMillan said. “It’s just, unfortunately for us, we’ve just had a number of injuries throughout this season, and going down the stretch with 12, 13 games remaining, we need bodies. We’re really limited with the bodies that we have. I think these guys are giving us all that they have.

“You’re playing a very tight schedule where games are every other day. So it’s a challenge for us, but a lot of other teams are having to deal with this. It’s part of adjusting, adapting to what you have, who’s healthy, who’s ready to go, and I think our trainers are doing the best they can to try to get the guys healthy and back out on the floor.”

Per the NBA, through 50 games, injuries have been down this season from last, but as McMillan mentioned, the schedule (the NBA’s usual calendar upended because of COVID-19) has been tough on the injury-plagued Hawks in a few different ways. First, the games are compressed closer together, so if a player is out for one week, he may miss five games instead of three or four. Second, from the Hawks’ perspective, it has been hard on their bodies — in addition to playing every other day, they’re getting less rest, waking up early in the morning to do COVID-19 testing. Third, playing every other day affords little to no practice time, since high-minute players can’t full-on scrimmage or do much with contact when they’ve got another game looming.

Losing Young, the team’s leading scorer and playmaker, would certainly throw a wrench in things as the Hawks try to finish the regular season strong. Before departing, he had 20 points and 14 assists for a double-double. This season, he has led the offense (averaging 25.3 points and 9.6 assists per game) and helped position the Hawks well to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.

“He’s probably our No. 1 option, he’s the guy that creates a lot for this team, so you would be missing a big part of the team,” McMillan said of what the Hawks would be missing if Young was out for a while. “He’s averaging 34, 35 minutes, double-double in scoring and assists, does a lot of creating, scoring for us, so you would be missing a big part of who we are.

There’s also the matter of Capela’s back injury, which was bothering him after the game. In Wednesday’s loss, the Hawks were also missing Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery), Danilo Gallinari (right foot soreness), De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) and Tony Snell (right ankle sprain).

So, the Hawks will be hoping to get a few bodies back in the final weeks of the season.

“We’ve been playing with a number of (injuries), guys having to step in and play for guys who’ve been injured,” McMillan said. “Trae was out just a couple weeks ago and (Brandon Goodwin) had to step in and fill in at that starting position and did a good job for us. ... This is really a tough time to have injuries, but it’s what we have to deal with. We have to get some rest, heal up and get ourselves ready for Miami.”

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