The Hawks announced a projected starting lineup of Trae Young, DeAndre’ Bembry, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Damian Jones for the preseason opener vs. the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Of course, Young and Collins are no surprise.
But team health at least partially factored into coach Lloyd Pierce’s decision-making, with usual starter Kevin Huerter ruled out with left knee pain (an MRI confirmed there’s no structural damage), and Alex Len, who started 31 games last year and was experiencing lower back pain before training camp while also rehabbing a left ankle sprain, on a 15-20 minute restriction.
Rookie Cam Reddish, who had core muscle surgery over the summer, will have a playing-time restriction of around 15 minutes, Pierce said.
“Guys that have minute restrictions need minutes in different ways,” Pierce said. “Alex needs minutes in different ways, Kevin needs minutes and he needs a long day. Cam’s coming back, he needs minutes, but he needs a long day of work. So I don’t want to go into this game and say ‘Oh, we’re going to play you 30 minutes all of the sudden.’”
Regarding Huerter, who has been limited but has still been practicing, Pierce wants to see him go through an extended day of practice before putting him in a game scenario.
“He hasn’t had a full day yet, so he’s going to have a full day right now,” Pierce said. “His day is about to be right now, with the coaches, getting a full workout. Playing 10 minutes in a game tonight isn’t going to help him, 12 minutes in a game. He needs a longer day, not a short stint.”
No one will play more than 25 minutes, per Pierce, as the Hawks ease into the preseason.
Hunter is the only rookie in the starting lineup, but it wasn’t the hardest spot to earn, again due to the health of others, according to Pierce.
“If everybody was in here healthy, it would be a nice competition,” Pierce said. “It’s been an easy competition. De’Andre’s healthy, DeAndre’s healthy, Trae’s healthy, John’s healthy, Damian’s healthy.”
Other injured Hawks include Evan Turner (left Achilles pain), Ray Spalding (left calf strain/dental work), Chandler Parsons (load management/bilateral knees) and Allen Crabbe (recovering from right knee arthroscopy). All are out for Monday’s game.
Brandon Goodwin is doubtful with a right hip contusion.
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