Houston Rockets center Clint Capela yells after dunking the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Photo: Craig Lassig/AP
Photo: Craig Lassig/AP

Hawks’ newly acquired Capela will miss ‘weeks’

When the Hawks acquired the injured Clint Capela and Skal Labissiere at the NBA trade deadline, they knew it might take some time before the big men could play.

The wait will continue.

Coach Lloyd Pierce said it likely will be weeks before Capela and Labissiere see the court. There had been some hope that the two might return following the All-Star break. However, both are listed as out for the Hawks’ return Thursday against the Heat.

Capela, a center, is out with right calcaneus contusion/plantar fasciitis. Labissiere, a forward/center, is out with a left knee chondral injury. Neither practiced Tuesday and Wednesday as the Hawks got back to work for the final 26 games of the season. Capela is doing some court work, but moving gingerly. Labissiere is closer to a return.

“Both he and Skal are a ways away, slowing trying to do a bit more,” Pierce said Wednesday. “Skal is in that need to get in better shape to do more stage. Clint is just trying to figure out what he can tolerate each day. He is working out. You don’t see a whole lot of movement. That is pretty much where he is at this stage. I would guess we are weeks away from either guy seeing any court time.”

In an official statement Wednesday, the Hawks said both players would be evaluated in two weeks.

Capela has not played in eight of the past nine games, including four with the Hawks since he was acquired in a trade with the Rockets at the Feb. 6 deadline. He averaged 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds with the Rockets this season. He has averages of 12.2 points and 9.7 rebounds over his six-year career. 

He was obtained in a four-team trade that included the Timberwolves and Nuggets. The Hawks also received Nene, who was waived, and gave up Evan Turner, a 2020 first-round draft pick and a 2026 second-round pick in the complex 12-player deal. Capela has three years and $55.6 million remaining on his contract, an average of $18.5 million a season.

Labissiere was obtained at the deadline in a deal with the Trail Blazers that included a 2024 second-round pick and cash. He has not played since Dec. 28 and averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games this season. He is in the final year of his contract.

So why make the trades if neither is able to immediately contribute?

The Hawks hope to see Capela at some point. Even a month is better than nothing.

“The guy is hurt,” Pierce said of Capela. “You can’t plan for what you want to see or how you want to see it. We understood both of those guys were injured prior to (the trades). When you are coming off injuries, you have to take a lot of that with a grain of salt in terms of how much they are really going to be able to show, how much they really are going to be able to contribute and what you can gain from that. Any sample size we can get this year, with either guy, specifically with Clint, but any sample size we can get will be tremendous. It’s still more than none.”

Make no mistake, Pierce wants to see what Capela can do alongside his Core Five of Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. The coach met with the young group following practice Wednesday to talk about the final stretch of the season. What they could accomplish with Capela added to the mix was part of that conversation.

“We know what we have in Clint,” Pierce said. “He’s a double-double. He’s a rim-runner. He’s an unbelievable pick-and-roll threat at the rim, which ties right in to what we do. We don’t have to see it. It’s there. When we get him at Clint Capela full capability, we should be excited both offensively and defensively. 

“Rebounding is an area of concern for us. He’s one of the best rebounders in the league. We are a pick-and-roll team with the amount of pressure we put at the rim, one of the best in the league. To see a sample size is great. To expect more, I’m not.”

Young, who returned from a very busy All-Star weekend, is eager for Capela to be healthy. One imagines their point guard and center pick-and-roll and lob possibilities. Pierce certainly does. And Young does, too.

“If you are teammate of his and you are not (chomping at the bit for Capela to play), I don’t know if you are really a good teammate,” Young said.

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