Hawks return Bazemore to starting lineup

Kent Bazemore is back in the Hawks’ starting lineup. It appears the move is not temporary.

Bazemore will start in place of Thabo Sefolosha at small forward tonight against the Heat. Sefolosha started 10 of the past 11 games for the Hawks. The one game he missed was on a back-to-back as the team remained cautious after he had offseason surgery to repair on broken right leg and ankle ligament damage. The Hawks went 4-6 with Sefolosha as a starter.

Bazemore started 13 games for the Hawks, including the first 12 before he was sidelined for five games with a right ankle sprain last month. The Hawks are 9-4 with Bazemore as a starter, including a seven-game win streak.

“It’s really just trying to find the right mix or a good mix,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the lineup change. “It’s going to sound, whatever, but we feel fortunate to have two guys that we feel good about starting. Baze has done well. Thabo has done well. They both help us in so many ways. Maybe just changing up the mix of guys who are out there and who they are with. Baze can help certain groups. Thabo can help certain groups. Just see if we can get something better.”

Budenholzer said last week that Sefolosha would remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. However, the Hawks are just 7-10 since that seven-game win streak. They entered Monday’s game against the Heat with a 14-11 record and in ninth place, out of playoff contention, in the Eastern Conference. Budenholzer said Monday he expects the move to Bazemore will not be temporary.

“With all due respect to Don Nelson, I love Nellie, I don’t really have never been change them every game or change the often,” Budenholzer said. “We’ll see. It’s always up for consideration and debate. That is where I’ll leave it.

“I’m hoping this is something that will be a positive and we stick with it.”

Bazemore has averaged 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals in 27.1 minutes in his 20 games. He averaged 12.2 points in his 13 starts and 12.1 points in his seven games off the bench.

Bazemore said he doesn’t expect his role to change.

“The rotations are what they are,” Bazemore said. “Everyone plays. It’s not like you get a ton of minutes as a starter and you don’t play much as a guy off the bench. Nothing really changes. I just get to start out on superstars now.”

Bazemore is shooting .429 from 3-point range, making 30 of 70 from long range, for the best percentage on the team. Budenholzer said the outside shooting threat makes Bazemore more dynamic.

“It’s a big part of our game and he’s proven to be a threat,” Budenholzer said. “He can attack you if start closing out to him too hard.”

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