Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Joe Johnson eyes return to lineup
ATLANTA -- Hawks All-Star guard Joe Johnson and center Zaza Pachulia are questionable for Wednesday night's game against Golden State, coach Larry Drew said.
But Johnson said he was encouraged that he was able to run without pain and hopes to play against the Warriors.
"I think so. I don't want to get everybody's hopes up," Johnson said Tuesday. "I felt great today. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."
Johnson was named to the All-Star team for the sixth straight year but was held out with tendinitis in his left knee. He also missed Atlanta's last two games before the break.
Drew said Johnson "was moving pretty well" in practice.
"I think it's going to be a game-time decision," Drew said. "We'll just see how it feels tomorrow.
"We didn't do a lot of banging today. We did some. It is totally different when you're out there banging."
Johnson leads the Hawks with an average of 17.6 points per game.
"He's our guy," point guard Jeff Teague said. "Without him in the lineup, we've always got to figure out a way to generate some offense. He looked like he was ready to be out there playing and we're glad to have him back."
Drew said Pachulia tweaked his left calf in the Hawks' win over Orlando Feb. 23.
The Hawks would be severely undersized without Pachulia, who sat out the end of Tuesday's practice with ice wrapped around his left leg.
"With a calf you have to be careful," Drew said. "Let's keep our fingers crossed that he'll be OK."
The Hawks are sixth in the Eastern Conference after dealing with a long list of injuries in the first 34 games of the lockout-shortened season.
They already are without starting center Al Horford and backup center Jason Collins.
Horford, who joined Johnson on last year's All-Star team, could miss the rest of the regular season after tearing his left pectoral muscle in the 11th game.
Collins sprained his left elbow on Feb. 2 and could miss at least two more weeks. The Hawks signed veteran center Erick Dampier, who is nearing the end of his second 10-day contract.
But Drew said the Hawks won't use injuries as an excuse.
"We're a little short-handed, we're a little limited and that's my biggest concern right now. But we'll be competitive in everything. We'll go out and put our best foot forward every game we play. We won't use injury as an excuse. We've already talked about that as a team."
The Hawks have played strong defense but have struggled to score. Only one of Atlanta's last 14 opponents has reached 100 points. The Hawks rank seventh in the league with their average 91.6 points allowed, but they are only 16th in scoring at 93.4 points per game.
"We just have to make shots," Drew said. "That's what it comes down to. We've got to get more efficient in our transition game. ... When we chart games, we have not been executing our fast breaks, not with the efficiency that we want. That's just an area we just have to get better."
The Hawks, 13-5 in January, are only 4-8 in February with losses in three of their past four games.
Teague said he still believes the Hawks can be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
"If we all can get together on the same page and stay healthy and play with a faster tempo and keep playing defense, I think we'll be all right," Teague said.