ATLANTA — When Larry Drew returned to his office Saturday night, walking in from a short media session following his team’s eighth loss in 10 games, his general manager, Danny Ferry, was waiting with one leg crossed over the other on his couch.
Safe to say, the Hawks head coach and general manager needed to have a discussion. Following the team’s 98-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Hawks are free-falling in the Eastern Conference standings and the news keeps getting worse.
The injury bug has bitten — and bitten hard — sinking its teeth deep into the Hawks’ backcourt until, essentially, only starting point guard Jeff Teague was left standing on the Philips Arena floor.
Prior to tip-off, the Hawks received news that backup guard and proficient scorer Lou Williams would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Shooter Anthony Morrow has been out for weeks with hip and lower back problems. So who was it this time? Devin Harris. The backup point guard, one who just returned from injury last week, sprained his left ankle vs. the Spurs, going down in the third quarter and not returning. Harris’ status is unknown, but, following X-rays, the ankle was wrapped as he limped around the locker room during postgame interviews.
“It certainly hurt us, because I thought at that point we were kinda getting into a rhythm, kinda getting into a groove with our speed,” Drew said. “We lose Devin and it kinda let the wind out of our sails a little bit. … Right when I thought we were finding it again, this injury thing starts settling in.”
With Harris down for an unknown amount of time, Atlanta is down to one point guard and will likely be looking for help.
Drew said his team could reach out in the next two or three days. Safe bet: He and Ferry were talking options in that office.
“We look at the big picture. We know what these last two games have done to us. But again, it’s about taking it a game at a time,” Drew said. “Right now the situation is: We are depleted. We are short on bodies and we have to get more bodies in here so that we can move forward.”
Of course, a game did take place, too, but it was just another loss in a litany of defeats lately for Atlanta. By being out-executed down the stretch against San Antonio, the Hawks have now dropped nine of their last 12 outings. After Harris went down, the undermanned Hawks looked to have little left in the tank — the Hawks outscored the Spurs 28-20 in the third before losing the fourth — and could not find an answer for Tony Parker, who finished with 23 points and 12 assists in a dazzling display of pick-and-roll erudition.
Even with cleaning up their offensive rebounding, a main area of concern in recent weeks, the current trend continued on its downward slope. Four Hawks finished in double figures: Josh Smith (21 points), Kyle Korver (19), Jeff Teague (16) and Harris (13), but it was not enough.
Now that he’s the lone option at point guard — for now, at least — Teague, right after playing well but being outclassed by Parker, one of the league’s best, was asked if the lack of depth would cause him to take a more conservative approach.
“I’ll probably play more aggressive,” he responded quickly.
Besides potentially bringing in a new face to fill a void on the roster, the franchise’s present predicament will likely force Korver and rookie John Jenkins into more minutes in upcoming games. Korver is already a starter receiving ample playing time, but Jenkins has seen more of the court recently and said he expected to hear his name called once the news on Williams’ knee came in. After playing 10 or more minutes in just one of the first 12 games of his career, Jenkins has now seen that much floor time in 10 of the last 12.
Drew volunteered that he was proud of his team’s effort given the dire depth circumstances of late, but there was clearly an urgency in his voice in addressing the banged-up situation his team is in. After starting the season so strong, his team is hurting in the trainer’s room, hurting on the floor and hurting in the loss column.
There’s no soft landing after falling to the conference’s sixth spot.
Drew, Ferry and the rest of the organization are now likely looking for a new face to ease that pain.