Game worth circling, toughest stretch in Hawks’ 2016-17 schedule

Dennis Schroder and the Hawks play six of their first nine games at home, beginning with the Thursday, Oct. 27 season opener against the Wizards.

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The Hawks’ schedule was released by the NBA on Thursday night, and Atlanta’s bid for a 10th straight playoff appearance will begin Thursday, Oct. 27 at Philips Arena against the Wizards.

Here are three thoughts on Atlanta’s slate, which can be seen here in its entirety:

Jeff Teague’s return to Atlanta as a member of the Pacers will come March 5 (though the Hawks will see him in Indianapolis on Nov. 23) and Dwight Howard heads back to Houston for the first time on Feb. 2. But the game that everyone will be eyeing is Jan. 18 as Al Horford and the Celtics come to Philips. Boston is one of three East teams the Hawks face only three times, with two of those meetings in Atlanta (the other comes April 6). Considering the playoff battle these two teams went through, having a familiar face in green and white figures to only amplify things.

The complexity of the Eastern Conference has changed with Al Hoford in Boston, Derek Rose and Joakim Noah with the Knicks, Jeff Teague in Indianapolis and the Bulls putting Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade alongside Jimmy Butler. Simply put, the road back to the playoffs is daunting, and if the Hawks are jockeying for position — or fighting to get in — heading into the final month of the regular season, things could get very interesting. In April they have the Bulls (April 1), Celtics (April 6), back-to-backs vs. the Cavaliers (April 7 and 9), then the Hornets (April 11) and Pacers (April 12).