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Hinrich disappointed to be out, but hopeful to return
by Adam Fluck
Posted on May 2
As Atlanta Hawks point guard Kirk Hinrich went up on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter of his team’s series-clinching win over the Orlando Magic last week, he felt a pop and swelling near his knee quickly followed.
His initial concern was that it could be a knee injury. Fortunately for Hinrich, it was only a right hamstring strain; however, it will likely hold him out at least the first few games of Atlanta’s Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the Chicago Bulls.
Prior to the Hawks’ shootaround at the United Center Monday morning, Hinrich confirmed he would miss Game 1.
“Tonight when I’m not lacing them up for the game, it’s going to sink in that I’m not going to be able to play,” said Hinrich. “It’s tough. This is what you play for, the playoffs. Obviously, we had a very exciting win over Orlando and I ended up getting hurt right at the end of the game. It’s just disappointing that I’m not going to be able to play tonight, but I’ll try and get better as soon as I can and try and get back.”
Regarded as one of the top defensive guards in the league, Hinrich’s absence is a blow to the Hawks, who will start Jeff Teague in his place. And while the outlook for Hinrich isn’t great, he’s optimistic he could play should the series last six or seven games.
“I’m definitely still holding on to hope,” said Hinrich of a return.
In the meantime, Hinrich and the Hawks have confidence in the 22-year old point guard who will take his place.
“Jeff can really play; it’s just a matter of him getting an opportunity,” said Hinrich of Teague, who played only twice for a combined 10 minutes of action versus Orlando in the first round.
Teague, 6-2 and 180 pounds, started seven times during the regular season, averaging 8.4 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 26.1 minutes per game.
“Before we got Kirk in the trade right after the All-Star break, we started Jeff four games and he did a magnificent job,” said Hawks coach Larry Drew. “These are just situations that do come up. I have always had faith in this kid and I am not going to change now with us being in the playoffs. He brings a unique package to the table for us. And certainly he is in a position where he has to step in and play a lot of minutes. And I have all the faith in the world in him.”
Drew added that Teague would start on likely NBA MVP Derrick Rose defensively.
“He has guarded him before; this isn’t anything out of the ordinary,” said Drew. “Jeff has guarded some tough guys. This is just the situation being in the playoffs. You don’t go into it trying to change a whole lot. As I stated, I have all the confidence in the world in Jeff as a point guard.”
Though he struggled with his shot in Chicago’s two games in Indiana, Rose appeared to return to form in Game 5 and averaged 27.6 points, 6.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game.
Drew is quick to acknowledge that Teague and the Hawks have their work cut out for them.
“It’s not going to take one guy to stop him,” Drew said of Rose. “It’s going to have to be a collective team effort. We’ll just approach this situation very similar to a regular season game. We prepare a game plan; we have to go out and execute our game plan. If we don’t do that, then we are not going to have success. We don’t deviate with injuries or missing any guys for any reason. We stick with our game plan.”
Hawks hitting their stride
Though they lost their final six games of the regular season, the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks figured things out in time for their series against the fourth-seeded Orlando Magic, winning their first round series 4-2. Hawks guard Jamal Crawford believes they may be peaking at the right time.
“We’re playing our best basketball at the right time,” said Crawford. “I think that’s what it’s about in the playoffs. You’ve got to hit that stride at the right time.”
Fans encouraged to arrive early
Due to increased gate security at tonight’s game, and at all future Playoff games, the Bulls are encouraging fans to arrive early. Gates to the United Center open tonight at 5:30 p.m. Game time is 7:00 p.m. For the latest Playoff schedule, visit Bulls.com/Playoffs.
Audio—Hawks coach Larry Drew before Game 1 shootaround (05.02.2011):