The Atlanta Hawks host their preseason home opener against new coach Mike Budenholzer’s former team and mentor Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs tonight in Philips Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Budenholzer spent the past 19 years in San Antonio, 17 as Pop’s assistant and the final 6 as his top aide, before coming to Atlanta as a first-time head coach. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who also has ties to the Spurs organization as both a player and front office executive, hired Budenholzer in May.
As has been the case so far this preseason for Atlanta, Gustavo Ayon (shoulder), John Jenkins (back spams), and Lou Williams (ACL rehab) are not expected to play.
Ayon got injured in the first quarter of the Hawks’ preseason opener against the Heat in Miami. He had an MRI exam the next day after returning to Atlanta and it revealed he had inflammation and a rotator cuff strain. Jenkins also had an MRI exam the same day on his lower back, but thankfully it came back negative. He didn’t travel with the team to their last game and is still listed day-to-day. Williams continues to rehab his left ACL injury and take part in non-contract drills, however it’s already known he’ll miss the first month of the regular season, at least.
The Hawks split their first two exhibition games of the season, which happened to be a back-to-back set, losing to the Heat in Miami 92-87 and beating the Bobcats in Asheville 87-85 the following night. The game against Charlotte was a thriller, and ended with rookie point guard Dennis Schroder getting the game-winning floater to fall with 2.1 seconds left. The loss to Miami wasn’t close until the fourth quarter. Atlanta trailed 49-30 at halftime and was down 22 points with under 10 minutes remaining in the game before mounting a furious comeback in which Schroder capped off a 26-6 run to cut the deficit to 89-87 with 24.9 seconds left. However, the Hawks couldn’t manage to tie the score and the Heat sealed the game from the foul line. Atlanta lost again a few days ago in Biloxi, Mississippi when they got pounded by the Pelicans 105-73.
The Spurs haven’t gotten off to a great start either and share a 1-2 record with the Hawks.
San Antonio won their preseason opener against CSKA Moscow by a 2-point margin, then dropped the next two games against the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. Although, both losses were close. The Spurs came up short versus the Suns 106-99, then dropped a 98-94 decision to Denver.
This game is definitely going to be entertaining, and will be especially fun to watch because of the battle of wits that will be taking place between Popovich and Budenholzer all night long.
Pop might even do some things tonight just to mess with his former disciple.
Hawks — Teague / Korver / Carroll / Millsap / Horford
Spurs — Parker / Green / Leonard / Duncan / Splitter
Hawks — John Jenkins (back spasms), Gustavo Ayon (shoulder), Lou Williams (ACL rehab)
Spurs — None
Pop vs Bud
Even though they won’t be the one’s on the court, this matchup is all about The Teacher vs. The Student — Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was under Gregg Popovich’s tutelage for the past 17 years with this Atlanta gig being his first venture out into the head coaching world. It will be fun to see if Pop throws any curve balls to Bud like resting his starters or beginning the game with a full-court press. Hopefully Bud shows Pop he’s learned a thing or two from the San Antonio days and comes out with a victory tonight!
How to Watch
Unfortunately, this game won’t be televised. However, you can listen to the action on the radio on 92.9 FM.