Hawks provide update on Jalen Johnson's injury, timeline

The Atlanta Hawks provided several injury updates, including for third-year forward Jalen Johnson.
Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson
Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Atlanta Hawks (28-34) won’t have third-year forward Jalen Johnson for their next tilt, a road date against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 8.

How much longer they have to navigate without him beyond that remains unclear.

“Jalen Johnson left last night’s game with a right ankle injury. X-rays taken at State Farm Arena were negative, and he has been diagnosed with a right ankle sprain,” the team announced on X, formerly Twitter, on March 7. “He will not travel with the team for tomorrow’s game at Memphis, and his status is day-to-day.”

Johnson went down early in the third quarter of the Hawks’ 112-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and never returned.

He finished with seven points, four assists, four rebounds, and one block. His absence looms large over the 28-34 Hawks, who have won four of their last six games but still sit on the edge of the Play-In Tournament field. 

The Hawks went 4-10 during his injury absence earlier in the season.

They are also without Trae Young and Onyeka Okongwu, putting more stress on the healthy Hawks to not only hold down the fort but also try to make up some ground down the stretch.

Jalen Johnson’s Most Improved Player candidacy likely shot after latest injury

This is a potentially significant blow to Johnson’s chances at winning Most Improved Player this season. He is averaging career-high marks across the board with 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game this season.

He is also just shy of averaging 1.0 blocks per game. Shooting 34.6% from downtown on the season, Johnson was also shooting 36.4% from deep over the last six games.

Vegas Insider projects him to be a long shot, with BetMGM’s +4000 odds his best bet.

Hawks provide updates on Kobe Bufkin and Onyeka Okongwu

It was a slew of updates from the Hawks on the day, with the announcement of a pair of MRI’s for rookie first-round pick Kobe Bufkin.

“Kobe Bufkin (left big toe injury) underwent an MRI on Monday in New York and had a follow-up examination with Hawks team physicians last night at State Farm Arena,” the Hawks said. “He has been diagnosed with a left big toe sprain. Bufkin will be in a walking boot for the next 10 days, and his status will be updated as appropriate.”

Bufkin’s inaugural season has been mired by injuries. The No. 15 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Bufkin has already flashed his explosiveness, feel for the game, and defensive prowess in his short time with the Hawks.

Okongwu is trending the other way.

He has missed the last eight games in what was a veritable breakout season for him as well, with the Hawks going 4-4 in that span.

“Onyeka Okongwu (left big toe sprain/sesamoiditis) has transitioned out of a walking boot,” the Hawks said. “He will be re-evaluated in 7-to-10 days and his status will be updated as appropriate.”

Young is expected to be re-evaluated in another two weeks or so.

The Hawks are on the road for six of their next season contests, including a five-game road trip that begins on March 13 in Portland to face the Trail Blazers.