Few things can take the sheen off of a win, especially one such as the Atlanta Hawks’ 136-108 triumph over the Washington Wizards on November 25.
Injuries, however, will do it every time and the Hawks came out of that game potentially facing an extended absence from starting forward Jalen Johnson. Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma fouled the third-year man – who is enjoying a breakout campaign – knocking him out of the air and to the ground.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Johnson will miss "4-to-6 weeks" while recovering, adding that there is "no fracture or need for surgery".
Johnson shared his reaction to the news, posting, "Overcoming a little adversity ain’t nothing new to me! TMC [The Marathon Continues]," on X on November 26, earning a reaction from Young.
Johnson immediately grabbed at his wrist. After splitting his one-handed free-throws, he went back to the locker room, emerging soon after with his forearm clearly protected underneath his hoodie sleeve.
Head coach Quin Snyder and Johnson’s teammate Trae Young weighed in.
Adding to the urgency of the matter, the Hawks still have to face the Boston Celtics, the Eastern Conference’s top team in terms of record, on the second leg of this back-to-back.
“[Kuzma] made a play on the ball,” head coach Quin Snyder said via the team when asked if he was given an explanation for the play not being reviewed for a flagrant foul. “Any play where someone takes a fall the way Jalen did, it's just unfortunate and, hopefully, he'll be okay. We'll find out more tonight and tomorrow.”
“I mean we got to just continue to push the pace and play with a sense of urgency. We know they just lost, and we just got to come in with a sense of urgency and try to still win in a tough place. And, I mean, it sucks having JJ out probably.”
“We just got to have that next man up,” Young said. “We'll be ready and guys just got to step up.”
Hawks Saddiq Bey looks ready to step back into starting role
Johnson finished with 8 points, two steals, one assist, one block, and one rebound in fewer than nine minutes. That is a lot of production in a short span, and plenty for the Hawks to replace should Johnson miss an extended period of time. Fortunately, Saddiq Bey has looked like just as viable of an option to fill in as he was to start before the season.
Bey finished the win over Washington with 13 points, surprisingly going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, missing all of his attempted three-pointers in a game for the first time this season.
But, perhaps more significantly, he also had nine rebounds.
He is not the playmaker or defender that Johnson is. And, as a more voluminous three-point shooter, Bey has not been as efficient as Johnson on those looks despite being the better marksman.
As long as he can help secure extra possessions in the form of rebounds, though, the dropoff may not be too severe. Bey does boast a better on-off differential (plus-12.9) than Johnson (plus-1.0), per Cleaning The Glass, though the caliber of their competition matters with the former also facing more subs.
The ideal outcome remains that Johnson misses little to no time at all. Short of that, however, the Hawks can withstand the loss for now.