The Atlanta Hawks have gone 4-9 since third-year forward Jalen Johnson fractured his wrist against the Washington Wizards, including their 122-113 loss to the Miami Heat on December 22.
They are 4-11 without him in the starting lineup this season.
Fortunately, they might not have to navigate those murky waters for much longer according to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojanrowski.
“There’s optimism Atlanta Hawks F Jalen Johnson (left wrist) can return as soon as Tuesday vs. the Chicago Bulls, sources tell ESPN,” Wojnarowski posted in a message on X on December 23. “Johnson — who’s been out a month — has averaged 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 15 games this season.”
The Hawks only recently officially announced Johnson had been cleared for practice.
“Jalen Johnson (left distal radius fracture on Nov. 25) has been cleared to return to full team practice,” the official team update read on December 20. “His status will be updated as appropriate.”
Johnson – the No. 20 overall pick in 2020 – has averaged 14.3 points on 68.5% true shooting with 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his 12 starts this season.
Johnson has not played since November 25.
Were he to return by December 26, that would be just over the four-to-six-week projected timeline he was initially given, per Shams Charania of The Athletic in the wake of his injury versus Washington.
Hawks re-sign Vit Krejci to 2-way contract
The Hawks did bring back a familiar face ahead of their loss to the Heat, re-signing swingman Vit Krejci but on a two-way contract.
Atlanta originally acquired Krejci via trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of the 2022-23 season in exchange for forward Maurice Harkless. Krejci averaged 1.2 points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists in 29 appearances.
But his energy on the bench was refreshing, and he did some nice things on the court too.
It’s unclear what the Hawks’ long-term plans are for Krejci. They were without starting forward De’Andre Hunter and second-year (seemingly forgotten) man AJ Griffin in addition to Johnson against the Heat.
Perhaps Krejci would have gotten called up for emergency purposes for that contest.
They still have veteran Wesley Matthews – who can log minutes at the 3 – behind fill-in starters Saddiq Bey and Garrison Mathews. But none of them are 6-foot-8 like Krejci, who can play anywhere from 1 through 4.
The Hawks are right back on the court against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second leg of their back-to-back, giving them a chance to get over last night’s loss.