Atlanta Hawks Anxiously Await Pero Antic's Return

By Andrew Shaw
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

When Al Horford went down with a season-ending torn pectoral injury, Pero Antic answered the call for coach Mike Budenholzer as the starting center. The Macedonian stepped in immediately to provide the team with a much-needed boost on offense in order to replace the production of Horford and the Atlanta Hawks were able to maintain the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, as soon as Atlanta was becoming accustomed to having their 31-year-old rookie as the starting center, Antic suffered an injury of his own. Against the Orlando Magic, he suffered a stress fracture in his right ankle that was supposed to keep him sidelined for two to four weeks. However, it seems he will be on the back end of this estimate after the Macedonian had to back out of the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend.

The Hawks really wanted Antic to play in the game in order to showcase his talent on the big stage, but they won’t mind him sitting if it means he comes back earlier. Right now, Atlanta is anxiously awaiting his return to the lineup after recent results without his presence on the floor. In the 10 games he missed, the Hawks recorded an awful 3-7 record, which includes the current five game losing streak that the team is suffering through entering the All-Star break.

Want to know what the record was when Antic played? When he was the starting center, Atlanta went 6-5 with his unique skill set on the floor. This included two huge wins over arguably the best teams in the league, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. A 6-5 record may not sound like that big of a deal, but in a weak conference like the East, just having a winning record will get you into the playoffs. In fact, not too long ago the Hawks held the No. 3 seed because they were the only other team with a winning record.

Hopefully, Atlanta can get back to this position in the East once Antic returns. Currently, the team sits at No. 5 in the standings behind the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls.

The task won’t be easy in the second half of the season, but with the Macedonian coming back to help provide a spark on offense the Hawks could make a run. Antic provides another deadly three-point shooter to the roster, who can stretch the floor and make coach Bud’s offense run like a juggernaut once again.

Andrew Shaw is an Atlanta Hawks writer for Follow him on Twitter @AShaw003, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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