The roller coaster ride that is the 2015-16 season for the Atlanta Hawks continued on Sunday as the team emerged from a four-day break with a thud in a 111-97 loss to the New York Knicks. Atlanta struggled to contain a hot shooting Knicks team defensively but changes to the team's rotation was the topic of choice following the game.
Dennis Schröder was a DNP-CD for the second straight game with Mike Budenholzer offering little to no explanation for the change. When asked about Schröder's absence after Sunday's game, Budenholzer talked about the team's depth and failed to really address the question.
"We're always trying to grow our roster, develop our roster. Shelvin has been working hard and he's someone we have a lot of faith in so it's good to get Shelvin some minutes. You need all 15 guys as you go through a season. We'll continue to work on that."
Shelvin Mack moved into the rotation behind starter Jeff Teague in Tuesday's win over the Rockets. That was the case again on Sunday as Mack scored 10 points off the bench to lead Atlanta's reserves. Schröder's last action came in Monday's loss to the Pacers when he logged just 12 minutes and finished with four points, one assist and two turnovers. Lamar Patterson replaced Schröder as the team's point guard at the 11:10 mark of the fourth quarter and Dennis hasn't been seen since.
Following Tuesday's comeback win in Houston, Budenholzer offered this quote when asked about Schröder per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore:
Telling comment from CMB on Schroder: "(We'll) continue to grow and develop the roster and continue to grow and develop Dennis."— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) December 30, 2015
The point guard slot isn't the only slot that Budenholzer is tinkering with. Walter Tavares saw his first meaningful minutes against the Rockets and was the first big off the bench against the Knicks finishing with four points, four rebounds and three blocks in 15 minutes of action.
While Budenholzer has often gone deep into his bench the situation with Schröder seems a bit strange if nothing else. Particularly when it looked like the rotation had stabilized during the team's six-game winning streak prior to Monday's loss in Indiana.
While Mack has proven himself as a capable backup, Schröder is an important part of the team's future. It certainly feels like there is a message being sent and we may not ever know what it is or if that is the case. Whatever the situation, the Hawks are going to need Schröder playing and productive sooner rather than later.
Hawks' defense trending in the wrong direction
Inconsistency has been a defining characteristic for the Atlanta Hawks this season. Up and down play on the defensive end of the floor has been a major culprit. The Hawks are once again trending in the wrong direction. Atlanta is currently 13th in the league in defensive rating allowing 101.1 points per 100 possessions. Transition defense is a priority for Atlanta but the Knicks did a great job of pushing the ball and finding open shooters as the Hawks were slow to react.
Mistakes like these are leading to a lot of early deficits and forcing the team to expend a lot of energy trying to dig themselves out of holes. Atlanta has trailed by at least 12 points in each of the last four games. They trailed the Knicks by 15 points on the day after Christmas and rallied to win. They trailed Houston by 19 on Tuesday before a fourth quarter rally saved them. They weren't as lucky on Sunday and their recent play is not a recipe for success.
Kyle Korver trying to turn the corner
Kyle Korver missed 20 consecutive three-point attempts before finally connecting against the Knicks on Sunday. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting and knocked down a pair of three-pointers on six attempts. Korver is currently shooting 36 percent from three-point range which is the second-worst mark of his career.
Tiago Splitter misses third straight game
Tiago Splitter didn't make the trip to New York and missed his third straight game with what was described as a mild calf strain. Splitter did not take part in the team's practice on Saturday and his status for Tuesday's rematch against the Knicks is unknown at this time.