The Atlanta Hawks closed a six-game homestand with two straight victories but, on Saturday evening, the team must hit the road on the second night of a back-to-back in Memphis. When the Hawks take the floor, though, they will be without starting center Dwight Howard, as the team announced on Saturday afternoon that he would miss the game for rest purposes.
This isn’t Howard’s first absence for rest this season but it comes at an inopportune time. The Grizzlies boast a frontcourt headlined by Marc Gasol and, given that he is one of the best centers in the NBA, it is not an ideal match-up for the Hawks to encounter without their best option at center.
In Howard’s absence, Mike Muscala would be a logical candidate to garner playing time and he has been largely invisible recently as Atlanta moves in the direction of a shortened rotation. Elsewhere, both Kris Humphries and Ryan Kelly could be options for deployment and, in Humphries’ case, his rebounding prowess could be seen as a positive in this match-up.
Mike Budenholzer is prioritizing the full-season view over the best chance to win on Saturday night and it remains to be seen what kind of impact this absence will have on the floor. Stay tuned.