While there was plenty to monitor during NBA Summer League in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, two members of the Atlanta Hawks were noticeably absent. Kevin Huerter, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2018 draft, and DeAndre’ Bembry missed the proceedings due to injury issues and, while both were present during off-court activities in July, Monday’s Media Day session provided an opportunity for both to clear the air on where they are in injury recovery.
In short, both are on track for full participation in training camp and, for Huerter, this will be his first, full-blown NBA experience. When the Hawks selected the sharpshooter from Maryland, the franchise was aware of a hand issue with Huerter and the rookie went through surgery that kept him on the sideline earlier in the summer. Now, though, it is no longer something providing a barrier between Huerter and the floor.
“My hand’s a lot better,” Huerter said at Media Day. “I’ve had no limitations for about a month. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent. There are still times when it gets hit when it bothers me for a couple of minutes, but it’s nothing that will affect me going forward.”
While it may raise eyebrows that Huerter is still affected at times, he emphasized that there are “no restrictions” on his basketball work at this point. The youngster did note that it will, of course, be up to the discretion of the coaching staff as to how much playing time he receives in the early going, but that will be a basketball decision, rather than one driven by injury concerns.
As for Bembry, the third-year swingman suffered a wrist fracture in April and, while the ailment wasn’t originally scheduled to keep him off the floor through July, that is what eventually transpired. Still, Bembry was able to return to the floor in August and he spoke with optimism and focus when it comes to durability.
“My goal is to try to keep myself healthy,” Bembry said. “Last year was pretty rough for me dealing with injuries for the first time. So I’m just trying to keep my body right, keep mentally right and I think I’ll be fine from there.”
While not everyone may believe the moniker that health is a skill, it is one that has eluded Bembry at times during his young NBA career. As a result of his on-court sample size being checkered, there is some question as to whether the Hawks will pick up his fourth-year option, putting significant pressure on the St. Joseph’s product to produce during training camp and the preseason.
“I’ve been here all summer working out,” Bembry said. “I just got cleared about a month ago. I’m pretty healthy now... For the most part, I’ve been feeling good. I’ve been looking good. I’ve just got to keep it that way during the season.”
“I think this has been one of my best summers. I just had to wait to get cleared but, after that, I think I’ve gotten a lot better than where I was last summer.”
It remains to be seen as to whether Bembry can stay healthy and, by extension, earn a role in Atlanta’s future plans, whereas the bigger questions with Huerter center on his transition to the NBA as a whole. Fortunately for both young wings, it appears that availability isn’t an active concern as training camp opens, leading the way to some healthy competition for playing time.