The Atlanta Hawks emerged victorious in Denver on Tuesday evening and, for the most part, it was a positive experience headlined by an offensive eruption from Trae Young. However, there was one unfortunate hiccup along the way, with second-year wing Kevin Huerter exiting the contest early in the third quarter with what was originally announced as “left shoulder pain.”
Kevin Huerter heads back to the locker room after this foul from Nikola Jokic. pic.twitter.com/i9xxKDmcFy— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) November 13, 2019
Following Atlanta’s four-point victory, there was no immediate update on Huerter’s status, with further examination necessary to determine the magnitude of the injury. On Wednesday, word emerged that X-rays were negative on Huerter’s shoulder but, at the same time, he traveled back to Atlanta with the expectations that doctors would further examine the findings of an MRI.
On Thursday afternoon, head coach Lloyd Pierce revealed (per Sarah Spencer of the AJC) that an initial reading of the MRI results did not reveal a tear. From there, he told the media in Phoenix that it is “better than the worst-case scenario” and also that Huerter would miss time.
Finally, the evaluation saga came to an end with a formal diagnosis on Thursday afternoon, with the Hawks announcing that Huerter “has been diagnosed with a left rotator cuff strain with an associated shoulder capsule strain.” He will be re-examined in two weeks, though “re-examination” and “return” are crucially different distinctions.
If Huerter’s two-week timetable for re-examination also leads to a return in approximately that timeframe, the injury would keep Huerter off the court until late November or early December, leaving the Hawks without two of their top four offensive options. Barring a surprising overturn of his suspension, John Collins will be unavailable until late December and, while Young and Jabari Parker have been fantastic, the absence of Huerter is unfortunate on a number of levels, headlined by the loss of a dynamic long-distance shooter. For reference when considering the two-week re-examination timetable, the Hawks face a road back-to-back on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 before returning home on Dec. 2 to face the Golden State Warriors.
Huerter missed all of training camp with a right knee issue and, in the early going, the former Maryland standout struggled. With that ailment seemingly behind him, Huerter turned it on in the last few games, scoring in double figures in four straight contests and converting 11 of his last 22 three-point attempts. The shoulder issue is also his third significant injury in less than two years, with the 2018 draftee missing the summer between college and the NBA due to surgery on his hand.
All things considered, the announced diagnosis and timetable appear to be positive, particularly when compared to the worst-case scenario.
The Hawks will return to the floor on Thursday with an intriguing test against the Phoenix Suns and, from there, Atlanta will face a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and Sunday.