Hawks forward Marvin Williams thought his mind was playing tricks on him when he glanced over to a corner of the team's practice facility Sunday and saw both Al Horford and Mike Bibby, wrapped up with wires and protective gauze, receiving medical treatment. When you've dealt with as many injuries as the Hawks have in recent years, just the slightest ache or pain is cause for concern.
Seeing two starters on the sidelines at the end of a practice 72 hours prior to tip-off of the regular season was more than enough for Williams, who last year saw his regular season cut short by 16 games because of a back injury.
"You always get nervous when any of your players go down," Williams said. "I'm just glad they're both going to be okay and ready to play against Indiana. You want everybody healthy and ready to go to start a season. That's always the top priority."
Horford's sprained ankle, an injury suffered during Friday's preseason finale in Orlando, just needs rest before Wednesday's season opener against the Pacers at Philips Arena.
"My ankle feels good," he said after practice. "And I'll be ready to go Wednesday."
Bibby was back on the practice floor Monday, shooting like nothing was wrong with his left (non-shooting) wrist after jamming it during a practice drill Sunday.
But they put enough of a scare into coach Mike Woodson over the weekend that he didn't get much sleep Sunday night. He lost Horford, Williams and Josh Smith for a combined 42 games due to injury last season. Three years ago he watched player after player succumb to the injury bug. In all, six of the Hawks' top seven players each missed 20 games or more with one injury or another. The net result was a year that began with relative promise collapsed as the training room filled up with bodies.
"It can hurt you," Woodson said. "We've been fortunate the last two years to avoid some of that. It didn't really bite us bad last year until the playoffs. Hopefully, we can stay away from that and stay strong throughout the year, because above all things, that's the key to having a strong season.
"You hope like [heck] you don't have to go through a season with key guys sitting next to me on that bench. But you just have to take it a day at a time and see what happens."
If the Hawks need a reminder of just how fortunate they've been recently, they'll get a vivid reminder Friday night when the Washington Wizards come to town. The Wizards have played the last two years without their best player, All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, who is finally healthy after three knee surgeries. But they'll take the floor without captain and veteran All-Star power forward Antawn Jamison, who is expected to miss anywhere from eight to 13 games with an ailing shoulder.
Imagine the Hawks playing the last two years without captain Joe Johnson, or hitting the floor for the first four to six weeks without Josh Smith. Woodson would rather not, noting that the Wizards went from a playoff regular when at full force to a lottery team once the injuries started mounting.
"I don't care who you are," Woodson said, "when you have your main guys out with injuries, it's a struggle. You can look around the league and see that. No one feels sorry for you either, so when it happens, all you can do is pick up the pieces and move on."
That's why Bibby said the Hawks can't dwell on what might happen anymore than they can't control things when something does.
"All you can do is get out there and play the way you know how," Bibby said. "You can't sit there and wait and hope not to get injured. When you start operating like that, that's when you get injured. You never know what's going to happen. You could get hurt walking out of here getting into your car. So you keep your blinders on, play through what you can and keep grinding."
Today's NBA openers
Celtics at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m.*
Wizards at Mavericks, 8:30 p.m.
Rockets at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m.
Clippers at Lakers, 10:30 p.m.*
Hawks' season opener
Who: vs. Pacers
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
TV; radio: SPSO; 790
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