Jalen Johnson Hurts Ankle As Postseason Approaches

Atlanta Hawks small forward Jalen Johnson incurred an ankle injury on Monday, and apparently will be on the shelf at an unfortunately inopportune time for his struggling team. A Thursday Hawks press statement via the team’s X/Twitter account reveals that Johnson apparently re-sprained his right ankle in Atlanta’s 136-105 blowout defeat against the Los Angeles Lakers. The injury had heretofore cost him three games earlier this month.

As the tweet adds, Hawks shooting guard Kobe Bufkin appears to be on the mend from the sprain left toe he suffered earlier this month. The team is set to reassess his progress in the next week to 10 days. The same reassessment timeline extends to small forward A.J. Griffin, who’s on the shelf with a right high ankle sprain. Johnson’s is the most troubling absence for a club barely clinging to the Eastern Conference’s No. 10 seed. This could be the play where things went south for the third-year forward:

As you’ll note, the Hawks were midway through the fourth quarter and trailing by 30 points at the time of the injury. Playing probably his top two-way player with the game totally out of hand was a befuddling decision from Atlanta head coach Quin Snyder. Now, the club is starting reserve De’Andre Hunter in his stead.

 Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Jalen Johnson
Bogdan Bogdanovic #13 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts with Trae Young #11, Dejounte Murray #5 and Jalen Johnson #1 of the Atlanta Hawks after drawing a foul on a basket against the Golden State Warriors…

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 6’9″ Johnson, 22, has emerged as perhaps the Hawks’ best player this season, a sharpshooting two-way threat who’s begun developing late-game takeover ability. He has enjoyed a breakout third pro year with the team. Atlanta selected him with the No. 20 pick out of Duke University in 22021. He’s averaging 16.1 points on .513/.353/.725 shooting splits, 8.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks a night.

At 30-39, the tenth-seeded Hawks are 3.5 games behind the 34-36 Chicago Bulls, but 4.5 games clear of the No. 11 Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, which far outflanks the Hawks’ two-game such streak. Still, the longer Atlanta is without Johnson, the more precarious its postseason fate.