DeMarre Carroll will occupy his normal slot at small forward in the Atlanta Hawks' starting lineup on Friday night for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, just two nights after suffering a left knee injury that had many fans fearing for the worst.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Carroll went down in apparent agony midway through the fourth quarter of the Hawks' Game 1 loss to the visiting Cavaliers:
He couldn't put any weight on his left leg as he was helped off the court and back to the Atlanta locker room, and left the arena on crutches. But follow-up X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Thursday confirmed that the 29-year-old forward — who's been both the Hawks' leading scorer throughout this postseason and their best perimeter defender, a critical piece in the attempt to slow down Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — had suffered no structural damage to his left knee.
Despite that good news, though, it was still considered something of a longshot for "The Junkyard Dog" to find his way back into the lineup in time for Friday's Game 2. But with the Hawks in an 0-1 hole and needing to salvage a split at Philips Arena to get back into this series, Carroll's choosing to give it a go, despite reportedly laboring, wincing and grimacing his way through pregame warmups.
There is a chance that Carroll, widely regarded as a gamer and one of the league's tougher competitors, could be making a pennywise but pound-foolish decision in electing to go full-bore on a recently sprained knee with the bounty of unrestricted free agency — in which he's expected to command quite a lot of attention as one of the market's premiere 3-and-D wing players, a career first for the journeyman out of Missouri — after the end of the Hawks' season. But evidently, concern at forestalling the end of that season for as long as possible matters more to Carroll on this Friday night than what could be waiting for him on the other side.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and his training staff will have to keep a very close eye on Carroll's movements in the early going, and must be prepared with a quick hook in favor of reserve swingman Kent Bazemore should Carroll look like he's endangering himself, the Hawks, or both by trying to push too hard too fast. The hope, though, is that Carroll responds in returning from his sprain like Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard did from his on Thursday — some wary early moments, followed by sound and strong play after loosening up and getting into the flow of the game.
Carroll, Coach Bud and company will hope for a different outcome than the one the Rockets got at Oracle Arena. If nothing else, they'll be heading into battle with their full starting five intact, which has tended to be very good news for the Hawks throughout this franchise-record dream season.
- - - - - - -