ATLANTA (AP) — The Hawks should have a deeper roster for their upcoming five-game road trip even after the news of Gustavo Ayon's season-ending right shoulder surgery.
Ayon, who already missed five games, had surgery Friday. Still, the mood was upbeat as newly signed rookie center Mike Muscala impressed teammates in his first practice.
The Hawks are expecting some veteran starters to return on the road trip. Center Pero Antic, who has missed 16 games with a stress fracture in his right ankle, was cleared for limited portions of Friday's practice. All-Star forward Paul Millsap, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, isn't far behind.
"Hopefully we'll have him back soon," said coach Mike Budenholzer.
Millsap won't play on Sunday at Phoenix, and Antic's status is day to day.
The Hawks, overwhelmed by injuries, have lost 10 of 11 and have dropped to eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks were third in the conference before the injuries.
"On this road trip we're hoping some of our guys can get back healthy and come back and contribute," said point guard Jeff Teague. "We know we're a good team, capable of beating any team on any given day. We've just got to come out with full energy and play our basketball."
Ayon was the team's third center to miss significant time. Al Horford, regarded as the team's best player, was lost for the season in December with a torn right pectoral muscle. Antic and Ayon were the fill-in starters. Elton Brand, normally a backup forward, has been the most recent starting center.
Kyle Korver said he still believes in the system being installed by Budenholzer, the first-year coach and former long-time Spurs assistant.
"There are a few teams in the NBA that have real legit systems," Korver said. "Their team is not built on a player, it's built on a system. That's what we're trying to do. The systems take time to build, but I thought we hung in there with our system."
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