Hawks: Capela wants to return to action this season

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On Wednesday, the Hawks issued a press release on the updated status of injured big men Skal Labissiere and Clint Capela. Unfortunately, with the shot clock winding down on the 2019-20 season, time is running out for these two to return to the court. They will both be re-evaluated in two weeks, and at that time, the Hawks will have 12 games remaining. Even then, it is still no guarantee they will be cleared to return to action.

Capela was the prized addition at the trade deadline for Atlanta, with the hopes that he will help them become a more competitive team in 2020-21 and forward, especially on the defensive end. Unfortunately, he has been dealing with a heel issue since December, something he tried to tough out at the time with Houston.

“I was just dealing with it,” said Capela.

It seems that he irritated the injury, which at that point was deemed a right heel contusion. He sat out a couple of games for Houston in late December, and then he was in and out of the lineup throughout January dealing with the issue. Capela has also struggled with plantar fasciitis as well, an ailment that can only be healed with rest and time. With the Hawks being 8.5 games out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they are using as cautious an approach as possible.

Capela addressed the media on Thursday afternoon, and says he is “feeling better and better.” He has been doing some work in the weight room and conditioning, as well as some individual basketball drills. During Tuesday’s practice, he was getting up some jump shots.

According to Clint, the toughest part of the injury has been, “Some days you wake up and you can’t walk, you limp pretty bad” and says it is “something that comes and goes.”

When asked if Atlanta has approached his injury differently, Capela was quick to respond, “Of course, yea.”

“I really just want to be on the court out there with my teammates. I’m hurt, and the team has chosen to be really cautious about it, so I just follow orders to make sure that the injury won’t bother me again.”

For now, Capela is getting to know his young teammates in Atlanta. During Wednesday’s practice, Coach Lloyd Pierce met with the team and told them that he believes they can be a playoff team next season. He took that opportunity to have Clint, who was one of the younger Rockets during their recent stretch of playoff appearances, give them a taste of what it is like, and what it takes to get there.

“Special team meeting; I got to tell all of them my experience in the playoffs when I was young in this league,” said Capela. “I got a chance to really talk, and it was really my first time I had a chance to get to talk to the younger guys because in Houston I was really the youngest all the time, and I really enjoyed it — to express how it was and what you go through in this journey in the NBA.”

Capela stressed “how important it is to be consistent, to compete. We have a tremendously talented and skilled team, and now our goal is to, next year, go to the playoffs.”

Even if Capela can make his return, it may only be a handful of games, and according to Coach Pierce, he will have a minutes restriction in place. However, the team has not mentioned the possibility of Capela missing the rest of the season to him, and are taking the situation day by day. As far as Capela is concerned, he most definitely wants to return to action sometime in the next 19 games.

“Me? I want to play 100 percent. My job is to go out and play and be as dominant as I can, and when I don’t do that, it’s hard,” said Capela.

For now, Head Coach Lloyd Pierce is not too worried about the potential fits of Labissiere or Capela until they are healthy.

“We know what Clint is. Clint’s game is not going to change; I’m telling you now he isn’t going to the three-point line. He’s a rim runner; he’s behind the defense in the dunker area, he’s an offensive rebounder, he’s a lob catcher.”

When asked if there was no added importance to seeing what he can do the rest of the season, Pierce responded, “I do. But at this stage, and the further it goes, the less that number [of remaining games] becomes… let’s say he plays 12 games, the first five are going to be under a 20-minute restriction, so when you break that down that’s three to four-minute clumps.”

“I would love to see him at 100% fully conditioned but we’re not going to see that Clint this year. So what we’re going to see is a glimpse of where he is positionally… is he a screener instead of a roller? Or a slip guy? We’re going to see if he has some of those nuisances with Trae, and that’s more important, that’s a glimpse I hope we get. We’re not going to see him just take off,” said Pierce.

While he did mention a minutes restriction for Capela, it sounded like that 20-minute restriction was a hypothetical number, or a potential maximum, for what it is worth, but it does seem realistic if he does make his return. For now, the Hawks’ number one priority is to protect Clint. They have him under contract for three more seasons, and that is their window to become more competitive. To jeopardize that at this point, just makes little sense.


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