Route 66
Josh Smith and Jeff Teague finish the season with perfect attendance.
By Jon Newberry

When the ball goes up tonight to begin the Hawks’ final game of the 2011-12 regular season, there will be a familiar tandem on the court in Atlanta colors. Josh Smith and Jeff Teague have started every game this season for the Hawks, and will join a select group of players that have battled through the rigorous condensed schedule without taking a night off.

In a season when “rest” or “soreness” have been used by every team as reasons to list a player as inactive, perfect attendance becomes even more rare. In fact, there are only 14 other players around the league that enter the final day of the season having started every single game for their team.

Give credit to the Hawks trainers and their strength & conditioning coaches. There are only two teams that have missed fewer games due to injury than the Hawks over the past three seasons. In 2009-10 the Hawks were the “healthiest” team in the league. This season, with Al Horford’s serious injury, the grueling schedule, and the addition of older veterans to the roster, the Hawks rank fifth in games missed due to injury. 

Take a look at the standings and you will see that many of the top teams have benefitted from good luck with injuries this season. The Bulls, while having to play without reigning MVP Derrick Rose for long spells this year, have the most players (four) that have not missed a game, plus their starting center Joakim Noah has only missed two games. OKC’s All-Star tandem of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant started all 66 games, and Indiana’s starting frontcourt of David West, Paul George and Roy Hibbert missed only one game combined.

From the outside looking in you have to attribute Josh’s streak of starts to his commitment to stepping up while his other captains missed time. His competitive nature had him suit up for each game when others may have opted for a chance to rest. The same can be said for Teague, who also has youth on his side.

For more on Josh Smith’s role in carrying this team through injuries this season, here is Coach Drew talking after Wednesday’s practice: