ATLANTA (AP) Coach Mike Budenholzer is still reluctant to provide an answer to the lone question mark in the Atlanta Hawks lineup.
From all indications, though, Kent Bazemore will be the starting small forward when the regular season begins next week.
The 6-foot-5 swingman has started all five preseason games he's played in, making it clear he's the choice to fill the vacancy created when DeMarre Carroll signed a free-agent deal with Toronto. Bazemore had his best game yet Wednesday night, leading the Hawks with 18 points in an 82-81 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
''Baze had a very good night,'' Budenholzer said. ''He was a big part of us coming back and making it a competitive game.''
Thabo Sefolosha was the other main contender for the starting spot, but he's still working his way into playing shape after recovering from a broken leg.
Now, all that's left is for Budenholzer to make it official.
The Hawks, coming off a 60-win year that led the Eastern Conference, open the regular season Tuesday night against Detroit.
''We've started this group most of the preseason,'' the coach said, referring to Bazemore playing with center Al Horford, forward Paul Millsap, and guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. ''We're very happy with where Baze is. We'll see what happens between now and Tuesday. But that group has been good.''
Bazemore, who played sparingly during his first two years in the league, became a valuable player off the bench after signing with the Hawks before last season. He averaged nearly 18 minutes a game, impressing Budenholzer with his high-energy style and defensive skills. The player has worked hard to improve at the offensive end, especially with his jump shot.
The 26-year-old doesn't care if he starts or carries on in the same role from a year ago.
''Thabo definitely has the experience,'' Bazemore said. ''All I can do it control the things I can control.''
He still plays with the hunger of someone who went undrafted out of college and spent time in the D-League.
''I'm just thankful to be out there every night with the best players in the world,'' Bazemore said. ''Starting or coming off the bench, I'm going to play the same way.''
His teammates have noticed all the hard work.
''Baze had a great summer,'' Korver said. ''He really worked on his game. He's got a high ceiling. He's got a lot of tools to work with. He's very long. He's got a high motor. He's really coming into his own.''
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