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Hawks' Williams lost for season with ACL tear

ATLANTA -- Lou Williams was able to avoid a major injury during his seven years with Philadelphia. He wasn't so fortunate, though, in his first season back in Atlanta with the Hawks.

Talk about a less-than-happy homecoming.

The former South Gwinnett standout tore the anterior cruciate ligament in this right knee during Friday night's game in Brooklyn and will be lost to the Hawks for the rest of the NBA season.

"It is certainly devastating news to us," Hawks coach Larry Drew said on Saturday, shortly after getting the results of Williams' MRI. "Injuries are part of the game, but you hate to see it happen."

The 6-foot-1 guard ranks third on the Hawks in scoring (14.1), assists (3.6) and steals (1.1), and was shooting career bests of .367 percent from 3-point range and .868 from the free throw line.

"Not only is Lou a great basketball player, he's a great person in that locker room, a great person on the bench," Drew said. "Out on the floor, he's a leader. ... Somebody is going to have to step up."

Williams' injury is the latest blow for the Hawks, who came into Saturday night's game with San Antonio having dropped seven of their past nine games after going a season-best 10 games over .500 on Jan. 1.

Williams' right leg buckled without contact as he drove to the basket after a steal midway through the second quarter in Brooklyn. It was obvious immediately that the injury could be serious.

"It was an ugly looking injury," teammate Kyle Korver said.

Williams, in severe pain, was unable to put any weight on the leg and he eventually had to be taken to the Hawks' locker room at the Barclays Center in a wheelchair.

On Saturday, an MRI and examination by Dr. Michael Bernot at Peachtree Orthopedics in Atlanta revealed the ACL tear.

Williams will not have surgery immediately as he rests and lets the swelling in the knee go down. A timetable for his recovery will be determined following surgery, with his availability for the start of next season in question.

"We are extremely disappointed for Lou and out thoughts and support will be with him during his recovery," Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said. "He has been a complete professional in every sense of the word and now that approach, along with his work ethic, will serve him well in his rehabilitation."

It was the second time in as many seasons that the Hawks have been hit by a major injury. Last year, Al Horford went down early in the season.

"Our guys responded last year and I expect them to respond again this time," Drew said.

Williams had recently returned to his sixth-man role after starting nine games for the Hawks. He was second in voting for the NBA's Sixth Man Award last season with Philadelphia, leading the 76ers in scoring at 14.9 points per game.

After opting out of his Philadelphia contract following the season, Williams signed a three-year deal as a free agent with the Hawks worth $15,675,000.

Until Friday, everything was going well. Now, a long recovery awaits Williams amid an uncertain return date.