ATLANTA - The Atlanta Hawks are going to be an interesting team if they can ever get all of their players healthy at the same time.
They are an interesting team now.
With center Dikembe Mutombo out with the flu Saturday night, the Hawks received a career-high 15 rebounds from former Georgia Tech center Ivano Newbill and drilled the Toronto Raptors 101-75 before a crowd of about 7,500 at The Omni.
Steve Smith led Atlanta with 22 points, followed by Christian Laettner with 21 and Mookie Blaylock with 15. Toronto, which has lost all six meetings with Atlanta since its inception, shot only 37 percent.
The victory moved the Hawks to 11-8 overall and 6-1 at home, encouraging marks given the fact the team has played 10 games without star guard Steve Smith, four without point guard Mookie Blaylock and has been without forward Alan Henderson all season.
"We came out of training camp pretty excited about ourselves," said coach Lenny Wilkens. "We felt good about the guys we were going into the season with. Alan, who had a year under his belt, was terrific in camp. Then we lost him, and then we lost Steve and Mookie. We had nine guys at one point. But now we've got most everybody back, and we feel like we're moving in the direction we want to go."if
Henderson, who would be a key backup at power forward, became seriously ill with viral pancreatitis last month and was hospitalized. He is home in Indianapolis recuperating and is expected back in February.
Mutombo, who was coming off NBA Player of the Week honors, showed up for the pre-game shoot-around with a fever and nausea and was sent home.
Newbill drew the start over No. 2 center Priest Lauderdale, who missed 10 games in November with a knee injury. A '94 Tech grad, Newbill bounced around between the CBA and NBA before making the Hawks roster. The start was his first as a Hawk, and he did a credible job against former Clemson star and Southwest Macon, Ga., High School teammate Sharone Wright.
Wright managed only seven points on two-for-10 shooting and three rebounds.
"I would say it's the best game I've played in my NBA career," Newbill said. "You have to step in and do the things that got you here. Dikembe is the league's best shot blocker, and I'm not going to try to fill his shoes, of course. But I'll battle for defensive rebounds and do things like that."
Said Wilkens, "Ivano earned his way onto this team. In training camp he worked real hard no one expected him to be on the team. But the thing I kept noticing was he kept going to the boards, he defended, he held his teammates out. He's not going to let you just walk to the basket."
The Hawks trailed 17-11 before taking a 29-25 lead with an 18-8 run. After Walt Williams tied the score at 41 with a three-pointer early in the third quarter, the Hawks surged to a 62-52 advantage with 1:42 left in the third quarter. They led by double figures the remainder of the way.
Williams, a former Maryland star, led his team with 17 points, but shot only six for 17. Damon Stoudamire, one of the league's up-and-coming guards, had 14 points and Popeye Jones 10.
Toronto coach Darrell Walker was ejected after after a double-technical foul with 5:39 left in the game.
"They killed us in the paint, and they didn't even have Mutombo," Walker said later. "I wish I could find a guy off my bench to get me 15 rebounds."
This week's edition of ESPNET's NBA power rankings lists the Hawks eighth out of the league's 29 teams. Chicago is ranked first, followed by Utah, Detroit and Cleveland.
The Hawks are in the midst of a three-game home stand and host Denver Tuesday and Philadelphia Saturday. The Denver game will mark Mutombo's first matchup against his former teammates.
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