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Hawks rookie Schroder making most of latest opportunity

Hawks rookie guard Dennis Schroder has made the most of a recent boost in playing time and is averaging 5.2 points a game since Feb. 26. (Reuters)

Hawks rookie guard Dennis Schroder has made the most of a recent boost in playing time and is averaging 5.2 points a game since Feb. 26. (Reuters)

ATLANTA — Dennis Schroder is making the most of his latest opportunity.

The Hawks guard has seen an increase in playing time of late, as coach Mike Budenholzer has called on the rookie to use his speed to be a disruptive force on defense.

Schroder has played at least 13 minutes in six of the past seven games entering Saturday’s matchup against Denver. In those six games, minus a two-minute stint at the Suns on March 2, Schroder averaged 16.8 minutes. He also averaged 5.3 points, 3.0 assists, 1.8 rebounds and only 0.7 turnovers. He hasn’t committed a turnover in three of the past four games.

“He has showed progress,” Budenholzer said. “The work he is putting in before practice, after practice, he is taking that to the court. Defensively, his ability to pressure the ball and be disruptive has been good. He is taking care of the ball. He is hitting guys when they are open. He is scoring when the game shows him to score. He has done a good job taking advantage of this opportunity.”

It has been an up-and-down season for the rookie from Germany. Schroder began the season as the backup point guard behind Jeff Teague but quickly lost the job. A number of turnovers and the play of Shelvin Mack sent Schroder to the bench and even to the D-League for a short stint. He has been not played in 24 games when available.

As Budenholzer has tried to change the Hawks’ struggling defense, he has turned back to Schroder. It has helped on offense as well. Schroder scored eight points in Thursday’s win over the Bucks, which included four field goals, which tied a career high.

“Everybody told me that when I play defense it would be hard not to get me playing time,” Schroder said. “That is the way I have tried to catch it up on defense and try to play defense full court, try to bother the other point guard.”

ANTIC ANKLE SORE: Pero Antic, who missed 17 games with a stress fracture in his right ankle, said he still experiences some pain. He was especially sore following Thursday’s game after pushing off on the ankle.

Antic, who has played five games (including three consecutive starts) since his return, said he does not expect the pain to cause him to miss any time.

“It’s OK,” Antic said Friday after practice. “It’s normal to feel some pain. … We’ve done therapy, and it feels good now.”

WILLIAMS A FATHER: Lou Williams was excused from Hawks practice Friday to spend another day with his newborn daughter.

Williams missed Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s game against the Bucks for the delivery.

It is the second child for Williams.

ANOTHER CAUSE FOR HORFORD: As it turns out, Al Horford’s offseason trip to South Africa for Basketball Without Borders became about more than just sports.

The Hawks center joined five other players in support of NBA Cares “No Hype” campaign to reduce the demand for ivory and rhino horns.

Horford has been joined by the Lakers’ Pau Gasol, the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler, the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha and the Bulls’ Joakim Noah. The players filmed video messages to raise awareness for the cause.