Thursday, September 28

What the latest John Collins update means for the Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks (41-37) have been without forward John Collins since their Mar 11 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. They have now gone 9-3 in that span, including their current five-game win streak, thanks to their 122-115 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Atlanta moved into sole possession of the eighth seed with the victory.

They got big games of different kinds from Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic to come away with another win to block being swept by an Eastern Conference foe.

This run has done well to mask Collins’ absence.

With word coming via head coach Nate McMillan and The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner that there was no update on Collins, questions about shutting him down for the season grew louder. They are not there yet, but the lack of news is noteworthy.

The Atlanta Hawks could have to go on a deep playoff run to get John Collins back right

As the saying usually goes, “no news is good news”. In many ways, that is still true in this case with Collins’ finger still splinted and him having yet to begin running or jumping. At least he has not suffered any reported setbacks. The prognosis for his return to action has always included a lot of resting on both the finger and the torn plantar fascia ligament in his foot.

The last update of significance came on Mar 25 when McMillan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Sarah K. Spencer that there was optimism they could “increase his activity” in the following “day or so” after receiving a PRP injection to aid blood flow.

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In that particular context, the fact that we have gone over a week now since that update could be cause for some concern with “no timetable” set for his return.

We are just a couple of days into said evaluation window, though.

One thing that has been made clear by everyone involved in this is that Collins will not return until he is fully healthy. There is also the risk that the injuries will not heal properly if he returns too soon. They were severely impacting his performance before he went down in this current stretch of games.

He averaged just 8.2 points on 34.0 percent shooting knocking down two of his last 19 threes, just 10.5 percent in his last five games dating back to the Hawks loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Feb 11.

At the time, he was “just” dealing with what was being called a foot sprain. After missing seven games with Atlanta going 4-3, he returned to play just four games before going down again.

Collins was averaging 17.0 points on 54.1 percent shooting overall and 39.5 percent from deep before that. It was arguably his most well-rounded season despite his stats being down a bit. He also dealt with recurring trade rumors near this year’s deadline and will surely be once the season comes to an end – whenever that may be.

To that point, even once Collins is cleared, he still has to get back into basketball shape.

Unless he begins running within the next couple of days, he will be ramping up as the Hawks prepare for the Play-In Tournament at best and, possibly, a playoff series. We saw the Hawks get Cam Reddish back during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and the impact that they had.

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The good news is the Hawks halfcourt offense has hit its best run during this five-game win streak with five straight games in the 92nd percentile or better, per Cleaning the Glass.

They will need that in the postseason when the possessions come at a premium. Still, despite their 14-9 record without him this season, there is no replacement for the instant energy Collins provides. Be it from his highlight-reel dunks or just dapping up his teammates, no one else on the team brings quite what Collins does.

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