Atlanta Hawks receive tough update on high-flying big man John Collins

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks stumbled their way into the All-Star break and could emerge from it short-handed. Forward John Collins, often the subject of trade rumors, now finds himself going through the NBA’s concussion protocols – a series of evaluations to determine when it will be safe for the big man to return to action.

The NBA’s policy states that a player cannot even begin the process of returning to action until 24 hours have passed since the injury occurred. Collins suffered the injury on February 15 while his admission into protocols was announced on February 18.

Players must also successfully complete the following steps:

"i. He is without concussion-related symptoms at rest;ii. He has been evaluated by a physician;iii. He has successfully completed the NBA return-to-participation exertion process; andiv. A team physician has discussed the return-to-participation process and decision with the Director of the NBA Concussion Program. Note that the final return-to-participation decision is to be made by the player’s team physician, in order to maximize the consistency of care for the player."

During the exertion test, a player’s activity level is increased with the policy giving examples of going from stationary bike to jogging up to non-contact team drills with neural evaluations conducted in between. If a player does not pass a test at any given stage, he must begin again at the last stage he successfully completed.

“It’s important to note that there is no timeframe to complete the process,” states the policy. Each injury and player is different and recovery time can vary in each case.”

A study published in 2019 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that players returned after “3 to 4 missed games”. But games can vary in those spans, and we have seen players miss anywhere from five to 10 days in recovery.

John Collins still a key factor for the Atlanta Hawks despite down stats

The latter timeline means Collins would miss the Hawks’ first game back from the break against the Cleveland Cavaliers which could be an issue since Atlanta is 3-6 in games that Collins has missed this season. Their offense is 1.7 points better per 100 possessions while they are 4.0 points better defensively with him on the floor, per Cleaning the Glass.

He has been one of the more consistent presences at the trade deadline for the past three years. But there was a notable shift in tone surrounding how the Hawks will look to proceed now that general manager Landry Fields has taken over day-to-day operations.

Fields made it clear that the Hawks would not just give Collins away – just as his predecessor Travis Schlenk did – despite some reports they had lowered their asking price.

He also made it clear they would be comfortable going forward with the high-flyer.

Surely everyone involved would like to see Collins’ three-point shooting return to form (38.8% from 2020-22, 29.4% in 2022-23) while he would like to be more involved overall.

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They will have 23 games at most to find a common ground or his name will be right back in the rumor mill at the end of the season.