Jazz’s John Collins gets honest about Hawks tenure

Atlanta Hawks, John Collins. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks, John Collins. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Hawks’ most note-worthy move this offseason was trading John Collins.

And, after three years of trade speculation, Collins seems as though he was ready for a change in discussing how the end of his Hawks tenure went.

Once a 20-10 player, Collins said the rumors “definitely didn’t help” amid organizational flux with four head coaches roaming the sidelines and a front-office reshuffle – with the person responsible for drafting him stepping away – in his time with the Hawks.

“It made me think that I was doing something wrong. A little lost,” Collins said, per Sarah Todd of the Deseret News on October 11. “I thought I’d been doing things right, leading in my way, helping in the community, being a part of the team and impacting things. Even through everything, especially with the contract I was able to earn, I thought I was moving toward something longstanding.”

Collins signed a five-year, $125 million contract in restricted free agency in 2021.

The deal followed the Hawks’ surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals, a stretch former Hawks wing Kevin Huerter believes sped up their timeline.

Even that new contract came amid trade rumors and, at one point during the early negotiations, Collins’ camp approached the Hawks about seeking a trade. His tenure also included taking issue with Trae Young over the latter’s style of play.

Both players had seemingly mended fences with Young speaking out on how “tough” it was to see Collins – his top lob target – go. But Collins’ comments since then have alluded to being confined by the style of play the Hawks utilize which, since 2018, has revolved around Young offensively.

More significantly, Collins’ role continued to shrink as he was surpassed by new teammates.

At first, it was simply ceding touches. The Hawks have drafted well with De’Andre Hunter, Onyeka Okongwu, and AJ Griffin all deserving of touches.

But this past season, following the trade for Dejounte Murray, Collins’ role devolved into a career-low usage rate as the big man averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and shot 29.2% from beyond the arc.

“What I’ve come to figure out in this league is that once you’re not in the plans, you’re not in them,” Collins said. “And anything can happen once you figure out that you’re not part of the plan moving forward. That was how my cards were laid out and I don’t know why, or what I did, but it wasn’t fun.”

Jazz’s John Collins takes another shot at Hawks’ locker room

Collins did not escape the interview with Todd without another thinly veiled dig at his former team, if not teammates after noting the entire ordeal left him questioning his own value as a player this offseason.

Collin previously noted that he plans to have something special for his return to Atlanta.

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And it is hard not to read into his latest sentiments as another suggestion that it was still Young with whom Collins had an issue.

“To be successful in this league, you’ve got to think about yourself in a certain way,” he continued. “But here, there’s that essence of wanting to win together, regardless of how good anyone is individually. It’s refreshing to be in a locker room with a lack of ego and I’m happy to be part of it.”

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He will get his wish when the Hawks host the Jazz on February 27. The Hawks will then visit him on March 15.