Big man John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks will miss the remainder of the regular season due to plantar fasciitis on his left foot, and a nagging finger-joint injury on his shooting hand.
The Hawks (36-36) currently occupy the #10 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 10 games remaining. They hold a 5.5-game lead over the #11 Washington Wizards (30-41) and should qualify for the play-in tournament.
Only five games separate the #6 seed and the #10 seed, so the Hawks were trying to ladder up and avoid the play-in tournament. At the least, the Hawks were trying to get as high as possible so they could host a home game in the play-in tournament.
The stat geeks at FiveThirtyEight estimate the Hawks have a 39% chance to qualify for the postseason and less than a 0.1% chance of winning the title. According to a recent update by the Mirage in Las Vegas, the Hawks are +25000 odds to win the 2022 NBA championship.
If the season were to begin today, the Hawks would meet the #9 Charlotte Hornets (37-35) in the play-in tournament with the winner battling the loser of the #7 Toronto Raptors (40-32) versus the #8 Brooklyn Nets (38-34).
The Hawks want to provide Collins with as much rest as possible to help them win the play-in tournament and secure the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Hawks, with the #5 seed in the 2021 NBA playoffs, secured a spot in the Eastern Conference finals before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks. During their deep run, Trae Young emerged as a villain when the Hawks picked off the New York Knicks in the first round. Young relished the boos from the crowd at Madison Square Garden and thrived on the adversity, which fueled him and the rest of the Hawks for the rest of their magical postseason run.
The Hawks struggled this season and failed to live up to lofty expectations. They were no longer able to fly under the radar and opposing teams focused their defensive efforts on neutralizing Young. It didn’t help matters that a disgruntled Collins asked the team to trade him before the deadline, but they kept him around despite rumors about a trade to the 76ers, Mavs, and Bulls.
In 54 games this season, Collins averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. His scoring has decreased over the past two seasons. He averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20, but saw his production drop off to 17.6 ppg last season with the offense flowing through Young.
In short, Collins wanted to be more involved in the offense, which isn’t centered around pick-and-rolls for Young. Possessions typically begin and end with the ball in Young’s hands, which means Collins must find buckets in transition or on the offensive glass.
Collins: finger and foot frustrations
Sure, Collins is unhappy, but he’s not an entitled player (e.g. Ben Simmons) who sits out because he doesn’t like the team’s chemistry. Despite the Hawks not meeting his trade demands, Collins still suited up.
It’s not hard to miss the gnarly knuckle injury that Collins suffered on his right ring finger sometime in late February.
“It’s obviously not perfect, to say it in the simplest of sense,” said Collins. “Obviously tough to play basketball with this.”
The Hawks listed it as a sprain on the injury report, but a specialist diagnosed Collins with a boutonniere deformity on his ring finger. Surgery is not necessary, but it takes anywhere from four to eight weeks to heal with a splint. If Collins continued to play through the injury, the joint could deteriorate, which would definitely require surgery.
Toss in a plantar injury, and Collins played through serious pain in March. If you ever had plantar fasciitis, then you’re well aware of the shooting pain that accompanies a first step.
“I’ve never had a foot injury like this where it’s prevented me more from wanting to put pressure on my foot,” added Collins. “I want to go out there and make sure I’m not hurting my team. It’s part of life of being a competitor and wanting to be out there. Basketball is my whole life. I want to play, but make the right decision.”
With Collins not shooting well due to his knuckle strain and slow on defense due to the foot injury, it made sense for the Hawks to sit him for the last two weeks of the season.