- Pete Wickham Special to the AJC
MEMPHIS – It wasn’t a night where you could measure Hawks rookie John Collins’ progress by just looking at the points column. But the progress was there.
Two games after coming back from a shoulder injury, the former Wake Forest star had just two points in Friday’s 96-94 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. This after scoring 15 points off the bench in a 105-91 home loss to Detroit Thursday.
But as part of a committee with Miles Plumlee and Ersan Ilyasova, he helped keep Memphis All-Star center Marc Gasol to a dull roar with 13 points – all in the third quarter. In 23 minutes, Collins cleared seven rebounds, dished out four assists, had two steals and four blocked shots.
“That’s part of the growing process,” Collins said. “You’ve got figure out what you have to try do what’s best for the whole team on any given night.”
That he’s doing it through a 6-23 start by his team this season is just another sign that he’s special, coach Mike Budenholzer said.
“His work ethic, focus, energy and positive approach shows up every day,” Budenholzer said. “I think he comes by it naturally, and it’s a real gift.”
Plumlee, still coming back from off-season knee surgery, played 21 ½ minutes with four points, three rebounds and provided a big body to keep the Grizzlies out of the paint. Indeed, the Hawks had a 36-32 edge in paint points against Memphis.
“We’re happy with how he’s coming back from a pretty significant summer where he’s been rehabbing and working to get healthy,” Budenholzer said of the former Duke standout, now playing for his fifth NBA team after coming to the Hawks in the deal that sent Dwight Howard to Charlotte.
Ilyasova added nine points, five rebounds and three assists, and Budenholzer said of the group, “I thought the guys who took the individual challenge (of guarding Gasol) were good. I thought the defense or the activity with the perimeter guys around Gasol (when he went high post) was good.”