Budenholzer: John Collins can gain while out with injury


Losing John Collins for two to three weeks isn’t good for the Hawks, but coach Mike Budenholzer said a few games as a spectator may not be the worst thing for his impressive rookie forward. Already off to a good start in his NBA career, Collins can work on building his strength and gaining a better understanding of the professional game. 

Collins has done well, averaging 11.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He moved into the Hawks’ starting lineup Nov. 22 against the Clippers and had started four consecutive games before he sprained his left shoulder in Thursday night’s loss to the Cavaliers. His .592 field-goal percentage leads NBA rookies and ranks sixth in the league overall.

“He’s played really well, not just for a rookie but for any player,” said Miles Plumlee, who started Saturday in Collins’ place and will be expected to contribute more with Collins out. 

“He has an athleticism and a quickness,” Budenholzer said before the Hawks played the Nets on Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “I think you see it offensively in the way he’s able to function and get to the basket and finish, and in offensive rebounding. We’ve been pushing him hard to use that same athleticism and that same pop to have an impact on the game defensively. He certainly still has a long ways to go, but when you go from summer league and training camp to some of the things he’s doing, it’s a pretty significant and noticeable improvement.” 

Collins didn’t travel to Brooklyn for Saturday’s game, but he’ll be able to watch his teammates play from the side for the next few games. Budenholzer said the result could compare with what happened with Al Horford missed much of the 2013-14 season, Budenholzer’s first as the Hawks coach. 

“Injuries are unfortunate, but you get to sit and watch and see things teammates are doing well,” Budenholzer said. “You see defensively and offensively places to be. Al Horford missed the last 60 or 70 games (that season). I think just watching the team play helped him that summer to decide to work on some things, and in how he came back and approached the next season.”

Horford played in the All-Star game the next two seasons. Collins isn’t expected to miss nearly as much time, but the Hawks can be hopeful that he can benefit from watching, too.


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