Lloyd Pierce is waiting.
The Hawks head coach has overseen 16 regular-season games to start his first season and has yet to have his projected starting lineup and rotation due to injury.
However, there was some good news even as the Hawks finished a winless four-game road trip at the Pacers with a 97-89 loss Saturday.
John Collins is back.
That’s one piece. The second-year power forward, a projected starter, missed the first 15 games of the season with left ankle inflammation, an issue that began in the preseason. Collins returned against the Pacers and came off the bench to finish with 12 points in 12 minutes.
Even with the return of Collins, the Hawks were without starting small forward Taurean Prince, who missed his second straight game with right Achilles pain Saturday and is listed as doubtful for Monday’s game against the Clippers. The Hawks have been without center Dewayne Dedmon for six games due to an avulsion fracture in his left ankle and then the birth of his son. Newly acquired guard/forward Justin Anderson has yet to play a game as he recovers from tibial stress syndrome in his left leg. He is likely to make his season debut Monday on a minutes restriction.
“Nice to have him back and we’ll be more excited when we can get more minutes of out him,” Pierce told reporters of Collins after the Hawks latest loss. “I thought it was a good start for him.”
Collins admitted to being winded during a halftime television interview. He was on a minutes restriction and used them all up in the first half. Collins did not play in the second half. He added two rebounds and a block during his short stint, including going 3 of 6 from the field and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line in his debut. He was a plus-14 while on the court as the Hawks took a lead into halftime.
Collins’ first appearance came with 6:53 left in the first quarter when he replaced Kent Bazemore, the fourth Hawks substitution. Collins’ first basket came on a lob pass from Trae Young in the first quarter, a glimpse of what the Hawks hope to see plenty of this season.
Collins played 7:26 of the second quarter when he scored 10 on his points before taking a spot on the bench for the remainder of the game.
“It definitely felt good to be out there and also to have John coming back too,” Dedmon told reporters after the game. “He played great in his minutes. … I wish he could have played a bit more but he did a great job out there today.”
The Hawks could certainly use the good news on the injury front. They have lost seven straight and 11 of the past 12 games. At 3-13, they have the second-worst record in the NBA, better than only the Cavaliers (2-12), who have one of their wins against the Hawks.
Collins is likely to see increased playing time Monday as he gets worked back into the rotation. At this point, any step forward is a positive for the Hawks.