It’s been a summer of new experience for John Collins – on and off the basketball court.
The young Hawks star recently returned from trips to South Africa and London with the NBA. The center/forward, who grew up traveling the world, got once-in-a-lifetime opportunities abroad. He worked with young basketball players in Africa, with time for an encounter with elephants and monkeys. On another continent just days later, the soccer fan attended the season opener of the Premier League in England.
Now, Collins is ready to return to “season mode.” He spoke Wednesday while attending a Hawks event to unveil new aspects of the Philips Arena renovation and the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration.
Collins cited a lengthy list of areas where he intends to step up his game in Year 2.
“Looking a new reads,” Collins noted to start the agenda. “Being able to read new plays. Shooting the 3. Maybe drive and kick. Drive and get to the cup. Just being versatile. Being able to guard multiple positions on defense. Basically, be a mismatch problem and have coach give the confidence and say ‘Yo, whatever the lineup is, whatever the game plans is, we keep John in and involved in the game.’ That’s my goal.”
Sounds like enough.
The continued development of his 3-point shot has been a major point of emphasis for Collins during the offseason. You see, it hasn’t been all fun and games.
In two seasons at Wake Forest, Collins attempted one 3-pointer. For the record, he missed. As an NBA rookie, he made 34 percent from behind the arc by making 16 of 47 attempts.
“I think it’s paying off,” Collins said. “I’m going to have confidence shooting my shot.”
Collins said building chemistry with teammates, including three first-round draft picks, is another goal. Though he didn’t need to play for the Hawks’ entries in the Utah Jazz and Las Vegas summer leagues, Collins noted at the time he was there to get to know the new additions. There will be a lot more time for that over an 82-game NBA season.
Much of the offseason has been spent learning the new systems of first-year coach Lloyd Pierce. The Hawks and Mike Budenholzer moved on from each other after last season. With a new coach, comes a new learning curve. While not specific, Collins said it will be about more than new terminology.
“The system coach LP has is a little different,” Collins said. “Every coach isn’t going to be the same. There are some similarities. It’s just about learning to terms and new phrases. Not every coach uses the same terminology.
“He does want different stuff in the offense. I’m going to play a different way.”
Collins appeared in 74 games for the Hawks last season. He averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24.1 minutes. While he won’t turn 21 until September, much will be expected of Collins as the Hawks continue to rebuild with young players. The Hawks had three first-round draft picks this year. They could have three more next year. By then, heck, Collins will be a veteran.
And the Hawks want him around.
Owner Tony Ressler spoke at the Hawks event about the number of significant improvements the Hawks have made off the court – arena renovations, practice facility and G League franchise. The goal is an NBA championship. Keeping players like Collins in the fold is the key to success.
“A player like John Collins is not going to stay with a team if it’s a second-tier franchise,” Ressler said.