John Collins received a second opinion Thursday that confirmed a plantar fascia tear, in addition to a right foot strain, alongside a right ring finger sprain, the Hawks announced Friday.
Collins received an anti-inflammatory shot in his finger Thursday and was fitted with custom splints, which he’ll wear for the rest of the season, though his return date isn’t clear. He’ll also soon undergo a non-surgical procedure on his right foot.
Per the team, his status will be updated in 10-14 days, though that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to play, just a re-evaluation.
“It’s certainly a challenge for the team,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “You lose your second-best player, in the sense of stats, 17 points, eight, nine rebounds a game. ... John’s our spiritual leader, he brings a lot of energy. So that’s a big loss to us. But again, it’s part of the game, injuries like that, there are opportunities for some other guys to step in and play, and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Hawks have 13 games remaining on the schedule, including Friday’s home game vs. the Grizzlies, with their regular season concluding April 10. No. 10 in the Eastern Conference standings as of Friday afternoon, the Hawks are still aiming to position themselves as best as possible for the postseason, most likely the play-in tournament, though obviously Collins’ absence makes that tougher.
This leaves them without their starting power forward, second-leading scorer (16.2 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (7.8 rebounds per game), in addition to the emotional leadership and energy that Collins provides.
Collins missed seven games from Feb. 13 to March 3 with his foot injury, then tried to play through the pain, going on to sprain his right ring finger in the loss in Detroit on March 7. He played in two more games, but has sat out the past three games and will miss at least five additional games, but probably more, since that accounts only for contests up until the first day his status can be updated (March 28).
If he were to miss games through April 1, that would leave only five remaining regular-season games on the schedule. Again, though, that’s just a potential date his status could be updates, not an indication he’ll return to action on that day.
“That’s when they will talk about his injury again,” McMillan said about the 10- to 14-day timeline the Hawks gave for an update on Collins. “I don’t think we’re saying in two weeks he’ll be back. We will re-evaluate him in two weeks.”
Although the Hawks will be eager to get Collins back, there’s also risk of re-injury if he returns to soon given he’s already tried to play through it this season, to no avail.
“It’s tough right now,” McMillan said of how Collins is doing. “When he came back, he knew he was in some pain. He came back and had a good game, and I think the next game is when he injured his finger and was trying to play through that pain, and just trying to go through making the decision whether to try to play and be out there for us, but not hurt the team.
“So those are things that he has been battling, really the last two weeks. … Of course, he’s disappointed. He wants to be out there with his teammates and help in any way that he can. I think this was good for him, to get another opinion on his injury so that he can make the decision whether to try to continue to play or give it some time.”
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