John Collins has ‘peace of mind;’ happy to be a Hawk after trade deadline

Thursday’s trade deadline came a little earlier in the day for John Collins, at noon instead of 3 p.m., since the Hawks are in the middle of their eight-game West Coast trip.

So, he lifted weights early in the morning, tried to zone out, took a nap and woke up to find that his phone, thankfully, was not blowing up with news of a trade. No phone calls, no missed messages — despite an onslaught of rumors, Collins remains a Hawk and could breathe a sigh of relief.

A little stress-relief seemed to have served Collins well, as he put up a career-high 38 points in the Hawks’ win in Golden State on Friday.

“Super-duper relieved, man,” Collins said postgame. “Obviously a big weight off my shoulders to just know that all that noise can stop, or at least some of it, can stop for the rest of the year, and we can just focus on just basketball. It’s big for me just to have peace of mind and being able to go on the court and focus.”

Having a clear mind is important when playing, Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said, so everyone is happy when the trade deadline has passed. The Hawks made one move at the deadline, trading Rajon Rondo to the Clippers for Lou Williams, two second-round picks and cash considerations.

“Everybody wants this trade deadline to come and go, players and coaches, because you just don’t know,” McMillan said. “Anything can happen during a deadline, and now you know that you’re going to be in a place the rest of the season, and guys and everyone, they do have a tendency to relax in situations like that. Not to say John was concerned about that, but it’s good for that deadline to come and go.”

After he knew he was staying put with the Hawks, Collins couldn’t exactly throw a party, as the Hawks are under strict COVID-19 protocols in general, but particularly on a road trip. Instead, he played Xbox, ordered some room service at the team hotel and called his family, which was all the celebration he needed — knowing that everything hadn’t been upended was enough.

Before this season, his contract situation gained publicity after Collins’ camp and the Hawks couldn’t reach an agreement for an extension, which thrust Collins into a contract year. He often gets questions about how he’s holding up, but would feel the pressure to perform well, regarding of whether rumors were swirling, he said Friday.

Still, though, it’s mentally taxing. Collins, the longest-tenured Hawk, will become a restricted free agent after this season, but for now he has the comfort of knowing he’ll remain with the team. He’s averaging 18.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and shooting 38.6% from 3-point range, and he is a big reason why the Hawks have won nine of their past 11 games and are above .500 at 23-22.

“I’m definitely happy to be here, to have a Hawks jersey on, to see the same faces, same coaching staff, same trainers, just to have that same energy that I’m accustomed to and used to.” Collins said. “Like I said, it gives me peace of mind to carry out my day-to-day business as I have been up until this point.”

The advantages of sticking with one franchise aren’t lost on Collins, who cares deeply about that continuity.

“For me, I’m a basketball head, basketball purist, fanatic, whatever you want to call it, so I see the value and I see the passion and dedication, the rewards, the fruits of your labor that come from being with one organization, so that’s just something I value,” Collins said. “... And I don’t think that’s going to change, as a player, for me.”

After Collins and the Hawks couldn’t figure out an extension, Collins knew this would be a stressful trade deadline, not ideal when trying to balance the day-to-day of games and practices, though obviously it’s part of the business.

Now, he’s focusing solely on the Hawks’ playoff aspirations.

“An extreme relief to be here, to still be here, and to just be able to finish out the year with my guys,” Collins said. “We want to make the best push we can and finish out the year strong.”

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