Hawks have one more game before end of Collins’ suspension

The Hawks have just one more game before the return of John Collins. The third-year power forward will sit out Saturday’s game at the Nets – the final of the 25-game suspension handed down by the NBA for a violation of the league’s anti-drug program. He is scheduled to return on Monday at the Cavaliers.

The Hawks have gone 4-20 in Collins’ absence and currently hold the second-worst record in the NBA at 6-23. They are behind only the five-win Warriors.

The NBA announced the suspension on Nov. 5. The Hawks defeated the Spurs at home, 108-100, on that day but have won just three times since. They’ve had losing streaks of three, 10 and currently six games during Collins’ absence.

Collins has been able to practice and travel with the Hawks during the suspension having to leave the arena prior to games. Coach Lloyd Pierce said that Collins has remained in shape and will be under no minutes restriction when he returns – as a starter – on Monday.

Collins has not spoken publicly since the suspension except for a statement at the time it was announced. It’s likely the first time he will address the matter will be on the day of his return.

Collins was suspended after testing positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2 (GHRP-2). GHRP-2 is a synthetic chemical of ghrelin, a hormone that is produced and released mainly by the stomach. Ghrelin has been shown to have two major effects, stimulating both growth hormone secretion and appetite/meal initiation.

Collins lost $610,582 in salary. In his statement at the time of the suspension, he said he intended to fight the league punishment in arbitration. It is unclear whether Collins did not follow through with the plan to appeal or whether an appeal was denied.

“First I want to apologize to my teammates, the Hawks organization, our fans, partners and community as a whole for this situation,” Collins said in a statement. “I understand the impact this matter has on what we are trying to achieve together this season, and I am incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all of us in this position. I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement which, unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component. I plan to fight my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”

Collins was averaging 17.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in the five games to start the season before the suspension.

The Hawks will certainly get a boost from the return of Collins. Much of the scoring burden has fallen on Trae Young. The second-year point guard is averaging 28.4 points and 8.5 assists, both currently fourth-best in the NBA. The Hawks have been poor defensively this season with the third-worst defensive rating in the league at 114.0.