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Hawks, Collins see ankle injury as a thing of the past

Hawks forward John Collins (20) dunks over Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Hawks forward John Collins (20) dunks over Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Neither Hawks coaches nor John Collins are discussing his ankle injury that kept the second-year forward/center sidelined for the first 15 games of the season.

And why would they?

Collins has led the Hawks in scoring and rebounds over the last four games as his minutes have quickly returned to normal. He totaled a season-high of 33 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Nuggets.

“Any time you come off an injury I think the first couple of days are just is it all the way there or are you all the way confident? So now he’s all the way back, all the way confident and minutes have gone up and production has gone up as well so I just think it’s a confidence,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said Tuesday of Collins. “He hasn’t even brought up the injury and we haven’t either so we’re just seeing an abundance of confidence with him.”

A former first-team All-ACC forward from Wake Forest, Collins played in two exhibition games before being sidelined as a precaution. He underwent a non-surgical procedure, an injection, on Oct. 8 after an MRI revealed mild inflammation in his left ankle six days earlier.

Collins said Tuesday he’s “back to normal” and the ankle feels almost as if the injury never happened going into a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday at the Mavericks.

Since returning from the injury on Nov. 17, Collins is averaging 28 minutes and looks even better than he did last year.

Since his return, Collins has been the most reliable starter on both ends of the floor, leading the team in points in five of the last seven games including a career-high of 30 points against the Nuggets. The former first-round pick has also led the team in rebounds in six of the past seven games.

“I feel like it was sort of my role on the team to come out and play with effort and energy and I think the way we play the team is rewarding me with finding me open spots to score the basketball and I think rebounding wise, it’s just effort in being in position,” Collins said. “I feel like I’ve tried to take a next step in that rebounding category.”

Collins has averaged  6.1 defensive rebounds per game since his return— 8.3 over the past four games.

Collins has also averaged a double-double of 24.8 points and 12 rebounds in his four-game stretch, bringing his season average to 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

As a rookie, Collins was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team after playing in 74 games, starting 26, and averaging 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24.1 minutes. Collins also shot 57.6 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range.

“I feel like it’s more of a serious approach to the game than I had last year,” Collins said. “I feel like last year, it was a lot faster for me my first year with everything and now that I’ve seen everything it’s easier to just identify stuff and know what I want to do.”