Trade rumors have at all times been a part of the NBA life.
Even before the web and the sordid social media scene that comes with it, you had public speculation about which players might go where and for who every time the trade deadline neared. But with regards to one player being a part of that conversation for an prolonged time frame — 12 months after 12 months after 12 months of headlines without an actual deal taking place — Atlanta forward John Collins would be the GOAT.
In that regard, this 12 months is not any different. Collins is again involved in several recent NBA trade rumors. Yet because the 25-year-old discussed with The Athletic recently, there are differences between this trade season experience and the numerous that got here before.
For starters, that sense of uncertainty that he knows so well can also be the Hawks’ recent norm as of late. They’ve a veteran coach in Nate McMillan whose future in Atlanta is known to be very tenuous. They’ve an inexperienced front office that’s now led by 34-year-old former NBA player Landry Fields, who was elevated to general manager from his assistant GM position after the surprising resignation of president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk last month.
They’ve a franchise centerpiece in Trae Young whose style, on and off the ground, continues to make those across the league wonder in regards to the part he’ll play within the Hawks’ long-term plans. And even after their Sunday night win over the Clippers, they have a 19-21 record that puts them in tenth place within the Eastern Conference — well in need of their lofty expectations after trading for Dejounte Murray last summer, to say the least.
As for Collins, the Hawks have long since known that he’d welcome a change of scenery. However the aspects that matter probably the most in deal-making may not currently be in his favor. Most notably: his hefty contract ($78.5 million combined owed after this season, including his player option in 2025-26) and his early-season struggles (his 13.3 points-per-game average is his lowest since his rookie season in 2017-18, and he’s shooting a career-low 22.5 percent from 3-point range while averaging 7.1 attempts). Our Shams Charania reported last month that Utah, Washington, Brooklyn and Dallas all had interest.
To Collins’ credit, he has learned to seek out his peaceful place during trade season by taking a balanced, big-picture view.
“I play basketball day by day, you realize what I mean?” Collins said while sitting within the stands on the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento last week before Atlanta’s 120-117 win over the Kings. “I are available in and I play basketball, and whatever happens happens because I don’t control that side. I don’t have any control over any decisions that get made. Where I’m and where I play, I don’t have any control over that.
“I can say, ‘Hey, I need to do that and I wanna try this,’ and so they can just do whatever they feel is fair. You saw it with Kevin Durant (last summer), right? He’s begging for trade, and Brooklyn is like, ‘Nah.’ Not saying that I’m Kevin Durant, nevertheless it’s just the mentality of ‘Yeah, you possibly can say whatever, you possibly can make a public scene, you possibly can do whatever, (nevertheless it won’t matter).’”
The next interview has been evenly edited for brevity and clarity.
After a transient hello, I thank Collins for his time while acknowledging the elephant within the room: The trade deadline is nearing, his name is being bandied about yet again and I’m curious to learn more about how he has learned to handle this time of 12 months. His eyes, and his smile, widen.
That look in your face says all of it, so I assume I’ll just start with a fast pulse and mind-set check for you, after which also am curious the way you see the massive picture. This franchise just has rather a lot happening. The front office modified recently. You’ve got the on-court inconsistencies. Stuff with Nate and Trae. Where are you at?
I’m in a type of familiar place, right, with the cloud (of trade uncertainty overhead) and all that. Obviously, that stuff is draining and never something you necessarily must cope with. However it’s a part of the business, so I try to simply probably not give it some thought, truthfully. I attempt to go on the market and play the perfect basketball I can. But to not say that I don’t know, but I type of just do know, right?
I’m not necessarily like waiting or praying for something different to occur. I just attempt to be a realist and to attempt to take day by day in stride of what I do or what happens to me personally. Just try to remain positive, try to save lots of myself. Nothing different. I’m type of in a comfort zone, right? You actually wish to be in a greater place, but you realize I’ve been in a Hawks (jersey) my whole profession, so it’s all I do know in a way. I feel that’s it, man just really just attempting to attack day by day individually and never take into consideration an excessive amount of.
You’ve got those years of foundational knowledge of this group, so I ponder how would you describe this past month? For those who return to a few of the Nate and Trae stuff that went on, the Schlenk decision, the fellows who’re running the team now, all of it. What has this last month been like out of your perspective?
It’s been — how can I say? — like a transitional period of change. I knew and understand what happens when change is here, right? People come, people go, you realize. Attitudes and energies begin to fluctuate. It’s just a mixture of recent things. But in a way, I’m expecting and prepared for only a recent whirlwind of things that happened. I’ve had different teammates each 12 months, an unlimited amount of various teammates my entire profession. I’ve had three coaches up up to now. In order I said, it’s type of being calm within the business world of basketball, which is rather a lot. There are ideas and thoughts, lots of players’ hopes and dreams and careers, and just lots of decision making happening that I can’t control happening in front of me. So I just know to maintain my mind clear. That’s the perfect thing for me. It’s just rather a lot to take into consideration and process.
And if I’m in your shoes, it looks like a very necessary time. You’re entering your prime, and also you’ve already put in lots of good years. But Feb. 9 is across the corner, and the sense that I’ve gotten from talking to people near you, around you and across the league, is that you simply’d be just wonderful should you were wearing a unique jersey after that deadline. But when it comes to stability, and having some vision for what the subsequent few years might appear to be for you, is that something that you are feeling an actual desire to finally get?
Yes and no. Being on this position, and being within the type of limbo state for so long as I even have been, I’m type of just comfortable with whatever’s happening because I’ve been waiting for something to, or I’ve considered all that the scenarios wherein something could occur, so I’m not even occupied with two, three, 4 years ahead. Again, I literally can’t control whether I’ll be here, or where I’ll be in two or three years, you realize?
But are you hoping that one thing or one other happens?
I don’t give a rattling truthfully, you realize what I mean?
How’s that possible?
What do you mean? I play basketball day by day, you realize what I mean? I are available in and I play basketball, and whatever happens, happens because I don’t control that side. I don’t have any control over any decisions that get made, where I’m and where I play. I don’t have any control over that. I can say, ‘Hey, I need to do that and I wanna try this,’ and so they can just do whatever they feel is fair. You saw it with Kevin Durant, right? He’s begging for trade, and Brooklyn is like, ‘Nah.’ Not saying that I’m Kevin Durant, nevertheless it’s just the mentality of ‘Yeah, you possibly can say whatever, you possibly can make a public scene, you possibly can do whatever (and it won’t matter).’
And that’s a man who has as much juice as anybody within the league.
My point exactly. So if I’m that, I’m like, ‘Man, get up and do what you’re keen on, and that’s hoop.’ That’s why after these years of just going through what it’s, it’s gotten to a degree where I just don’t care anymore since it’s been my life for the last three years, literally.
However it doesn’t sound prefer it’s getting you down, frustrating you.
No, no, no, no. And that’s what I mean. I’ve just been attempting to take into consideration waking up and playing ball, because I also feel prefer it’s been a singular situation.
It’s been an extended time.
But I feel like I do know utilize that strength that I’ve built mentally, and that’s it. And after I say I don’t give a rattling, it’s identical to, man, I’m gonna get up day by day and be positive and I’m going to go play basketball. If I take into consideration that s— all day I’m gonna be a large number. And that’s me attempting to preserve my mental (health). That’s really it.
I get it. Now tell me your thoughts on this team.
Ultra talented, man. Ultra talented.
Can y’all figure it out and reach that ceiling?
I feel like we will. And you realize, there’s little doubt in my mind that we don’t have enough to do. As I said, it’s the identical way with anything on this league: You do rather a lot, and s— happens, right? We’re not playing as we would like to at once, and I don’t think any one in every of us got here in here expecting that to occur in the beginning of the season. So I do still have complete and supreme faith in his team and what now we have and what we will do, but we just must go on the market and do it night to nighttime on a consistent basis. It’s hard as hell, but easy to say. Hard to do.
For those who’re breaking it down and unpacking it, what’s been missing up to now?
Nobody thing. I definitely feel like having an entire recent group of fellows on the roster is one thing, adding a big-time guy like DJ (Dejounte Murray) into the squad. I don’t think there’s anything missing. I feel it’s more assimilation into who we’re, what we would like to be as a team, where we will go. But missing? I don’t think now we have anything missing. I feel we’re loaded. However it’s just mentally.
Is it strategic type stuff, chemistry type stuff, personal dynamics? All the above?
It’s all the above. Injuries, guys not being available. It’s adding younger guys into our lineup, adding a player like DJ, one other All Star, to our group. All that stuff adds an effect to what already makes playing and winning on this league so hard. So it’s just hard to quantify one thing as in who to attack. That was one thing coach said for us this morning (after they had broken down) film was to have a look at ourselves, and I try to have a look at myself. For me, I need to make more threes.
So in my part, I can say I’m a part of the problem of course. It’s something I’m working hard as hell day by day to vary. I wouldn’t say I’m slumping, but I’m not shooting in addition to I need to. So I can say I’m an element of the problem just in addition to I can say whoever is an element of the problem. Are you able to blame CC (Clint Capela) for being hurt at once? (The veteran center has been out since Dec. 23 with a calf injury). what I’m saying? Or after I was hurt? (Collins missed eight games with a sprained left ankle earlier this season). S— happens. In order that’s again, one other thing that I’ve been accustomed to is that this league, right? It’s not knowing what to anticipate day by day. That just helps me analyze it, not take it personal and just apply it to my on a regular basis life as useful information.
To listen to you share something that Nate shared this morning gives me the sense that, when it comes to this coach and his voice — and everyone knows that there’s lots of uncertainty around his future — it appears like he’s still getting through to y’all. Is that dynamic going well enough? What part does that play within the puzzle?
I feel like all of us have respect for Coach Nate, ultimate respect for him. But as I said before, when situations which are happening with our team occur and hit the media, it definitely can create an additional mess of issues that weren’t necessarily there before. So I don’t know if it makes guys feel any different way about Nate personally, nevertheless it just more so gives us one other layer …
Of something to work through?
Yeah. In order that’s how I see it personally. (I can’t speak for) every guy, and the way they’re feeling about it, nevertheless it just adds to a different layer of what we’ve got to determine here. That’s why I said, I don’t think guys are taking it personally from Nate. It just makes it a tougher situation.
More John Collins coverage from The Athletic:
(Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)