Lloyd Pierce didn’t want to know the details surrounding John Collins’ suspension when he spoke with the Atlanta Hawks forward on Tuesday.
In his mind, they weren’t important.
What really matters, the Hawks coach told the 22-year-old, is how he can help him — not as a professional athlete, but simply as a person.
“The bottom line is it’s an unfortunate situation with John’s suspension,” Pierce said, via The Athletic. “This is what I’ve been charged with as a head coach, and it’s to help John and support John to get through this, not as a player but a person. That’s where my mind is and where my mind went when everything occurred this morning.”
The NBA suspended Collins for 25 games on Tuesday for violating its anti-doping policy after he tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2.
Collins said in a statement that he didn’t knowingly ingest the banned supplement and will appeal the suspension, saying he was “incredibly frustrated and disappointed” in himself for putting the Hawks in this situation.
“Of course it’s disturbing and it’s something you hope you can prevent,” Pierce said, via The Athletic. “We hope we can educate him on that. He made a decision, or someone made a decision, and we somehow got to this point. It’s our job to get the information and keep all of our guys from making this decision or being in this position again.”
Moving on without Collins
Barring any appeal or change, Collins will be able to make his return on December 23 for the Hawks’ game against the Cavaliers.
Until then, Atlanta will have to find a way to hold it down without its starting forward — who has averaged 17 points and 8.8 rebounds so far this season.
Successfully doing that, Pierce said, is no easy task.
“It definitely hurts the team,” Pierce said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re down one of our best players, a major part of what we are doing. There’s no other way around it. We’re going to miss John. He’s a big part of what we’re doing.
“That part is said and done. Now we have to move forward with what we have, whether it’s an injury or not. But it hurts our team.”
Jabari Parker took Collins’ place in the starting lineup on Tuesday night, marking his first start of the season for the Hawks, and seemed to hold his own. Parker dropped 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Atlanta’s 108-100 win against the San Antonio Spurs, an output that — if he can do it consistently — would significantly help the shorthanded Hawks over the next month.
While he can’t play for the foreseeable future, Collins can still practice, workout and travel with the team. He didn’t address the team about his suspension on Tuesday — Pierce said he was too emotional — but plans to in the coming days.
During his absence, veteran Vince Carter knows they can’t turn their back on Collins. Doing so, he said, would only make things harder on everybody.
“We have to support him and stay in his corner. He’s not an outcast,” Carter said, via The Athletic. “He’s part of this organization and part of this group. We’re fighting together and nothing changes. It makes the transition coming back a lot easier when he knows that, which I think he does.”
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