John Collins Discusses New Start With Jazz, Finger Injury

Jul 9, 2023, 11:27 AM | Updated: 11:29 am

SALT LAKE CITY –  The Utah Jazz made a big splash before NBA free agency began, acquiring Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins in a trade for Rudy Gay and a second round pick.

Collins had been engulfed in trade rumors over the last few seasons after signing a five-year, $125 million contract with the Hawks before finally finding a new home in Utah.

“It was a big stress relief, obviously my name has been in a lot of rumors and whatnot and it hasn’t been easy,” Collins admitted. “So it’s good to finally get it over with and obviously start anew in Utah.”

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John Collins Returns To Utah With Jazz

The son of military parents, Collins was born at Hill Air Force Base near Layton, Utah but was raised in Florida. After being underrecruited coming out of high school, Collins broke out during his sophomore season at Wake Forrest and was selected by the Hawks with the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The bouncy forward quickly became a full-time starter in Atlanta, averaging 20.3 points and 9.9 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from the three-point line during his second and third seasons in the league.

However, with the emergence of high-scoring guard Trae Young, a series of coaching changes, and an injury to the ring finger on his shooting hand, Collins’ numbers steadily dipped in recent seasons.

“Basketball is a big numbers game so I understand people being used to me playing one way and then obviously not playing up to the standards that are expected,” Collins said.

Last season the forward averaged just 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting a difficult 29 percent from the three-point line, the least efficient of his career.

“It’s definitely on me to just get back into the gym and really just tighten my game up,” Collins said. “I’ve never felt like I just woke up and lost how to play the game of basketball.”

Collins Addresses Gruesome Finger Injury

Much has been made of Collins’ finger since a photo of the injured digit emerged online. The 25-year-old played with a wrap on his finger last year and offered clarification on the injury after joining the Jazz.

“I feel like there’s always room for it to get better — it’s like an arm sprain, if I sprain my arm it’s never going to be 100 percent until I stop playing the game, right?” Collins said. “It’s just sort of that mentality of playing through it, rehabbing it, and treating it as such.”

Since coming to Utah, Collins has met with the Jazz team doctors to look at the finger and has a positive outlook moving forward.

“We have a great staff, a great medical staff here in Utah as well that I feel like has my back already and we’ve had great conversations,” Collins said. “I feel like all rumors about my finger or this and that numbers, once I get on the court and play, that’s what I like to let do the talking.”

What Does Collins Offer The Jazz?

Beyond his finger, the Jazz coaching staff must figure out how to best utilize Collins to get him back to his early career production.

Despite his poor three-point shooting numbers, Collins remained a dangerous pick-and-roll scorer last season and developed into one of the Hawks more reliable defenders.

“I’m working on my game, working at scoring at all three leaves,” Collins said. “But I feel like people underrate my defensive ability to guard multiple positions and protect the rim.”

Even with dwindling numbers last season, Collins remained one of the most respected voices in the Hawks locker room helping guide Atlanta to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“You’re going to get a leader, somebody who is holding others accountable, and is willing to be held accountable as well,” Collins said. “I just try to be me, and bring positive energy to the group whenever I can.”

Collins has three years and roughly $75 million remaining on his contract, including a player option in the final year of his deal. The forward will wear number 20 with the Jazz.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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John Collins Discusses New Start With Jazz, Finger Injury