The Atlanta Hawks found it tough to be without their best player for one game. Now they'll experience life without their other centerpiece component for a longer period.
When the Hawks host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, they'll be playing without power forward John Collins, who has been suspended by the NBA for 25 games without pay for violation of the league's anti-drug policy.
Chicago and Atlanta are both finishing the second half of a back-to-back. The Bulls were outscored 38-19 in the fourth quarter on Tuesday in a 118-112 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Chicago has dropped two straight and lost five of their last six. The Hawks defeated the San Antonio Spurs 108-100 on Tuesday to break a three-game losing streak.
Atlanta responded well in its first game without Collins, thanks largely to the return of Trae Young. The mercurial point guard scored 29 points -- 28 in the second half -- and helped the Hawks overcome an eight-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Rookies De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish both responded with career scoring highs -- 16 for Hunter and 12 for Reddish.
Collins, Atlanta's first-round draft choice in 2017, was averaging 17 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds. Collins said he would appeal the suspension. Barring a successful appeal, Collins would be eligible to return on Dec. 23.
"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," Collins said in a prepared statement. "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."
Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk said the team was "disappointed to learn that John put himself in an unfortunate situation and violated the league's anti-drug policy."
Chicago's Wendell Carter returns to his hometown and he's coming in on a hot streak. The second-year player from Duke is averaging a double-double over his last six games and had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Lakers.
"I worry about foul trouble (with Carter)," Bulls coach Jim Boylen told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I worry about him being so competitive that he sticks his hands in. I worry that he wants to guard everybody on the floor. Not because he doesn't know what he's doing or he's not intelligent. He's one of our smarter guys. It's because he cares and he thinks he can cover everybody. The guys I've been around that have been like that end up being pretty good players."
Zach LaVine has been difficult for Atlanta to solve. He scored 23-plus points in three meetings with the Hawks last season, including a career-high 47 on March 1, and averaged 27.3 points against Atlanta. LaVine scored 26 against the Lakers and leads the team with 21.7 points per game.
Atlanta and Chicago split the four meetings last season. Oddly enough, each team won both their contests on the road. Chicago has a four-game winning streak in Atlanta. The teams play three times this season, meeting in Chicago on Dec. 11 and Dec. 28.
--Field Level Media