John Collins has a point.
Today, The Players’ Tribune published a piece by the über-talented forward as his Atlanta Hawks trail the Milwaukee Bucks 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals ahead of tonight’s contest down south. The piece, appropriately titled “The Other Guys,” talked about the importance of everyone on the team stepping up, and not just Trae Young, who is questionable with a bone bruise on his foot.
Young was injured during Game 3 after stepping on a referee’s foot, which led to a Bucks run, and subsequent 113-102 after outscoring the Hawks 30-17 in the fourth quarter. In the game, the Hawks were led again by Young, who finished 35 points on 52/43/83 shooting splits. Only three other Hawks reached double figures: Danilo Gallinari (18 points), Collins (13), and Kevin “K’Von” and/or “Red Velvet” Huerter (11). Outside of Young, the team shot 44/39/40 on the evening.
Collins summed it up succinctly in his Tribune piece. “It starts with Ice Trae, of course — you know the numbers. You know the résumé. But really it’s everyone, man. It’s myself, it’s K’Von, it’s CC, it’s Bogie, it’s Lou Will, it’s Gallo, it’s De’Andre when he’s back..... there’s just no one getting minutes for us who isn’t a weapon. It’s everyone.”
To that point, it’s why when the Hawks are clicking, it appears that everyone is, not just Young. Using this series as an example, in Game 1, Young had the historic 48 points and 11 assists at Fiserv Forum, a.k.a. Dyckman, on that night. Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds. Clint Capela dropped 12 points and 19 rebounds. Huerter recorded 13 points. However, they only won 116-113 and received minimal production elsewhere. So it’s no surprise that in Game 2, when Young struggled, the Bucks won 125-91.
Young led the team with just 15 points and shot 6-for-16. Collins had 11 and eight boards. Gallinari and Cam Reddish (!!) combined for 23, and each reached double figures, but the game was over early. In Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers last series, even as Young struggled shooting, limited to 21 points on 5-for-23 shooting, his team stepped up to close out the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed. Huerter had 27 on 10-for-18 shooting. Gallinari netted 17. Collins recorded 14 points and 16 boards. Capela had 13 points and six rebounds. Huerter went for 27 two games after going 0-for-7 with a big fat zero points, and the Hawks even won that game.
According to Collins, it’s because the team just… gets along well (which, under Nate McMillan, you could now see).
“We really do just like each other.
“That’s why Red Velvet can go off for 27 in one game, and then Trae can go off for 48 in the next..... and you probably wouldn’t even know which game was which, just from looking at them. That’s also why you’re seeing these great bonds between our vets and our young guns, to be honest. Like one of the big topics that’s come up in this run, it’s how it could be Clint’s first trip to the Finals, or Gallo’s, or Tony’s, and so on. Or how we could get Lou his first ring, or Solomon his. Might just be a comment here and there. But I think that tells you something.”
The Hawks have been too spirited, too lively, too well-coached, and straight-up, too damn good to be overlooked even now. That’s not to say they could afford to lose Young, because they can’t, but they’ll fight whether or not he’s there, and in this league — in these playoffs, where the Los Angeles Clippers keep winning games without Kawhi Leonard — you just never truly know.