NBA All-Star weekend started off with a bang as the league’s best and brightest young talent was on display in Staples Center Friday night. Among the top rookies and second year players to be selected to the 2018 Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game (really need an acronym here) were the Hawks very own John Collins and Taurean Prince. The even better news was that Collins and Prince would remain teammates while suiting up for Team USA together.
Collins, the No. 19 overall draft selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, has been nothing short of phenomenal this season for Atlanta, posting some pretty gaudy numbers. Collins has seen an increase in playing time steadily this season and was surely in line to get big minutes in the second biggest game of pickup basketball in 2018.
Prince, on the other hand, was not an original selection to the MDKRSG (see that’s better), but was no less deserving than Collins. Prince, in just his second season, has been asked to take over the starting small forward job for the Hawks and has responded well shooting 37% from three point range and averaging 12 points per game. Prince, from time to time, has been criticized for his somewhat inconsistent play, but overall has shown good signs of growth. After Malcolm Brogdon went down with injury for the Milwaukee Bucks, it was announced that Prince would be selected to replace Brogdon in the MDKRSG to the joy of many Hawk fans.
John Collins got the nod in the starting lineup and got to work quickly slamming down a massive dunk off a lob from Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr after some good defensive work against Philly big man Joel Embiid.
The big rookie made sure to get out running and didn’t have to wait long before Jazz star rookie Donovan Mitchell found him on an outlet pass for yet another big slam.
Then, Prince got his chance to show off and took full advantage from deep hitting a corner three after a nice pass from Kris Dunn.
To open the second half, Collins got the ball rolling with some scrappy play on the offensive end including a couple of under the basket slams to keep team USA in the game. Prince had a nice stretch in the beginning of the fourth where he hit a midrange jump shot and a pull up three pointer in transition. Collins took flight again late in what morphed from game action into a dunk contest at the end of the game.
John Collins yet again caught a ridiculous lob at the end of the game that made everyone take a second look and that you’ll have to see to believe.
JOHN COLLINS JUST WON THE RISING STARS GAME pic.twitter.com/D9hAZK7PGd— KL Chouinard (@KLChouinard) February 17, 2018
At the end of the evening, Collins finished with 11 points (on 5 of 8 shooting) and three rebounds, with Prince adding eight points (including two three-pointers) in reserve duty.
The Hawks won’t be back in action for a while, as the team is on hiatus until Feb. 23 when Atlanta visits the Indiana Pacers. Stay tuned.